For many people on tight schedules, movies seem like too much of a time sink. This is especially true on college campuses; whether you’re an undergrad running from class to class, a grad student tasked with leading recitations and writing theses, or a professor leading a research team, it’s hard to find the time to catch a flick. Thankfully, The Unsafe Place has compiled nine great movies that clock in at under 90 minutes, perfect for watching in the evening before bed or when you’re caught in an extended break between classes.
© 1980 Paramount
A classic Leslie Nielsen comedy, Airplane! Packs as much mirth into its 88-minute runtime as possible. Full of visual gags, one-liners, and absurd characters, not one minute goes without a joke in this cult classic. Be careful, though: this film is extremely quotable, so you may find yourself slipping in references to clueless classmates for weeks after watching it.
© 2010 Magnolia Pictures
Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
Tucker and Dale vs Evil is the penultimate campy comedy. Two hillbillies, Tucker and Dale (the former played by Firefly star Alan Tudyk) buy a rundown cabin in the woods, but they attract the attention of vacationing college students, who get the idea that the two are a pair of serial killers. The clever reversal of stereotypical horror film tropes leads to plenty of laughs, so you may want to avoid watching this one in the library.
© Splendid, 2014
Speaking of campy, here’s another excellent spoof movie. Like in Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Zombeavers features a group of spring breakers in the woods; however, they are the protagonists in this movie. The antagonists are hordes of zombie beavers, whose comically cheap appearance adds to the tongue-in-cheek tone of the film. Despite the absurdity of the plot and the low budget, Zombeavers actually works very well as a B-movie, providing a surprisingly satisfying 85-minute break after a long day in the classroom.
© 2009 Columbia/TriStar
While Zombeavers may be original, it cannot compare to the king of horror comedies, Zombieland. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone hack their way through the zombie apocalypse in search of the last Twinkie on Earth, aided by Eisenberg’s list of rules for surviving “Zombieland.” Every bit of this film is pure gold—all 88 minutes.
© 1984 MGM Studios Inc.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
If you haven’t noticed, spoof comedies have been a dominant presence on this list. Thanks to their short runtimes (often forced by small budgets), such films are easy to find time for. This Is Spinal Tap is among the first great spoof movies; a mockumentary about a fading heavy metal band called “Spinal Tap,” viewers are given the inside scoop on the antics and inanities of life on tour. The music, while ridiculous in content, is actually very sonically impressive, adding a faint bit of authenticity to this fictional concert film.
© 2012 Paramount
The Dictator (2012)
Sacha Baron Cohen’s biggest mainstream comedy, The Dictator is a more palatable offering than Cohen’s 2006 film Borat. While watching Borat in the library may be embarrassing, The Dictator takes Cohen’s crudeness and puts refined production behind it, almost making it a normal movie. Cohen’s humor is still shocking and strong, taking what could have been a dry, Will Ferrell-style formula comedy into a hysterical, if unsophisticated, experience.
© 2004 New Line Cinema
I’ve written about Primer for Wagner’s Watchlist here, so if you want my full opinion, you can have it. For the sake of this article, I’ll keep my pitch short: at only 77 minutes long, Primer is probably the best sci-fi movie you can find under 90 minutes. While most of the other films on this list skirt the edge of the time limit, Primer is by far the most convenient for people with busy schedules. Engineering students ought to love it, too; after all, engineers don’t get to play leading roles very often.
© 1950 Kadowkowa Pictures
If you’re looking for a film with more culture than the many silly comedies listed thus far, but science fiction isn’t your speed, I now offer Rashomon. A Japanese film produced just a few years after World War II, Rashomon has become a cinematic classic, analyzed across the world (including by yours truly in a freshman comp class). Centered around the murder of a samurai, each main character’s story is told in a powerful reflection on the concept of truth. While it may be more difficult to process than the other entries on this list, Rashomon is a must-see for aspiring cinephiles.
© 2013 A24 Films
Rounding out this list is Locke, a film in which Tom Hardy is the only character who appears onscreen. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a construction foreman and family man. On the eve of a big project, Ivan receives very important news and is forced to drop everything and drive out of town. The entire film focuses on Ivan in his car, as he makes phone calls to the many people who depend on him. Ivan’s life slowly begins to come apart as he drives, and he is forced to make very tough decisions in a very vulnerable and helpless position. Hardy’s acting is superb, carrying the film from “arthouse experiment” to legitimate success.