Before Martin Scorsese became one of the greatest directors of all time there was “The Big Shave.” Before Taika Waititi directed a Marvel movie and won an Oscar for “Jojo Rabbit” there was “Two Cars, One Night.” Before Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay become two of our best working directors there was “Wasp” and “Small Deaths.” Most great directors start their careers with a great short film, several of which IndieWire has rounded up below for your streaming pleasure.
Of the selection below, short films by Andrea Arnold, Taika Waititi, Nacho Vigolando, and Marshall Curry all landed Oscar nominations in the Best Live Action Short Film Category. Both Arnold and Curry won the Academy Award for their shorts in their respective years. For Scorsese and Darren Aronofsky, the shorts below served as breakthrough moments as film school students at New York University and the American Film Institute, respectively.
Stream 15 shorts by great directors in the selection below.
David Lowery, “Pioneer”
Before David Lowery became a breakout filmmaker with his 2013 drama “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (his second feature film after 2009 debut “St. Nick”), he released this 2011 short about a father telling his son a violent story about his absent mother.
Martin McDonagh, “Six Shooter”
The “In Bruges” and “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” filmmaker won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film with “Six Shooter,” starring Brendan Gleeson as a man who encounters a psychotic young man on a train after learning about the death of his wife.
Taika Waititi, “Two Cars, One Night”
Taika Waititi was Oscar nominated for Best Live Action Short Film with his 2004 short “Two Cars, One Night.” The film centers around two young boys and the woman they meet in the parking lot of a New Zealand pub.
Andrea Arnold, “Wasp”
“American Honey” and “Fish Tank” director Andrea Arnold won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film with “Wasp.” Arnold shot the film in her hometown of Darford and cast Natalie Press in the story of a struggling mother trying to keep her four children out of harm’s way while attempting to mend a relationship with an old ex-boyfriend.
Nacho Vigalondo, “7:35 in the Morning”
Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo was Oscar nominated for Best Live Action Short Film with “7:35 in the Morning,” shot in black and white. The film stars Marta Belenguer as a woman who encounters a mysterious man one morning during her trip to her local coffee shop.
Christopher Nolan, “Doodlebug”
Christopher Nolan is beloved around the world for his mind-bending narratives, and he got his start with the 1997 short film “Doodlebug.” The three-minute short stars Jeremy Theobald as a man who has an identity crisis while trying to kill a small bug that’s crawling around his apartment.
Martin Scorsese, “The Big Shave”
Martin Scorsese’s short film “The Big Shave” stars Peter Bernuth as a man shaving in his bathroom who cuts his skin and continues to cut deeper. Scorsese made the film as a metaphor for the United States’ self destruction in the Vietnam War. The filmmaker made the short while attending film school at New York University.
Lynne Ramsay, “Small Deaths”
Master filmmaker Lynne Ramsay takes a look at three pivotal encounters in a young girl’s life in her 1996 short film “Small Deaths.” The film won the Short Film Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Ramsay would make her feature directorial debut three years later with “Ratcatcher.”
Tim Burton, “Vincent”
Tim Burton worked with Disney on his 1982 stop-motion horror short film “Vincent,” about a young boy obsessed with Edgar Alan Poe who performs experiments on his dog in order to create a zombie. The short was inspired by Burton’s love of German Expressionist films of the 1920s.
David Lynch, “The Alphabet”
David Lynch’s various short films represent some of the most experimental and challenging work of his career. The director’s 1968 short “The Alphabet” combines live action filmmaking and animation to tell the story of a man who experiences a nightmare. Be sure to seek out “The Grandmother” afterward.
Spike Jonze, “Welcome Home”
Spike Jonze teamed up with Apple to direct the short film “Welcome Home,” starring the musician FKA Twigs as a woman who falls into a dream world and meets a new version of herself. The short was created to market Apple’s HomePod device, but Jonze’s creativity made the project more than just an advertisement.
Darren Aronofsky, “No Time”
Before Darren Aronosfky broke out at the Sundance Film Festival with “Pi,” he directed the 1994 short film “No Time” alongside his frequent cinematographer Matthew Libatique. It’s one of three short films he directed as part of the masters program at the AFI Conservatory; the other two were “Protozoa” — also the name of his production company — and “Fortune Cookie.”
Neil Blomkamp, “Alive in Joburg”
Neill Blomkamp found great success with his feature film “District 9,” which grossed $210 million on a $30 million production budget and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The movie was based on the director’s 2005 short “Alive in Joburg.”
Marshall Curry, “The Neighbors’ Window”
Marshall Curry is renowned in the non-fiction film world thanks to his documentaries “Point and Shoot,” “Street Fight,” and “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” the latter two both earning Oscar nominations for Best Documentary Feature. Curry made his narrative feature debut last year with the short film “The Neighbors’ Window,” which ended up winning Curry his first Oscar in the Best Live Action Short Film category.
Ana Lily Amirpour, “Yo! My Saint”
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “The Bad Batch” filmmaker partnered with Kenzo and Karen O in 2018 for the musical short film “Yo! My Saint.” The short and television projects such as “Castle Rock,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Briarpatch” have kept Amirpour busy as she also develops future film projects such as “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” and “Cliffhanger.”