These films will make you cry, laugh, and think. Here’s our list of the best short films, hand-picked for their quality and depth.
What makes a great short film? A fantastic short film is one that makes a mark on you long after you watch it.
And a sure sign of a brilliant short is that you send the link to friends over social media.
The demand for short films has skyrocketed in recent years. From YouTube to the various streaming platforms, there are a variety of ways that filmmakers can get their work seen by large audiences.
Short films are often a way for new filmmakers to get their vision produced without needing a huge budget.
The best short films that you don’t want to miss are the ones that can make you laugh, cry, and feel something.
Sometimes a few minutes is all we need to be entertained but what if you could get more from your time spent on YouTube? Some of the films in this guide may make a huge impression on you.
Let’s take a look!
Best Short Films
Let’s jump right into our list of the best short films.
Un Chien Andalou (1929)
The film Un Chien Andalou has been a popular topic for filmmakers and artists alike. The surrealistic imagery in the movie is very captivating, but it also has a dark tone to it.
It’s one of those films that you’ll either love or hate.
Directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou is a 1920s surrealist silent film with an unsettling atmosphere.
The movie was made to shock the audience and leaves viewers wondering what they just saw.
It’s full of bizarre images that seem to have no rhyme or reason for being there.
For example, the first shot shows a woman with her eyeball sliced open by a razor blade while she calmly smokes a cigarette. It culminates with an image of ants crawling out from under some rocks where they’ve been feasting on human remains.
It’s an incredible piece of cinema and has to be seen to be believed. The really shocking thing is that this film was made in the 1920s!
La Jetee (1962)
La jetee is a 1962 French film that tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world in which people are under constant surveillance.
The film is often considered to be one of the most influential pieces in cinematic history and has had an enormous impact on filmmakers and thinkers over the last sixty years. It’s known to be the short film that Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys was based on.
The movie lasts for only 24 minutes but it tells the story of humanity’s survival after a nuclear war has occurred.
Using a time-lapse film technique, the movie La Jetee tells of one man’s struggle to save humanity from nuclear disaster.
Wasp is a 26-minute short film written and directed by Andrea Arnold. Released in 2003, it stars Natalie Press as a struggling single mother determined not to let her four young children prove an obstacle in the pursuit of starting a relationship with an old acquaintance, played by Danny Dyer. The setting is Arnold’s hometown of Dartford.
The film is available on the Cinema 16: World Short Films and Cinema 16: European Short Films (US Special Edition) DVDs, and as a bonus feature on the Fish Tank DVD in the UK and the Red Road DVD in the US.
BEST SHORT FILMS
What Are Short Films?
A short film is a motion picture that has been created for the purpose of entertainment.
A short film usually lasts no more than 40 minutes in length and there are short films made in just about every film genre.
These films are typically shown at festivals like Sundance and Cannes if they have a budget or on television channels such as HBO.
In order to qualify for an Academy Award in the category of Best Short Film, the movie must be less than 40 minutes long.
A 10-year-old tomboy must weigh her loyalty to her trusted older brother when the siblings become complicit in a hate crime.
One Day (2001)
After he gets out of the toilets, a man is being chased by a human-sized turd, claiming to be the man’s child.
“Why have you abandoned me?” is the question the turd keeps on asking.
First, the man is embarrassed by the annoying presence of the turd, then he slowly accepts it alongside him…
Paperman is a 2012 animated short film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
The animation style in Paperman was developed to emulate the look of hand-drawn paper cutouts, with characters created from flat two-dimensional pieces of color.
This technique is called “cutout animation.”
The movie won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
It is a story about an everyday man who sees a woman while traveling to work and falls in love with her.
Small Deaths (1996)
The movie covers 3 events in a girl’s life. The first shows her as a very young girl watching her father get ready to go out for a night.
In the second segment she’s a teenager who witnesses a nasty incident involving a cow.
While in the third she’s a young adult who goes to a creepy building with her boyfriend.
The Phone Call (2013)
The Phone Call is a 2013 British short drama film. It was directed by Mat Kirkby and written by Kirkby and James Lucas. It won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film at the 87th Academy Awards.
The film stars Sally Hawkins as Heather, a crisis hotline counselor trying to dissuade Stanley (Jim Broadbent), an unseen distraught caller, from a suicide attempt following the death of his wife.
Session Man (1991)
Session Man is a 1991 American short drama film directed by Seth Winston and starring James Remar. In 1992, it won an Oscar at the 64th Academy Awards for Best Short Subject.
Blue Season (2013)
Sarah wakes up to find herself hanging upside down. As she screams for help a phone rings and the person on the other hand helps her escape. Is it all as it seems to be?
Encroaching ice from a malfunctioning refrigerator is threatening the welfare of all the inhabitants, and it’s time for the fearful fruit, dairy, and leftovers to hunker down and strategize!
Blinky is a 2011 Irish-American short science fiction-horror film written, edited, and directed by Ruairí Robinson.
The film stars Max Records, Robinson, Jenni Fontana, and James Nardini.
It tells the story of a boy who adopts a robot and begins neglecting it, until the robot complies with commands to murder
A Trip To The Moon (1902)
A Trip to the Moon is a legendary short film. Made in 1902, this French adventure short film directed by Georges Méliès.
Inspired by a wide variety of sources, including Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon and its 1870 sequel Around the Moon, the film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon’s surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return to Earth with a captive Selenite.
Its ensemble cast of French theatrical performers is led by Méliès himself as main character Professor Barbenfouillis. The film features the overtly theatrical style for which Méliès became famous.
Scholars have commented upon the film’s extensive use of pataphysical and anti-imperialist satire, as well as on its wide influence on later filmmakers and its artistic significance within the French theatrical féerie tradition.
Though the film disappeared into obscurity after Méliès’s retirement from the film industry, it was rediscovered around 1930, when Méliès’s importance to the history of cinema was beginning to be recognized by film devotees.
An original hand-colored print was discovered in 1993 and restored in 2011.
A Trip to the Moon was an internationally popular success on its release and was extensively pirated by other studios, especially in the United States.
Its unusual length, lavish production values, innovative special effects, and emphasis on storytelling were markedly influential on other filmmakers and ultimately on the development of narrative film as a whole.
It was ranked 84th at the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice.
The film remains Méliès’ best-known, and the moment in which the capsule lands in the Moon’s eye remains one of the most iconic and frequently referenced images in the history of cinema.
It is widely regarded as the earliest example of the science fiction film genre and, more generally, as one of the most influential films in cinema history.
I’m Here (2010)
A 2010 American short film, written and directed by Spike Jonze.
The film is a science-fiction love story about two robots living in Los Angeles where humans and robots co-exist.
The plot is based on the 1964 book The Giving Tree, and the main character is named after its author Shel Silverstein.
The film’s robots were created by Alterian, Inc., a Los Angeles-based effects company notable for their costume design for Daft Punk.
The film was funded by and is a promotion for Absolut Vodka, featuring the tagline “A Love Story in an Absolut World” on the promotional poster.
Music from the band Sleigh Bells is prominently featured. The film made its debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
A short futuristic film featuring Augmented reality and Gamification by Eran May-Raz and Daniel Lazo.
World of Tomorrow (2015)
World of Tomorrow is an avant-garde animated science fiction short film series written, directed, produced, animated, and edited by Don Hertzfeldt.
The series began with World of Tomorrow (2015), which was followed by World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (2017) and World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020).
The series features the voice of Julia Pott, frequently alongside Hertzfeldt’s four-year-old niece Winona Mae, who was recorded while drawing and playing.
Her spontaneous, natural vocal reactions and questions were then edited into the story to create her character.
The first film was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 2015 Academy Awards. In 2020, Indiewire called it “one of the greatest short films in the history of movies.”
Of the “dreamy, beloved” ongoing series,
The Film Stage noted, “Hertzfeldt has crafted what might be the crowning achievement of modern science fiction.”
Imaginary Flying Machines (2002)
Kūsō no Sora Tobu Kikaitachi is a Japanese animated short film produced by Studio Ghibli for its near-exclusive use in the Ghibli Museum.
It features director Hayao Miyazaki as the narrator, in the form of a humanoid pig, reminiscent of Porco from Porco Rosso, telling the story of flight and the many machines imagined to achieve it.
The Man Who Planted Trees (1987)
The tale revolves around one shepherd’s unending and ultimately successful endeavor to reforest a barren valley.
Geri’s Game (1997)
Geri, an elderly man, challenges himself to a game of chess in a park. Soon, Black Geri has the upper hand over White Geri, and White Geri is forced to fake a heart attack to distract him.
Lights Out (2013)
Lights Out is a 2013 Swedish supernatural horror short film directed, written, produced, shot, and scored by David F. Sandberg and starring Lotta Losten.
The film was released online on 30 December 2013 on both Vimeo and YouTube.
The short film was the basis of an eponymous 2016 film adaptation, also directed by Sandberg.
Still Life (2005)
Directed by Jon Knautz and written by Charles Johnston, Still Life is a fine example of short horror movie.
In this 2005 short horror film, a pill-popping driver is passing through a small Canadian town when he hits something: apparently a china mannequin.
The Birch (2017)
The Birch is a 2017 short horror film written and directed by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton, and released by Crypt TV.
It stars Andrew Thomas Ward, Corianna Marlowe, Charlie Venables, and Dee Sherwood Wallace. The film was released on May 5th, 2017 to critical acclaim.
Cargo is a 2013 Australian short film directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, written by Ramke, and starring Andy Rodoreda as a father who must protect his young daughter during a zombie apocalypse.
It was made for the Tropfest short film festival, where it was a finalist.
Tuck Me In (2014)
At only one minute long, “Tuck Me In” is more a scene than a film — and really may be more of an image than a scene.
The Elevator (2010)
A man learns the drawbacks of using the elevator.
Bar Talk (2013)
“Bar Talk” is a brief science fiction short film about a bizarre conversation between two men in a bar.
The film was directed by Lowell Northrop and based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, author of the novella “Bubba Ho-Tep,” which was adapted into a feature starring Bruce Campbell starring as Elvis Presley.
Trevor is a 1994 American short film directed by Peggy Rajski, produced by Randy Stone and Peggy Rajski, and written by Celeste Lecesne.
Set in 1981, the film follows what happens to 13-year-old Trevor, a Diana Ross fan, when his crush on a schoolmate named Pinky Faraday gets discovered.
Six Shooter (2004)
A man, who has lost his wife, is traveling and on the train he finds a co-passenger who is a little psychotic. Later, they develop a strange bond.
I’ll Wait For the Next One (2002)
J’attendrai le suivant… is a 2002 French short film directed by Philippe Orreindy.
Lasting only five minutes, the film takes place almost entirely on a metro train.
The film was released in France in September 2002, with subsequent screenings at various film festivals followed by releases around the world.
Multi-Facial is a 1995 American short drama film written, directed, produced, and scored by Vin Diesel.
The film stars Diesel as a multiracial actor and depicts the professional and emotional issues he faces.
Multi-Facial was noticed by Steven Spielberg, who would cast Diesel in Saving Private Ryan.
The Connection (2013)
A celebrity meets a person at the airport. All is fine until the person finds out that if they return home, they will be arrested.
Gregory Go Boom (2013)
Gregory, a paraplegic man, tries dating for the first time and discovers that life is very different than he had imagined.
Night and Fog (1955)
A short documentary that was released in 1955, Night and Fog is a visual representation of the Nazi regime during World War II. The film offers an insight into what happened to the Jewish population and other prisoners of war who were forced into concentration camps.
The Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog) is a 1955 French documentary that traces the history of systematic crimes committed in German-occupied Europe, as well as the past and present consequences. The film was made by Alain Resnais.
The film has been noted for its striking imagery of post-war Paris, as well as its haunting portrayal of the Holocaust.
The Mushroom Club (2005)
The Mushroom Club is a 2005 documentary short subject, directed by Steven Okazaki.
The short film is about the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima and its effects on the residents of that city sixty years later.
God Sleeps in Rwanda (2005)
God Sleeps in Rwanda is a 2005 documentary short subject about five women affected by the Rwandan genocide.
The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club (2004)
The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club, also known as The Life of Kevin Carter, is a 2004 American documentary short film about the suicide of South African photojournalist Kevin Carter.
The film is produced and directed by Dan Krauss as a master’s project at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
It describes how Carter, who won the Pulitzer Prize for a photograph of an emaciated African girl being stalked by a vulture, became depressed by the carnage he witnessed as a photographer in war-torn places.
In addition, he was devastated by the death of Ken Oosterbroek, a close friend and colleague who was shot and killed while working in the township of Thokoza.
It received a nomination for the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.
Knife Skills (2017)
Knife Skills is an American documentary film directed by Thomas Lennon.
It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject at the 90th Academy Awards.
It received generally positive reviews from critics.
The film focuses on people’s transition from prison life to the outside world through Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.
The goal of the institute is to teach former prisoners life skills and to give them focus in order to reduce recidivism rates.
The film follows the first class of students through their training and the opening of the restaurant by founder Brandon Chrostowski.
Scorpio Rising (1963)
Scorpio Rising is a 1963 American experimental short film directed by Kenneth Anger and starring Bruce Byron as Scorpio.
The themes central to the film include the occult, biker subculture, homosexuality, Christianity, and Nazism.
Scorpio Rising also explores the worship of rebel icons of the era, such as James Dean and Marlon Brando (referred to by Anger as Byron’s “heroes”).
Like many of Anger’s films, Scorpio Rising does not contain any dialogue but features a prominent soundtrack consisting of 1960s pop, including songs by Ricky Nelson, the Angels, the Crystals, Bobby Vinton, Elvis Presley, and Ray Charles.
It remains one of the most controversial short films ever made.
From the Drain (1967)
From the Drain is a short film directed by David Cronenberg.
The film is centered on two men in a bathtub; it is implied that they are veterans of some past conflict but revealed that they are currently in a mental institution.
The first man is paranoid about the drain of the tub, the second indifferent to it.
After the conversation between the two men progresses, a vine-like tendril emerges from the drain to strangle the first man.
The second shows no emotion to this sudden turn of events and the film ends.
The short was included along with Cronenberg’s other early films on a bonus disc in Arrow Video’s 2015 UK Blu-ray release of Videodrome.
This bonus disc, entitled David Cronenberg’s Early Works was later released on its own a year later.
The Grandmother (1969)
The Grandmother is an early David Lynch short film.
A young boy who is always abused by his parents plants a seed on his bed which develops into his grandmother.
They develop a bond and try to protect each other from any harm that comes their way.
In a post-apocalyptic world, a young woman fights for survival as she recalls traumatic events from her childhood.
Do No Harm (2017)
In an aging private hospital, a single-minded surgeon is forced to break her physician’s oath when violent gangsters attempt to stop a crucial operation.
God Forgives, We Don’t (2017)
A 22-minute short film created by Shane Patrick and Kristof Brandl. It presents a unique perspective depicting the cruelties of war.
Get Watching Short Films
If you’re an avid movie watcher, then it’s likely that you’ve watched a short film.
Short films are often overlooked by the general public and not given as much attention or recognition as their full-length counterparts, but they can be just as creative and entertaining.
There are a lot of benefits to watching short films. One of the best things about them is you can watch one in just ten minutes or less, and they often have an emotional impact on you that is lacking from traditional movies.
The key to more people enjoying this great form of entertainment starts with finding the right titles for your audience. Here are some suggestions!
Ever had a hard time finding something to watch on Netflix or YouTube? Well, the next time that happens, turn to short films.
Many top short films can be found on many streaming services like Youtube and Vimeo.
We hope this article on the best short films has given you plenty of life-changing cinematic moments. What was your favorite short? Let us know in the comment section.