Netflix Has Invented the Perfect Movie Genre
What do the Christopher Guest mockumentary Mascots, the animated Captain Underpants movie, the gender-swapped She’s All That remake, the slasher movie The Babysitter, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail all have in common?
Until recently, absolutely nothing. But now they’re all grouped together on Netflix; listed under a genre I have never seen before in any context. This genre is so simple it’s kind of astonishing no one has used it until now (at least that I‘m aware of).
It’s called “90-Minute Movies.”
It first caught my eye a couple weeks ago as I was scrolling my own Netflix account. Since then I have seen it repeatedly on the service’s home page, where (at least on my own account) it’s often listed between genres like “Cult Movies,” “Family Animation,” and “Classic Movies.”
The movies that appear under the “90-Minute Movies” tag have changed occasionally over the last month and are, I am sure, based at least partly on things I have viewed in the past. When I looked at it again this morning, the titles included the aforementioned Monty Python and the Holy Grail, along with the recent Jackass 4.5 and The Polka King, a biopic starring Jack Black.
Those are all comedies of one sort or another, but any time I’ve looked at the 90-Minute Movies on Netflix, I have found quite a few different kinds of films there, collected from a variety of well-established genres. Here are five movies that Netflix placed there recently that give you a pretty good idea of how many sorts of films you can find just by looking at this one row of titles.
“90-Minute Movies” On Netflix
If you Google “90-minute movies,” there are loads of lists of recommendations for movies with runtimes of an hour and a half or less. But I’ve never seen 90-minute movies used as a genre unto itself before. I worked at several video stores in my younger days, including New York City’s legendary Kim’s Video, which grouped its massive collection of VHS, DVD, and Blu-rays into more than 450 different genres — and even they didn’t have a “90-Minute Movies” genre.
Kim’s, which had a well-deserved reputation as a serious repository for an eclectic spectrum of films, probably would never have stooped to recommend titles because they were relatively short. (I could see Kim’s adding a section for “Three-Hour Movies” before they would have added one for “90-Minute Movies.”) For Netflix users, though, this is an extremely useful addition to a streaming service.
Keep in mind that appreciating the utility of the 90-Minute Movies genre does not mean I think modern movies are too long, or that I hate three-hour movies. I loved the three-hour Oppenheimer just last week. If I get the chance, I would love to see it again on the big screen before it leaves theaters.
But that’s just it; a three-hour film is a commitment, and sometimes in our busy schedules we just don’t have time for that much movie, no matter how transcendently amazing it might be. Most weekdays, for example, I work on ScreenCrush from 9 to 5 or 6, then pause to have dinner with my family and get my kids into bed. Once everyone else in the family goes to sleep, I typically write for a few more hours. After that, I’m usually too wound up to sleep and I want to watch something — but nothing too long, because I want to be in bed myself by around midnight.
In that context, an Oppenheimer isn’t going to work. I need a short movie! In fact, scrolling Netflix at 10:30 recently was exactly how I found their 90-Minute Movies genre in the first place. (That night I turned on Holy Grail for the sixth gabillionth time.)
When Netflix is in the news these days, it’s usually because they did something that ticked people off. They got rid of their cheapest plan without ads, forcing subscribers to pay more or accept watching movies and shows with commercials. Or they cracked down on password sharing, forcing people to pay a few bucks a month to use their parents’ account. Some have even blamed their business mode for the current Hollywood strikes. (At least one article dubbed it “the Netflix strike.”)
But sometimes, despite all of that, the company deserves a little credit, and this is one of those times. I don’t know why it took so long to get a 90-minute movies genre, and it could probably use a snappier name. But I am glad it is here.