Hollywood lives and dies by the notion that bigger is always better. This philosophy is applied to budgets, special effects, and even the lengths of films. Most of the biggest hits of the last 20 years -- Avatar, The Dark Knight, Titanic, and the Lord of the Rings films -- are at least 2.5 hours long. This is why it may be surprising to hear that Toy Story, the iconic Pixar classic that will be spawning its second sequel this month, clocked in at a mere 81 minutes. Has there ever been a better, shorter movie than that? Let's review some contenders and find out:
5. This is Spinal Tap (Honorable Mention at 82 minutes)
If it were only a minute shorter, this legendary music mockumentary would have a strong case for being the greatest short movie ever. But is there really a minute of it you wouldn't mind giving up?
4. Once (76 minutes)
This Irish musical is the very definition of short and sweet. It lets us into a moment in the lives of a guy and a girl (the film doesn't even spare a minute to tell us their names) as they meet, make music together, and then move on with their lives. Once teaches us that a relationship doesn't have to last forever to permanently change us, and neither does a movie. It took home an Oscar for Best Original Song and, like Toy Story, many were outraged that it didn't score a Best Picture nomination. However, its appeal is limited due to the quiet nature of its story and complete lack of Hollywood flashiness. It's definitely worthy of 76 minutes of your time, but it will never reach the beloved-by-all status of the original Toy Story.
3. Duck Soup (68 minutes)
Comedies are not excluded from the trend of movies being too long, so modern comedy auteurs like Judd Apatow might be able to learn a thing or two by checking out the works of the Marx brothers, who didn't need a lot of time to create hilarity. The flip side of this argument, though, is that had their films been any longer, their madcap antics might have grown stale. Duck Soup is undeniably a classic, but modern comedic sensibilities have changed so much over time that it's hard to justify giving this one the crown.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (76 minutes)
Tim Burton's best films are just strange enough to be universal. Even people who claim Burton is too weird or creepy for their tastes will usually admit to having a soft spot for this stop-animation masterpiece that's as enjoyable to watch on Halloween as it is on Christmas. Unfortunately, the plethora of Nightmare merchandise stocking the shelves at your local Hot Topic has given it a regrettable stigma of being for "Goths only."
1. Dumbo (64 minutes)
At just over an hour, Disney's saga of a big-eared baby circus elephant is the perfect length to tell young children a rich and complete story without losing their attention. Also, it's a film that's been passed down several generations already and still holds the same magic. Therefore, in order to make this discussion of great shorter movies fair, we'll have to pause for now and meet back here in a few decades to see if our great-great grandchildren are still as enraptured by Buzz and Woody as the children of the last 60 years have been by Dumbo.