Best Movies of 2024... So Far

Disney has brought people back to the box office in droves with its hit Inside Out 2 (2024). It had the biggest opening weekend of the year with $154 million. It had a worldwide opening weekend of $294 million, which is the highest for Disney's Pixar, which is the animation company that produced the film. Inside Out 2 had the biggest second weekend with $101 million, which is the highest second weekend total for any animated film. It's the first film this year to gross over $1 billion.

Warner Bros. has the next biggest film of the year with Dune: Part Two (2024), having made over $711 million worldwide. Warner also has the third biggest film of the year with Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024), having made over $567 million. A lot has been made about the fact that the summer box office has not been as great as many were hoping. A few franchise films that people were banking ended up collapsing and not giving the return on investment as the studios would have wanted.

One of the stories of the summer is that of Will Smith. Two years ago, Smith caused a lot of headlines when he slapped Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards. He wasn't charged with any kind of crime, but the Academy banned him from returning for ten years. Many speculated if this event would affect his career and make people not want to go see him in a major motion picture. Any uncertainty about his box office appeal has been assuaged with the success of Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024), which opened at #1 with $56 million and in less than a month has made about $300 million worldwide. This is on track with how his last major release Bad Boys for Life (2020) did. This latest film could even do better than his 2020 hit, so Will Smith will be ultimately fine.

There are other standout people this year. When she's stunning people on the red carpet or the Metropolitan Opera, Zendaya is making her mark on the silver screen. Other than the sand-worm, she was probably the most incredible part of Dune: Part Two. However, she probably drew the most attention from audiences for her role in the sexy tennis drama Challengers (2024), which did debut at number-one in the box office. The marketing of that film suggested a threesome that didn't exactly happen on screen. However, that potential did introduce two others to the masses. Josh O'Connor is the British actor who probably benefited the most as a result of Challengers. Mike Faist also benefitted as being part of that possible threesome, but we won't know how much of a breakout he'll be.

Another breakout is Sydney Sweeney. She's probably most known for her role in HBO's Euphoria (2019), but she had a breakout toward the end of last year with the romantic comedy Anyone But You (2023), which spilled over into this year's box office with great success. Now, she did have a bit of a bomb with Madame Web (2024), but she managed to make fun of it and herself when she hosted Saturday Night Live earlier this year. She also got a lot of notices with her religious thriller Immaculate (2024). As such, she's parlayed her media exposure into an overall positive.

Her co-star in Anyone But You was Glen Powell who most people might remember from Top Gun: Maverick (2022). People really liked him in that film, but his role was rather small. It wasn't until Anyone But You and his recent Netflix film Hit Man (2024) that people have been talking him up as the next movie star perhaps in the vein of Tom Cruise or someone similar. However, if I had my druthers, the next movie star would be Kingsley Ben-Adir who was the lead in Bob Marley: One Love (2024), a film that wasn't exactly critically acclaimed but, as of June 30, is currently in the top ten box office with about $180 million worldwide.

Plenty of other films, large and small, have been released. Not all of them make headlines or get a lot of mainstream press. There have been plenty that I haven't seen, but with all the titles that I have seen, either in a theater or at home, here is my list of favorites:

12. DUNE: PART TWO by Denis Villeneuve - The previous 2021 film did incredibly well at the box office, given that it was released in the wake of the pandemic. That 2021 hit was also nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning 6 of them. It was going to be difficult for Villeneuve to top himself. I would argue that he didn't. The 2021 entry felt new and refreshing. It also benefited from actors like Oscar Isaac and Jason Momoa who brought a charm and humor to that film that isn't present here. Timothée Chalamet anchors the film very well and Zendaya is by far the best thing about this installment, except for the very cinematic and sound-impressive, sand-worm sequences.

11. YOUNG WOMAN AND THE SEA by Joachim Rønning - It's a typical sports drama, but it's so well done in terms of telling the true story of a girl, burdened with sexism of the early part of the 20th century. She overcomes it all to become what is called the fastest woman on Earth. Daisey Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is good, but it's probably the supporting characters around her that sell this film just as much as her physical performance.

10. THE BEAUTIFUL GAME by Thea Sharrock - With the Paris Olympics coming up this summer, this film about a group of athletes on their way to a European city feels like a relevant one. It doesn't explicitly reference the Olympics unlike another Netflix film this year, Under Paris (2024). It's also another more traditional sports drama that isn't a game-changer in the genre, but it's very sweetly told. I also have to put a special spotlight on Micheal Ward, a young Black British actor who I've been noticing for the past five years.

9. OUT OF DARKNESS by Andrew Cumming. It's the second film featuring Afro-Scottish actor Kit Young that I enjoyed, the first being The Beautiful Game. I don't watch a lot of horror films. This one was a rare exception. It definitely had an interesting hook. What if a monster movie but set in prehistoric times, during what is known as the Stone Age. Horror films that I've really enjoyed are narratives that would be compelling, even if the horror or supernatural aspect wasn't involved. This film doesn't take that long to get to that potential supernatural aspect, but even if that wasn't present, this would still be a compelling drama about what are essentially cavemen.

8. SHIRLEY by John Ridley - It's a presidential election year, so a film about a presidential election is particularly relevant. What's fascinating is how even though this film focuses on the 1972 Presidential election, which was over 50 years ago, there is still a lot that happened that is echoed today. Yet, if one is curious about the process of running for the highest office in the land, this film provides incredible insight. It stars Regina King as the first Black woman to run for President and King gives an Oscar-worthy performance, as she's been doing for some time now.

7. THELMA by Josh Margolin - One might now expect to see an action comedy, starring a woman in her 90's, and that's not exactly what we get here, but it's close enough. It leans more on the comedy than it does the action, probably because the star of this film is actually a woman in her 90's and the film is going for a little bit of realism, even though the female nonagenarian wants to be Tom Cruise even at her age. The film includes Richard Roundtree in his final posthumous performance. New actor, Fred Hechinger rounds out the cast as the grandson going through a quarter-life crisis. This is one of the funniest films of the year.

6. EGOIST by Daishi Matsunaga - This is the rare film that features two Japanese men who fall in love in modern day Japan. However, it's not simply about their romance. There is more to this story and layers to its protagonist. It's actually about surrogate family and about how some people deal with loss. It doesn't ignore homophobia, but it doesn't forefront it. It doesn't do like a lot of "boys' love" titles where the same-sex male attraction is discussed but not really depicted. It gives a well-rounded perspective of a gay man's life.

5. WE GROWN NOW by Minhal Baig - Nominated for 3 Spirit Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Feature, this film is one of those quiet, mostly overlooked pieces that doesn't get a lot of exposure, marketing or fanfare. It tells a coming-of-age story about prepubescent African American boys, growing up in a housing project in Chicago. It's set 30 years ago but still feels absolutely relevant to today. It's also a perfect companion to another overlooked film from last year, that of Simon Steuri's How I Learned To Fly (2023). It's in a lot of ways about legacy and what Black people can and cannot hold onto.

4. PROBLEMISTA by Julio Torres - The Millennial filmmaker from El Salvador not only produces, writes and directs this film. He's also the star of it. Torres mainly works in comedy, having been a writer for Saturday Night Live. He turns his quirky and fanciful comedic style onto a more personal story of a young man dealing with the rigmarole of the immigration system and renewing a work visa. It's wacky and silly at times. It's also poignant, as it concurrently tells the story of a bizarre and socially harsh woman, played by Oscar-nominee Tilda Swinton, trying to manage the artwork of her deceased husband. It's currently my favorite comedy of the year.

3. LOVE LIES BLEEDING by Rose Glass - Oscar-nominee Kristen Stewart plays the manager of a grimy gym in New Mexico. One day, she meets a female bodybuilder and almost immediately launches into a lesbian romance. The death of a relative leads to the two of them dealing with a criminal organization and the police. The two are eventually ensnared in the middle of a thriller that could get both of them put into prison or killed. Katy O'Brian is the female bodybuilder who is a real-life martial artist who gets a star-making role here. Jena Malone and Dave Franco have great small roles, but multiple Oscar-nominee Ed Harris is pretty terrifying as the father of Stewart's character.

2. FEMME by Sam H. Freeman & Ng Choon Ping - This is an adaptation of a short film that was a BAFTA-nominee. It centers on a Black British drag queen who is gay-bashed, attacked one night. The film then follows that drag queen trying to get revenge on the person who beat him up. There are a lot of twists and turns, as he realizes that getting revenge might be more complicated than he thought. It becomes an erotic thriller where identity becomes a bit of a weapon and we learn that the protagonist isn't the only person doing drag and that maybe everybody is, as the great RuPaul first postulated.

1. IO CAPITANO by Matteo Garrone - This film was nominated for an Oscar for Best International Feature earlier this year. It's from Italy. It focuses on an African teenager from Senegal who attempts to emigrate to Italy. We follow him on his journey, which becomes very harrowing. It's about the dangers of such an expedition, but also the hope and the humanity we can see even in the direst of moments. It's probably the most moving piece of cinema I've seen all year. It's shocking, but it's absolutely beautiful in more ways than one.


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