It’s common knowledge in the movie industry that short films don’t make money.
But while the full-length feature might be the format that directors aspire to make, shorts can still reach cinematic standards – and often launch the careers of their creators. If you don’t know where to start, here are some compelling shorts that put big-budget blockbusters to shame. (And you can watch them all in less than two hours.)
Director(s): Lou Hamous-Lhadj and Andrew Coats
Writer(s): Lous Hamous-Lhadj and Andrew Coats
Run time: 6 minutes, 45 seconds
In this animated short a town sheriff revisits the scene of a tragic incident that evokes painful memories, in this heartrending short from Pixar.
The creators of Up and Toy Story 3 have previous when it comes to reducing us to emotional wrecks, but Borrowed Time is in a different league of melancholy. A thoughtful spin on the Western genre, this is one for adults and older children only.
Director: Nikhil Bhagat
Writer: C. Robert Cargill
Run time: 6 minutes, 27 seconds
Created by the screenwriter of Dr. Strange, As they Continue to Fall tells the story of a homeless man who tirelessly hunts fallen angels for the sake of society, despite being let down by society itself. Short films don’t have the luxury of the big budget of their Hollywood counterparts, but you wouldn’t think it when you watch this anti-hero mini-flick. Dark, offbeat and inventive, this picture is well worth six minutes of your time.
Director: Lauren Wolkstein
Writer: Jeff Sousa
Run time: 13 minutes, 41 seconds
An emotionally fragile marine forms an unconventional bond with a girl named Candy at his homecoming barbecue. Forced to recall ‘war stories’ by his father, the young soldier is pushed to breaking point. Cigarette Candy scooped the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for this short that examines the inner turmoil of a young soldier.
Director: Jim Cummings
Writer: Jim Cummings
Run time: 12 minutes, 45 seconds
Policeman Arnaud hysterically mourns his mother at her funeral with a speech and a painful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road, in this wickedly funny short film. Filmed in a single take, Thunder Road is as impressive as it is funny. Jim Cummings’ performance was lauded at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where his film won the jury prize for Best Short Film.
Director: Caroline Bartleet
Writer: Caroline Bartleet
Run Time: 6 minutes, 32 seconds
Game of Thrones actress Kate Dickie stars in this edge-of-your-seat short that centres on a single call during a normal shift for an emergency services phone operator. Operator is a sub 10 minute roller coaster of emotions that raises awareness about the importance of a job that’s often taken for granted. It picked up a BAFTA for best short film this year, and deservedly so.
Director: Frances Bodomo
Writer: Frances Bodomo
Run time: 12 minutes, 59 seconds
An African family find themselves in the deeply religious American South as they seek to cure their problem child. The short stars Quvenzhane Wallis, who received an Oscar nomination for her performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Director: Austin Bunn
Writer: Austin Bunn
Run time: 15 minutes, 13 seconds
A loved-up pair of hikers have their romance cut tragically short along North America’s Appalachian Trail in this haunting reconstruction of a dreadful real-life event. The scarier-than-fiction plot succeeds in hooking the viewers’ curiosity.
Director: Anders Walter
Writer: Anders Walter
Run time: 16 minutes, 32 seconds
This Danish film features on a young boy convinced that his skills as a long jumper can save his mother from dying. The film’s protagonist Daniel goes to extraordinary lengths in order to break his long jump personal best. His desperation in the face of inevitable tragedy is heartbreaking.
Director: Nina Gantz
Run time: 9 minutes, 22 seconds
This surreal animated short about a felt character on an obscure journey of self-understanding is as funny as it is moving. Edmond deservedly received a BAFTA for best animated short in 2015.
Director: Wes Ball
Writer: Wes Ball
Run time: 8 minutes, 30 seconds Set in an abandoned metropolis that has been taken over by nature, Ruin follows a lone character exploring the ruins in search of a locked container. But he isn’t the only person on the hunt for said container. Ruin squeezes more action in eight and a half minutes than most big budget rivals fit in a full length feature.