10 Feature Films You Didn’t Realize Started As Shorts


This week, we’ll finally learn the secret behind the disappearance of two young girls that were rescued from a cabin in the woods and became haunted by an eerie presence. Mama opens in theaters tomorrow. Super producer Guillermo del Toro is never one to turn his back on a film about kids and things that creep in the dark. He’s been promoting the movie since it started as a Spanish short film. You can watch the spooky video after the jump, where we’ve shared other short films that became feature-length movies. Several directors used their shorts as a jumping point to expand their vision, while others were discovered thanks to their introductory projects. Watch the movies that started life small and grew into big screen hits, below.


In the introduction to the 2008 short film Mamá from writer-director Andrés Muschietti, sleepless filmmaker Guillermo del Toro explains that he was drawn to the creepy tale’s “craftsmanship, ingenuity, and horror,” leading him to become a producer for the feature. Let us know how they compare after you see the film in theaters tomorrow.

Sling Blade

Billy Bob Thornton liked them French fried potaters in Sling Blade, but before his Academy Award nomination for best actor and a win for Best Screenplay, he appeared in the same role for the black-and-white short Some Call It a Sling Blade two years earlier. Thornton wrote and starred in the 25-minute movie — alongside Molly Ringwald and J.T. Walsh — as a mentally challenged man released back into society after murdering his mother and her lover. The script is based on a monologue from Thornton’s 1986 one-man show, Swine Before Pearls. A falling out with director George Hickenlooper has made the curmudgeonly star tight-lipped about his film. “I would have been glad to have talked about the short if George hadn’t bad-mouthed me all over town,” he once grumbled to the press. Follow the YouTube links to watch parts two and three of Some Call It a Sling Blade.

Napoleon Dynamite

Jon Heder’s character Napoleon Dynamite used to be named Seth in director Jared Hess’ student short, Peluca. The 9-minute movie follows the nerdy dancer skipping school, shopping for fanny packs, and chatting with pal Pedro about illegal ninja moves. Hess shot his movie on 16mm film in his hometown of Idaho over a span of two days, for a budget of $500. The feature’s budget wasn’t much bigger, since star Heder was only paid $1,000 to play Napoleon again.

Sin City

This is the Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton short that Sin City director Robert Rodriguez screened for a disillusioned Frank Miller in order to show the comic legend that his graphic novels could be adapted in a way that maintained their gritty, noir tone. The Customer is Always Right is a three-minute story about a hit man and a mysterious woman in red that eventually became the first chapter in the 2005 movie. Eight years later, fans are waiting to see Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

American audiences were introduced to the hyper violent witticisms of director Guy Ritchie in 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The prototype for the story, about a group of Londoners trying to scam their way out of a debt owed to a local bagman, began as Ritchie’s 1995 short, The Hard Case. Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler – who Ritchie knew through mutual acquaintances — caught sight of it and decided to invest in the feature version as an executive producer. Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham were introduced to American audiences a few years later, and Ritchie’s star was on the rise.

The Evil Dead

Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were boyhood friends and grew up making Super 8 movies. Raimi later worked on a short, Clockwork, about a woman being stalked by a madman. It sparked his interest in creating genre films, and the filmmaker started watching horror flicks at the local drive-in for inspiration. Intent on making a feature, the duo created a short to help attract attention to their project (then titled The Book of the Dead, later to be called The Evil Dead), and Within the Woods was born in 1978. The guys gathered their friends, screened it one night only (before a midnight slot of Rocky Horror), and eventually begged for the funds to create a new and improved, full-length version. The collaborators are currently working as producers, preparing to release this year’s remake of the iconic horror film.

Everything Pixar Has Ever Created

Pixar chief, John Lasseter, created The Adventures of André and Wally B. in 1984 while working for the Graphics Group of the computer division of Lucasfilm. Like the groundbreaking Toy Story, everything in Lasster’s short — he originally made the movie for his son — is computer-generated, which helped create an interest in CG animation. Graphics Group became Pixar, and cinema history was made thanks to two minutes of film footage and an endless amount of imagination.

Half Nelson

Half Nelson co-writer and director, Ryan Fleck, and screenwriter, Anna Boden, created the 19-minute short Gowanus, Brooklyn, and it won the 2004 Short Filmmaking Award at Sundance. Primed for a feature, the team brought back Shareeka Epps and Karen Chilton to reprise their roles as Drey and Drey’s mother. Matt Kerr joined them again as substitute teacher Mr. Light, and a 25-year-old Ryan Gosling delivered an Oscar-nominated performance as an urban history teacher with a destructive secret.

Boogie Nights

Edited with two VCRs and shot on video, The Dirk Diggler Story transformed into Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature film, Boogie Nights — the movie that would put him on the map. The 17-year-old director gathered his friends for the project, and with his father narrating (dad was a TV horror host and was used to the cameras), the group created a mockumentary about a well-endowed porn star that was inspired by real-life XXX actor John Holmes, This is Spinal Tap, and the John Holmes’ doc, Exhausted. Less than a decade later, everyone was talking about Mark Wahlberg’s penis prosthetic and anticipating more movies from the wunderkind filmmaker.

THX 1138

Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB was George Lucas’ 1967 student short film that became the Star Wars director’s first feature, the dystopian THX 1138. Lucas met friend and collaborator Steven Spielberg at a film festival screening of the movie.