Aaron’s Top 10 Favorite Films of 2024 So Far

Set your beaver traps, program your robots, and climb aboard your sandworm, because here comes the horror, neo-noirs, and lots of films set in deserts, as Aaron Neuwirth lists his favorite films of 2024 so far!

We’re only halfway through the year, and I really had to think about how to narrow down my options to consider for favorites so far. Along with a few notable blockbusters, there’s plenty of good stuff, particularly when it comes to horror, neo-noir, and movies featuring lots of desert this time around, and that’s what I’ve come up with thanks to the variety of films I’ve seen during the first half of 2024. So, here we are at the end of June 2024, and I’ve come up with a list of features reflecting my favorites the year has had to offer cinematically, thus far. This list includes major studio flicks, some solid indies, and a few international films. Most were released theatrically; others could be found on various streaming services. The focus is on movies released in the U.S. between January and July, not counting films that have yet to be released, including those seen during the Sundance Film Festival.

Favorite Films So Far:
(Reviews Linked When Applicable)

10. The Last Stop in Yuma County

This movie was a blast. The only thing that would push onto an even higher level would be some sort of From Dusk Till Dawn type of twist, but alas, we’re stuck in this gritty, 70s-inspired thriller world. That’s not a problem, as this is a real corker of a crime flick. “

Not only does this slick neo-noir still have one of my favorite posts of the year (I like a fun retro idea), but it also features one of my favorite twitchy performances from Jim Cummings, the seemingly pleasant knife salesman stuck in an impossible situation. The sustained tension in this little movie really hits well, and the plethora of character actors helps sell the throwback vibe and questions of morality. (Now on VOD)

9. Riddle of Fire

“It’s always a good feeling when just the look and sound of a film can immediately win you over. Writer/director Weston Razooli impressed me so quickly with what Riddle of Fire had to offer that I was already awaiting whatever was next while enjoying this fantastic little fantasy (with a mild edge).”

Speaking of retro features, this is another sorta-70s throwback in terms of execution (shot on 16mm and very scrappy in assembly), but it still manages to feel so rich with detail when looking at how the world is presented. Guiding us through that world, are three central performances from kids who have done next to no acting beforehand yet bring a specific energy that I was totally into. (Now on VOD)

8. Love Lies Bleeding

Director Rose Glass follows up her psychological horror debut, Saint Maud, with a stylish neo-noir that immediately gets off on the right foot thanks to an atmospheric and very effective score provided by Clint Mansell. It sets the mood for a thrilling yet darkly comedic tale that ultimately serves as a twisted love story.”

As mentioned, it’s been an excellent year for neo-noir so far, and this is another film where even the lighting speaks plenty to what to expect from a given scene. Whether or not Stewart and O’Brian are taking over the mantle from Bound, there’s so much skill on display in the realm of crime films melding with body horror, let alone romance. (Now on VOD)

7. Problemista

“This film was an absolute delight. Delayed several months due to the strike, I’ve been sitting on sharing the joy that this film delivers thanks to a clever, funny, and oddly sweet script from writer/director Julio Torres. With a variety of inspirations that range from Michel Gondry to Wes Anderson, and featuring a satirized look at his own immigration experience, this is a film happily wrapped up in multiple plotlines but ultimately boils down to how an aspiring mind forms an authentic friendship with an eccentric mess of an individual.”

The only thing to add here is just how much I still find the bond that forms between Torres and Tilda Swinton’s characters to be an absolute delight. (Now on Max)

6. Robot Dreams

“This film is delightful. I just need to say that right up front, as there’s a really nice core to all of this, even as the story takes turns that deliberately add tragedy to the good times being had. Writer/director Pablo Berger has adapted this story from a graphic novel by Sara Varon that I am unfamiliar with, but the results are immensely affecting.”

It’s still wild to me that after nabbing an Oscar nomination, it took until June for this film to be available for more audiences to see. With that said, perhaps the summertime vibes of Robot Dreams will play nicely to an audience that should seek out this gem of an animated movie. (Now playing in select theaters)

5. Ghostlight

A few years ago, director Alex Thompson made Saint Frances, a film starring Kelly O’Sullivan that I really enjoyed. Now Thompson and O’Sullivan have directed a film together that is equally effective in laying out a dramatic plotline and infusing it with humor and authenticity.”

If anything, I’ve been underrating just how good Ghostlight is, as it really stands strong as one of the best dramas I’ve seen in some time. That comes from being a film so grounded in truth and emotion, and not without layering in some humor as well. The whole cast is excellent, but I can only hope star Keith Kupferer is not left out of award conversations as we enter the latter part of the year. (Now playing in select theaters)

4. Io Capitano

“It’s great to get so wrapped up in a feature simply because of how well it effectively conveys its premise. Two teens must go on a journey, and it will not be easy. Based on how director Matteo Gorrone filmed Io Capitano, the various challenges somewhat came as a surprise to the young actors we follow. Designed as a modern take on The Odyssey to some degree, we see some real struggles in the form of torture and brutal voyages over sea (all inspired by true stories), and yet it’s matched with incredible visuals and a level of magical realism that adds an intriguing sense of spirituality.”

Another film that earned an Oscar nomination (Best International Film) but was not released in America until February. Well, I’m not the Oscars, and while I would have easily put this film on my top ten of 2023, I’m happy to keep championing it here. (Now on VOD)

3. Dune: Part Two

The most radical thing about director Denis Villeneuve’s handling of Dune is how accessible he’s managed to make it. We may never have a proper idea of how well ‘Part One’ may have done sans its simultaneous theatrical and home release due to Covid. Still, its various accolades (including six Oscars) and the visible anticipation I’ve seen for this sequel make it clear that Frank Herbert’s famously dense novel has been adapted in a manner fitting for those seeking a respectable and approachable sci-fi epic. This is what Dune: Part Two also delivers – blockbuster filmmaking at its finest. With a more action-packed story, big movie star performances, and astonishing visuals, there’s so much accomplished here that stems from the confidence of the filmmakers involved and their trust in the audience’s willingness to dive even deeper into the world of Arrakis.” (Now streaming on Max)

2. Hundreds of Beavers

“Movie miracle alert! Hundreds of Beavers is flat-out brilliant stuff. This incredibly and consistently hilarious slapstick comedy takes influences from everything ranging from Silent Era comedies to Looney Tunes to kung fu flicks. Writer/director Mike Cheslik has so many gags designed in this story of a hapless fur trapper that I can’t even begin to think how one designs a screenplay like this so successfully, let alone manages to pull it off on an incredibly low budget. Pure joy comes from how this film allows the audience to quickly pick up on the tone and intent of this feature.” (Now streaming on Hoopla, and Touring the world with select screenings)

1. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

“Creating radical new action sequences and delivering a compelling story focused on a character you know is not going to complete their journey within this timespan, it’s beyond impressive that George Miller, at 79, hardly feels like he’s run out of guzzolene. I can’t speak to what he has planned next, but these films show the kind of vigor and ambition directors just getting out of film school ideally want to show off in their projects. With Furiosa, it’s just a continuation of the sort of brilliance the Oscar-nominated filmmaker has been able to deliver time and time again, whether it’s his signature franchise, a story about a pig in the city, or the memoirs of a Djinn. Whatever the future holds for Miller, I just know he’s done right by Furiosa, as there’s plenty on display for audiences to be in awe and, more importantly, remember her.” (Now playing in theaters/VOD)

***

Runners Up (11-20): Civil War, Hit Man, Challengers, Yannick, Late Night with the Devil, Kinds of Kindness, I Saw the TV Glow, The Promised Land, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, The Roundup: Punishment

Bonus – Favorite Non-2024 Films Seen For The First Time (Alphabetical): All That Money Can Buy, Baadasssss!, Basquiat, The Big Easy, Bullet in the Head, The Crossing Guard, Funny Girl, Going in Style, Gun Crazy, Happy End, The Heroic Trio, The Hospital, The Last Dragon, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Out of the Past, Paprika, PlayTime, The Rain People, The Roundup, The Spirit of the Beehive, Unlawful Entry, Watermelon Man, Weekend, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Zigeunerweisen

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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