We've been blown away by the variety and quality of short films that have appeared online this year, from a heartbreaking story set in the zombie apocalypse to an all-ages anime about a young witch learning to trust in her own power. Here are some of our favorite science, science fiction, and fantasy-themed short films from 2013.
These films weren't necessarily all made in 2013, but they were posted online in the last 12 months, free for the Internet's enjoyment. Post your own favorite short films from the year in the comments.
Cole Drumb's decidedly NSFW animation feels like a throwback to MTV's Liquid Television, with six (literally) face-melting minutes about an attempt to rescue a telekinetic held captive by scientists. Plus, it features voice work by Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer.
Why do I study physics?
Physics and animation student Shixie (Xiangjun Shi) explains her passion for physics using her talent for animation. What starts out as an understated personal journey expands into a graphic exploration of the universe's great scientific questions.
Noon may be just one sequence from a longer screenplay, but it immediately immerses viewers in its world. After 50-year earthquakes have ended the cycle of night and day, the North Pole becomes a region of unending sun, housing the city of Noon. In this tense short, a coyote tries to smuggle a small group of people into the city, but runs into trouble at the border. We're looking forward to the full-length feature.
Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo
Disaster porn can get stale, but Studio Ghibli's entry into the tokusatsu genre is a fresh visual delight even as it reaches back to classic monster movies and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It helps that it relies on practical effects rather than slick CG, giving the short a loving, bespoke effect. It looks like it was incredible fun to make, and the teeth on the God Warrior are a thing of horrific beauty.
It's great to see a science fiction story about a robot executing their job sympathetically and competently, even against impossible odds. Part physician, part crisis negotiator, Dr. Easy is dispatched to deal with a desperate man with a gun. Dr. Easy is adapted from Matthew De Abaitua's creeptastic novel Red Men.
Requiem for Romance
Technically, Requiem for Romance draws from kung-fu movies rather than fantasy, but it was too beautiful not to include on this list. The audio of a couple's bittersweet breakup plays over a watercolor animation of an epic battle set in feudal China, reinterpreting the problems of cultural differences and parental disapproval as a martial conflict.
A captive girl with reality-altering powers decides to rescue herself—by taking over her boyfriend's body. An action-packed rescue sequence ends with the realization that there is far more to this story than a damsel in distress.
Little Witch Academia
Trigger studio delivers a TV episode's worth of magical delight with this short about a fledgling student at a school for witches. It's a sweet tale of friendship, rivalry, and learning to believe in yourself, and following a massively successful crowdfunding campaign, Trigger is working on a sequel.
The Final Moments of Karl Brant
Paul Reubens stars in this crime story that is part police procedural, part post-human angst. The brilliant Karl Brant is murdered, but not before he manages to upload his consciousness to a machine. The police are able to interrogate him posthumously, but they aren't comfortable with Brant's disembodied state.
From the Future With Love
There are shades of Paul Verhoeven in this multithreaded satirical short, set in a world where people obtain police protection solely through subscription. The film follows three police officers through their day—and hits home that even the police aren't safe in this law enforcement-for-hire scheme.
Two companions embark on an epic quest in this lushly animated short—a celebration of friendship and high fantasy. Plus it comes a moral: the journey is more important than the destination, unless the destination has treasure.
A stunning proof-of-concept film, R'ha depicts a moment in the struggle between an alien culture and robots. We weren't surprised when a studio snapped this short up to adapt it into a full-length feature.
Malaria is an innovative piece of storytelling, one that uses static images that are cut, spun, folded, burned, and manipulated in all other manners to relate the tale of a man hired to kill death. It turns a rather moody conversation between death and the contract killer into a visual feast where we're always eager to see what comes next.
Bee and PuppyCat
There's a reason that Natasha Allegri made our list of 2013's breakout stars. Bee and PuppyCat is a delight, spreading joy across the Internet with its strange and funny story of a girl who has just lost her job and the cat…er…puppy…thing she befriends. That PuppyCat's alien babysitting gig isn't the weirdest aspect of this wonderful short speaks volumes, and Bee comes with a firm interior life that would make her delightful to watch even without the jumps across reality. We're looking forward to more.
Cargo was a marvelous surprise this year, a movie that reminds us that any genre can be great as long as the story is approached thoughtfully. Set during the zombie apocalypse, Cargo celebrates ingenuity as a father who has been bitten by a zombie tries to provide for his infant daughter's survival, using the tropes of the genre to surprisingly heartbreaking effect.