The Best Animated Short Films

A split image of animated short films Burrow, Hair Love, and Paperman

Animated short films have been around since the beginning of animation. Being a technically challenging and time-consuming medium, many animators create short films as calling cards. With impressive character designs, heartwarming stories, and an easily-digestible runtime, audiences have fallen in love with some great animated short films.

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Many animated shorts have gone on to earn nominations or win prestigious awards, and others have even inspired spin-off feature films or TV shows. Young and adult audiences alike can enjoy the best animated short films, from Hair Love to Disney’s Paperman.



10 Burrow

Burrow is a Pixar animation film that follows a young rabbit who’s building the home of her dreams when she accidentally ruins her neighbors’ houses. Burrow released alongside the premiere of Soul and was later nominated for Best Animated Short at the 93rd Academy Awards.

Audiences fell in love with Burrow thanks to its adorable and illustrative art style. Pixar has released many heartwarming movies, but Burrow stands out for its charming story and lovable protagonist. The film is much worth the watch on Disney+.

9 The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse

Adapted from Charlie Mackesy’s children’s book of the same name, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse follows a boy, mole, fox, and horse as they form an unexpected friendship while traveling together in search of the boy’s home. The short film adds color to Mackesy’s beautiful black-and-white illustrations and breathes new life into the book.

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It’s difficult adapting a book into a film, but The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse doesn’t lose the book’s charm thanks to Mackesy’s direction. Along with making audiences fall in love with the story all over again, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

8 9

9 is a science-fiction short created by Shane Acker for a student project while he attended UCLA. 9 centers around a sentient rag doll named 9 who lives in a desolate post-apocalyptic world as the last of his kind. 9 goes on a journey to honor the lives of his fallen rag dolls, salvaging their skin and preparing them to be ceremoniously burned.

9 is a touching film, and audiences can’t help but fall in love with its kind-hearted protagonist. Acker’s 9 garnered immediate acclaim for its unique character design and great story, winning a student Academy Award for Best Animation. Award-winning director Tim Burton later developed 9 into a feature film of the same name.

7 If I Was God…

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Written, directed, and animated by Cordell Baker, If I Was God… centers around a seventh grader who gets a taste of power while dissecting a frog in science class. The film explores themes of existentialism, religion, and power while telling the boy’s coming-of-age story as he learns how to navigate the world.

If I Was God… incorporates several styles of animation, and Baker’s impressive work results in one of the best stop-motion animated films. If I Was God… takes inspiration from Baker’s personal life and his experiences growing up, which results in a unique but easily relatable story.

6 Paperman

Paperman is a romantic comedy short produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and directed by John Kahrs. The film released alongside Wreck-It Ralph and would go on to win Best Animated Short Film at the Academy Awards. Paperman follows an accountant, George, who meets the girl of his dreams while waiting for his train. He uses paper airplanes to send a message to her.

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Although George’s paper airplanes fail to reach her, he never gives up, as he’s determined to get a chance to say hello. Paperman has a simple but elegant black-and-white art style. Despite its simplicity, Paperman boasts a heartwarming and wholesome love story.

5 Lifted

Lifted is a Pixar science-fiction short film that centers around an alien named Stu in abduction training who can’t seem to get anything right. Gary Rydstrom wrote and directed Lifted and took inspiration from the classic film, Metropolis.

Lifted is a heartwarming story as Stu tries his best to abduct a young boy named Ernie. Stu fails multiple times but perseveres, despite having no help from his supervisor. Between Lifted’s classic Pixar-esque art style, Stu’s adorable character design, and a great story, Lifted has become one of the best Pixar shorts. Rydstrom has since earned seven Academy Awards.

4 Alike

Directed by Daniel Martínez Lara and Rafa Cano Méndez, Alike explores a father-son relationship in a society where work and obedience drains the life and color out of its inhabitants. Alike is both a bleak and inspirational tale that encourages its audiences to remember the joys in life.

Critics praised Lara and Méndez’s art style. Alike reminds adults that it’s important to stop and enjoy the music, and that seeing the world through childlike wonder can be important. Alike won a Goya Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2016.

3 Let’s Pollute!

Let’s Pollute! is a satire short created by Geefwee Boedoe that uses a pollution-contributing family to explain how pollution keeps the economy strong, and the film urges its audiences to continue to do so. Told and animated in the style of a 1950s public service announcement, Let’s Pollute! comments on culture and the lack of environmental protection.

Satire serves as an effective tool for filmmakers and storytellers to get their points across, and Let’s Pollute! was brilliant to do the same. It’s easy for a filmmaker to provide facts and hope that audiences will make changes, but by using satire and humor to try to brush off society’s harmful lifestyles, Boedoe found a way to be more effective.

2 Hair Love

Written and directed by Matthew A. Cherry, Hair Love centers around the relationship of an African-American dad and his daughter, Zuri, as he tries to style Zuri’s hair for an event. Cherry wanted to increase representation of African-American stories in animation through a discussion of Black hair.

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Along with providing better representation, Hair Love tells an emotionally heartfelt story of love and family, which audiences discover after learning Zuri’s mother has cancer. Hair Love went on to win Best Animated Short at the Academy Awards, and HBO has announced a spin-off series that’s set to debut in 2023.

1 If Anything Happens I Love You

If Anything Happens I Love You is a 2D short written and directed by Will McCormack and Michael Govier that released on Netflix. The film follows two grieving parents who are struggling to deal with the death of their daughter, who died in a school shooting.

If Anything Happens I Love You is an emotionally gripping and heartbreaking picture, and the directors worked closely with Everytown for Gun Safety to get its point across. If Anything Happens I Love You is a heartbreaking short that had a huge cultural impact as a film and in politics.

NEXT: 10 Best Traditional Animated Films Released During The CG Era


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