5 Short Films to Inspire You to Be Grateful

Let's stop to appreciate the people, places, and moments that make up our lives.

What are you grateful for?

Plymouth, New England, 1621. You rub warmth into your arms. There’s a chill in the air, but it’s made bearable by the smell it carries: wild turkey roasting, cooked by your fellow pilgrims who gather to celebrate a bountiful harvest.

Thanksgiving, long an American tradition, has strong historical and cultural roots, but it’s found its way to other countries over the years. At its best, Thanksgiving evokes a spirit of peace and gratitude that reaches across borders. It’s an invitation to pause and appreciate the people, places, and experiences life gifts us.

Today, we’re extending that invitation to you, whatever your background! Here are five short films, hand-picked to inspire meaningful reflection on the beauty and relationships in your life – and in those of your fellow humans. They don’t all feature turkey (fear not, one does!), but they’re guaranteed to leave you feeling content and, if you’re open, full of love.

1. Giving Is the Best Communication | TrueMove H, 2013

A powerful – and positive – piece of advertising about how giving can change people’s lives.

This moving short film is also an incredibly effective ad for a cell phone company in Thailand. There’s no product placement or overt sales pitch; just a raw, three-minute story spanning thirty years. Giving Is the Best Communication¬†creates an emotionally positive association with the brand that could sway consumers in the market for a new carrier or mobile device.

According to internet lore, some believe that the short was based on the life of a real man, Dr. Prajak Arunthong, but his existence is the stuff of urban legend. True or not, TrueMove H’s tale of¬†kindness and paying it forward has resonated with more than 26 million people worldwide since its debut in 2013. Never underestimate the effect your actions can have on others, be they family, friends, or strangers!

2. SOAR: An Animated Short | Alyce Tzue, 2014

“A cross between Miyazaki and Pixar, SOAR is an award-winning 3D animated movie about a young girl who must help a tiny boy pilot fly home before it’s too late.”

SOAR¬†was the Gold Winner of the 42nd Student Academy Awards, a finalist in the BAFTA US Student Film Awards, and an Official Selection of several prestigious film festivals, and for good reason. It’s a whimsical, beautifully-animated film about a girl struggling to launch her toy airplane, when a tiny pilot crash-lands and needs her help getting back up into the sky. The resolution gave me goosebumps – I especially loved the little wink the tiny pilot gives his human companion when he flashes his hand before a star!

Animation style and technique notwithstanding, SOAR is notable for its expertly-structured story. It hits many of the basic beats of a feature film, but in just six minutes! Actually, after first watching the film a few days ago, I put it on again to show my daughter and was shocked by how quickly the time flew by on a second viewing. It accomplishes so much in such a tiny package (kind of like that tiny pilot!), and it speaks beautifully to what we can achieve when we work together.

3. 3000 Miles | Sean Wang, 2017

“On July 5th, 2016, I moved across the country to work and live in New York City for one year. This is a personal documentary of my year, chronicled by voicemails left by my mom.”

A Vimeo Best of the Year pick, 3,000 Miles¬†plays with the conventions of documentary storytelling by layering a year’s worth of sights and sounds representing the filmmaker’s first impressions of New York City. These are set to voicemails from his mother who lives 3000 miles away, recorded over the same period.

The result is a stirring short film that embodies the love and connection one can feel for and to home, juxtaposed against the excitement of falling in love with an entirely new place. Having moved away from home to NYC myself, I felt nostalgic for the thrill of discovering New York City, and also for that comforting familiarity of family. Although they weren’t there physically with me on that journey, they were always with me in spirit.

There’s probably someone in your life who’d appreciate hearing from you – your mom, a different family member, a friend you’ve lost touch with. Reach out. Make the connection. Life is too short not to show that you care, whether that person is three or three thousand miles away.

4. Small Little Things | Jared Hogan, 2014

“Set in the stark backdrop of an American suburban winter, Small Little Things follows the story of two teenagers as they meet and fall in love. A dreamy, surreal portrait of young love, shifting between fantasy and memory.”

Small Little Things¬†– a 2014 Official Selection of the Raindance Film Festival (among others) – takes the viewer on a journey through a young couple’s relationship, experimenting with temporality and using imagery to evoke the emotions of each phase of their love. It shows how individual moments in a narrative can be strikingly beautiful, even if that narrative doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending.

I especially appreciated the specificity of the imagery here: hands on a steering wheel, breaths misting in the air, the flicker of a smile… Everything shown here could be construed as common or mundane, but through gorgeous cinematography and a thoughtful interaction of images, Hogan has created a poignant portrait that feels both completely specific and entirely relatable.

Remember to relish the “small little things” in life!

5. TURKEY | Harvey Benschoter, 2013

“The holidays can be very stressful in the 70s or 80s or whatever.”

And now for something completely different! This experimental short film uses 70s-era magazine clippings to paint a frenzied picture of Thanksgiving preparation through the eyes of a housewife. It’s a lot fun! The visual medium of collage immediately recalls the calm, picture-perfect “everything is great here” magazine styles of the 60s and 70s, which clashes with a feeling of mounting pressure – first at the grocery store and then at home. Benschoter used a combination of Photoshop and After Effects to create the film’s unique aesthetic.

For anyone who’s ever run around like a chicken – er, turkey – with its head cut off while trying to prep for Thanksgiving dinner, this short film will hit the spot!

Gratitude can be found in wondering at the small - and big - things.

From SOAR | Alyce Tzue, 2014

In Conclusion

In so many different ways, these short films give us a glimpse into how people can touch one another’s lives.

As the holiday season gets underway, that’s something that we’re thinking about a lot here at Lights Film School. Collaboration is the name of the game in the film industry. Each year, we’re thrilled by what our students are able to achieve with their teams, and grateful for their commitment to helping each other grow and develop in our online community. THANK YOU so much to our LFS family!

What are you grateful for? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 Lauren McGrail, with


For more curated film breakdowns and to connect with our international community of filmmakers, join our online film school, complete with a comprehensive filmmaking course. It’s the training you need to learn how to create professional narrative and documentary films using the equipment you already have, wherever you live, with guidance, connections, and resources at a fraction of the cost of traditional film school.

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