Movies Getting Longer (But Just Barely)

Film Length by Decades Graph Somebody has taken the top fifty movies, as ranked by IMDB, for each decade and produced the graph at right.

Andrew Sullivan, who I gather has just seen the “Sex and the City” movie and found it long, quips, “They don’t all have to be endless.”

But Andrew is only two years older than I am, which means contemporary films he’s likely to remember date from no earlier than the very late 1960s. Since then, the range has been within +/- 2 minutes, a duration not likely to register in the consciousness of the average moviegoer.

“Sex and the City” in particular ran for 148 minutes, a whopping 19 minutes (or 14.7 percent) more than average. That’s noticeable but likely objectionable only if the movie isn’t particularly enjoyable. By contrast, “Iron Man” was a measly 126 minutes; I’d have been happy for an additional 22 minutes worth.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    One’s perception of what is ‘endless’ is perhaps tempered by the material on the film itself. I don’t recall many people complaining about the overall length of Lord of the Rings, for example,which in it’s full version ran 250 minutes, give or take.

    The reader’s imagination is invoked here as to why a movie about women and their sexual relationships with men would seem overly long to Sullivan.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Self-important and self-indulgent directors. I won’t dispute that there are occasional stories that support a treatment at length. More common are a half hour of story expanded to fill a two-hour slot (with commercials during replay on television).

  3. Spoker says:

    Why is this a surprise? It takes longer for todays movies to lecture than it did for movies in the past to entertain.