By The Numbers: The Length Of Feature Films

How Long is the average Hollywood movie? It all started when a friend of mine asked me this exact question. My first answer was just over an hour and a half, because most movies I see hit multiplexes seem to have a running length of around 90 or 100 minutes. But the real answer was much harder to come by.

In my research, I came across the IMDb Film-Length Project, which doesn't provide the definitive answer I was looking for, but is still interesting. The project averages the top 50 rated films from each decade (500 titles in total), which gives us a good idea of the average length of the popular films from the last century. But the results are also likely skewed towards longer movies (not many of the throw away 90 minute popcorn films rank in the top 50 of any given decade). The graph above shows how movies have grown in length over the last 100 years. Click to enlarge.

I wanted to come to a better conclusion, so I  spent a few minutes tabulating the average running time of the top 50 movies of 2008. While not perfect, I think this gives a much better indication of the now, as opposed to the wow. And that number is 110 minutes.

I've always found it strange that everyone I know outside of my film geek circle tends to complain about the length of longer films, especially since the highest grossing films of all time are long. Below is a chart showing the running times of the top 14 grossing lie action films of all time. As you can see, all of the movies run over two hours, with some even running longer than three. The average run time is 159 minutes, or 2 hours and 39 minutes.