The 19 best A24 films to date

·12 min read
The 19 best A24 films to date

With over two-dozen Academy Award nominations and an army of cinephiles in logo hats at its back, A24 is one of the most powerful forces in independent filmmaking today. So it might come as a surprise that it's also a relatively young business. A24 was founded in August 2012, which means that the NYC-based production and distribution company was able to establish a brand identity, attract top-tier talent, and conquer both awards bodies and the specialty box office in just a decade.

And although it's also carved out a niche in the world of horror — where "A24" stands for an atmospheric, artfully-made slow burn — A24 is arguably best known as a clearinghouse for semi-autobiographical dramedies like Lady Bird and The Farewell. But that's not all that the hip indie distributor that could has brought to audiences over the past 10 years — far from it. Our roundup of the best A24 films, unveiled in chronological order, also includes brutal thrillers, acerbic comedy, intellectual sci-fi, and good-natured chaos.

<i>Ex Machina</i> (2014)

An early triumph for both A24 and writer-director Alex Garland, Ex Machina blends existential horror and intellectual sci-fi in a way that pushes both genres forward.

The story unfolds cleanly and efficiently, featuring only three characters — genius tech CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), his awed underling Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), and Bateman's latest creation, a sexualized piece of AI named Ava (Alicia Vikander) — in a single location. The ideas presented in the film are complex, however, which makes the film's decision to get out of its own way stylistically seem even smarter.

Available on: HBO Max

MCDEXMA_EC028
MCDEXMA_EC028

<i>Green Room</i> (2015)

Before A24 became an Oscar darling, the then-nascent studio released one of the most brutal thrillers of the 2010s in the form of Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room.

Starring the late, great Anton Yelchin alongside Alia Shawkat and Imogen Poots, Green Room is a siege movie marked by scuzzy realism and a palpable sense of danger, as the members of the punk rock band Ain't Rights fight for their lives after witnessing a murder at an isolated Oregon music venue. Patrick Stewart co-stars, playing against type as the ruthless leader of the film's villainous band of neo-Nazi skinheads.

Available on: Showtime

GREEN ROOM
GREEN ROOM

<i>The Lobster</i> (2015)

The Lobster shares an acerbic, more than slightly skewed sense of humor with its co-writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos. But even if dry European arthouse comedies aren't necessarily your thing, The Lobster skewers society's expectations around love and relationships so expertly that any single person will find something relatable in this deeply weird film.

Colin Farrell stars as a single sad sack who enrolls in a government-mandated program to find a mate within 45 days, or else he'll be turned into the animal of his choice — in this case, the flavorful crustacean of the title.

Available on: Showtime

colin-farrell-the-lobster
colin-farrell-the-lobster

<i>The Witch</i> (2015)

Don't go into Robert Eggers' debut feature The Witch expecting a rollercoaster ride. You'll like it much better if you don't. That's because The Witch is a thoughtful slow burn steeped in history — portions of the dialogue were lifted from actual 17th-century witchcraft trial transcripts — and atmospheric dread, with provocative points of view about gender relations, religious oppression, and living deliciously.

This controversial cornerstone of 2010s-style "elevated horror" also gave Anya Taylor-Joy her first starring role as the eldest daughter of a fanatical family of New England puritans whose worst fears come true when her parents accuse her of being in league with Satan.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel

The Witch (2016)Anya Taylor-Joy
The Witch (2016)Anya Taylor-Joy

<i>20th Century Women</i> (2016)

Writer-director Mike Mills drew inspiration from the strong women who raised him for 20th Century Women, an engaging dramedy that pulls off the tricky task of being both relatable and specific. Annette Bening, resplendent in jumpsuits and paisley with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, stands in for Mills' own mother, an artist in '70s Santa Barbara, California who's trying to raise her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) to be a good man.

Other influences in young Lucas' life include the family's punk-rock tenant Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and next-door neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning), both of whom help this confused young man on his path to adulthood.

Available on: Showtime

20th century women
20th century women

<i>American Honey</i> (2016)

Acclaimed English filmmaker Andrea Arnold brings her gritty, impressionistic style Stateside with American Honey, about a chosen family of adolescent misfits and their hard-partying adventures traveling the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions. (Magazines in 2016? Really? Yes — sort of.) Arnold specializes in working with nonprofessional actors, and blends a motley crew of young people recruited in parking lots with established actors like Sasha Stone, Riley Keough, and Shia LaBeouf for this sprawling, free-spirited coming-of-age tale.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel

American Honey (2016)Sasha Lane
American Honey (2016)Sasha Lane

<i>Moonlight</i> (2016)

Sensual, evocative, and achingly beautiful, Barry Jenkins' Moonlight is a modern classic of queer cinema, Black cinema, and American filmmaking as a whole. Moonlight was also A24's first major awards-season contender, and won three Oscars including Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and, famously, Best Picture.

The film follows a young Black man in South Florida at three critical stages of his development, with three different actors — Alex R. Hibbert,  Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes — playing the protagonist, alternately known as Little, Chiron, and Black. Mahershala Ali co-stars as a small-time drug dealer who mentors young Little, with Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and André Holland as Chiron's childhood friend and tentative love interest Kevin.

Available on: Showtime

Moonlight
Moonlight

<i>First Reformed</i> (2017)

Tortured loners are a staple of Paul Schrader's filmography, and First Reformed — the first, and so far only, collaboration between the Oscar-winning filmmaker and A24 — updates the Taxi Driver formula for the 21st century, grappling with questions of existential despair and faith in the face of environmental disaster.

Ethan Hawke stars in a powerhouse performance as Ernst Toller, the pastor of a historical church in upstate New York whose beliefs are pushed to their limit by a radical environmental activist who joins his congregation.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, fuboTV

First Reformed
First Reformed

<i>The Florida Project</i> (2017)

Filmmaker Sean Baker specializes in tragicomic odes to all-American oddballs and outcasts. And The Florida Project, Baker's first collaboration with A24, is the sweetest in his filmography, focusing on the makeshift families living in a run-down Orlando motel in the shadow of the Happiest Place on Earth. Brooklynn Prince, who was only six years old when the film was shot, makes an auspicious debut as precocious resident Moonee. But it's Willem Dafoe's Academy Award-nominated turn as the kindly motel manager that gives The Florida Project heart.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, fuboTV

61st BFI London Film Festival - Headline Galas, Strand Galas and Special Presentations
61st BFI London Film Festival - Headline Galas, Strand Galas and Special Presentations

<i>Lady Bird</i> (2017)

An affectionate, vulnerable look at adolescent angst and the fractious but loving relationships between mothers and daughters, Lady Bird not only made Greta Gerwig the sweetheart of her hometown of Sacramento, California, it made her an Academy favorite as well.

Featuring breakout turns from Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein (not to mention one Timotheé Chalamet as the teenage f--kboy who breaks our title character's heart), Lady Bird is a small miracle of a coming-of-age movie with an emotional authenticity that cannot be denied.

Available on: Showtime, fuboTV, The Roku Channel

Lady BirdSaoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein
Lady BirdSaoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein

<i>Eighth Grade</i> (2018)

Few movies capture the awkwardness and abject humiliation of the preteen experience as accurately as Eighth Grade, a film that director Bo Burnham says was inspired by going on YouTube and watching vlogs with zero views. (Ouch.)

Our 13-year-old protagonist Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is an aspiring influencer as well, and spends her time making advice videos that belie her confusion and insecurity, even as she tries to give her nonexistent audience tips on how to be more confident. The film is hardly an anti-technology screed, however, and observes 21st-century adolescent life —which, yes, largely revolves around phones —with uncommon sensitivity.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, fuboTV

Eighth GradeElsie Fisher
Eighth GradeElsie Fisher

<i>Hereditary</i> (2018)

Lots of movies get caught up in festival hype, but Hereditary is one of the few that has lived up to it. Early reviews at Sundance 2018 gave the film a pre-release reputation as the scariest movie to come along in quite some time. And Ari Aster's debut feature does have its secrets, which we won't reveal here.

But we can say that the horror of Hereditary is emotional as well as supernatural. In a just world, Toni Collette would also have been nominated for an Oscar for her soul-shattering performance in the film, but viral fame will have to do.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, fuboTV

HereditaryToni Collette
HereditaryToni Collette

<i>The Farewell</i> (2019)

As with 20th Century Women, the success of Lulu Wang's semi-autobiographical film The Farewell lies in its ability to evoke universal emotions within a culturally specific context.

For Wang, that context is a trip to China, where American-born Billie (Awkwafina) and her emigrant parents prepare to say goodbye to beloved family matriarch Nai Nai (Shuzen Zhao), who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The problem is, no one wants to tell Nai Nai that she's dying.

The awkwardness that ensues is tempered with a poignant message and lots of laughs, many of which come from Zhao's scene-stealing turn as the eccentric Nai Nai.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, Viki, Sling TV, fuboTV

The Farewell
The Farewell

<i>First Cow</i> (2019)

Don't be misled by its modest scale: First Cow has more to say about entrepreneurship and the American dream than epic dramas three times its size. The film is set in 1820s Oregon, where the sheepish Cookie (John Magaro) is making his way West with a group of fur trappers.

Soon after his arrival, a chance meeting with an ambitious Chinese immigrant named King-Lu (Orion Lee) leads to a frontier bromance for the ages. King-Lu encourages Cookie to make and sell his signature oily cakes, but there's just one problem — oily cakes are made with milk, and there's only one cow in the entire territory. Co-write and director Kelly Reichardt's gentle version of slapstick hijinks ensues.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, fuboTV

First Cow
First Cow

<i>The Last Black Man in San Francisco</i> (2019)

An offbeat, poignant take on the growing issue of gentrification, The Last Black Man in San Francisco was co-written by lifelong friends Jimmie Fails (who also stars) and Joe Talbot (who also directs), both of whom grew up observing the transformation — some might even say destruction — of their beloved Bay Area.

That sense of longing and loss runs throughout the film, co-starring Fails and Jonathan Majors as Black San Franciscans who decide to squat in a Victorian mansion built by one of their grandfathers after the house's current owners lose possession of it in a legal dispute.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, fuboTV

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (L to R) Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (L to R) Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors

<i>Uncut Gems</i> (2019)

Sibling directing duo Josh and Benny Safdie reunited with A24 for Uncut Gems, the brothers' second film for the distributor after 2017's Good Time. Both films are fueled by a panicky, manic energy and a deep appreciation for the scummier, more eccentric corners of New York City.

But Uncut Gems lit social media aflame thanks to a charismatic lead performance from Adam Sandler, who likes to remind everyone every once in a while that he can act, thank you very much.

Available on: Peacock

Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems

<i>Minari</i> (2020)

Combining the threads of Oscar bait, semi-autobiographical filmmaking, and meditations on America, Minari may actually be the ultimate A24 release. It's a good one, too, with fantastic performances, thoughtful character development, and a vividly rendered sense of place.

Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung based the film on his experience growing up on an Arkansas vegetable farm with his Korean immigrant parents, played here by Steven Yeun and Yeri Han. Legendary South Korean actress Yuh-jung Youn took home the film's sole Oscar for her performance as eccentric grandma Soonja, but child star Alan Kim also won innumerable hearts during the film's awards-season run.

Available on: Showtime

Minari
Minari

<i>Zola</i> (2020)

If movies based on tweets really are an inevitability, may they all be as witty and wild as Zola. The performances in director Janicza Bravo's feature-length debut are beyond memorable, with strong supporting turns from Riley Keough and Colman Domingo as a shady pair of two-bit hustlers on the Florida sex-work scene. Taylour Paige also shines as skeptical everywoman Zola, but the film's strongest voice is behind the camera, as Bravo finds inventive and entertaining ways to translate a tweetstorm for the big screen.

Available on: Showtime, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, fuboTV

Nick Braun as &quot;Derrek&quot;, Riley Keough as &quot;Stefani&quot;, Taylour Paige as &quot;Zola&quot;, and Colman Domingo as &quot;X&quot;
Nick Braun as "Derrek", Riley Keough as "Stefani", Taylour Paige as "Zola", and Colman Domingo as "X"

<i>Everything Everywhere All At Once</i> (2022)

Directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schienert, a.k.a. Daniels, have been working with A24 since 2016's Swiss Army Man. But their madcap take on the multiverse trend with Everything Everywhere All at Once brought their career to new heights, both critically and at the box office.

Having the legendary Michelle Yeoh in a starring role never hurts, even if she's playing against type as the harried owner of a failing laundromat who keeps trying (and failing) to file her taxes. Summing up what happens next is nearly impossible, so suffice to say: You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll say "WTF?" You'll gain a new appreciation for bagels, butt plugs, and Jamie Lee Curtis in a turtleneck. Don't ask — just watch.

Available: To rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Viki

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

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