Founded in 2012, A24 quickly became one of the most prestigious production companies in the market. They created a reputation based on a subtle style of filmmaking that is not quite clear but rather is locked in the imaginary of film lovers, and sometimes, critics. After winning Best Picture in 2017 with Moonlight and accumulating an enviable collection of nominations, A24 had a tough year being completely snubbed in the last Oscars, getting only one nod from the academy in Best Cinematography for The Lighthouse.
A24 was able to manage something unlikely in nowadays cinema world, where fans get excited after hearing that the company’s name is behind a film. That effect is due to an understanding of A24 towards cinema fans that were missing films that take risks and are not ashamed of being weird, or as defined by themselves, “a film company that produces movies from a distinctive point of view”. By filling this gap, the New York-based company succeeded in creating a faithful group of followers worldwide.
Famous for giving insane freedom for their creators, A24 has followed its formula of endorsing first-time directors and investing in projects of established outsider filmmakers. 2020 holds great expectations for the company behind the films and filmgoers alike, big names like Joaquim Phoenix, Colin Farrel, Dev Patel, and David Lowery are involved in this year projects.
Since their first release in 2013, the indie movie company produced more than 100 films, most of them very well received by critics and the public. It is a monumental effort to pick only 10 films, but here’s our shot:
- Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
Based on the homonymous best-selling book by Irish writer Emma Donoghue, the film stars Brie Larson and first-timer Jacob Tremblay. The film was an enormous success at the time, getting an Oscar win for Larson as Best Actress, besides three other nominations including Best Film and Best Director. Tremblay, the prodigy child actor would later be in the huge popular acclaimed Wonder (2017) with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, while Brie Larson became one of the most important members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the role of Captain Marvel.
- Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
Together with Robert Eggers (and maybe James Wan?), Ari Aster is the other horror movie mastermind of the moment. His more recent film Midsommar (2019) could easily also be in this list, but Toni Collette Oscar-worthy performance got Hereditary a place in the top 10. It’s no wonder well-known actors are getting much more interested in performing for horror films than before when you see a story so intriguing and tighten up like this one.
- Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018)
One of the best surprises of 2018, Burnham first feature film is a relatable experience for many. Funny, sensible, compassionate, and cringe-inducing, Eight Grade is a modern-day instant classic. Burnham himself started his career as a YouTuber, it’s a unique experience to see how he adapts technology and the YouTube language of filmmaking to the big screen.
- The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
Horror films are going through an unexpected heated discussion about what exactly defines a film as horror. This is partly because of this film. Or any Robert Eggers film to be honest, although he has only two. Because of its distinctive narrative’s pace, epic setting, deep character development, and relying more on “psychological” scares, some people might say The Witch doesn’t fit in the categorization of horror; they call it a post-horror. Whatever it is, you never thought a family of pilgrims being tormented by a witch in the middle of nowhere in colonial New England could be so nerve-racking.
- Uncut Gems (The Safdie Brothers, 2019)
After spending almost a full decade trying to convince Adam Sandler to perform for their film, the Safdie Brothers would probably say they would easily spend one more if it was to achieve the result they did with Uncut Gems. This movie is probably the closest thing you can get to watch the film form of a panic attack. Funny enough, this might not be the most anxious, stressful, nervous, and sweat-inducing performance by Adam Sandler. Back in 2002, in another rare opportunity where the comedy actor risked himself in a serious role, Sandler acted as a frustrated owner of a small business in Punch-Drunk Love, upon the request of his friend and director, Paul Thomas Anderson.
- Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014)
Realizing the name of this film could be a critique of most Sci-Fi films, makes it even better. “Deus ex machina” is a commonly used writing resource when a situation created in the narrative becomes so complicated it looks like there’s no escape, and the only way of fixing it is to evoke a powerful entity or an outside solution to the problem. A famous example of this resource would be the Eagles coming to the rescue of Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings. Writer-director Alex Garland certainly doesn’t appeal to such remedy in his debut feature film. With an incredibly complex and still enjoyable to follow narrative, and very solid performances by the main trio Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina will probably be regarded in the future as one of the best fiction films ever made.
- The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)
You’ve probably heard the name. Yes, Sean Baker is that guy who shot a film with an iPhone back in 2015. After getting huge attention as a result, A24 was fast to approach him for the director’s next project. The collaboration concluded in an even more compassionate and socially-conscious film, based on the real struggle of the housing crisis in Florida. The Florida Project cast is another detail added to why this film is so enjoyable. Apart from Willem Dafoe, the vast majority of the cast is composed of non-actors, first-timers, and children. The latter being what really spike the interest of the story.
- The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
Cinema is a way of addiction for some. You watch a film that turns you from inside-out and makes you beg for that feeling of watching a good movie for the first time again. And you go to the cinema again, and again, and again. Hoping that another film will leave you exhilarated as that one did. Some almost get there, but most don’t even get close. But from every now and never, a film shows up to give you that extra breath that you needed to fall in love once again. The Lighthouse is that film. Robert Eggers second feature is a crazy derailing ride into madness, loneliness and toxic masculinity. All of this refined with an outstanding pirate’s accent performance by Willem Dafoe, maniac seagulls, sailor’s songs, wet dreams with mermaids, a fixation with tentacles, and Robert Pattison being a compulsive cleaner. Simply amazing.
- First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
Paul Schrader possesses one of the most solid bodies of work in the film industry. As a screenwriter, he has cooperated with directors such as Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese. With the latter, he would create Taxi Driver, his most acclaimed script based on Schrader’s personal experiences living in New York and works from Sartre and Dostoievski. In a world where bigger problems than crime and drugs, such as climate change, mass migration and data leaking have emerged in our lives, First Reformed feels like an updated version of Schrader’s magnum opus. Maybe at first the film is not so compelling, but the more thought put on it, the more it will grow in relevance. This is a film that needs time to be digested. Harsh, cold, realist, urgent, uncomfortable, First Reformed is far from being an easy watch.
- Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
One of the most sensitive films of the last decade, this coming-of-age masterpiece took the film industry by storm by being the first LGBT film getting the Oscar for Best Picture as well as the first film to get the higher honour of the Academy with an all-black cast. Adding to that, Moonlight is the film with the lowest budget ever to win Best Picture. This really helps the case for A24, showing that to produce a true work of art, companies don’t need to invest millions on CGI, or hire a stellar cast to carry the film on their shoulders. In fact, the average budget for an A24 film is less than $10 million, while the industry average is $70-90 million. Although all of the statistics and broken records are important to consider, sometimes they cast a shadow in the real qualities of the subject. Moonlight is an extremely well-directed and shot film and should be regarded for that besides its social importance. With outstanding performances by the whole cast, especially by Trevante Rhodes and Mahershala Ali, Moonlight is a necessary film to be watched in our days.