The 15 Best A24 Movies that you Shouldn’t Miss
You go to the theatre. You sit in your seat with popcorn and a cold drink. The film begins. What is the first thing that you see on the big screen? Think. Come on, think harder. Yes, the logo of a company, unless it’s a weird Lars Von Trier movie: you just might see something else. Ever since we’ve seen the first of films, the mystery of the logo has persisted. There’s been at least one company, right from the days of MGM and Universal to Paramount Pictures and Miramax, that has dominated and almost become synonymous with good content. As far as a machine that produces some of the best movies is concerned, the 21st Century has seen A24 become just that.
Ever since its inception in 2012, A24 movies have progressed leaps and bounds, whether be it producing or distributing. It has become a frequent destination for some of the biggest names in the business. An A24 film never quite goes under the radar, especially now. So we thought of coming up with a list of some of the best films from the A24 banner that you should check out. (Note: I know a lot of your personal favorites have missed out but this is just my list. Mention the ones you feel should be there in the comments!)
15. Mid90s (2018)
Jonah Hill’s revival of the ’90s skate scene is spot on. Right from the music to the clothes, he almost nails every aspect. The film follows Stevie, a 13-year-old boy figuring out himself and the life around him. He finds his place in a group of neighborhood skateboarders and learns that the life he imagines they live is much different than it seems. ‘Mid90s’ seems like a semi-biographical account of Hill’s own life. It is for this very reason that the film doesn’t feel forced with details but instead organic and full of quaint observations about the mentality of childhood.
His misfits rejoice in the loyal company of each other and band together as a family whose bond is a result of environmental conditioning, rather than blood. Hill’s heartfelt homage to his childhood is positioned well in the realistic arches of the neighborhood he grew in and not for one second feels dragged. Overall, ‘Mid90s‘ raw mix of emotion and innocence is powerful enough to make it a lasting watch.
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14. Ex Machina (2014)
‘Ex Machina‘ is an interesting take on human-AI interaction in the age of the technological revolution. Domnhall Gleeson plays Caleb, a computer expert who wins an invitation to assist his millionaire CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), at his secluded residence to administer a Turing Test on a female robot. During his interactions, Caleb develops an intimate relationship with Ava, who removes the lid on Nathan’s dirty secrets and malicious practices, asking Caleb to help her escape.
Alex Garland, the director of the film, shows more commitment to ideas rather than visual execution. His speculative look at how technology is increasingly becoming the master of the very hand that created it isn’t distanced from years of literary and scholarly work on the discourse. Garland’s directional debut is essential viewing, marrying disparate elements of dystopian doom with and modern gore with stunning ease.
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13. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
An accomplished surgeon’s idyllic suburban life is about to fade like the white of his spotless household, as a ghost from the past seeks to obliterate his domestic bliss. Barry Keoghan’s Martin is as calm as a cucumber, even in situations that would hysterically rile up the still water of the Pacific. His calmness becomes Steven’s bane, as he helplessly sees his perfect life gets torn to shreds.
The Kubrickian undertones are evident in the film in Lanthimos’ searching camera that never goes astray, boldly marching in its stead, measuring its every movement with the utmost care. For large parts of the film, the absurd takes precedence, managing to weave a web of impeccable and domiciled vagueness, while the others are left to be felt, experienced, and haunt the viewer. Another feather in the glorious collection of Lanthimos’ features.
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12. American Honey (2016)
Andrea Arnold is one of the strongest champions of female empowerment in the industry presently. Along with names like Lynne Ramsey and Kelly Reichhardt, Arnold has complete control over her movies and often ends up behind revolutionary movies that attach themselves to popular movements.
In ‘American Honey’, she explores the unfettered odyssey of a rebellious group of young nobodies as they make a living selling magazine subscriptions. ‘American Honey’ takes you on a ride with its lively characters, wonderfully realized portrayal of youth, interesting critiques of capitalism, insightful exploration of identity, and its sheer beauty. The naturalistic performances shine, and that soundtrack is too special to ignore.
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11. First Reformed (2018)
‘First Reformed’ was criminally overlooked at the awards season back when it first released. The media bore absolutely no mention of how fantastic Ethan Hawke was as Reverend Toller, let alone commenting on the film’s political relevance and spiritual impact. ‘First Reformed’ focuses, primarily, on the life of a former military chaplain, Ernst Toller, who, from the outside, seemingly lives a content life at the historic titular church. Inside, though, Toller grows increasingly suspicious of God’s will and plans for his bountiful creation- the earth- after he’s asked to counsel a church goer’s husband denying bringing a child in the world.
Comparisons with ‘Taxi Driver’ are inevitable, purely because of how Schrader bridges his spiritual and film lives through the protagonists in both the films. Although these characters seem to be reflective of Schrader’s deeply personal conflict resolving the two, they also are politically indicative of the respective eras. Urban decay, exacerbated by the onset of capitalism and consumerism, wraps both the protagonists in its mist and shrouds them with an intangible force much powerful than their faculty to see optimism and happiness in life. But how does that impact one’s conviction in his faith? Is it powerful enough to wither such man-made storms? Does questioning His ideals and roadmap of life weaken one’s temporal connection to him? ‘First Reformed’ never answers these questions and leaves Toller boxed in (for similar impact, see Bergmann’s ‘Winter Light‘) his unyielding world.
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10. Climax (2018)
You can never be too sure about a Gasper Noe movie. Over the years, his eccentric brand has inclined to surprise, always brimming with raucous energy and relentless conflict. ‘Climax‘ is no exception. In a highly-charged, drug-induced ecstasy, members of a dance troupe lose their inhibitions, allowing fatal primal instincts to dictate terms, eventually leading to a destructive climax.
Noe’s stylized single long takes, none seconding the electrifying dance sequence, work at a level of sophistication that is difficult to deconstruct. The experience of watching ‘Climax’ is overwhelming, as a result. Its refreshing perspectives on the classic “whodunit” relinquish everything familiar that you’ve ever known and bind you in an inescapable trance that’ll leave you dizzy and satisfied. A pretty good feeling to take away from a movie if you ask me.
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9. The Witch (2015)
A good night’s sleep will elude you for a while after watching Robert Eggers’ harrowing debut. Shot exclusively in natural light, the unconventional modern-horror mantlepiece boasts of a striking visual appeal. The grim weather and barren terrain of New England house a family banished from their village facing an unknown and vile evil that lurks in the woods just beyond their idyllic farm life. Jump scares and ugly ghosts are a poisonous mix that has festered since ages in public view. Eggers destroys a beautiful genre and subverts many filmmakers’ precious power of expectations. He makes sure he takes back the charge and restore lost glory to the genre.
Although the buildup is gradual, the tension absently creeps under your skin. Without actually showing an entity (very briefly, we see ‘a’ witch), Eggers conjures consuming fear and doubt in the back of your head. His ascetic style of shooting compels your attendance with the character in the moment, bringing an insatiable urgency to his narration. A near sublime effort from a future rockstar.
8. Good Time (2017)
When the Safdies and Pattinson agreed to do a movie which “didn’t exist based on nothing“, they could have never imagined it would turn out to be this good. But simply labeling ‘Good Time‘ as a bank robbery gone wrong would be unfair. It tells the story of brothers Connie and Nick, the former a bank robber, the latter in therapy on account of his developmental disability, who decide to rob a bank. During the getaway, a dye pack bursts and causes the car to crash, leaving the two scurrying for their freedom. When Nick is arrested by the police, Connie vows to do anything to save him and place him back in therapy.
‘Good Time’ movies with Connie. It traces his patterns, his adrenaline, his tumultuous emotional state, and as a result, moves at a great pace. The narrative also picks up on how Connie’s circumstance doesn’t really allow him to be morally ambiguous. Thus preventing him from being labeled as a ‘protagonist’. The jarring tone compliments the style and overall vibe of the film which seems to be of paramount importance to the Safdies. ‘Good Time’ is an electric experience and a worthy take on the delicacy of human relations.
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7. A Ghost Story (2017)
‘A Ghost Story‘ most certainly proves to be a challenging watch. It tackles viewers with an unusual cinematic discourse and altruistic ideas. The premise’s boldness and innate mysticism furnish Lowery with an opportunity to mingle around more abstract and philosophical themes such as our connection with the past and the power of our memories.
The plot, which I personally found to be quite complex, offers a connection of sorts between the three timelines of time and space: past, present, and future. It is not descriptive or decrypt but accessible and universal enough to be relatable and appreciable. Measuring the experience of the ghost in the movie to your own might be an exacting exercise but surely yields fruitful results.
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6. Eighth Grade (2018)
Every second after Kayla says “Gucci” in Bo Burnham’s poignant sketch of a teenage girl on the precipice of adolescence, is a battle for her: a battle between self-acceptance and the world’s. For outsiders like us, the contest may seem to be one that is easy to win. But things aren’t often as simple as they seem to be. ‘Eighth Grade’ is a timely and intricate deconstruction of how Kayla and millions like her around the world navigate the dilemmas and unique challenges of teenhood.
‘Eighth Grade’s layered take on the intertextual relationship today’s youngsters have developed with technology is filled with quiet moments of vulnerability. Kayla’s creation feels a very personal and open-minded reflection of Burnham’s own personality. “The most personal is the more creative”. Eighth Grade certainly doesn’t lack any of that.
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5. The Farewell (2019)
Billi is a struggling writer in New York City. Having just received a rejection letter for a fellowship while on the phone with her precious Nai Nai, Billi’s life doesn’t seem to be on track. The misery gets compounded when she discovers Nai Nai’s diagnosis of a terminal illness. The family keeps the result from Nai Nai, owing to a traditional belief that cancer doesn’t kill the person; it is the fear of knowing they have cancer that does. Although her parents advise her to stay home as they hatch an elaborate plan to bid her a farewell, Billi tags along, barely trusting herself to keep the secret.
Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical narrative is as moving and scandalous as the real-life story. Both. the depiction of Billi and Nai Nai’s relationship and a family united by tragedy and cultural diversity is brutally honest and tender. Wang engineers enough time for the members to express how they deal with the illness on an individual level. With an ensemble that big, she surely does a commendable job. Despite a largely heavy and melancholic premise, Wang refreshingly executes a comic and insightful undercurrent that makes ‘The Farewell‘ accessible to a vast audience. Awkwafina might have confirmed herself as a major star with this turn, but it is Shuzhen Zao that steals the show in one of the best performances in one of the best films of 2019.
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4. The Lighthouse (2019)
There’s just something so mystical and seductive about films shot in black and white. Add that to an unconventionally told story about two lighthouse keepers who can’t really ‘keep’ themselves from the lighthouse, you’re all set for a satisfactory evening. ‘The Lighthouse‘ serves as a companion piece to ‘The Witch’, at least in the temperament of unnerving storytelling. There’s a disquiet, unformed and fleeting, that controls and never quite settles during the film. Eggers’ demonstrates a heightened indulgence in details as to how things feel and look, with a minimalist plot. His composition of sight and sound produces an incredibly enchanting cinematic experience that seems hard to forget.
It would be safe to assume that Eggers intended to keep his thematic introspection mostly symbolic, with no clear-eyed distinctions. The characters, though called Ephraim and Thomas in the movie, are penned as the Old Man and the Young Man in the script; the exactness of their surrender to the light in the tower is never made clear; the entire story really, dabbles mostly in ambiguity. But this opens it up to widespread interpretations from audiences. Eggers cages Dafoe and Pattinson in his mad doghouse and the result is a pair of remarkable performances that are etched into your memory. An intensely disturbing and consuming nightmare at sea and within is how I would describe ‘The Lighthouse‘.
3. The Florida Project (2017)
The idea of compassion is quite commonplace in cinema, but ironically enough, its manifestations don’t quite compare to Willem Dafoe’s Bobby. An everyday manager at the Magic Castle – a lowly motel in Florida. The occupants in the building are more like his wards than customers. He is overprotective of the kids, a kind of fatherly figure who looks out for them. Hailley is a single mother, working as an exotic dancer, living with her daughter, Moonee. The ups and downs that they go through individually become the primary subject matter of Sean Baker’s poignant portrait of working-class America.
While poverty and miserable living conditions form the background of the film, Baker focuses on the joy of childhood and the inhibited sense of being that children carry with themselves. Much of the life that flows through comes from the children and their interactions. This gives the storytelling an innocence that puts you at ease. Shot exclusively on 35mm, Baker rigorously experiments the way he shoots the characters, effectively bringing out their perspectives on things. The idea of Disney world, the elusive happiness for children, being on the cusp of their adobe strikes as a hard-hitting eye-opener of how happiness has been commercialized and melancholy normalized.
2. Moonlight (2016)
Barry Jenkins’ expressive drama tells the story of Chiron, a young, sensitive African American boy, who discovers his sexual identity in an exhilarating three-part odyssey. More than just making a film about self-discovery, Jenkins also tries to change competing perceptions of manhood in societal discourse. While it is not exclusively esoteric to black males and captures a much broader sentiment, Jenkins explores Chiron’s journey in life against the backdrop of the hard-hitting realities of the African American community. He still generously allows additive experiences for viewers, wherein they bring something of their own to the characters and their conflicts.
‘Moonlight’ boasts of a rich thematic tapestry. As a result, Chiron faces a multitude of challenges through different phases of his life. The issues range from conformity in early teens, his resistance against becoming a product of his environment, to the probing needle of masculinity in adulthood. The process of how Little becomes Black is shown to be one devoid of tenderness and empathy. Little by little, Jenkins’ protagonist loses every avenue of love in his life, rebuked at every attempt.
‘Moonlight’s grandiosity in accepting and furnishing a universal roadmap to young boys and girls suffering from an identity crisis is its real victory. It defines how care and affection shape a person, emancipating them from gender and identity archetypes, and allows them to make their own paths.
1. Uncut Gems (2019)
Howard Ratner is no ordinary jeweler; he has a secret apartment that houses his mistress Julia, who works at his glamorous store; he hangs out with highly influential celebrities, who are also his primary customers; and he’s secretly smuggled a rare black opal from an African mine. Unbeknownst to him, the opal will change his life in a manner that even he couldn’t have possibly bet on. Howard’s a betting man; he’s an adrenaline junky. More than the win, he seems to enjoy that blood rush, the energy that flows with the unknown, completely ransoming himself to the odds. He often sees opportunities where others don’t.
The Safdie brothers have followed up their 2017 classic ‘Good Time’ with another frantic anxiety fest. This time, though, the stakes are higher, the journey more labored, and a climax you will never forget. Adam Sandler’s soaring turn as Howard Ratner might just be the best performance of his career. His exasperation and desperate energy is the emotional backbone of the film. His central act is brilliantly understated and reflects the chaos that envelops him throughout. The Safdies have created an unnerving masterpiece that is a tragic celebration of the travesty of human nature.