‘Ideal’ movie running time is 92 minutes, poll claims


A market research poll claims to have established that 92 minutes is the “ideal” movie length for American audiences.

According to Talker Research (formerly OnePoll US), an online survey conducted in April with 2,000 Americans concluded that respondents opted for 92 minutes as their preferred running time. Fifteen per cent said that films over 120 minutes (two hours) were acceptable, while only 2% were happy with a movie longer than 150 minutes (2.5 hours).

On the face of it this claim conflicts with commercial realities, with nine out of the 10 highest grossing films of all time clocking in at over two hours, with three (Avengers: Endgame, Avatar: Way of Water and Titanic) lasting over three hours each. Only the 2019 remake of The Lion King, at No 9, misses the two-hour mark, at 118 minutes.

However, the issue came to the fore recently after some cinemas interrupted screenings of the 206-minute Martin Scorsese picture Killers of the Flower Moon with an unauthorised intermission. Scorsese had previously defended his film’s running time, saying: “You can sit in front of the TV and watch something for five hours … there are many people who watch theatre for 3.5 hours … give cinema some respect.”

Recent research by What to Watch suggests that the average running time of the most commercially successful films is increasing, with an average of 141 minutes in 2022 compared with 110 minutes in 1981. A number of reasons have been advanced, from streaming platforms’ ability to ignore the rigidity of cinema screening schedules, to the desire to showcase expensive visual effects and action sequences that have proliferated over the last decade.

Talker Research also asked respondents about using subtitles while watching TV, with 33% saying they “never” used them and 16% saying they “always” did. However, figures for the latter appeared to be age-related, with younger cohorts more likely to use them; 23% of millennials said they “always” used subtitles, and 30% of gen Z.

The ideal running time is whatever the director needs.
Reality begs to differ

I don't think there's a one size fits all running time which runs throughout all cinema. I'm fine with whatever suits the material the best.

106 minutes is best.
"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Starcrash is 92 minutes long and it's a perfect movie, so...
There you go, the pollsters were right!

But I've got to admit, the older I get, the happier I become when I realize a movie is around 90 minutes.

But that's also because I'm an old piece of garbage, so maybe that's a bad opinion. Old people are shit.

While I do agree that some movies are becoming too long, in my opinion, this poll is wrong. An hour and a half is not enough time to fully develop many stories, unless they are very basic ones. If all movies were 92 minutes or below, I think a lot of movies wouldn't be made and it would greatly narrow the kinds and types of stories that were produced, which would be a loss for viewers as well as the industry.

"Average" movies are more enjoyable when they're 92 minutes.

Great movies can indeed be any length, although when you approach 3 hours, it makes me feel like you've got two movies there. Oppenheimer, for example.

I think a lot of horror movies would work better with 60 minute lengths. That's about as long as most scary concepts can work well. There are exceptions of course, but most 90+ minute horror movies seem to have a good 20 minutes or more of padding in the middle.

Host (2020) is a great example of a 60 minute horror film that's just the right length.

I take this to be an "all else being equal" kind of thing. Nobody thinks The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King should be 92 minutes.

A whole, whole lot of movies are clearly longer than they need to be, though, and would benefit from some ruthless editing.

And yes, I too find shorter movies more appealing as I age. Though I care less about runtime once I've started a film, assuming it grabs me sufficiently. It looms much larger when I'm deciding what to watch, since in many cases watching something over two hours is me saying "this is going to be the entirety of my evening."

I think a filmmaker is always gambling with audience attention span with a running time over 1 hour and 40 minutes. On the other hand, when I saw films like Titanic, Goodfellas, and Casino, I didn't feel the running time at all. A three hour movie can rivet a viewer to the screentime if the three hours is used effectively.

Trouble with a capital "T"
Everything Yoda said there, is how I feel about movie's runtime.

When I'm engaged and enjoying a film the runtime doesn't matter much. If I'm really loving the film I might even wish it was a bit longer. But what is the deal with so many new movies being 140,150,160 minutes? Especially for big budget new films by prestigious directors.

The poll is interesting as apparently I'm not the only one who enjoys a movie story being told in 90 minutes. I mainly watch older films, like noir So many of the older films were at 90 minutes. Many of the b-noirs were around 75 minutes. Even a bigger film like the one I watched last night was right at 2 hours. More is not always better.

I take this to be an "all else being equal" kind of thing. Nobody thinks The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King should be 92 minutes.
A good example of a movie that normies ruined for me. So many people I dislike love this film that I now don't feel like rewatching it ever again because I know I wouldn't approach it with the sincerity it deserves. It'll forever be the favorite of the few people I spite and thus something I have a hard time loving. It'll forever be 'good' in my book because a reassessment will never come because of that. Similarly, I don't think I'll ever rewatch Melville's Le samurai. An ex-friend would drone about this film over and over again making everybody else absolutely hate the idea of ever rewatching it, ruining the film for us. This is a masterpiece but I don't want to ever rewatch it. My ex-friend ruined it for me and a few other cinephiles who had the displeasure of listening to his creaming over this film every day for 3 years.

That being said, I'd love to watch a Filipino or Ghanian or Paraguayan version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King that's 92 minutes long. The Soviet Hobbit was better than Jackson's, for example.

A whole, whole lot of movies are clearly longer than they need to be, though, and would benefit from some ruthless editing.
A whole lot of movies are clearly shorter than they need to be. There's something consumerist and evil in wanting to cut a film down to an easily digestible 90-minute-long product. But yes, there's a huge difference between saying this as a viewer who wants something easier to watch versus saying this as a producer who wants to butcher somebody's vision.

And yes, I too find shorter movies more appealing as I age.
This has more to do with being busier, right? Or maybe lazier and less willing to be challenged? As we age, we become less adventurous and ambitious and have to deliberately fight it to stay as we were before. For one, I became too complacent with my cinephilia.

Starcrash is 92 minutes long and it's a perfect movie, so...

Best reply.

(What movie is your icon from?)

This may be a situation where different people just have different preferences, and I may be a little out of step with the consensus based on the poll. For me, most 90 minute movies feel too short and the story feels like it is shallow and could benefit from some more development. I think for me around 2 hours is a good movie length. 2.5 hours or above feels long and close to 3 hours or over feels like the film would have benefited from some editing.

I can't add much, but genre plays a role for me. I'm not sure I've seen a comedy movie that really needs to be 2+ hours, but more dramatic movies with commendable storytelling can make the same running time feel perfect.

No great movie is ever too long, and no bad movie is ever short enough. GoodFellas is two and a half hours long and as engrossing now on my hundredth viewing as it was on my first. Little Nicky is 90 minutes long and every single one of those minutes is torturous.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

I think overall this is correct. How successful a movie is is about a lot more than its length, and well constructed movies that are longer may be appropriate to the story and work well. I think this was Roger Ebert's view. However, I do think that it is very possible to have a great movie that is too long. In my opinion, and I understand views differ on this, if you can't watch a movie in one sitting, or doing so feels like an endurance challenge, the movie, for me, is too long. I can think of many good movies that I enjoyed that I would have preferred to be shorter. I think overly long movies, like movies, for example, that are 3 hours, in most cases, feel self-indulgent, and a little bit of a challenge to watch, while I think had the same story been shorter, it would have been more enjoyable, while likely not losing its great movie status.