Paul Thomas Anderson Agrees: Movies Shouldn’t Be More Than Two Hours

Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson attends the 2018 Texas Film Awards
Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic

It’s not rare to find yourself sitting down for two and a half to three-hour movie these days. Just look at some of the most talked-about movies of this year—House of Gucci, No Time to Die, Dune—they all boast a runtime of at least 150 minutes. According to director Paul Thomas Anderson, though, there’s no reason for that. “A film should preferably be two hours,” the director recently told the New York Times. “That’s when they’re at their best.”

Of course, Anderson isn’t the only director who has commented on the movie runtime debate. It seems that Hitchcock would agree with PTA as he once famously said, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” Admittedly, though, Anderson hasn’t always stuck to his own rule. “I’ve missed that mark multiple times, but [two hours is] really the goal,” he said. Magnolia, Anderson’s longest film, is 188 minutes long, though it seems like Anderson took his own advice with his last two movies, Phantom Thread and Licorice Pizza, which are both about 130 minutes in length.

Anderson explained that there have been times in the past when he felt the urge to turn a story into a limited series when he has struggled to cut parts out. “When in fact, no, it’s not, you just need to edit down your story,” he said. Though going from the eight to ten hours of a limited series to a two-hour movie seems like quite the chop, Anderson has clearly been successful with his editing skills. Deadline called Licorice Pizza a “lighthearted confection,” saying, “much of [the movie] is LOL hilarious, some of it poignant in its own way, some of it outlandish and nostalgic and all of it very PTA.”