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The 12 Best A24 Films Ranked

Founded in 2012 by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges, the production and distribution company A24 has become one of the most influential voices in independent film and television. The company's breakout arrived when it distributed Harmony Korine's controversial crime drama "Spring Breakers," which showcased aesthetic and thematic subjects that have since become synonymous with what defines an A24 film. The company expanded into producing television in 2015 and has since collaborated on projects with Netflix, Peacock, Hulu, Showtime, HBO, and Apple TV+. A24 films are all united in their strong sense of specificity and perspective, each usually featuring highly stylized cinematography and editing with a focus on the inner lives of unusual characters — frequently younger people and voices typically marginalized in film history.

It is no surprise that A24 has become an artistic haven for directors at various stages of their careers, from renowned filmmakers such as Sofia Coppola and Claire Denis and rising auteurs including Benny and Josh Safdie, Ari Aster, and Robert Eggers. The company's emblem has become an indicator of curatorial quality and after a decade in the entertainment business and over 100 produced and/or distributed feature films later, here are the best A24 films ranked. Warning: spoilers ahead.

12. The Lighthouse

After the surprise financial success of his first feature film, "The Witch," director Robert Eggers reunited with A24 — here as both the production company and the distributor — for his sophomore effort, "The Lighthouse." Like his debut film, "The Lighthouse" blends elements of horror with psychological drama, this time set in a lighthouse on a tiny island in late 19th century New England.

Thomas Howard (Robert Pattinson) arrives on the isolated island to work for the eccentric veteran lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), who shares a peculiar — and increasingly sexual — affinity for the lighthouse's beacon light. The lines between reality and illusion begin to blur as a severe storm pummels the island, leaving Howard and Wake to survive on dwindling rations, save for bottles upon bottles of gin. Quickly thereafter, the film begins its drunken descent into madness as Howard grows paranoid about Wake's intentions and experiences vivid hallucinations of sea monsters and siren-like mermaids. Filled to the gills with disturbing brain-searing imagery and truly gonzo performances from Pattinson and Dafoe, "The Lighthouse" is an eerie, wickedly funny riot.

11. Eighth Grade

Bo Burnham's directorial debut, "Eighth Grade," is one of A24's most underrated gems. The hyperreal comedy follows introverted Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) as she confronts her final days as an eighth grader. The existential transition between middle school and high school is daunting for Kayla and she hopes to utilize the gap in time to reinvent her persona, evolving from a sweet wallflower to an outgoing, popular freshman. Kayla copes with her lack of confidence by recording sincere, motivational videos that she posts on her barely trafficked YouTube page, often leaving her feeling like she is shouting into the abyss.

What makes "Eighth Grade" so brutally realistic and authentic is how Burnham depicts Kayla's problems in the operatic tone that a 13-year-old experiences the world — where every setback is a monumental tragedy. This is perhaps best illustrated in a scene in which Kayla suffers a panic attack while arriving at a pool party hosted by the most popular girl in school. Set to an unnerving musical score by electronic artist Anna Meredith, the scene viscerally captures teenage anxiety in the social media era. The filmmakers smartly dodged an R-rating so that viewers of Kayla's age could get a chance to see it.

10. Under the Skin

One of A24's earliest United States distribution efforts was Jonathan Glazer's science fiction art film "Under the Skin." Adapted from Michael Faber's novel of the same name, "Under the Skin" follows a listless woman (Scarlett Johansson) who is never named as she travels throughout Glasgow and the Scottish countryside. The Woman stalks humans around shopping malls, clubs, and bars, studying and emulating their behavior. She gradually reveals herself to be an extraterrestrial as she charms men into following her home to the decrepit house she squats in, leading them to enter a pool of black liquid and dissolve. Her plans are upended when she meets a man who evokes in her a human empathy that ultimately brings about her demise.

"Under the Skin" is a haunting exercise in anonymous storytelling that is made even more unnerving due to its Kubrickian detachment and Micah Levi's tremendous score. Although Glazer's film failed to perform at the box office, barely recouping half its budget worldwide, it was enthusiastically embraced by critics and earned its share of accolades.

9. The Lobster

One of the most offbeat entries within A24's library is Yorgos Lanthimos' Oscar-nominated "The Lobster." The black comedy centers on the depressed and single David (Colin Farrell), who, after his wife leaves him for another man, is forced to participate in a coupling program at a hotel with other single people. When David arrives at the hotel accompanied by his brother, who has been transformed into a dog after failing the program, The Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman) informs David that he has 45 days to find a partner within the program or he will be turned into an animal of his choosing, which he selects to be a lobster.

David forces himself to fall for a nihilistic woman (Angeliki Papoulia) to progress to the couples stage. But once she brutally murders his brother, he sedates her and throws her into the room where the program's failures are transformed into animals. David is forced to go on the lam and discovers a group of program participants who fled the hotel, led by Loner Leader (Léa Seydoux), and he falls for Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz). "The Lobster" is a high-concept, dystopian thrill that, while lambasting the idea of love and coupledom, manages to become quite the romantic film.

8. Hereditary

Writer-director Ari Aster's debut film "Hereditary" focuses on the Graham family, artist Annie (Toni Collette) and psychiatrist Steve (Gabriel Byrne), and their two teenage children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro). When Annie's mother Ellen (Kathleen Chalfant) passes away, the family begins to be plagued by tragedy, each more shocking than the next. "Hereditary" is a disturbing plunge into a cursed family's downfall, rife with ghastly imagery and earned jump scares that will give you plenty of nightmares.

Before "Everything Everywhere All At Once" became a huge theatrical hit and shattered the $100M ceiling for A24, "Hereditary" was the company's reigning box office champ, earning eight times its budget worldwide. The crossover horror sensation announced the arrival of a new independent horror auteur in Ari Aster, who would go on to collaborate with A24 again in his sophomore feature "Midsommar." "Hereditary" is not only one of the finest films A24 has ever produced — it is one of the best works in the pantheon of modern horror and Collete's best actress Oscar nomination snub remains one of the Academy's most egregious errors.

7. Uncut Gems

There is no shortage of thrillers within the A24 canon, so it is high praise to knight "Uncut Gems" the most stress-inducing film the company has ever produced — by far. The film marked A24's second collaboration with writer and directors Josh and Benny Safdie following 2017's "Good Time," another exercise in fraught tension.

"Uncut Gems" chronicles the undoing of Manhattan jeweler and gambling addict Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) as he scrambles to assemble the $100,000 he owes Arno Moradian (Eric Bogosian), his loan shark brother-in-law. Howard puts everything on the line when he pawns Kevin Garnett's 2008 NBA Championship ring in hopes of making a huge profit while betting on that night's game. Financial woes notwithstanding, Howard's life is crumbling all around him, from his toxic marriage with Dinah (Idina Menzel) and his relationship with his employee and girlfriend Julia De Fiore (Julia Fox).

"Uncut Gems" is equal parts electrifying, shocking, and hysterical as we watch the walls close in on Howard while he zigs and zags around New York City. The exhausting weight of dread has never been so entertaining.

6. Minari

Set in the early 1980s, writer-director Lee Isaac Chung's "Minari" follows Korean immigrants Jacob (Oscar nominee Steven Yeun) and Monica Yi (Han Ye-ri) as they move their children David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Kate Cho) from California to their new home in a trailer on a farm in rural Arkansas. Jacob and Monica work in the hatchery at the local chicken factory, but Jacob has bigger dreams for his family, striving to build a business by growing Korean produce on the farm to sell to vendors in nearby metropolitan cities. The arrival of Monica's mother, the hilarious, scene-stealing Soon-ja (Oscar winner Youn Yuh-jung), ratchets the growing tensions — emotional and financial — within the clan, culminating in a heartbreaking series of setbacks that imperil Jacob's dream for his family.

"Minari" felt like a true blessing when it arrived in 2020. The warm drama felt like something of a cinematic emotional oasis during one of the darkest phases of the pandemic— a potent reminder of the importance of family and sticking together through the good and, particularly, the bad.

5. Moonlight

A24's big breakthrough at the Academy Awards arrived in 2016 with Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight," which won the company its first best picture Oscar in one of the award show's most memorable moments of all time. "Moonlight" was a major turning point for A24, which went on to become a perennial and formidable Oscar player.

Based on the semi-autobiographical play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" written by "Moonlight" co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, the drama tells the emotional story of Chiron over the course of three chapters in Chiron's life. The three segments tackle specific phases in Chiron's coming-of-age and he is played by a different actor in each — Alex Hibbert as childhood Chiron, Ashton Sanders as teenaged Chiron, and Trevante Rhodes as adult Chiron. This sweeping timeline provides a heartbreaking portrait of Chiron's journey toward self-acceptance through his relationship with his troubled mother Paula (Oscar-nominee Naomie Harris), paternal figure Juan (Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali), and love interest Kevin (played as a child by Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome as a teenager, and André Holland as an adult).

"Moonlight" is groundbreaking for its portrayal of the too often ignored perspective of the gay Black male experience. Reverence for the film has only grown since it first dazzled critics upon release and was rightfully named the best film of the 2010s by Indiewire and Rolling Stone among others.

4. Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig's Oscar-nominated "Lady Bird" is one of A24's most beloved films. The semi-autobiographical comedy follows Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan) as she navigates her senior year of high school in Sacramento, California. Lady Bird hopes to find herself at a prestigious East Coast university in the fall, but her grades are lackluster and her parents, Marion (Oscar nominee Laurie Metcalf) and Larry McPherson (Tracy Letts), are in a financial predicament that jeopardizes her dreams.

On paper, the coming-of-age narrative of "Lady Bird" may read as well-treaded territory, but the specificity of the post-9/11, millennial experience in Gerwig's writing renders the film singular. Unlike its peers, "Lady Bird" pays special attention to its supporting characters, giving Lady Bird's best friend, Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein), and her two love interests, Danny O'Neill (Lucas Hedges) and Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet), fully fleshed out character arcs of their own.

"Lady Bird" perfectly captures its heroine's ennui through her contentious relationship with her hometown and, particularly, her mother. Ronan and Metcalf share two unforgettable scenes in Marion's car — one comedic at the start, another heartbreaking at the end.

3. 20th Century Women

After the breakout success of his Oscar-winning dramedy "Beginners," A24 distributed writer-director Mike Mills' follow-up film "20th Century Women." The luminous, 1970s Santa Barbara-set comedy is the story of teenager Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) and his mother Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening).

They assemble an unconventional family of misfits, including Jamie's close friend Julie Hamlin (Elle Fanning), photographer and Dorothea's tenant Abbie Porter (Greta Gerwig), and Dorothea's handyman, jack-of-all-trades William (Billy Crudup). As he did in "Beginners," Mills book-ending scenes with vignettes of cinematic collages, juxtaposing images, newsreels, and literature read in voice-over to build vivid context to the wildly different eras in which Dorothea, Jamie, and Abbie came of age.

"20th Century Women" is the kind of life-affirming film that reaches for the cosmos in its interrogation of identity and what makes us who we are but never veers into pretension. The film leaves you feeling like you have come to know Dorothea, Abbie, and Julie — the women who shape Jamie's life and his very understanding of the world — but also with the mystical sensation that you can never really truly know someone. It feels like a magic trick — not manipulative, but one of generosity.

2. The Souvenir/The Souvenir: Part II

English auteur Joanna Hogg's semi-autobiographical, deeply personal drama "The Souvenir" is the story of Julie's (Honor Swinton Byrne) artistic journey as a filmmaker. Julie's shy demeanor renders her underestimated within her film school class, and she struggles to deal with her privileged background being raised by her wealthy parents Rosalind (played by Honor's real-life mother Tilda Swinton) and William (James Spencer Ashworth).

Julie is forced out of her comfort zone as she develops a romantic relationship with charismatic, but troubled Anthony (Tom Burke), who begins to gaslight Julie and pressures her to fund what he slowly reveals to be a debilitating heroin addiction. His addiction ultimately takes his life when he is found dead following an overdose. "The Souvenir: Part II" picks up immediately thereafter as Julie processes Anthony's death, finally discovering her artistic inspiration in making a feature film honoring his life.

"The Souvenir" and its sequel are transcendent works of art that interrogate the toll addiction and volatile relationships take on us and how they infect and inform the artistic process. Both films avoid the pitfalls of sensationalism and indulgence, instead opting for elegant grace, shot in dreamy, hazy cinematography that conjures the sensation of a memory play.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

1. Aftersun

Ten years after its founding, A24 delivers its best film with writer-director Charlotte Wells' debut feature, "Aftersun." The poignant drama centers on young father Calum (Paul Mescal) and his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) as they take a vacation at a budget seaside resort in 1990s Turkey.

Early on in "Aftersun," it is made abundantly clear that Wells trusts her audience, as she refuses to hand-hold us through Calum and Sophie's dynamic and the specifics of their background. Although Calum is charming and cheerful, we see he appears to be putting on a brave face around his daughter while he battles his inner demons, and Wells never clearly spells the source out for us. There are subtle allusions to mental health and addiction, but Wells is more interested in transporting viewers onto his emotional wavelength, rather than making any diagnoses.

Calum and Sophie's bond is beautifully rendered through scenes of holiday leisure, jeering the resort's corny entertainment activities, and intimate conversations when Sophie asks Calum the difficult questions. Like many A24 films, the deeply melancholy "Aftersun" is a slow burn. But when the fuse ignites, it provides a shattering emotional wallop that will leave you completely devastated, yet wanting nothing more than to watch it all over again.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.