Short filmmaking has always been an understated component of cinema. It contains all of the magic, escapism, and even technicality that goes into making full length feature productions. In fact some may argue that it is even more difficult to master given the short amount of time that one has to work with to get all of the aspects of filmmaking into the right gear.
This list serves not only as a compiled source of recommendations that we hope helps to gain more attention and recognition to this compact pieces of brilliance but to also highlight some of the best short films ever created. Reasons being vary, from inspirational causes, new age inventiveness, boundary pushing material, or overall well rounded superb examples of filmmaking.
The same focus should be applied to short films as featured since they are comprised of the same foundation and our goal with hopefully at least a few of these is to prove the worth of short filmmaking and their potency to even stand up next to some of the greatest feature length films.
25. The Cameraman’s Revenge
A tale like no other and a film like no other. As odd as it first appears to be of director and animator Wladyslaw Starewicz using real dead insects as his puppets to be filmed stop motion style it is actually a brilliant idea and do not know why it has not been repeated. The effect is marvelous and very life like.
The Cameraman’s Revenge should be viewed on that inventiveness and originality alone and the fact that this was made way back in 1912. This little short is also great in providing such an amusing and entertaining story. It is a normal tale of infidelity in a marriage gone stale but to see this story played out in the world of Insects is just astonishing and very funny. The title cards with its hints of cynicism also helped with the humor involved.
24. The Hand
The Hand is a Czechoslovakian short animated film directed by Jirí Trnka whose story seems to be an allegory for the effects that a Totalitarian reign can have on the common man. Here it is symbolized in the way of a Hand of higher power restricting the way the puppet can live his life and orders him to convert to the Hand’s set of rules. Upon multiple refusals, the hand uses any means necessary to conform the puppet including bribery and threats.
Trnka’s animation is actually quite impressive in its simplicity and that is due to the detail he put into the puppet’s environment. This is actually a very somber and melancholy tale even though it starts off rather cheery but for all of these reasons alone it is very much so an outstanding achievement in short filmmaking.
Famous manga pioneer and animator Osamu Tezuka was always trying to find ways to redefine the capabilities and capacities of the mediums he was presented with. This early short film from 1984 is stunning in how it uses the first person perspective (which is popular in video games now *hint at Tezuka’s influence) in film to allow the audience to embody the protagonist and then proceed to take us on a journey through the fantastical.
The film is titled Jumping and that is essentially all that we do in the protagonist’s footsteps, jumping higher and higher into oblivion.
Mindscape has a rare and unique style of animation using pinscreen. The thought of creating a film or any image for that matter with thousands of small pins seems like a dreadfully tedious task but one that certainly seems worth it. The effect it gives is that of a very detailed charcoal painting whose lines and visuals breathe with life and pulsate into its various transformations. It’s a lucid experience and the marriage of classically composed music and images brings about a transcendental mood.
Director Jacques Drouin crafts a brilliant short film with content vague and surreal making it reminiscent of a quiet dream. Rivers running through deep valleys become scattered clouds in the sky until the clouds begin to form into the lines of veins within a leaf. This is how the imagery works, and it is simply beautiful.
21. Eaten Horizons
Danish filmmaker Jørgen Roos (most known for his documentaries) teams up with infamous Danish surrealist painter Wilhelm Freddie for this twisted little experimental film. With the aid of Wilhelm Freddie, the film certainly goes into the direction of more absurd and surreal cinema rather than avant garde. Channeling the likes of Dali and Bunuel, the early founders of surrealism in cinema, it is easy to track the film’s influences.
The comparison between food and the body being a main concern for its thematics. But overall like many surrealist art works, its nearly impossible to decipher any clear or direct meaning. Eaten Horizons works on many levels of surrealist cinema and its visceral emotive response is felt deep. Perhaps a dream (or nightmare if you will) of Roos is what drawn the film’s main inspirations. Dreamy and dark atmosphere, and Cronenberg-esque body horror.
20. Copy Shop
Copy Shop is a well executed display of experimental storytelling much in the same vein as Maya Deren. Director Virgil Widrich crafts a symbolic tale filled with metaphorical imagery using absurd scenarios much like how Deren crafted Meshes of the Afternoon with surrealistic devices and dense atmosphere. But as much as the two are alike in camouflaging their true nature with oddities and dreamy parallels, they both still remain quite different.
Widrich has his own unique and distinctive touch (as Deren with her’s) and he utilizes his personal film signature of blending celluloid with paper properties to verify this stamp (crumbling scenes, tearing characters from the frame and paper sound effects all being incorporated). It also adds more depth to this film rather than it just being a novelty like in his other short titled Fast Film.
19. Plus and Minus
Eino Ruutsalo is an obscure Finnish director, animator, and painter who deserves more attention (See also another short film by him titled The Jump). Plus Minus is a short film using shadows from real actors, artificial light and animation edited over the shot footage. For its experimental style it actually does tell a grand universal tale in the purest visual sense.
Its compare and contrast (Plus and Minus) of the female and male human body is where it begins. Then life is thrusted into these shadowy figures exploring themes of love, war, birth and old age. Sound effects greatly add to the images to give an even greater sense of a story being present. Ruutsalo crafts a marvel of a short film here and in many aspects, displays a talent that may have been ahead of its time.
18. La Cabina (The Phone Box)
The less one talks about La Cabina, the better. Let’s just say that as long as whoever dares to watch, make sure you stick it out until the end. For what originally seems like a surrealistic comedy of a man trapped in a phone booth leads into a nightmarish finale.
17. A Dog’s Life
Chaplin made a lot of short films in his time and it’s true that the man rarely ever missed a mark. However it is within A Dog’s Life that we finally begin to see that different side to Charlie that propels him to the level of sheer mastery in his feature films of the 1920’s.
It is in this short film that Chaplin begins equaling out a balance between his cornucopia of slapstick routines and a basic form of human compassion that only Charlie can pull off so sympathetically towards the viewer. His artistry is starting to take shape and his vision is already looking past this film at the eventual stardom in which he will meet. A Dog’s Life is just the earliest point in his career where his true ambition starts to show and glimmers with greatness.