The 10 best movies of 2024 so far – Polygon

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The year is off to a great start at the movies
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Movies released during the first few months of any year have it pretty rough. They’re competing with all the prestige movies still in theaters after the end-of-year rush for awards qualifications, and they’re coming out in a season where a lot of people are still exhausted from holiday season, financially strained by it, or both. It’s easy to overlook new releases at the beginning of the year — but fortunately, it’s also easier than ever to catch up, given how many movies debut on streaming services these days and how quickly theatrical releases move to streaming.
Here at Polygon, we keep a running list of the year’s best movies, starting early and updating often, making a case for the films we think are worth your time. It’s still quite early in the year, but we’ve already seen a variety of 2024 movies that we heartily recommend. And we’ll keep this list going throughout the year, so you can see what we’re watching and recommending and catch up on anything you’ve missed as new movies continue to roll out.
The movies will be listed in reverse chronological order, so the newest releases will always show up first. And we have a short section at the end devoted to late 2023 releases we didn’t have the time to consider for our 2023 best movies list.
Where to watch: Theaters

Don’t get fooled by only seeing one Coen name in the credits; Drive-Away Dolls (or its original title, which still appears in the credits: Drive-Away Dykes) has the same hilarious crime-caper spirit that marks all of the Coen brothers’ best early works.
The ’90s-set movie follows two lesbian friends (Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan) on an East Coast road trip with two clueless gangsters hot on their trail. Equal parts excellent friends-on-the-road movie and crime comedy, Drive-Away Dolls is an early contender for the most fun movie of 2024, and one that will likely be hard to beat. —Austen Goslin
Where to watch: Theaters

Sometimes, you just want to see Kathryn Newton wear increasingly elaborate ’80s goth outfits as she and an undead Victorian musician go around killing people who’ve wronged her.
Lisa Frankenstein is a loving homage-slash-parody of old schlocky horror comedies, and even though some of the connective tissue is missing from scene to scene, it’s a shockingly good time. —Petrana Radulovic
Where to watch: Theaters

The title sounds raucous, but How to Have Sex is in fact a tender, heartfelt, and searchingly honest coming-of-age tale about Tara, a brassy, secretly self-conscious 16-year-old virgin on a wild party holiday with her friends. It’s a quietly devastating movie about bad formative experiences, but also beautiful in its empathy and kindness, and funny, too.
If you liked Aftersun, this is a must-see — director Molly Manning Walker is part of an emerging, hugely talented generation of female British filmmakers that also includes Aftersun’s Charlotte Wells. —Oli Welsh
Where to watch: Theaters, or for digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple, Vudu

The Promised Land is a sturdy historical drama anchored by a powerful performance by the ever reliable Mads Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen plays the determined Ludvig Kahlen, a retired officer of the German army who has taken his pension to try and establish a homestead on a barren moor. When Kahlen starts to set up shop, he draws the attention of a powerful local landlord and magistrate, who sets out to ruin Kahlen’s efforts at any cost.
When two hardheaded men clash, sparks fly and people die. And that makes for some stellar Scandinavian cinema. —Pete Volk
Where to watch: Netflix

On its surface, Orion and the Dark seems like a standard fairy-tale-like children’s story about a scared boy meeting the personification of Darkness, who helps him get over his fears. But it takes a twisty turn when it’s revealed this story is being told by a grown-up version of that little boy to his daughter.
It’s not just a cute framing device, but one that warps the story and makes it way weirder than when it starts out (in the best way). —PR
Where to watch: Netflix

The Greatest Night in Pop is, to some extent, a documentary that’s great just by existing. The doc chronicles the one-night recording of “We Are the World,” a benefit song whose proceeds went to fight famine in Africa.
The whole premise of the song is that it gathered some of the most famous singers in America to all record the same song, so it’s a given that the documentary does the same. The Greatest Night in Pop’s most admirable feature is its willingness to stand aside and simply let us be a fly on the wall to see the brief, awkward, kind, hilarious, and heartwarming moments between stars like Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Steve Perry, Quincy Jones, and Cyndi Lauper, just to name a few. —AG
Where to watch: Theaters

I can sell a film nerd on Hundreds of Beavers with a seven-word elevator pitch: Looney Tunes by way of Guy Maddin.
However, if you’re a film viewer who doesn’t traffic in Canadian arthouse obscurities, the pitch will take a bit more effort. Hundreds of Beavers garnered attention for reviving the slapstick silent film, if only for its 108 minute run time. But the black-and-white action comedy has gradually earned its reputation as a budding midnight movie thanks to its more modern flourishes.
The story — a trapper must collect enough pelts to survive, build, and eventually win love — parodies video game quests. Its small cast would float comfortably in Adult Swim’s pool of lovable oddballs. And what writer/director Mike Cheslik does with a comparably cheap camera, some trashy beaver costumes, and a true talent with homespun special effects would make even the most ambitious YouTube editor’s jaw hit the floor.
Unlike its modern cult contemporaries, like The Room and the films of Neil Breen, there’s no irony here. Cheslik has made something genuinely special, an excellent film that reminds us just how funny early cinema could be — and proves slapstick can still feel fresh a century later with a few timely tweaks. —Chris Plante
Where to watch: Digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple, or Vudu

Fans of the Broadway musical Mean Girls, based on the 2004 movie Mean Girls, have understandably bridled against some of the changes in this screen adaptation, from the many songs cut from the Broadway version to the casting of protagonist Cady Heron. But while it’s an imperfect translation of the stage experience, it still stands on its own as a lively, creatively staged movie that puts plenty of verve into its catchy, inviting musical numbers.
The performances aren’t out to replace the 2004 version of the movie: They’re new interpretations, delivered with big musical energy. This is a tremendously fun movie, designed to send people home singing. —Tasha Robinson
Where to watch: Digital rental/purchase on Amazon, Apple, Vudu

The hardest-hitting action movie of the year saw Gangs of London veterans Xavier Gens and Jude Poyer combine forces for the explosive revenge thriller Mayhem! (also known by its original title, Farang).
Some people were mixed on this version of the revenge story (I loved it quite a bit), but everyone I’ve talked to agrees the brutal and gory action is among the best of any movie this year, with motivated camera movements to punctuate the blows and fluid choreography executed terrifically by former national champion kickboxer Nassim Lyes. And it all culminates in one of the best elevator fight scenes in action movie history. —PV
Where to watch: Hulu

Jake Johnson’s directorial debut follows a man who’s so at sea after a breakup that he agrees to star in an underground reality competition where he tries to survive for a month with assassins trying to kill him. But Self Reliance isn’t the kind of manic thriller that premise suggests; Johnson told Polygon it’s much more of a mashup of two of his favorite movies: Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket and the Adrian Lyne thriller Jacob’s Ladder. That’s an odd combination of improbably dissimilar projects, but they coalesce into an offbeat indie comedy about human connection, and the mortifying ordeal of trying to be known by people who aren’t all that interested in the knowing.
Produced by The Lonely Island and featuring Andy Samberg playing himself in a pretty hilarious cameo, Self Reliance has some of the same dry humor and secret sentiment as the group’s movie Palm Springs, but with even smaller stakes and even less predictable storytelling. It’s goofy stuff, but it’s an enjoyably light story that’s designed to keep the audience guessing. And it’s just about impossible to watch without wondering: Would I do any better under these circumstances? TR
Where to watch: Hulu
You can’t really call it a good, old-fashioned weepie — it’s far too dreamlike and strange for that — but Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers has unlocked the communal release of crying your eyes out in a movie theater like no other film in years (as well as that other communal activity of discussing a controversial ending).
A modern ghost story about a writer “visiting” his mother and father, who died when he was a boy, it will touch a deep nerve with anybody who has ever had parents, which is to say absolutely everyone. Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal are both superb, but Jamie Bell is the standout as an astonishingly convincing ’80s dad. —OW
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