Few video games franchises have inspired as many fan films as Portal. Something about the pathos of the wickedly insane A.I. GLaDOS struck a nerve with geeks everywhere. Here are 10 of the very best Portal fan films.
First up, probably the most well-known and celebrated fan film, Portal: No Escape. It’s noteworthy for being among the very first (and still best) Portal shorts, and for its professional-level production values. For the director, Dan Trachtenberg, it served as the perfect resume, demonstrating his skills behind the camera — and it paid off. He was just hired earlier this month to direct the big-screen adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s comic book Y the Last Man.
Another one that got a lot of attention when it was first released was Aperture: Lab Ratt. The short film claims to be an adaptation of Valve’s Portal 2: Lab Rat web comic, but you’d be forgiven for not recognizing that fact, since Lab Ratt plays out in a very artsy/experimental/non-linear way. The idea is that everyone’s favorite wall painter, Mr. “The Cake is a Lie” himself, Doug Rattman, is revealed to have a medical history of schizophrenia, so all the disorienting camera work and jump-cuts help to illustrate his mental condition. And Rattman’s psychosis assigning a “voice in his head” to the Companion Cube? Pure genius.
Keeping with the notion of fan films set in the universe of the games, we move on to Aperture: A Triumph of Science. It’s made as a kind of internally-produced propaganda feature for the public, or maybe for new Aperture employees. It’s a slick video, but it has enough (intentional) cracks around the seams to show just how unstable Aperture was, before the events in Portal. It’s also not meant to be taken entirely seriously, with plenty of chuckle-worthy moments peppered throughout.
After Aperture is a moody, melancholy short set after Chell’s escape to freedom at the end of Portal 2. It also bears the distinction of being made using Valve’s Source Filmmaker software, so all of the impressive footage you’ll see in this video was rendered in realtime, using the same game engine that powers the games. The bird is probably supposed to be some kind of symbolism, but I’m not sure what it represents.
Here’s another look at Chell’s life after she escapes from GLaDOS, this one highlighting the difficulties she might have returning to a normal life. My favorite parts are the little glimpses at how Chell integrates the Portal Gun into her everyday activities. This cheeky short is called Outside Aperture.
Transitioning over to the more humorous side of the Portal premise, I have to start out by showing you this brilliant team-up between Chell and Half-Life‘s Gordon Freeman. (Which isn’t all that implausible; both games are officially set in a shared universe.) When Gordon Met Chell, by filmmaker Michael Shanks, knows exactly when to take itself seriously, and when to go over-the-top. Not only is it hysterical, it’s got some killer action, too. The best part is seeing how each hero uses their signature weapon (Gordon is packing his Gravity Gun) in tandem with the other. Brilliant.
Portal: Terminal Velocity is a major fan favorite (and a personal one, too). Stepping outside the game, this one wonders what it would be like if a trio of regular guys got their hands on a real Portal Gun. Cue the dudebro hijinks.
You might think I’m including this one because we at ForeverGeek love LEGO with an inhuman passion. While that’s certainly true, I’m actually including this one because it’s flat-out awesome. LEGO Portal 2 looks at some memorable moments from the second game with the kind of trademark silliness that’s seen in the LEGO video games.
Here, the machines of Aperture Science join together in a rousing choral tribute to their makers. Made using Source Filmmaker, This Is Aperture is glorious, geeky fun.
Probably the most recent entry on this list, Turret Anthem first appeared online just a few days ago. Zachariah Scott’s impeccably produced Source Filmmaker film is a music video of sorts, with the Aperture turrets moving in synch with music. If you can watch this without a smile involuntarily appearing on your face, you can’t call yourself a geek.