From the troubling and disturbing political developments in Washington, D.C., to the rise of bigotry, racism, and intolerance here in the United States, to say 2016 has been a difficult year for many would be quite an understatement.
Thankfully, one of the bright spots of this year has been in the arena of independent genre film.
2016 saw an explosion of science fiction and fantasy short films that pushes the envelope in every area of production, including theme, visual effects, art design, and scale.
So, we are pleased to present our picks for the best genre short films of 2016. Note: these terrific selections are listed in no particular order or ranking. Ranking them would be harder than keeping a mogwai dry!
(Click on each image or title to view the selection and read our original review)
During World War II, what if women officers in the United States army were instrumental in stopping an alien invasion?
That tantalizing question forms the premise of UFO Diary, an exceptional period piece and sci-fi adventure that celebrates the heroic contributions of the women who serve in the armed services.
The X-Men are some of the most popular comic book characters ever created.
Among them, one of the most iconic is Storm, a Kenyan princess with the power to control the weather itself.
Storm in the comics is a intelligent, bold, compassionate, powerful, and dynamic woman.
Unfortunately, the character's charisma and personality were almost non-existent in the film adaptations of The X-Men.
Enter Maya Glick, a renaissance woman who wanted to bring to screen a more accurate portrayal of one of her favorite characters.
After conducting a successful crowdfunding campaign, Glick succeeded in producing RAIN, a short film that shows the world an electrifying Storm never before seen onscreen.
This dark dystopian short set in the year 2037 depicts a London under the control of a fascist regime.
Due to terrorist attacks, civil liberties are things of the past. The government spies on its citizenry with a fleet of weaponized drones, and spyware that can infiltrate any electronic device.
Welcome to a totalitarian nightmare that may be closer to reality than we would like to imagine.
For most of us, our homes symbolize our own personal sanctuary.
Filmmaker Oliver Park masterfully turns that notion on its head with chilling effect.
In VICIOUS, a grieving young woman spends an evening alone, but begins to suspect someone or something is there with her.
Park successfully creates a sense of mounting tension and terror by transforming the familiar - our homes - into the sinister.
During a near-future military conflict, a soldier is grievously wounded in battle.
Due to high mortality and low recruitment rates, fringe science is used to heal and rejuvenate the injured solider - but at a terrible price.
This sizzling sci-fi thriller has it all - mystery, charismatic leads, and dynamic action sequences.
In the year 2083, climate change has irreparably damaged the earth's ecology.
Air pollution has made the atmosphere incapable of sustaining human life.
The only means of obtaining precious oxygen is by purchasing it from the major corporations that control it.
GROW is a grim and startling cautionary tale about the kind of future our children may inherit due to our ecological malfeasance.
Set in the back allies of a sprawling futuristic metropolis, GEAR chronicles the adventures of a precocious street urchin named Mazzy.
Surviving on her own, Mazzy is intelligent, resourceful, brave, and most determined to rescue a most unlikely ally from a shadowy cabal.
GEAR is an exciting sci-fi adventure that introduces a captivating young heroine.
A woman with a special psychic gift is enlisted to help a priest fight an ancient, unspeakable evil.
This unnerving and atmospheric horror short is reminiscent of classics such as Rosemary's Baby and The Haunting.
Four years in the making, this animated masterpiece depicts a lone astronaut's struggle for survival aboard a gigantic space station adrift at the edge of the solar system.
The brainchild of animator Jakob Grygier, this short film boasts a eye-popping mix of CGI and 3D animation that creates a breathtaking portrait of space.
Beneath the ocean of a distant planet, two divers desperately work to rescue a injured colleague.
Reminiscent of James Cameron's sci-fi groundbreaker The Abyss, SAURORA is a tense thriller with spectacular visual effects that convincingly create an ethereal and dangerous alien underwater environment.
Welcome to a future where virtual reality technology has become so immersive, its environments are indistinguishable from the real world.
As a result, people have become addicted to using the technology at the expense of their physical well-being and personal relationships.
With virtual reality potentially causing a paradigm shift in the way we interact with technology, filmmaker Frederico Heller has imagined a future that feels disturbingly prescient.
(Caution: Contains MATURE themes)
Maria is a woman living a charmed life.
She has a devoted husband, two beautiful children, a thriving career, and a gorgeous home.
But when her competition with a seemingly perfect rival ratchets up, Maria orders a clone of herself to help her manage her numerous responsibilities.
She may have just made the biggest mistake of her life.
This provocative short film explores how technology meant to connect us, can actually have quite the opposite affect.
This explosive cyberpunk thriller by director Nguyen-Anh Nguyen and starring Osric Chau (Supernatural) is set in a future where cybernetic enhancements to the human body have become commonplace.
Oz (Chau) is on a quest to find a unique cybernetic organ that can save a loved one from death by a deadly virus.
With its combination of impressive visual effects and exciting fight choreography, TEMPLE is a high-octane thrill ride from start to finish.
One hundred years into the future, humanity has finally expanded out among the stars.
On a distant world, Sarah, along with her husband Ben and young son, are fleeing from their repressive government.
During their flight, the family makes a discovery that could alter the course of human destiny.
DARKWAVE achieves a cinematic sense of size and scope due to its exceptional production on every level.
With the highly-anticipated releases of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Rogue One, George Lucas' iconic space opera has been cemented as the preeminent science fiction franchise in the world.
Part of the beauty of Star Wars is its universe is vast enough to include intriguing stories featuring fascinating tertiary characters.
The unofficial indie film KARA is a brilliant example of such storytelling.
The short focuses on the titular Kara, a young woman with a extraordinary secret that could alter the outcome of the galactic war.
Ben and Maddy are a married team of scientists engrossed in solving a vexing problem with their research.
During the course of their work, they encounter a mysterious force that seems like ... magic.
This thoroughly entertaining short film raises fascinating questions about our perceptions of reality.
On a verdant world, a deadly plague is decimating the citizens of an enormous fortified city.
One man possesses the arcane knowledge to find and eliminate the source of the scourge.
Unfortunately, he must also overcome personal tragedy and a crisis of faith if his world has any hope to survive.
Filmed in Japan, DUST by Ember Lab is one of the most extraordinary SF&F short films we've ever seen.
Its combination of lush cinematography, East Asian inspired art design, compelling narrative, and phenomenal visual effects easily makes this short film among the very best we have seen this year.
If you enjoyed these short films, make sure to check out our picks for the top SF&F WEBSERIES of 2016.
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