Ranking All of A24’s 2023 Movies From Worst to Best

What do you think of when you see the A24 logo? Perhaps it automatically puts you in the mood to watch a scary movie rife with symbolism and absurd imagery. Maybe you associate it with an artsy feature you forced your relatives to watch and their ensuing hatred of The Lighthouse or Krisha became a running joke in your household. Still, others may have memories of sitting in a theater in 2013 (the first year A24 was releasing movies) and seeing that unfamiliar A24 logo before the trailers for motion pictures like The Spectacular Now. As that logo flickered on the screen, those moviegoers may have thought to themselves “can this new indie outfit make it in the modern cinematic landscape?” There are all kinds of associations one can have with that iconic A24 logo, just as there was no end to the variety of titles A24 put out in 2023.


Distributing just under 20 features throughout the year (the vast majority of them also financed or co-financed by the studio), A24 had a remarkable 2023 that spanned everything from The Sewer Boys to an experimental new take on what a Holocaust movie could “look like” to even its final projects in its contract deal with Apple TV+. Not everything A24 put out in 2023 could live up to the legacy of the studios’ most acclaimed projects, an inevitable outcome when you’re releasing so many movies in a single year. However, ranking all of A24’s movies from 2023 from worst to best allows one to appreciate the very best of this studio’s output from the preceding 12 months. New classics from this year like Past Lives and Showing Up are bound to endure in years to come as new go-to examples of what people immediately think of when the A24 logo springs into their heads.

Note: Steve McQueen’s documentary Occupied City does qualify as a 2023 A24 release, however, it was not made available for viewing prior to the publication of this piece.


18 ‘Sharper’

Directed by Benjamin Caron

Sharper movie poster featuring Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Briana Middleton, Justice Smith, and John Lithgow
Image via Apple TV+

Director Benjamin Caron and cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen make the heist movie Sharper an undeniably handsome-looking motion picture. There’s a slew of images in the film, such as the silhouette of main character Sandra (Briana Middleton) standing in front of a bright orange light, that benefit greatly from the feature’s heavy use of vividly colorful lighting. Those striking images, though, are in service of a script that’s way too ponderous and self-serious for its own good.

Sharper has a grim tone and a buttoned-up storytelling style all for a story packed to the gills with unimaginative characters and twists and turns you can see coming a mile away. Talented actors like Julianne Moore and some pretty frames can’t keep Sharper from succumbing to its worst, most plodding instincts. It’s for the best that this ended up as an A24 film sent straight to the realm of Apple TV+.

Sharper

Release Date
February 17, 2023

Director
Benjamin Caron

Rating
R

Runtime
116 minutes

Watch on Apple TV+

17 ‘When You Finish Saving the World’

Directed by Jesse Eisenberg

when-you-finish-saving-the-world-julianne-moore-finn-wolfhard
Image via A24

Mother Evelyn (Julianne Moore) and son Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) couldn’t be further apart at the start of When You Finish Saving the World. The directorial debut of Jesse Eisenberg (who also penned the script, adapted from an Audible podcast he created), this feature chronicles the pair scrambling for connections with other people that can fill the voids inside themselves as the duo only gets more and more confrontational with one another.

There are some intriguing moments in Eisenberg’s depiction of familial strife here that echo some of the indie films he’s acted in over the years, namely the 2005 Noah Baumbach feature The Squid and the Whale. Unfortunately, so often evoking classic indie dramas eventually becomes a problem for this title. So much of Saving the World is on the generic side of things, particularly in its rudimentary visual sensibilities. Ironically, it’s a derivative feature carved in the mold of incredibly idiosyncratic cinematic portraits of domestic struggles. When You Finish Saving the World isn’t a painful watch, but despite its commitment to depicting a truly fractured mother/son dynamic, it’s also not something you’ll remember in the long run.

When You Finish Saving the World

Release Date
January 20, 2023

Rating
R

Runtime
88

Rent on Amazon

16 ‘Stephen Curry: Underrated’

Directed by Peter Nicks

Stephen Curry in Underrated.
Image via Apple TV+

The best part of the sports documentary Stephen Curry: Underrated, bar none, is archival footage of the student-made Davidson College program The Davidson Show. This ramshackle production (featuring future basketball legend Stephen Curry doing some rapping) perfectly captures the energy of homemade iMovie projects from 2006, not to mention the style of humor (chiefly surface-level song parodies) that dominated these kinds of videos.

Aside from that amusing time capsule, Stephen Curry: Underrated is a painless watch, but also not very memorable. Stephen Curry is a giant in the world of basketball, but this documentary is a very bog-standard affair in terms of structure. It’s interesting to see camcorder footage of some of Curry’s high school and college games, but the interview segments rarely provide much insight into who Curry is and there’s little detail provided about what his life is like off the court. Stephen Curry: Underrated doesn’t provide much in the way of compelling filmmaking or revelations about its main subject…but at least it has that Davidson Show segment!

Watch on Apple TV+

15 ‘Dicks: The Musical’

Directed by Larry Charles

Megan Thee Stallion in Dicks: The Musical
Image via A24

In an age where Pixar and Spike Lee movies are deemed too risky for theatrical exhibition, it’s commendable that director Larry Charlies and company managed to get something as profane and unabashedly weird as Dicks: The Musical into theaters. Too bad the final product, a twisted R-rated take on The Parent Trap focusing on a pair of vain egomaniacs (played by writers Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson) is severely lacking in good jokes. There are only so many times you can have characters emphasize in didactic dialogue how clearly bizarre on-screen actions are weird before it feels like a poor replacement for actual jokes.

Plus, the supposedly “outlandish” proceedings are realized with editing and filmmaking choices that are shockingly bog-standard. It doesn’t help that Sharp and Jackson’s attempt to mimic the style of camp over-the-top stage performances just comes off like a poor mimicry of better maximalist comedic performers like Tim Robinson. Some gags (like those establishing shots inexplicably utilizing vintage footage of New York City) click in Dicks: The Musical, but too much of the feature results in crickets, not gasps or laughs.

Purchase on Amazon

14 ‘Medusa Deluxe’

Directed by Thomas Hardiman

medusa-deluxe-anita-joy-uwajeh-featured
Image via A24

There’s been a scalping at the start of Medusa Deluxe and it’s sent all the contestants of a hairdressing competition into a frenzy of uncertainty. Writer/director Thomas Hardiman initially gets a lot of mileage out of seeing these various women and their stylists react to this sudden grisly occurrence, an event that’s got everyone paranoid about a potential serial killer. The various performers playing characters like passionate hairdresser Cleve (Clare Perkins) are just so instantly interesting and there’s a lived-in rapport between all these gals that’s incredibly compelling.

Unfortunately, Medusa Deluxe can’t keep its initial momentum going forever even as it shows an admirable commitment to telling its entire story in a simulation of an extended single-take. The plot eventually shifts focus onto a bunch of way less interesting male characters and “shocking” plot twists that just aren’t very interesting or unexpected. A movie that kicks off with a scalping and a woman waxing poetic about the incriminating smell of semen like Medusa Deluxe should go out with a bang, not with a whimper and a generic extended dance number.

Rent on Amazon

13 ‘The Deepest Breath’

The Deepest Breath
Image Via Netflix

A rare foray into documentary cinema for A24, The Deepest Breath is a feature from director Laura McGann chronicling the exploits of Alessia Zecchini, a monumental figure in the world of freediving. A risky sport entailing swimming deep distances without the aid of any scuba gear, Zecchini’s experiences in this field eventually dovetail into a romance with fellow freediver Stephen Keenan. The world of freediving consumes these two human beings, and it’s rendered on-screen in The Deepest Breath with truly beautiful-looking footage that captures how simultaneously ominous yet thrillingly expansive the ocean can be.

Ironically, though, this documentary about divers who thrust themselves into uncharted depths tends to be a bit surface-level in its interview segments. Then there’s the infamous third-act turn in The Deepest Breath where a deep personal tragedy is revealed in a manner that, as others have pointed out, feels exploitative. Many of the images in The Deepest Breath are quite astonishing, but they’re undercut by McGann’s dedication to realizing Zecchini’s story in a very conventional style of documentary filmmaking.

The Deepest Breath

Release Date
July 19, 2023

Director
Laura McGann

Rating
PG

Runtime
108 minutes

Main Genre
Documentary

Watch on Netflix

12 ‘Close’

Two boys running through a field in Close 2022
Image Via Lumière 

Technically released domestically in 2023 despite qualifying for the 95th Academy Awards (which covered 2022 cinema), Lukas Dhont’s Close is unquestionably a triumph in camerawork. He and cinematographer Frank van den Eeden lend an impressive assuredness to realizing scenes like lead adolescent characters Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) riding their bikes against a vibrant countryside in extended single takes. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Dhont and Angelo Tijssens is a much more flawed creation. An exploration of Léo and Rémi’s friendship crumbling due to homophobic taunts from their classmates, Close eventually goes to devastating places in its narrative.

The handling of these grim circumstances in the writing of Dhont and Tijssens alternates between feeling weighty and oddly exploitative. It’s a lot of misery ultimately in the service of ideas and themes that have been explored better in other movies. Close nails its camerawork, but Dhont struggles to match the likes of Cristian Mungiu or Lynne Ramsay in the pantheon of filmmakers who can effortlessly bring emotionally cataclysmic material to the silver screen.

Watch on Showtime

11 ‘Talk to Me’

Directed by Danny Philippou

sophie-wilde-mia-talk-to-me-2023
Image via A24

Who knew people were so hungry for an Australian horror film about talking to the dead? This sleeper hit at the box office was also the feature-length directorial debut from YouTube filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou. No wonder the title had good word of mouth among horror devotees since it delivers the goods when it comes time for the story to delve into some truly gnarly scares. Lead actor Sophia Wilde also lends real gravitas to the proceedings with her performance and there’s some incredibly inventive camerawork on display.

Still, it’s a horror title that ends up feeling a bit less interesting as a whole than it does as individual pieces, possibly because some of its big “twists” or unexpected scares are par for the course for horror films about teens tampering with malevolent supernatural forces. It’s no new horror classic, but Talk to Me is a diverting watch in the moment, and it has the good common sense to leave a bulldog character unscathed.

Talk to Me

Release Date
July 28, 2023

Director
Danny Philippou , Michael Philippou

Cast
Sophie Wilde , Joe Bird , Alexandra Jensen , Otis Dhanji

Rating
R

Runtime
94 minutes

Rent on Amazon

10 ‘Dream Scenario’

Directed by Kristoffer Borgli

Nicolas Cage as Paul Matthews looking determined while extending a metal claw in Dream Scenario
Image via A24

Some of the niftiest scenes in Dream Scenario come when director/writer/editor Kristoffer Borgli finds interesting ways to overlap scenes set in the modern-day world with either flashbacks or dream sequences. Perhaps dialogue between these two spaces will run into each other or sound will go out in segments meant to occupy a preceding point in time. Whatever method is used, it’s an interesting way to reflect how the past and present are constantly intertwined.

That’s a notion college professor Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) learns all too well once he becomes a fixture of people’s dreams around the world. His saga becomes a breeding ground for some inspired dark gags, including Matthews launching into an oversized tirade over seeing the elementary school insult “loser” painted on his car. Borgli’s script gets on shakier ground once its third act arrives and Matthews becomes a social pariah, especially since Borgli doesn’t seem to realize the kinds of Americans who’d be most against Matthews (for instance, gun-toting middle-aged white men tend to love ostracized white dudes, not threaten them at cafés). However, for the most part, this is a wryly written feature with some truly terrific visual flourishes. Oh, and Nicolas Cage does excellent work in the lead role, as always!

Dream Scenario

Release Date
November 10, 2023

Director
Kristoffer Borgli

Rating
R

Runtime
100 minutes

Get tickets now

9 ‘Beau is Afraid’

Directed by Ari Aster

beau-is-afraid
Image via A24

While Ari Aster’s first two movies, Hereditary and Midsommar, quickly spawned endless memes and Halloween costumes after they finished their theatrical runs, the filmmaker’s 2023 feature Beau is Afraid hasn’t quite had that pop culture longevity. On the contrary, it’s somewhat surprising a movie this initially divisive has somewhat faded away from the film geek conversation since it premiered in April 2023. Granted, Beau is Afraid is nowhere near as good as Aster’s first two works. It’s a movie prone to some mighty obvious imagery (including a phallic jump-scarce in its third-act), sequences that aren’t thoughtful enough to justify their gangly lengthy, and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance can feel like a retread of some of his best work as an actor.

However, it’s also a visually impressive piece of filmmaking complete with remarkably detailed sets and uber-controlled camera while its supporting cast allows a bevy of beloved comedic performer to excitingly stretch their acting muscles. Erratic overall in quality, Beau is Afraid has plenty of charms, commendable idiosyncrasies, and an ambitious nature that’s often impressive. One tip for Aster though: make sure your next movie has even more Parker Posey in it. Her screen time in Beau is Afraid was a highlight of the entire movie.

Beau Is Afraid

Release Date
April 21, 2023

Rating
R

Runtime
179 minutes

Rent on Amazon now

8 ‘Earth Mama’

Directed by Savanah Leaf

Earth Mama

Ordinary complicated lives are the centerpiece of writer/director Savanah Leaf’s feature-length directorial debut Earth Mama. The centerpiece of this project is the pregnant Gia (Tia Nomore), who struggles to make ends meet as a single mom while her two kids reside in foster care. Though the emotional stakes are grand in concept in Earth Mama, Leaf executes the movie with a quiet sensibility. Gia’s difficulties are nothing new, they’re ingrained into her daily existence.

No wonder, then, that Earth Mama depicts these hurdles impacting Gia’s life in more subdued rather than operatic terms. This low-key and intimate approach doesn’t come at the expense of any sense of urgency or emotional investment in Gia’s life, of course. Leaf’s intimate storytelling scope for Earth Mama lets audiences know Gia as a deeply-complicated human being, while the precise cinematography of Jody Lee Lipes lends subtle visual panache to her world. One of A24’s most criminally underseen titles of 2023, Earth Mama is well worth seeking out and signals that Savanah Leaf has instantly arrived as a filmmaker of note.

Watch on Showtime

7 ‘All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt’

Directed by Raven Jackson

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt
Image via A24

An experimental and quiet feature from writer/director Raven Jackson, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt takes viewers through various parts in the life of Mack (played at different ages by a trio of actors, including Charleen McClure as an adult). The intentionally slow pace of the feature allows one to soak in the tiniest details and raw emotions underscoring the memories (some chronicling pivotal events, others just concerning mundane aspects of existence) that have defined Mack as a human being.

The non-linear execution of those memories is a beautiful way to capture how often a person’s past and person are so deeply intertwined. Jackson’s exploration of this one person’s life leans heavily on evocative imagery, but the sound design here also impresses. Throughout All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, quiet distant noises are as prominent as shots of hands touching. Whether it’s the chirping of crickets, noises from birds, or grocery carts clanking together, these sounds remind us that Mack’s life is occurring as part of a greater canvas. It’s one of many sensational small touches that astonish throughout All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt.

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt

Release Date
November 3, 2023

Director
Raven Jackson

Cast
Kaylee Nicole Johnson , Sheila Atim , Chris Chalk , Charleen McClure , Moses Ingram

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
92

Buy on Amazon

6 ‘You Hurt My Feelings’

Directed by Nicole Holofcener

you-hurt-my-feelings-julie-louise-dreyfus-social-feature-1
Image via A24

Some of A24’s films in 2023 were sprawling motion pictures chronicling famous historical figures across multiple decades. Then there were more intimate titles like the latest Nicole Holofcener delight, You Hurt My Feelings. Here, all the drama stems from writer Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) discovering that her husband Don (Tobias Menzies) actually doesn’t like her newest manuscript despite constantly singing its praises. Holofcener treats these characters and their points of view with believability and empathy, as seen by how much time is spent just following Beth and Don navigating their jobs or routine social interactions.

However, even with this deeply human approach, there’s still so much comedy to be found in how these flawed souls bounce off one another. After all, aren’t we all so messy that it’s kind of funny? Holofcener always finds the palpable drama and amusing laughs within seemingly routine relationships and her work on You Hurt My Feelings is no exception. Sometimes, all you need to make a deeply entertaining movie is an assured filmmaker and a collection of great performances. You Hurt My Feelings delivers on both of those fronts and then some.

You Hurt My Feelings

Release Date
May 25, 2023

Director
Nicole Holofcener

Rating
R

Runtime
93 minutes

Watch on Showtime

5 ‘The Iron Claw’

Directed by Sean Durkin

The teaser poster for The Iron Claw
Image via A24

If you’re a Texan over a certain age, the Von Erich wrestling family is a household name you grew up hearing about all the time. If you’re not a Texas over a certain age, writer/director Sean Durkin’s assured work in chronicling the lives and pain of these wrestlers is still incredibly engaging. The Iron Claw is a movie about seemingly invincible wrestlers grappling with the toxic home life that birthed them and their struggles to carve out independent identities for themselves.

It’s a deeply stirring production told with quietly devastating camerawork and a bevy of lived-in performances, particularly Zac Efron’s utterly haunting work as lead character Kevin Von Erich. Within his eyes, Efron sells the idea that we’re watching a husk of a man who never got the chance to establish his own identity. With this aching performance, all of Efron’s other iconic turns vanish away and one just sees this man as the tormented Kevn von Erich. It’s a bittersweet performance underscoring the heart of this powerful feature.

The Iron Claw

Release Date
December 22, 2023

Rating
R

Runtime
130 minutes

Get tickets now

4 ‘Priscilla’

Directed by Sofia Coppola

A close-up shot of Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley in Priscilla.
Image via A24

Icons of mid-20th century America became terrifying embodiments of power within Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla. The story of the relationship between Priscilla (Cailee Spaeney) and Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi), Coppola’s taut filmmaking immediately conveys a sense of great unease within the power dynamic between these two characters. The older Elvis hovers over the teenage Priscilla in a fashion that makes him seem like a looming monster rather than an ideal romantic companion.

Placing the camera so far from the duo as they kiss or talk gives off a chilling ambiance rather than straightforward affection. The tiniest visual decisions in Coppola’s filmmaking peel back the layers of hagiography from Elvis to reveal the toxicity lurking beneath his legend. Her visual instincts heighten brilliant details, like Spaeney’s lead performance (which captures Priscilla from being a teenager to somebody in her late 20s), a masterfully consistent creation. Playing opposite Spaeney is Elordi, who impressively stands out with his unique take on Elvis even in a crowded field of big-screen actors embodying The King. Priscilla fixates on human beings we all know yet uncovers new layers to Priscilla and Elvis that make it feel like we’re discovering them for the first time.

Priscilla

Release Date
November 3, 2023

Runtime
113 minutes

Rating
R

Rent on Amazon

3 ‘The Zone of Interest’

Directed by Jonathan Glazer

In ‘The Zone of Interest’, Höss’s wife played by Sandra Hüller picks flowers in her garden with her baby.
Image via A24

The most chilling moment of 2023 cinema centered on a pool party. Specifically, that relentlessly disturbing moment came as the Höss family, the lead characters of The Zone of Interest, host a birthday pool party for a bunch of kids at their home…which is located right next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Writer/director Jonathan Glazer keeps the camera poised a great distance away from the Nazis in the frame, with the center of the image comprised of celebrating kids and relaxing adults. In the distance of that image is a steadily moving stream of smoke belonging to a train bringing more Jews to the camp. The dissonance between the on-screen celebration and the inhumane barbarism happening just behind this wall is absolutely horrifying.

Glazer’s work in The Zone of Interest forces viewers to confront the reality that the people who perpetuate genocide are not cartoon villains. They are people who host birthday pool parties, and pet dogs that walk by them on the street or show concern for their kids. This is what evil looks like…you and me. Glazer chillingly reminds moviegoers of this reality with a meticulously detailed visual sensibility that constantly suggests unspeakable horrors happening just outside the frame.

The Zone of Interest

Release Date
December 15, 2023

Director
Jonathan Glazer

Cast
Sandra Hüller , Christian Friedel , Freya Kreutzkam , Max Beck

Runtime
105 minutes

Rating
PG-13

Get tickets now

2 ‘Showing Up’

Directed by Kelly Reichardt

Michelle Williams finishing up a sculpture in Showing Up
Image via A24

There didn’t need to be a snoozing big dog in Showing Up, the latest Kelly Reichardt masterpiece. Briefly seen in one scene where Jo (Hong Chau) steps over the canine as she goes to talk to main character Lizzy (Michelle Williams) in her office, the nonchalant presence of such a gigantic canine perfectly solidifies that we’re watching characters who work at an arts and craft college. Anything can happen on this campus, including a male nude model racing naked through the halls to make it to a class on time. Why not have a massive pooch sleeping in a doorway?

It’s those kinds of little elements that make Reichardt’s movies so compelling and realistic. Her filmmaking is in rare form in Showing Up, especially since Reichardt gets to display her chops for comedy in this heavily amusing script. The same director who could crush hearts with her 2008 movie Wendy & Lucy proves quite adept at executing witticisms from Judd Hirsch in Showing Up! That sublime directorial work allows for a murderer’s row of naturalistic performances to emerge, including Hong Chau stealing the show as Jo. Just her work in an early scene goofing off with a tire swing is enough to make her the movie’s MVP! Showing Up isn’t the biggest A24 movie of 2023 in terms of scope, but that’s precisely why it’s such a gem. It’s a motion picture rich with tiny intimate joys…like that big ol’ snoozing dog!

Showing Up

Release Date
April 7, 2023

Runtime
108 minutes

Rating
R

Watch on Showtime

1 ‘Past Lives’

Directed by Celine Song

Teo Yoo and Greta Lee as Hae Sung and Nora looking at each other while sitting in some steps in 'Past Lives' (2023)
Image via A24

At times, it feels like the past is as much of a person as the folks inhabiting our memories. The past aches. The past yearns. The possibilities of what could’ve been tempt our mind and soul. We know what the present is, we have to confront it every day. But the past is rich with untold possibilities…how can it not capture our attention? Writer/director Celine Song shows so much unforgettable insight into these concepts in her feature film directorial debut Past Lives (which she also wrote), particularly when it comes to being tempted by the potentiality of yesteryear and being grounded in the actual reality of the here and now. The saga of childhood friends Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) is dense with quietly devastating moments rooted in longing. Even the simplest dialogue-free images like a young Sung looking out a barely opened car window communicate such a devastating awareness of the inevitable passage of time that comes for us all. It’s a magnificently moving story that channels countless classic motion pictures (like Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy) in realizing how much power you can get from just following two souls talking. It helps, of course, that the two-hander exchanges dominating Past Lives are executed with such vivid dialogue courtesy of Song’s script and are brought to life by a trio of outstanding lead performances (which also includes John Magaro playing Nora’s husband).

Combining these words and artists results in mesmerizing sequences of vulnerability like Magaro’s character opining to his spouse about how much she opens up his world or a wide shot capturing a college-aged Nora swinging her arms with excitement over the prospect of a Skype call with Hae Sung. Just as the themes of Past Lives grapple with recognizably human emotions, so too do the performances and characters of this film reverberate with such authenticity. One could prattle on for eons about all the artistic strengths of Past Lives, a movie that not only topped all other A24 releases for 2023 but also stood heads and shoulders above all other cinema from this year!

Past Lives

Release Date
June 23, 2023

Director
Celine Song

Runtime
106 minutes

Rating
PG-13

Rent on Amazon

NEXT:Believe It or Not, A24 Is Adapting Hideo Kojima’s ‘Death Stranding’

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