whilewereyoung

24. While We’re Young

While We’re Young is one of Noah Baumbach’s funniest movies, about a middle-aged couple (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) who befriend a younger, hipper couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). You might think this is a set-up for a story about older yuppies complaining about those darn kids today and their lousy cell phones, but Baumbach’s film is craftier than that, filled with likable, relatable characters and some truly hilarious moments.  

spectacularnow

23. The Spectacular Now

James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now is an altogether lovely, and best of all, believable story about young love. In less-skilled hands this could’ve been turned into some crass, punch-line riddled teen rom-com. Instead, this is an emotional, heartfelt exploration of two very different characters – a hard-drinking charmer (Miles Teller) and an intelligent, shy girl (Shailene Woodley). Teller and Woodley have palpable chemistry together, and their aided by a phenomenal supporting cast that includes Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Kyler Chandler.

therover

22. The Rover

The desolated landscape looms ominously in David Michôd’s dirty, depressing, dystopian drama The Rover. Guy Pearce wanders the wasteland of his post-apocalyptic world, only to be pushed into a quest when thieves make off with his car. It’s sort of like Mad Max, without all the stunts. Robert Pattinson broke out of the shadow of the Twilight films here playing Pearce’s reluctant companion on his quest. This is a bleak, unrelenting film, but if you can tolerate the misery you’ll witness something memorable.

slowwest

21. Slow West

A lazy, gorgeous anti-Western from director John Maclean (no relation to the character from Die Hard, since he’s fictional), Slow West has Michael Fassbender as an outlaw teaming up with a hapless young man (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trying to find his lost love (Caren Pistorius, who is fantastic here and oddly hasn’t made many films since). Along the way, the two encounter Fassbender’s old gang leader, played by the incredible Ben Mendelsohn wearing a luxurious fur coat. Slow West is unlike most Western’s you’re familiar with, content to take its time and play its cards close to the vest. It’s all under-layered with a lovely score from Jed Kurzel.

ROOM

20. Room

Room was the film that caused more mainstream audiences to take notice of A24, thanks to an Oscar campaign that ended with Brie Larson winning a much-deserved Best Actress award. Larson plays a young woman held captive in a shed with her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay, who is just as good as Larson here). The pair eventually make an escape from their prison, but find that life on the outside has its own complications. The performances are what truly make Room stand out, particularly that of Larson, who brings an almost unfathomable number of dimensions to her character.

mississippigrind

19. Mississippi Grind

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were recently announced as the directors of Marvel’s Captain Marvel (starring the aforementioned Brie Larson), and if you’ve never heard of the directing duo and are looking to see what makes them special, look no further than their 2015 A24 entry Mississippi Grind. Slow West’s Ben Mendelsohn stars as a down-on-his-luck gambling addict who teams up with a much more successful high roller (played by Ryan Reynolds) on a high -stakes road trip. Boden and Fleck know just when to set-up a scene and then step back and let their actors do the heavy lifting, as in a moment where Mendelsohn lets his guard down to a prostitute (Analeigh Tipton). “I have problems with money,” he tells her during an awkward, semi-flirty conversation, and Mendelsohn finds a way to make such a brief sentence feel weighty and revealing.   

Amy

18. Amy

Amy Winehouse’s staggering talent was often overshadowed by her battles with addiction and the cruel tabloid headlines that followed. Asif Kapadia’s revealing, devastating 2015 documentary Amy shows the story from Winehouse’s point-of-view with heart-breaking intimacy. This is no standard talking-head documentary; instead, it’s compiled from hours and hours of previously unseen home video footage recorded by Winehouse herself, or those around her. Winehouse herself gives the film its voice, via archival interviews and other recordings, in essence narrating the film from beyond the grave. The result is a powerful film that should inspire shame into anyone who made cruel, thoughtless jokes about Winehouse and her troubles during her all-too-brief life.

ameericanhoney

17. American Honey

Andrea Arnold’s American Honey may be just a tad too long (163 minutes, yowza), but it also lives and breathes with the sort of life and youthful energy other films can only dream of. Much of this is due to the breakout performance of newcomer Sasha Lane, playing a girl who hooks up with a gang of door-to-door salespeople. Arnold actually discovered Lane on a beach during spring break and cast the previously untested actress in the film. It paid off, as Lane has a charisma that’s hard to fully pin-down. Some will probably balk at that numbing runtime; others will embrace a unique, unconventional film.

theendofthetour

16. The End of the Tour

James Ponsoldt became the first filmmaker to work with A24 more than once with 2015’s The End of the Tour. The true story of an interview between writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and literary superstar David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), The End of the Tour should, in theory, be uncinematic and flat. It is, after all, a film comprised mostly of two guys having a series of conversations. Yet Ponsoldt and screenwriter Donald Margulies make it all pop and flow effortlessly, drawing us in as we find ourselves engrossed in what these two characters are saying to each other. At the center of it all is Segel, who broke out of his usual comedic wheelhouse to channel Wallace. The film, and Segel, were heralded after The End of the Tour premiered at 2015 Sundance Film Festival, whereupon A24 acquired the distribution rights. Yet come award season, it was strangely overlooked. A pity, as it’s a small but special film that deserved more recognition.

de palma

15. De Palma

Holy mackerel, what a delight this movie is! Even if you’re not a fan of Brian De Palma’s work (note: if you’re not, what’s your deal?), Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s documentary De Palma will still entertain and enlighten you as De Palma runs through his entire career, dropping stories about the making of Carrie, Blow Out, The Untouchables and more. De Palma is such a captivating storyteller that you’ll find yourself coming to appreciate and maybe even re-evaluate his lesser films. De Palma may not have changed the face of documentary filmmaking – it’s rather point-and-shoot, after all. But it’s so fun to watch that you’ll find yourself wishing the filmmaker had talked twice as long.

Krisha

14. Krisha

“You’re heartbreak incarnate,” a character says at one point in Krisha, and he’s not kidding. Trey Edward Shults’ directorial debut is a tense, uncomfortable examination of a troubled woman, played magnificently by Krisha Fairchild, returning home to visit her family during Thanksgiving. The result is akin to a secret horror film, where we’re just waiting on the edge of our seats for something terrible to happen. Krisha is like a ticking timebomb, and any moment we know she’s going to go off, forcing us to shield ourselves from the wreckage. Schults used his own friends and family to fill-out the cast, and the result is an incredibly naturalistic experience – no one here feels like they’re performing. We know these people; they’re like members of our own family. The tension and realism on display here makes Shults’ next A24 project, the horror film It Comes At Night, all the more exciting.

Obvious Child

13. Obvious Child

Most distribution companies might shy away from an abortion comedy, but A24 isn’t most distribution companies – they purchased the rights to Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child after the film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Jenny Slate is sensational playing a stand-up comic who gets pregnant after a one-night stand and decides to have an abortion. What makes Obvious Child so remarkable, and even radical, is the mostly neutral way it approaches this subject. Other films might have felt the need to tackle this material in a more serious, political manner, but Obvious Child keeps things light and honest, and is all the more funny and memorable as a result.

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