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Stanley Yang
September 3, 2020

44 Best Short Films Every Filmmaker Should Watch

Short films provide filmmakers with an excellent chance to learn the art and craft of making films. Novice filmmakers can learn lessons that will carry them through their aspirations and careers. Short films can also help filmmakers of any level gain funding for their features.

What do great short films have in common?

The key things that the best films have in common include:

  • Original concept
  • Great performance
  • Concise storytelling
  • Stunning visuals

In this article, we have listed the best short films of all time. It is essential to note that this is not a ranking but just a list of resources.

Why filmmakers should watch short films

Watching the best short films can help filmmakers learn the art and craft of filmmaking and the life lessons to help them through their aspirations and careers. Learning from short films can also help filmmakers improve their own abilities. Also, the best short films have the potential to catapult upcoming filmmakers into Hollywood.

Drama Short Films

1. Wasp

Written and directed by Andrea Arnold

The film features a single mother by the name Zoe who leaves Dartford with her four children. Zoe is poor and cannot afford to buy food for her four kids. One day, Zoe's ex-boyfriend drives by her house and asks her out on a date. Since she is scared to go out with him, she lies that she is just babysitting. That was her first date after so many years.

2. Bombshell

Written and directed by Erin Sanger

Daisy, a young girl, aged ten, hates dresses and prefers her brother's loose-fitting clothing. Black sharpie is her favorite nail polish. On July Fourth, Daisy and her brother Jude were left to watch TV by their mother as she went on a date. Older teens Ryan and Hunter lured the two siblings out of the house to enjoy a night full of pranks and a moral quandary.

3. One day

Written and Directed by Michel Gondry

When he gets out of the toilets, he bumps into a man being chased by a turd. The human-sized turd claimed to be the man's child. It kept on asking, "Why have you abandoned me?" The man was embarrassed at first by the presence of the annoying turd, but he later accepts it.

4. Paperman

Written by Kendelle Hoyer, Clio Chiang

Directed by Jon Kahrs

It is a story about an office worker who meets the girl of his dreams. He uses a fleet of paper airplanes to get her attention.

5. Small Deaths

Written and directed by Lynne Ramsay

The film captures three occurrences of a young girl's life, which leaves her with a heavy heart.

6.The Phone Call

Directed by Mat Kirkby

It is a short drama film about a volunteer who receives a call from a man who is slowly poisoning himself to death. The ticking clock in the movie seems urgent and relaxed for character development.

7. Session Man

Directed by Seth Winston

The Oscar award-winning short film is about a session guitarist employed to help a famous rock band complete its latest album. It is a perfect example of a miniaturized story.

Sci-Fi Short Films

8. Blue Season

Written by Georgina Higgins

Directed by Lee Jones and Georgina Higgins

It is among the best sci-fi films that feature Sarah, who wakes up and finds herself hanging upside down. She immediately screams for help, but her phone rings. The person on the other end helps her escape.

9. Meltdown

Written by Daniel Hartley

Directed by Dave Green

A short sci-fi film features a vast ice block that invades the refrigerator and swallows food items one at a time. While struggling for survival, Ham Sandwich, Celery, and Spaghetti begin their journey to the temperature control knob.

10. Blinky

Written and Directed by Ruairi Robinson

This science fiction film features a young boy who lives in the future. Due to arguing with his parents, the boy looks for an escape. To cope with the parent's arguments, he gets a robot companion, which he abuses.

11. Trip to the Moon

Directed by George Melies

The short sci-fi story is about a group of astronomers who visit the moon. The astronomers explore the surface, collide with the natives, and gets back to earth with a captive.

12. I am Here

Based on the book The Giving Tree, the short story is about sacrifice, existentialism, and love. Andrew Garfield plays as the lead in this film.

13. Sight

Written by Natalie Doten

Directed by Eran May-Raz and Daniel Lazo

A short sci-fi film features Gamification and Augmented reality by Daniel Lazo and Eran May-Raz. The film is a Bezaleal academy of the arts graduation project.

Animated Short Films

14. World of Tomorrow

Directed by Don Hertzfeld

It is an Academy Award-winning short animation film that takes anything but conventional. The animation provides a lot of latitudes.

15. Imaginary Flying Machines

Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

This short-animated film features a pig that narrates stories about various machines used to achieve the power of flight.

16. The Man Who Planted Trees

Written by Jean Giono

Directed by Frederic Back

It is a story narrated by Christopher Plummer, and he plays the hero who remembers being saved by a shepherd who planted trees in a barren valley. In the end, the valley became similar to the Garden of Eden.

17. Geri's Game

A short comedy film that features an older man who plays chess in the park by himself. The older man imagines having multiple characters in the chess match.

Horror Short Films

18. Lights Out

Written and Directed by David Sandberg

When alone in a dark room, what scares you the most? Is it the temporary blindness, the deep feeling that someone or something is watching your moves? This supernatural horror film utilizes sturdy genre tropes and has some terrific performances for a fright-filled, unsettling experience without skimping on the story.

19. Still Life

Written by Charles Kohnston

Directed by Jon Knautz

It is a horror story of an over-caffeinated driver who accidentally hits something. The driver panics and seeks help in a strange small town that offers little human kindness.

20. The Birch

Written and Directed by Anthony Melton and Ben Franklin

It is a short horror story about a boy who gets bullied at school. He gets tired of the bullying and decides to take drastic measures against his tormentor. Using a spellbound book passed down through his family's generation, the boy summons an ancient being in the woods.

21. Cargo

Written by Yolanda Ramke

Directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling

A story about a man and his infant daughter who are stranded in a Zombie apocalypse. He sets in motion a unique plan to protect the daughter.

22. Tuck Me In

Written by Juan J. Ruiz

Directed by Ignacio F. Rodo

Alex requests his father to tuck him in. However, that is not the only thing he demands.

Comedy Short Films

23. The Elevator

Written and Directed by Greg Glenna

It is a short comedy film about riding an elevator.

24. Bar Talk

Written by Joe R. Lansdale

Directed by Lowell Northrop

A chatty stranger in a dusty bar in Texas insists on striking a conversation with a man sitting next to him. The more the stranger talks, the more evident he is not from around Texas or this planet. The short film is based on a story by Joe R. Lansdale.

25. Trevor

Written by Bruce Vilanch and James Lecesne

Directed by Peggy Rajski

A high school boy realizes he is gay upon hitting puberty. He faces prejudice, starting from his parents and friends.

26. Six Shooter

Written and Directed by Martin McDonough

The short film is a black and bloody comedy about a sad journey on a train. An older man who had lost his wife that morning encounters a psychotic and strange young oddball.

27. I'll Wait For the Next One

Written and Directed by Philippe Orreindy

The short comedy features a man who falls in love in a subway station.

28. Multi-Facial

Written and Directed by Vin Diesel

A short comedy film about an actor who faces problems as he auditions because of his multi-ethnic appearance.

29. The Connection

Written by Laura Wade and Nikolai Khalezin

Directed by Vladimir Shcherban

It is a story about a celebrity who meets someone at the airport. Everything is fine until the person finds out that they will be arrested if they return home.

30. Gregory Go Boom

Written and directed by Janicza Bravo

Gregory Go Boom is a short film about a paraplegic man who leaves his parents' home to be on his own.

Documentary Short Films

31. Night and Fog

Written and Directed by Alain Resnais

Using motion pictures, the short documentary is a gripping subject matter about the Nazis marching in step. The writing is unapologetic and unsentimental, making it the best documentary of all time.

32. The Mushroom Club

Directed by Steven Okazaki

It Is an Academy Award-nominated short film about the first use of an atomic bomb against Japan by the U.S. The film has a runtime of 34 minutes.

33. God Sleeps in Rwanda

Directed by Kimberlee Acquaro

Narrated by Rosario Dawson

The Academy Award-nominated documentary film tackles the most tragic and darkest reaches of humans. The short film is a story of hope that features five women who rebuild their lives and redefine women's roles in Rwanda.

34. The Death of Kevin Carter

Directed by Dan Krauss

The documentary is about a tragic portrait of a journalist's life. It sheds light on Kevin Carter's suicide and the death of his friend. The short film's run time is 27 minutes, but it is very detailed.

35. Knife Skills

The Oscar-nominated short film delivers a message of redemption and hope. It is a story about a restaurateur who intends to open the best French restaurant in the U.S. The restaurateur staffs the restaurant with ex-convicts who are willing to change their lives.

Experimental Short Films

36. Un Chien Andalou

Directed by Luis Bunuel

Written by Salvador Dali

The experimental short film is based on suppressed human emotions. It was filmed without any apparent compromise.

37. La Jetee

The black and white short film with a runtime of twenty-eight minutes and the experimental is ahead of its time. The short film pays homage to the French New Wave.

38. Scorpio Rising

After misrepresenting the Nazi flag in the short film, the group became angry at Kenneth Anger, the filmmaker. The short film set a precedent for censorship cases across the U.S, and it dismantled the shard censorship in some way.

39. From the Drain

The short film is about two men in a mental institution's bathtub discussing what is in the drain. The film led to the upcoming movies such as History of Violence, Existenz, and Eastern Promises.

40. The Grandmother

David Lynch has come up with several experimental short films, but this is his best. The film has more cinematic techniques to analyze compared to other short films.

Action Short Films

41. Mom

A young girl runs for her life while cameras are broadcasting her movement. It's a declaration of love for memories that allow us to love, dream, and hope.

42. Ballistic

In a post-apocalyptic world, a woman confronts her attackers to move to the next stage.

43. Do No Harm

A surgeon is forced to break her oath as gangsters storm in to stop an essential operation.

44. God Forgives, We Don't

Christopher embarks on a journey to reflect as his life collides with the impacts of the war.

Wrap up

If you are a filmmaker, I highly recommend you go to film festivals. The ideas and concepts you can learn from short films will lead you to write and direct your craft better. Film school is excellent for learning the basics, but there is no more significant learning than artists honing their craft. The cool thing is, some short movies eventually get developed into feature films. This is the power of executing your ideas into reality. Whatever you create, make sure you consider your impact on the audience and owning the intellectual property.

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