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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. These are the best movies on showtime right now.
The best movies on Showtime
Paul Dano makes an impressive directorial debut with Wildlife, a quiet, domestic drama about a marriage falling apart, as seen through the eyes of the couple’s teenage son. While the story is involving and has a sneaky power to it, it’s the cast that elevates Wildlife. As the husband and wife, Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan deliver some of their finest work, especially Mulligan. And anchoring the film is newcomer Ed Oxenbould, who plays the couple’s son. It’s an actor’s showcase, which isn’t a surprise given Dano’s experience. What is surprising is Dano’s eye for arresting visuals. It all amounts to a film that simmers until it all comes to a boil.
2) The Babadook
In Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, the mother is supposed to be the protector, but she might be the monster, too. This tangled duality pushes The Babadook, a film that takes the idea of a bogeyman and draws a thick black line to the depths of our subconscious. Essie Davis is wonderful as Amelia, a single mother who’s slogging through life with her troubled, high-strung son. Their relationship starts to shift after a creature in a children’s pop-up book starts appearing outside the pages and becomes a terrifying metaphor for grief and depression. It joins a handful of recent horror films (The Witch, It Follows, Ex Machina) in which women aren’t just prey or victims. —Audra Schroeder
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 Death of Stalin
Armando Iannucci perfected the bumbling power struggle with Veep, and he funnels that talent into an ensemble satire about Joseph Stalin. After the Russian dictator’s 1953 death, his inner circle—including Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, and Jeffrey Tambor—bumbles around trying to figure out who’s next, alternately grieving and plotting. —A.S.
5) There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 film is as representative of his work as any of his masterpieces. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an all-time performance as Daniel Plainview, a prospector of unlimited ambition. There Will Be Blood is a big, sprawling movie that tells a specific story, but it’s also timeless. Any film that turns something as innocuous as a milkshake into an iconic cinematic moment is worth watching. —Eddie Strait
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6) Liar Liar
Out of all of Jim Carrey’s comedy hits from the ‘90s, Liar Liar has proven to be the one that holds up best. The concept of a man bound by his son’s birthday wish to not tell a lie for 24 hours is ridiculously simple and simply ridiculous. That’s the best kind of premise. Carrey’s verbal and physical dexterity is in top form as motor-mouthed lawyer Fletcher Reede, who struggles through a hectic day at home and in court. —Eddie Strait
7) About a Boy
Where Hugh Grant goes, romance tends to follow. In About a Boy (based on the Nick Hornsby novel), Grant plays Will, a ladies’ man who develops an unexpected friendship with teenager Marcus. Will grows close with Marcus and his mother Fiona (Toni Collette) while still pursuing a relationship with another single mother, Rachel (Rachel Weisz). About a Boy features its fair share of cutesy moments, but it’s more grounded than you might expect, making the end result even more satisfying. —E.S.
8) Den of Thieves
A lot of movies want to be Heat, but sometimes it’s okay to just be yourself, and Den of Thieves is at its best when it’s being itself. The L.A.-set crime epic pits a crew of robbers, led by Ray (Pablo Schreiber), against Sheriff Nick (Gerard Butler) and his elite team of officers. The biggest star here is director Christian Gudegast, who shoots action well and knows how to construct a scene to maximize tension, best exemplified by the film’s centerpiece heist sequence. Catch up with Den of Thieves now before it fulfills its destiny and becomes a basic cable staple. —E.S.
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9) Blood Fest
Rooster Teeth’s Blood Fest is a tribute to horror movies, and it’s hoping you get the references. The film follows Dax (Robbie Kay), who’s had an obsession with horror since his mother was murdered on Halloween night by one of his father’s deranged patients. He’s secured tickets to the titular Blood Fest for himself and his friends, Sam (Seychelle Gabriel) and Krill (Jacob Batalon). Once they arrive at the festival, things quickly start to go wrong, as it’s revealed ringmaster Anthony Walsh (director Owen Egerton) is filming his own horror movie and murdering the attendees for content. —A.S.
Jake Gyllenhaal might not be the best living actor, but he is certainly the hardest working. Since 2011’s Source Code, it would be difficult to find someone with a more diverse array of challenging roles—from the explosive boxing drama Southpaw (for which Gyllenhaal famously hulked up) to more sinuous work in Prisoners and Nightcrawler. In the latter, the 35-year-old actor particularly gets under the skin as Louis Bloom, a self-taught cameraman determined to make it in the news entertainment business. Louis gets a job working as a stringer for a producer, Nina (Rene Russo), working the graveyard shift of the lowest-rated network in Los Angeles. Bloom is willing to do anything to get the story, and desperate for ratings, Nina doesn’t realize the monster she’s creating to get it. Directed by Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy), Nightcrawler is a satire of our news media culture so spot-on you may need to shower after. —Nico Lang
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. —N.L.
The Wachowski siblings burst onto the scene with this slick as hell crime thriller. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly team up to steal $2 million from the Mafia. The plot is straightforward, and the movie rocks along at a fast pace. It’s a testament to the Wachowskis’ talent that a movie with a minimal number of locations feels so kinetic and propulsive. The Wachowskis went on to work on significantly more expensive and complex films, but Bound remains either their best or second-best (behind The Matrix) film.
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13) Kill Bill Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
Quentin Tarantino’s sprawling martial arts revenge epic offers up over four hours of everything audience’s love about Tarantino films. Calling a QT film “sprawling” may be redundant, but he knows how to deliver the goods each time out. Uma Thurman is The Bride, and she’s out to find Bill and kill him. It’s a simple enough pitch, but there is so much more to the story than just revenge. While the mythical “Whole Bloody Affair” version isn’t readily available, streaming the two films back-to-back is a reasonable approximation. —E.S.
By far Sam Mendes’ best film, Jarhead is an enthralling and fascinating rumination on the tediousness and psychological stress of war. Jarhead puts you right alongside the soldiers, trained and ready for combat and dying to see some action. The movie does a good job of not being overtly political by keeping tight focus on the soldiers’ experience, which is another way the film draws you in. Jarhead is one of the great underrated war film of recent times.
15) I Feel Pretty
The premise of this film was certainly enough to get people riled up: A woman named Renee (Amy Schumer) struggles with her body image until one day, she takes a spill and wakes up with a newfound, ironclad sense of confidence. It’s a formula that peaked in the ’80s and ’90s to be sure, and critics called out the movie’s message of superficiality over acceptance and self-love, but I Feel Pretty quietly calls out how people treat women who assert that they’re beautiful no matter what. Beyond that premise, I Feel Pretty does have some comedic moments, thanks to fellow standup comedian Rory Scovel as Renee’s love interest and supporting work from Aidy Bryant and Busy Phillips. —A.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.