The 8 best short films to watch at home

We’ve all been there: looking for a movie to watch, with limited time and/or energy, only to find that all the options you’re interested in are longer than you have the space for. Occasionally this also happens with television, as we have seen with Stranger Things 4 Part 2of which the two episodes last 85 minutes and no less than 150 minutes respectively.

That’s what we’re here for! Polygon’s Curation team has put together the following list of excellent short films for you to watch at home. To give us an evaluation (and in light of its incredible length) Weird stuff episodes), we chose movies that are 84 minutes or less, i.e. shorter than both episodes of Stranger Things 4 Part 2† Frankly, it would have been way too easy to pick movies shorter than the two and a half hour finale.

These movies vary in different genres, eras, countries and moods. Enjoying!

The cabinet of Dr. Caligaria

Image: Kino Lorber

length: 74 minutes

Where to watch: 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 shaken amid a series of gruesome murders committed by a sleepwalker at the behest of a deranged hypnotist calling himself Dr. Calling Caligari. With impressive set designs, a labyrinthine plot and a shocking ending, The cabinet of Dr. Caligaria is an absolutely fantastic short feature. —Toussaint Egan

Before sunset

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunset.

Image: Warner Independent Pictures

Length: 80 minutes

Where to watch: Available for digital rental or purchase on Apple, Google Play and other VOD providers

Richard Linklater’s sequel to his 2004 romantic drama Before sunrise Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) reunite nine years after their fateful meeting in Vienna. Just like the first movie, Before sunset takes place over the course of an hour as the couple wander the streets of Paris, sharing how their lives have changed before finally uncovering their hearts and confessing how much their love meant to each other. It’s one of the best romantic movies ever made, and at 80 minutes, it’s easy to make time for it. -AT


The two stars of Daisies lounge in swimwear, one with her finger up her nose and the other on a brass instrument.

Image: The Criterion Collection

Length: 76 minutes

Where to watch: Available to stream on HBO Max and the Criterion Channel, or for digital rental or purchase on Apple

“This film is dedicated to those who are only upset by a flattened bed of lettuce.”

Masterful Czech director Věra Chytilová is best known for this anti-authoritarian feminist comedy that was banned from major cinemas in what was then Czechoslovakia shortly after its release. A surrealist film that satirizes decadence, daisies is pure brilliance in form and execution, and the experience of looking at it is pure bliss. †god people

The fits

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

Image: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Length: 72 minutes

Where to watch: Available to stream 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 feature debut follows a young girl in Cincinnati who joins a dance troupe. Holmer worked with Cincinnati-based Q-Kidz Dance Team, which is part of the cast, to create the film’s exceptional choreography. A magical and sometimes fearful portrait of youth and finding yourself, The fits has a towering lead role of Royal Hightower (just 9 years old at the start of filming). †PV

infinite football

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

Image: Grasshopper Movies

Length: 70 minutes

Where to watch: Available to stream with a library card on Kanopy, or for digital rental or purchase on Apple

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

The mission

Intricate blocking of people with guns in Johnnie To's The Mission.

Image: image of the Milky Way

Length: 84 minutes

Where to watch: Available to stream with a library card on Kanopy, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon

One of the modern greats, Hong Kong director Johnnie To creates masterpieces in romantic comedies (don’t break my heart), superhero movies (The heroic trio), and gangster movies (literally too many to list). The mission falls into the latter category, and it 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 slick action movie with thrilling action scenes and a charismatic cast, The mission is a heady fun time. †PV

Sherlock Jr.

Buster Keaton reads a book titled

Image: Metro-Goldwyn Pictures

Length: 45 minutes

Where to watch: Available to stream with a library card on Kanopy or Hoopla, free with ads on Plex, or for digital rental or purchase on Apple, Google Play, and other VOD providers

Buster Keaton is one of the most masterful practitioners of silent physical comedy ever to hit the silver screen, whose Sherlock Jr† is a perfect example. The film follows a man (Keaton) who, while working as a humble film operator, studies and dreams of becoming a detective. Aside from a missing pocket watch storyline, the film’s real draw is a dream scene where Keaton’s character is drawn into a movie where he stumbles across a series of shenanigans caused by the film’s editing. A hilarious meta-comedy decades before the term became popular, Sherlock Jr. is fantastic. -AT

World of tomorrow

Emily Prime and Emily stand and watch a sunset in the world of tomorrow

Image: Bitter Films

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

Where to watch: Available for digital rental or purchase on Vimeo

Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow shorts are easily among the most thought-provoking and entertaining science fiction films of the past decade. Centered on the story of a little girl named Emily who is visited by various future versions of herself, the three films depict a millennia-spanning saga of clones, time travel, sentient robots and post-human transcendence laced with themes of love, identity and existentialism. boredom. All three are worth checking out, but the first film is an essential watch for any sci-fi movie buff. -AT

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