Best Short Films of All Time

They may be films of a smaller scale, but these short films have made a significant impact, not just on the budding filmmakers but also on the general viewing audience.

To the novice filmmakers in particular, though, these short films provide them with an excellent chance to hone their art and craft of creating films. These short films arm upstarting filmmakers with lessons that will carry them through their careers and aspirations. Short films also help budding filmmakers secure funding for their features and a good start to making a name in the film industry.

Most of these short films share many the following things in common: original concept and storyline, stellar performances by the cast, concise storytelling, and stunning visuals.

Here are some of the must-see short films from different filmmaking eras:

1) Wasp (Andrea Arnold)

Former actress and now filmmaker Andrea Arnold wrote and directed this short film, Wasp (2003), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. It was filmed entirely in her birthplace and hometown of Dartford, Kent, England. The film tells a story about a struggling single mother trying to raise her four children while attempting to mend her relationship with an old flame.

2) The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse)

The Red Balloon (French title: Le ballon rouge) is a heartwarming 35-minute short produced, directed, and written by Albert Lamorisse in 1956. Starring his own son Pascal, the film follows the experience of a young boy and his red balloon in Paris. The red balloon has a mind of its own and follows the little boy wherever he goes. The film won several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay – the only short film to win such an award.

3) Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel)

Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) is a 16-minute surrealist short film, a collaboration between director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dali in 1929. Un Chien Andalou also marked Buñuel’s directorial debut. This experimental film has no conventional plot, presenting pure bizarre, surreal imagery.

4) Knife Skills (Thomas Lennon)

Knife Skills is a 2017 Oscar-nominated short film directed by Thomas Lennon and distributed by Bon Appetit food magazine. The film centers around a restaurant institute in Cleveland, Ohio, which has the intention of teaching kitchen skills to ex-convicts willing to change their lives.

5) The Alphabet (David Lynch)

Director David Lynch’s 1968 four-minute short The Alphabet combines animation with live action to tell the story of a man who experiences nightmares. The Alphabet is one of Lynch’s several short films demonstrating the more challenging and experimental aspects of Lynch’s career. You can see The Alphabet and other short films by Lynch in a 2002 DVD release, The Short Films of David Lynch.

6) A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès)

the iconic image of A Trip to the Moon about a man on the moon

A Trip to the Moon (French title: Le Voyage dans le Lune) is a 1902 short silent sci-fi film by French director Georges Méliès. Taking different sources of inspiration, such as works by Jules Verne, A Trip to the Moon tells a story about a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon, explore the lunar surface, collide with the natives, and fly back to Earth with a captive.

7) Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)

French writer-director Alain Resnais used contemporary shots of the concentration camps, a compilation of archival footage, as well as his own writing and structure to bring this gripping short documentary to life. There is no sugarcoating there: the film is an unapologetic, unsentimental, and even nightmarish look at the horrors of the Holocaust. Released in 1956, Night and Fog is still regarded as one of the best short films of all time.

8) God Sleeps in Rwanda (Kimberlee Acquaro, Stacy Sherman)

This 2005 short documentary is a story of hope about five Rwandan women who rebuild their lives after the Rwandan genocide and redefine women’s roles in their country. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject in the 2006 Academy Awards.

9) The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club (Dan Krauss)

This 2004 short documentary examines the events leading to the tragic end of South African photographer Kevin Carter. He committed suicide in 1994, a few months after winning the Pulitzer Prize and after the death of his close friend and colleague. This 27-minute-long film is surprisingly thorough and detailed about the life of the ill-fated photojournalist that it can be comparable to a feature-length film.

10) The Man Who Planted Trees (Frédéric Back)

The 1987 animated short film The Man Who Planted Trees (French title: L’homme qui plantait des arbes) is based on Jean Giono’s 1953 short story of the same title. The film tells a story of a shepherd’s long and successful single-handed effort of re-foresting a barren valley. At the end of the film, the valley becomes similar to the Garden of Eden. The film won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1988.