10 Short Films Worth A Long Look

Benjamin M. Smith

Short films originated in silent cinemas’s 20-minute two-reelers, a format most frequently associated with slapstick comedies. Modern equivalents have flourished in the era of multiple festivals. Though upcoming directors make shorts to attract producers, the best of them are much more than mere calling cards.

Vincent (1982)

One of Tim Burton’s’s first animated shorts, Vincent – named for and narrated by Vincent Price in verse – is perhaps his finest. A stop-motion horror comedy, it tells the story of Vincent Malloy, a seven-year old obsessed with the cadaverous arts of Dr. Frankenstein and the macabre prose of Edgar Allan Poe.


Tim Burton introduces another of his shorts, Frankenweenie, to a French audience | © J.J. Georges/WikiCommons

10 Minutes (2002)

Geri’s Game (1997)

Jan Pinkeva’s Geri’s Game was a computer-animated short shown in theaters after the trailers and before the start of Pixar features. In a city park on an autumn day, an old man sits down to play chess with himself – or perhaps his evil twin. This ingenious short kickstarted Pixar’s golden era.

La Jetée (1962)

French filmmaker, poet, novelist, and videographer Chris Marker was engrossed by the relationship between time and memory and the advancement of life on Earth. His classic short La Jetée is set in an apocalyptic present and depicts the hero’s painstaking interrogation by a militant group. Almost entirely constructed of stills, La Jetée was the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995), among other futuristic films.

The Hearts of Age (1934)

The eight-minute The Hearts of Age introduces Orson Welles as a film stylist.With the short film’s motif of a ringing bell, Welles and fellow director William Vance convey a non-linear narrative of race and mortality, all with a tinge of the supernatural. And with the rapid, bluegrass picking of a guitar, the directors fashion their film with a sense of urgency that aids the effect of the film’s duration.

Orson Welles

The Gift (2010)

Carl E. Rinsch’s The Gift is set in a futuristic Moscow, where a man holding a small square package walks past intimidating robot police. We soon find out he is a courier who’s been hired to deliver the package to a nobleman’s house. What happens next is the key subject of the film and rarely fails to immerse viewers in the action.

Hotel Chevalier (2007)

Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman star in this Wes Anderson short, which deals with the disjointed relationship of a couple staying in a Paris hotel. Anderson demonstrates here – as he has done throughout his career – that he is a master of the awkward situation that prophesies change.

Alive in Joburg (2006)

A supernatural event occurs in quotidian fashion in Neill Blomkamp’s Alive in Joburg. As an alien population attempts to integrate itself in Johannesburg, tension builds between man and alien, with the reminder of their supernatural power – a menacing space ship -constantly looming overhead. This short film was extended into the more familiar feature film District 9(2009) after receiving rave reviews for its originality in style and execution.

Guillermo del Toro

Mama (2008)

Andrés Muschietti’s superb horror short was the inspiration for Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 feature of the same name. In the middle of the night, two children become scared about noises they hear echoing throughout the house. The film is quite short, and condenses much of the fear elongated by the feature film version, so be ready!

The Black Hole (2008)

The Black Hole, directed by Englishmen Phil Sansom and Olly Williams, might be the perfect short film to study at film schools. It’s about an office schmuck who, loathing his his life beside the copy machine, discovers a celestial black hole lurking in the mundanity of his situation. As he learns the bounds of his new found power, he soon becomes ambitious, which beckons the film’s end.

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