Oscar 20204 Live-Action Shorts Nominees, Ranked and Where to Watch

This year, the five nominated live-action shorts lean towards stories of heartbreak and intense emotions. The short format may lend itself to the tearjerker since you have a limited time to make an impact. Exceptions to the rule Knight of Fortune and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar manage to add different amounts of amusement to the recipe. Finding the shorts can be tricky but often where there's a will there's a way. The shorts are one of the categories that film lovers often ignore, but if you are short on time, they are often the easiest to digest during a lunch break or before bed binge. Shorts also are a great place to discover up and coming talent. I highly recommend you ignore them no more.

Below, find my take on all the 2024 nominated live-action shorts, ranked from my least to most favorite. Please note, however, that this category was much harder to rank than the documentary list, and they were all close contenders. As part of the entry, I include information on where to watch the film, if it exists as a streaming option. Many theaters across the USA also host showcases of the shorts, so look for such a showing near you. You can find some of them here. Please note, The Oscars will air on Sunday, March 10th.

A woman working at a diner serves coffee
Brittany Snow as RACHEL in RED, WHITE, AND BLUE

Red, White and Blue by Nazrin Choudhury and Sara McFarlane

A waitress named Rachel (Brittany Snow) working in a diner examines a pregnancy test outside the restaurant bathroom. Rachel is a single mother trying to support her two kids on a meager salary. But she scrapes and empties her savings to be able to travel from Little Rock, AR, to Missouri to get a much needed abortion. She and her daughter travel almost 8 hours by car to reach a clinic. There the story takes a surprising turn that puts new meaning into the mother's actions. A reminder that things aren't always as they appear, Red, White, and Blue makes a case for why abortion is sometimes the only choice, with a decidedly human touch. Nazrin Choudhury has the right to tell the true-to-life story, but perhaps she didn't need to beat viewers over the head with the tragedy of the situation. For a life-action short, this wasn't told with much imagination. 

Rent the movie

A man snuggles with his daughter
David Oyelowo plays DAYO in THE AFTER

The After by Misan Harriman and Nicky Bentham

After a sudden tragedy, a man (David Oyelowo) working as a rideshare driver meets a family that reminds him of all he's lost. Often, the important people in our life get pushed to the back burner in lieu of work obligations and the tasks that help give us a guise of success. Dayo must reevaluate all of that after he suffers a devastating loss. First time short director Missan Harriman beautifully frames this story against the backdrop of an unidentified cityscape. The After encourages viewers to appreciate the people in our lives that mean the most to us while we can now – not after.

Watch on Netflix

A girl in a car puts her head on the shoulder of a teen boy
[L-R] Elia St-Pierre as JUSTINE, Leokim Beaumier-Lepine as MARC in INVINCIBLE

Invincible by Vincent Rene-Lortie and Samuel Caron

After making a tearful phone call to his mother, a boy named Marc drives a car into the water, disappearing into its depths. He then breaks to the surface, 48 hours before, while he's on a weekend break with his family. Based on the true story of the last 48 hours of 14-year-old Marc-Antoine Bernier, Invincible shows a soul longing for freedom but only running from himself. We don't see how Marc came to be a resident at this juvenile detention center he's so desperate to escape, but it's clear he has family and even adults at the center who root for him every step of the way. At the center of his cheering squad lies his younger sister, Justine, in whom Marc confides, "Look, I'm invincible," letting his fingers glide through the flames of a cigarette lighter.

Director Rene-Lortie, a schoolmate of Marc's, pays homage to his friend and tries to understand Marc's headspace leading up to what seems like such an unnecessary death. He hopes this film will help shine a light on mental health issues, open pathways of empathy, and prevent future tragedies like Marc's. This short stands out for its beautifully framed shots, using a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Watch on Vimeo

A nicely dressed man stands outside the ticket office of a casino

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Wes Anderson and Steven Rale

Together, the dictated memories of Imdad Khan inside of the personal journals of Dr. Chatterjee inside of a library book read by Henry Sugar inside of a short story created by Roald Dahl comprise the Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Wes Anderson seems the perfect person to adapt this meandering, lavishly designed short parable. It begins with Ralph Fiennes playing Roald Dahl, preparing to write a new story. As he begins to paint a written portrait of Henry Sugar, the sets begin to shift and change to keep up with the action described.

Roald Dahl describes Henry, but once Henry finds a special book in an estate library, the story gets picked up by Dr Chatterjee (Dev Patel), the author of said book, who takes over the narration. And we're off the races with a dizzying array of sets, narrators, costume designs, and quirky characters. Henry Sugar is just one of four stories Wes Anderson released on Netflix this past fall, all staged like a play. Henry Sugar won the Oscar nomination, but the other four deserve a look, as well: Poison, The Rat Catcher, and The Swan. The Swan may just be my favorite.

Watch on Netflix

Two men's faces together
Leif Andree as KARL, Jesper Lohmann as PORTOR in KNIGHT OF FORTUNE

Knight of Fortune by Lasse Lyskjaer Noer and Christian Norlyk

Karl visits the morgue to say goodbye to his wife but finds the prospect more difficult than he imagined. He delays opening the casket by focusing on mundane tasks like fixing a fluorescent lamp with an insistent blink. Torben, a man he meets in the restroom, becomes a welcome distraction who asks for support, since he is just as alone as Karl. The story takes on an absurdist twist as we discover the truth about Torben and why he's really there. Knight of Fortune shows why grief goes down easier when it's shared. Knight of Fortune is my favorite option, but I imagine Wes Anderson will likely take home to Oscar. 

Watch on YouTube