Over the years, A24 Films has gained somewhat of a cult status among cinephiles. From the Best Picture winner “Moonlight” to the sleeper indie hit “Hereditary”, they have distributed many films that are universally adored by both critics and audience alike; so it would not be a surprise to anyone that I am a huge A24 fan myself.
At the beginning of August, I was determined to watch all A24 distributed films, a quite challenging task, with my friends. As I have only seen about 30 out of 85+ films that A24 distributed, I thought it might be fun to create two separate rankings for A24 films, one before the so-called “marathon” and one afterward. As a result, I have compiled my personal top 10 A24 films that I have seen so far for this first ranking. And to the readers, please be patient because part 2 of this ranking, in which I have caught up with all A24 films, is coming in the near future.
**Disclaimer: I have only seen about 30 A24 movies, so if you do not see your favorites on this list, it might be because I have not seen it yet. Secondly, I only include films that were released in the US before July 2019 since a couple of films have not been released in the UK and Australia. Sorry “The Farewell” and “Midsommar” 🙁
Honorable mentions: “Eighth Grade”, “First Reformed”, “High Life”, “Good Time”, and “Green Room”
10. ’20th Century Women’
Director: Mike Mills | Release Date: December 28, 2016
Set in the gorgeous town of Santa Barbara in the late ’70s, Mike Mill’s 20th Century Women is an eccentric but emotional story about a teenage boy and the women who raise him. While there is a lot to love about this film, from Jamie’s (Lucas Jade Zumann) poignant voice-over narrations to Abbie (Greta Gerwig) dancing to Talk Heads, the film’s real star is Annette Benning, playing Dorothea, a single mother who is struggling to stay connected with her teenage son due to a large age gap. Benning’s Dorothea adds a genuine warmth and carefree vibe to the film, while at the same time masking the sadness as she admits the disconnection between her and her son. “You get to see him out in the world as a person. I never will,” as she said. The imperfection of the film and its flawed characters simply exudes charm, largely due to Mike Mills’ soft and quirky touches, making 20th Century Women one of the most flawed-yet-perfect coming-of-age films that deserve more attention.
Best Scene(s): “Clitoral Stimulation”
9. ‘The Witch’
Director: Robert Eggers | Release Date: February 19, 2016
In many ways, Robbert Eggers’ The Witch is one of a kind. One of the first horror period pieces that set in a New England town pre-Salem Witch Trial, The Witch defies everybody’s expectation of what a modern horror film can be. Ditching the cheap jump scares, Eggers’ debut feature is brilliant at building tensions; as each minute passes, the film’s menacing atmosphere digs deeper and deeper into the audience’s skin until the sinister finale brings the long-awaited destruction to the family. Anya Taylor-Joy proves why she is one of the most talented young actresses working today as she screams herself into the “scream queen” status.
Best Scene(s): “Black Phillip Transformation”
8. ‘Ex Machina’
Director: Alex Garland | Release Date: April 10, 2015
While Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is not the first film that A24 picked up, it is one of the first films to gain recognition from both audience and critics, putting A24 onto many cinephiles’ to-watch list. Among one of the first A24’s film to win an Academy Award (Best Visual Effects), the film is a stylish psycho-techno thriller that raises the age-old question, “What if Artificial Intelligent has a conscience?” Packed with mesmerizing performances from Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and especially Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina is sexy, hypnotic, and destined to be a classic within the science fiction genre.
Best Scene(s): “Dance Party”
Director: Ari Aster | Release Date: June 08, 2018
A dark family drama that is disguised as a terrifying horror film, Ari Aster’s directorial debut Hereditary is an examination of a dark family secret as the title suggests. But underneath the drama, the film is a devastating insight about family death and the trauma that comes with it. The horror in Hereditary lies beyond the disturbing imageries; the tension continues to build and build until the monumental climax reaches where all hell breaks loose. As Toni Collete’s Annie wails and cries, the audience descents into madness along with her. There is nothing short of amazing in Collete’s performance; from the subtle look of guilt in the support meeting to the outburst at the dinner table, Collette delivers one of the best performances in the last decade.
Best Scene(s): “Dinner Table” and “The Car Accident”
Director: Lenny Abrahamson | Release Date: October 16, 2015
Before taking on the titular role of Captain Marvel, Brie Larson plays Joy “Ma” Newsome in Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of a novel with the same name Room. The film tells a devastating story of Joy and her son Jack, who are both held captive by their mysterious abductor for several years. In this room, Joy has to raise Jack, while keeping the horrifying truth about their circumstances from him. A moving story about motherly love, Room handles the heavy theme with a delicateness, making the film more emotional. While Brie Larson’s Joy is broken and fragile both mentality and physically, Jacob Tremblay’s Jack brings a child-like innocent perspective to the film that is equally impressive; both Tremblay and Larson are able to conjure up raw emotions, making the film even more gut-wrenching.
Best Scene(s): “Pick Up Truck”
Director: Gaspar Noé | Release Date: March 01, 2019
Electrifying and terrifying, Gaspar Noé’s Climax is a technical masterpiece. With a runtime of 97 minutes, Climax packs with several jaws dropping long takes, but the most impressive one lasts over 42 minutes in the latter half of the film. It serves as a conduit to the never-ending madness of a bad psychedelic trip. Considered as Noé’s most accessible featured to date, Climax is surprisingly restraint and possibly the most emotional in his filmography. However, there is nothing subtle or tame about this film; everything is loud and aggressive, as the title appropriately suggests. But it is that aggressiveness that successfully transports the audience into the chaos of the neon-lit, claustrophobic building.
Best Scene(s): “Opening Dance Number”
4. ‘The Florida Project’
Director: Sean Baker | Release Date: October 05, 2017
The magic in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project lies within its ability to bring a childlike wonder and innocence to the messy adult world without ever sugarcoat it. The juxtaposition between the magic of Walt Disney World and the poor surrounding motels is parallel to the juxtaposition between Moonee’s innocence and the corruption of the real world. Sean Baker creates a colorful and empathetic world with strong performances from Willem Dafoe and especially Brooklynn Prince. The Florida Project is a coming-of-age fairy tale for the underprivileged and underrepresented youths and raises important questions about modern society in America.
Best Scene(s): “The Ending” and “Breakfast Buffet”
Director: Barry Jenkins | Release Date: October 21, 2016
A three-part journey through a broken life of Chiron, Moonlight is a poetic revelation that is both deeply personal and touching. With the aid of beautiful cinematography and an immaculate score, Barry Jenkins gracefully brings beauty to an unfair world; a world that is full of abuse, and torment. An exploration of sexuality, love, and self-discovery while exposing the uglies and deglamorizing the sugarcoated coming of age genre, Moonlight is one of the most important films in modern cinema.
Best Scene(s): “Kiss on the Beach” and “Swimming Lesson”
2. ‘A Ghost Story’
Director: David Lowery | Release Date: July 07, 2017
At first glance, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is confusing; the ominous title contradicts the image of Casey Affleck in a bedsheet, but the beauty of this film lies within its thought-provoking simplicity. Arguably one of the most original films that came out in the last decade, A Ghost Story is a poignant poem about the eternity of time and the ephemeral purpose of our existence. Maybe, we are just observers, as the world and time around us continue to exist and move on; Lowery delicately crafts a visual spectacle that is both compelling and fascinating with little to no dialogues.
Best Scene(s): “The Encounter of Two Ghosts” and “Eating Pie on the Kitchen Floor”
1. ‘Lady Bird’
Director: Greta Gerwig | Release Date: November 03, 2017
In an interview at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Greta Gerwig mentions that the original screenplay that she wrote for her directorial debut is called “Mother and Daughter” and it is over 400 pages long. From that moment, I know that Lady Bird is something special because of the time and love that Gerwig put into the story. Lady Bird focuses the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Their disdain for each other often causes fights and outbursts, but deep down they love each other. Loosely inspired by her background, Greta Gerwig crafts a story that is so personal to her that the film that is just so full of life and personality. Lady Bird is so real and genuine that it is universally beloved. Funny, heartwarming, and self-reflective, Lady Bird is a glorious tale about a mother’s unconditional love that strikes a very personal chord, proving why it is at number 1 on my personal list.
Best Scene(s): “The Opening” and “The Drive”