9 indie short films that inspired sci-fi + horror blockbusters

Contributed by
Feb 1, 2013, 7:33 PM EST (Updated)

Short films have become a hot proving ground for filmmakers the past few years, though about 99 percent of those projects that get picked up rarely make it to the big screen as a full-length movie. But what about the lucky few that actually inspired a blockbuster?

Though, there are easily a dozen or more indie short films in active or stalled development at major studios right now, it’s pretty rare for one to actually get a green light. So to honor those filmmakers who managed to beat the odds, here are nine indie short films that went on to find modest or major success at the box office in a longer format.


The most recent example of an indie short rocking the big screen, this Guillermo Del Toro-produced horror flick started out as a short concept video in 2008. Del Toro found it so creepy, he hooked up with the creators to help make a full length version.  

District 9

One of the most-famous sci-fi examples, the idea for this political alien thriller first showed up in Neil Blomkamp’s short flim Alive In Joburg. The pitch was so interesting that Blomkamp was able to sell it as a feature film, which went on to be nominated for a ton of awards. 


The graphic horror franchise that has inspired innumberable sequels and rip-offs all began as a creepy short film. Who would've guessed it'd spawn a franchise that would go on to gross us out for years to come?


Shane Acker’s CGI short was nominated for an Academy Award, and that acclaim eventually attracted Tim Burton to sign on to produce a full-length take on the sci-fi tale of a doll’s journey through a future wasteland. 

THX 1138

George Lucas’ directorial debut, THX 1138, was based on a short film he developed while attending Southern Cal’s film school. The story is set in a dystopian future controlled by android police. It was high-concept, and the short is an amazing peek into how one of sci-fi’s greatest minds got started.

Evil Dead

It’s funny to think that there’s actually a lower budget version of Evil Dead out there, but there is. Sam Raimi’s seminal horror classic was actually based on the short film Within the Woods, which he shot for less than $2,000 in 1978.

12 Monkeys

This sci-fi classic was inspired by the 1962 French short film La jetée, so much so that executive producer Robert Kosberg worked with the short’s director to pitch the full-length version that would eventually star Bruce Willis as a time traveller.


Tim Burton made a short film version of Frankenweenie way back in 1984, and it took him more than two decades to finally make a full length of the adorable tale of a boy and his zombie-esque dog. Sadly, Disney doesn’t allow the full film to be embedded, but here’s a clip from a short based on the full-length version.

Looper (Honorable Mention)

Admittedly, yes, Looper was never actually made as a short film. But director Rian Johnson conceived the project as a short and actually wrote the script for that format, before eventually writing the recent full-length that starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.