Ask any indie film junkie to name some of their top movies and it’s likely one, or a few of them, might come from A24’s independent studio in New York City. Founded in 2012 and in just a few years of existence, A24 has built an unprecedented level of brand identity and loyalty.
Whenever the studio’s rainbow chromatic logo appears at the start, moviegoers already know that they’re in for a good film that they can’t quite define why. Is it the stunning visuals?
The soft approach to discuss hard themes? Every A24 film is a unique experience, especially since it doesn’t associate itself with any one filmmaker (like J.J. Abrams with Bad Robot), genre (horror with Blumhouse) or medium (animation studios like Pixar).
A24’s versatility and special touch to the films and series they put out is catnip to open-minded filmgoers and critics alike and if you’ve yet to watch an A24 film or two, here are some A24 films we’d recommend watching – from the scary ones, heartwarming ones and cult favourites that are perfect for newcomers.
In case you’re not able to access these titles on Netflix or any of the stated services, try using a VPN and you might strike gold!
Ex Machina (2014)
A high-brow sci-fi and psychological thriller film, Ex Machina sees Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at a huge Internet company, winning a contest that enables him to spend a week at the private estate of his firm’s CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).
When he arrives, Caleb learns that he has been chosen to be the human component in a Turing test to determine the capabilities and consciousness of Ava (Alicia Vikander), a beautiful robot. However, it soon becomes evident that Ava is far more self-aware and deceptive than either man imagined.
Hereditary starts off with the death of the matriarch of the Graham family. After her passing, her daughter and grandchildren begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The film subtly explores the intergenerational effects of a family curse – both in the form of a demonic entity and the emotional manipulation between family members.
Hereditary is one of those films that will leave you feeling confused and will only make the most sense after repeated viewings as it’s full of subtleties and mini details that can easily be missed when you’re still trying to reel from the shock of certain scenes. Whilst it doesn’t really have an overall point to prove, viewers are invited to make deeper thematic observations of the film.
Green Knight (2021)
In Green Knight, King Arthur’s headstrong nephew embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight, a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself before his family and court.
The movie is an adaptation of the fourteenth-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Starring Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander, the Green Knight is a movie filled with breathtaking visuals and stunning imagery that will win the hearts of any medieval fan. Be warned, the film is slow-paced and contrary to popular belief, isn’t an action-adventure movie.
Lady Bird (2017)
A nurse works tirelessly to keep her family afloat after her husband loses his job. She also maintains a turbulent bond with a teenage daughter who is just like her: loving, strong-willed and deeply opinionated.
Lady Bird can be seen as a coming of age film for the main character Christine (Saoirse Ronan) who is a young ambitious girl caught in the headwinds of the American dream. However, it doesn’t depend too much on the woes of being a teenager, but rather looks at the tender and vulnerable emotional state of adolescence and explores the struggles and phases of a mother-daughter relationship in a realistic manner- a delicate mixture of love and hate.
Life After Beth (2014)
A comedy-romance-horror film, Life After Beth sees a guy named Zach (Dane DeHaan) who discovers that his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) has returned from the dead. His joy later turns to horror as she slowly undergoes a horrible transformation.
Life After Beth is an easy watch and uses the zombie genre as a metaphor to explain that returning to a relationship that has run its course may not always work out as both parties would expect. Or maybe, just don’t date a zombie? That never turns out well.
Forget your post-pandemic travel plans to Sweden. In Midsommar, a couple travels to a friend’s rural hometown in Sweden for its fabled midsummer festival. What first begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
Midsommar takes its time but one wouldn’t be too bothered because it is visually beautiful. Appearing dreamlike, the Spring-aesthetics of the film is contrasted with shocking scenes and cult practices that are bound to freak anyone out. It’s jarring and again, will benefit from multiple viewings to pick up all the little visual cues that will have viewers learning that they would’ve known how the story would play out if only they paid attention. Midsommar stars Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper and more.
A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.
Minari is easily one of the most heartwarming films to come out of A24. It poetically explores dynamics between family members and is incredibly genuine, heartbreaking, loving and nostalgic all at once.
Dubbed in Korean, Minari stars Steven Yuen as patriarch Jacob, Youn Yuh-jung, Han Ye-Ri, Alan S. Kim and Noel Cho.
Moonlight is an expressive drama that tells the story of a young African American boy named Chiron who discovers his sexual identity in an exhilarating three-part odyssey. The film is focused on its protagonist’s self-discovery as a Black person as he faces a multitude of challenges through different phases of his life. The issues range from conformity in early teens, his resistance against becoming a product of his environment, to the probing needle of masculinity in adulthood.
The film also attempts to change competing perceptions of manhood in societal discourse against the backdrop of the hard-hitting realities of the African American community too. The film acts as a universal roadmap for young boys and girls suffering from an identity crisis and defines how care and affection can shape a person, and emancipate them from gender and identity archetypes.
The character Chiron is played by Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex R. Hibbert.
After years of being held captive in an isolated shed by a kidnapper, Joy Newsome and her little son, Jack, manage to escape the confinement and gain their freedom.
Starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, Room tells the heart-wrenching story of Joy and her son Jack held captive and sees Joy forced to make small, yet defining decisions to shield her son from the true horrors of their confinement. When the mother and son duo finally manoeuvre an escape, Jack is overwhelmed by outside stimulation, Joy is forced to acclimate back into a life stolen from her and everything gets too much to handle for the Newsome family. Room illustrates how traumatic experiences can disrupt a typically supportive environment and explores challenging themes with great empathy.
The Farewell (2019)
In The Farewell, a Chinese family learns that their grandmother (Zhao Shu-Zhen) has less time to live so they organise a wedding before her death. However, Billi (Awkwafina) is unhappy with the family’s decision of keeping the news of the terminal illness away from her. Looking into themes like family, love and grief, The Farewell marries progressive worldviews with traditionalism to explore familial dynamics in a modern age.
Although centering a Chinese-American family, The Farewell is relatable to any viewer regardless of their background. Beautifully made with a seemingly simple story, The Farewell stays with viewers for a long time and haunts viewers with its humaneness, little moments and a phenomenal soundtrack.
The Florida Project (2017)
The Florida Project is a heartbreaking look at childhood innocence trapped inside the grim reality of adulthood. The tale follows a young girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), who lives in a motel with her young single mother Halley (Bria Vinaite). Too young to understand the actions of her mother (and the consequences that come because of it), Moonee goes about her day with her friends – exploring abandoned buildings, walking miles away from where she calls home and getting into trouble as normal children would.
The Florida Project is not easy to watch, and can be difficult to digest, but it’s an essential film that is born out of empathy and is destined to share its lessons for years to come. The film also stars Willem Dafoe.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a betting man and is no original jeweller. He has a secret apartment that houses his mistress Julia, who works at his glamorous store and he hangs out with highly influential celebrities, who are also his primary customers. In Uncut Gems, Howard secretly smuggled a rare black opal from an African mine, not knowing how the opal would change his life. Rushing towards the unknown, the film captures aggressive-passive humans who would cross all boundaries to achieve what they desire, and humans who only believe in their own individual power, their individual culture, their own abilities in ensuring the bag for themselves, and themselves only.
Based on a true story, tweeted by the original ‘Zola’ herself, Zola tells the story of how two strippers head to Florida to dance at a club and end up getting roped into a violent prostitution racket against their will.
A movie that starts out normal, Zola soon takes a turn and heads into the bizarre and wild as it explores the exploitation and crime involved in sex work and the dangers sex workers face when power, safety and autonomy are ripped from them. Taylour Paige and Riley Keough star as the two best friends turned worst enemies in the movie.
There you have it, 12 A24 films you have to catch if you’re looking to up your indie game. In the event, some of these shows are not available in your region due to restrictions, there might be a chance that a VPN would be able to help. Happy watching!
This article was first published in Geek Culture.