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5 Best Female-Led A24 Movies


Award-winning independent entertainment company A24 is behind some of the best movies from the last decade. These movies — which include Moonlight and The Florida Project — share similar characteristics, including slow-burn storytelling and beautiful cinematography. Focusing on (extra)ordinary people they tend to explore themes such as identity, family, and love and aren’t afraid to tackle darker issues too.

Perhaps most popular for their eerie, unsettling brand of horror movies, A24 has produced many female-led flicks over the years, some of which are well-known, and others of which have slipped under the radar. From Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women to Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, these are the titles that deserve the most attention.

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RELATED: The Best A24 Films That Are Not Horror Movies

Written and directed by Mike Mills — who recently directed the hit Joaquin Phoenix drama C’mon C’mon20th Century Women is a semi-autobiographical portrait of the women who raised him. Set in 1979 Santa Barbara, it follows divorced mother Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening) who needs help raising her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). With Jamie’s father out of the picture, and tenant William (Billy Crudup) failing to step up as his replacement, Dorothea tasks 20-something Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and teenage Julie (Elle Fanning) with the job.


20th Century Women is a sweet and sensitive movie that comes from a place of love. The female characters are well-developed and realistic, and the women playing them give an incredible performance: Bening steals the show as fiercely independent Dorothea, Gerwig is hilarious as punky feminist Abbie, and Fanning exudes coolness as witty, cynical Julie. Exploring their lives through an episodic structure, audiences come to know the three wise women well and find it’s impossible not to love them.

Greta Gerwig makes her second appearance on this list as the writer and director of Lady Bird. A year after the release of 20th Century Women, Gerwig made her directorial debut with this coming-of-age drama about a headstrong teenage girl (Saorise Ronan) and her equally headstrong mother (Laurie Metcalf). Against the backdrop of Sacramento — where Gerwig herself grew up — Lady Bird enters her senior year, falls in with a new crowd, and dreams of moving to the big city whilst dealing with family drama and a friendship breakup.


Genuinely hilarious, and painfully relatable, Lady Bird (along with the next entry) is one of the best teen movies the 2010s had to offer. Lady Bird herself is another multidimensional female character who is flawed but lovable. Though she can be a real brat at times — what teenagers aren’t? — audiences root for her anyway and this makes Lady Bird’s reconnection with her mother that much special. Boasting five Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe wins, Lady Bird also deserves props for being a teen movie that doesn’t end with its female protagonist in a relationship.


Like Gerwig, comedian Bo Burnham also made his directorial debut with a funny, heartfelt coming-of-age story he wrote. Eighth Grade stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla Day, an introverted middle schooler entering her final week of eighth grade. A typical, socially awkward teenager, Kayla has grown distant from her adoring single father (Josh Hamilton) and endeavours to befriend her classmates. When she isn’t attending pool parties or going to the mall with her new friends, Kayla posts motivational videos on YouTube which receive very few views. In these, she discusses issues such as body image and confidence from a Gen Z perspective.


Another relatable teen movie, Eighth Grade is also perhaps the most realistic. Elsie Fisher is incredible at playing the fumbling Kayla Day who lacks the weird-coolness of characters like Lady Bird. Though this sounds like a bad thing, it isn’t; Kayla’s ordinariness is refreshing. Most teenagers don’t have crazy lifestyles, fabulous clothes, or perfect skin, and Burnham appreciates this, casting an actual teenager and getting her input.

Ari Aster, writer and director of A24’s highest-grossing movie Hereditary, has become a household name from his eerie horrors, of which Midsommar might be his creepiest. The movie stars Florence Pugh as 20-something Dani who is having a hard time in life; grieving several deaths in her family, she is also struggling in her relationship with boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Wanting to break up with Dani, but realizing it isn’t the right time to do so, Christian reluctantly invites Dani on a trip to Sweden where he and his friends plan to stay with classmate Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) at the latter’s ancestral commune. Whilst here, Dani and the group are exposed to horrors beyond imagination.


Florence Pugh is outstanding in this psychological horror, especially in her crying scenes. The breakdown Dani has at the beginning of the movie, and the many she has later on at the commune, are so convincing viewers would be forgiven for thinking they were real. And, as the ending proves, Pugh can do creepy too; Dani’s descent into madness, which leads to her inappropriate reaction in the final scene, is the stuff of nightmares.

the-farewell
The Farewell (2019)

Written and directed by Lulu Wang, The Farewell is a bittersweet semi-autobiographical drama about a Chinese-American woman named Billi (Awkwafina) and her grandmother Nai Nai (Zhao Shu-zhen). Diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, Nai Nai doesn’t have long left to live, but her family has decided to spare her the news. Instead, under the pretense of a wedding, Billi and her family travel to see Nai Nai in China to say goodbye covertly. Billi, who was raised in America, is racked with guilt over her family’s decision to withhold Nai Nai’s diagnosis — though it is the done, and “right” thing to do in China — and tensions quickly arise.


Cultural differences are at the heart of The Farewell, and whilst it is important and eye-opening for this reason, it is wonderful because of Billi and Nai Nai’s relationship. If Nai Nai isn’t everyone’s grandmother, she’s the grandmother everyone wishes they had; her love for her family is heartwarming, and her appreciation of Chinese culture is inspiring. One of the best parts in The Farewell is seeing Billi embrace these traits of Nai Nai’s. It is a real turning point for Awkwafina’s character, and the actress acknowledges this with a just, emotional performance.

MORE: This Slow-Burn Horror’s Most Terrifying Moment Is In Its Final Seconds


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