The groundbreaking anthology series of animated shorts, produced by David Fincher and Tim Miller, is a collection of true gems. Here’s the ranking of all shorts in Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021).
The text was updated on 24th of May with all the new short animated features from the Season 2 of Love, Death & Robots.
There’s no denying that Love, Death & Robots, a project helmed by David Fincher under the supervision of Netflix, gives a taste of what the platform’s truly capable of when great minds are put together.
I remember when the Season 1 hit the platform – my weekend time was reduced to devouring one short after another, all of which constituted the first season of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021). In these 26 short features, Tim Miller and David Fincher (producers of the show) channeled the creative power of a fantastic crew to deliver an impressive, singular work, and a concept that still has a wildly bright future ahead.
Without further ado, here’s the ranking of all short animated movies from the two seasons of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021). So, if you don’t feel like spending just too much time on the entire collection, check which stories are most probable to get you hooked.
All Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) Ranked
Quite ironically, the same director who made “Ice”, also created the short that tops this entire list. But this entry, which belongs to the 2nd season of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021), has been one of the most basic episodes, and one that particularly falls far from the quality of the rest.
Essentially, “Ice” talks about breaking out of the shackles of one’s own fears. Its protagonist Sedgewick lives in a futuristic world, where “unmodded” people – meaning ones that refused to receive technological enhancement – are frowned upon, considered lesser. Sedgewick has a personal goal to fight his “weakness” of being a regular human, and the stakes are high when he joins his brother in a race that takes place on a thin layer of a magical frozen lake.
That story lacks kick, neither does it contain a plot twist that many of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) shorts nail. Furthermore, its rather uninspired storytelling feels less convincing given how little we learn about the world and its setting.
#25 The Tall Grass
Here’s a story that every horror fan loves. Playful with Stephen King’s novella In The Tall Grass, this animated short finds a bit-too-curious gentleman who seizes the opportunity to wander in a vast field of grass when a train he boarded undergoes a minor “indisposition”. Apparently, the inhabitants of the titular tall grass aren’t too welcoming.
The ominous mood checks out, and the creatures hiding in the bushes can scare the faint of heart, but this episode doesn’t really target what Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) is usually about. While you could say it cheats a bit to talk about near-death experience, that’s still far from the depth of the best episodes in the series.
#24 Ice Age
“Ice Age” finds a couple that moves to a new house, only to discover that their refrigerators is, in fact, a minute ice-age world.
The only short in Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) that includes real actors, is also its weakest spot. The idea of tiny world that illustrates a rapid growth of civilisation simply feels like it’s developed during the lunch in-between working on other parts of the show. Or, a result of just too much Sims gameplay.
Nothing more is to tell here really. There is much more goodies waiting further down.
#23 Alternate Histories
What if there’s was an app that alters history? That’s the idea behind “Alternate Histories”, where Adolf Hitler’s various deaths lead to some incredible changes in the world history.
Let’s state the obvious – if you question just anyone “what would be the one thing you change in the history of the world if you could?”, many would say “kill Adolf Hitler”. Add to it the so-called butterfly effect and here’s a neat idea for a short.
However, this is exactly the reason why, given the brilliance of almost every single piece in this Netflix anthology, “Alternate Histories” lands somewhere at the bottom. It’s too simple and silly to leave a long-lasting impression.
#22 Life Hutch
A fair share of the entire Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) collection is nothing short of astounding on the visual level. Unfortunately, some of those feast-for-the-eyes gems aren’t quite as gripping on the storytelling side.
That is the case of “Life Hutch”, a short about an astronaut whose shuttle lands in a critical condition on an uninhabited planet. Upon entering a base where he’s supposed to lay low and wait for reinforcement, the man finds himself trapped with a robot whose faulty programming endangers the astronaut. Following Michael B. Jordan in his struggle to outwit the machine entertains, but the overall effect imitates an impressive game teaser, rather than a short feature that makes you think.
#21 Helping Hand
An astronaut working alone in a station that drifts in space, needs to repair part of her ship. An unexpected accident forces the protagonist to sacrifice her arm in order to survive.
“Helping Hand” was probably one of the most derivative ideas that Miller and Fincher had on the table. The story leads to an end that winks at the title of the story, and plays out more as a sarcastic space-set gig about working alone, rather than anything deeper. Again, like the two previously mentioned shorts, “Helping Hand” offers little insights, contrary to the offerings at the bottom of this ranking.
#20 Automated Customer Service
Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) manages to balance serious bits with for-fun stuff. “Animated Customer Service” joins the latter, and it does with a pair of cute doggo eyes – that’s love at first sight right there.
The story mocks a pretentious, rich person’s “smart home” craving in a light-hearted manner. A vacuum cleaner robot goes rabid, and while it wreaks havoc and turns into a machine of ultimate destruction, its human owner tries to get on the line with customer service of the robot’s producer. We all struggled with modern technology one way or another, and hanging on the line – or, worst case scenario, being transferred to an automated customer service – is just so goddamn relatable.
I only hope that vacuum cleaners of the future won’t come so well equipped as the one in this short animated feature.
#19 The Dump
When an eviction “knocks” on the door of an old timer’s dumpster hut, the government’s representative is forced to listen to the story of a strange creature living in the trash.
While I appreciate the imaginative power of “The Dump”, particularly meaning the meticulous design of garbage piling everywhere, the story itself falls flat.
The main character – a bag of old bones and a probable trail of stink that follows him – isn’t particularly likeable, and this causes “The Dump” to lack anything to root for.
Moreover, the meaning of the story – the subjectivity of what we call home – speaks faintly too. A guy living in a trash site is rather depressing and repulsive and leaves a bitter taste, contrary to the dark comedy vibe that “The Dump” strives for.
As a consequence this short adds little to the canvas of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021).
#18 All Through The House
Santa Claus got his share of bad treatment, and a Christmas-themed horror Krampus (2015) wasn’t the only naughty kid on his list. Apparently, the idea of a stranger who sneaks into houses at night inspires both cute and terrifying, and All Through The House proudly represents the latter.
Two kids wake up in the middle of the night to take a peek at the mysterious man who leaves gifts. But what they do discover isn’t even human. The hideous creatures escaped the worst nightmares, and its design looks oddly similar to the Forest God from The Ritual (2017). While the short is every bit unique, and creepy too, it has very little connection to the main themes of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021). I do, however, see myself coming back to it near the next Christmas Eve.
#17 Sucker of souls
Did you ever imagine Indiana Jones in a gore version? Well, Tim Miller and David Fincher did.
“Sucker of souls” is about an archeologist and a few mercenaries, who look for Dracula – an ancient evil spirit. When they find the legendary monster, the being begins its hunt.
“Sucker of souls” left me quite baffled. As it follows “Suits” – a short with a similar animation aesthetic (you’ll find it later on here) – there is no novelty or surprise on that level. The characters, the gritty mercenaries and a defenceless scientist, are quite likeable thought and their simple chemistry provides fun.
The slaughter is on-point too (a thing that’s quite universal for all shorts in the anthology), but after a few violent predecessors, “Sucker of souls” offers little to bedazzle.
“Suits” is more of a no-brainer to me – a story that encapsulates the idea of “A Quiet Place” in less than 20 minutes (proving that was, indeed, a material for a short feature).
A few farmers, living in an idyllic land of juicy-green farms, are attacked by a swarm of alien creatures that devour everything on their way.
If you liked “Pacific Rim”, “Suits” is the part of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) you’ll definitely fall in love with. The animation brings a stop-motion kind to mind, and “Suits” benefits from the less smooth & vintage style, giving it a chance to showcase the action-packed invasion in every detail (and not a hastened slideshow with blurred colors).
#15 Blind Spot
A group of cyborg crooks tries to steal a special shipment from a well-fortified train.
“Blind Spot” belongs to the part of simpler short features in the entire anthology.
Miller and Fincher aren’t playful with deeper meaning here – instead, it’s just pure fun, a pleasure deriving from the present SNAFU state. A dynamic story with corny jokes, reminding of an old action movie and a bunch of hot-headed cyborgs to bring mayhem, are enough reason to give “Blind Spot” a shot.
#14 “When The Yogurt Took Over”
Much in the vibe of “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs”, the one of the shorter offerings in the anthology series is also a brisk and joyful absurdity.
Long story short – what if our scientists mutated bacteria to give yogurt voice and intelligence?
It’s a ridiculous concept, but the animation, bringing to mind Pixar’s “Up”, elevates this funny piece into a joyful in-betweener. Among the stories of rape, deaths and monsters, a yogurt that writes with cereal and finds a neat way to end poverty brings nothing but a light-hearted smile.
#13 Fish Night
Two unsuccessful salesmen find themselves stranded in the bezkresne barrens, and need to stay there for the night. When one of them mentions that the surroundings used to be the bottom of an ocean, the ghosts of the sea creatures suddenly emerge.
The sheer brilliance of the idea explored in “Fish Night” had me hooked. A playful idea of a mirage built of a great array of sea creatures in a fluorescent form made me think “I’d love to be there”.
It’s a very concise story, where I believe a bit more story could have been great. Nonetheless, it’s more of a win than a failure.
#12 Three robots
The titular robots embark on a journey into a post-apocalyptic ruin, where they learn about the extinction of the human race.
”Three robots”, the second short in queue, switches the gears from the opening “Sonnie’s Edge” – a violent, blood-stained beginning.
The titular machines aren’t given much time to be developed, but they’re an immediate “like magnet”. Three varying personalities, each one eloquent and distinct, make up for enough fuel to make this short movie stand out.
“Three Robots” is a warning sign that conveys an essential message concerning our ways of self-destruction. The ruins, humanity’s leftovers are a haunting view to see, even when served with a comedic vibe of the three robots and their discussions. Within a few minutes, Miller and Fincher say more than any Global Environment Summit in a couple of days.
Additionally, I loved the reference to Cards Against Humanity!
#11 Lucky 13
In this world, being a rookie pilot means getting the most rusty ship. The protagonist of “Lucky 13”, on top of flying an old rusty junk, gets the only ship that carries ghosts of war casualties – an omen that nobody wants to operate on.
“Lucky 13” is a feminine version of Han Solo and his affection for Millenium Falcon. The pilot needs to believe in her ship, face her own fears and prove her worth to the squadron too. The gorgeously looking animation is therefore weaven with a meaningful story, one that nicely fits into the pattern of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021). Bad luck can be turned into a four-leaf clovers, but only if there’s enough heart and faith that follow.
#10 The Witness
“The Witness” is conceptually close to “Source Code” (the movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal). Here, a young Asian girl witnesses a murder and runs away from the killer chasing her.
Setting the overly simple story aside, “The Witness” is a true marvel of animation. The cyberpunk vibe is strong here, with an incredible attention to detail that causes the vicinity look like a modernized version of favelas. I was overblown by the meticulous design here. “The Witness” gets a bit disturbing at some point (which I personally liked a lot), with a BDSM thingy going on and lots of nudity, but that is an obvious Tim Miller serenade right here.
The pacing is also great and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will the killer finally find her or not? See for yourself.
#9 Snow In The Desert
Whenever Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) develops a more ambitious narrative, the by-product’s phenomenal world-building. “Snow In The Desert” combines vibes of Star Wars, Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy II: Golden Army (2008), as well as a few more sci-fi classics, thus constructing a world far more immersive than many less successful genre endeavors could wish for.
Snow is an outcast gifted with a self-healing ability that attracts more than just a pair of eyes. And when he’s again forced to seclusion, a mysterious woman asks to join him. She has her own reason to target Snow, and it’s these varying conflicts of interest that fuel the story here.
Like the some of the best stories that go down in the history of sci-fi, “Snow In The Desert” packs both guns-blazing action and a thought-provoking philosophy. In that case, it’s how the line of being human blurs when time isn’t moving forward only to turn every life form into dust.
#8 Sonnie’s Edge
Sonnie and her team participate in the illegal beast fights. Her puppet is an unbeatable monster, but there is much more at stake than just her winning again.
The opening short of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021) is a gore-filled, blood-draining story, where an abundance of f-bombs meets a sharp, delicious animation. I believe that Miller and Fincher deliberately chose this one to start the season, because it sets the mood perfectly – it’s dark, its stylish and non-conformist.
“Sonnie’s Edge” enthralls with its visionary image, throwing the viewer into a maddening, underground world we could imagine in a hardcore version of “Blade Runner”.
#7 Beyond the Aquila Rift
A crew of a ship falls asleep as they’re about to jump into a long-lasting, intergalactic trip. Things go south, but soon they find a drifting repair station.
“Beyond the Aquila Rift” is one of the most ambitious stories told in the anthology of Miller and Fincher. The animation style is a game cinematic, that feels incredibly real, thanks to the overwhelming attention to detail. The characters, even in close-ups, look stunning – from visible crow’s feet to interior designs, there is an overwhelming visual rigour here. And it’s those little details that make your jaw drop.
The story’s skewed toward an erotic sci-fi (thought of “Ederlezi Rising” here), with the ship’s captain meeting his ex-lover on the station. The nudity is, to say the least, bold. Furthermore, “Beyond the Aquila Rift” offers a hell of an ending that combines the striking visual inspiration from Bagiński’s “Cathedral” with a grim, horroresque concept.
#6 Good Hunting
Many great things happen in the filmmaking industry, when stories mix folk and culture roots with something nuanced. In “Good Hunting”, a Chinese boy, a son of a witch hunter, becomes close to a spirit called huli jing, a fox-looking entity that turns into a woman.
The story of “Good Hunting” brings the Asian classic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to mind, thanks to the spiritual mood of the story, along with the remarkable “running on rooftops” parts. The sequences of the titular hunt, taking place in the beginning of the short, are flawless too.
In terms of its message, “Good Hunting” mixes few ideas in the small pot – an alternative version of the future, with mechanical, steampunk creations, as well as a strong feminist motif, present thanks to the spirit that the protagonist befriends.
The result is a short that by adding the mechanic whirring to the Chinese culture and a subliminal message of hunters becoming the hunted in the woman-exploitative world, “Good Hunting” was elevated to a shining diamond of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021).
#5 Pop Squad
First time I’ve seen the issue of limiting overpopulation by controlling childbirth was in a Tibetan drama that criticized that specific Chinese law. Years are passing by, and the list of global problems, all stemming from millions turning into billions, is just growing. And that is why the grim vision of the future in “Pop Squad” reverberates more powerfully than most of the episodes featured in the series.
In this story, we get to know a police officer whose job is sniffing out families that keep children. They usually live in a very repelling part of the city, that’s symbolically divided into the ground level and above-the-clouds-, always sunny one. Once found, the kids are exterminated, for the world needs no further reproduction due to a special boost that lets certain people live forever. The cost of eternity is therefore having no children. Quite a dark, terrifying vision of the world that questions the very foundation of being human.
On a technical side, “Pop Squad” looks great, and its imagery brings to mind both Blade Runner movies and Netflix’s Altered Carbon. Some of its shots – such as the opera scene – hypnotize with the animation’s quality. With all honesty, I could easily see this story turned into a full-fledged movie or a tv series.
#4 The Secret War
The Red Army’s squadron marches through Siberia to get rid off ghouls that terrorize the locals.
Much in the vibe of another gaming experience, “The Secret War” is an original twist on the World War history. The audiovisual execution is, again, flawless here and makes one of the pinnacles of a detailed and imaginative approach in Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021).
I particularly liked how “The Secret War” linked its horror themes with the well-known pride of the Russian army, capturing the soldiers’ readiness to die for the higher cause. There is a “comrade spirit” in the air, a motif that’s rarely given anything else than a strongly pejorative meaning.
Despite the slight flaws – like the soldiers speaking with an unnecessary Russian accent – “The Secret War” outdistanced most of other shorts in the season of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021).
#3 Shape Shifters
US Marines are partially comprised of werewolf hunters, incredibly strong creatures that cause rozlam among the troops. Two soldiers – Sobieski and Decker – are discriminated by their fellow brothers in arms, but soon their unique abilities become essential for the whole team.
“Shape Shifters” joins the league of pieces driven by game cinematics. The degree of visual precision is bedazzling. The camera, swiftly following the werewolves as they fight or scout is riveting, if a bit closer to a gaming experience (rather than a cinematic one).
As a story, “Shape Shifters” brings a deeper meaning concerning racism among the US soldiers. The werewolves are clearly treated with hostility, even despite their obvious value as fellow troopers. This is a short tale of fear-induced prejudices, very much understandable and up-to-date. And given the spectacular visuals (the Afghan desserts make for an impressive setting), “Shape Shifters” was one of the most stellar parts of Love, Death & Robots (2019-2021).
#2 The Drowned Giant
As the title of the series suggests, death is an inseparable part of the vast majority of shorts within the series. But none of them reaches the philosophical heights of “The Drowned Giant”, a peculiar story of a scientist who investigates a gargantuan body that washed up on the shore. The entire narrative draws from Stanisław Lem’s novels, as it takes this odd event to philosophize about the nature of death. Since we observe the events form a scientist’s point of view, the observations are of medical nature, yet underneath them lies a bitter conclusion about the inevitability of death as an occurrence – an event that’s just a glimpse on the grand timeline of our history.
“The Drowned Giant” talks about death, but I loved it for the way the narration smartly conceals its criticism towards the three-seconds-attention-span culture too. For the scientist, the dead giant constitutes mystery, a beautiful yet dark grin of fate, meanwhile the spectators see it as a bump in their monotonous cycle of life. Such a staggering contrast really explains some of the things that we see as outrageous – like a Youtuber who makes money off videos recorded in a particular forest in Japan.
#1 Zima Blue
A world-famed artist called Zima Blue (known specifically for the use of a particular shade of blue) invites a journalist to tell his unusual story – a unique quest to understand the world throughout art.
“Zima Blue” is a marvelous example of a short animation – one that’s moving, beautifully executed and leaving you with a hungry-for-more sensation.
At its core, “Zima Blue” does a little pun-game toward modern art. Zima Blue paints makes his art more and more spectacular, reaching ridiculous sizes. However, in each and every piece, there is place for a geometric, puzzling figure – obviously in this peculiar, mellow tone of blue.
I don’t want to spoil the fun, but the way “Zima Blue” loops its own story is one of the most beautiful metaphors of art reaching its absolute form. I was moved and hope that one day, maybe one day, “Zima Blue” would get its chance to become a bigger piece.
What were your favorite parts of “Love, Death & Robots”? Which episode tops your list? Share in the comments!