When The Residents released Commercial Album (a concept album featuring forty "commercial" one-minute songs) in 1980, Phonogram and Celluloid Records were contracted to distribute the album in Europe. In order to promote the release, the two labels co-financed the production of short videos for four selected songs from the album.
With a solid budget in place, The Residents hired their regular collaborator Graeme Whifler to direct short clips for "Moisture" and "The Simple Song". The Residents themselves directed a further two videos, "The Act of Being Polite" and "Perfect Love".
As there was little else available in the medium of music video at the time, the resulting One Minute Movies often received airplay on MTV (then in its infancy), despite the decidedly experimental nature of the music.
The full version of One Minute Movies opens with a title screen, which is shot behind a fishtank in which a large number of goldfish swim among four eyeball-headed figures. Each of the four videos featured in the short film is introduced by its own title shown in simple white text on a black background.
The first of the four clips, "Moisture", opens with a figure lying enshrouded in what appears to be spider webs, inside a futuristic room lit by flashing stage lights. A man on the moon enthusiastically mimes the song's guitar solo as the Earth can be seen on the backdrop behind him. In the futuristic room, the shrouded figure is probed by long alien arms, and is then observed by four dancing Residents, who are seen only from behind.
The second video, "The Act of Being Polite", opens with Mr. Blue Eye lying on his side on a seat, staring straight ahead. A giggling eyeball-headed girl sits in a chair and tenderly caresses a box covered in question marks. Mr. Blue Eye and the eyeball-headed girl lie together on a mattress exhaustedly. An animated love heart is crushed from above by a metallic stamp. The song's last lyric is mimed by an animated pair of lips on a television screen next to Mr. Blue Eye's head. As the love heart finally explodes from the pressure, the video ends with a caption, simply reading "THANK YOU".
The third video, "Perfect Love", shows an old man lying on his stomach on a mattress, under an imposing, old oval portrait of a young woman which hangs on the wall behind him. The old man watches a clip of Lonesome Jack from the film Vileness Fats on television. As the man watches the television, four Resident hand-puppets appear on the screen and mime the song's lyrics. The television begins to smoke, and the old man flies upwards into the air, landing on the wall behind him. In the next shot his arm appears to be trapped underneath the portrait. The television continues to smoke and the old man is last seen sitting on the wall, holding the portrait in front of him.
The last video, "The Simple Song", features The Residents in a red-lit room, dancing around a rotating pig which has been decorated with candles as a kind of grotesque birthday cake. The song's lyrics are mimed by four neon green figures with eyeball heads. As The Residents continue to dance around the pig, the camera focuses on a figure in an asbestos suit who is kneeled behind the pig, manually rotating it.
Along with The Residents' other early short films and their entire discography, One Minute Movies is held by the Museum of Modern Art. It has featured on all of the group's retrospective video compilations to date, such as the 1987 Video Voodoo VHS, the 1992 Twenty Twisted Questions laserdisc, and the 2001 Icky Flix DVD.
In 2004 The Residents commissioned a large number of new "one minute movies" based on songs from Commercial Album from a number of independent directors, which were then compiled on the semi-interactive DVD release Commercial DVD. The DVD features the four original One Minute Movies, alongside the newly commissioned entries by artists including John Sanborn and Steven Cerio, as well as a selection of new videos created by The Residents themselves. Every song on the album is represented on the DVD, as are the album's B-side tracks "And I Was Alone" and "Shut Up Shut Up".
In 2019 the film (alongside "The Third Reich 'n' Roll" and "Hello Skinny") was restored in HD by Peter Conheim for the Cinema Preservation Alliance. This restored version appears in the video collection Ears, Eyes and Throats: Restored Classic and Lost Punk Films 1976-1981, available for viewing on a number of online streaming platforms.
In October 2021, The Residents minted their first official NFT, featuring the original One Minute Movies video for "The Act of Being Polite", as part of a Sotheby's auction benefiting the Blackrock Foundation.