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 and Showtime Anytime
1) Drug War
Japanese filmmaker Johnnie To is an action maestro, and Drug War is one of his best. It’s a blistering ass-kicker about cops and a drug cartel. If you’re an action purist, then I hope you’ve already seen Drug War. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it in the comfort of your own home and no one has to know your shame. Drug War deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of The Raid films, the Mission: Impossible series, both John Wick blockbusters, and even Mad Max: Fury Road.
2) Out of Sight
Elmore Leonard and Steven Soderberg go together as well as George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. That one movie can contain all four and still have room for Don Cheadle and a stellar supporting cast is patently unfair. Soderbergh is a master of easy coolness, which this movie exudes. Between the bursts of violence and the chemistry between Clooney and Lopez it’s hard to not get lured into Out of Sight whenever it’s on.
3) Hell or High Water
In the oppressive heat of West Texas, a pair of desperate brothers decide to rob banks in order to pay off their mortgage. It’s a simple plan and one that might work if weren’t for the Texas Rangers on their heel or one brother’s reckless tendencies. Hell or High Water is a movie that lives in the little moments: Out of towners being schooled by an old waitress, brothers sharing a meal, partners bantering, and cops and robbers having standoffs. There’s a reason this movie became a sleeper hit at the box office and scored a slew of Academy Awards nominations. Times may be tough for the characters, but the audience reaps the riches.
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Richard Linklater’s account of an East Texas murder is a curio, even by his standards. He mixes real interviews with locals of Carthage, Texas, into his fictionalized account of Marjorie Nugent’s murder at the hands of her assistant, Bernie Tiede. Jack Black’s vocal and physical affectations walk the line of caricature, but he never crosses it. He does the best work of his acting career here. Shirley Maclaine matches, and even surpasses, Black’s work as Marjorie. The film is darkly funny and a fascinating look at a relationship gone horribly wrong.
5) The Gift
Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is a nasty thriller about a man who antagonizes a new couple in the neighborhood in increasing unsettling ways. The script is constructed on sturdy genre blueprints and builds something that is recognizable yet hard to predict. The lead trio of Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as the married couple and Edgerton as the creeper is terrific. Edgerton is well-established as a leading man, and he brings the same vigor and terseness to his work behind the camera. The Gift delivers the goods and offers enough twists to throw you off its scent.
6) The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight has grown on me since I first saw it. On the first go-round, I thought it was in exercise in indulgence and every other thing Quentin Tarantino has been criticized for doing. But the movie proved to have more going on that I gave it credit for upon a rewatch. Samuel L. Jackson, in particular, has a lot of depth to his performance, which elevates this Western mystery about a prisoner and a bounty hunter holed up in the midst of a Wyoming winter.
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7) Can’t Hardly Wait
18 years worth of friendship, romantic, bullying, hormones and everything else associated with high school comes to a head in this glorious ’90s time capsule. At the blowout graduation party Preston Myers (Ethan Embry) is all set to confess his love to Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), if only fate and his friends would get out of his way. Can’t Hardly Wait is earnest in a way that only teenagers can be. It’s also hilarious. But like most teen comedies you kind of had to be there to maximize your enjoyment. Still, there’s a certain universality to the movie and plenty of silliness for anyone to enjoy.
8) The Edge of Seventeen
Writer-director Kelly Fremoon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen is one of the strongest filmmaker debuts of the last few years. It’s a coming of age story that centers on Hailey Steinfeld’s Nadine, an awkward teen who can’t stop making things more awkward (is there any other kind of teen?). The thing that makes the movie so great is despite Nadine being the lead, it’s really about a family struggling in the aftermath of a tragedy. It doesn’t shy away from showing the uglier sides of the characters, and it never condemns or condones them. The Edge of Seventeen is ultimately about being comfortable enough with yourself to realize that you aren’t the only one with problems.
9) The Babadook
This acclaimed psychological horror film from writer-director Jennifer Kent was a hit on the festival circuit and with horror fans. The film’s boogeyman, the titular Babadook, has been co-opted by the LGBTQ community, as you may have heard. Social impact aside, The Babadook is a freaky film about a single mother slowly losing her mind. Essie Davis plays the mother, and she gives one of the more memorable horror performances of recent times. It’s a testament to Davis and Kent that they can wring nigh unbearable tension out of something as simple as a child coming into his mother’s room.
10) Babe: Pig in the City
Arguably the best thing about watching Babe (which is also great and available on Showtime) is that you can follow it up with the sequel, Babe: Pig in the City. Mad Max director George Miller, who helped write and produce Babe, stepped behind the camera for the sequel. After winning the sheepdog competition in the first movie, Babe ends up in another contest at the state fair with the hope that a victory will help save his farm. But there’s so much more to it. Where most sequels fall into a rinse and repeat cycle, especially family film follow-ups, this one goes bigger in the best ways, including adding taking monkeys in the mix. Initially, Pig in the City wasn’t as acclaimed as the original, but in the two decades since its release, it has finally garnered the admiration it deserves. That’ll do pig.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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