We'll make you privy to a secret. OK, it's not a secret, but chances are, if you are relatively new to Popflick, the cool kids' favorite source to watch independent movies online, you do not know that we started exclusively programming short films. In time, we opened up our focus to include feature films. Still, we remain devoted to the short form. Why? Well, for one thing, it's a stalwart springboard for up-and-coming filmmakers. It is also an elegant format to explore ideas that are too risky or self-contained to sustain a two-hour movie.
We are glad to introduce you to this list with a curated selection of the best award-winning short films ready for your viewing pleasure. There is a little bit of everything to keep every movie buff thoroughly entertained, amused, or horrified. In a good way, of course!
Writer-director Toma Waszarow offers a charming, understated comedy about society coming apart and restoring itself in public transport. Tzvetan Daskalov may be the last bus driver who follows the rules. When a traffic light seems stuck in red, he remains stopped at an intersection, much to the dismay of his passengers. The group includes a mature woman in a rush to get to a hospital to tend to her daughter-in-law, who is about to give birth. There’s a pensioner with a bag of apricots, a young man with a watermelon, and an unassuming young woman. Two kids armed with cell phones begin to record the action when the driver’s blind obedience to the red light’s command annoys everyone onboard. A tough policeman appears to ramp up the tension. Urban loneliness is the fuel that keeps this sweet movie running, ultimately taking it to a safe, life-affirming port.
“Red Light” won Best Short Film at the 2017 Festival International Du Film De Vebron; the Best Live Action Award at the 2017 Palm Springs International ShortFest; Best Original Subject in the Short Film Category at Global Nonviolent Film Festival; and Best Short and Audience Award at the 2016 Sofia International Film Festival.
Driving nowhere: Tzvetan Daskalov abides by traffic rules to a fault in "Red Light." / Photo courtesy of Revo Films.
Jill Solloway, creator of the breakthrough series “Transparent,” serves as Executive Producer of this hilarious comedy of marital strife. Michaela Watkins (Casual) and Rob Huebel (Goosebumps) are a married couple facing a crisis triggered by infidelity. Their desperation is such that they sign up for a “Cuddle Party,” led by Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), a good-natured New Age guru unprepared to deal with the caustic, dark-humored couple. This laugh-out funny comedy is the perfect showcase for the trio of TV series MVPs.
“Cuddle Party” won the Best Comedy Short Prize at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, 2016
Together, we are heavy: George Huebel and Michaela Watkins are the bane of New Age gurus everywhere in "Cuddle Party."
“Teenage horniness is not a crime!’…You will have to embrace the words of porn actress turned talk show host Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in “Southland Tales” (2006) to enjoy the unexpected pleasure of this award-winning Argentinian short. Fabrizio’s “initiation” refers to losing his virginity with Nadia (Renata Villanueva). In contrast to the Hollywood tradition of casting twenty-somethings in teen roles, the young actors are age-appropriate, which means they will look alarmingly young to American audiences. Full of motivation, Fabrizio (Lucas Aranda) leads his gang of friends into a project: to procure themselves a place fit for their first sexual adventures, blindsiding their parents. In another deviation from tradition, the parents are not clueless villains. They are relatable figures in the best sense of the word, adults both mystified and entertained at the innocent exploits of kids who can’t wait to be adults.
“Fabrizio’s Initiation” won The Crystal Bear at the Generation Plus sidebar in the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, among several international prizes in the festival circuit.
Teenage horniness is not a crime: Renata Villanueva and Lucas Aranda contemplate going to the next level in "El Inicio de Fabrizio."
The Cold War gets violently personal in this handsomely produced political comedy. High-stakes negotiations between Russia and the United States halt when a translator has a meltdown. Can a young diplomat recruited at the last minute avert a world-endangering crisis? The movie veers into violent slapstick, worthy of “John Wick” at its wildest.
"Berlin Troika" won the Best Drama Award at LA Shorts Fest in 2014 (good for them, but we beg to differ; it is a comedy). It also won Best Short Film at the Fargo Film Festival 2015 Winner International Competition, Montreal World Film Festival Best Overall Short Film Nominee, and Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Cold war brewing: Sebastian Blomberg comes between Dieter Wardetzky and Matthew Gordon in "Berlin Troika."
A tight, taut sociological thriller from the Netherlands about a young bodybuilder incapable of keeping his demons at bay. Nicky (Hein van Roof) trains obsessively in the gym and carefully measures anything he eats, but his fitness goals remain outside of reach. The effortless masculinity of the other athletes torments him. A series of flashbacks gradually reveal the nature of his trauma as he loses his grip on reality and begins to consume his protein in a rather unorthodox way. The gory final twist makes director Angelo Raaijmakers an advanced pupil in the David Cronenberg School of Body Horror. You will never look at beefcake with the same eyes.
"I, Adonis," won the Best Actor Prize at the Barcelona Indie Filmmakers Fest, 2022, and Best Screenplay at the Short To The Point International Film Festival, 2022.
Body dysmorphia or bust: Hein van Rooij goes to extremes to increase his protein intake in "I, Adonis" / Photo courtesy of Aspect Ratio.
An Aryan widow (Julia Jager) tells her little son a white lie to protect him from the true destiny of his Jewish best friend and his parents, who are about to get sent to the concentration camps. She tells him they are going to "Toyland." It sounds amazing to his childish ears, so he ploys to join them on their journey. When the kid disappears as the Gestapo takes the family away, she goes into a race against the clock to retrieve him. Director-cowriter Jochen Alexander Freydank deploys parallel storylines that jump in time for maximum suspense effect. Think of this as the antithesis of "The Zone of Interest" (Nicholas Glazer, 2023) or a smarter, sober "Jojo Rabbit" (Taika Waititi, 2019). It's Art House worthy.
"Toyland" won the 2007 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.
Escape through music: Julia Jager, Claudia Hubschmann, and Torsten Michaelis enjoy the calm before the storm in the Oscar-winning short "Toyland."
Hassan Abdul Wahid packs a lot in a brief, single scene between two characters at odds with how to engage with a world collapsing around them. A black mother and her teen daughter fight when the woman discovers the girl is going to a street protest armed with a hammer. The murder of George Floyd and other victims of racial police violence are invoked. Margaux Amie's emotional, open-hearted performance keeps any sense of rote didacticism or preachiness at bay. The movie is not just about riding in the coattails of a social crisis. It can work as the starting point of a valuable conversation with young kids entering the age when political activism calls them.
"Let Go" won the Vegas Movie Awards and entered the Official Selection of the Independent Short Awards, 2021.
If I had a hammer: Margaux Amie stands up for non-violent protest in "Let Go."
Just as you think you have this curious drama pinned down, it throws you a curve you don’t see coming. A philosophy professor and a God-believing older man sit together on a park bench and exchange words about what a higher being means for men. Or it doesn’t. Meanwhile, their dogs romp around as a mime tries to get tips from uninterested crowds. Could this be more European? Come for the metaphysics, and stay for the parallel universes and the horror twist. Writer-director Vasily Chuprina holds a Ph.D. in Physics, which certifies he is smarter than us, so we'll assume the science here is tight.
"Those Beautiful Moments" won Best Cinematography at the 2021 New York Cinematography Awards and Best Director of Sci-Fi Short Film World Competition at the 2020 Seattle Film Festival, among many other recognitions.
Cue in the mime: Vasily Diachenko and Yevgeny Kapitonov contemplate God, dogs and taxidermy in "Those Beautiful Moments"
Another lauded short from writer-director Vasily Chuprina. This one is more emotionally direct and open-hearted than “Those Beautiful Moments.” Watching them back-to-back is an instructive experience of how versatile a filmmaker can be. An old lighthouse keeper and a young child alone on the shore contemplate the sea and face a tragedy that links them.
"The Boy By The Sea" is the Winner of the Platinum Reel Award at the Nevada International Film Festival, 2017; Best Short Film at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival; and Best Foreign Short at Atlanta Shortfest, among many others.
Sad boy on the shore: Rom Elzakkers awaits in "The Boy By The Sea."
A surprising exercise of sci-fi in the rolling hills of England. Journeyman actor Andrew Price is a cantankerous farmer with a bad cough who, one night, comes a visitor from outer space. The blue-skinned, feminine alien identifies herself as Voyager (Cristiona Aston). She seems truly mystified by the kindness of the man, who protects her with his coat and takes her to his home for tea and a shower. Before you know it, he is helping her to pass for human and protects her from marauding strangers with mischief in their mind. Alas, the Voyager’s true mission on Earth will wrench their friendship. “Stargirl” is one of those shorts that ask to be expanded into a feature, but there are plenty of pleasures in its combination of old sci-fi tropes with XXI-century realism.
"StarGirl"'s protagonist Aston took the award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films 2022.
Human disguise: Cristina Aston tries unsuccessfully to pass for a farm girl in "StarGirl" / Photo courtesy of Renderyard.
The “Suspiria” homage we did not know we needed. French director Yan Berthemy unleashes his inner Dario Argento with an atmospheric short that condenses the premise of the Giallo classic with a gracefulness that puts Luca Guadadgnino’s 2018 bloated remake to shame. Célia Mocydlarz is Susie, a young dancer who travels for an audition at Madame Aradia’s Academy. The missing girl flyers stuck in the entrance should give her pause, but then again, her mom made the appointment for her. What could go wrong? There are no clear answers, but the hints of dastardly deeds are more disturbing than straight answers.
"Morto Rossa"'s star Mocydlarz won the Best Actress award at the 2023 Scorpiousfest, a film festival promoted by Scorpions Magazine. Berthemy won the Best Director award at the Romford Film Festival in 2023.
Dancing to the grave: Célia Mocydlarzgets schooled in the dark arts in "Morto Rossa" / Photo courtesy of Fusa Studios.
A thigh, compact horror short following a couple who get more than they bargained for when they book a stately country house for a weekend vacation. Tim (David Frias-Robles) and Jo (Marian Elizabeth) are amused when they encounter virtual assistant Viola at the place. Merriment leads to creepiness as evidence mounts towards the device being possessed by a vengeful spirit. You will never see Siri, Alexa, and their ilk with the same eyes. Or perhaps you will outright unplug them.
"Viola" won Best Director at the London International Film Festival 2022 Winner of the Best Cinematography award at Los Angeles Crime & Horror Film Festival 2021.
This is why I don't f*** with Siri, Alexa, and none of those b*****: David Frias-Robles goes against a haunted virtual assistant in "Viola."
A moody horror short film that follows a retired opera wardrobe designer beginning a new life and moving into a dilapidated farmhouse in Massachusetts. The previous owner fails to disclose that the place is haunted by the spirit of a psychiatric nurse missing decades ago. "Sedalia" won the Best Horror Short at the Toronto Independent Festival of CIFT and the San Francisco Indie Short Festival, and it was also the Best Short Crime at the Cult Movies International Film Festival 2021.
The ghost that haunts you: Chloe Caro can't rest in "Sedalia."
Director Ron Pollard offers a fascinating combination of art history, personal memory, and experimental cinema. You must take the title literally. Pollard and his brother bought a stash of old paintings from a German art merchant that turned out to be lost works from Kasimir Malevich and other artists from the Russian avant-garde. The story is conveyed in Pollard's voiceover, with a dark undertone that brings forward the political strife that supported the art movement to suppress it years later. The communist order believed that its aesthetic principles were bourgeois and degenerate. Pollard films and combines the paintings with expansive vistas that mirror their geometrical beauty, constructing cinematic equivalents with creative visuals and editing techniques. Fading one image over another conveys the ghostly primary paintings that lay under layers of paint in a masterpiece. A booming drum over droning white noise may remind you of Malevich's monumental black shapes floating over nothingness. The final revelation is a gut punch, confirming art is our definitive if imperfect, stance against mortality.
“I Found Malevich” won Best Experimental Short at Indie Short Fest 2021
Masterpiece with landscape: Ron Pollard pushes the limits of experimental cinema with "I Found Malevich."
Follows Jane and Drew, a couple on the brink of divorce who attend an intimacy workshop to heal their marital issues.Stream Free
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