In the span of mere minutes, short films can introduce us to fascinating ideas, dazzle us with mind-blowing visuals, and introduce us to strange and mysterious people. Here are the short films that we simply couldn't get out of our heads in 2014.
Top GIF from Wanderers.
There were so many great shorts this year that it was very difficult to narrow it down to a handful of favorites. We saw pulp parodies, existential fables, a cosmonaut playing ChatRoulette, a malevolent apartment, a bizarre earworm about a suicidal horse — and three different films about violent teddy bears. You can see more of the short films that we covered this year at this link, but here are our favorites from 2014.
A couple of caveats about this list: Because we follow short films that are released online, these are (in our opinion) the best shorts posted online in the last year, regardless of when they were actually made. You won't find movies that have, thus far, appeared only in theaters or film festivals on this list. Also, these are all original films rather than fan films or shorts from established properties.
Erik Wernquist's stirring vision of human space travel uses Carl Sagan's voice to accompany images of humans traveling across the solar system. This movie struck a chord with viewers and it's easy to see why: few pieces of media are as optimistic about our future.
Moving from the optimistic to the depressing, we have animator Andreas Hykade's simple but striking allegory for addiction. That poor little bird never recaptures the sublime high of that very first nugget.
Nick Offerman voices an omniscient narrator in this goofy metafictional Western written by Kevin Tenglin and directed by Eric Kissack. The confrontation between a heroic gunfighter and a band of crooks is constantly interrupted by Offerman's narration, which all of the characters can hear. And they don't much like what he reveals about them.
There are shades of The Terminator in this slow-burning thriller. Henry Dunham wrote and directed the film about a powerful AI that begs a janitor to kill it before it can destroy humanity.
Remember the name Hiroyasu Ishida, because anyone who can imbue a simple chair with so much emotion and personality is sure to be a star. This anime short follows the friendship between a girl and her sentient chair, and conveys their story without a word of dialogue.
Academy Award-nominated director Tomek Baginksi collaborated with the European Space Agency to create this breathtaking film about a magician who creates solar systems (played by Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen) and his apprentice. It's a lovely tribute to the Rosetta mission.
Plug was one of this year's most delightful surprises of this year. Movie concept artist David Levy creates his own visually immersive world where humanity has left Earth and robots have taken over the planet. After one human child was left behind, she was raised by robots, but still seeks out other animal life.
A Tale of Momentum and Inertia
It took just one minute for us to fall in love with HouseSpecial's CG film about a rock monster who tries to save a town. It's amazing that something so short can be so exciting and funny.
Justin Tagg's twisty short film asks some interesting questions about identity and our ability to make our own decisions in this film about a man who wakes up in a mysterious room and quickly discovers he's not the only one of him there.
There are shades of Steven Spielberg's movies in this proof-of-concept film by David Weinstein. It's a boy and his robot film packed with fantastic visuals.
Death of the Firstborn Egyptians
Forget Exodus. The Moses movie we're looking forward to is animator Nina Paley's irreverent Seder-Masochism. In this short from the upcoming feature film, Paley uses Ancienty Egyptian iconography to represent the Tenth Plague of Egypt with a singing Angel of Death.
El Ladrón de Caras (The Thief of Faces)
This animated noir starts as a mystery and ends with a punch to the gut. A group of students at the PrimerFrame school of animation put together this tale of a detective on the trail of a criminal who steals faces.
Orphan Black writer Tony Elliott keeps us guessing with this short film about a woman trying to figure out what happened to her lover after a quantum experiment gone awry.
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Richard Mans' shows a side of science fiction we don't see enough in film, with this fascinating film about transforming terraforming robots. There's not a single human-like character in this short, but it's still incredibly compelling.