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10 Short Films Hiding On YouTube That Feature Huge Stars

Aaron Short

Plenty of independent studios or students with borrowed cameras throw their short films up on the Internet. It’s their best chance at getting a wide audience to see them. But every so often, an actual star with full access to Hollywood channels sends their work right to the web as well. There’s quite a selection here, with comedy, drama, action, and plain old weirdness. Go forth and enjoy.

10Michael Cera
Gregory Go Boom

Though it’s very hipsterish, Gregory Go Boom probably features Cera’s greatest acting performance. He plays a clueless, wheelchair-bound paraplegic who looks for love by going on very awkward blind dates. The women he meets have no idea he’s in a wheelchair until they arrive. After he hooks up with one of his dates, her violent ex-boyfriend turns up, and the story goes from bleak to pitch-black despair.

The film was written and directed by Janicza Bravo, winning him Sundance’s top prize for short films. Not everyone at the festival appreciated the work—one audience member told him, “I was just thinking you were a bad person” after a screening. Gregory Go Boom is unique for a short of its type because it was featured on YouTube before it headed for the festival circuit.

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9Billy Bob Thornton
The Last Real Cowboys

The Last Real Cowboys starts off like most westerns, with two tough-as-nails cowboys (Billy Bob Thornton and Mickey Jones) sitting at a campfire, eating beans, and looking tough. Then one suggests that life has soured ever since he stopped skipping. The conversation turns increasingly surreal, and Mickey Jones’s character suggests the two just try skipping again, like children would.

The short was shot in Nevada in 2000 for the Big Picture Studios production company by director Jeff Lester. The humorous, bleak film might especially appeal to fans of FX’s Fargo because Thornton plays a part quite reminiscent of his Fargo character.

8Bill Murray
A Film About Walking in Slow Motion

In A Film About Walking In Slow Motion, Bill Murray and several other people walk down a hallway in slow motion. That’s it. Really.

You may be wondering why Bill Murray appeared in this film, considering it’s only 57 seconds long, features no dialogue, and appears to have almost no budget whatsoever. Young filmmaker David Walton Smith was working on a commercial at the school Bill Murray’s daughter attends. Bill Murray volunteered his time to feature in the commercial, and Smith asked if the star would also appear in a (very) short film instead of signing an autograph. Bill Murray agreed.

The video ended up featured on a bunch of sites and has received almost two million views.

7Bryan Cranston
Writer’s Block

Bryan Cranston stars as a troubled writer haunted by a violent event in his past and by a ghostly blonde in a black dress. It’s the sort of film that demands that you come up with your own theory about exactly what’s happening.

Writer’s Block was made during a break in filming Cranston’s film Cold Comes The Night. While the crew waited to begin rolling again after being shut down by Hurricane Sandy, Cranston asked the production assistants to write some scripts for shorts. Whichever he considered best would be produced with him as the star.

The winner was Brandon Polanco’s Writer’s Block. It was filmed just three hours after it won the competition.

6Jason Schwartzman And Wes Anderson
Castello Calvicanti

Castello Cavalcanti looks just like just about every other Wes Anderson film: vibrant, beautiful, and cartoony. It stars frequent Anderson actor Jason Schwartzman as the real race car driver Jed Cavalcanti, who crashes his Formula One car in the Italian town of Castello Calvicanti. He gradually realises that he’s actually in his ancestral home.

The film features stylistic set pieces, some pretty amazing props (such as Calvicanti’s racing car), and many allusions to fellow auteurs who Anderson respects (such as Alberto Cavalcanti and Federico Fellini). Prada sponsored the film, but you’d need the eyes of an eagle to spot the brand, slipped onto the jackets of several characters who appear briefly at the start.

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5Tenacious D
To Be the Best

Six years after their movie The Pick Of Destiny flopped at the box office, we see Kyle Gass and Jack Black having gone their separate ways. Kyle has become an obsessive recluse sitting in a basement collecting Jack Black news clippings and planning his revenge. Meanwhile, Jack Black has become an international superstar who spends his days hanging out in his Beverly Hills Mansion with Val Kilmer. The two reunite, and it’s all mammoth hugging sessions, montages. and celebrity cameos.

To Be The Best brings you back to when Tenacious D made great music videos. It was directed by Jeremy Konner, who makes the Drunk History series for Funny Or Die, and features the same sort of humor. This short serves as an extended advert for their return to music and 2012 album Rize of the Fenix, but it can be enjoyed on its own.

4Vin Diesel
Multi-Facial

In Multi-Facial, a mixed race actor struggles to find work while auditioning for films in New York in the 1990s. He auditions as an Italian American but is shrugged off as being too dark. Then he auditions for African-American roles, where he’s told he’s too light.

Vin Diesel is, surprisingly, very good in this one, expressing a range you wouldn’t guess he had from his usual big budget action films. Even more surprising, he wrote the short himself and even directed and scored it.

The story goes that Diesel was struggling to find a part as an actor, partly due to being multi-racial himself, when his father suggested that he make his own movie. Diesel did, casting other struggling actors from the New York scene. The film ended up being picked for screening at the Cannes film festival. Steven Spielberg saw it there, and he was so impressed that he offered Vin Diesel a role in Saving Private Ryan.

3David Cross
Meltdown

David Cross (who plays Tobias in Arrested Development) stars in this short as a talking ham sandwich.

The sandwich realizes that the fridge he lives in is being overrun by a bad patch of expanding ice. He and other food products discuss their impending fate as the ice slowly expands and takes them out one-by-one. The whole thing plays out like a disaster movie until the ending, which we won’t ruin for you.

Meltdown was made by director David Green, who has directed a bunch of other shorts and adverts. When it was first released online, it attracted a fair amount of buzz, and it received more than 100,000 views in a few short days.

2Jude Law
Connection

Two men meet at an airport and strike up a conversation even though they speak different languages. One is a Belarusian theater worker, Nikolai Khalezin, and the other is Jude Law, playing himself.

As they walk through the airport, nattering away in their respective languages, both receive phone calls telling them that it’s not safe to go home. Jude Law’s house is surrounded by the paparazzi, and the Belarusian learns he will be arrested by the state for questioning election results if he returns.

Connection was made in association with the Young Vic theatre, The Guardian, and the Belarus Free Theatre, which was founded by Nikolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada. The pair fled Belarus in 2010 for asylum in Britain when they were threatened with political imprisonment, and the film is loosely based on their real story.

1Daisy Ridley
Blue Season

If you’re wondering who Daisy Ridley is and why you’ve never heard of her, don’t worry: You’ll know her soon. She was the first new female cast member announced for the new Star Wars film, so she’ll likely play a huge role in the upcoming movies.

In Blue Season, she plays Sarah, who wakes to find herself hanging upside down in a cellar and receiving instructions from a creepy older man through a Bluetooth headset. It’s an unsettling story with a great ending—despite the questions it raises.

Blue Season was made for a 48-hour film challenge, in which filmmakers receive prompts and must quickly write and shoot a film before the deadline finishes. The film therefore feels a little rough around the edges, but it’s definitely still worth watching.

Aaron is a freelance writer and film student. You can follow him on Twitter.