15 must-see movies streaming on Showtime

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

1) Wildlife

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.

Showtime best movies: Wildlife IFC Films/YouTube

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

Showtime best movies: The Babadook Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

3) School of Rock

Jack Black’s manic energy finds its perfect in Richard Linklater’s music school comedy. Black plays a professional lay about who steals a subbing job from his nebbish roommate (Mike White, who also wrote the script) and ends up teaching a class of young musical prodigies. Of course, the students end up teaching Black as much about life as he teaches them about Led Zeppelin. It’s a crowd-pleaser through and through, with equal amounts of laughs and heart and, most importantly, a great rock show at the end. —Eddie Strait 

Best Showtime movies: School of Rock YouTube Movies/YouTube

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.

Showtime best movies: The Death of Stalin Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

5) Jerry Maguire

Cameron Crowe is stuck in his fall from grace period, but it’s worthwhile to dig back to when Crowe was still consistently great. It’ll help restore your faith in the man after his recent run of movies has just about burned up all his good will. This is a quintessential ‘90s movie that still holds up 20 years later. —E.S.

best showtime_movies_Jerry_Maguire YouTube Movies/YouTube

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6) Scream

Scream is hilarious and terrifying (the opening sequence alone puts it in the horror pantheon). The cast is fun and playful, and director Wes Craven matches their energy behind the camera. Kevin Williamson’s script is sharper than Ghostface’s knife. For anyone watching for the first time, Scream takes place on the year anniversary of Maureen Prescott’s brutal murder. Her daughter, Sidney, finds herself in a new nightmare when her classmates start getting killed off.  Scream has extreme rewatch value, and even if the potency of the scares fades over time, everything about the movie picks up the slack. It’s a classic for a reason, and any time is a good time to revisit it. —E.S.

Showtime best movies: Scream prinzefilms/YouTube

7) Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is about Molly Bloom, a world-class skier whose Olympic dreams came to a crashing end at a qualifier for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Molly moved on to the world of high stakes poker, where she went on to run one of the most sought after high stakes games. Then came the FBI. Sorkin’s script deftly maneuvers the thrills of the underground poker world while also keeping clear sight of the emotional stakes for Molly. Of course the dialogue is great, you already know that. With a crackling lead performance by Jessica Chastain and a strong supporting cast, Molly’s Game is playing with a stacked deck. —E.S.

Best Showtime movies: Molly's Game Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

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.

Showtime best movies: Den of Thieves Zero Media/YouTube

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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.

best movies on Showtime - Blood Fest Rooster Teeth

10) Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is the kind of movie that’s so sad, it occasionally feels like it’s trying to rip your heart out through your chest. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as Dean and Cindy, a couple whose relationship we see disintegrate as it cuts back and forth between when they first got together and their older, more damaged selves. Director Derek Cianfrance, who would go on to make The Place Beyond the Pines and The Light Between Oceans shot the flashback scenes in a kind of grainy, Instagram-worthy style that ultimately serves to make them more romantic, while the present-day scenes look sleeker and colder, reflecting a kind of harsh realness. Both performances are heartbreaking (Williams was nominated for an Oscar for hers), probably because the two leads actually spent time living together like a real couple between filming the scenes set in the past and the ones set in the future. By the time their characters had to break up, it feels all too real. —Chris Osterndorf

Best Showtime movies: Blue Valentine Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

11) Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

The tale of the Baudelaire orphans (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) and their scheming uncle Count Olaf is full of despair, ingenuity, and a litany of literary references. It’s also supremely entertaining. Author Daniel Handler has created a world full of seemingly endless imagination. But amid all the silliness (like Jim Carrey’s wonderfully silly turn as Olaf), the story still takes the emotions of the Baudelaires seriously, which elevates the series above similar fare. No disrespect to the great Netflix adaptation, but it’s a crying shame we only got one film version of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. —E.S.

Best Showtime movies: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events YouTube Movies/YouTube

12) Moon

Moon is one of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut working a solo mission on the moon. With his assignment nearing its end, Sam finds out that his replacement is… himself. The more Sam tries to figure out the true nature of his work, and himself, the more his world upends. This is the best work of Rockwell’s career, and he has a blast playing multiple versions of his character. Director and co-writer Duncan Jones delivered a top-tier debut with Moon, and the resourceful filmmaking marked him as a bright new voice. But this is Rockwell’s show, and he crushes it. —E.S.

Showtime best movies: Moon IMDb/YouTube

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13) Misery

Kathy Bates gives one of the all-time great horror performances as Anne Wilkes, the psycho fan of James Caan’s famous writer. She is completely terrifying, and director Rob Reiner makes you feel every bit of Caan’s imprisonment and struggle to get free. For as scary as Wilkes is, though, it’s hard to look away from Bates. Misery is in the top tier of Stephen King adaptations, and it feels like it only gets better with each new and terrible King adaptation. —E.S.

Showtime best movies: Misery ScreamFactoryTV/YouTube

14) Jarhead

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.

Showtime best movies: Jarhead Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

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.

Showtime best movies: I Feel Pretty STX Entertainment/YouTube

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

Eddie Strait

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.