How Director Ari Aster’s Early Short Films Shaped His Career

Directing and creating short films is a great way to get noticed. Just ask Ari Aster. 

With Midsommar and Hereditary, Ari Aster launched his career as the guy who has ruined every single night of sleep I've had in the past two years. Oh, and a successful director. He's that too. Not just the guy who makes me see bears in cages and headless kids when the sun goes down. Or up. 

I think he really messed me up. 

ANYWAY, we all know writing short films is a great way to break into Hollywood. We've compiled the best short films you can find on YouTube, but we haven't spent much time profiling the short films a director made before breaking into Hollywood. 

So even though Ari Aster has ruined several pairs of my shorts, I figured we should go through one of today's hottest directors and talk about the shorts that helped make him a household name. 

Ari Aster's Short Films  

The Strange Thing About The Johnsons 

Ari Aster has explored a lot of really messed up families, and it seems like those origins were set with the Johnsons. It's a messy story about incest with more plot twists than you can imagine. It's uncomfortable but still taps into real issues that most families have. It's about putting your best foot forward and projecting confidence, even in the face of horror. 

The Trouble with Mom - Munchausen 

This is a departure for Aster. No dialogue, a booming score, and almost a magical realism quality. I'm really glad my mom didn't see it before I moved to college because I think she would have gotten a few ideas. Still, this has the feeling of hopefulness or having the world at your fingertips. Aster is a master at subverting tropes and audience expectations. 


Beau never falls asleep. It's his burden. This one is where the clearest horror themes come across. It's about the descent into madness and paranoia. What's fun about this short is that it tells a tight story. With just six-ish minutes we get a ton of chills and thrills as the story progresses forward. It builds outward and shows his ability to make even the most contained story gripping. 

Video is no longer available:


Starring Rachel Brosnahan, this is part of Aster's "Portrait Series." She plays an out of touch social climber named Shandy Pickles, and in the warm lighting, you get a lot of Midsommar flair here. It's about the inner desire to be someone else, to put a different face in the world and be accepted for a version of yourself that may not be real. 

The Turtle's Head

This steers into film noir territory and then yanks the rug out from under you. It's the true distillment of what Aster offers. He wants the audience to look one direction while he films the unexpected and engaging. While Aster's movies usually hit two hours, this one also runs short, at around ten minutes. Still, Aster makes lingering shots feel uncomfortable and grotesque. 

C’est La Vie

The second of the "Portrait Series" follows a homeless drug addict. It's shot in a verite-style and lets the audience follow around someone totally unhinged. As he delves deeper into the darkness, we sink with him. The darker is gets, the worse it gets, the harder it is for us to look away.     

What's next? What are the 50+ Best Short Films of All Time on YouTube?

The best short films of all time were hard to find in days past. But now, with YouTube, they're only just a click away!      

You Might Also Like

Your Comment