Netflix has managed to acquire and put up on its website almost every format related to films and TV shows. So it’s a matter of little surprise that they have a robust collection of short films, films that are considerably shorter than usual feature-length movies and documentaries. So, if you are in the mood to watch something quick and amazing, these films will serve your needs. Here’s the list of top short films on Netflix. You can also watch several of these best short movies on YouTube, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
20. All in my Family (2019)
Created, written, and directed by Hao Wu, the story is a personal account of his family’s acceptance of his same-sex marriage and children of his own. Hao Wu is a filmmaker of Chinese origin and his family being a traditional one; the process of opening up to them regarding his life in America was not easy. This 40-minute short film throws light on this particular journey of his. When long-standing traditions are challenged, it is not easy to break away from that context as it shapes our thinking. From that first hit of reality to finally rationalizing and acknowledging change, it is a really long and not-so-easy route. This personal and honest journey of Hao Wu takes us through all those phases as he introduces his family from America, complete with kids, to his traditional Chinese one.
19. The Claudia Kishi Club (2020)
Claudia Kishi is a fictional character in the 80s book series ‘Baby-Sitters Club’ written by Ann M. Martin. Claudia Kishi could be seen as one of the earliest representations of a character of Asian origin in popular culture. At that time, not many such characters were seen free of their stereotypes. Many girls from the eastern cultures could relate to her character and have been inspired to see themselves in a new light. This documentary talks to many people who grew up reading the ‘Baby-Sitters Club’ books and how the character, Claudia Kishi, impacted their lives.
18. ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff?
ReMastered is an original Netflix documentary series that brings to us the defining moments of a musician’s life. This particular episode is based on Bob Marley, a pioneer of reggae and one of the best selling musicians of all time. The documentary specifically looks at the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976. He was caught in the midst of the feud between Edward Seaga’s conservative Jamaica Labour Party and Micheal Manley’s social-democratic People’s National Party. This documentary highlights the possible involvement of Seaga and the CIA in the attempt to assassinate Bob Marley, who survived the attack with minor wounds to the arm and chest.
17. Ram Dass, Going Home (2018)
In the documentary by Derek Peck, we meet Baba Ram Dass, an American spiritual teacher near the end of his life. A peaceful and patient journey of a graceful and poised man coming to terms with his own eventuality makes this documentary worth watching. Peck does not portray his subject as larger than life but delicately shows Ram Dass in a loving and respectful light. The short film focuses on his life at home in Maui, where he stayed after suffering from a stroke twenty years before that. Ram Dass talks about the importance of love and deepens his spiritual practice in his last years.
16. ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads (2019)
Probably the most enigmatic and mysterious member of the 27 Club, Robert Johnson became one of the most prominent influences on generations of musicians. The blues musician becomes the heart of speculations given his out-worldly talent that people believed that he may have sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical talents. In his brief life of 27 years, he wrote only 29 songs and became one of the best guitarists of his time; he has defined the subsequent genres of music. This documentary hopes to bring more clarity around Johnson as a person and his musical journey.
15. What Would Sophia Loren Do? (2021)
Directed by Ross Kauffman, ‘What Would Sophia Loren Do?’ is a short documentary film. The movie primarily focuses on the life of an Italian American mother and grandmother who is a lifelong fan of actress Sophia Loren and has found strength and joy in her work. The documentary lays bare the surprising impact that celebrities often end up having on their fans living thousands of miles without ever personally getting to know them or their circumstances.
14. Lorena, Light-Footed Woman (2019)
Originally in Spanish, this Mexican documentary directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo is about the long-distance runner Lorena Ramirez. Belonging to the Raramuri community from the Chihuahua region of Mexico, Lorena owns with grace what her people are known for- long-distance running. “Raramuri” means “light-footed” and that is what the community prides itself in. What is astonishing about Lorena is her almost superhuman ability to run extraordinarily long marathons, even as long as 100kms that too in her traditional garb of floral skirt and sandals. The approximately half an hour-long documentary is an engaging account of a female athlete who stays true to her roots as well as the indigenous community that she hails from.
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13. The Trader (2018)
What if you stumble upon a region where potatoes are the only currency? What if money isn’t as valuable as potatoes? This may sound funny but this Sundance jury award for nonfiction winner is anything but funny. It tells the struggle of Georgia, a Republic strangled in poverty and hopelessness. The people are suffering from hunger, lack of jobs, and enough currency to sustain their lives and they seem to have no solution ahead of the tunnel. This gut-wrenching story is both long and short enough to live you in a deep abyss of hollowness for some time.
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12. ReMastered: Tricky Dick & the Man in Black (2018)
This short film captures the dynamics between American President Richard Nixon and Johnny Cash, the country music sensation during one of the most volatile periods in American history. Almost touching an hour, the documentary presents the way things turned out when Johnny Cash was invited to play at The White House. Although Nixon finds a common thread between the two of them and their life journey, we see how Cash starts to walk in the other direction metaphorically. This throws light on the impact of art and its influence in the real world; the documentary shows the intermingling of music and politics. What stands out the most about the film in the context that it is set in, with the divided opinions on the Vietnam War and clashes between the establishment and the counterculture.
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11. End Game (2018)
Directed Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, ‘End Game’ is a short documentary film. The film sheds light on the medical practitioners primarily from San Francisco who are trying to change the public opinion on death and life in general by offering their patients not just palliative care but new perspective life. Naturally focusing on terminally ill patients, the documentary offers an emotional and moving perspective on some of the most crucial moments of human life and the long-lasting consequences of choices that people make in them. So, if you are looking to watch something that gives you a new perspective on life, well, ‘End Game’ might just be the right choice for you.
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10. Fire in Paradise (2019)
The town of Paradise in California faced the deadliest fire that the state had ever seen in 2018. Directors Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper revisit the disaster through the eyes of the survivors and the emergency responders, through personal interviews as well as firsthand footage of the tragedy. Eighty-five people were killed in the fire, and the town of Paradise destroyed, making it the deadliest fire of the century for the state of California. This film became a strong contender for the Oscars, having won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
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9. Extremis (2016)
This award-winning short documentary is as real as they get. It tells the life and death decisions for families of patients on the verge of death. Being a documentary it successfully projects emotions of vulnerability, indecisiveness, and the pain of letting go of their loved ones. We witness the inner conflicts of doctors, nurses, and support staff, the execution of the right to die in a dignified manner for terminally ill people in various forms, and the heartbreaking realities the families face during those times.
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8. Zion (2018)
Zion is the newest entrant on this list. It is a great inspirational story of one Zion Clark who was born without legs and was brought up in foster care. Abandoned by his mother, he was floated from one foster home to another during his growing years and suffered a great deal of neglect and hatred from people around him. But that didn’t stop him from making the best of his life and abilities. The story packs a punch in its 11 minutes runtime and the emotional resilience shown by Zion is something to look up to.
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7. Resurface (2017)
Director Josh Izenberg has made a moving tale about war veterans suffering from PTSD. The short documentary unearths the story of Iraq war veteran Bobby Lane who after his discharge from the military, is going through a severe bout of depression and suicidal tendencies. He wants to cross one thing off from his bucket list before taking his own life, and that is surfing. But as fate would have it, surfing changed his perspective about life and his mental state. Much is because of the therapeutic attributes of surfing and the peaceful nature of the vast ocean itself. The short neither lacks research-based facts nor the emotional connection one feels for these traumatized war heroes.
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6. Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (2017)
Well, this is one docudrama you must not skip while surfing through the endless catalogs of Netflix. ‘Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower’ tells the story of a 14-year-old kid from Hong Kong, Joshua Wong who stood against the gargantuan Chinese Communist government. Hong Kong was invaded by the Chinese in 1997 but was promised autonomy in near future. But the promise faded with time and faced complete obliteration with the introduction of Pro-Communist teachings in Hong Kong schools. And this is where Joshua comes into the picture. He along with like-minded people formed solidarity to repeal propaganda-based teachings and to remind China of its forgotten promise. A moving and thoughtful documentary about the nature of dissent against a Leviathan-like structure.
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5. The Speed Cubers (2020)
Starring Max Park and Feliks Zemdegs, ‘Speed Cubers’ is a documentary co-produced and directed by Sue Kim. The primary focus of the film is the competitive world of speed-cubing which has become a global phenomenon in recent decades. Feliks Zemdegs ruled the sport for several years and proved himself the greatest of all time until a less-known challenger from California won the Gold medal in 2017. The surprising win sparked a rivalry and friendship between the two fastest cubers on the planet, which is the focus of the entire documentary. ‘The Speed Cubers’ offers valuable insight on the journeys of the Rubik’s Cube-solving champions and the challenges they face in the future.
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4. Heroin(e) (2017)
This is a story that focuses on a very specific issue in the American society of today, an issue that can have serious repercussions on the fabric of American society in the future- the opioid epidemic. The rapid increase of the intake of opioid drugs in the USA has made life harder for some communities and none can face the burnt more than Huntington, West Virginia where the rate of overdose is almost 10 times higher than the national average. The title pays homage to three courageous women of the community who are giving their everything to fight this rising concern. It’s very moving and sheds light on a serious problem that has plagued America of today.
3. The White Helmets (2016)
Thanks to World media and the wizardries of the internet, almost everyone knows about the plight of war-torn Syria and the citizens’ existence in hell. When we see the extent of destruction done by humans we also see, on the other hand, the faith in humanity is restored by common civilians. The white helmets are those Bravehearts who worked tirelessly to save humans from under the rubbles in Aleppo, Syria. A real-life documentary of the victory of destruction over humanity and the philanthropic deeds of people stuck at the center of the war.
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2. Period. End of Sentence. (2019)
This Oscar-winning documentary is inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who has been instrumental in leading the revolution on menstrual hygiene in India. This documentary is based in the North Indian village of Hapur, where women had no access to menstrual hygiene products. The lack of access to necessities and the stigma surrounding menstruation causes a lot of young girls to drop out of school. Everything changes when a sanitary pad vending machine is installed in the village and the women learn to manufacture and market the pads they make. This empowering story was recreated on screen by the director Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Guneet Monga.
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1. Out of Many, One (2018)
Netflix’s ‘Out of Many, One’ is a documentary film directed by John Hoffman and Nanfu Wang that sheds light on the deep-rooted socio-political conflicts of the country and offers a much-needed look at the politics of immigration. About 1 in every five immigrants around the world chose America as their home, which proves the country’s exceptionalism and the promise of a better life that it offers. However, moving to another country comes with its own challenges, which are further complicated in the light of domestic politics.
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