A24 is in its winner era right now and there is no doubt about it. Coming off of a slew of historic wins for Everything Everywhere All At Once at the 2023 Oscars and moving right into releasing some of the best movies of 2023 so far (I’m looking at you Past Lives!), A24 is kind of unstoppable as a movie distribution company.
But it wasn’t always awards and positive word of mouth for the auteur-centric film house. There was a time when A24 movies were releasing only to be gone as quick as they came—without much recognition or applause. Well, it’s time that we reclaim some of those movies that have been all but lost to the A24 history books.
10. ‘Red Rocket’
Sean Baker, the director of Red Rocket, is no stranger to A24 as he also directed 2017’s The Florida Project for the brand, but Red Rocket is special. A Texas-set story of a washed-up porn star who returns to his hometown even though nobody really wants him there maybe doesn’t sound super intriguing, but let me tell you that it absolutely is.
Simon Rex could have, without fuss from me or anybody else, made a run for Best Actor in 2022, and it would have been completely deserved. His earnest, funny, and authentic presence in a movie that is as much about finding yourself as it is about finding love (with some pinpoint political commentary on the beginning of the Trump era sprinkled in) makes it delightful. Also, this is Suzanna Son’s film debut and two years later I’m still shocked by how good she was.
9. ‘Swiss Army Man’
Look. Everybody knows The Daniels now for their immaculate, incredible, life-changing film Everything Everywhere All At Once, but what most people don’t know is that they directed another seriously oddball flick in 2016 starring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. Yes. You read that right. A farting corpse.
The movie follows Paul Dano (Paul Dano fan club, make some noise!) as a hopeless man stranded on a desert island who finds this farting corpse and uses it as a speedboat to get back to the mainland and search for civilization. All of that happens within the first 20 minutes or so and I don’t want to give any more of the movie away because it is just so unconventional and hilarious, so I’ll shut up now. But…the Jurassic Park theme song is sung, and Danielle Radcliffe uses his erect penis as a compass. Okay. I’m done. I swear. Go watch the movie.
8. ‘First Reformed’
I’m an Ethan Hawke guy. Always have been and always will be. The dude makes stellar movies. But one that needs to be higher on everyone’s Ethan Hawke rankings, and coincidentally their A24 rankings as well, is First Reformed.
Directed by the great Paul Schrader (The Card Counter, writer of Taxi Driver), the movie is a deep, unnerving character study of the minister of a small congregation that is actively dealing with worldly concerns and a tormented past. With one of the more shocking final 20 minutes of a film I’ve ever seen, the movie takes its time to earn what is sure to leave your jaw on the floor. Methodical and precise, deliberate and absorbing—First Reformed is a banger.
In his movie directorial debut, Jonah Hill is able to extensively capture the feeling of growing up in the 90s in Los Angeles through the eyes of 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic, who is also actually a professional skateboarder). It’s almost magical in a melancholic way.
The longing of not only that time period in America, but also that time period of your life where you found a group of friends and did every single thing with them every single day of the summer—in this case skateboarding.
The soundtrack is unreal, featuring all bangers all the time as Kendall Roy would say, as is the deeply satisfying and connective story about navigating life at such a young age. It also features the single greatest movie nickname of all time. You’ll know it when you hear it.
6. ‘Obvious Child’
An 84-minute romantic comedy featuring both Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy trying to traverse the complications of a relationship and an abortion? Say less. With how topical abortion currently is in the culture, watching this movie (mostly a pure comedy), tackle such a heavy theme with such delicacy and humor is a treat.
The chemistry between Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy is youthful and energetic and leads to one of the funniest bits I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time. Nobody talks about this movie; how funny it is, and how powerful its messaging of female independence is. And for that, it’s ridiculously underrated among A24 movies.
5. ‘Under The Silver Lake’
Heavily contrary to the number six pick above, Under The Silver Lake is a near-ethereal journey through the dark underbelly of Los Angeles featuring hints, clues, and puzzle pieces to what the meaning of the film actually is.
Just mentioning A24 and Andrew Garfield in the same sentence should pique your interest; but if that doesn’t, then how about tossing in an excellently-acted Riley Keough performance and a score that replicates that of the Golden Age of Hollywood? Sold now?
The perceived deeper meanings of the movie, and life, won’t catch everybody’s interest, but if you submit to the strange, seductive journey that the movie takes you on, I can guarantee it’ll slide up your ranking of A24 movies.
4. ’20th Century Women’
How we, as a society, have basically forgotten about a movie written and directed by Mike Mills starring Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup is beyond me, but now is our time to fix that. A deeply pivotal text for movies about young boys raised by women, 20th Century Women is hilarious and heartbreaking, powerfully true, and delicately loving.
The journey of being raised by those who are not related to you by blood exudes from the screen, making you feel a sense of authentic belonging to the characters. Not a film, but an experience—that’s what 20th Century Women is.
3. ‘C’Mon C’Mon’
Mike Mills occupying two of the top five spots on this list is no mistake. And this entry being one that stars the ever-present face of modern-day Hollywood in Joaquin Phoenix is, again, not a mistake. I remember watching this movie in a theater, alone, on a weekday afternoon. I cried so much. Like, so, so much. Highly recommended experience.
The tender script, the painfully sincere interactions between adult and child, and the charming black-and-white color palette all work together to create a disarming film that will linger in your heart and your mind for days afterward.
2. ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’
With Yorgos Lanthimos releasing Poor Things this year, it’s only right that we put some respect on one of his lesser-loved films. Not only is this movie guided by stellar performances from Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, and Nicole Kidman, but it is so devious and deceptive that you can’t help but be obsessed with it.
In standard Lanthimos fashion, the performances are keen to leave you postulating the true intentions of characters, with an ominous style of cinematography guiding the unnerving nature of the plot. Plus, it’s got a true A24-style final act with a deep, wild twist.
1. ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’
Joe Talbot has only ever directed one film, and that film is a masterpiece. I try not to use that word too often, but I have to preach truth when I know it. A true, heartfelt love letter to San Francisco, this movie sees Jimmie Fails and Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors) traverse a gentrifying city, leaving their memories of childhood behind to become a distant dream.
An absorbing color palette seduces you into consuming every single second of this deeply transfixing film. A wondrous score and a breathtaking performance from Majors catapult it into one of the top 10 A24 movies …in my books, but that’s another article for another time…
Did we miss any underrated A24 movies?
A24’s fame and popularity, not only as a movie distribution company but as a true movie brand, are not slowing down anytime soon. Yet, some of the movies that helped propel them to their current day position are those mentioned above—the ones that did the heavy lifting of bolstering their catalog to contain deeply interpersonal, moving, and emotional stories about life.
A24 doesn’t just make historic Oscar movies, they make some diamonds in the rough. So just remember, always keep your eyes peeled for something that others aren’t really talking about!