The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

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The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

For all of the at-home movie-watching options available to today’s audiences, none quite compare to the experience of going out to catch a film in a theater. Paste’s monthly guides for Netflix, HBO and Amazon cover the best of what’s out there if you’re an unrepentant couch potato, but we also want to recommend the best of what’s in theaters right now, because for some of these films (…and, er, not others…) seeing them on a big screen in public is the best way to support a small film most people wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see. And there are a lot of great titles to catch outside the house this month, many of which have stuck around for a month or more that aren’t called Black Panther or didn’t win Best Picture.

(Also, seriously: Go see Annihilation on the big screen before you can’t.)

Check out the 10 best movies in theaters:

wrinkle-time-movie-poster.jpg 10. A Wrinkle in Time
Release Date: March 9, 2018
Director: Ava DuVernay
The movie’s strength is in depicting the family’s home life, this family of physicists and geniuses, and every time it gets its head into the clouds and the cosmos, it loses its footing. The people you care about in this movie are Chris Pine’s scientist father and his daughter Meg (Storm Reid): There is power in their scenes together that the rest of the film does not have without them. DuVernay gave herself a challenge, trying to find the right tone in an earnest kid’s fantasy film like this; when in doubt, she leans on Spielbergian wonder, but it could be the wrong kind of Spielberg. Imagine Spielberg’s most cloying instincts on childhood but none of the action chops to carry you between them. This is not a fun movie to dislike. DuVernay is an important filmmaker, both on screen and off, and a model in many ways to be emulated. Most importantly, though, she’s assembled as inclusive and diverse a cast as you will find in any would-be blockbuster. —Will Leitch / Full Review

shape-of-water-movie-poster.jpg 9. The Shape of Water
Release Date: December 21, 2017
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
If there’s a waiting period filmmakers must abide before they can borrow from their own body of work, Guillermo del Toro either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. His latest, The Shape of Water, an ageless story of true love between a human woman and a fish-man, references his filmography both at and below surface levels: It suggests a riff on Abe Sapien, the psychic ichthyoid sidekick in both Hellboy films (who is himself a riff on Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Gill-man, fed through a copyright strainer by his creator, Mike Mignola), but directly invokes the structure and fairy tale trappings of his 2006 breakout picture, Pan’s Labyrinth. Del Toro has us set down in 1960s Baltimore, where Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) works the janitorial night shift for the not-at-all-shady Occam Aerospace Research Center. She’s alone, mostly, except for her next door neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), and her coworker and friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Giles and Zelda give Elisa a voice she quite literally lacks: She’s mute, and spends most of the film communicating with sign language. Elisa’s clockwork days are disrupted by the arrival of the Asset (Doug Jones, the actor behind Abe Sapiens’ prosthetics), the aforementioned fish-man, in the custody of Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon), at once the epitome of the del Toro villain and the average Shannon role: He’s abusive, violent, dictatorial to a fault, but mannered, the kind of bastard who thinks his dastardly bastard deeds are right and never thinks twice about his own morality. Elisa, ballsier than Strickland and basically every other man in the film, develops instant kinship with the creature. The success of their relationship hinges on performance as much as on direction. Del Toro cares about the well being of freaks and aberrations more than most people care about the well being of other actual people. Visually, The Shape of Water screams dieselpunk, signifying Bioshock more than the brothers Grimm, but the film bears the indelible stamp of folkloric mythmaking all the same. Del Toro weaves together his influences so finely, so delicately, that the product of his handiwork feels entirely new. That’s the magic of the movies, and, more importantly, the magic of del Toro. —Andy Crump / Full Review

paddington-2-movie-poster.jpg 8. Paddington 2
Release Date: January 12, 2018
Director: Paul King
A sequel to 2014’s Paddington, Paddington 2 picks up where its predecessor left off, with Paddington Brown (né Bear and voiced by Ben Whishaw) living contentedly with his human family, including Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and a newly name-recognizable Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), joined by that British A-Lister of yore Hugh Grant, dramatic heavyweight Brendan Gleeson, and many others. (In fact, one of the simple joys for parents watching the film lies in recognizing this or that British actor.) A simple, commendable desire to find a good gift for his Aunt Lucy (currently spending her days in a nice retirement home for bears in Lima, Peru, natch) leads Paddington to set his eyes on a certain antique pop-up book as the perfect present. When that scoundrel and fading thespian Phoenix Buchanan (Grant) also sets his sights on the same book, well, hijinks, misunderstandings and adventure ensue. Paddington 2 reminds us how difficult it can be to pull off a sweetly tempered, gently moving children’s movie by doing exactly that, and doing it so well. —Michael Burgin / Full Review

in-the-fade-poster.jpg 7. In the Fade
Release Date: December 27, 2017 (limited)
Director: Fatih Akin
Fatih Akin’s In the Fade begins with a prison wedding and segues into a brisk portrait of domestic bliss before blowing everything up. Diane Kruger plays Katja Sekerci, a Hamburg native married to Nuri Sekerci (Numan Acar), once a drug dealer, now on the straight and narrow working at a tax office and offering translation services to fellow Turkish locals. Katja and Nuri have a son, Rocco, and together they have something close to Eden. But then Katja swings by Nuri’s office in the evening to pick up Rocco, having spent the day at a spa with her friend, and finds that the building has been turned to ash and rubble by a massive explosion. In one instant, her whole life changes. The trajectory of her grief on learning of her husband and son’s death is breathtaking. This is a vulturous observation to make, but In the Fade stays in Kruger’s orbit even as the film morphs from bereavement drama to courtroom drama to a facsimile of a revenge flick. She doesn’t give Akin’s work weight, because the weight is already there. She demonstrates the gravity of the material. Watching her inhabit Katja’s emotional experience from the moment she learns of Nuri and Rocco’s murders to the film’s final scene is a grim privilege. Kruger has steel to spare. In the Fade asks her to bend that steel, not to a breaking point but to such a degree that by the time the film finishes she has forced herself into an altogether different shape. Like Jeremy Saulnier’s 2016 Green Room, In the Fade translates hate speech for what it is: incitement of violence. Intimately, quietly, painfully, In the Fade reckons with supremacist beliefs, centering that process on Katja, and on Kruger, who breathes life and humanity into a film that intentionally lacks in both. —Andy Crump / Full Review

loveless-movie-poster.jpg 6. Loveless
Release Date: December 1, 2017 (limited)
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Often, it makes sense for a filmmaker to present his political commentary with a light touch, letting his story’s inherent drama speak louder than his talking points. Other times, the sledgehammer approach has significant benefits. Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose last film was the Oscar-nominated Leviathan, has crafted a slow-burn moral drama that starts off as the portrait of a loveless marriage and the unhappiness it spawns in the form of a distraught 12-year-old child. But as Loveless rolls along, its scope widens, becoming a blistering commentary on the callous society that Zvyagintsev sees around him. What’s the point of subtlety when your argument is this persuasive and this angry? Much in the style of his stripped-down 2011 drama Elena, Loveless is all perfectly composed, slightly icy images and tightly drawn characters, the plot only gradually asserting itself. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) count down the days until their divorce—barely able to live under the same roof, they both have lovers on the side, and neither seems particularly concerned what will become of their boy Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) once they separate. It’s not that they dislike Alyosha—it’s just that he’s a daily, physical reminder of a hateful marriage they rushed into once Zhenya got pregnant. Then a quiver of dread enters into the picture: They learn that Alyosha—who, come to think of it, has disappeared from Loveless over the past hour—hasn’t been at school the last two days. Zhenya and Boris are concerned about his whereabouts, but there’s a strange remove in their reactions. Yes, they’re upset—but they’re not as upset as one might expect parents to be. But one of Loveless’ great strengths is how it cannily withholds clear emotional involvement with its characters—only to set us up for one blindsiding salvo at the end. When the film concludes, you may find yourself wanting to watch it again to fully absorb the journey Zvyagintsev took you on. And because Loveless is so accomplished, the repeat viewing promises to be deeply rewarding. —Tim Grierson / Full Review

oh-lucy-movie-poster.jpg 5. Oh Lucy!
Release Date: March 9, 2018
Director: Atsuko Hirayanagi
Office drone Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima), unconsciously looking for an escape hatch from her two-faced coworkers and the overall doldrums of her life, begins taking English lessons at the behest of her niece, Mika (Shiori Kutsuna)—which is a nice way of saying that Mika badgers Setsuko into enrolling on her behalf. (Mika paid for the classes herself but needs money more than she needs English.) Upon meeting her teacher, John (Josh Hartnett), whose unconventional style includes hugs and smiles, Setsuko falls so hard in love with him that she immediately jets out of Japan for California when he absconds with Mika. As fish out of water narratives go, Oh Lucy! stays doggedly grounded in its cultural specificities: Even when director Atsuko Hirayanagi moves locations, the loneliness with which she paints Japan lingers, in part because Japanese social isolation is of concern to her, in part because loneliness is a universal human experience. Still, Oh Lucy!’s melancholy is balanced out by warmth, a knack for acute human observations and thoroughly layered performances, particularly Terajima’s, which nimbly alternates from pitiable, to spirited, to jaded without losing the thread binding them all together. We can see Setsuko’s internal pivots as she slowly, cautiously reaches beyond the confines of her personal life, and as she reverts to those confines when life proves too fraught. It’s a great performance anchoring an equally great, if a tad drawn out, film. —Andy Crump

thoroughbreds-movie-poster.jpg 4. Thoroughbreds
Release Date: March 9, 2018
Director: Cory Finley
The line separating thrillers and horror films is razor thin. In the case of Cory Finley’s feature debut, Thoroughbreds, the former fits more suitably than the latter, but to take a page from Potter Stewart, I know horror when I see it, and Thoroughbreds toes that line with macabre confidence. The film isn’t particularly frightening, but makes up for that with suspense to harrow the soul. Thoroughbreds rattles us by pitting posh cultivation against human nihilism: When you’re scared, you tend to be scared in the moment. When you’re rattled, there’s no telling how long you’ll stay that way. That’s Thoroughbreds in a nutshell: A sobering, beautiful movie that’ll haunt you for weeks after watching it. Lily (horror queen ascendant Anya Taylor-Joy) is the epitome of high breeding: Impeccably dressed and made up, unflappably well-mannered, academically accomplished with a bright future ahead of her. Amanda (Olivia Cooke) is her polar opposite, a social outcast, friend to no one, possessed of a barbed tongue and a caustic temperament. They’re childhood chums who became estranged from one another over years, an everyday occurrence spurred by an incident involving Amanda’s family horse and an act of casual butchery. That all happens in the film’s past tense. In its present tense, the girls reconnect, Lily acting as Amanda’s tutor, and as they do the latter begins to rub off on the former and draw out her dark side. Lily and Amanda’s grim candor is couched in limited settings, primarily the grand house Lily lives in with her stepdad Mark (Paul Sparks) and her mother, but Thoroughbreds’ sense of confinement is a necessary component for its success as genre. Finley creates a space from which they can both break out, a gorgeous veneer akin to limbo. Within reason we can’t blame them for wanting to escape. Finley does a lot with very little apart from the raw talent of his leads. If this is what he’s capable of as a first-timer, we should rightfully dread his follow-up. —Andy Crump / Full Review

black-panther-poster.jpg 3. Black Panther
Release Date: February 16, 2018
Director: Ryan Coogler
 Black Panther might be the first MCU film that could claim to most clearly be an expression of a particular director’s voice. We shouldn’t go so far as to call it auteurist, because it’s still a Disney movie and (perhaps ironically) a part of that monopolizing Empire—i.e., eat the rich—but Black Panther’s action scenes, especially, feel one with Coogler’s oeuvre. Look only to an early scene in a South Korean casino, in which T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurire) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) plan to intercept a deal between Klaue and everyone’s favorite CIA milquetoast, Everett Ross (Martin Freeman, lovable) for a vibranium-filled artifact which Klaue stole from some colonizer-run museum with Killmonger’s help. We’re introduced to Klaue through the surprising spryness of his violence—Andy Serkis, too, freed from mocap, is still an amazing presence, even as a gangster shitbag—and Coogler gets on his wavelength, carving out the geography of the casino in long tracking shots, much like he convinced us to love stained, shitty-seeming Philadelphia gyms in Creed by helping us to comprehend the many crevices and corners of each hole in the wall. When the casino brawl breaks out into the streets, morphing into a death-defying car chase (slow motion thankfully kept to a minimum), we feel as if we know exactly what these characters—and this wonderful director—are capable of. Cue magnificent Vince Staples track. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review

death-of-stalin-movie-poster.jpg 2. The Death of Stalin
Release Date: March 16, 2018
Director: Armando Iannucci
You can trace that dynamic from The Thick of It, through In the Loop and Veep, and then especially in his new film, The Death of Stalin, whose subject matter can be inferred from a mere glance. The Death of Stalin marks a major temporal departure for Iannucci, known for skewering contemporary political embarrassments and turmoil, by taking us back to 1953 Russia. Years out from the Great Purge, the country remains in the grip of widespread fear fomented by nationalism, public trials, antisemitism, executions, mass deportations and civic uncertainty. Iannucci asks us to laugh at an era not known for being especially funny. That’s the give and take at the film’s core: Iannucci drops a punchline and we guffaw, then moments later we hear a gunshot, accompanied by the sound of a fresh corpse hitting the ground. Finding humor in political violence is a big ask, and yet Iannucci’s dialogue is nimble but unfailingly harsh, replete with chafing castigations. We howl with laughter, though we can’t help feeling bad for every poor bastard caught on the receiving end of trademark Iannucci verbal abuse, which typically means we end up feeling bad for every character in his films. He spares no one from insult or injury, even when they’re lying dead on the floor, soaked in their own piss. A tale of mortal sins as well as venial ones, The Death of Stalin adds modern urgency to his comic storytelling trademarks: As nationalist sentiment rears its ugly head across the globe and macho authoritarian leaders contrive to hoard power at democracy’s expense, a farcical play on the political clusterfuck that followed Stalin’s passing feels shockingly apropos. It takes a deft hand and a rare talent to make tyranny and state sanctioned torture so funny. —Andy Crump / Full Review

annihilation-poster.jpg 1. Annihilation
Release Date: February 23, 2018
Director: Alex Garland
Annihilation is a movie that’s impossible to shake. Like the characters who find themselves both exploring the world of the film and inexplicably trapped by it, you’ll find yourself questioning yourself throughout, wondering whether what you’re watching can possibly be real, whether maybe you’re going a little insane yourself. The film is a near-impossible bank shot by Ex Machina filmmaker Alex Garland, a would-be science fiction actioner that slowly reveals itself to be a mindfuck in just about every possible way, a film that wants you to invest in its universe yet never gives you any terra firma to orient yourself. This is a film that wants to make you feel as confused and terrified as the characters you’re watching. In this, it is unquestionably successful. This is a risky proposition for a director, particularly with a big studio movie with big stars like this one: This is a movie that becomes more confusing and disorienting as it goes along. Garland mesmerizes with his visuals, but he wants you to be off-balance, to experience this world the way Lena (Natalie Portman) and everyone else is experiencing it. Like the alien (I think?) of his movie, Garland is not a malevolent presence; he is simply an observer of this world, one who follows it to every possible permutation, logical or otherwise. It’s difficult to explain Annihilation, which is a large reason for its being. This is a film about loss, and regret, and the sensation that the world is constantly crumbling and rearranging all around you every possible second. The world of Annihilation looks familiar, but only at first. Reality is fluid, and ungraspable. It can feel a little like our current reality in that way. —Will Leitch / Full Review