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Don’t miss these modern classics.
When it comes to premium cable, there’s HBO, and everyone else is playing for second. Showtime has a surprisingly solid stable of streaming options accessible through its namesake streaming service and Showtime Anytime platform, a nice blend of current and classic releases. Showtime offers selections that feel more like discoveries, or something you wouldn’t immediately go to. It’s a good place to be in when you’re looking for something new.
The best movies on Showtime
1) The Hurt Locker
Usually when people think about war movies, they think about gut-wrenching action. Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker goes the opposite route for its thrills. Jeremy Renner stars as a sergeant whose preference to do things his way doesn’t sit well with the rest of the bomb squad. The Hurt Locker is a trip-wire taut drama anchored by career-best work by Renner and strong support from Anthony Mackie. Bigelow’s work made her the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director. The Hurt Locker is a top-tier war film. —Eddie Strait
2) Inglourious Basterds
Inglourious Basterds may not be Quentin Tarantino’s most iconic film (that would be Pulp Fiction). Nor is it his most fun (that would probably be Jackie Brown). Nor is it his most stylish (the Kill Bills), his most socially conscious (Django Unchained), his most tightly scripted (Reservoir Dogs), or even his longest (The Hateful Eight). Yet it’s possible that Inglourious Basterds is his best. He says as much himself with the film’s winking last line, delivered into the camera by Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine: “I think this just might be my masterpiece.” Inglourious Basterds is a cinematic declaration for the ages. The performances, writing, and directing are all immaculate. More surprising is that the movie feels almost like a play at moments, with certain scenes stretching on for a half an hour at a time. —Chris Osterndorf
3) Baby Driver
Edgar Wright’s car-chase thriller has at least one advantage over the classic films it’s toasting: a killer soundtrack. Music is the foundation of Baby Driver, which stars Ansel Elgort as Baby, a stoic getaway driver who choreographs his turns and peel-outs with his iPod. Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Lily James co-star, and at times the movie is more like a musical than a caper. —Audra Schroeder
4) The Bourne Ultimatum
The latest highly touted Jason Bourne ended up like most sequels: better in theory than in practice. But why dwell on that when you can put on 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum? It’s the high-water mark of the series (a claim that works for each of the first three films). Bourne heads back to New York to finally get the truth about his past and is ready to punch, maim, and kill anyone who stands between him and the truth. From director Paul Greengrass’s kinetic camera to Matt Damon’s fierce and vulnerable performance, Ultimatum delivers everything fans of the series want to see. —E.S.
5) Donnie Darko
Richard Kelly’s genre and mind-bending debut about a troubled boy who may or may not travel through time holds up better than you think. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers an early signature performance as Donnie. He captures fear and false confidence in a way that instantly takes you back to your own high school days. Kelly fills the movie with memorable characters and narrative threads to keep you coming back to Donnie Darko. —E.S.
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6) The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project is one of the most important horror films of all time. Its critical and box office success speak to the film’s popularity at the time of its release, but 20 years later, it still holds up. It’s about three young filmmakers who get lost in the woods and go through some scary business. Much of the film’s genius derives from its simplicity. Presented as found footage and with unknown actors, it’s easy to get sucked in alongside the characters as they go deeper into the night and the mythology. —E.S.
Screenwriter Will Reiser tells the story of his own battle with cancer in 50/50. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a 27-year-old with nothing but opportunity in front of him when he falls ill. The movie follows a traditional path, with Will battling the disease and the emotional and existential reckoning that comes with it. Gordon-Levitt is tremendous, and Seth Rogen does some of his best work as Adam’s best friend Kyle (echoing his real-life friendship with Reiser), and Anjelica Huston is devastating as Will’s mother. The movie finds plenty of humor in Adam’s situation, but don’t forget to have a box of tissues close by. —E.S.
8) The Collector
Co-writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (who also directs) made their bones with the Project Greenlight movie Feast and a handful of Saw sequels. This film is closer to their Saw work, but with less convoluted mythology. The Collector is a straightforward home invasion movie. The movie is as bloody and brutal as the filmmakers’ pedigree implies. This isn’t a movie whose scares will linger with you, but in the moment it’s pretty nerve-wracking, and it’ll make you double check the locks before you go to bed. —E.S.
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9) Jackass: The Movie
The Jackass films are some of the best comedies of the last 20 years. The films do much more than offer cheap shocks and thrills. The physical punishment endured by Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Wee Man, Steve-O, and the rest of the crew is breathtaking. They’re doing the best slapstick, and the choreography and imagination that goes into most stunts would make Chaplin and Keaton proud. Few comedies hit their targets as frequently and thoroughly as Jackass. —E.S
10) Jackie Brown
Quentin Tarantino’s only film adapted from someone else’s work (Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch) is a striking departure from the rest of his oeuvre. It has all the hallmarks of a QT film: crackling dialogue, rampant racial slurs, casual violence, and an impeccable soundtrack. But it’s also his most mature film. Pam Grier plays the titular character who gets caught up in an investigation targeting her boss, Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). Everyone has an angle, and it’s the kind of movie where if you are trying to play someone, you’re getting played. —E.S.
11) Frances Ha
Noah Baumbach is having an incredibly prolific late career—churning out Greenberg, The Squid and the Whale, Mistress America, Margot at the Wedding, and While We’re Young in an amazing decade-long stretch. During that span, he also made Frances Ha, a riff on Annie Hall as seen through the lens of Godard, Truffaut, and the masters of the French New Wave. Instead of watching a couple slowly drift apart, Baumbach tracks the dissolution of a best friendship between Frances (Greta Gerwig, in her star-making role) and Sophie (Mickey Sumner). It’s not only a lovely Woody Allen homage but one of cinema’s best portraits of millennial disaffection to date. —Nico Lang
12) Punch-Drunk Love
Between this film and Judd Apatow’s Funny People, Adam Sandler has delivered two performances that deconstruct the comic persona he honed on Saturday Night Live and in his ‘90s comedies. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, Sandler plays Barry Egan, a socially awkward man prone to violent outbursts. A chance encounter with a woman in need of a favor (a terrific Emily Watson) helps bring Barry out of his shell. Anderson mixes the dark and absurd parts of the film with humor in that way only he can, and the result is pretty special.
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13) A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Whether you like A.I. or not, it’s such a fascinating artifact that it cannot be dismissed. With Steven Spielberg bringing to life the story the late Stanley Kubrick worked on, this version of A.I. mixes two disparate sensibilities. It’s not hard to see how the story of a robot boy trying to become real to gain acceptance would appeal to both men. This hybrid version is tantalizingly close to being a masterpiece, but whatever it is, anyone serious about cinema should see it. —E.S.
Breakdown is a kickass entry in Kurt Russell’s ass-kicking oeuvre. Russell plays a man whose wife goes missing on a road trip and will stop at nothing to get her back. The movie is filled with mind games and great reversals as Russell’s character is constantly having victory snatched from him. Breakdown isn’t the flashiest or best known of Russell’s action films. But it’s as entertaining as any of his classics. At a lean 93 minutes, recommendations don’t get much easier than this. —E.S.
15) Band Aid
Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally star as Anna and Ben, a couple that fights all the time. As a last ditch effort to save their marriage they turn their frustrations into songs. For the first hour Band Aid feels like a typical indie dramedy, for better or worse. But in its final 30 minutes the film finds another gear and becomes more emotionally poignant than you expect. Pally and Lister-Jones give strong performances, but Lister-Jones makes the biggest impact her, as she also wrote and directed the film. If you’re looking for an exciting new voice, Band Aid has what you need. —E.S.
New to cord-cutting? Here are our picks for the best movie streaming sites of 2018 and free live TV apps and channels. If you’re looking for a specific channel, here’s how to watch HBO, Showtime, Starz, ESPN, AMC, FX, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, FS1, TBS, Golf Channel, and NFL RedZone without cable, as well as free movies on YouTube.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Eddie Strait is a member of the Austin Film Critic Association. His reviews focus primarily on streaming entertainment, with an emphasis on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other on-demand services.