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« Big Little Lies MVPs: Episode 3 "Living The Dream" | Main | Would you rather...? »
Saturday
Mar112017

358 Days Until Oscar. Moonlight was short, as Best Pictures go. 

Gone With the Wind is not remotely the longest movie to ever win an Oscar (O.J. Made in America just beat previously record holder in that regard, Russia's foreign film winner War & Peace, by pretending to be a "movie" when it was actually a TV miniseries). But Gone With the Wind remains, at 3 hrs & 58 minutes, the longest Best Picture winner. We published the list of running times of the Best Picture winners a few years back but since then the Academy has naturally added a few movies to this list so it was time to update.

The last three winners have all, thankfully, been comparatively succinct in their storytelling and all of them under the "average" in length for a Best Picture. Can we hope that running times will come back down again since they've been growing over the years? Moonlight, our latest champ, is the 15th shortest film to ever win Best Picture. You can pack a lot of greatness into 111 minutes as we hope future filmmakers will realize when they study Barry Jenkins amazing movie in film schools. 

Here are all 90 Best Picture winners from longest to shortest. The new entries in bold...

  1. Gone With the Wind (1939) 238 minutes
    Just two minutes shy of four hours, but worth every second. Lots of Gone With the Wind discussion here.
  2. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 216 minutes
  3. Ben-Hur (1959) 212 minutes
    ˆˆˆ over 3½ hours ˆˆˆ

     
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 201 minutes
  5. The Godfather Part 2 (1974) 200 minutes
  6. Schindler's List (1993) 195 minutes
  7. Titanic (1997) 194 minutes
  8. Gandhi (1982) 191 minutes
  9. The Deer Hunter (1979) 182 minutes
  10. Dances With Wolves (1990) 181 minutes
    ˆˆˆ over 3 hours ˆˆˆ

    I only ever shouted "Freedom" when the insufferable movie ended! My vote for the worst Best Picture winner in my lifetime.
     
  11. Braveheart (1995) 177 minutes
  12. The Great Ziegfeld (1936) 176 miutes
  13. The Godfather (1972) 175 minutes
  14. Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) 175 minutes
  15. The Sound of Music (1965) 174 minutes
    ˆˆˆ almost 3 hours ˆˆˆ


     
  16. Patton (1970) 172 minutes
  17. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) 172 minutes
  18. My Fair Lady (1964) 170 minutes 
  19. The Last Emperor (1987) 163 minutes
  20. The English Patient (1996) 162 minutes
  21. Out of Africa (1985) 161 minutes
  22. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 161 minutes
  23. Amadeus (1984) 160 minutes
  24. Gladiator (2000) 155 minutes
  25. Hamlet (1948) 155 minutes
  26. Oliver! (1968) 153 minutes
  27. West Side Story (1961) 152 minutes
  28. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) 152 minutes
  29. The Departed (2006) 151 minutes
    ˆˆˆ over 2½ hours ˆˆˆ

    Wings is long for a non DW Griffith silent. Thank god it's so good! 
  30. Wings (1927) 144 minutes
  31. Forrest Gump (1994) 142 minutes
  32. All About Eve (1950) 138 minutes
  33. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) 136 minutes
  34. A Beautiful Mind (2001) 135 minutes
  35. 12 Years a Slave (2013) 134 minutes
  36. Mrs. Miniver (1942) 134 minutes
  37. Rain Man (1988) 133 minutes
  38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 133 minutes
  39. Terms of Endearment (1983) 132 minutes
  40. Million Dollar Baby (2004) 132 minutes
  41. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) 132 minutes
  42. Unforgiven (1992) 131 minutes
  43. The Hurt Locker (2008) 131 minutes
  44. Rebecca (1940) 130 minutes
  45. The Sting (1973) 129 minutes
  46. Spotlight (2015) 129 minutes
  47. Tom Jones (1963) 128 minutes
  48. You Can't Take It With You (1938) 126 minutes
  49. Going My Way (1944) 126 minutes
  50. The Apartment (1960) 125 minutes
  51. Chariots of Fire (1981) 124 minutes
  52. Ordinary People (1980) 124 minutes
  53. Shakespeare in Love (1998) 123 minutes
  54. Cimarron (1931) 123 minutes
  55. No Country For Old Men (2007) 122 minutes
  56. American Beauty (1999) 122 minutes
    ˆˆˆ over 2 hours ˆˆˆ 

  57. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) 120 minutes
  58. Platoon (1986) 120 minutes
  59. Argo (20120 120 minutes
  60. A Man For All Seaons (1966) 120 minutes
  61. Rocky (1976) 119 minutes

  62. Birdman (2014) 119 minutes
  63. From Here To Eternity (1953) 118 minutes
  64. The King's Speech (2010) 118 minutes
  65. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 118 minutes
  66. How Green Was My Valley (1941) 118 minutes
  67. Gentleman's Agreement (1947) 118 minutes
  68. The Life of Emile Zola (1937) 116 minutes
  69. Gigi (1958) 115 minutes
  70. Midnight Cowboy (1969) 113 minutes
  71. Chicago (2002) 113 minutes
  72. An American in Paris (1951) 113 minutes
  73. Crash (2005) 112 minutes

  74. Grand Hotel (1932) 112 minutes
  75. Cavalcade (1933) 112 minutes
  76. Moonlight (2016) 111 minutes
  77. All The King's Men (1949) 110 minutes
  78. In the Heat of the Night (1967) 109 minutes
  79. On the Waterfront (1954) 108 minutes
  80. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) 105 minutes
  81. It Happened One Night (1934) 105 minutes
  82. The French Connection (1971) 104 minutes
  83. Casablanca () 102 minutes
  84. The Lost Weekend (1945) 101 minutes
  85. The Artist (2011) 100 minutes
  86. The Broadway Melody (1929) 100 minutes
  87. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) 99 minutes
  88. Annie Hall = Biggest Ratio of Minutes (93) to Laughs (Hundreds) 
  89. Sunrise (1927) 94 minutes *for the nitpickers: yes, technically this is not a best picture winner but the winner of "Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Productiona category that was only given in Oscar's first year when they were figuring things out and had essentially two different Best Picture categories, the other was called "Outstanding Picture" which Wings won.
  90. Annie Hall (1977) 93 minutes
    ˆˆˆ over 1½ hours ˆˆˆ 
  91. Marty (1955) 90 minutes
    It's too bad that 90 minutes, the perfect length for a movie, is so underrepresented!

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Reader Comments (23)

The only things about 'Braveheart' I actually remember is that I didn't really like it, and that it felt really long. I have forgotten, though, that it not only felt long, but actually was long. Though certainly not quite as long as it felt.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

I really don't think there is a perfect length for a film. Some movies work well at 90 minutes but many would feel rushed or underdeveloped.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

Nathaniel does the Driving Miss Daisy theme ever creep into your imagination causing unpleasant thoughts? Can I assume that sore spot of a best actress victory is equivalent to when Anjel hears the word misery and is automatically reminded that her one chance in the category is pa pa permanently damaged?

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

That's funny about Braveheart. My sister saw it for the first time this year, and she couldn't believe it won best picture. She ran through a huge list of the movie's deficiencies. She was even more upset when I told her it beat Apollo 13, Babe, and Sense and Sensibility. She has never seen Il Postino, but she decided it was probably much better than Braveheart, too.

Length doesn't matter to me. Some long movies are worth it. And some under two hours are chores to sit through. Cimarron felt longer than plenty of movies longer than it. The same can be said for Gentleman's Agreement, The Life of Emil Zola, and The King's Speech. Ben-Hur is long, but it moves, so it doesn't feel as long as A Man for All Seasons, which is only two hours.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Jackie -- i'm exaggerating when i say "the perfect length for a movie" but generally speaking i think it's close to it (some movies earn being really long -- best years of our lives / gone with the wind/etcetera but i think the actual majority of super long movies don't).

90 minutes is the length of a dream cycle and if movies are dreams... there's even some interesting discussion on what is risking it with length in one of my all time favorite film books "the conversations" with Walter Murch on editing and sound editing and audience involvement to pov narratives and such.

March 11, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

/3rtful -- thankfully i've only seen it once so, no.

cash -- yeah. one of those years where the absolute worst choice won. thankfully that doesn't seem to be happening as much as it once did.

March 11, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I had no idea that "The Great Ziegfeld" was so long--not that I've ever seen it.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDanno

I like Driving Miss Daisy and it's score. It may not be one of the greatest movies, but I think it's still good. I haven't​ seen it in years, but I remember having an interesting discussion on race and socio-economic issues with my fellow viewers after it was done.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCash

"i'm exaggerating when i say "the perfect length for a movie" but generally speaking i think it's close to it (some movies earn being really long -- best years of our lives / gone with the wind/etcetera but i think the actual majority of super long movies don't)."

It's true some films would be much better simpler and shorter but I've seen too many 90-100 minutes films that I thought needed to longer to consider it close to the perfect film length.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

I don't think the length of a perfect movie can be standardized - 'Duck Soup' is as perfect at 68 minutes as 'Toni Erdmann' is at 162.

I wouldn't even agree that a movie feeling longer than it actually is is necessarily a sign that it is bad - just for example, it will never cease to amaze me how much story 'City of God' can cram into its 130 minute running time without feeling overstuffed, and in retrospect it sometimes feels like it's two or three seasons of a serialized TV show. Also, when I left the cinema after watching 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' for the first time, I was amazed to look at my watch and find out only a mere two hours had elapsed, as the film felt as epic as a three-hour-and-a-bit spectacle.

But indeed, that sweet spot of ninety-something minutes feels just right. If neither the story nor the storyteller can justify exceeding that time, I tend to grow restless, and more often than not, when a film hits the two-hour mark and keeps going, I find myself wishing it would have thrown out needless filler.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

Is anyone else still in the "Holy shit, Moonlight won best picture" phase?

I think what staggers me, about movie running times, is that comedies, somehow, are viewed as 2 hr projects which is just INSANE to me. Sure, some comedies can sustain longer running times (Toni Erdmann was mentioned, but Some Like it Hot brushes the 2 hour mark as well)., but take a look at a Lubitsch comedy - his films rarely hit triple digits.

Nathaniel, have you ever done an "average" run time for the movies in your top ten? I'd be curious

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

arkaan -- ooh i have not but your comment prompted me to look at this year's top ten and the average is 116.8 minutes... shortest being LOVE & FRIENDSHIP and THE WITCH (both 92 minutes) and the longest by far being THE HANDMAIDEN (167 minutes)

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Arkaan -- and yes, i'm still in the 'holy shit Moonlight' mode.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

You know The Godfather's first cut was under 120 minutes. Producer Robert Evans refused to accept this version and told Coppola: you have a 3-hour epic in your hands. Do it!

So Coppola went back to the editing room and the movie got its extra hour. It's strange to think that, because every single second of The Godfather is perfect.

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

cal roth: The Godfather as a 2 hour movie would have been trash. The human moments would have been cut down and it would have been all plot and gore. Though, honestly, Robert Evans is one of the best producers in Hollywood history. (High points: Rosemary's Baby, Harold and Maude, The Godfather, Kid Notorious (It didn't last long, but it sounds like it was a proto-Archer. So, that's cool.).)

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

TANDY4EVA

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNin

Volvagia: Not forgetting Chinatown!

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

complete side note: wasn't Joan Crawford hot in Grand Hotel? Like holy cow!

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Arkaan -- Absolutely!

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

You made a mistake. GIGI is actual 874 minutes. If it weren't for the end credits I'd swear it never actually ended. I refuse to believe it is shorter than SPOTLIGHT, which I could've sworn was about 105 tops.

March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

@Glen Dunks: yes, Gigi was indeed that long--but I think The Great Ziegfeld was perhaps even 1-2 minutes longer.

March 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I can't stand the folksy, cringe-worthy score of "Driving Miss Daisy."

But I do wish "Annie Hall" had a running time of forever, instead of 93 minutes.

March 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

It's always good to be reminded that Titanic is the shortest movie to win 11 Oscars.

March 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

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