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.
50. The Green Knight (2021)
I really want to like the films of David Lowery. He’s clearly got an eye for visuals and that mustache could be in the hall of fame alongside Selleck, Elliott, Fu Manchu and Hitler but there’s something about his films that just don’t click with me. I liked Pete’s Dragon while I was watching it but it didn’t stick with me; Ain’t Them Bodies Saints did nothing for me and A Ghost Story gets dangerously close to being unbearably pretentious. I haven’t loved anything he’s done but I also recognize his talent, which is why I haven’t dismissed him as a boring hipster who’s trying too hard to impress me with his bullshit. Which is exactly how I feel about The Green Knight. If I wanted to be a cynic, I could easily rip this film apart and dismiss it as a tryhard exercise in style over substance. I could say, if I was so inclined, that every shot feels as though Lowery is nudging you and whispering “you like that shot? It’s pretty, ain’t it?’ while simultaneously patting himself on the back as he jerks off to that same image. I could also say it’s far too long and meanders with very little in it that’s important to the plot. You can cut out at least five or six sequences and you’d lose nothing. Having said all that, I still liked a lot about it. I could really go to town on this movie and nitpick it to death but for some reason, there’s a part of me that wants to celebrate it for just existing. It’s a mess of a movie but there’s really nothing else quite like it. There’s an hypnotic quality to the film that sucked me in and kept me engaged despite my issues with it. Some of that is due to Del Patel’s performance, which is great as always but a large part of what works about it are the visuals. It’s a feast for the eyes. There are scenes in this that will linger in my mind for years to come. I just wish the plot was as rewarding.
49. The Death of Dick Long (2019)
Those who have seen The Death of Dick Long know there’s a major twist beginning the final act that really takes this film into some uncomfortable territory. The Daniels have shown time and time again that they are willing to push the boundaries of the taboo to explore sides of humanity not often seen on film, and they handle it well in this film. For those who haven’t seen the film, it tells the story of a group of friends in Alabama that get drunk and go party following a jam session and — as the title suggests — one of them doesn’t make it out alive. In a structure reminiscent of The Hangover, the audience isn’t clued into what went down that night. All we know is that Zeke and Earl are now trying to cover their tracks, in a hilariously bumbling Alabama manner, while the local, underpowered police force begins putting some of the pieces together themselves. As an Alabamian myself, I truly enjoyed the characters of Zeke and Earl in the early going and saw a lot of accuracy to the personalities of rural Alabamians. The curveball cause of death is shocking and practically unforgivable, but the directors are improbably able to find humanity in the situation.
48. The Humans (2021)
A family drama that chronicles the trials and tribulations of a family dinner gone awry, The Humans is a quietly devastating depiction of the pressures that modern life can exert on even the most seemingly stable of family units. The film opens with a montage of bleak New York City scenery,setting the tone for the rest of the film, which takes place in a cramped lower-level apartment in Chinatown. Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and her boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun) have invited their respective families to their new apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. Brigid’s parents, Erik (Richard Jenkins) and Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell), arrive first, followed by her sister Aimee (Amy Schumer) and their grandmother (June Squibb).
As the family settles into their new surroundings, tensions quickly arise. Erik, a former maintenance man and Vietnam veteran, is struggling to adjust to retirement and an empty nest. Deirdre, a devout Catholic, finds herself struggling to connect with Brigid’s bohemian lifestyle. Aimee is dealing with health issues, and Richard is attempting to navigate the complex dynamics of his own family. And lurking underneath it all is a sense of unease, a feeling that something sinister is just waiting to emerge.
What makes the film so powerful is the way in which the film’s director Stephen Karam folds these disparate threads together, gradually building up a sense of unease that is both palpable and deeply unsettling. Working with a limited budget, Karam makes ingenious use of the film’s cramped setting, squeezing his characters into increasingly tight spaces until they are practically tripping over one another. The result is a claustrophobic masterpiece, a film that is at once intimate and sprawling, suffused with a sense of dread that is both borderline agoraphobic and wholly enveloping.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about The Humans is the way in which Karam uses his characters to explore some of the pressing issues of our time, from the difficulties of caregiving to the challenges posed by gentrification. At its core, however, The Humans is a film about family, and the ways in which we are all shaped by the people we love (and sometimes hate) the most. At times deeply uncomfortable and always uncompromising, The Humans is a film that demands your attention from beginning to end. It is a masterful work of cinema, one that cements Karam’s status as one of the most important voices in contemporary filmmaking.
47. After Yang (2021)
Despite sounding like a band from the early 2010s your pretentious friend just won’t shut up about, After Yang is actually a deeply nuanced film that explores the relationship between a family and their robotic member, an AI caregiver named Yang, who malfunctions and eventually dies, leading the family on a journey to find answers and closure. The film is visually stunning, with gorgeous cinematography and breathtaking locations that emphasize the emotional weight of the story. The futuristic architecture and sleek technology of the film’s world are seamlessly integrated into the narrative, making it feel both familiar and foreign. This is a credit to Kogonada’s meticulous attention to detail, which makes the film’s world-building feel authentic and immersive.
However, the true heart of After Yang lies in its poignant exploration of grief and loss. The relationship between the family members, particularly the father (Farrell) and daughter (Richardson), is touching and authentic, and their reactions to losing Yang are palpable and heart-wrenching. The film takes a nuanced approach to the idea of AI as a replacement for humans, which adds to the emotional complexity of the story. The performances in After Yang are universally strong, with each actor bringing their A-game to the table. Farrell (who was on fire this year) delivers a subtle and layered performance as the grieving father, while Richardson shines as the daughter struggling to come to terms with the loss of her companion. Turner-Smith is also fantastic as the AI specialist who helps the family in their search for answers.
While the film’s pacing is deliberate, it never feels slow or meandering. Instead, it allows time for the characters and the story to breathe, making the emotional payoff all the more satisfying. The film’s climax is both cathartic and bittersweet, providing a satisfying resolution without tying everything up in a neat bow. Overall, After Yang is a poignant and thought-provoking sci-fi drama that explores themes of grief, loss, and humanity with nuance and sensitivity. Kogonada’s direction, the stunning visuals, and the strong performances make this film a must-see for fans of the genre and those looking for an emotionally resonant story.
46. Zola (2020)
Based on the real-life Twitter thread that went viral in 2015, Zola is a wild as fuck ride that follows the titular character, played brilliantly by Taylour Paige, as she embarks on a spontaneous road trip to Florida with a stripper named Stefani, played by Riley Keough. The two women quickly become entangled in a world of raunchy stripping, shady characters, and dangerous situations. Paige is a standout in the film, bringing depth and nuance to Zola’s character. She portrays a young woman who is brave, determined, and yet vulnerable. Her performance carries the film, and makes the audience root for her throughout the craziness. Keough also delivers an impressive performance as Stefani, a character who is simultaneously unpredictable and manipulative. She has a magnetic presence on screen, and the chemistry between her and Paige is electrifying.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is the way it uses social media to tell its story. The Twitter thread serves as a framing device, with the film’s narration being taken directly from the original thread. It adds a modern and unique approach to the storytelling, and makes the film feel both fresh and authentic. Bravo’s direction is also noteworthy, with the way she uses color, lighting, and visual effects to create a surreal and dream-like atmosphere. This is particularly notable during the film’s climactic scene, which is both intense and visually stunning. The film exposes the darker side of the human experience and our obsession with social media. It is a must-see for those who enjoy dark comedies and character-driven narratives.
45. 20th Century Women (2016)
20th Century Women is a remarkable film that explores the complexities of womanhood in the late 1970s, through the lens of a single mother, Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening who was robbed an Oscar nom), and her relationship with the people in her life. The film is set in Santa Barbara, California, and revolves around the coming-of-age of her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Hedges), as he navigates the challenges of evolving societal expectations and personal growth. At the heart of the story is Dorothea, a fiercely independent woman who is grappling with her own sense of identity in a world that is changing fast. Bening delivers a nuanced and powerful performance, capturing both the vulnerability and strength of her character. Dorothea is a woman who is deeply committed to her son and her community, but also yearns for more in life. As she seeks to understand her son’s world, she enlists the help of two other women in her life, Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning), both of whom are grappling with their own personal struggles.
The film uses a nonlinear structure to explore each character’s journey, interweaving flashbacks, voiceovers and moments of stillness to reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings. This approach lends the film a deep sense of intimacy, and director Mike Mills handles it with skill and sensitivity. The result is a thoughtful and poignant meditation on the nature of human connection, growth, and evolution. As Roger Ebert would say, it’s a film that “connects with us deeply and profoundly, touching on universal experiences and emotions that we can all relate to.” It is an insightful and moving portrait of womanhood, family, and community, and a reminder that despite the challenges of life, there is always room for growth and transformation.
44. Obvious Child (2014)
You won’t find many rom-coms produced by A24 and one of the rom-coms you will find is about abortion. Obvious Child was born from Gillian Robespierre’s frustration with how unplanned pregnancy was depicted in films. Wanting to destigmatize abortion, Robespierre wrote Obvious Child, where a young woman plans to terminate an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy without regret. I loved Jenny Slate’s performance in this. Funny as hell and earnest at the same time. The topic of abortion is still rather taboo, even in Hollywood, but Obvious Child never edges into preachy territory. It handles the sensitive topic with humanity and humor and I feel as though the film is an important one, especially now.
43. Spring Breakers (2012)
One of the more divisive movies in A24’s repertoire, Spring Breakers deserves its spot on this list if only for James Franco’s performance as Alien. The direction by Harmony Korine is certainly unconventional— late in the movie parts of a scene repeats itself multiple times with little explanation, sometimes crossing over with itself while Franco narrates, but it does lend a sense of a being in a drug-induced stupor. Franco is the breakout as the local rapper Alien, for whom spring break never really ends.
42. Lean on Pete (2017)
Between 2027-2019, Hollywood went horse crazy. There was so many movies about horses released in that window, that were even movies not about horses (Thoroughbreds and Horse Girl) were named after horses. I don’t know how or why the obsession started but thank God it did because it produced some truly fantastic films. Of all the equine films that mania produced, the best one was easily Lean on Pete. Directed by Andrew Haigh, the film takes on a journey through the dusty highways of the Pacific northwest along with our young protagonist, Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer), as he navigates the challenges of adolescence and the complexities of adulthood. Haigh paints a poignant portrait of the struggles of a teenage boy who craves stability, love, and a place to call home, all while caring for an aging racehorse named Lean on Pete. Plummer gives a phenomenal performance, conveying the emotional complexity and depth of Charley’s character with subtlety and nuance. As he runs away from home and embarks on a journey with Pete, we see Charley’s vulnerability and resilience in equal measure. He is determined to do right by Pete, despite the many obstacles that stand in his way.
Haigh masterfully captures the desolate beauty of the American west, using wide shots of the landscape to highlight Charley’s isolation and the vastness of his surroundings. The cinematography is stunning, with each scene expertly crafted to evoke the emotional apathy and struggle of our protagonist. Lean on Pete is not a simple coming-of-age story, but rather a melancholic meditation on the challenges of growing up in a world that can be cruel and unforgiving. Haigh doesn’t shy away from exploring the dark and gritty realities of Charley’s world, but he does so with sensitivity and empathy. It’s a moving and thought-provoking film, with outstanding performances and exceptional direction. It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit even in the most difficult of circumstances. Haigh has delivered a cinematic tour de force and one of the most powerful and affecting films of the year.
41. Pearl (2022)
Although they’ve released a number of critical abd commercial horror darlings over the years, their most interesting project was X. Not because it was Ti West’s return to horror or because it was a throwback to grindhouse films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but because it, like Iron Man before it, had a secret end credits scene that promised more sequels to come. X involved a porn crew in the ’70s renting out a guest house at a secluded farmstead in Texas owned by two creepy old people who proceed to kill them off one by one. It’s a solid little horror movie with a great cast lead by a tremendous duo performance by Mia Goth. Pearl is a prequel that takes place sixty years earlier following the titular murderous old lady from X as a young woman with dreams of Hollywood stardom who won’t let anyone or anything get in her way. With a vivid color palette and musical-esque pace, the calls to mind films of the Golden Age of Hollywood—particularly The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Mary Poppins (1964) but with a much darker edge.
Much like the previous film in the series, the plot seems like a clothesline in which to hang the director’s fetishistic homages and a showcase the talents of its lead. Their was an earnest attempt by the horror community to push Goth for an Oscar nom for her performance in this film and while I respect and admire their dedication (where were they for Toni Collette in Hereditary!?), that was never going to happen. Besides the fact that the Academy never recognizes horror, they certainly never nominate unsympathetic monsters. It’s refreshing to see a female villain as unflinching as Pearl. She has zero redeeming qualities and is as brutal as any horror icon. While I don’t think she’s iconic enough to be in the all time great villain pantheon, she is certainly one of the best horror creations of the last two decades. Hopefully the third film Maxxine ends the series on a high note.
What are some of your favorite films released by A24? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!