A24, in just eight short years, has become one of the most beloved and renowned distributing companies in the entire world. In that time, they’ve released over eighty films as a company, many of which have gone on to rack up multiple Oscar nominations and wins as well as widespread critical acclaim. Aside from that, many of the best A24 films have become incredibly integral to more than just than the film community, but to society as a whole. Because I am a madman, I have spent a good portion of my time in quarantine watching as many A24 films as I could possibly manage (21 A24 films in 11 days, to be fair).
Here is my ranking of those A24 Films and where you can watch them:
41. HOT SUMMER NIGHTS (2017) dir. by Elijah Bynum (found on Amazon/Prime)
It’s remarkable how utterly boring and predictable this film is, especially given that it stars Timothée Chalamet, who, at the time of the film’s release in 2017, was blossoming into one of the most talented young actors alive. There is nothing of any interest that happens at any moment in this movie. Every character is a totally uninteresting cliché. The final act of the film is fine, but by that point, the film had already bored me so much that it was nearly possible to be engaged with anything that was happening. There are so many better ways this type story can be (and have been) told which makes this, without a doubt, the stalest A24 film on this list.
40. THE MONSTER (2016) dir. by Bryan Bertino (found on Netflix/Amazon)
This movie shouldn’t have sucked so bad. Zoe Kazan is a more than capable actress and she proved that with her wonderful turn in THE BIG SICK. Even in this dreadfully dull and uninteresting film about a monster that kills people by the woods, she delivers a competent performance, but it isn’t good enough to make this film seem like anything other than something that could’ve been played on the Syfy channel. It may not be worse than ANACONDA 3, but it’s definitely less funny. The young actress, Ella Ballentine, does do a commendable job, though.
39. LOCKE (2013) dir. by Steven Knight (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
I wanted to like this film. I so badly wanted to. I love Tom Hardy. I love the never-ending war he has waged on roles where he speaks with a regular dialect. But, man… this film was BORING. Tom Hardy drives in a car for 90 minutes and talks on the phone for the entire film with different people, ranging from his wife to his mistress to people he works with to his child. He gives a solid emotional performance, which ultimately saves the film from being the worst film on this list, but it doesn’t make the film worthwhile. I could watch this film instead of taking melatonin at night and it would just as effectively do the trick.
38. THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017) dir. by James Franco (found on Amazon/Prime)
I probably like THE DISASTER ARTIST more than I actually think it’s a good movie (this is probably due to the fact that I met my girlfriend of the past few years on a date to see it in 2017). Truthfully, THE DISASTER ARTIST is totally alright. My issue with it is that it lacks any of the heart of the film it is trying to emulate (ED WOOD, Tim Burton’s best film). It feels like it was made because Franco and friends discovered he had a good Tommy Wiseau impersonation and they decided they wanted to remake parts of THE ROOM because of it. Though James does a good job, for people watching THE DISASTER ARTIST who have never seen THE ROOM, I’m not sure it would really be all that funny, outside of the moments from THE ROOM, and at that rate, just watch the actual THE ROOM… it’s far weirder and more fascinating.
37. WAVES (2019) dir. by Trey Edward Shults (found on Amazon)
Half of this film is a wreck. It’s almost hilariously bad and desperately attempts to be a mix of MOONLIGHT and EUPHORIA. Trey Edward Shults has two other A24 films and they’re both far better, which makes this film even more inexplicable, seeing as it features his strongest cast and highest budget. The first half, which is embarrassing and feels like a film about black identity made by a white man (which it is, to be fair), features Alexa Demie playing the same character she plays on EUPHORIA and a performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr. where he tries way too hard. It’s a shame, because once the film slows down and breathes in the second half, it gets good. Taylor Russell was so stellar in the latter half (she saves the movie) that she should’ve gotten a look from the academy for Best Supporting Actress. Lucas Hedges continued his string of excellent and heartfelt performances and Sterling K. Brown was adequate. But that first half…
36. UNDER THE SKIN (2013) dir. by Jonathon Glazer (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
This film is shot beautifully and has a really strong synth score, but ultimately fails to hit its mark. Scarlett Johansson does a fine job, but she does nothing to truly elevate the film in any way that any other actress would be able to. This isn’t totally her fault, because she is an emotionless, dead-eyed alien with the sole mission of luring men to their death, but I digress. Slow movies aren’t always bad, but unfortunately, even though this film is only 108 minutes, it felt like it was 180 minutes.
35. THE BLING RING (2013) dir. by Sofia Coppola (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
This film is the inferior version to SPRING BREAKERS (which appears on this list later and is definitely better). It’s not a bad film, but it’s also not an incredible film, by any stretch. It’s a true story follows the lives of spoiled high school kids in Los Angeles going from house to house and robbing celebrities while they’re not home. It’s flashy and pretty to look at it, and thought it’s funny enough, it won’t leave you thinking about it soon after it finishes. You could threaten Emma Watson’s family at gunpoint and tell her that you’ll execute her whole family if she’s unable to go a whole film with a consistent dialect and you’d have no choice but to pull the trigger. When her dialect is on, it’s good, but far too often she slips into British.
34. THE LOBSTER (2015) dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
Of all the mainstream Yorgos Lanthimos films, this one sucks the most. The first half is pretty alright and the always reliable Colin Farrell does a nice job, but overall, it felt like the joke of the film became obvious within the first 15 or so minutes and it never really went anywhere beyond that. It was like… “Okay, I get it.. Now what??”. Rachel Weisz was acceptable in the second half of the film (though she is far better in the other Lanthimos film, THE FAVOURITE), but overall, nothing about the film is lasting enough to earn it anything other than a middling score, which is disappointing because I know a ton of people who really love this film.
33. AMERICAN HONEY (2016) dir. by Andrea Arnold (found on Netflix/Amazon)
If this film had been 45 minutes shorter, this would have slotted at least six slots higher on this (and possibly even higher). Unfortunately, this film drones on and on in a cyclical and redundant way. The first half does a really good job providing audiences with a compelling story about a young woman who intends to escape her dead-end life and find freedom and fulfillment, but very quickly into the film, it becomes apparent that finding that satisfaction may not be as easy to find as she may have thought and then it spends another hour and change reinforcing that idea. It goes on for so long that the film almost becomes devoid of tension. One of the final scenes is quite poignant and effective, but overall, this film ranks so low because it could’ve been so high and instead fumbled and meandered. Very good performance from Shia here, though.
32. EIGHTH GRADE (2018) dir. by Bo Burnham (found on Amazon/Prime)
When I first saw EIGHTH GRADE in 2018, I really liked it quite a bit, but as time has gone on, I’ve come to grow more and more weary of this movie, despite the fact that it captures adolescence fairly accurately. Though not professional or seasoned, I thought the young actress, Elsie Fisher, did a very admirable job carrying the burden of a full feature-length film. Burnham does a decent enough job with his writing and debut as a director, but watching so much of a movie happen through computer and phone screens, despite the accuracy, is tedious and the score is also pretty grating. It’s worth watching, but certainly not worth re-watching.
31. A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (2014) dir. by J.C. Chandor (found on Netflix/Amazon)
This film is the most typical film ever. This is one that you can watch the trailer and know EXACTLY what you’re going to get out of it. It isn’t bad at all, but it’s also not very inventive or original. Strong performances from Oscar Isaac (one of the most underrated actors from the last decade) and Jessica Chastain go a long way into making this thriller/drama work, but Elyes Gabel as “Julian” was probably the most compelling part of it all. You won’t be disappointed if you check this one out, but you won’t get anything more than what you expect from it.
30. SWISS ARMY MAN (2016) dir. by Dan Scheinert and Dan Kwan (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
This is probably the weirdest and most interesting film on this list, even if I don’t think it’s the greatest on the list. None of it should work at all. It’s a film about a vomiting and farting corpse with an erection that works as a compass and another man stranded on an island trying to find his way home. Though it has many multiple humorous and baffling moments, it actually oozes with so much heart that it’s deserving of being seen. Paul Dano is great, per usual, as a confused and pathetic man trying to find his place in the world as he attempts to find his way home and Daniel Radcliffe proves himself to be an excellent character actor as the farting, vomiting corpse.
29. THE SOUVENIR (2019) dir. by Joanna Hogg (found on Amazon/Prime)
THE SOUVENIR is a really challenging and difficult film, but it is quite good. It’s one of the quieter films on this list, and though nothing about it is confusing or detail-orientated, it requires lots of attention and care. It’s a simple story, following the romance between a young film student attempting to make a movie while balancing a fairly toxic relationship with a drug user. It’s devastating and painful and well-acted, both by Honor Swinton Byrne (daughter of Tilda Swinton, who is also briefly in the film as Honor’s character’s mother) and Tom Burke. Though it takes its time to get moving, it’s quite engaging once it does.
28. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) dir. by Mike Mills (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
As I was watching this, I wanted to like it less than I did. It’s the epitome of a white-feminist film. I imagine that the people that find it to be important feminist art also happen to think that wearing a pink hat is an example of good feminism. Even though it’s only four-years-old, it already feels dated, and, yet, I still enjoyed it. Annette Bening, who has never received the love she should for her acting prowess, delivers a truly stellar performance, and though the romance (??) between Elle Fanning and Lucas Jade Zumann’s characters doesn’t feel fully realized, it didn’t bother me as much as I would’ve thought. Billy Crudup is a nice supporting role here, and Greta Gerwig, who seems to be involved with every recent white-feminist film (I still think she is good) is probably the strongest of the supporting characters. If you’re a college-educated white woman, this movie will probably be right up your alley. It’s not bad; I just wanted it to be better.
27. IT COMES AT NIGHT (2017) dir. by Trey Edward Shults (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
It’s a shame this had to be falsely marketed to get anybody to go see it, because it’s quite good. Many people will find IT COMES AT NIGHT to be “slow” and “boring” because there isn’t some big loud noise or some stupid CGI monster jumping up onto the screen every six minutes, but the people who feel that way might not be people you want to talk about movies with. Trey Edward Shultz gets far more out of Kelvin Harrison Jr. here than he did in WAVES (he was bad there), to the point that Harrison Jr. actually manages to be the most terrifying part of the entire film. The message of the film is certainly overly obvious and easily understood, but the mood and tension that Shultz crafts in a brisk 91 minutes is impressive and Joel Edgerton is an effective vehicle to relay that fear and anxiety.
26. THE FAREWELL (2019) dir. by Lulu Wang (found on Amazon/Prime)
I really didn’t expect to enjoy Awkwafina in this film lr to be good here, but she surprised me. While I don’t LOVE her in it, I think she does a much better job than I was expecting. This film was quite good, even if it has a noticeably weaker second act than first or third. Still, I don’t find myself thinking about it or longing to revisit it. It’s a well-made, interesting (true) story about an Asian-American struggling with her identity on a return visit to China with her family. It gives wonderful representation to an oft-underrepresented community in film (Asian people), but ultimately, when it finishes, it does feel as if something is missing. It doesn’t sink it much, but prevents it from landing higher on the list than this spot.
25. GOOD TIME (2017) dir. by Josh and Benny Safdie (found on Netflix/Amazon/Prime)
GOOD TIME would’ve been a more impressive film if I hadn’t seen the Safdie brothers follow-up film, UNCUT GEMS, first. GOOD TIME shares many of the same traits from their 2019 masterpiece, such as the constant, harrowing tension and characters who are as ambitious as they are reckless, but it’s obvious when watching it after UNCUT GEMS that the Safdies were still learning how to properly harness their power for visceral filmmaking during their work on it. Robert Patinson is quite seedy and really gets the opportunity to show off his acting chops here and Barkhad Abdi proves he deserves to continue to book jobs after his Oscar nominated performance from CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.
24. OBVIOUS CHILD (2014) dir. by Gillian Robespierre (found on Netflix/Amazon)
This film would partner quite well with The BIG SICK. If you enjoy that film, you’d probably like this, too, even if this is definitely a more uncomfortable viewing experience. This is one of the funnier films on this list, and that’s mostly thanks to Jenny Slate’s excellent performance as stand-up comic “Donna Stern”. This film explores what it means to be a woman trying to balance romance and familial issues at the same time that one balances pursuing their dreams. Though it’s quite funny for much of the film, this film is full of tenderness and oozes with love. Jake Lacy is incredibly earnest and endearing here, too.
23. KRISHA (2015) dir. by Trey Edward Shults (found on Netflix/Amazon)
This is the best Trey Edward Shults film on this list. It’s a devastating look at a Thanksgiving reunion shared between an absurdly large family and the estranged “Krisha” (played by Krisha Fairchild), who suffers from severe alcoholism and mental illnesses. It’s filled with delightful, palpable tension and features a stupendously stressful final act where tempers flare and emotions pour out in all directions. Krisha Fairchild is quite exceptional, as is the whole ensemble.
22. THE FLORIDA PROJECT (2017) dir. by Sean Baker (found on Netflix/Amazon)
Besides possibly the worst ending I’ve ever seen in a motion picture, this film is quite good and deserves to be seen. Willem Dafoe, who rarely misses, is the best part of the project, though I’m unsure of if he was deserving of the Supporting Actor Oscar nomination he garnered for his work here. Still, the scene he shares with a pedophile near a soda machine was breathtakingly good. Bria Vinaite who plays “Halley” and Brooklynn Prince, who plays her daughter, masterfully pull off playing disgusting, grimy, and pathetic white trash in this authentic and painful look at the reality for so many people that live in poverty.
21. FIRST COW (2019) dir. by Kelly Reichardt (will be available to stream soon)
FIRST COW was the final film I saw in theaters before quarantine began. It’s a tender and quiet look at masculinity and friendship and the inevitable ways in which capitalism will fail poor people. It also brilliantly displays an idealized version of American spirit and entrepreneurship. John Magaro is soft-spoken and subtle and his relationship with Evie (the cow) provides the film with some of its loveliest and gentlest moments. Orion Lee’s eyes glimmer with charisma and confidence in a way that can’t be taught.
20. MID90S (2019) dir. by Jonah Hill (found on Amazon/Prime)
MID90S captures a very specific era better than most every movie on this list. Jonah Hill’s passion for his directorial debut seeps through every frame of the film. It isn’t perfect, but it’s so clearly made with love and adoration that it just works. The ensemble, comprised mostly of young non-actors who can skateboard, feels totally authentic, especially Sunny Suljic (the star) and Na-kel Smith. Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges, both with very little screen time devoted to them, do terrific work.
19. THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2015) dir. by Oz Perkins (found on Netflix/Amazon)
There won’t be many films on this list more disturbing than THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER. It follows Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton as young women who have varying horrifying experiences with Satan during the dead of winter. This film, like its setting, is devoid of any warmth. Unlike most modern horror films, THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER and director Oz Perkins take special care to let the film gradually build tensions and suspense, focusing less on character and more on atmosphere. The women are brooding and unreliable and wretched, as is everything that happens to them. Any horror film fan should check this one out immediately.
18. SPRING BREAKERS (2012) dir. by Harmony Korine (found on Netflix/Amazon)
I have no shame in admitting that I am a SPRING BREAKERS-truther. It’s secretly a brilliant film about the way in which vapid and shallow white woman appropriate black culture and invade black spaces, leaving devastation in their path and then quickly abandoning the identities they so desperately crave to impersonate once they no longer find any use in said identity. Harmony Korine lets his audience know that everything that will be seen in the film will be pointless, stupid, and over sexualized within the first minutes of the film because that’s how the world is in the social media era. It’s stunningly shot, and James Franco deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance. Few films so perfectly satirize AND accurately capture the decade that they’re a spawn of then SPRING BREAKERS.
17. GREEN ROOM (2015) dir. by Jeremy Saulnier (found on Netflix/Amazon)
My overwhelming feeling when I watched this criminally underrated film was that Anton Yelchin’s death was an unimaginable travesty. He’s always impeccably good, but this is one of the finest performances of his career. Watching him, Imogen Poots, and Alia Shawkat try and survive the wrath of neo-nazis (led by a shockingly great James Stewart) while trapped in a green room after a concert was genuinely frightening and anxiety-inducing. It’s graphic and shocking, but it’s extremely effective in eliciting terror. Few films give me as much adrenaline as this one does.
16. CLIMAX (2018) dir. by Gaspar Noe (found on Amazon/Prime)
There is no other way to describe CLIMAX than as “nightmarish”. It’s a French film that follows a dance troupe throwing a party after a rehearsal late one night. The only catch: They’re all unknowingly drinking cup after cup of sangria laced with LSD. What follows is an hour of watching every single person in the film lose their goddamn minds. It’s incredible and awful and I can’t stop thinking about it. There’s only two actual actors in the entire film (one of which is Sofia Boutella, who is remarkable here), and the rest of the film is comprised of dancers, mostly all improving their lines and dialogue. The film features some of the most superb camerawork I have ever seen, as well as some of the most evocative dance sequences ever captured in film. It’s a ghoulish, grimy, disgusting film that everybody should be forced to watch.
15. HIGH LIFE (2018) dir. by Claire Denis (found on Amazon/Prime)
HIGH LIFE is one of the ten best sci-fi films of the last decade. It features absolutely beautiful cinematography and Robert Pattinson in one of his finest performances to date. It’s a grim tale about convicts being forced into space and that must attempt to procreate as a means to discover scientific breakthroughs. As one can expect, things go awry, which leads to some intermittently compelling conflict between the ensemble of inmates, but where the movie really excels is in the quiet moments shared between Robert Pattinson and the child on the ship. The score is mostly ominous and steady, but the final ten minutes of the film are quite compelling and serene.
14. THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019) dir. by Robert Eggers (found on Amazon)
Robert Eggers has emerged as one of the finest horror directors in the world in the back half of the 2010s, alongside Ari Aster. Both of them are the only two on this list to have two films in the top-14. Eggers first film to appear on here, THE LIGHTHOUSE, is a painfully tight and claustrophobic film experience, mostly due to the 1.19:1 aspect ratio which feels suffocating. It that follows two men (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) and their plunge towards madness and chaos due to being trapped on a tiny island in a lighthouse. Pattinson, who is the only actor to appear on this list three times (in notable roles), is quite good, per usual, but Dafoe is the star of the whole thing, giving one of the most astoundingly chilling performances of his life. It’s not an easy watch, for sure, but it is a good one.
13. THE WITCH (2015) dir. by Robert Eggers (found on Netflix/Amazon)
Any film starring Anya Taylor-Joy is a good film. No young actress has eyes steelier than hers and THE WITCH and Robert Eggers make perfect use of them in what many argue is the finest horror film of the past decade (it would probably slot at fourth-best of the 2010s, in my opinion). THE WITCH is slow and certainly less exciting than Eggers more recent 2019 release, THE LIGHTHOUSE, but nonetheless, THE WITCH is remarkably captivating and stressful. Few things are more exhilarating than watching the family from the 1630s that this film follows descend into madness. The final act is both brutal and perfectly unsatisfying.
12. ENEMY (2013) dir. by Denis Villeneuve (found on Netflix/Amazon)
Most all of the films left on this list, save for just a few, feature a singular performance so excellent that it elevates the film to dizzying heights; ENEMY is no exception and this should come as no surprise to anybody who’s ever seen a Jake Gyllenhaal film (in his element, Jake can be the best working actor alive). ENEMY is a spellbinding and complicated look at monogamy, controlling desires, and infidelity laced with motifs of spiders. It’s brimming with symbolism, demands repeat viewings, and gets better with each watch. Villeneuve shoots buildings and environments with overwhelming amounts of affection and craftsmanship. He’s one of the most talented young directors alive right now and ENEMY is his underrated gem. The final shot is one of the most memorable final shots in any film ever.
11. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017) dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos (found on Netflix/Amazon)
Though it isn’t better than Lanthimos’ masterpiece, THE FAVOURITE, it’s undeniable how good THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is. Few films are more morbid than this one. It’s billed as a black comedy (if so, it’s the deepest shade of black), and while I do think it’s laugh-out-loud hysterical, I totally understand why almost nobody spends their time watching this film laughing. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman and their family have a curse put on them by “Martin Lang” (played to perfection by Barry Keoghan) as a means to avenge his father that Farrell killed in a surgery. What follows is dark, horrific pain inflicted on the whole family in the most absurdly grotesque and… amusing… ways. It’s great.
10. THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (2019) dir. by Joe Talbot (found on Amazon/Prime)
Films set in the San Francisco region for the past few years have been utterly excellent and THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO is no exception. This one covers many of the same topics that BLINDSPOTTING, the great and slept on film from 2018 set in Oakland, covers, but the first half also feels like it’s stylistically shot in the same manner that SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (also a film from the same region) is shot in. It tackles a wide array of topics, but the central ones are gentrification (which is rampant in the region) and what it means to be a black man. Its first half is barely too whimsical, but the film more than makes up for it in the superb second half. The performances from Jimmie Fails (who the story is based on) and especially from Jonathon Majors as his best friend are extremely touching.
9. MIDSOMMAR (2019) dir. by Ari Aster (found on Amazon/Prime)
Ari Aster is the only director deserving of having two films appear in the top ten of this list. His second film is a near-masterpiece and the third best horror film of the last decade. Florence Pugh gives one of the finest performances from a lead actress in a film EVER. She absolutely should’ve won the Lead Actress Oscar last year over Renee Zellweger (who was fine in JUDY, but will ultimately be forgotten in three years). Pugh wasn’t even nominated (Pugh should’ve also taken home the Supporting Actress Oscar for LITTLE WOMEN, but that’s another story). MIDSOMMAR works so effectively because of both Aster’s gripping and Kubrick-ian way of filmmaking (there’s an incredibly detached and emotionless way in which he captures the world around him) and because of Pugh’s emotional availability. There is no actress alive right now that has a face that bursts with as much emotion as Pugh’s does. Moments of Pugh struggling with depression, anxiety, panic, mania, and catharsis are all exhilarating. Narratively, this film isn’t as pristine as Aster’s other film, but it’s damn near close.
8. ROOM dir. by Lenny Abrahamson (2015) (found on Netflix/Amazon)
*Sexual Assault Trigger Warning* ROOM is a grueling watch. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. It’s draining in ways very few films have ever managed to be for me. Brie Larson gives the performance of her life and one that will define her career forever in a nauseating look at sexual violence. Larson is trapped in a shed by a vile, awful man who rapes and abuses her and she shares the claustrophobic space with her adorable and kind five-year-old son, who she gave birth to in the shed as a product of her rape. The film follows them on their attempt to escape their captivity, and features one of the most stress-inducing scenes I’ve ever seen. The second half of the film is gorgeous and lush and heartbreakingly beautiful. This is one of the more difficult films I’ve ever watched, but it feels absolutely essential.
6. EX MACHINA (2014) dir. by Alex Garland (found on Netflix/Amazon)
EX MACHINA is one of three sci-fi masterpieces from the 2010s (the other two are INCEPTION and ARRIVAL, in that order). If I had no idea what it was and somebody told me it was a BLACK MIRROR, I wouldn’t question that at all, and it would easily be one of the strongest episodes from that series. Oscar Isaac gives probably the best performance of his career (I still have to see INSIDE LLYWEN DAVIS, though, to be fair) as the appropriately smug genius Nathan. He’s slimy and charming and cocksure and awful, but it’s impossible to look away from him and his dangerously ambitious pursuits. The real star of the film is Alicia Vikander, though, who plays the artificial intelligence that becomes very close with Domhnall Gleeson (who had a quietly stellar 2014-2015 that nobody ever really talks about). She’s thoughtful and inquisitive and her eyes are packed with wonderment. A film like UNDER THE SKIN, which poses the question, “What it means to be human?”, but done in a vastly superior way.
5. HEREDITARY (2018) dir. Ari Aster (found on Amazon/Prime)
Ari Aster’s debut film is the second-best horror film of the 2010s. It’s a family drama showing how trauma and mental illness get passed from one generation to the next, backed by a horror premise about demon possession. It’s an example of everything in a horror film working perfectly. As a narrative, it’s easily understood, yet just not traditional enough that it still packs walloping, terrifying surprises. Toni Collette carries the film on her shoulders remarkably and, just like Florence Pugh in MIDSOMMAR, should have won a Lead Actress Oscar that year, though she also was not nominated. Some of the best scenes in the whole film come from Collette unloading her grief and letting out all of her trauma for the audience to see (two scenes that are particularly emblematic of this are at the dinner table with her husband and son and another one at a support group meeting). It’s a horrifying and depraved nightmare that’s masterfully shot by a rookie filmmaker deftly skilled at crafting suspension and tension. There’s one frame in this film that will never escape my mind as long as I live. You’ll know it when you see it.
7. FIRST REFORMED (2018) dir. by Paul Schrader (found on Amazon/Prime)
FIRST REFORMED is one of the loneliest films imaginable. It’s the closest film to capture TAXI DRIVER’s essence since TAXI DRIVER came out (JOKER doesn’t come close to capturing TAXI DRIVER because JOKER isn’t good), which shouldn’t be totally surprising, given that director/writer Paul Schrader also wrote TAXI DRIVER. Ethan Hawke gives the strongest performance of his life as Pastor Toller, a good but forlorn man with an alcohol addiction who experiences an awakening of sorts after an encounter with a family from his church that exposes him to the way in which the world is decaying from pollution. This experience causes him to lose it, and watching Hawke’s downward spiral into madness is hypnotizing. Amanda Seyfried also gives a rather charming performance. The final ten minutes of this film are depraved and mesmerizing and wonderful. I can’t stop thinking about them.
4. LADY BIRD (2017) dir. by Greta Gerwig (found on Amazon/Prime)
Greta Gerwig came through with a masterpiece when she made LADY BIRD. This is mostly possible because Saoirse Ronan is arguably the most talented young actress alive and she gives a performance to prove it. LADY BIRD is a classic coming-of-age story and while some may critique it as another white-feminist movie (this happens with all of Gerwig’s works), it’s less a movie exploring feminism and more a film exploring familial dynamics, especially between a mother and her daughter. Ronan plays the title character of “Lady Bird”, who’s a mostly spoiled, obnoxious brat who dreams of escaping her “awful life in California (this is funny)” to move to New York City and go to college. Ronan manages to make Lady Bird clearly annoying yet still deserving of sympathy in a way that I imagine most actresses would find difficult to manage. Laurie Metcalf should have won the Supporting Actress Oscar that year for her work as Lady Bird’s mother. The scene of her leaving the airport after dropping Lady Bird off is some of the finest acting of the last decade and it’s not really close. Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, and Beanie Feldstein also all deliver compelling and amusing performances in supporting roles.
3. A GHOST STORY (2017) dir. by David Lowery (found on Netflix/Amazon)
This is by far the slowest film on this list and it may also be the film that means the most to me. A GHOST STORY follows a character after their death as a ghost (as in, ghost-because-somebody-walks-around-wearing-a-white-sheet-over-their-head-for-ninety-minutes-type-of-ghost). It’s a beautiful look at how humans deal with grief and how they move on with their lives after a loved one passes, but even moreso, it’s a thoughtful and powerful look at how people leave their lasting impressions on the world and how almost every single person on the planet simultaneously matters way less AND way more than they could ever realize. It’s almost entirely devoid of dialogue, save for one scene, which perfectly summarizes the entire theme of the film pretty expertly. Rooney Mara does especially excellent work here and will break your heart, and the use of the song “I Get Overwhelmed” in the film robbed me of breath more I ever could’ve expected. And that infamous pie scene… I really do love it… This is a must watch.
2. UNCUT GEMS (2019) dir. by Josh and Benny Safdie (found on Amazon)
There’s almost nothing more I can say about UNCUT GEMS (which I already blogged about) that I haven’t already said, to be honest. It’s a tour-de-force performance from Sandler as Howard Ratner, a slick and greedy, overly-ambitious jeweler from the Diamond District of New York City with an addiction for gambling and thrills. Sandler does easily the best work of his career. It’s also a star-turn for film newcomer, Julia Fox, who I predict will be just as big as Margot Robbie is at the moment six years from now (if she wants to be). The Safdies get everything they need out of their supporting characters with Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian, Kevin Garnett (he shouldn’t be as good at acting as he is for being a top-25 basketball player of all time), and especially LaKeith Stanfield, who gives maybe the most interesting performance of his career. The club scene with the Weeknd is one of the best scenes from any 2019 movie and the final act of this film is a maddening rollercoaster of emotions. Few films, if any, are more tense than this one. It’s one of the ten best films of the 2010s. It’s a supremely searing look at capatlism in every conceivable way.
1. MOONLIGHT (2016) dir. by Barry Jenkins (found on Netflix/Amazon)
In 2016, I felt quite confident when I said LA LA LAND was superior to MOONLIGHT. Though, LA LA LAND still means more to me (it is one of my favorite films ever), it’s absolutely not better than MOONLIGHT; the academy, shockingly, got it very right that year, because MOONLIGHT is the best film from 2016 and the fifth-best film of the past decade. Barry Jenkins frames every moment of his film perfectly. The film is stunningly shot. It’s one of the prettiest films I’ve ever watched. It also tells a heartbreakingly gorgeous tale about queer, black identity and masculinity through three phases of life: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The childhood phase features a flawless performance from Mahershala Ali, the father-figure in young Chiron’s life who looks out for him and gives him a mostly positive male role model. One of the most profound scenes in any film ever happens when young Chiron (played by Alex R. Hibbert) quietly asks Mahershala Ali “What’s a faggot?” and if Chiron himself was one, before moving on to find out if Mahershala Ali was a drug dealer or not. It’s absolutely haunting. The following two acts are also amazing (the second act is the weakest but it’s still staggeringly powerful), especially the third act (my favorite act) which has some of the most beautifully lit and shot sequences in the whole film. MOONLIGHT is a difficult film, but an undoubtedly perfect film. It’s the best film to ever be distributed by A24 and demands to be seen.