Oscars 2023: The Best Live Action Shorts Nominees, Ranked

This year's category is entirely international — and loaded with worthy contenders.
Le Pupille
"Le Pupille"

In the most prominent Oscar categories, many of the nominees are fairly established; the short film categories, and the Best Live Action short in particular, provide more room for discoveries. It was here, 18 years ago, that “The Banshees of Inisherin” writer-director Martin McDonagh won for his short “Six Shooter,” and where Andrea Arnold won a year prior for “Wasp,” from a category of nominees that also included Taika Waititi and Nacho Vigalondo.

It’s also a category that can attract support from major Hollywood talent, as with last year’s winner “The Long Goodbye,” starring and produced by Riz Ahmed, who shared the award with director Aneil Karia. Yet even in that case, the winner of the category — a spoken-word indictment of racial violence — was more daring and inventive than the bulk of the feature nominees.

In that regard, this year’s set of contenders all stand out for one simple reason: None of them come from America, and only one is in the English language. As the Oscars continue to reflect the global nature of the film industry (and the Academy attempts to further engage its international community), these developments are especially visible in this category.

It’s a particularly strong year in other ways as well: All of this year’s nominees focus on unique characters defined by the singular nature of their surroundings, and showcase unique narrative strengths, approaching weighty themes such as grief and oppression through distinctive worldviews. These movies are sad, funny, often whimsical, and never forced.

While there may be a popular favorite worth acknowledging for anyone looking to win their Oscar pool, the category is loaded with worthy contenders. Here’s a ranked look at the nominees, now playing in limited theatrical release.

5. “An Irish Goodbye”

“An Irish Goodbye”

While “Banshees” carries the mantle of Irish representation in several major categories this year, “An Irish Goodbye” is nipping at its heels. Directors Tom Berkeley and Ross White’s bittersweet dark comedy finds adult brothers Lorcan and Turlough (James Martin and Seamus O’Hara) reuniting in the countryside to bury their mother. As Lorcan has Down Syndrome, Turlough focuses on the practical matters related to their mother’s house. But when they come across their mother’s bucket list and realize she never completed it, Lorcan insists they go about finishing her goals.

The ensuing set of misadventures unfolds as a charming story of family bonding in dark times, and while the capriciousness overstays its welcome, it still plays like a solid calling card for the feature-length version. (For all the sophisticated emotions leading up to the finale, it’s too bad the whole thing ends on a fart joke.) Martin and O’Hara have such endearing chemistry it’s a wonder they aren’t siblings in real life.

4. “Ivalu”


Director Anders Walter has adapted the stunning Danish graphic novel set in remote Greenland, where the landscapes take on a sense of poetic isolation. The drama revolves around young Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann) who attempts to find her missing her older sister Ivalu (Nivi Larsen) after she flees their sexually-abusive father. The short, which is in the Greenlandic language, has a dreamy, enigmatic quality that extends from its young protagonist’s subject view of the situation, and it builds to a bleak wakeup call that juxtaposes the fantastical backdrop with the bitter truth of communal isolation.

As Ivalu fights to find her sister in the vast, icy wilderness, she follows the path of a raven as her storybook perception of the situation leads her to a deeper understanding of her tragic surroundings. While not exactly surprising, the final reveal of the short cuts deep. “Ivalu” may be the real downer of the category, but it’s such a rich lyrical experience that its dreary, haunting outcome doesn’t feel the slightest bit forced.

3. “The Red Suitcase”

“The Red Suitcase”Picasa

This Luxembourg short from director Cyrus Nevshad is a riveting real-time thriller about a woman who evades her arranged marriage. Set exclusively in and around the Luxembourg airport, the short finds a 16-year-old Iranian girl (Nawelle Ewad) arriving at the airport and realizing that by simply removing her veil, she can slip past the older man waiting for her in the terminal. But her planned escape doesn’t go so smoothly, as the camera follows her through a series of tense close calls.

Nevshad’s tight grasp of the suspenseful situation keeps it rooted in his young performer’s gripping, silent turn, with only a few tricky camera moves to keep the tension high. It doesn’t go anywhere new once the basic premise has been established, but that’s enough to make “The Red Suitcase” into an effective vessel for exploring the victims of arranged marriages worldwide, even as it charts a path to some semblance of hope.

2. “Night Ride”

“Night Ride”

Norwegian director Eirik Tveiten’s short stands out among this year’s nominees as the most unpredictable of the bunch. What starts as an unexpected comic theft turns into an unnerving look at transphobia, before doubling back for a rousing finale. Set against the backdrop of a snowy Christmas, the short finds little person Ebba (Sigrid Kandal Husjord) waiting for a train in the freezing cold and sneaking inside while the driver takes a bathroom break. Once inside, she decides to mess around with the controls and suddenly finds herself taking a joyride into the shadowy night. Momentarily liberated by her unexpected criminal act, Ebba faces a whole new challenge when a group of passengers start bullying a trans passenger, as the woman slowly gathers the courage to take action.

As “Night Ride” neatly establishes one persecuted minority helping another through sheer serendipity, its message might seem a touch forced, but Husjord gives a moving and personable performance, grounding the entire unexpected journey in credible stakes. Tveiten’s tight command of tone enables “Night Ride” to be funny, scary, and ultimately empowering at all the right moments.

1. “Le Pupille”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Alice Rohrwacher speaks onstage during the tastemaker screening of Disney's “Le Pupille” with producer Alfonso Cuarón at DGA Theater in Los Angeles on February 13, 2023. "Le Pupille" is streaming now on Disney+. (Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Disney+)
Alice RohrwacherGetty Images for Disney+

If you’ve been paying attention to European cinema of the past decade, you probably know the work of Italian auteur Alice Rohrwacher, whose entrancing, fable-like dramas have made her a Cannes regular. From “The Wonders” to “Happy as Lazzaro,” Rohrwacher’s ability to blend naturalism with ethereal charm is unparalleled. Executive produced by Alfonso Cuarón (who brought this short to Disney+), “Le Pupille” provides a warm entry point to Rohrwacher’s appeal.

Set in a Catholic orphanage during World War II, the winsome holiday story features the director’s sister (Alba Rohrwacher) as a humorless superior who forces her students to adhere to meet her demands of piety while their prankish tendencies bubble to the surface. The main narrative revolves around the hilarious physical comedy of a Nativity display, where the rehearsal gets complicated by the arrival of a tasty-looking cake.

Rohrwacher’s playful approach manages to be a subversive send-up of religious extremism and a warm, nostalgic ode to the inherent restlessness of youth all at once. For anyone who thinks that the holiday season takes itself too seriously, “Le Pupille” is a new Christmas classic. It’s also a welcome excuse for a major director with limited U.S. visibility to win an Oscar this year, and that’s worthy of a holiday itself.

The 2023 Oscar-nominated short films will be available in select theaters on Friday, February 17. Find participating theaters here

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