From Ida to The Evil Dead: 10 of the best films under 90 minutes

This is not the moment for ponderous blockbuster cinema: concentration spans, we are told, are plummeting in the Covid era. So if you’re fretting at home, here is a film that will take your mind off things: the Beatles’ super-entertaining feature from 1964, which showcased their ease and humour in front of the camera as well as director Richard Lester’s gift for experimentation. A blast.
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If you are feeling strong minded, then try this still-staggering piece by Alan Clarke from 1989: a horribly brutal, near-wordless study of a string of sectarian killings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland (and the inspiration for Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film). A reminder of what will be lost if the Good Friday agreement is undermined.
Available on DVD

Silent films could get pretty baggy: Metropolis is over two hours, and Greed supposedly ran for nine in its original form. By comparison, this 1920 expressionist fever dream is a wisp: a creepy, hyper-designed fable of a hypnotist who kills via his subject. The somnambulist provided an early role for Conrad Veidt, the German officer in Casablanca.
Amazon Prime Video/BFI Player


Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

Hypnotic … The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Photograph: Allstar/Sinister Cinema/Sportsphoto

The Jungle Book (78 mins)

Cartoons, for obvious reasons, tend to come in short, and none of the golden-age Disneys – with the exception of Fantasia – break the 90-minute mark. For its sheer effervescence, the 1967 adaptation of Kipling’s The Jungle Book still rules the roost: those amazing Sherman Brothers numbers could lift any lockdown blues.
Disney+

Agnès Varda’s wistful 2000 essay-film is an excellent introduction to her work, as well as a window into a social interaction that Covid has threatened. Varda reflects on the practice of gleaning – picking up what others leave behind – as an end in itself, and as a reflection of her own artistic practice.
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A short, sharp explosion of rage from 2013, coinciding with the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. The real-life killing of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a cop on a station platform in Oakland, California, became the directorial debut for Ryan Coogler, and made the name of actor Michael B Jordan.
Netflix

Something of a forgotten masterpiece, this: a super-low-budget product of the 1970s LA Rebellion film movement from 1978, which was only properly released in 2007 because of music rights issues. It is an amazing patchwork of African-American life in early-70s Los Angeles, revolving round Stan (Henry G Sanders), who works in a slaughterhouse.
Available on DVD


Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead.

What a load of rot … Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Photograph: Mike Ditz/Allstar/New Line Cinema

Turn the lights out for a hand-grenade of 1980s shock: the first in Sam Raimi’s series of demon-infested horrors, which blended nerve-shredding nastiness and snappy funnies (some scenes are now problematic, if we are being honest). The follow-ups, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, are slicker and whip by at 84 mins and 88 mins respectively.
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Ida (82 mins)

Director and co-writer Paweł Pawlikowski won the best foreign language film Oscar with this perfectly polished 2013 miniature, a black-and-white study of a nun’s spiritual crisis that also takes in a reckoning with Poland’s wartime and communist-era past. It is beautifully shot, too, with the idiosyncratic framing creating a sense of genuine religious awe.
Digital platforms (£)

If you want lean and mean, classic film noir is where you want to be. Intended mostly as B-movies, they don’t mess about. Gun Crazy, directed in 1950 by Joseph H Lewis, features Peggy Cummins and John Dall as a heist-pulling couple with an intense, violence-infected relationship. Radical for its time, it still looks astonishing.
Available on DVD

The Guardian

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