While cinema has always been the thriving medium of visual storytelling, it is only in the last 15 to 20 years that short films have developed the immense popularity they now have. Thanks to Internet culture, a variety of amazing shorts have become incredibly successful and inspired millions to tell their own stories. From comedies and dramas, to science-fiction or horror, a good story is a good story and great filmmaking can transcend any genre it tackles. So in that spirit, let’s shine a light on the best short films this last decade has given us:
10 Naysayer (2019)
This clever short film stars Steven Yeun, who is better known for his role as Glenn Rhee in AMC’s The Walking Dead. In it, he plays the role of Ian, a young father who gets tired of being kept away from his son, and decides to take matters into his own hands. As the infant cries in the backseat of his car, Ian calls his ex-wife Michelle to tell her not to worry about their son going missing, and an increasingly intriguing conversation begins to escalate between the two.
Director David M Helman (who is originally known for directing music videos) delivers a tense and mature award-winning movie, with incredible performances from Yeun and Alanna Masterson (also a former star of The Walking Dead), who plays Michelle. “Naysayer” is a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish, and it will take you a while to process what this story is really about.
9 Alison (2016)
“Alison” tells the story of Jay, an ordinary young man who is going through a particularly difficult night, as he attempts to take care of his drunk girlfriend, Alison. From the looks of it, it is not the first time this has happened, and as he desperately tries to get some control over Alison, Jay begins to question his own commitment to this relationship. While he loves Alison with all of his heart, he is soon forced to realize that their dysfunctional romance is not sustainable.
Written by Jessica Rose (who also stars as the titular Alison), this movie shines an unapologetic spotlight on mental health, toxic relationships, and the collateral damage that comes with love and the price you sometimes have to pay for it. It is a sad and unfortunately relatable film that will inevitably stay with you long after you first see it.
8 Science Of Love (2018)
This French sci-fi film takes place in a not-so-distant future, where a company called Lovecount has developed a revolutionary technology that is able to quantify love. We follow the story of Milo, a young husband-to-be who decides to take the Lovecount test with his fiancée out of pure entertainment. But, while the whole experiment is for funs and giggles at first, serious doubts begin to consume Milo when the test results reveal that his fiancée might be in love with someone else.
Written and directed by Timothée Hochet, and starring one of the biggest French YouTube stars Cyprien Iov, “Science Of Love” is a dark and gritty look on social media culture. With its amazing direction, real themes and brilliant performances, the film has been compared to many grounded sci-fi flicks of the century, reminiscing of the best episodes of “Black Mirror”.
7 The Neighbors’ Window (2019)
Alli, a middle-aged mother of three, has grown increasingly bored of her daily routine with her husband and her children. She struggles to come to terms with the reality of her best years now being behind her. But, when a young and sexy couple moves into the building across from hers, Alli begins to develop a bizarre obsession that compels her to continuously spy on her new neighbors’ intimate moments with a pair of binoculars.
This Oscar winning drama was written and directed by Marshall Curry, who is mostly known for making documentaries. The film is inspired by a true story told by Diane Weipert, the real life Alli (who is brilliantly portrayed by Maria Dizzia), on the “Love + Radios” podcast. An absolute must-watch with a lot of heart, “The Neighbors’ Window” will leave you thinking about the depths of your own life for a quite a while.
6 FTL (2017)
Ethan Kane is an astronaut who is about to complete his final mission, during which he will become the first man to travel through space at light speed. With his wife, his son, and the rest of the population watching him, the now legendary pilot makes History as he jumps from Earth to Mars in a few seconds, prompting a triumphing celebration all around the globe. But the spacecraft malfunctions when initiating the return trip, and Ethan travels to an unknown place, disappearing in a blink in front of the entire world.
“FTL” (Faster Than Light) is a true gem of science-fiction. Director Adam Stern delivers a strong and surprisingly emotional film, with Canadian actor Ty Olsson owning the screen in the main role. It will give you serious “2001: A Space Odyssey” vibes, as the story unfolds in the most unexpected way. “FTL” feels like a small piece of a much larger story, one that we hope to see in the form of a feature film one day.
5 Up On The Roof (2013)
Marcus, a troubled and neglected young boy living in poverty, has built himself a cozy hideaway on the rooftop of a building, where he camps out in loneliness to avoid problems. Unfortunately, his safe haven is jeopardized when his crush Trish (played by Game Of Thrones’ Maisie Williams) finds him and asks for help, triggering the rage and jealousy of her abusive boyfriend Darren.
This moving and somber film, directed by Nour Wazzi, deals with a surprisingly mature and realistic view of the troubled youth of London, with powerful performances from Maisie Williams and Michael Matias. It is a simple film in essence, about two young people in pain bonding during tough times. “Up On The Roof” is a tale of struggle and humanity that everyone should experience.
4 Made Public (2019)
“Made Public” is a smart comedy about a naive young man named Dave, who completely ruins his perfect wedding day after expressing his doubts about marriage in a social media post that accidentally went viral the night before. As he tries to clear things up with his bride before the ceremony, things take a turn for the worst, and he learns the hard way that he should have never messed with a woman’s dream wedding.
A surprisingly inventive take on the effects of social media, this movie almost entirely relies on the chemistry between its two leads, Josh Zuckerman and Jeanine Mason, who give unbelievably compelling and nuanced performances. “Made Public” makes a clever commentary on this generation’s constant need to share every details of their lives publicly, and is made only stronger by delivering on a scenario that feels more plausible than ridiculous.
3 ReMoved (2013)
“ReMoved” tells the dark and unfortunate tale of 10 year-old Zoe, a young girl with a difficult life who is taken away from her neglecting mother and her violent stepfather by Child Protective Services. Separated from her baby brother, Zoe struggles to adapt to her new reality in the foster care system, and the behavioral issues linked to her former environment begin to come out in the form of a hardened defense mechanism caused by anger and confusion.
An intense film full of passion, “ReMoved” became highly popular on YouTube, mainly praised for Nathanael Matanick’s fantastic directing and Abby White’s breathtaking performance as little Zoe. Two years later, a sequel to “ReMoved” titled “Remember My Story” was released to the world, giving audiences a much needed sense of closure on Zoe’s journey. The shorts became a gold standard of storytelling on YouTube, and is often used as a blueprint for amateur filmmakers on the platform.
2 Jada (2016)
Following a similar theme as the previous film, this 2016 gem follows a day in the life of the titular Jada, a homeless 7 year-old who lives alone in the streets of Venice Beach. As she navigates the world with her wits and makes a bit of money by selling handmade “stick people” to whoever wants them, Jada suddenly finds her day disrupted when a man she doesn’t know comes looking for her.
A wonderful story with endless amounts of emotion to give, “Jada” is a true gift that reflects on a reality way too often overlooked by most people. Director Doug Roland delivers a vibrant and admirable film with amazing characters, great performances and moving music that adds a heavy layer of heart to an already profoundly genuine and passionate narrative.
1 Night Shift (2017)
Produced by legendary actress Viola Davis, this absolute masterpiece of a film tells the story of Oliver, a down on his luck LA actor whose career has faded over the years. In the middle of a divorce he struggles to come to terms with, Oliver ends up working as a bathroom attendant in a night club to make ends meet. The story unfolds as we follow him during a particularly difficult night at work, during which he has to face the reality of his situation.
Written and directed by Marshall Tyler, this Sundance Festival favorite delivers an incredibly human film. Tunde Adebimpe’s masterful performance as a man reaching a new stage of his life with a lot of difficulty is a true marvel to watch, as he brings life to this vulnerable character struggling to reconnect with his own dignity. “Night Shift” is easily one of the greatest short films ever made, and a definite must watch for any film enthusiast out there.