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It is rare that you can tell merely from a film’s opening production logo that you are in for a good show. That has almost consistently described my experience with movies produced by A24, the best of which are available to stream and/or rent now.
Since it was founded in 2012, A24 has been behind many of the most innovative, creatively-exciting, thought-provoking, and award-winning films and television programs in recent memory, from early buzzed-about favorites like Spring Breakers to recent films of impeccable acclaim, such as Uncut Gems. I must say, with so many amazing films under the A24 umbrella available to stream or rent, it was no simple feat to narrow them down, but here are just 12 of my favorite production company’s best features.
Sometimes a premise as simple as watching a man driving for nearly 90 minutes is enough to inspire heart wrenching drama. A prime example is Locke, in which Tom Hardy stars in the title role - a family man and construction manager who faces the ultimate consequences of a mistake made in one night. Told in real time, through a series of phone calls over the course of one highway drive, this thriller from Steven Knight is a riveting one-man show and an impressive achievement in proving big things can come in small packages.
Ex Machina (2015)
When young computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest to meet and work on a special project with his employer, billionaire tech guru Nathan (Oscar Isaac), he learns that he is actually part of an experiment to test the humanistic appeal of a human-like robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), forcing him to confront his own humanity in the process. Ex Machina, the directorial debut of 28 Days Later and Annihilation mastermind Alex Garland, is a shocking cautionary tale in the vein of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that questions the advantage (or even disadvantage) of artificial intelligence if it can be smarter than us.
Not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau’s remarkable disaster THE Room, this harrowing drama follows a devoted mother known only as “Ma” (Brie Larson, in an astounding, Oscar-winning performance) trying to maintain a fulfilling environment for her young son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who has spent his entire life with Ma held captive by a kidnapper. Based on the hit novel by screenwriter Emma Donaghue, Room is an intense but beautiful thriller about the struggle to overcome boundaries and the fear of what lies beyond.
The End Of The Tour (2015)
In lieu of conventional biopics that attempt to cram an entire life story story into two-plus hours,The End of Tour focuses on a single event or stage in that person’s life. In this instance, the subject is late Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) in a five-day interview with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg). Essentially a conversation between the two men, the film is actually a staggering, inspiring achievement that never falls prey to pretentiousness, thanks to a transcendent performance by Segel, James Ponsoldt’s exquisitely mundane direction, and Donald Margulies’ haunting adaptation of Lipsky’s memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.
The Lobster (2016)
Dating can feel like a race against time to those who may perceive the aging process as a dehumanizing metamorphosis, which may be simpler to empathize with if the stakes truly were that high, such as in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, set in hopelessly bleak dystopia in which monogamy is a lawful priority and those without a romantic partner are surgically transformed into the animal of their choosing. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz play two of many middle-aged singletons who have 45 days to find love or face their aforementioned fate in this brutal, but hilariously, bizarre absurdist satire.
Writer and director Barry Jenkins’ breakthrough film tells the story of a black man’s lifelong struggles with a neglectful, crack-addict mother (Naomie Harris), his sense of identity, and his sexuality, receiving little guidance in his childhood from anyone but a drug-dealer named Juan (two-time Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali). A deeply moving and beautifully depicted drama starring Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes as the central character at three crucial stages of his life, Moonlight made history as the first film with LGBTQ+ themes to receive the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Lady Bird (2017)
In her directorial debut, Greta Gerwig gives early-2000s teen angst a name: “Lady Bird,” the alter ego of Christine McPherson (Oscar-nominee Saorse Ronan) who longs for a more sophisticated and adventurous existence outside of her Catholic high school environment in Sacramento, California. The sleeper-hit Lady Bird is a striking highlight of the coming-of-age genre, if you can call it its own genre, for its clever, quirky, and, most importantly, brutally honest commentary on the struggles of adolescence expressed exquisitely through its wonderfully performances.
Good Time (2017)
If you ever needed a reason to prove that Twilight star Robert Pattinson has what it takes to lead Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman, look no further than this thriller in which he stars as Connie Nikas, a young, petty criminal who goes to increasingly extreme and despicable lengths to get his younger, mentally challenged brother out of his jail. Benny Safdie (who plays the brother, Nick) and his co-writer and co-director his brother, Josh (who followed up Good Time with 2019’s Uncut Gems), show their mastery for breathless, high-energy thrills by crafting this crime drama into a one-of-a-kind cinematic roller coaster that wreaks of ‘80s, guerilla-style inspiration.
If Hereditary put cheesy, ‘50s-style tag lines promising hysterics and paralyzing fear on its poster, it would have been telling the truth. If you have not seen writer and director Ari Aster’s feature-length debut, there is not much more I am willing to reveal than how it follows miniature sculptor Annie Graham (Toni Collette, an indescribably perfect performance) and her family’s suffering in the wake of tragedy slowly curdles from somber melodrama into an unexplainable, unmerciful nightmare.
Eighth Grade (2018)
The aforementioned Lady Bird is a refreshingly honest take on the horrors of high school, but the intensity of final year before high school should not be underestimated either, which first-time writer and director Bo Burnham seemed to have a phenomenal understanding of. Elsie Fisher received a Golden Globe nomination for her star-making performance in Eighth Grade as a 13-year-old girl plagued with her own introverted personality in this beautifully authentic commentary on early teenhood.
The Farewell (2019)
The premise of this sleeper hit, in which a Chinese-American woman (Golden Globe-winner Awkwafina) attends a family gathering in China for her unsuspecting terminal grandmother disguised as a wedding, is one of those ideas you cannot help but laugh at in awe of its unique, yet, improbable concept. That is until you discover that the story is a semi-autobiographical account of writer and director Lulu Wang’s own experience with what is actually a Chinese tradition to keep a relative’s own death a secret from them. The Farewell is rough, but amusingly funny foreign language film that proves life really is stranger than fiction.
Anyone familiar with the aforementioned Ari Aster knowns that the stories he tells are not all sunshine and daisies. Yet, ironically, that aesthetic is highly prevalent in his sophomore effort Midsommar, named after the Swedish festival that Dani (a riveting Florence Pugh) tags along for with her emotionally troubled boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friend. The thriller is, initially, a bit more of a head scratcher than Hereditary, but its unique blend of tranquil visuals and with devastatingly twisted moments makes it an unforgettable trip that will undeniably make your skin crawl.
If any other A24 fans have any additional masterpieces to recommend, let us know in the comments. Also, be sure to check back for updates on future projects from the eclectic production company here on CinemaBlend.