The Best Fan-Made Films

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ross-merrill - August 2, 2016

Sploid has declared this 13-minute Transformers fan film "better than any of Michael Bay's attempts." With just cosplayers, in-camera effects, and probably a budget probably around .001% of Age of Extinction's $210 million, production company Chisel Pixel has captured the fun and adventure of the original cartoon, not to mention many childhood imaginations.

But Generation 1-Hero isn't the first fan film to satisfy audiences or earn praise from the original filmmakers. Fans, students, and amateurs have poured love -- and lots of their own money -- into some great efforts. These films may never earn back their investment, since they can never be legally distributed for money, but they earn their producers admiration the world over. And they sometimes make the official studio efforts look tame, boring, or uninspired.

Here are some of the best fan-made movies.

Jurassic Park: Prime Survival

"Remember, we were young," reads the disclaimer before the film starts. But this 40-minute production about three friends taken by their uncle to a Jurassic Park research site has the charm of a home movie. It's shot on what looks like 80s-era video, features stilted acting, and includes some dinosaur effects that don't always blend in with the backgrounds. Still, the locations are great, including a scene on a boat in the open ocean, and the filmmakers use music to build suspense until the final battle between a T. Rex and a Spinosaurus. The film has been viewed more than seven million times on YouTube, but its like/dislike ratio is about 2:1.

Untitled Predator Prequel

The director of this film says it was shot in three days and cost just $500, which is pretty amazing. The simple story is about a squad of WWII soldiers on the Solomon Islands that encounters a single Japanese survivor of a Predator attack, and then must deal with the alien hunter itself. There's a cool hand-to-hand fight between the hero and the Predator, which just looks just as badass as the one in 1987. Even if you know who's going to save the day in the end, it's a thrilling ride.

Untitled Wolverine Fan Film

Another fan film that packs a punch into a short running time. It's basically one long action sequence in an abandoned lumber yard. The guy playing Wolverine doesn't have the rough charm of Hugh Jackman -- who does? -- but he's the got the claws and some pretty good stunt moves. There's a funny twist ending as well.

Star Wars: Rebel Scum

There are lots of Star Wars fan films out there. From 2002 to 2012, Lucasfilm even held an annual contest, with categories like Best Animation, Best Parody, and Best Visual Effects. I'm partial to Hoth, so I chose Rebel Scum as a fine example of Star Wars fandom. Shot in a gorgeous ice field in Alberta, Canada, the movie gives a subtle middle finger to the prequels by using only practical effects; no CGI here. It's a survival story, a love story, and a war story all in one.

Starship Exeter: The Tressaurian Intersection

Second only to Star Wars fan films? Star Trek fan films. Some are quite well done and are trying to get distributed, but Paramount and CBS are blocking their way. Others rely heavily on green screen and seem kind of half-ass. Starship Exeter is an exception, taking place on a faithful recreation of the original 60s set, with those primary-color uniforms and short skirts for the ladies. When its effects are a bit cheesy, like a Tressaurian who's clearly just a guy in a floppy mask -- it just matches all the more with the original series. Check it out for some good fun.

Harlequin: A Joker Fan Film

With Suicide Squad about to come out, how about a look at Harley Quinn's origins? She starts out as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, the Joker's psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum -- and now his hostage. While she's tied up, the Joker delivers his usual monologue on how society is sick and how anarchy is the only way forward for geniuses like him. He then asks his doctor if she'll join him as he tries to take over Gotham. It comes down to a grisly choice. Even if you know what she decides, it's still pretty brutal. She may not be as a hot as Margot Robbie, but the girl playing Harley ain't bad.

Any fan films you like that I missed? Share them in the comments.

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