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Great short films you've never seen but should

Updated on July 9, 2015

It's a great time to be a filmmaker

Thanks to the advent of high quality, affordable video and editing equipment, more and more people are able to bring their short film ideas to life. This has given cash-strapped yet talented filmmakers a means to share their projects with the world, where just a few short years ago it would have been astronomically difficult and expensive.

Short films differ from their feature length younger brothers in more ways than just run time. Because brevity is the name of the game, the best short films are well paced and simultaneously drive their stories forward while providing ample plot exposition. Also, shorts are much less expensive than feature length films are to produce, meaning that clever filmmakers can really crank their production values even when they don't have a lot of resources at their disposal.

Below is a short list of awesome independently-produced short films I've come across over the years, in no particular order.

Do you know of a great, but undiscovered short film? Tell us about it below in the comments!

1. Smooth

A battered Ricky is stared down by Wes and his henchman.
A battered Ricky is stared down by Wes and his henchman. | Source

Ricky's smart mouth won't get him out of this one.

Ok, I admit. I'm a bit biased towards this entry (mainly because I play the guy getting the crap kicked out of him), but even if I wasn't I'd still enjoy Smooth for its minimalist approach to visuals, and its ability to tell a compelling story without a lot of exposition.

Smooth opens up with Ricky (Michael Augustine) being unceremoniously yanked out of the trunk of a car and thrown to the ground. The smart-mouthed wiseguy appears to have run afoul of the wrong people, and he now finds himself at the mercy of the chrome-domed mafia tough Bruno (Cristobal Hernandez) and his intense, fury driven boss, Wes (Jessie Navarro).

Like I said above, what I love most about Smooth is how it employs a highly minimalist approach to film-making. Much like my favorite classic film of all time, Smooth relies on its characters to drive its story. There are very few digital effects to speak of besides what's necessary to move the visual, allowing the personalities of the characters to really shine.

And shine they do. Smooth stands out as five and a half minutes of cathartic substance; providing action, drama, and even a little bit of comedy in its short run time.

2. Heart Pumping Oil

Sparrow chooses Destiny
Sparrow chooses Destiny | Source

A fascinating tale of a gritty, dismal future that's big on atmosphere

Dirt Capsule Films doesn't pull any punches when crafting their visuals. The attention to every minute detail of the character and set designs in Heart Pumping Oil are enough to make the film worth talking about - but it's only a small part of the overall package that makes this such a fantastically entertaining short.

Heart Pumping Oil tells the story of Sparrow (Jing Song), who gives up everything in an attempt to free Destiny (Kassie Rehorn) from a life of slavery. Their journey is complicated by the pursuit of what passes for authority in this dystopian world, who will stop at nothing to get Destiny back.

Heart Pumping Oil was filmed in my hometown: Phoenix, Arizona. I say this because what I love most about this short is how alien and isolated its universe feels, despite being shot in my own backyard.

While its sci-fi, steampunk flavored style may not be for everyone, Heart Pumping Oil is still a tremendous feat of a project by an independent production team with minimal resources at their disposal, and is worth watching for that reason alone.


Grinning into the barrel of a gun
Grinning into the barrel of a gun

Intensity with a side of intensity

Written and directed by Eli Godfrey, N8DLEO opens inside a ratty RV parked in a remote locale where a high tension meeting is taking place between a humorless Nate (Christopher Sheffield), and psychopathic arms dealer Slag (Jessie Navarro).

Within seconds it becomes obvious that both men are extremely dangerous, and both of them are playing with fire.

N8DLEO doesn't skimp on substance. The smart dialogue paints a much more elaborate picture about each character than you'd expect to fit in to a five minute short, and despite the dominating drama of the piece, it's also got just the right amount of wicked humor.

It's also got a kick ass credits sequence!

4. Torn

Our leading lady sits, bewildered and seemingly alone.
Our leading lady sits, bewildered and seemingly alone.

Art-house styled with fantastic use of symbolism

Torn is proof that a good short film idea can stand just fine on its own without dialogue. Relying entirely on its visuals to drive its story, Torn is a highly expressionist tale that elicits feelings of the darker side of the human experience. Guilt, vice, and struggling with inner demons are all major themes here, and while the visuals can be a bit on-the-nose at times, the film is comfortably paced and really manages to evoke a gnarly, unwelcoming vibe while still being wholly captivating.

Torn is also technically sound. Viewing it as a professional lighting technician, I was more than pleased with the lighting and camera movement- especially when the film moves into the ominous hallway sequence. Sadie Tysdal (also the writer of Torn) nails her performance as the beleaguered woman haunted by her demons.

For lovers of surreal, expressionist cinema, Torn is a delicious morsel of entertainment.

Read more about Torn at -

5. The Greatest Lie Ever Told

Cory plans his next set of words very carefully.
Cory plans his next set of words very carefully.

Gross-out comedy that punctuates a situation most of us are familiar with

The team at Cool Wave Pictures brings us "The Greatest Lie Ever Told", an irreverent comedy about romance, dating, and tactical decisions. Carrie Fee and Corey Brox sit opposite of each other in a diner, Carrie obviously has much different plans for the future than Corey does, and it quickly becomes obvious that he's mulling about a way to let her down easy.

What happens next is a set up for a punchline that many of us have delivered in our lives, probably for similar reasons. Which gives "The Greatest Lie Ever Told" a serious edge on relateability. I'd wager than the majority of folks who'll ever read this, both male and female, can relate to Corey in this situation.

Though I imagine that the (sometimes literal) toilet humor will be a turn off for some, "The Greatest Lie Ever Told" is still a genuinely funny and technically sound short film, and definitely worth five minutes and thirty three seconds of your time.

6. Hell of a Deal

Only a certain kind of deal goes down in the middle of the desert.
Only a certain kind of deal goes down in the middle of the desert.

Some things should just be left buried

Hell of a Deal by Escape Velocity Films is a hell of a short. Reavis Dorsey plays a stressed out salaryman who finds himself in the middle of the desert with a shovel. He's hoping to find and rescue a notoriously dangerous woman (played by Allex Killion) and make a deal with her for all the wrong reasons.

I loved Allex Killion's performance in this piece. She's sardonic and ice cold, even when standing on death's door. She quickly establishes that she's not the damsel, but the distress. Salaryman's deal for easy money may not come as easy as he expected.

Hell also boasts some impressive practical effects. Both the makeup effects (by artist Candy Domme) and Allex's "predicament" are expertly executed.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Nice Bro ....

    • Maugustine profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Augustine 

      4 years ago from Arizona

      Great list of suggestions, I recognize several of the production companies too. I'll definitely start perusing the shorts on your list.

    • profile image

      Apocalypse Later 

      4 years ago

      If you're looking at great local Arizona short films that are watchable for free online, try this baker's dozen of varied but excellent shorts:

      La Lucha (Silly Grin Productions)

      Pensil (Gooi Films)

      Secret Identity (Infinite Lives Entertainment)

      SuperFuzz (David Towles-Moore)

      The Memory Ride (Running Wild Films)

      Reply Hazy, Try Again (Kristin LaVanway)

      The Wishing Skull (Dirt Capsule Films)

      Zombie Team Building (Squishy Studios)

      Red Sand (UAT)

      Resuscitate (Ken Gregg)

      Hellytubby (Conquistador Cats)

      After the Beep (Zeno's Paradox)

      M is for Matchmaker (Sean Tretta)

    • mz holloway profile image

      mz holloway 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for the rundown. They look interesting

    • Maugustine profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Augustine 

      4 years ago from Arizona

      That's one of my favorite things about shorts. Really well done short films always manage to pack a surprising amount of substance into their brief run times.

    • Hendrika profile image


      4 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Thank you for your list of short movies. It is amazing what people can actually convey in a short amount of time. As soon as I have time I will come back and watch them all.


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