A24 has made a name for themselves over the past seven years, soon becoming known for their consistent output of quality independent films. They’ve given a voice to young, creative independent filmmakers and have helped them on their journey into the cinematic landscape. It’s safe to say that they have transformed that landscape since they were founded in 2012. As the decade comes to a close, I teamed up with fellow writer Jack to rank the twenty best films that A24 has distributed since their debut years ago.
But first, some honorable mentions: Gaspar Noé’s psychedelic nightmare Climax (2019); Sean Baker’s heartbreaking drama The Florida Project (2017); Bo Burnham’s generational anthem Eighth Grade; and Jeremy Saulnier’s gripping thriller Green Room.
20. The Lobster (2015), dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
“It is more difficult to pretend that you do have feelings when you don’t than to pretend you don’t have feelings when you do.”
Yorgos Lanthimos’ surreal dark comedy The Lobster is a peculiar look at societal norms and how we ignore our instincts and feelings to play by the rules, confining ourselves to fit in with everyone else. Set in a bleak, claustrophobic hotel where strangers must find love in the most uncomfortable of ways is a concept that could’ve gone in many directions. However, Yorgos puts his focus on Colin Farrell’s character, David, a man desperate for love who is constantly faced with rejection and cruelty from almost everyone he meets.
In Yorgos’ dystopian world, people have to belong to survive, to face the risk of being turned into an animal if they can’t find someone who they belong with. This seems to be Yorgos’ strange look at an odd obsession society has with being part of a relationship. His outlook on things may seem far from reality, but it’s probably one of the most honest portrayals of society’s cruelties that I’ve seen put to film. In our world, it almost seems like lonely people are viewed as animals or strange creatures that don’t fit in. And this film opens our minds to think about those ideas of modern relationships and established social institutions. Yorgos is able to mold those heavy-handed ideas into making something that’s marvelously bizarre and wholly unique. It’s a film only Yorgos Lanthimos could’ve made. – JC
19. Mid90s (2018), dir. Jonah Hill
“A lot of the time, we feel like our lives are the worst. But I think if you looked in anybody else’s closet, you wouldn’t trade your shit for their shit.”
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s is a heartfelt and nostalgic story propelled by strong central performances and a captivating emotional core. It’s an endearing movie that radiates warmth and life, taking inspiration from directors such as Harmony Korine and telling a singular narrative that captures many feelings of growing up. I remember the very first time I landed an ollie on my skateboard years ago; that feeling of building up so much emotion in your blood that you might explode, missing the land over and over. But once I landed it, I felt like I was on top of the world.
Mid90s is natural and beautifully portrays the highest highs and lowest lows of our lives. Every scene is meticulously crafted; even if the viewer can’t fully connect to Stevie (Sunny Suljic), his actions and emotions remain authentic in some form or another. Hill’s sharp writing is exuberant as it is emotional, bursting with life and charm amongst the darkness in Stevie’s world. But it’s Na-Kel Smith that’s the true standout as Ray, one of Stevie’s friends, who delivers one of the most memorable dialogue exchanges of the decade. From the sprawling emotional beats to the unique cinematography, this is a genuine and heartbreaking slice-of-life picture, and one of the finest coming-of-age films of the past few years. – OB
18. First Reformed (2018), dir. Paul Schrader
“I can’t know what the future will bring. We have to choose despite uncertainty.”
Paul Schrader’s First Reformed was a return to form of sorts for this veteran writer-director, going back to his roots to direct a thought-provoking and unsettling character study of a disturbed man. It’s a challenging film that dives deep into religion and environmentalism, bringing up genuinely profound statements throughout the film’s journey. This is a dialogue-driven slow burn that completely relies on the performances of its lead actors to grip you, and it didn’t disappoint.
Ethan Hawke gives a career-best performance as the multi-faceted Reverend Toller: a man that everyone sees as a symbol for hope and kindness in this cruel world. However, as the film progresses, the walls begin to close in on him and we see the facade he’s built finally begin to crack. Toller sees through the faux cheerfulness of contemporary Christianity and finally rejects those ideologies that have taken him down a path in which he’s become ignorant to the world’s true problems. Reverend Toller is someone that’s supposed to find hope in this world, but is there really hope for us? Can God forgive us for what we’ve become and for what we’ve done to this world? Those are the questions that First Reformed wants us to reflect on, questions that none of us are able to answer. – JC
17. The Farewell (2019), dir. Lulu Wang
“It’s not the cancer that kills them, it’s the fear.”
Lulu Wang’s second feature The Farewell is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s an introspective look at all members of a tight-knit family as they grapple with the various emotions that come with loss. For a film like this, Wang took her real-life story that the film is based on and transferred it to the screen in a lovely way. The way she imbues both humor and heart into her film without losing focus of the themes is perfect, and the way she examines the inner collapse of emotions as we reckon with grief is impeccable.
Wang breaths so much life into these characters, enabling you to deeply care about their emotions and feel the life seeping through every line of dialogue. Families are quirky, and there are so many of the little imperfections on display here that enable us to realize that that’s why we love our families so much in the first place. It’s such a heartwarming story that reminds us of the people in our lives that truly affect us most, and our desire to connect with them as much as we can within the time that we have. Wang crafted a remarkable film like no other, filled with memorable performances and dialogue exchanges that reflect the best in us in a touching, poignant manner. – OB
16. Krisha (2016), dir. Trey Edward Shults
“He didn’t even want you to come, because he was scared. The whole family was scared!”
What may be the most overlooked film in A24’s library, Trey Edward Shults’ directorial debut Krisha is a raw and unnerving character study of a troubled woman reuniting with her family during Thanksgiving. It’s a brave feature debut that prides itself on showing the self-destructive nature of its lead character. Using long takes, aspect ratio changes, and harrowing close-ups to transport us into the chaotic nature of Krisha’s mind. The film tackles addiction, forgiveness, and familial relationships all in the span of 83 minutes to ensure a riveting and concise feature that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Setting the film during Thanksgiving makes for an interesting dichotomy, as it’s seen as a holiday of coming together with your family and celebrating love, making the twist all the more effective when the film progresses into utter madness. The internal turmoil between these characters is palpable; you’re just waiting for the inevitable catastrophic event that lights the spark, causing the family to explode with anger. This relentless film is a true display of talent for Shults, who used elements of Krisha for his next two features. We will look back on this film years from now as one that began the career of a major talent in evocative filmmaking—a filmmaker whose work will impact the world in the same ways Robert Altman and John Cassavetes have. – JC
15. The Spectacular Now (2013), dir. James Ponsoldt
“You think beauty’s in some classroom or some textbook, and it’s not. That’s not what it’s about. This right here. This is beautiful. All of this. That’s all you need.”
When it comes to coming-of-age films, A24 seems to have it covered. But many viewers seem to have forgotten about this overlooked gem. James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now is one of the greatest coming-of-age films of the decade, a wholly immersive experience that completely understands every defining aspect of modern teenage life. It doesn’t stoop to a level that devalues teenage experiences like other films this decade, choosing instead to follow a raw and personal story that feels ripped right from the memories and emotions of this generation as a whole. Ponsoldt’s singular focus on the relationship at the heart of the film is unwavering in its complexity, and Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley’s perfect chemistry elevates the narrative. It’s an already heartbreakingly grounded story, but the realism they bring to their roles is unmatched by practically every other movie couple of the decade.
There isn’t much that needs to be said about just how authentic every scene and line of dialogue feel. It’s already impressive that it tackles issues like alcoholism and parental separation this effectively, but it goes even further and becomes even more resonant through its depiction of the divide between those who are going to college and those who aren’t (a primary stressor for teens, regardless of the generation). That’s what makes this film so special: its themes represent the current generation, but they also reflect past generations and will remain just as distinct and prevalent for future ones. – OB
14. High Life (2019), dir. Claire Denis
“The sensation; moving backwards, even though we’re moving forwards; getting further from what’s nearer.”
Claire Denis made her English language debut with High Life: an esoteric, singular work of art that will leave you in a trance. Denis dives into a genre she’s never tackled before, science-fiction, and makes one of the greatest and most unique in the genre. Denis brings her enigmatic and poetic filmmaking to a genre that truly needed something fresh. She grounds a genre built on spectacle by crafting an intimate and hypnotic mind-bender in the vein of Tarkovsky’s Solaris or Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Denis tackles themes she’s covered previously in her other brilliant films: the dangers of desire, the mystifying nature of the human body, and the notion of being an outcast.
However, in this environment with these mysterious characters that are all on the brink of self-destruction, the themes are able to blossom into something that will perplex audiences. High Life may not be for everyone due to its sexually-charged and philosophical way of displaying a world looming destruction, but there is beauty to discover under the eroticism and allegories; there is purpose within what some believe to be a meandering and empty film. Through Denis’ existential meditations on our universe, we’re able to uncover her views on the meaning of existence and the inescapability of our judicial system. She traps her characters within the confines of a spaceship and the eternal emptiness of space is the only thing awaiting them once they leave the blank walls that surround them. These criminals seemingly have no purpose, they’re just awaiting the dark demise that will come soon enough: just like us. – JC
13. The Lighthouse (2019), dir. Robert Eggers
“Bad luck to kill a seabird.”
Robert Eggers’ gripping 19th-Century set horror film The Lighthouse is certainly no sophomore slump. Starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as a pair of lighthouse keepers stranded on an island during a brutal storm, the film wouldn’t work as well as it does without the strength and charisma of its two leads, who play off of each other with such flamboyant confidence that I could personally watch for hours on end.
Eggers’ script is fascinating to watch unfold—it’s rife with tension and has a looming sense of dread that overshadows the viewer’s perception of the film’s events. He takes classic mythology and blends it with his own twisted narrative. This is a powerful example of a film that utilizes atmosphere in deep and magical ways, but never prioritizes it over anything else. Its style goes hand-in-hand with its substance, with Jarin Blaschke’s claustrophobic cinematography working wonders in this regard. It’s one of the most unique films of the year, and continuously takes unexpected turns that veer the story in a completely new direction than what was initially anticipated. It ultimately builds up to a marvelous crescendo of a climax that’s as tightly-written as it is off-the-wall insane. Eggers is able to communicate thrilling themes of power dynamics, redemption, and even homo-eroticism. If you couldn’t tell, this is one special film. – OB
12. Under the Skin (2013), dir. Jonathan Glazer
Jonathan Glazer’s brilliant Under the Skin is a chilling and surreal film loaded with dense symbolism and visceral themes. On the surface, the story seems simple: a mysterious alien comes to Earth and seduces easily susceptible men. However, the thematic core within the film ponders deeply on the human experience, specifically the female experience. It’s a parable of sex, love, and seduction; one that intoxicates the viewer to follow this enticing alien as she discovers what it’s like to be a female in the modern world.
Glazer touches on sexism and gender roles to give way to an effective piece on society’s treatment of women, using the science fiction genre as a compelling way to express those themes. We follow Scarlett Johansson’s unnamed alien along a journey of self-discovery as she learns about humanity and its faults. She first came to Earth looking to feast, but as we follow her along this path she learns to love and have compassion. Perfectly capturing the curious alien’s headspace is Mica Levi’s hauntingly beautiful score. Her score verberates through your soul, elevating the dreamlike images onscreen. Under the Skin undoubtedly feels like a nightmarish fever dream, but it’s also a beautiful love-letter to humanity; a love-letter that realizes the beauty and the brutality of being human. – JC
11. Good Time (2017), dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
“Are you feeling this? Are you feeling as good as I’m feeling right now?”
Josh and Benny Safdie, New York’s favorite art house filmmaker brothers, took a deep dive into the city’s seedy underworld with their electrifying crime thriller Good Time. And while on the surface, it may look like your typical crime film, the brothers’ filmmaking gives way to something deeply sad. The way the Safdies capture the essence of New York City throughout Connie’s (Robert Pattinson) fast-paced adventure throughout one fateful night. It’s the Safdies’ answer to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, a relentless pursuit of the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Except nobody ever reaches that light, do they?
The Safdies take you on a hypnotic journey that uses its vivid imagery as a facade among communal desperation, and their script serves as an empathetic commentary on familial relationships. Somehow Pattinson manages to make you feel sorry for a character that’s filled with so much self-interest and greed. The visual flair traps you in the movie’s grasp, giving you the opportunity to either root for Connie or loathe him, questioning your own sanity in the process. By the end, hopefully you’ve made up your mind: the ruse is gone; the night is over, and all you’re left to do is reflect on the fates of everyone involved in the narrative’s events. Good Time is the textbook definition of cinematic euphoria, a pulse-pounding ride that never lets up. – OB
10. It Comes At Night (2017), dir. Trey Edward Shults
“You can’t trust anyone but family.”
Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night is not your typical horror film. It’s a horror film that pushes all genre tropes aside to make a film that tackles the dangers of collective paranoia and corrupting influence parents can have on their children. It Comes At Night is an incredibly personal film for Shults. He wrote the film as a result of the exploring and processing of regret and grief after his father’s death. Unfortunately, this personal film was subject to horrific mis-marketing.
Shults’ second feature was panned by horror fans who expected something more traditional. Instead, Shults’ take on the horror film is one built on the droning dread we all face as the lights go out. Our minds are supposed to be a safe place, but when the world outside of the mind is dangerous and full of disease, our minds begin to corrupt; there’s no escape from the dark, and soon the fear and paranoia will begin to take over. The home you sought as refuge is now a danger in and of itself. Where can you go? Who can you trust? There’s truly nothing scarier than that. It Comes At Night is a slow-paced, humanist and existential horror film; it’s free from the self-indulgence and ostentatious nature of what some would call “art house horror,” making for a true landmark in horror cinema and furthering the themes of familial terror that Trey Edward Shults has so brilliantly used throughout his work. – JC
9. Swiss Army Man (2016), dir. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
“But maybe everyone’s a little bit ugly. Maybe we’re all just dying sacks of shit, and maybe all it’ll take is one person to just be okay with that, and then the whole world will be dancing and singing and farting, and everyone will feel a little bit less alone.”
There is truly nothing like Swiss Army Man. Right from the opening scene, the viewer knows that they’re in for something deeply affecting—and incredibly weird. It’s almost impossible to put into words just how weird this film actually is. Despite its extreme quirkiness, however, it never seems like it’s trying too hard to push boundaries. It’s a hilarious, touching look at subjects like depression and loneliness that perfectly balances on the line between melodrama and slapstick comedy. Paul Dano is phenomenal here, but it’s Daniel Radcliffe who really steals the show, giving a performance that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at once.
The way director duo “Daniels” (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) utilize a combination of vibrant visuals and a sharp script to craft a story that is almost guaranteed to make you laugh out loud more than once and leave you emotionally gutted by the end. It’s more profoundly creative than any film of the past decade, and subversive in its story beats. It’s refreshing to watch a film like this and be reminded of the undying creativity that the cinematic art form has to offer. This is easily one of A24’s most underrated films, one that is completely unconventional and unique in every respect and absolutely deserves more recognition than it’s gotten since its release. – OB
8. American Honey (2016), dir. Andrea Arnold
“You know what Darth Vader looks like inside his suit? He’s a skeleton, just like the rest of us.”
Andrea Arnold takes us out of our routine, mundane lifestyles to transport us into the world of young, dumb, and broke teenagers in American Honey. A harsh but truthful commentary on poor adolescents within a rich nation. When we meet our lead character, Star (Sasha Lane), she’s in a situation of utter dependency as she bears the responsibility of raising her two younger siblings. She knows this isn’t the life a teenager deserves and desperately craves liberation. Hungry for this freedom, she meets Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and his troupe of high spirited magazine sellers. Immediately, Star is attracted to the erratic and liberating nature of life on the road.
Arnold easily could’ve viewed these teens as unlikable scum, but she views them through an empathetic lens. These teens and this depiction of marginalized youth feel authentic. It’s an honest portrayal of the drifter lifestyle; a portrayal that doesn’t shy away from the sociopolitical aspects that come along with it. Arnold showcases the harsh realities of income disparity throughout the film as we follow these characters on a journey through urban sprawl. The audience gets to see the detrimental effects of economic decline in areas throughout the American Midwest. We truly need more artists like Andrea Arnold to tell stories of the less fortunate: artists that are willing to tell these stories through an empathetic lens, rather than the exploitative manner in which many others portray the poor. Arnold is telling stories that truly matter and I’m glad we have her unique talent within this current cinematic landscape. – JC
7. Lady Bird (2017), dir. Greta Gerwig
“Hey, mom, did you feel emotional the first time that you drove in Sacramento? I did, and I wanted to tell you, but we weren’t really talking when it happened. All those bends I’ve known my whole life, and stores, and the whole thing. But I wanted to tell you I love you. Thank you.”
You may know Greta Gerwig’s 2017 directorial debut Lady Bird as that one movie that no one on Twitter ever shuts up about, but it truly deserves every ounce of the praise and hype that it has received over the past few years. Gerwig told an up-close and personal story that feels wholly fresh and original compared to so many other coming-of-age films. Gerwig’s sharp and refined script provides beautiful insight into the life of the character of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who might honestly be the most relatable character of the decade. Christine is witty, short-tempered, and selfish, like all of us were (and maybe still are) at some point in our lives. She consistently gets into fights with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) over stupid things, but Gerwig uses their arguments as focal points to the narrative to show just how alike Christine and her mother really are. This is a film built on relationships and shows how necessary they are at certain points in our lives.
Lady Bird is a masterpiece at showing the defining aspects of teen life because of the delicate touches Gerwig imbues throughout her script, allowing viewers to relate in some way or another, and to more than one character as well. When Christine is driving through her town on her own for the first time, seeing it differently, the viewer takes it in with her, as she steps out alone into the world for the first time and views the streets she drove with her family from a new perspective. It’s a film made for families to bond over, to heal generational gaps and allow parents and children to connect to a beautiful collection of fragile moments worth treasuring. – OB
6. A Ghost Story (2017), dir. David Lowery
“We build our legacy piece by piece, and maybe the whole world will remember you, or maybe just a couple of people, but you do what you can to make sure you’re still around after you’re gone.“
David Lowery’s beautiful exploration of love and loss is a visual experience that wholeheartedly portrays the magnitude of existence. It’s a film that easily could’ve come off as outlandish—Rooney Mara eats a pie for 5 minutes straight and Casey Affleck walks around in a bed sheet for almost the entire film—but in reality, it’s a poetic and minimalist drama crafted with such delicacy. Lowery masterfully captures the profound nihility and complexity of death, and the eternally tedious life of a soul without unity. Lowery’s interpretation of life after death shows that even after we part from this world, we still wander around looking for purpose. As souls, we’re put in a box where we must watch as everything that we built around us comes to a crumble. The special bond you built with someone…gone; the home you shared with this loved one…gone. You can only watch as people move on to forget you and the special moments you’ve shared.
Hidden beneath each frame, you can feel that longing for human connection and the aching sense of isolation. The film allows for moments of self-reflection where our own experiences with loss, love, and grief can come to the forefront, allowing for a more immersive experience. A Ghost Story is a quiet but transcendent piece of cinema that takes you on a captivating spiritual journey. It’s truly a film that will never leave you. – JC
5. Uncut Gems (2019), dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
“This is how I win.”
The Safdie Brothers followed up Good Time with Uncut Gems, another energetic, electrifying crime thriller. It’s anchored by a powerful, captivating performance from Adam Sandler, who delivers possibly his best work yet as Howard Ratner, a jewelry dealer in NYC’s Diamond District who also happens to be a compulsive gambling addict, resulting in him owing debts to loan sharks and struggling to pay them off. With this film, the Safdies broke a new record for tense, anxiety-driven filmmaking by delving headfirst into Howard’s life, combining frenetic visuals with a pulse-pounding score from Daniel Lopatin, all at the pace of a bolt of lightning. Darius Khondji’s stunning cinematography serves as an exciting accompaniment to the psychological framework of the film.
Despite all of the energy it radiates, however, it’s actually a deeply depressing character study. The Safdies show that we can never outrun the fate that we have written for ourselves. Howard’s selfish tendencies seem to haunt him at every turn, but he never learns. It’s only when faced with a true win that the prospect of being brought down is completely evaporated, until viewers are thrown for one final loop and reminded that this is not a fantasy. With actions come consequences, and it’s ultimately up to us to choose whether those consequences are good or bad for us in the long-run. Taut and unpredictable, Uncut Gems is a riveting masterwork. Plus, it’s got Adam Sandler fighting The Weeknd while “Swimming Pools (Drank)” by Kendrick Lamar plays in the background, which is pretty much everything one can ask for in a movie. – OB
4. Spring Breakers (2013), dir. Harmony Korine
“This is the fuckin’ American Dream, y’all.”
Harmony Korine has never been afraid to shock audiences when delivering his message. With Gummo, he disgusted audiences while exploring poverty and alienation, and in Julien Donkey-Boy he overwhelmed them while telling the heartbreaking story of a schizophrenic teenager. His films always seem to be met with mixed reactions, and that was especially the case with Spring Breakers. His provocative and neon-drenched feature gives a satirical but honest look at the generation who’ve grown up on reality TV and its lies. It’s a film that shows this generation’s warped view of the pursuit of happiness, and the nihilism & debauchery that come along with it. You never know when to laugh, cry or feel disgusted while watching this hypnotic fever dream.
The booze, boobs, and barbarity may distract viewers from Korine’s ultimate message for our youth; that this is a film about people searching for purpose, searching and then discovering these lifestyles portrayed on TV aren’t what they seem from the outside. All of the depravity onscreen is ultimately a gateway for Korine to deliver a message that so many choose to ignore. We really weren’t ready for such a film that made us look inside ourselves and question the materialism and selfishness that has taken over our minds while showing how the consumption of lifeless entertainment has impacted our way of living, as well as portraying the consistent deterioration of importance for what we want to leave behind. Spring Breakers isn’t dubstep-fueled soft-core porn. It’s a brutally honest portrayal of youth, one that most filmmakers would be too scared to tackle. But as we all know by now, Harmony Korine isn’t scared of anything. – JC
3. The Last Black Man In San Francisco (2019), dir. Joe Talbot
“We built these ships. Dredged these canals. In the San Francisco they never knew existed.”
With The Last Black Man in San Francisco, director Joe Talbot and writer Jimmie Fails gifted the world a moving story overflowing with beauty. It’s beautifully authentic and immersive, only made more stunningly real by the fact that it’s based on Fails’ life. Every frame is stunningly vibrant, filled to the brim with so much life and love. It’s hard-hitting on every level, asking the viewer to question whether believing in something that isn’t real is better than believing in nothing at all. The film delivers a thought-provoking, heartfelt story that is truly larger than words can convey. It tackles a wide range of subjects such as gentrification, toxic masculinity, and racial identity, balancing these themes with utter perfection. It’s indescribably exultant, filled with gorgeous shots and landscapes that capture the heart of San Francisco.
Fails’ performance is heartbreaking, and newcomer Jonathan Majors also shines in a masterfully performed supporting role that oozes warmth and compassion. The amount of care, empathy, and intimacy imbued into every line of dialogue is ineffable, reminding us of where we came from and where we’re going in our lives. This is a film that speaks to the viewer and allows them to resonate with the narrative and complex characters as if they too are a part of the story, a tribute to family and friendship. There’s nothing quite like it, and it’s without a doubt the most dually heartwarming and heartbreaking film of the year. – OB
2. Waves (2019), dir. Trey Edward Shults
“Love is patient…love is kind…love is not rude. It doesn’t boast. Love also…forgets wrong.”
Trey Edward Shults’ personal and lovingly crafted film, Waves, is one half a relentless assault on the senses, and the other, a poignant and delicate family drama. With a pulsating soundtrack, vivid visuals and frenetic pacing, Waves is a bold film within a genre full of uninspired works. Shults dives deep into the complex ramifications of toxic masculinity by following a father that emotionally suffocates his son, pushing him to his limits. It’s a dynamic that anyone can relate to regardless of race, gender, or social class. The film is unwavering in its portrayal of a toxic father-son relationship, understanding that there’s love where there’s hate in familial relationships. Shults has depicted the trials and tribulations of life throughout his work, but here, the passion and humanity that seep from the screen make for his most personal film yet.
I’ve never seen a film that portrays the tumultuous life of a teenager quite like Waves. Shults captures the confusion and anxiety of teen life so brilliantly, tapping into the personal experiences of his lead actors to ensure a story that feels real. Shults not only tackles the ups and downs of being a teenager, but he also explores how youth cope after a tragedy, showing the sorrowful but optimistic ways they look at loss. Waves shatters the hearts of audiences only to mend it together again with a cathartic final scene; a scene that’s the culmination of emotion we’ve collectively felt throughout the film. It’s a crushing film that’s full of hope and beauty, and it’ll be something special for many generations to come. – JC
1. Moonlight (2016), dir. Barry Jenkins
“Who is you, Chiron?”
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is not a film. It is a cinematic experience like no other, a life-changing work of art that pushed the boundaries of narrative storytelling by intimately portraying the life of Chiron, a black man growing up in Miami. By splitting the story up into three different (and equally defining) stages of Chiron’s life, Jenkins is able to delicately balance emotion throughout each scene, layering it in a way that allows the viewer to grow with Chiron as he begins to experience defining events in his life.
Moonlight is a tribute to our lives, a tribute to the people, sights, sounds, moments, and feelings that shape us as humans. Jenkins’ script, adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, is rife with fluid emotion, as emphasized by the waves that rush across the screen, beautifully free-flowing. James Laxton’s gorgeous cinematography lends itself to the allure of the film, joined by the terrific, heartbreaking performances from Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, and Alex Hibbert, among others. These performances feel real because everyone has felt the feeling of insecurity in their emotions, the uncertainty of how our futures will turn out. That’s what makes Moonlight so absorbing; it’s a stunningly relatable portrait of a young man coming of age in an unforgiving world where it’s impossible to feel at home in your own feelings. Moonlight isn’t just the best film in A24’s catalog. It’s also quite possibly the best film of the decade. – OB
What’s your favorite A24 film? Let us know on Twitter @simplycinephile or in the comments below!