10. A Most Violent Year (2014)
Both Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain have proven themselves to be heavy hitters in recent years. This was an underrated release however from 2014. It would be amazing to see the two grace the silver screen together again.
Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) struggles to be an ethical businessman during a time when the constraints of New York in 1981 required him to be anything but. His wife (Jessica Chastain) is a descendant of a mafia boss and could be called upon to iron out his woes but Abel wants to do things the legal way. Chastain is not to be trifled with in this film and delivers each line with the coolness and precision of a Shakespearean trained actress, which she is.
9. Room (2015)
This is one of the better releases from A24 to date and again shows how they are not afraid to delve into any topic, including a woman having to raise a child bornfrom rape in the confines of a shed for years. Brie Larson plays the boy’s mother who has to create a world of make believe to shield the child from the horrors of what is actually happening.
Jacob Tremblay has a preternatural ability to perform beyond his years and gives an outstanding performance as Jack. The only thing that could potentially be scarier than life in “Room” might be the one that lies just outside. While this is not a true story, the reality is there are tales that are similar to this one as we are all too familiar with. This film takes the viewer on an emotional journey they won’t soon forget and A24 once again hits a homerun with this thrilling feature.
8. Ex Machina (2014)
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a chance to spend a week with the CEO of the company he works for, Blue Book. Nathan (another brilliant performance by Oscar Isaac) spends his time working on his latest invention, Ava (Alicia Vikander). She is an AI prototype that seems to be built in the image of Caleb’s ideal fantasy girl. Nathan wants to do a Turing test with Caleb to see if he believes Ava possesses self-awareness. We are in for a terrifying future if this film is as prescient as some believe.
The set and color scheme are very engaging. The effects used to create Ava are also stunning. The beauty of this film though lies in the narrative and the implications behind the subject matter more so than the cool effects, which is a hallmark of great filmmaking. A24 has proven it excels in all genres all the while being able to defy any genre it tackles.
7. The Lobster (2015)
Yorgos Lanthimos has taken leaps and bounds to establish himself as an auteur with this film, Dogtooth and Alps. Esoteric, pushing the bounds of absurdity, this film is full of deadpan hilarity that only Lanthimos knows how to deliver. This is one A24 release that when your friends ask you what it is about, you believe that you understand it but have trouble articulating it. It is best for them to see it themselves.
David (Colin Farrell) plays a lonely, desperate man who is sent to an island for other lonely, desperate people to find a mate with a certain amount of time or they turn into an animal of their choosing. Sounds simple enough, right? Of course, nothing is simple in this A24 release that asks its viewers to not only suspend disbelief but really question preconceived notions about love, relationships, and life itself.
6. Moonlight (2016)
This heartbreaking film takes place in three segments of a young closeted black man’s life in crime-ridden Miami. We are first introduced to Chiron as a young boy who has no guidance in his life. He lives with his crack-addicted mother and is bullied by other boys.
Through a random set of happenstance, he meets Juan (Mahershala Ali), a drug dealer with a heart of gold who provides somewhat of a positive male role model for Chiron. As time progresses, we see the societal pressures of growing up as a black man take its toll on Chiron, especially as he is not allowed to be who he really is.
This film took home the Oscar for Best Picture last year and rightfully so. It is a shame it was robbed of that glorious moment due to an envelope snafu but Mahershala Ali gave a brilliant speech for Best Supporting Actor about what happens when a person is not allowed to develop fully and what makes this film so important is it gives voice to an issue that is still an issue in certain communities. Directed by Barry Jenkins, this filmed sealed the deal as A24 being one of the Golden Greats in independent film companies.
5. Locke (2013)
Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, the project manager for a major construction development. As he is driving home one evening, he gets some news not just about the project that he is overseeing but also in his own personal life that will change its course forever. The entire film takes place in the car as we listen to Locke talk to various people over the phone. He has two hours to make everything right, if that term even applies in this case.
Only A24 could release a film like this and not make it seem like a gimmick. On its face, the idea of watching a protagonist in a car for an hour and 25 minutes may not sound exciting but this film really is a nail biter in such an unconventional sense. Tom Hardy delivers the goods in this film so put this in your queue immediately if you haven’t seen it.
4. Lady Bird (2017)
The more cynical readers of this site may question if this film lived up to its hype. It does to an extent. It is arguably the best mother/daughter drama out there, which hasn’t been done effectively since Terms of Endearment. Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) really knows how to bring out the best performances in her actors and everything comes together so perfectly in this film, it is sure to win over the most cynical of viewers.
Saiorse Ronan stars as Lady Bird, who dreams of leaving her home in Sacramento for a place that surely must be better. Laurie Metcalf plays her exasperated mother who despite all of her worry and fussing over Lady Bird, ultimately has to trust the process and hope for the best.
This film is extremely relatable and encapsulates the best of the coming of age genre. No matter how much you want to leave something behind, a piece of it will always be with you. The direction, writing, and acting are spot on in every way and this was easily one of the better films of last year.
3. Good Time (2017)
Benny and Josh Safdie (Heaven Knows What) have been teaming up to write and direct absolutely brutal takes on the underclass in America for some years now. If it takes place in the margins, the Safdie brothers have you covered. Robert Pattinson is finally shaking off the Twilight glitter and showing us the depth of his talent.
Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) and his brother Nick (an almost unrecognizable Benny Safdie) rob a bank together. Nick is not as fast as his brother though, and he ends up getting caught. Connie has to race against time to keep his cognitively disabled brother out of Rikers. Iggy Pop contributes a devastatingly good song to the soundtrack to one of the most underrated A24 releases from last year.
This movie has so many layers to it. The social commentary on race is not lost on the viewer as several of Connie’s encounters have him leaving the scene scot free but an unsuspecting person of color gets reprimanded by the authorities some sort of way.
The movie is just as fast paced and frenetic as the life the Nikas brothers must lead. The viewer really gets the feeling of the rush and thrill that the two must experience. Benny Safdie’s performance will have you wishing he would spend more time on this side of the camera too.
2. The Florida Project (2017)
Sean Baker’s Tangerine was shot entirely on an iPhone. It proved to be quite a success and The Florida Project was a highly anticipated follow up to that film. If nothing else, viewers get to see a ragged Willem Dafoe playing the good guy and it suits him for a change.
Brooklyn Prince plays young Moonee who runs around a Florida motel parking lot playing with her little friends. They are not well supervised and often get into trouble doing things they shouldn’t be doing. Her mother played by Bria Vinaite does whatever she can to make ends meet but life has not been kind to her.
Moonee takes it all in stride and doesn’t have a care in the world until her mother’s poor decisions have dire consequences. Willem Dafoe (Bobby) manages the motel and tries to provide some type of consistent presence in the life of Moonee and her mother.
This film is nothing short of wonderful. Sean Baker does an exceptional job exploring what its like growing up in poverty in the shadow of Disney. Watching this film really was like discovering Willem Dafoe all over again. He is so effective in his role as Bobby. Bria Vinaite was actually discovered on Instagram. Sean Baker has always exceled at finding the most authentic people to play his characters and this film is no exception.
1. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Arguably one of A24’s best releases from last year, this film is another entry from Yorgos Lanthimos. This film stays with you for days after viewing and may even take an additional viewing to really take in all of what you just saw. Divisive, absurdly funny, and emotionally devastating, this movie sums up all of the places an A24 release can take you.
Dr. Steven Murphy is a cardiac surgeon who has a strange relationship with a young man named Martin (Barry Keough). The nature of the relationship is not exactly clear but it seems to be growing increasingly sinister and time unfolds. Steven’s wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) seems to be aware that he is hiding something but nothing gets past Steven’s cool veneer.
Every character delivers their lines with that signature Lanthimos deadpan delivery that makes some of the scenes riotously funny. What follows is a gut-wrenching tale of vengeance that will make you wish you paid more attention studying Greek mythology in school.
The title of the film does clue the viewer in to what is happening in addition to a couple of pivotal moments in the film before the third act. Lanthimos’ focus on the cleanliness of a surgeon’s hands also smacks the viewer upside the head with jaw droppingly disturbing story in the film. Dr. Murphy’s hands are quite filthy as we come to find out in this modern day Greek tragedy.