The great Alex Withrow of And So It Begins… recently wrote a great post of fifteen great films under 85 minutes that he loved. I’ve decided to write my own version of the list. Why? Since a lot of the films I recommend are above this length, it seems only fair to do a decent list of shorter films. So here is my list of Fifteen Great Movies Under 85 Minutes, in alphabetical order:
A propos de Nice (1930) – 23 minutes
Jean Vigo only made four films before his untimely death at age 29. A propos de Nice was the first of those four, and possibly the best (I’ve yet to see the fourth film, L’Atalante). A propos de Nice was ripe with rich, subtle humour evoked by imagery rather than explicit statements (much like Un Chien Andalou, released only a year before it). A subtly sardonic and powerful film, A propos de Nice is essential for fans of early French cinema.
Battleship Potemkin (1925) – 74 minutes
My all-time favourite silent film (and the best movie of the 1920s, in my opinion), Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is a hell of a masterpiece. Based on the true events of a mass revolt by slaves on the titular boat, the film is enthralling for every minute, and stunning during several key sequences. Essential for all lovers of cinema.
The General (1927) – 78 minutes
The third of four silent films on this list (ironically placed one after the other), Buster Keaton’s classic comedy The General is simply fantastic, a must-watch for fans of silent films, comedies, or classic cinema in general. From the dangerous but very real stunts to the startling images, Keaton’s masterpiece is ripe with incredible hilarity.
Koyaanisqatsi (1982) – 80 minutes
It’s not the kind of documentary you’re used to – it contains no dialogue and a constant 80 minute soundtrack of ethereal and pulsing music, as well as overwhelming, heartstopping imagery that never ceases. But it is arguably one of the most powerful and brilliant films ever made. Worth seeing if anything for the simply incredible ‘The Grid’ sequence, which lasts twenty minutes and makes stunning use of sped-up images.
La Jetée (1962) – 28 minutes
Many people who see La Jetée aren’t aware of the incredible but effective way in which it was made – that is, until they start watching. La Jetée, a film by the controversial, talked-about but rarely seen Chris Marker, consists of only still images. No video. But there is dialogue, and there is a story. For those looking for a bit more context, try Terry Gilliam’s film Twelve Monkeys, which is a remake of this amazing short.
Mouchette (1967) – 81 minutes
I recently reviewed this film as part of my Robert “Bresson-athon” and am starting to become concerned that it may overtake Au Hasard Balthazar as my favourite film from the French auteur. Mouchette is one of the saddest films I’ve ever seen, and is one of my favourites for many reasons, more than I can elaborate in this short paragraph. In short, you need to see it.
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) – 83 minutes
This list does contain some depressing films, but Mr Hulot’s Holiday is the exact opposite of depressing. It is fucking hilarious. This is a throwback to the days of silent films and stars like Keaton and Chaplin. Director/star Jacques Tati plays the eponymous hero, whose holiday to the beach becomes a series of hilarious, well-constructed skits that will have you in stitches, for sure.
Nonfilm (2002) – 45 minutes
If there is any reason for you to have heard of Quentin Dupieux, it would be for his 2010 film Rubber, which introduced to the world his belief in the “No Reason” philosophy. Rubber was his third film, but Nonfilm was his first. At 45 minutes (Dupieux prefers it to an additional 75-minute version, which is currently unavailable), it is relatively short, but is curious and inquisitive. While not an exceptionally great movie, it is an inventive and original one that will have you thinking.
Once (2006) – 84 minutes
I originally did not love Once. Then my girlfriend convinced me to see it again, and I changed my mind after a second viewing. No, this movie is not fantastic. At times it becomes boring. But the music is really good, and surprisingly, it is enough to sustain the film for an easy-enough 84 minutes, and makes it really enjoyable.
A Short Film About Killing (1988) – 84 minutes
Whether you approve of the death penalty or disapprove, if you have ever even briefly thought about it, you need to see A Short Film About Killing, which was adapted from the fifth episode of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterpiece The Decalogue. A meaningless and unprovoked murder causes an unexpected moral crisis for a young lawyer, and if the ending doesn’t have you tearing up just a wee bit, there may be something seriously wrong with you.
Simon of the Desert (1965) – 40 minutes
There were so many Luis Buñuel films to choose from to put on this list. In choosing Simon of the Desert, I had to turn down Un Chien Andalou, L’Age D’Or, Los Olvidados and others, but those three films have been written about enough, and this one hasn’t. Simon of the Desert is Buñuel’s middle finger to religion, and what a powerful finger it is. The last five minutes alone are among the best of Buñuel’s career, but only when you consider the thirty five that came before it.
Tape (2001) – 81 minutes
Richard Linklater’s film does what many films have tried to do, but not fully succeeded. It is a film with only three actors, set entirely within one room and one room only. The dialogue is crisp, and brilliantly written, provocative and enthralling, and this film will have you thinking for days after its conclusion.
Wavelength (1967) – 45 minutes
No, you probably won’t like this film. And you definitely will not enjoy it. It is a film made to annoy; however, if you can make it through the purposely boring first 40 minutes, you will encounter this tiny wee avant-garde art film’s real beauty in its final five. Think about it this way: if you stare long enough at a still image, it will eventually change, snd that’s what Wavelength does, oh so cleverly.
Winter Light (1962) – 81 minutes
I’ve seen a lot of films made in the 1960s decade, but I think Winter Light is the best of those eventful ten years. Made in 1962 by Ingmar Bergman, it features some of the best directing, acting, writing, cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene I’ve ever seen in any film. From its haunting title to its sublime dialogue, this film is important, and I will never forget it.
World of Glory (1991) – 15 minutes
I don’t know why I haven’t spoken much about this very short film. I’ve only seen it once, about eight months ago. I watched it at about 11pm at night, shortly before heading off to bed, and I didn’t fall asleep until around 3am. It was stuck in my head, and I’ve never forgotten it, nor dared to watch it again. I won’t say any more, other than that its one of the five most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. I’ve embedded it from YouTube below so you can see it for yourself, and hopefully you will never forget it like I haven’t. It is a nightmare. That’s the most accurate way of describing it. A nightmare.
So, what are some of your favourite short or relatively short movies? Let me know in the comments below.