Best short films of all time and where to watch them

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 2, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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Netflix short film Erax

Although there are many different types of film out there, most of them sit between one and two hours. This is perfect for when we really want to escape into the narrative, but sometimes we are looking for a short film if we don’t have much time available or we want something a little different. 

Short films provide us with thought-provoking messages in a short period of time, and tend to focus on one or two main characters to avoid switching between multiple points of view and plot points. Short movies get to the point quickly, and are often hard-hitting film pieces that focus on contemporary real-life issues that the audience can relate to.

Over the years, there have been a number of short films that have taken the world by storm, such as YouTube and limited release short films. These often contrast dramatically to the top feature films that we’ve come to know, such as James Cameron’s Avatar and Ridley Scott’s The Martian

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best short films of all time, what made them so popular and where you can watch these cinematic masterpieces. 

What is a short film?

A short film usually has a run time of less than an hour, which is often the minimum length for a full-length feature film. Short films generally have a lower budget than full-length films, and the main topic or content is rife throughout the entirety of the run time. 

What makes a good short film?

A short film needs to rely heavily on the main point or theme of the film and not deviate too much from it. This is to avoid unnecessary plot points that could detract from the main topic and extend the run time. Short films focus on one issue, which is usually resolved or dealt with at the end. 

Usually, short films are created to get across certain messages or resolutions to issues. They are often impactful and thought-provoking. 

The best short films available now and where to watch them

The Silent Child, 2017

This 20-minute Oscar-winning short film depicts a young girl who is deaf and struggles to be understood by her family. As a result, she is inadvertently alienated by them. She is taught sign language by a social worker, who is an advocate for it to be taught in schools in order to help deaf children receive the support they need.

Written by and starring Rachel Shenton, this emotional and hard-hitting film depicts the lack of support in place for deaf children. It has been described as one of the best live action short films and you can find it on YouTube

Erax, 2022

Arguably one of the best short films that can be found in the streaming world and is suitable for kids, Erax tells the story of a young girl and her aunt, who accidentally release a slew of mythical monsters and creatures into their world. They must return the creatures to their own world, from which they were released. 

Seemingly devoid of hard-hitting messages that you’d expect short films to provide, this film serves as a fun family fantasy that can be enjoyed by everyone. 

You can stream this short film on Netflix. Alternatively, read our review of Erax here

Lights Out, 2013

Among the horror short films, this one is definitely high in the rankings. Originally released as a short 2-minute horror film on YouTube, a full length feature film was created using the same name and premise in 2016. Both films play on our innate fear of what lurks in the dark once we turn off the lights. 

The main villain in the film is the silhouette of a woman that appears in the dark and disappears once the lights are switched back on. If you are into creepy horror films, Lights Out might be the perfect watch for you.

Piper, 2016

Receiving an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, this Disney Pixar short film is about a young sandpiper bird who must overcome her fear of water in order to find food to survive. Piper is a compelling film about learning to overcome your greatest fears. 

A Trip To The Moon, 1902

This French cinematic masterpiece is considered to be one of the first sci-fi films ever created. Created in 1902 by French filmmaker Georges Méliès, and originally titled ‘Le Voyage Dans La Lune,’ this short film depicts several astronomers who create a rocket to take them to the moon. They then face many threats as they traverse the new environment. 

About a Girl, 2001 

The About a Girl short film is a 10-minute hard-hitting and thought-provoking film about contemporary life. Literally following a young teenage girl through the streets of Manchester, she talks to the camera about several events in her life and her hopes for her future. The documentary style narrative, with her breaking the fourth wall makes the audience feel more connected to her journey.

She details the relationship between her and her parents, and while initially describing them in what seems to be a good way, we come to understand that her parents are actually neglectful. 

In 2001, this film won the BAFTA for Best Short Film, so it’s definitely worth checking it out. You can watch this short film on YouTube

Additional reading

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