The 50 Greatest A24 Films (40-31)

There’s no denying the magic cinema holds (one of its pioneers was a magician after all) but one of the seldom discussed spells it weaves on an audience is that of the logo. it’s the first thing an audience sees and depending on the quality of the films that the studio releases, the happier they are every time they see them. Children of all ages respond to Disney and Pixar, old-school horror fans love Hammer and Universal and everyone recognizes the famous lion roar of MGM. Miramax conjures images of ’90s indie films, New Line Cinema is closely associated with The Nightmare on Elm Street series and few things are as nostalgic for some moviegoers as Orion and Cannon. A logo is that studio’s seal of quality. As long as they produce quality films, seeing that logo pop up should tell the audience that they’re in good hands. Since its inception in 2012, A24 set out to be the ultimate seal of quality. Whether it’s producing or distributing, It has become a frequent destination for some of the biggest names in the business. It’s no exaggeration to say that in the eleven years, they’ve been around, they’ve consistently proven themselves to be every bit the equal of their competitors. Seeing the A24 logo pop up in front of a movie is the surest sign that movie will be great.

These are the 50 Greatest A24 Films.

40. Climax (2018)

I’ve never done drugs, much less went on a trip, but after watching Climax I feel like I have a pretty good idea of the feeling. Climax follows a French dance troupe at the end of a days-long rehearsal in an abandoned school. The final night is a success, until the members drink Sangria that, unbeknownst to them, has been spiked with LSD. From start to finish, Climax is an overwhelming sensory experience that never lets the viewer rest, beginning with a mesmerizing, breathless opening dance scene that continues in a ridiculously extended one-shot as it introduces the relationships between all the characters in the room. As the situation continues to devolve, you almost feel as delirious and exhausted as the characters frantically trying to survive the harrowing situation. Love it or hate it, it’s a visceral experience that makes you feel exactly what director Gaspar Noé intended.

Jacob Holmes

39. The End of the Tour (2015)

If you’ve dismissed Jesse Eisenberg as a one trick pony who plays the same character in every movie or only know Jason Segel from his comedic work, The End of the Tour will change your opinion of both actors. The film is a fictionalized account of David Lipsky’s book, “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,” which documents his five-day Rolling Stone interview with acclaimed writer David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest. Segel delivers a career-defining performance as David Foster Wallace, capturing the nuances of his voice, mannerisms, and thought process. He portrays Wallace as a complex, conflicted character who is both funny and profound in his observations about the human condition. Eisenberg, meanwhile, is excellent as Lipsky, a young and ambitious writer who is both in awe of Wallace’s talent and jealous of his success.

One of the film’s many strengths is how it explores the theme of creativity and the toll it can take on a person. Wallace is a deeply introspective writer who grapples with depression, loneliness, and addiction, and the film doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of his life. He is portrayed as someone who is always searching for meaning and purpose in his work, but is also plagued by self-doubt and anxiety.

The film is about friendship and the complexities that come with it. Lipsky is initially drawn to Wallace because of his talent and fame, but as they spend more time together, they begin to develop a genuine connection. The film beautifully captures the nuances of their interactions, from their playful banter to their more serious discussions about life and art. At its heart, The End of the Tour is a film about the power of words and the transformative effect they can have. It’s a movie that celebrates the importance of literature and the way it can touch our lives in profound ways.

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38. Waves (2019)

Of all directors A24 have essentially created (collaborated with from the beginning of their career as opposed to throwing money at a previously established director who already has a couple of films under their belt), Trey Edward Shults might have the best chance out of all of them to be the best. Which is saying a lot considering a good handful of them have perfect filmographies and Shults directors It Comes at Night. As much as I dislike that film, it’s actual evidence to support my previous statement. If you like that film, it’s because the tension and dread work for you and any director who could successfully scare you with his first film, almost give you a panic attack with his follow up and then hit every emotion with his third film, is definitely a top tier talent. Waves is a profound and emotionally challenging drama that explores the complexities of human relationships and the impact of tragedy on the human psyche. The film follows the lives of an African American family living in South Florida, led by patriarch Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), whose high expectations and strict parenting style places a heavy burden on his teenage son Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Tyler is a popular high school student and a star athlete, but he is struggling to cope with the demands of his father, the stress of school, and his romantic relationship with his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie). When Tyler suffers a severe sports injury, he becomes addicted to painkillers, and the downward spiral that follows has devastating consequences for him and his family.

Waves is a visually stunning and deeply affecting film that uses color, sound, and movement to tell its story. Shults employs a dizzyingly immersive camera style that places viewers inside the minds and emotions of the characters, creating an almost visceral experience. The film’s use of a pulsating score by composer Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross adds to the tension and urgency of the story, and the sound design enhances the sensory detail of each scene. Waves is a film that demands to be felt rather than simply watched. It transcends the conventional confines of the family drama genre and speaks to universal themes of pain, forgiveness, and hope. It is a testament to the power of cinema to move and inspire, and a film that will leave a deep impression on anyone who watches it.

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37. The Rover (2014)

Set ten years after an unspecified global collapse, The Rover is a bleak and violent journey through a post-apocalyptic Australia. A reworking of The Bicycle Thieves by way of Mad Max, the film opens on Guy Pearce’s dour Eric as he watches a group of thieves speed away in his stolen truck. In a single-minded quest to retrieve his vehicle, Eric finds himself partnering with Rey (Robert Pattinson), a wounded and somewhat simple-minded member of the gang who was left behind during the heist. Together, they embark on a dangerous and deadly journey through a lawless and desolate landscape.

If all The Rover had to offer was unflinching violence and its realistic depiction of a post-apocalypse, it still would’ve made the list but what separates The Rover from other films of its ilk is the relationship at the heart of the film. The performances and chemistry of Pearce and Pattinson are both exceptional. Pearce delivers a simmering intensity in his portrayal of Eric, a man who has lost everything and has nothing left to lose. Pattinson’s Rey is a surprising revelation, offering a nuanced and layered performance of a simple man who is both innocent and deadly.

While the performances are reason enough to see this film, be warned, it may ultimately prove too bleak and unrelenting for some viewers. The Rover, like The Road before it, is a challenging and provocative exploration of humanity in a world gone mad, but its unyielding darkness may leave some feeling emotionally drained and disheartened.

The Rover is a haunting and unforgettable film that showcases the talents of its director, writer (Joel Edgerton!) and cast. It is a bleak and brutal journey through a lawless wasteland, but also a powerful exploration of the human spirit in the face of adversity and brutality. It is not a comfortable viewing experience, but for those willing to brave its unrelenting darkness, it is a film that will leave a stain on the viewer.

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36. Red Rocket (2021)

Sean Baker really has a knack for capturing life on the fringes of society and just making it feel intimately real. In the case of Red Rocket, that isn’t always comfortable as our “protagonist” Mikey courts and manipulates a 17-year-old girl who he sees as his ticket back into the porn industry. Simon Rex is hilarious and charming in the role, but ultimately detestable as he just seeks how he can use the next person to get himself by. But he’s not a monster, he’s still human. And Susannah Son makes a brilliant debut as Strawberry. Red Rocket is not as good as Baker’s A24 debut (more on that later), but it’s a solid follow-up that has us waiting on what he’ll do next.

Jacob Holmes

35. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

With the sudden obsession the internet has now with trying to imitate the look and feel of the works of Wes Anderson — with their AI made movie mash ups and real life pictures that capture his aesthetic — you would think that would make him the most singular voice in cinema. It’s true, no other film looks like a Wes Anderson film but that just means he, like Tim Burton and David Lynch, have an instantly recognizable style. Remove the style and his film’s plots, while admittedly quirky, aren’t that odd. Now, a director who has an unmistakable style who also tells crazy stories? That’s Yorgos Lanthimos, the most singular director working today. Each of his films feel like they take place on another planet. A planet where everything feels like our world but everyone acts peculiar and everything’s just a bit off. You could literally point to any one of his films as an example but the best example of his unique vision is The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A haunting and thought-provoking film that explores the darkest corners of the human psyche, Lanthimos presents a disturbing and unnerving story that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

The story follows Steven, a successful surgeon, who takes a troubled teenage boy named Martin under his wing. As the relationship between Steven (Colin Farrell) and Martin (Barry Keoghan) develops, it becomes apparent that something sinister is at play and Martin seeks revenge for a past tragedy that Steven was involved in. To reveal anymore would be criminal, but let’s just say, you’ve never seen any revenge story quite like this. The way the film’s story unfolds is masterful but the true star of the show are the performances, which are all exceptional.

Farrell fully embodies his character’s stoic and controlled demeanor, while also conveying his deep fear and desperation. Keoghan as Martin delivers a chilling performance, both unnerving and sympathetic at the same time. Nicole Kidman is also noteworthy as Steven’s wife, Anna, providing a strong and empathetic presence in the film. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a disturbing meditation on fate, morality, and the lengths that people will go to protect themselves and their loved ones. It is a film that will stick with you long after the credits roll, forcing you to question your own values and beliefs.

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34. Midsommar Director’s Cut (2019)

When I first saw Midsommar, it frustrated me something fierce. On one hand, it’s an impeccably shot film that looks absolutely gorgeous, that has great performances and a unique setting but on the other hand, the premise just doesn’t work. The director said that the film is one type of film for one character and a completely different film for everyone else. It’s supposed to be a horror film for everyone you know will eventually die and a fairy tale for the lead and, while I could see that, the film itself didn’t earn it. The horror portion of the film was never scary and I don’t buy the fairy tale bit at all. But it never left my mind. I may not have liked it but a lot of its visuals stuck with me and I just couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing something that was keeping me from loving it. Jump ahead years and I finally decided to watch the Director’s Cut and it finally clicked. Those additional 23 minutes, along with the other tweeks and minor changes Aster made, really make the difference. Character motivations make more sense, the tension works far better this time around and the main relationship at the center of it finally works. It’s not the most significant director’s cut off all time (if you already liked it before, it doesn’t add that much for you to change your opinion about it) but it does do enough to turn an ok movie into the future classic it was always meant to be.

From acclaimed director Ari Aster comes Midsommar, a beautifully disturbing and beautifully shot horror film that takes us deep into a terrifying and surreal cult worldSet against the backdrop of a remote Swedish village, the film follows the journey of Dani (Florence Pugh) as she travels with her boyfriend and his friends to witness a once-in-a-lifetime festival. However, things soon take a dark turnAs the group delves deeper into the community’s rituals and customs, they begin to realize that they are in the midst of a terrifying and ancient pagan cult. The film is a slow burn, taking its time to build suspense and tension. The relationship dynamics between each character are well-developed, adding a layer of emotional depth to the overall story. While it’s not for everyone, those who are willing to embrace the slow burn and chillingly surreal world of Midsommar will be rewarded with a truly unforgettable cinematic experience.

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33. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)

A24’s one and only (kind of) animated project, which was nominated for Best Animated Film at the 2023 Oscars. This live-action, stop-motion blend brings Marcel the Shell, first introduced in a series of charming Youtube shorts more than a decade ago, to the big screen in glorious fashion. Voiced by Jenny Slate, Marcel ponders the giant world around him with wonder and brings a new perspective to everyday household things. The movie is one of the funniest from the studio, but still reaches deeper into the meaning of community and family. 

Jacob Holmes

32. Locke (2013)

Set entirely within the confines of a single vehicle, Locke is a unique experience in which it’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Tom Hardy playing the lead role. Rather than supervise a record-breaking concrete pour, construction foreman Ivan Locke sets off in his car, where he engages in a number of phone calls (36 to be precise). The reasons for jeopardizing his entire career gradually unfold through the course of the 90-minute car journey. The plot is gripping, but the real attraction here is Hardy’s exceptional performance under limited circumstances. Single-setting films are an extremely difficult thing to get right, but Locke shows just how good they can be if you have the right person at the forefront. 

Lee McCutcheon

31. The Souvenir (2019)

Simply reading about The Souvenir, you’d be forgiven for assuming it was a clichéd ridden vanity piece. For one thing, it’s an autobiography by the writer/director about how hard their life was before they started making movies. Strike one. Then the plot synopsis is “a shy film student falls into an intense relationship with a charismatic but untrustworthy older man, despite concern from her mother and friends.” Strike two. But like the best biopics, this is a warts and all portrait of a character the filmmaker refuses to let off the hook. There is no bigger critic of Joanna Hogg then Joanna Hogg. She makes so many terrible and questionable decisions, it’s impossible to be sympathetic to her downfall. Which makes for a deliciously camp melodrama. Following “Julie” as she navigates relationships, career aspirations, and addiction in the 1980s is as frustrating as it is rewarding. One of the reasons the film never becomes unbearable is due to the lead performance. Honor Swinton Byrne shines as Hoag’s avatar, delivering a delicate and nuanced performance that captures the vulnerability and uncertainty of youth. As she falls for the charismatic and mysterious Anthony, played by Tom Burke, Julie’s idyllic life begins to unravel. The Souvenir is not a traditional love story, but rather a meditation on the complexities of relationships and the challenges of an artist’s life.

Hogg’s direction of this film is nothing short of masterful. Her use of close-ups and still shots create an immersive experience that transports the viewer into Julie’s world. The film, shot on 16mm, features a muted color palette that conveys the darkness and isolation of Julie’s journey. The choice to include footage of the Falklands War, a constant backdrop to Julie’s daily life, speaks to the larger political and social issues of the time.

The Souvenir is not an easy film to watch, nor is it meant to be. Through subtle storytelling and rich character development, Hogg reveals the complexities of living as a young artist in a world that values commercial success over creativity. She addresses the compromises one must make to be a part of society while remaining true to oneself. The film delicately explores the effects of class, addiction, and emotional abuse on the human psyche. As a renowned film critic, Pauline Kael once commented, “The movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them”. The Souvenir is far from trash, but Kael’s sentiment about the power of film to connect with the audience rings true. This film is not only a work of art but a deeply moving experience. Through Hogg’s direction and Swinton Byrne’s performance, The Souvenir transcends the traditional bounds of storytelling and arrives at something truly magical.

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50-41 | 30-21

What are some of your favorite films released by A24? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!