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) Punch-Drunk Love
Between this film and Judd Apatow’s Funny People, Adam Sandler has delivered two performances that deconstruct the comic persona honed on Saturday Night Live and his ‘90s comedies. For Paul Thomas Anderson, 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.
2) 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.
With M. Night Shyamalan rounding out his superhero trilogy in 2019, it’s time to go back to the year 2000 and remind yourself how it all started. Bruce Willis gave one of his best performances as David, a man who doesn’t get sick or hurt, not even in a train crash. The yang to his yin is Elijah, played by the ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson, a man who seemingly can’t walk a few steps without incurring great physical risk. Unbreakable is either the best or second best M. Night movie. Any excuse to spend time in its world is worth taking. —Eddie Strait
4) Inside Man
Some heist movies are too clever for their own good. Inside Man is clever enough to keep you guessing to the end without betraying itself with its reveals. Clive Owen and Denzel Washington square off as a bank robber and detective. Their cat-and-mouse game is more fun than you might expect, but the actors, along with Jodie Foster is a key supporting role, elevate Inside Man above mere genre exercise. With Spike Lee at the helm, Inside Man oozes with pedigree, and everyone gets a chance to flex their muscles. Even if you know how the story ends, the movie’s replay value only increases with time. The is the kind of heist movie that won’t steal your time.
5) 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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6) The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Too many horror movies excel at building tension before a lackluster ending drops the ball. The Autopsy of Jane Doe skirts that line but doesn’t cross it. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch play coroners who get a mysterious body on a stormy night. The more they learn about the victim’s injuries, the more unsettling the story becomes. This is clinical horror told in a confidently: Just when things start to go crazy, the movie stays under control.
7) Battle Royale
Some viewers may have been introduced to the horror of teenagers being forced to kill one another by the government in The Hunger Games, but Battle Royale covered that territory more than a decade prior. Here, a classroom of students are gassed and transported to a remote island and told that only one of them will live at the end of the third day in a fight to the death that makes Panem’s violence look tame. Some of them kill—gladly even—but some of them are putting up a fight of their own to get off the island alive. —Michelle Jaworski
8) Children of Men
Alonso Cuaron’s dystopian masterpiece is one of the great sci-fi movies of the new millennium. Based on P.D. James’s novel, it’s set in a world where women can’t pregnant and humanity is staring down extinction. That is until one pregnant woman is found and a small group, led by Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, have to get her to safety. It’s a smart movie anchored by jaw-dropping action set pieces. —Eddie Strait
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It’s fair to say Bowfinger is the last great comedy for Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin. Martin plays Bobby Bowfinger, a fast-talking director who needs a big star to get his sci-fi movie, Chubby Rain, made. Except for that big star, Kit (Murphy), doesn’t want to be in the movie, so Bowfinger begins filming Kit without his knowledge. The movie gets increasingly ludicrous and funnier as it goes. Murphy pulls double duty as Jiff, Kipp’s naïve and gentle brother, and scores plenty of laughs (and some pathos) in both roles. With a clever script and strong supporting cast—featuring Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, and Terence Stamp—Bowfinger is a forgotten gem.
10) 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.
11) 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.
12) Personal Shopper
Olivier Assayas’ slow-burn meditation on grief will play like a bad student film if you’re not on its wavelength from the jump. But if you are, Personal Shopper is an atmospheric character study. Kristen Stewart is outstanding as a personal shopper to a celebrity while moonlighting as a medium. She’s searching for the spirit of her dead twin brother, and the film lays out multiple possibilities and doesn’t offer easy answers. It’s a rewarding film, one you’ll appreciate the more you think about it and revisit it.
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13) The 25th Hour
Spike Lee’s New York set film was one of the first to grapple with 9/11. That may be the reason audiences didn’t initially show the film the love it deserves. It takes place over the last day of freedom for Monty (Edward Norton) before he turns himself in to start his sentence. The 25th Hour is an angry film, and Norton delivers a fiery monologue that has become the best-known scene from the movie and will stick with you long after the credits roll. In addition to Norton, the movie features excellent work from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Berry Piper, and Brian Cox.
14) The Mist
I hope nobody’s spoiled the end because one of the pleasures of this Stephen King’s adaptation is getting the wind knocked out of you by its climax. Even if you know how it ends, there’s still so much more to enjoy: a strong leading man turn Thomas Jan, the craziest nutjob Marcia Gay Harden has played, to the overall creepiness of the setup – an entire town overcome by a mysterious, impenetrable mist, a group of survivors trapped inside a convenience store. The claustrophobic setting is the perfect stage to watch humanity crumble. —Eddie Strait
15) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This adaptation of John le Carré’s novel is an absorbing espionage film. Gary Oldman gives one of his best and most subdued performances as George Smiley. It’s directed by Tomas Alfredson (of Let the Right One In fame) who is no stranger to thoughtful, slow boil genre films. Tinker Tailor solidified Alfredson as a compelling new voice in world cinema and delivered a film worthy of le Carré’s legacy. —Eddie Strait
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.