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 the Showtime App 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
Lorene Scafaria wrote and directed this crackerjack crime drama about a group of strippers who schemed to separate their high roller clients from their cash. The film stars Constance Wu, Cardi B, and Lizzo, among others, but it’s Jennifer Lopez who absolutely owns the film. She plays Ramona, the queen bee of the group, and channels the talents of the other women into a multimillion dollar racket. The film takes after Lopez’s lead and oozes swagger and cool, it’s everything you could want in a modern crime drama. —Eddie Strait
4) Back to the Future
Few movies have the replay value of Back to the Future, and even less have the same first-viewing impact. Marty, Doc, George, Lorraine, Einstein, and Biff are coming to Showtime, and I don’t know how long it will be there, but I do know that it will be the best movie on the platform for the entirety of its run. Anytime is a good time to go back to the 1950s via 1985 and watch Marty play amateur matchmaker and amateur time traveller. —E.S.
5) Good Will Hunting
“It’s not your fault.” Ouch, right? Even if you’re tired of looking at the smug face of Matt Damon’s Will Hunting, even if the obnoxious mass of Boston accents has started to get to you, even if the movie’s general earnestness drives you crazy, by the time Good Will Hunting arrives at that one scene, even the hardest and most cynical hearts will also start to melt. Among Good Will Hunting’s considerable powers are Gus Van Sant’s deft but subtle direction and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning script. But it’s Robin Williams’ crushing performance, for which he also received the Academy award, that makes the movie worth revisiting. The late Williams showed he could tone his more over-the-top antics way down in this, his most acclaimed role. The result is breathtaking and the one element of the movie most likely to make you shed a tear or two (or many.) —Chris Osterndorf
6) Boogie Nights
Several Paul Thomas Anderson films from this century (There Will Be Blood, The Master) are so routinely referred to as masterpieces that one can almost forget he had a career before the year 2000. But not only was Anderson as a much a product of the ‘90s indie explosion as fellow auteurs Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, he debatably made the best film out of all of them with 1997’s Boogie Nights. It’s a sprawling, multifaceted depiction of the porn industry in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The rise and fall (and sort of rise?) of Dirk Diggler proved to be a coming-out moment for star Mark Wahlberg too, not to mention a brief redemption for Oscar-nominated supporting actor Burt Reynolds, working alongside many of Anderson’s usual players, who all give career highlight performances. The music, the setting, the acting, the story: Boogie Nights is an American story unlike any other. —C.O.
Could this be the best time-travel story ever? Forget about how convoluted the franchise’s mythology became with each successive entry; the original Terminator is so elegant in its core concept, so economically executed, its punches land harder than in any of its sequels. The action is exhilarating, the special effects were state-of-the-art for their time, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s captivating, villainous performance rightfully launched him to movie stardom with one of the most iconic catchphrases in film history: “I’ll be back.” —E.S.
8) Pineapple Express
I’m normally not big on stoner movies, but Pineapple Express is the exception. James Franco and Seth Rogen have more chemistry than most romantic leads, and watching them bond and bicker while high and on the run from a powerful drug dealer and his henchmen is truly a delight, even when you’re stone-cold sober. The movie features most of the people you expect to see in a Rogen-Franco joint—and all of the hilarity fans of the duo lap up. —E.S.
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.
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.
11) The Bank Job
The Bank Job is one of the most underrated films in Jason Statham’s filmography. He gives his fists and menacing scowl a break in favor of honest to goodness acting and the result is better than you’d think. Statham leads a team of robbers who take a job that should be a sure thing. But the deposit boxes the crew is after turns out to be more of a Pandora’s Box than a treasure trove. Secrets are revealed that threaten the job as much as any law enforcement, if not moreso. The Bank Job is fun, smart, and has enough to surprises to stay one step ahead of viewers. —E.S.
12) King Kong
Peter Jackson’s King Kong features one of the biggest kidnappings in all of cinema, with the Eighth Wonder of the world being snatched from Skull Island and brought to New York. Alone in a foreign place with only one sympathetic person around, Kong is in an impossible position. Kong fares better, with king sized action scenes and strong characterization of the ape. Jackson wants you to root for his ape and only the coldest of hearts will be able to deny him. —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, who will stop at nothing to get her back. The movie is filled with mindgames 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.
14) The Grey
Casually dismissed as the movie where “Liam Neeson fights a wolf,” The Grey finds a group of men whose plane crash lands an Alaskan forest and must work together to survive the elements. As the conditions grow harsher and the group dwindles, the men reckon with death, faith, themselves, and each other. Led by Neeson’s Ottway, The Grey is a much more philosophical and contemplative film than you’d think. All that and you get to see Neeson fight a wolf (kind of). —E.S.
Dick is a hilarious riff on the Watergate scandal. Betsy and Arlene, (played by Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst), are happy go lucky teenagers who, through a delightfully convoluted series of events, end up bringing down Nixon’s presidency. Legendary film critic Leonard Maltin described the movie as a “cross between Clueless and All the President’s Men,” and who wouldn’t want to see that? With a whip smart script and ace casting, Dick is the kind of movie you write off at your own peril. —E.S.
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Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.