The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

Movies Lists In Theaters
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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—and we’d recommend such recent Netflix originals as the sure-to-be-divisive Okja (coming out on the 28th) and Diedra & Laney Rob a Train —none quite compare to the communal experience of going out to catch a film in a theater. Paste’s monthly guides for Netflix and HBO and Amazon and Showtime and Redbox cover the best of what’s out there if you’re a diehard couch potato, but we also want to recommend the best of what’s in theaters right now. Granted, this month welcomed the release of some big tentpole entries, but if you’ve seen Cars 3 or The Mummy, then you can probably guess why they aren’t on this list. Same goes for the much-anticipated Rough Night.

Here are the 10 best movies in theaters right now:

captain-underpants-poster.jpg 10. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Director: David Soren
Most superheroes look like they’re wearing their underwear on the outside of their clothes. What this movie gleefully presupposes is: Maybe one can. The presumptuously titled Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, based on Dav Pilkey’s first four children’s books in the Captain Underpants series (all of which have amusingly lengthy titles themselves), pokes a lot of fun at the concept of superheroes, the concept of action movies and the very cinematic medium in which it’s found itself. Captain Underpants’ plethora of animation styles (including a wonderful sock puppet sequence) separates the film into imaginative sublayers, keeping it from feeling like the one-joke wonder that it often edges towards. Fans of the book will love the adaptation’s loyalty and specific references, while those unversed in Underpants lore will find themselves admitting (reluctantly, I’m sure) that they had a good time. —Jacob Oller / Full Review

raising-bertie-poster.jpg 9. Raising Bertie
Release Date: June 9, 2017
Director: Margaret Byrne
One of two new releases this month from Kartemquin, Raising Bertie continues the company’s long tradition of socially conscious vérité documentaries. Shot over the course of six years in Bertie County, North Carolina, the film centers around the growth of three teenage boys—David “Bud” Perry, Reginald “Junior” Askew and Davonte “Dada” Harrell—with the years condensed into a brisk 90 minutes. The audience experiences a developmental panorama of the protagonists, watching them go from dealing with school to seeking good work and fulfillment. No matter their milieu, they’re beset by issues of systemic inequality and poverty. Director Margaret Byrne was well-trained for this project by her work as a cinematographer and editor on 2013’s American Promise, which followed two black boys through the entire course of their schooling, over 13 years. Byrne demonstrates excellent control over the lens, with the film staying at a respectful but observant remove over the events. So too does it skillfully weave a narrative through line around the leads’ coming of age out of the six years of material. —Daniel Schindel / Full Review

the-exception-poster.jpg 8. The Exception
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Director: David Leveaux
Someone’s finally figured out what to do with the oft-maligned Jai Courtney: Make him a romantic lead in a Nazi drama. A very specific niche to fill, to be sure, but his performance in The Exception is a blessed contrast to his usual waste in schlocky action fare. Based on 2003 novel The Kaiser’s Last Kiss by Alan Judd, The Exception, set in a fictionalized World War II timeline (for all you European scholars out there), follows German soldier Stefan Brandt (constantly-misclassified actor Courtney) on assignment to the personal detail of exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer). He is to, with the pretext of bodyguarding, spy on the former monarch, residing in the Netherlands, and determine the Kaiser’s allegiances to the Third Reich. Meanwhile, an unidentified British spy snoops around the local Dutch village, still evading the Germans and complicating the already deliciously pulpy plot. We have a soldier with a mysterious past, a Kaiser with a lifetime of bitterness and a maid of indeterminate allegiance—all in a sexy Dutch castle surrounded by spycraft, ulterior motives and Nazi paranoia. —Jacob Oller / Full Review

maudie-poster.jpg 7. Maudie
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Director: Aisling Walsh
It’s easy to be impressed by the sheer physical effort Sally Hawkins puts into her performance as popular Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Maud was born in 1903 with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which led to the hunched-over appearance, crippled hands and near-bowlegged walk that plagued her adulthood. All of this Hawkins has to mimic in Aisling Walsh’s biopic, Maudie, and based on the results on screen, Hawkins certainly seems to have absorbed the mannerisms naturally. But if acting was judged merely on the basis of technique, then anyone could impersonate a real-life figure, reproducing gestures and mannerisms with something close to absolute fidelity, and be considered great. Truly great acting, though, is as much about the inward as it is about the outward—the spirit, not just the letter. Thankfully, Hawkins’ performance in Maudie is as indelible a feat of psychological imagination as it is of physical dedication. —Kenji Fujishima / Full Review

wendy-whelan-poster.jpg 6. Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
Release Date: May 24, 2017
Directors: Adam Schlesinger, Linda Saffire
Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan isn’t a “dance movie,” per se. Except during the last 10 minutes (and even then, in what looks like a truncated form), there aren’t really any sustained ballet sequences in which to marvel at the former New York City Ballet principal dancer’s legendary physicality. It’s doubtful that neophytes will come away from Adam Schlesinger and Linda Saffire’s documentary with a deeper appreciation of the art form. Instead, this is a portrait of an artist at a professional and personal crossroads, as Whelan faces the potential death of the creative livelihood that has sustained her for so many decades, one that has given her life joy and meaning. Whelan’s process of trying to rediscover herself after a personal setback would not have been half as involving as it is if she hadn’t been so generous with the access she granted the filmmakers. She isn’t afraid to lay bare her vulnerabilities for the camera, and Schlesinger and Saffire are able to capture their subject in occasional private moments that make their subject seem poignantly human. It’s that intimacy that makes Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan an artist documentary that will play movingly—inspiringly, even—for those who aren’t already fans. —Kenji Fujishima / Full Review

wonder-woman-poster.jpg 5. Wonder Woman
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
Considering that the character of Wonder Woman was the only one in Batman v Superman who didn’t want to yank your eyeballs out of your head with a spork, it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that Wonder Woman is lightyears better than anything else the newfangled DC cinematic universe has produced. It’s not quieter necessarily, but it is more measured, more comfortable in its own skin, less fanboy desperate to keep waving keys in front of your face—exploding keys—to make sure it has the full attention of all your assaulted senses. It feels almost old-fashioned in its themes of the goodness of humanity—and the debate alien outsiders have about whether or not humans are worthy of redemption—and the selflessness of one for a greater good. It still has too many skyscraper-sized god-monsters blowing up whole acres in hackneyed super slo-mo, and it doesn’t have much you haven’t seen before, but that it simply tells one story in linear order with logical progression…man, when it comes to these movies, it almost feels like a miracle. —Will Leitch / Full Review

dawson-city-poster.jpg 4. Dawson City: Frozen Time
Release Date: June 9, 2017
Director: Bill Morrison
For those who know the work of avant-garde documentary filmmaker Bill Morrison well, the first few minutes of his latest (and, significantly, longest) opus, Dawson City: Frozen Time, may shock in how formally conventional it is. It opens with a brief clip from an appearance Morrison himself made on Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo’s MLB Network talk show, High Heat. After a few snippets of archival footage, it cuts to an interview Morrison conducted with two film archivists, Michael Gates and his wife Kathy—both of whom, in 1978, discovered the nitrate film reels in Dawson City, Canada, that are the focus of this film. As a result, this prologue feels like the straightest Morrison has ever played the nonfiction game. Is it possible that the filmmaker who made Decasia (2002), a 70-minute assemblage of decaying film footage in which all of the extremely visible print flaws essentially became the film’s raison d’être, has for once decided to make a conventional talking-heads documentary? Not exactly, it turns out. Instead of making the viewer work to make visual and thematic connections based on the footage he presents, this time he includes a preponderance of on-screen titles that give the film the feel of an annotated slideshow. As impressively exhaustive as it is as a work of history, Dawson City: Frozen Time plays even more affectingly as Morrison’s most direct love letter to cinema. —Kenji Fujishima / Full Review

funeral-parade-roses-poster.jpg 3. Funeral Parade of Roses
Release Date: 4K restoration re-release June 9, 2017 in many major cities
Director: Toshiro Matsumoto
Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) is a bizarre, wild, sometimes emotional ride that revels in some of the more enjoyably seedy and strange aspects of queer life. Yet, in spite of its eccentricity, which combines narrative, documentary and experimental forms, the collage-like nature of the film gets at an inherent truth about the way queer people experience life, time and their identities. Matsumoto’s film explores the queer subculture of Tokyo, which proliferates with what the subtitles describe as “gay boys.” Existing as not quite drag queens, not quite transvestites, not exactly trans people and not quite regular old homosexuals, “gay boys,” as depicted in the film, seem to have their own community, and the term its own cultural identity marker. Gay boys work at gay bars, they present as femme and female, alternate between “he” and “she” pronouns, but their identity seems to be all its own, an extension of the varying ways of being within queerness. It’s within this community that we are introduced to Eddie (Japanese trans actor Peter, also featured in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran), the star gay boy at the most popular drag club in Tokyo. If queerness, for some people, is marked by (good and bad) trauma, life becomes fragmented, memory a Möbius strip. For Eddie and the other workers at the drag club (which may also be a low key bordello?), fragmentation of their lives is the norm. Nonlinearity is how they live. They have learned to navigate around it; we have learned to live with it. —Kyle Turner / Full Review

it-comes-at-night-poster.jpg 2. It Comes at Night
Release Date: June 9, 2017
Director: Trey Edward Shults
It Comes at Night is ostensibly a horror movie, moreso than Shults’s debut, Krisha, but even Krisha was more of a horror movie than most measured family dramas typically are. Perhaps knowing this, Shults calls It Comes at Night an atypical horror movie, but—it’s already obvious after only two of these—Shults makes horror movies to the extent that everything in them is laced with dread, and every situation suffocated with inevitability. For his sophomore film, adorned with a much larger budget than Krisha and cast with some real indie star power compared to his previous cast (of family members doing him a solid), Shults imagines a near future as could be expected from a somber flick like this. A “sickness” has ravaged the world and survival is all that matters for those still left. In order to keep their shit together enough to keep living, the small group of people in Shults’s film have to accept the same things the audience does: That important characters will die, tragedy will happen and the horror of life is about the pointlessness of resisting the tide of either. So it makes sense that It Comes at Night is such an open wound of a watch, pained with regret and loss and the mundane ache of simply existing: It’s trauma as tone poem, bittersweet down to its bones, a triumph of empathetic, soul-shaking movie-making. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review

guardians-galaxy-vol2-movie-poster.jpg 1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Director: James Gunn
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, James Gunn shows that “second verse, mostly same as the first” can serve the viewer (and, inevitably, the box office) well, especially when one has most of the Marvel universe to pull from. To a large extent, GotG Vol. 2 follows the playbook from the first film, though now, with the entire cast familiar faces to the audience, Gunn skips introductions and goes right to the funny. In this case, that means an opening credits sequence featuring the entire team and what amounts to a highlight reel of character traits meant to amuse: rapid banter from Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), humorous ’roid-rage from Drax (Dave Bautista), quiet bad-assitude from Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and an extended cute-Groot frolic. During this sequence and throughout the movie, the comic elements of this particular space opera feel as if they have been ratcheted up. But though he doesn’t seem to want the audience to have too much time between laughs, Gunn also seems determined to match the increased comic volume with more heart. The audience is unlikely to feel they’ve seen anything that different from Vol. 1, but it’s clear that Gunn and company knew exactly what qualities made the first film so enjoyable, and what they needed to do to make sure this particular sequel was worth the wait. —Michael Burgin / Full Review