Locke

12. Locke

“How did you do that?” Steven Spielberg asked Tom Hardy after seeing Locke. Spielberg was wondering just how Hardy managed to make a film that’s almost entirely focused on one guy driving around in his car so damn compelling. Steven Knight’s experimental drama follows construction foreman Ivan Locke (Hardy) as he hops in his car and embarks on a two-hour drive. Locke is determined to be there when his new baby is born, only there’s a catch: he’s already married with children, and the woman giving birth right now is a one-night stand from several months ago. Just like The End of the Tour, a film like this shouldn’t work as well as it does. Yet Knight and Hardy pull it off, thanks to Hardy’s commanding performance as he takes a total of 36 phone calls from his friends, coworkers and family, all wondering what the hell he’s doing. The end result is one of the more distinct films you’ll ever watch.

amostviolentyear

11. A Most Violent Year

Another crime drama from A24! But hey, this is one of the best: a simmering, slow-burn look at the dark side of the American dream. Set in New York in 1981, one of the most violent in the city’s history, Oscar Isaac plays an immigrant striving to make a name for himself in the fuel industry. Isaac’s character strives to stay moral, refusing to bend the law to succeed. But that proves more difficult than planned, and his Lady Macbeth-esque wife (played to perfection by Jessica Chastain) isn’t above a little gunplay. Writer-director J. C. Chandor approaches this material with a steely resolve, working with cinematographer Bradford Young to create a dark, tense drama that takes its time and doesn’t shy away from its overly complex plotting. A Most Violent Year often seems like one of A24’s forgotten triumphs; it’s a film worth rediscovering.

springbreakers

10. Spring Breakers

It’s safe to say that the first time anyone truly became aware of A24 it was with 2013’s mind-blowing Spring Breakers. The film is a neon-lit, frenetic comedy-drama about a group of college students who rob a diner to pay for their spring break trip. The girls get caught rather quickly, only to find themselves bailed-out by an out-of-this-world drug dealer named Alien (played with bizarre aplomb by James Franco). Then the fun really starts. Writer-director Harmony Korine filled the film with Disney stars (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson), which tricked some audiences into thinking they were coming to see a completely different movie. What they got was something unhinged and potentially dangerous. Spring Breakers put A24 on the map, and on a normal “Best Of” list it might appear at the very top. But the A24 line-up only gets stronger from here.

20thcentury

9. 20th Century Women

Mike Mills’ touching coming-of-age drama 20th Century Women centers on 15-year-old Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) and the people around him in 1979 Santa Barbara. There’s his single mother, played by Annette Bening giving one of the best performances of his already acclaimed career, there’s the girl he has a crush on (Elle Fanning), and then there are the tenants who rent out rooms in the family home: handyman William (Billy Crudup) and punk photographer Abbie, played by Greta Gerwig, giving a performance nothing short of iconic. Mills uses montages, flashback, flashforward, and insightful narration to let his story unfold. The film is semi-autobiographical for Mills. “It felt like I was raised by my mom and sisters,” he told Variety. “So I was always appealing to women in the punk scene or women in my world. I always leaned to them to figure out my life as a straight white guy. So I wanted to make a movie about that.” The result is something altogether lovely.

swissarmyman

8. Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man made headlines when it debuted at Sundance, mostly because audience members fled the screening. It quickly became known as the “Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie.” Who on earth would purchase such a film? Why, A24 of course. Swiss Army Man is a strange, funny, surprisingly emotional meditation on life, death, and yes, flatulence. Paul Dano is stranded on a desert island, close to offing himself, when a corpse (Radcliffe) washes-up on shore. The dead body ends up being extremely useful – an all-purpose tool to help Dano’s character survive. And then things get even weirder when the corpse starts to talk. It all almost seems too quirky to tolerate, but Swiss Army Man shocks you with how wonderful it is. And Radcliffe gives the best performance of his career – who knew Harry Potter’s best work would come via a gassy cadaver?

enemy

7. Enemy

A nightmare that takes hold of you and doesn’t let up, Arrival director Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is a slice of Cronenberg-like horror with an ending that’ll leave you shaken. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a college history professor who, at the suggestion of a coworker, rents a movie and makes a shocking discovery: a background extra in the film looks exactly like him. Gyllenhaal tracks down the actor (also played by Gyllenhaal), and the two try to make sense of this strange occurrence while also entertaining the idea of switching lives. What makes Enemy so terrifying is the way Villeneuve never lets you become comfortable with what’s happening. The sickly cinematography by Nicolas Bolduc makes one think of disease and putrescence, and you’re never quite sure if what you’re seeing is real or some sort of fever dream. Gyllenhaal is so good in the dual roles that it’s scary. Speaking of scary, don’t be surprised if you’ll want to sleep with the lights on after witnessing the film’s final scene.  

the lobster

6. The Lobster

Alchemy originally bought distribution rights to Yorgos LanthimosThe Lobster, but after the company ran into financial difficulties they were forced to cut it loose. Enter A24, the perfect home for this dark, oddball comedy. The Lobster is set in a dystopian society where being single is a punishable offense. Single people are sent to a mysterious hotel, where they have to find a romantic partner or else they’ll be turned into an animal of their choosing. Sound weird? It is. But it’s also brilliant – an acerbic satire of social constructs and romantic entanglements, featuring a hilarious, deadpan performance from Colin Farrell. You may not leave the film feeling particularly happy, but you will go away thinking you’ve seen something special.

green room

5. Green Room

When Jeremy Saulnier started making Green Room in 2014, he couldn’t have realized he was inadvertently making the perfect film for the dark early days of 2017, where hate has been emboldened by the current political climate. Saulnier’s has created a punk rock horror film, about a band that gets trapped at a gig by a gang of murderous skinheads. What follows is a John Carpenter-esque stand-off flick where punks vs skins for survival, with bloody, painful consequences. Green Room is almost too intense at times, and the squeamish need not apply. The late Anton Yelchin is great as one of the band members fighting for his life, and Patrick Stewart is chilling as an altogether calm but still deadly skinhead, but the breakout performance comes from Imogen Poots as a local who gets drawn into the action.

thewitch

4. The Witch

Robert EggersThe Witch (or The VVitch, if you want to be a jerk about it) isn’t just one of A24’s best films, it’s one of the best horror movies ever made. A masterwork brimming with evil and malevolence, here Eggers film conjures up 17th century New England and all the dangers that come with it. An isolated family finds themselves besieged with misfortune as the deep, dark woods around their home loom and offer up nothing but darkness. Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a star-making performance as the young girl at the center of it all, but the film truly belongs to the family’s scary goat, Black Phillip. The Witch premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it created quite a buzz and was promptly acquired by A24. General audiences had to wait until 2016 to finally clap eyes on it, but it was worth the wait to witness a film that dares to live deliciously.

exmachina

3. Ex Machina

Alex Garland’s sleek, chilling sci-fi drama Ex Machina follows a computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who is summoned to the secluded home/research facility of his boss (Oscar Isaac) only to learn that Isaac has done the seemingly impossible: created artificial life, in the form of Ava (Alicia Vikander), a humanoid robot who may or may not be capable of individual thought. Gleeson’s character proceeds to study Ava and in turn become seduced by her, as the robot is desperate to escape the lab that has become her prison. Ex Machina expertly doles out information in nearly every scene, to the point that it’s almost exhausting. It’s the type of film you have to study. Also, I’m pretty sure no one can resist the scene where Isaac and his assistant (Sonoya Mizuno) suddenly bust some sick moves on the dance floor. Ex Machina is exciting, intelligent sci-fi at its best.

under the skin

2. Under the Skin

A haunting, haunted film, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is an eerie meditation on what it means to be human. At times, Glazer’s film is almost impenetrable as we watch an otherworldly Scarlett Johansson lure unsuspecting men to their deaths in one of the scariest houses ever captured on film. While making the film, Glazer actually sent Johannson out into public places to interact with non-actors; this only heighten a sense of realism while also lending a surreal quality to the proceedings. Johansson has never been better than she is here, playing an alien trying to pass for human and the subsequently trying to discover what, exactly, that even means. Mica Levi’s intense, chilling score is pitch-perfect; tailor-made to lead to an anxiety attack. This is a terrifying yet entrancing film, truly unlike anything else. It’s almost the best film A24 has released to date. Almost.

moonlight

1. Moonlight

Moonlight stunned at the 89th Academy Awards when, after a confusing incident involving mixed-up envelopes, it was announced as the real Best Picture winner after La La Land had been erroneously given the honor. But the shock of the mishap aside, no one should’ve been surprised that Moonlight took home one of the most coveted awards in film. It is, after all, a masterpiece – a film of such profound beauty, such painful honesty, such remarkable pathos. I firmly believe, without any hyperbole, that watching Moonlight can make you a better person. Writer-director Barry Jenkins’ film looks at the life of a young black man named Chiron at different points in time, from his childhood (where he’s played by Alex Hibbert), his teen years (played by Ashton Sanders) and his adulthood (as played by Trevante Rhodes). “Who is you?” is a question that hovers over Moonlight as Chiron comes to term with his sexuality and identity. With praise-worthy supporting performances from André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali, Moonlight is a film for the ages, a beautiful, remarkable achievement, the type of film other films can only dream of being. It only makes sense that it was distributed by A24.

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