The 8 best short films to take home


The 8 best short films to take home

We’ve all been there: searching for a movie to watch with limited time and/or energy just to find all the options you’re interested in takes longer than you have the space. Occasionally this also happens with television, as we have seen in Stranger things 4 volume 2whose two episodes each run 85 minutes and a whopping 150 minutes.

That is why we are here! The Polygon curation team has compiled the following list of excellent short films for you to watch at home. To give us a benchmark (and given the incredible length of these stranger things episodes), we selected films that last 84 minutes or less, ie shorter than any episode of Stranger things 4 volume 2. Honestly, it would have been far too easy to pick films shorter than the two-and-a-half-hour finale.

These films span a variety of genres, eras, countries, and moods. Enjoy!

The cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Image: Cinema Lorber

Length: 74 minutes

Where to see: Available to stream on Shudder, on Kanopy or Hoopla with a library card, free with ads on Tubi or Plex, or for digital rental or purchase on Apple or Google Play

Robert Wiene’s 1920 masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema tells the story of a young man whose love life is thrown into turmoil by a series of heinous murders committed by a sleepwalker at the behest of a twisted hypnotist named Dr. Caligari to be committed. Featuring stunning set designs, a labyrinthine storyline and a shocking twist ending, The cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an absolutely fantastic short film. – Toussaint Egan

Before the sunset

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunset.

Image: Warner Independent Pictures

Length: 80 minutes

Where to see: Available to rent or buy digitally from Apple, Google Play and other VOD providers

Richard Linklater’s 2004 sequel to his romantic drama Before sunrise sees Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) reunited nine years after their fateful meeting in Vienna. Similar to the first film Before the sunset takes place over the course of an hour as the couple roam the streets of Paris sharing how their lives have changed before finally baring their hearts and confessing how much their love meant to each other. It’s one of the greatest romance movies ever made and at 80 minutes it’s easy to give yourself time to watch. —TE


The two stars of Daisy are lounging in bathing suits, one with his finger in his nose, the other playing a brass instrument.

Image: The collection of criteria

Length: 76 minutes

Where to see: Available to stream on HBO Max and the Criterion Channel, or to rent or buy digitally from Apple

“This film is dedicated to those who only get upset over a trampled bed of lettuce.”

Masterful Czech director Věra Chytilová is best known for this anti-authoritarian feminist comedy, which was banned from major cinemas in what was then Czechoslovakia shortly after its release. A surreal film that satirizes decadence, daisy is pure brilliance in form and execution, and the experience of seeing it is pure bliss. —peter people

The fits

Royalty Hightower looks through her fingers in front of a boxing ring in The Fits.

Image: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Length: 72 minutes

Where to see: Available for streaming on Showtime and FuboTV, free with a library card on Kanopy, or for digital rental or purchase on Apple, Amazon, and Google Play

Anna Rose Holmer’s powerful 2015 debut feature follows a young girl in Cincinnati who joins a dance group. Holmer worked with the Cincinnati-based Q-Kidz Dance Team, who is part of the cast, to create the film’s extraordinary choreography. An enchanting and at times anxious portrait of youth and self-discovery, The fits features an outstanding leading lady from Royal Hightower (just 9 years old when filming began). —PV

Football without end

The subject of Infinite Football explains their proposed rules to the director.

Image: Locust Movies

Length: 70 minutes

Where to see: Available to stream with a library card on Kanopy, or digitally borrow or buy on Apple

This irreverent documentary follows a Romanian on a mission: to perfect his unconventional version of club football. A warm character study of a man alone in his obsession, Corneliu Porumboiu’s delightful film feels like an extended conversation in a bar with an eccentric stranger you’ll never forget. —PV

The mission

Complicated blocking of people with guns in Johnnie Tos The Mission.

Image: Milky Way image

Length: 84 minutes

Where to see: Available to stream with a library card on Kanopy, or to borrow or buy digitally from Amazon

One of the modern greats, Hong Kong director Johnnie To creates masterpieces in romantic comedies (Do not break My Heart), superhero movies (The heroic trio) and gangster movies (literally too many to name). The mission falls into that last category, and is one of his many excellent Triad films. When a triad boss survives an assassination attempt, his brother hires five bodyguards to protect his life. A sophisticated action film with exciting action sequences and a charismatic ensemble cast, The mission is a hilarious fun time. —PV

Sherlock Jr.

Buster Keaton reads a book called

Image: Metro-Goldwyn Pictures

Length: 45 minutes

Where to see: Available to stream with a library card on Kanopy or Hoopla, free with ads on Plex, or digitally rent or buy on Apple, Google Play, and other VOD providers

Buster Keaton is one of the most accomplished practitioners of silent comedy to ever grace the screen Sherlock Jr. is a perfect example. The film follows a man (Keaton) who, while working as a simple projectionist, studies and dreams of becoming a detective. Aside from a plot involving a missing pocket watch, the film’s real draw is a dream sequence in which Keaton’s character is drawn into a film where he stumbles through a series of shenanigans caused by the film’s editing . A hilarious meta-comedy decades before the term became popular, Sherlock Jr. is fantastic. —TE

World of Tomorrow

Emily Prime and Emily stand and watch a sunset in tomorrow's world

Image: Bitter Films

Length: 74 minutes (17 minutes for Episode 1; 23 minutes for Episode 2; 34 minutes for Episode 3)

Where to see: Available for digital rent or purchase on Vimeo

Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow shorts rank among the most thought-provoking and entertaining science fiction films of the last decade. The three films center on the story of a little girl named Emily who is visited by multiple future versions of herself. Identity and existential boredom. All three are worth your time, but the first movie is a must-watch for any sci-fi movie enthusiast. —TE

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