a24 movies ranked

General audiences don’t pay much attention to the distributors of most films (unless the distributor happens to be Disney). But most film distributors aren’t A24 Films, the little start-up distribution company that could. Founded in 2012 by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges, A24 is one of the rare independent film distributors to build up the type of rabid fanbase usually reserved for Disney-owned Marvel movies. And with good reason: since 2013, A24 has been releasing unique independent cinema worth talking about. “A24 films run the gamut of genre and style, but they all seem to be incredibly specific, personal visions,” said James Ponsoldt, who directed two films released by A24. When you’re in a theater and the lights go down, and the cool, retro, minimalistic A24 logo comes up, you know you’re about to get something special. And they show no signs of slowing down. On May 5, they’ll release Azazel JacobsThe Lovers, with films like A Ghost Story, The Exception and It Comes At Night all on the horizon and already generating buzz.

Ranking films is a time-honored tradition here on the internet. But most ranking tends to be of the Marvel or DCEU variety. Why should superhero movies have all the fun? Let’s give an indie distributor a shot! You might ask: is it fair to rank different films from different directors just because they all fall under the same distributor? Probably not! But we’re going to do it anyway. It’s worth noting that, with a few exceptions, the films in A24’s line-up are either good, very good or downright excellent. That’s worth celebrating and applauding. That said, join us as we rank the films of A24.


48. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

The first official release from A24 is probably better off forgotten. Writer-director Roman Coppola put Charlie Sheen, whose very public 2011 meltdown was still fresh in the public consciousness, front and center for A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, a visually appealing but otherwise mess of a movie. Sheen plays Charles Swan III, a graphic designer who finds his life turned upside down when his girlfriend (Katheryn Winnick) dumps him. Not even a wonderful supporting cast, including Jason Schwartzman, Patricia Arquette, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Bill Murray (dressed identically to John Wayne in The Searchers) were enough to salvage this misfire. Thankfully, A24 would go on to bigger and better things. Eventually.


47. Tusk

In 2011, Kevin Smith infamously screened his film Red State for an audience of executives, only to get up on stage afterward and tell them all they could not purchase the film for distribution after all – he was going to do it himself. As far as stunts go, it was rather audacious. But didn’t stick with this distribution model for long. His follow-up to Red State, Tusk, was released by A24, and for their part the start-up film distributors seemed excited to be in business with the Clerks helmer. “We had the privilege of visiting Kevin on the Tusk set and seeing some of his early footage,” A24 said in the press release that announced the acquisition. “We can say with certainty that this movie will blow people’s minds. Truly one you’ll have to see to believe.” Unfortunately, what could’ve been a fun, gross-out midnight movie is just a dull, almost unwatchable joke. Save for a great performance from Michael Parks as a deranged sea captain, and some gnarly make-up effects from Robert Kurtzman, Tusk is dreadful for all the wrong reasons, not the least of which is an atrocious performance from Johnny Depp as a bumbling Canadian police inspector. During Tusk’s end credits, Smith and his SModcast co-host Scott Mosier can be heard giggling as they come up with the idea for Tusk. For them, it’s clearly the funniest idea they’ve ever conceived. For the rest of us, it’s painful.  


46. The Sea of Trees

Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees was booed ferociously at Cannes, but it’s not that bad. At least, it’s not as bad as Tusk and A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, so we’re making progress here. Roadside Attractions originally acquired U.S distribution rights to The Sea of Trees, but A24 snapped them up after Roadside dropped them in the aftermath of the Cannes premiere. The Sea of Trees stars an uncharacteristically morose Matthew McConaughey as an American man who plans to commit suicide in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, also known as the “Suicide Forest”. Before he can kill himself, he meets a Japanese man (Ken Watanabe) in the forest with the same suicidal inclination. The two men then begin a prototypical Van Sant journey of self-reflection. The worst crime The Sea of Trees commits is that it’s fatally empty. There’s very little life to be found in a film about two characters trying to find their way back to lives of their own.


45. Dark Places

David Fincher may have struck gold turning a Gillian Flynn novel into a film with Gone Girl, but filmmaker Gilles Paquet-Brenner is no David Fincher. That’s all the more evident with Paquet-Brenner’s immensely disappointing Dark Places. Paquet-Brenner’s Flynn adaptation has a stellar cast – Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloë Grace Moretz, Corey Stoll, Christina Hendricks – but this thriller about a woman (Theron) looking into the 25-year-old murders of her own family has none of the nuance or insight of Flynn’s book. A24 likely knew the film wouldn’t hold water and gave it a very limited/VOD release in 2015, where it quickly faded from view.


44. Revenge of the Green Dragons

A24 seems to be drawn to crime dramas (as you’ll see), but Revenge of the Green Dragons is not one of their better entries into the genre. Two immigrant brothers (Justin Chon and Kevin Wu) join the gang The Green Dragons in 1980s New York, and all the trappings you’d imagine involving that follow. Directors Andrew Loo and Wai-keung Lau are going for a Chinatown take on Mean Streets, and while there’s style to spare there’s not much else to embrace.


43. The Adderall Diaries

James Franco appears in approximately 400 movies a year, and one of his 2015 titles was The Adderall Diaries, adapted from the nonfiction book by Stephen Elliott. Franco plays Elliott, a writer who starts investigating a software engineer (played by Christian Slater) on trial for murder. The real Elliott was not very happy with the way the film played fast and loose with the true story, as detailed in a piece he wrote for Vulture. “Good art always strives toward honesty, illuminating the dark corners of our psyche,” he wrote. “Bad art tries to hit the nail on the head, and in missing, it smashes the audience’s collective thumb.” Still, The Adderall Diaries, another limited/VOD release from A24, isn’t without its merit. Writer-director Pamela Romanowsky navigates a rather convoluted narrative quite well, Franco is rather strong, and, best of all, Ed Harris turns in a great performance as Franco’s estranged father.


42. Oasis: Supersonic

How much you enjoy Mat Whitecross’s Oasis: Supersonic documentary will mostly depend on how much of a fan you are of the band Oasis. But stalwarts of the Gallagher brothers and co. will find much to appreciate here. At a lengthy 122 minutes, the doc is nothing if not comprehensive.

TheCaptvie41. The Captive

Atom Egoyan, the filmmaker behind excellent films like Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter, received some of the worst reviews of his career with this 2014 limited A24 release. Following the disintegrating relationship between a couple (Ryan Reynolds & Mirellie Enos) after their young daughter is kidnapped, Egoyan’s film jumps around in time and perspective, shifting from the devastated parents, to the detectives investigating the case, to the kidnapped daughter’s life in captivity. But choppy editing (by Egoyan and Susan Shipton) all but capsizes the film. Pity, since Paul Sarossy’s wintry cinematography is quite lovely.


40. Life After Beth

Aubrey Plaza as a zombie” really should be enough to sell you on a film. But Jeff Baena’s zom-rom-com is a bit of a disappointment, mostly due to some tonal issues and a rather thin screenplay. The set-up is simple: a heartbroken young man (Dane DeHaan), grieving his recently deceased girlfriend (Plaza), is thrown into a tailspin when the dearly departed returns from the grave with a taste for human flesh. The film never really expands beyond this premise, though, resulting in a mixed-bag. That said, Plaza is all-in when it comes to playing her undead character, which means the film is at the very least watchable.


39. Mojave

Made in 2013 but not released until 2015, Mojave is a mess, but it’s a fascinating mess. Written and directed by The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, Mojave follows a super-cool, mumbly screenwriter (Garrett Hedlund) who wanders into the desert and meets a serial killer, played with raspy charisma by Oscar Isaac. Isaac stalks Hedlund back in the real world, turning his life into a living hell in the process. Overall, Mojave is weird enough that it might intrigue some viewers, but as we’ll see, there are other Oscar Isaac A24 films that deserve much more attention.


38. Barely Lethal

Like Life After Beth, Barely Lethal has a novel premise and a great lead: Hailee Steinfeld plays a teenage assassin who longs for a normal life. So she fakes her death and enrolls in high school, only to discover high school can be just as unpleasant as being a special ops assassin. But also like Life After Beth, Barely Lethal doesn’t really do much with its set-up. As talented as Steinfeld is, she can’t quite rescue the film.


37. Laggies

A quarter-life crisis comedy that may not have much to offer in terms of originality, Lynn Shelton’s Laggies is saved by an infectious energy and an amusing lead performance from Keira Knightley. Knightley plays a directionless young woman who goes into crisis mode when her boyfriend proposes marriage. Knightley goes into hiding with a teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz) while trying to sort her life out. Shetlon and writer Andrea Seigel bring an intelligence and insight to the film that most indie comedies of this ilk have a hard time matching.

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