There are exactly 12,458 short films made every year. That number is a grossly inaccurate estimation, but the point is, there’s a hell of a lot of short films out there. The classic calling card for would-be career directors, the mistress keeping a feature filmmaker’s attention, the proof that a left field concept can work. These brief motion pictures can pack an incredible punch, and in the world of the internet, they are everyday finding their place among the throne room of distraction entertainment that can be safely smuggled into a cubicle or a school desk.
After watching close to 3,000 shorts this year, roughly 260 were chosen for our Short Film of the Day feature, so the idea of culling that list down to 12 seems both staggering and like something that violates the Eighth Amendment. The whole “Everyone’s a winner” schtick is something we all know isn’t true, but if you made it onto the site at all, you’ve got something that thousands of other movies don’t.
With that in mind, here are the shorts that shined above and beyond those that survived the final cut. You’ll find a security team overwhelmed by monsters and sarcasm, two robots with immense humanity, a bit of comic book ultra-violence and a whole lot more.
12. Cut Off
The Pitch: An author spends a bit too much time in the fictional world while struggling to finish a novel.
The Hook: An impressive balance of humor and noir trappings, clever shots and editing, and an engagingly raw lead performance.
The Pitch: Edited down from 10 hours of NASA footage about a robotics program, the story of a sentient robot worker who is dying.
The Hook: A smart twist on found footage (that uses actual found footage), a look into our science fiction future using our science past and an utterly devastating emotional display.
The Pitch: An experiment in colorful design…
The Hook: …that creates some gasp-inducing beauty.
9. The Chase
The Pitch: Four badass bitches lead an army of police on a high speed chase filled with destruction.
The Hook: Gravity-defying CGI, a mastery of action and a killer punch line.
8. Cost of Living
The Pitch: Two security guards battle a routine security threat at an unusual company.
The Hook: Brandon Routh’s snarky brilliance, red meat for genre geeks and Nebraska jokes for the whole family.
7. Caine’s Arcade
The Pitch: A father uses social media to give his bright, creative son the best day of business in his young life.
The Hook: Overwhelming cuteness, a super cool 9 year old and an intimately fun documentary method.
6. The Hunted and the Hated
The Pitch: A secret recording exposes the NYPD stop-and-frisk program in despicable action.
The Hook: Socially important subject matter, a documentary that goes deeper and unflinching reality.
5. Project S.E.R.A.
The Pitch: A woman and her father are interrogated by a secretive group trying to hide the truth about a dangerous biological weapon.
The Hook: Twisting a tired genre, a tense story told with bullets and a visual celebration of bloody stunt work.
4. Dead Man’s Lake
The Pitch: Three friends hit a lake for some fun and unleash a deadly horror.
The Hook: Inventive toying to avoid the obvious, throwback fun and an ending that’ll make you put your jaw back in place to watch it twice.
The Pitch: An android is quality-tested and found to be defective for thinking.
The Hook: Deep layers, astounding CGI design from Quantic Dream and a frantically effecting climax.
2. The Boy Who Wanted to Be A Lion
The Pitch: A deaf boy becomes enamored with lions after a trip to the zoo and uses his imagination to escape an isolating world that he fears.
The Hook: Wondrous mixed animation, inspired sound design and camera work to aid a Sendakian celebration of childhood, and a gutsy follow-through that punches right to the chest. Seriously, it might just be the best commercial for Kleenex ever made.
1. The Eagleman Stag
The Pitch: A scientist deftly recalls his life and the discovery which defined it.
The Hook: Epic storytelling done with style, staggering labor that crafts a unique look, and an all-encompassing subtext about the important moments of our life.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Jane as The Punisher in Dirty Laundry, the wacky sushi action of Monster Roll, the Made By Hand documentary The Cigar Shop, the practical/CGI blend of Vessel (which is no longer online because it’s being developed as a feature) and the difficult-to-describe style of Empire.
*Since some shorts that are made in years past aren’t available online (without passwords) until later (while they’re surfing the festival circuit), only shorts that were uploaded in 2012 were eligible for consideration even if they debuted elsewhere prior to this year. It’s tricky, yes.