A decade of A24: the 10 best films from the indie giant

Over the past decade, beloved independent film company A24 has carved out a unique and distinct niche. To celebrate its success, David Michael Brown highlights ten of the indie giant’s best films.

The name A24 has become synonymous with everything that Hollywood isn’t. With a succession of defiantly brave and quirky arthouse flicks, the fiercely independent film company has spearheaded a cinematic revolution. By taking on genres like horror, sci-fi and martial arts as well as personal dramas and oddball indies, A24 has carved itself out a unique and distinct niche.

From their early films like Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring to the dystopian oddness of Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, David Lowery’s bloodily baroque take on the Arthurian legend The Green Knight starring Dev Patel and Ti West’s horror porn hybrid X, A24’s audacious output constantly defies expectations. And now, as films like Moonlight, Lady Bird and Joel Coen’s handsomely mounted stab at Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth make inroads into the mainstream, the Academy has begun to take notice.

With the trashy urgent horrors of Bodies Bodies Bodies hitting cinemas this month and Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale about to resurrect Brendan Fraser’s career, cinema’s biggest cult shows no sign of abating. To celebrate a decade of all things A24, here are ten of their finest films…

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

The second feature from directing combo Daniels, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a delirious mindf**k that confounds, confuses, delights and exhilarates all at once. While their first feature, Swiss Army Man, saw Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse used as a jet ski, this heart-warming martial arts extravaganza uses Hong Kong legend Michelle Yeoh to full effect. She plays a tax-dodging immigrant launderette owner who finds herself the interdimensional saviour of the universe.

Featuring googly eyes, hot dog fingers, gratuitous gore, crass japes and more multiverse mayhem than Doctor Strange at his reality-bending best, Everything Everywhere All at Once has proven itself to be A24’s biggest hit to date.

The Witch (2015)

The film that announced A24 as the one-stop shop for all of your folk horror needs, Robert Eggers’s bewitching chiller paved the way for Ari Aster’s Midsommar and Alex Garland’s Men, both also released by A24. Introducing the world to Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch is a rural shocker set in 1630’s New England. The Queen’s Gambit star plays Thomasin, the oldest daughter of a family in abject despair when their youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes and accusations of witchcraft fly.

With more than a passing nod to Piers Haggard’s 1971 classic Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Witch is the stuff of nightmares. Quite literally. Ominous, shocking, and unrelenting, Eggers’s debut is a screeching cacophony of malevolence that plays out like the greatest horror film that Stanley Kubrick never made. All together now, “Black Phillip! Black Phillip!”

Uncut Gems (2019)

Despite a comedy career that has infuriated as much as it has tickled the funny bone, Adam Sandler has proven himself to be a dramatic actor. With straight performances in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me opposite Don Cheadle, it almost made you forget about the comic travesties like Jack and Jill.

In Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie’s excruciatingly tense thriller, he plays a fast-talking New York City jeweller who is desperately trying to stay afloat as his debts mount and collectors begin to circle his life. Sandler’s jittery turn as Howard Ratner elevates the Netflix drama into a nail-biting white-knuckle ride, the audience feeling his frantic pain as he makes one bad knee-jerk decision after the other.

C’mon C’mon (2021)

Featuring an exquisitely nuanced performance from Joaquin Phoenix, Mike Mills’s beautifully judged drama is an intuitive look at parenthood and the emotional rollercoaster that is bringing up a child.

The Joker actor plays an emotionally stunted podcaster who travels across the States interviewing kids about their thoughts on the future of the world. While he happily talks to the youngsters across America, his sister, played by Gaby Hoffman, thrusts her pre-teen son upon him, he is saddled with an unpredictable whirlwind of chaos called Jess (brilliant newcomer Woody Norman) who threatens to derail his well-ordered life.

Captured in luminous black and white with music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner from alt-rockers The National, C’mon C’mon is a touching and delicate journey through the joys of paternal connection.

Moonlight (2016)

When Warren Beatty read out the wrong Best Picture winner at the 2017 Academy Awards it was one of the biggest fiascos that Oscar had ever seen before Will Smith got slap happy. It also marked the arrival of A24 in Hollywood. Luckily La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz announced the real winner and the rest is history.

Starring Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe, Barry Jenkins’s powerful drama follows the life of a young African-American man as he grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood. Beautifully shot by Jenkin’s cinematographer of choice James Laxton and accompanied by a stunning score by Nicholas Britell, Moonlight marked the arrival of a major new talent.

Under the Skin (2013)

Sexy Beast writer-director Jonathan Glazer ditched the sweary cockney schtick for obtuse sci-fi weirdness in this seemingly mundane oddity starring one of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses.

Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious young woman who prowls the desolate bleak Scottish countryside picking up men. Largely played by non-actors and captured by hidden cameras, the improvised scenes add an eerie and disturbing sense of gritty authenticity. Especially as the shocking true nature of Johansson’s character is revealed.

With stunning visuals, especially when the woman lures her victims into the strange black pool, and an eerie atonal accompaniment from composer Mica Levi, this is close encounter of the weirdest kind.

Ex Machina (2014)

The first feature from Alex Garland, the author of The Beach and the morbid brain behind the scripts for 28 Days Later and Sunshine, Ex Machina is a sleek tech nightmare into sci-fi elevated by the talented cast.

Domhnall Gleeson plays a young programmer selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a highly advanced humanoid A.I. designed by Oscar Isaac’s flyboy scientist. As played by Alicia Vikander, Ava is the slinky deus ex machina who makes the battling boffins implode.

Garland continued his association with A24 tackling toxic masculinity in Men in 2022. His only other film was Annihilation starring Natalie Portman in 2018. While hardly prolific, Garland is proving himself to be a daring genre filmmaker of great vision.

Room (2015)

The film that gave Brie Larson an Oscar and introduced the world to the extraordinary talents of Jacob Tremblay, Frank director Lenny Abrahamson’s tense abduction thriller, written by Emma Donoghue, based on her 2010 novel of the same name, is a confronting and claustrophobic watch.

Larson plays a young woman who was kidnapped by “Old Nick” and held captive in a rudimentary shed. Tremblay plays Jack, her son, who is born into this claustrophobic purgatory and shielded from the constant abuse that is inflicted upon his “Ma”.

[SPOILER ALERT!] Their eventual escape is anxiety-inducing but the pair’s subsequent freedom is anything but perfect as Jack grapples with his newly found emancipation. Room is a fascinating glimpse into trauma fuelled by two extraordinary performances.

The Farewell (2019)

Based on director Lulu Wang’s own life experiences, this beautiful paean to family, and in particular, her grandmother, is tender, funny and heartbreaking in equal measure. This gentle comedy of errors follows a Chinese family as they discover that their matriarch Nai Nai does not have long to live. Like the best-laid plans, everything goes wrong when the family decides to keep her in the dark about her imminent demise, even scheduling a wedding so everyone can gather to celebrate her life before she dies.

Starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Awkwafina as conflicted granddaughter Billi, the comedian proves she doesn’t have to be funny to emote an emotional response. Her portrayal of a young woman preparing for the loss of a loved one while her family bends over backwards to keep the truth from her grandmother is genuinely touching.

Green Room (2015)

A guttural howl of a movie, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier takes virulent rage of punk and fuses it, kicking and screaming, with the brutal bloodlust of the horror genre to create a unique often terrifying experience. The late Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat star as members of D.C. punk band the Ain’t Rights who inadvertently played the support slot for National Socialist black metal band Cowcatcher at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar owned played by Patrick Stewart, who delights in laying evil incarnate.

Antagonising the audience, including the brilliant Imogen Poots, by covering the Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks F**k Off”, the mosh pit soon turns murderous when one of the band stumbles across the aftermath of a murder in the venue’s green room. Saulnier’s exploitation flick with a message is relentless in its intensity, the heightened aggression of the movie mimicking the anger of the punk manifesto.