Please Help Me Find the Very Best Strange, Trippy Short Films and Videos
May 6, 2019 4:04 PM   Subscribe

For several years I've been collecting strange, odd, weird, trippy videos and short films. But I have this feeling that I'm missing some good ones recently. Here's the difficult part: they have to be outstanding. I know that "outstanding" is highly subjective (and so are "strange" and "trippy" et al). But I trust your good taste. Also, I have lots of time to watch videos, so if you're sitting on something amazing, feel free to ignore my overly-pedantic criteria and post it.

What I'd like is content where:
  • You saw it months ago, but you still pull it up and watch it occasionally.
  • You shared it with your friends (and you rarely do that).
  • It's visually compelling,
  • It has high production values,
  • It contains some kind of narrative or story - even if it's not completely obvious what that story is,
  • It's strange or weird or tripped-out or otherwise unusual.
  • And it's less than 20 minutes long.
Below is a partial list of videos in my 'collection', in hopes that examples will make up for my less-than-azure-sky-clear criteria above. Possible triggers are contained within square brackets [].

Amon Tobin - Esther’s [stalking] | PostPanic Pictures - Sundays [WTF] | Unity - Book of the Dead Trailer [WTF, cat scare] | Purity Ring - Begin Again [nipple glimpse, violence] | Massive Attack and Young Father’s - Voodoo in my Blood [alien mind-rape, modern dance] | David OReilly - The External World [just plain NSFW] | Cyriak - Malfunction [WTF] | Adult Swim - Unedited Footage of a Bear [drugs, violence, insanity] | Fever Ray - If I Had A Heart [spooky, dead bodies] | A Holiday News Report from the Horrifying Future [rated B] | Matthew Wilcock - Brittle Metal Press [alcohol, sensuality] | Ray Sullivan - Good Business [guns, violence, lobsters] | Benni Benassi - No Matter What You Do [sexual tension, drugs, underwear] | alt-j - Deadcrush [dead people] | Robert Seidel - _grau [inspired by automobile accident] | The Avalanches - Frankie Sinatra [drugs, insanity, death]

Note the lack of videos that are just glamour shots or CGI set to music; tying Simon Lebon to a windmill and dunking him repeatedly was fun back in the 80's, but it isn't really 'story'.
posted by doctor tough love to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Felix Colgrave, SOURCE, if you like that you’d probably like his solo animation work too.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:20 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe Tango.
You may have heard of it, as it won The Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1983. It was shown to a small animation class I took in the 90s. Not sure if it's exactly what you're after, but worth a shot.
posted by Glinn at 4:26 PM on May 6, 2019

I'll see if I can come up with individual videos later, but you definitely want to see if you can get in contact with the people who run Collide-O-Scope, it's a Seattle regular event night which is basically exactly this. If you're up for putting some money into this, they sell DVDs.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:32 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's not scary-weird, but I return regularly to this video of a hexapod dance competition. It's... peculiar and very, uh... niche.
posted by ApathyGirl at 4:33 PM on May 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Don Hertzfeldt, "Everything Will Be OK" and sequels now collected as It's Such a Beautiful Day

Kunio Katō, "The Diary of Tortov Roddle"
posted by Wobbuffet at 4:44 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is by no means exhaustive, but some short films off the top of my head that might work for you.

- Jan Švankmajer - Food
- Brothers Quay - Street of Crocodiles (this is actually 21 minutes so not quite in your requirements.)
- Bertrand Mandico - Living Still Life
- Matt Reynolds - Hot Dog Hands
- Don Hertzfeldt - World of Tomorrow
- Robert Morgan - Bobby Yeah

These ones might not have enough narrative for you, but otherwise fit the bill.

- Peter Tscherkassky - Outer Space
- Georges Schwizgebel - The Ravishing of Frank N. Stein
posted by forbiddencabinet at 4:46 PM on May 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Lost Thing, after Shaun Tan's book of the same name.
posted by the Real Dan at 4:56 PM on May 6, 2019

I hope this fits, at least the trippy part. It's in Armenian, so put on the subtitles.
*as seen on metafilter ling ago*
posted by Redhush at 5:31 PM on May 6, 2019

The Errant Garment Bag (stumbles)

(Shemp Howard surrealist short (1950), lost film, Three Stooges)
posted by philip-random at 5:51 PM on May 6, 2019

Like Pictures***CONTAINS FLASHING IMAGES*** Laurie Anderson/Brian Eno Begins slowly, look at full screen.
posted by effluvia at 6:04 PM on May 6, 2019

The Insect's Christmas This film was made in 1913 and it a really amazing stop motion work with insects. Six minutes.
posted by effluvia at 6:17 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Quasi at the Quackadero (some info.)
posted by gudrun at 6:22 PM on May 6, 2019

don herzfeldt, rejected
posted by effluvia at 6:25 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Crater Face Trippy, weird, [bitter]sweet story, just under 5 minutes.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 6:32 PM on May 6, 2019

Du Levande, Roy Andersson, Opening Scene This is five minutes of a feature, but all of his works are surreal vignettes with different characters.
posted by effluvia at 6:41 PM on May 6, 2019

Forbidden Zone (1980) is a feature length film. Any scene from it, out of context, works.
posted by ovvl at 6:52 PM on May 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Powers of Ten, 1977, 9 minutes. 'A Film Dealing With The Relative Size of Things In The Universe And The Effect Of Adding Another Zero,' it's the first thing I think of when asked for a trippy short film. Narrativewise, I guess it's the story of a picnic!
posted by tomboko at 7:41 PM on May 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Un Chien Andalou - it doesn’t get trippier than Salvador Dali.
posted by curtains at 8:10 PM on May 6, 2019

Are you only looking for newer ones? Because the ones I like are older.

- Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up [violence, nudity and weird, trick ending]
- DJ Snake, Lil Jon - Turn Down for What [mind control sexuality, violence, sleepwalking, tv humping, and that woman from Mr. Robot getting freaky]
- MSTRKRFT - Easy Love [messy, very messy]
posted by jessamyn at 8:11 PM on May 6, 2019

I think you will like Isabella Rossellini in 'Green Porno' - which is about animal reproduction.
posted by soelo at 8:42 PM on May 6, 2019

I've plugged several times The Fine Art of Goofing Off. While the actual episodes are about half hour each, they are comprised of short vignettes mostly less than few minutes long. The vignettes easily stand on their own.

Bits and pieces, or whole episodes are available for viewing on the usual internet video sites. This show has a distinct early 70s vibe to them, mostly animated-ish, with strange visuals and audio that sounds found or very dryly tongue in cheek.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:50 PM on May 6, 2019

Ah, Turn Down for What reminds me! Interesting Ball, Previously!
Also previously, Input/Output
Little Big's music videos probably also fit the bill, earlier ones like AK-47 are a bit rougher but Hateful Love is definitely in this oeuvre.
Carpenter Brut also does a bunch of stuff in this vein, Turbo Killer most notably (getting a sequel even), and very definitely Hairspray Hurricane (BTW, much of this is very NSFW, to be clear)
posted by CrystalDave at 9:30 PM on May 6, 2019

Artheme Swallows His Clarinet (1912)
posted by hydrophonic at 9:45 PM on May 6, 2019

This is like my favorite thing - I'm going to be checking out all these links!
Here's a few from my own collection - all animated, but in a variety of different styles. I also find that trawling vimeo's staff picks is a great source for these kinds of videos.

The Eagleman Stag
Dan Deacon - When I Was Done Dying
C2C - Delta
Everything I Can See From Here
Cuushe - Airy Me [gore]
Cat Soup (runs 30 minutes which is longer than your cutoff but it's quite beautiful and strange)
posted by limnerent at 9:49 PM on May 6, 2019

I feel like every music video by Chris Cunningham fits these parameters.
posted by Joh at 11:30 PM on May 6, 2019


It's probably the finest animated short film I've ever seen. Mesmerizing visual style, impeccable music and sound design, rich and well-timed comedy without a word of dialogue, and a plot that's just narrative enough to be compelling while still dancing on the edge of the surreal dreams that are usually seen in one-man animator Felix Colgrave's other work. Even the credits are worthwhile.

It was so good that I not only evangelized it to everyone I know, but I bought an art print for it, and not only did I return to it over and over again, but I kept tabs on Colgrave's blog for a flat year waiting for him to release the behind-the-scenes soundtrack (worth it!). It's that good.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:20 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Vitalic - Stamina
posted by benzenedream at 12:55 AM on May 7, 2019

Bjork - Triumph of a Heart
Mai Lan - Technique
KENZO World directed by Spike Jonze
St. Vincent - Cheerleader
Also by The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatry
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 2:07 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Next Floor - a short film by Denis Villeneuve
posted by fourpotatoes at 4:24 AM on May 7, 2019

TRISTES DÉSERTS – A Robot´s Tale, by Stephanie Winter. Starring August Schram, feat. Austrian Apparel. (This is my favorite but you may enjoy other videos on August Schram's youtube channel. Some are NSFW.)
posted by esoterrica at 9:01 AM on May 7, 2019

Cyriak's Meow Mix.
posted by GoldenEel at 10:18 AM on May 7, 2019

This is a terrible print, but Peter Sellers & Dick Lester's “The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film” (1959, 11 minutes) is some very surreal slapstick.

The NFB's early output tends to the weird: try animations by Norman McLaren (earlier works such as Hen Hop) or Ryan Larkin (especially Street Musique).

Cyriak's been mentioned several times already, but how about: cows & cows & cows, Welcome to Kitty City and (perhaps my absolutely favourite) Cycles; or music videos like Bonobo : Cirrus and Flying Lotus • ‘Putty Boy Strut’?
posted by scruss at 12:26 PM on May 7, 2019

The Meaning Of Life by Don Hertzfeldt is one I go back to time and again.

Also Rachel McLean. Especially Over The Rainbow and Eyes to Me.

For super-short trippiness there’s - not all of it is brilliant but the format makes it fun to skip for gems.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:04 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone! I had no idea how deeply disturbed all of you are!

I’m not going to mark anything with “best answer” because so many of these hit the spot in their own idiosyncratic way. But a special thanks to Redhush for the Armenian fish story - I remember it from long ago.

I’ll be referring to this list for weeks, so don’t stop!
posted by doctor tough love at 4:30 PM on May 7, 2019

DYE “Fantasy” Official Video by JEREMIE PERIN -- animated music video, where a teen pool party gets ... weird [NSFW]

Stromae - "ta fête" -- becoming an adult = dystopian battle (mildly weird)

Jan Kounen - "Gisele Kerozene" -- crazy stop-motion broom chase
posted by filthy light thief at 9:51 PM on May 7, 2019

Oh I'm pleased I finally get to answer something!

Follow the Sun, looks like they lost their custom domain since I saw it last. Huh. Well glad it still exists, anyway.

Has a horror element to it.
posted by spinn at 5:55 AM on May 8, 2019

Many of Delta Heavy's videos fit this bill:

Delta Heavy - Ghost (obsolete technology gets revenge(?) some NSFW imagery)
Delta Heavy - Hold Me (cutesy but extreme goryness)
Delta Heavy - Kaleidoscope (cardboard creature gets wrong idea of humanity, implied violence)

And every video of DJ QBert's Wave Twisters is a tour de force of trippy, bizarre, sometimes upsetting animation that stand on their own or as a whole.
posted by subocoyne at 11:24 AM on May 8, 2019

Gesaffelstein - PURSUIT checks every box you've laid out. That first link is NSFW. Here is the blurred version. Also on his channel, under the "Music Videos" section, check out 'Hate or Glory'.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:29 PM on May 8, 2019

The Gift
posted by benzenedream at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2019

Flesh eating film reels
posted by benzenedream at 2:27 PM on May 8, 2019

Mike Mignola's Amazing Screw-On Head. A deeply weird animated pilot depicting a disembodied metal head screwed on to various mission-specific bodies investigating occult crimes in 19th-century America. [Werewolves, chimpanzee with machine gun, Mr. Groin].
posted by JDC8 at 3:20 PM on May 10, 2019

Spurt by Cool 3D World
posted by Transl3y at 10:21 AM on May 14, 2019

Zodiac Shit -- Flying Lotus

Sun Lips -- Black Moth Super Rainbow
posted by pepcorn at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2019

I still have vivid memories of The Backwater Gospel, years later. Same with The Cat Piano and Out of a Forest.
posted by brook horse at 7:31 PM on May 21, 2019

« Older [insert John Williams score here]   |   Sleeper sofa dilemma Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.