Film studio a24 has a reputation for showcasing more “avant-garde” far than the typical film studio. As a result, some moviegoers tend to poke fun at the studio for its seemingly pretentious fanbase. But fans aside, it cannot be denied that a24 has released some of the most thought-provoking and intriguing films of late.
The best part is, a24’s slate represents a wide array of genres and themes, from mind-gutting horror films to evocative indies that make viewers stare at a wall for two hours after. With that being said, here are ten of the best films to date that a24 has released.
Stories of Asian immigrants in America are few and far between these days, and even rarer are those which are able to depict immigrant families with love, authenticity, and engagement. Minari does all of this and then some.
At times heart-wrenching, and at times gut-busting, this film follows the story of a family of Korean immigrants who hope to make a living as farmers in the midwest. The film’s leads, Steven Yeun and Han Ye-Ri (of American and Korean fame respectively), share a powerful dynamic, which only enhances the joy and charm of the cast as an ensemble.
The Green Knight
Although much of this film’s point and plot were lost on those without a prior knowledge of the Arthurian canon, The Green Knight still prevailed as one of the most gripping movies of 2021. Bringing modern twists regarding masculinity and sexuality to a classic tale of chivalry and despair, this retelling is not only faithful—it’s innovative, wondrously so.
This is, in no small part, thanks to Dev Patel’s sincere performance as Sir Gawain. He manages to embody the spirit of this literary hero so well, one can’t help but pity him (as well as grumble in frustration) as he scrapes through his harrowing quest.
There’s a reason everyone spoke so highly of this movie, and why it won so many accolades. Moonlight is nothing short of a masterpiece, with everything about it being utterly artful and genuine. Sometimes, this means it’s difficult to watch, but like all good art, this was the intention. It’s a film that’s meant to make viewers feel. And feel they did: Moonlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017, as well as Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali.
Moonlight follows the story of sweet-natured Chiron from childhood to adulthood, watching him as he relies on various people to help him deal with strife, both at home and in his community at large. Touching on themes of masculinity, sexuality, and innocence challenged by grief, Chiron’s story is one of the most compelling narratives in modern film.
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is nothing short of a game-changer in the world of coming-of-age stories. While the narrative itself is nothing new—that of a bored, unstimulated suburban girl finding her place in the world—it’s told in a way that’s refreshing, authentic, hilarious, and painstakingly relatable.
Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson is an incredibly real protagonist, in that she’s both understandable and quite frustrating to watch, particularly when interacting with her mother. All the same, her growth into an independent young woman is handled with a great deal of empathy and objectivism, which is urgently needed during an era where teen dramas are either riddled with callous absurdism, or flagrant pornification.
Hold onto your sea caps, this one’s a doozy, but in the best way possible. The Lighthouse (which we called “dark, disgusting, and wonderful” in a review) hearkens back to days spent sick in bed, feeling as though you’re losing your mind. It’s a claustrophobic, neurotic, anxiety-inducing tale of two men who need each other so much, they start to hate one another, and it’s fantastic.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe clearly had a good time in their roles as salty seamen, as they truly give their all in their portrayals of cantankerous men slowly going mad. Although the film will have you feeling your muscles clench all the way to the end in uneasiness, it will also have you burst out laughing during the many moments of sheer unbridled antagonism shown by Wake and Winslow.
As the most underrated film on this list, Waves deserves quite a bit more attention than it has received. Similar to HBO’s Euphoriait tackles heavy subjects such as addiction, assault, and familial strife, yet it does so with quite a bit more grace, feeling, and respect for its teenage subjects.
Following a horrific tragedy within one family, Waves chronicles the experiences that forever changed the lives of the two children in the family: wrestling star Tyler, and his sensitive little sister Emily. It very much feels like a snapshot of the modern teenage experience, with an excellent soundtrack to highlight this point (featuring the likes of Frank Ocean and Animal Collective).
For Asian-Americans such as myself, the gap between one’s American-ness and their Asian-ness can sometimes feel impossible to bridge. But there are times when the two coalesce naturally and poignantly, and no other film exemplifies this experience better than The Farewell.
Signaling Awkwafina’s departure from comedies into dramas, this tear-jerking film follows a family attempting to bring light and joy to her grandmother’s final days as she succumbs to her sickness. Although Awkwafina’s character Billi struggles to feel like a part of it all, ultimately she’s one of the anchors of the whole situation, and the moments of happiness and connection created by the family are utterly tangible to viewers.
As Ari Aster’s sophomoric horror title, many fans of his previous movie Hereditary had high expectations of Midsummar. And in nearly ever single way, Midsummar ultimately rose above its predecessor as one of a24’s best horror films to date.
It has everything: psychological manipulation, cult stuff, gruesome deaths, and even the added caveat of desexualized expressions of feminine suffering. It’s a deeply unsettling and horrific movie that will leave viewers feeling nauseous and awful the day after, but in a way that makes them think, and in a way that sends a message—the message being, if you live your life with no regard for others, you may just end up in a Swedish cult.
The best sort of sci-fi is the sci-fi that deals with psychology, instead of just focusing on how cool technology could be. Advancements in technology can sometimes be more harmful than productive, and in the case of Ex Machinathey can be downright unraveling.
Following the story of a man falling in love with an android (beautifully and disturbingly portrayed by Domnhall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, respectively), Ex Machina asks a lot of questions about our relationship to artificial intelligence. The answers it provides are less about AI itself, and more about us, in ways that will stick with us for a long time after our initial viewing.
The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Of all the films on this list, The Last Black Man in San Francisco has the most heart, by far. This is in a large part because it’s based on the life of its lead actor and writer, Jimmie Fails, who co-wrote the movie with his childhood best friend, director Joe Talbot.
Anyone who knows anything about San Francisco will strike a chord with this movie, as it reckons with the realities of gentrification and familial roots. As well as this, Fails and his eccentric friend Mont (played by the impeccable Jonathan Majors) have a truly affectionate and memorable relationship, which helps to make Fail’s grandfather’s house feel like a character in and of itself throughout the movie.
(Featured Image: a24)
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