Year In Review: The 11 Best Short Films of 2011

Over the course of the year, curating the Short Film of the Day feature has given me a deep and affecting appreciation of the art form. Before, I hadn’t given much thought to the little bastards, but the truth is that they are incredibly versatile and representative of the boundaries that film can break. They can be jokes told well or human dramas driven home. They can be a perfect bite or demand to be expanded into a full meal. They can feel classic or break out into the long, strange realm of experimentation.

They are so much more than movies with short runtimes.

There’s one difficulty in judging them, though. With such variation, pinpointing how one can be better than another gets to be tricky. So, no matter the order, the one constant is that all the movies listed here are outstanding at what they do.

The other (small) problem is that sometimes short films spend a long time touring festivals and otherwise being unavailable online. Thus, eligibility here is based solely on when a movie hit the web for us to digest. In that way, it’s the best short films from 2010-2011, but I have a feeling that that trivia won’t matter once you sit glued to the screen at the talent on display here.

11. The Man Who Never Cried

In this sweetly dark comedy from writer/director Bradley Jackson features Ralph Winston (Keir O’Donnell) as a children’s party clown who has never cried in his entire life. Not when he saw E.T.; not when his father dies. After that tearless tragedy, he vows that he’ll learn to cry before the funeral. It’s a great, slightly somber story with a lot of heart (and cream make-up).

10. Zombie in a Penguin Suit

Leave it to a short film featuring a marketing mascot changed into a brain-hungry monster to teach all a little bit about humanity. This short from Chris Russell is a killer idea done with bloody beauty.

9. Always a Family

In remembrance of 9/11, on its tenth anniversary, StoryCorps put together a series of animated shorts which used recordings from the family members of victims of the terrorist attack. This particular story hit incredibly hard. It’s soul-squeezing stuff, and it requires tissues to be within reach.

8. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared

Absurdity lives. This pitch-perfect parody of children’s programming left my jaw on the cement because it looks like it was made by Lucifer after singing show tunes and fornicating violently with the Teletubbies.

7. The German

Is it possible to deliver blockbuster budget effects with an indie wallet? Hell yes. Nick Ryan‘s short is as much proof of that as it is proof that he’s got a stirring eye for action (especially dog fights).

6. Mourir Auprès de Toi

Spike Jonze. Olympia Le-Tan. A partnership in explosive, vibrant creativity that yields something in stop-motion that’s reminiscent of an old Looney Tunes cartoon.


5. Blinky TM

I so sincerely wish that Blinky was still online for public consumption – both for those who didn’t have the pleasure of seeing it and for those who wanted to watch it 54 more times. Fortunately, this sci-fi view into the world of a helpful, happy, slightly psychotic robot isn’t the last we’ll see of director Ruairi Robinson.

4. Diary

Sadly, the world lost director and photojournalist Tim Hetherington when he was killed while covering the front lines of the Libyan Civil War. His experiment in objectivity, Diary, is something challenging, powerful, and unique. It’s one storyteller reaching into his past to reveal his present and give context to a world beyond our television screens and picket fences.

3. The Candy Shop

Antique design and allegory rule the day with this story of a young boy drawn to the sinister owner of a new candy shop (played by Doug Jones). It takes a ballsy filmmaker to tackle a concept like child sex trafficking, and it takes someone with immense talent to make it this good.

2. Portal: No Escape

Was there any doubt how high up this short from Dan Trachtenberg would place? It’s impact was undeniable, and it won Trachtenberg notice from studios and a job directing his first feature – a sci-fi flick called Crime of the Century over at Universal. It all started with this and, although I know him personally (full disclosure style), the work here not only speaks for itself, it yells from the rooftops.

1. Tune For Two

Pure. Simple. Genius.

What was your favorite short film this year?

Like these? Then check out the 12 Best Short Films of 2012


A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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