Okay, so we live in something of a great time for epic movie storytelling — where a combination of the home video market, multiplex theaters, and multi-part franchises mean that filmmakers are no longer pressured to squeeze giant stories into single 90-minute movies.
But while that’s all well and great in some ways, there are definitely occasions upon which we wish movies were a bit more manageable in length: the kind of thing you can comfortably watch over, say, a lunch break.
With that in mind, here are five superb short films you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t watch. They may be short on running-time, but you’ll be surprised at just how many insane stunts, great plot setups and, err, creepy Russian robots they can manage to whip out during 5 or 10 minutes.
Directed by a protégé of Ridley Scott, Carl Erik Rinsch’s The Gift can be described visually as what Blade Runner might look like, were it to instead take place in futuristic Russia. The plot is practically nonexistent, and it poses way more questions than it answers, but for world-building establishing shots alone, this excellent short deserves a place on this list.
On top of that, there’s plenty to keep you entertained for the 5-minute duration. Want to see a gorgeously-realized 19th century Russian duke-style robots? How about said robot in a high-speed chase through former Soviet streets? All and more can be found here. It’s like the world’s weirdest vodka ad—and that goes for both the plotting and the visuals.
From its Alien-inspired score to its opening gambit in which a bored space traveller is alerted of a mysterious nearby event that needs investigating, Eli Sasich’s Atropa wears its influences clearly on its spacesuit sleeves. But inspiration is no bad thing, and this 10-minute short more than lives up to the tense mood evoked by Ridley Scott’s classic horror movie.
Okay, so it’s clearly designed as a teaser for a longer feature film (and therefore not really a standalone short) but until a movie-length version of Atropa appears, this short will have to sustain you.
Great spaceship CGI, by the way.
Biting Elbows: “Bad Motherf***er”
I’m a huge John Woo fan, with the final shootout of 1987’s A Better Tomorrow II epitomizing everything I love about his work. In his 2013 short movie “Bad Motherf*cker” (actually a music video for his band Biting Elbows), Russian director Ilya Naishuller took the balletic action of Woo’s movies to the next level, by combining them with a first-person perspective that is half Call of Duty and half GoPro.
It’s pretty brutal throughout, so I’d recommend this as strictly NSFW, but it’s an astonishing creation for watching on your own time. The director’s expanding the concept into a whole feature-length movie, too.
Superman with a GoPro
A bit lighter than Naishuller’s ultraviolent blood-soaked epic, this short film showing Superman with a GoPro camera still carries considerable “wow” factor. The basic gist is that Superman, resplendent in classic blue-and-red spandex, sets out to return a lost GoPro camera to its rightful owner.
To carry it, Superman naturally slips it over his head and — well, from there we get a fast-paced romp through Metropolis, with Supes contending with everything from gun-wielding baddies (will they never learn?) to burning buildings. It’s an impressive piece of digital trickery from Internet video creators Corridor Digital, and made even more fun by watching the behind-the-scenes video showing how they pulled much of it off.
Batman: Dead End
An oldie but a goodie, Batman: Dead End was created before Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight trilogy, at a time when the last incarnation of everyone’s favorite Caped Crusader had been a Joel Schumacher “reimagining” featuring nipples on the batsuit.
Directed by special effects whiz Sandy Collora, the short film presents a vision of Batman that is arguably truer to the look of the comic book than even Christian Bale’s performance. Until the Alien and Predator show up, of course. And no, I’m not making that bit up.