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 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. And for some of these films, seeing them on a big screen—in public (gasp)—is the best way to support a small film most people wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see.

Check out the 10 best movies in theaters right now:


jojo-rabbit-movie-poster.jpg 10. Jojo Rabbit
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Director: Taika Waititi
In the opening moments of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, a German-language cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles plays over the fanatical cheers of the Nationalists lining the streets for their führer. Using historic black-and-white footage with the rocking guitars that would launch Beatlemania twenty years in the future creates a more immediate understanding of the inner clockwork of 10-year-old “Jojo” (Roman Griffin Davis). Davis delivers a performance far beyond his 11 years: Lonely and isolated, he portrays the desperation and the vulnerability Jojo possesses as he enters the Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend (Hitler Youth). Run by the recently demoted Captain “K” Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), the Hitler Youth Summer Camp trains boys to hunt and throw grenades, while girls are taught to how to bandage a wound and give birth. But to Jojo, it represents his opportunity to become a man and a member of Hitler’s army. Production designer Ra Vincent details Adolf Hitler’s god-like status in Jojo’s mind by cementing his mug all over Jojo’s bedroom walls. Waititi’s script showcases Jojo’s fan-boy nature with detailed facts about the dictator with which the boy burdens his mother (Scarlett Johansson), and a charismatic imaginary Hitler that comes to Jojo’s aid when he’s feeling his most vulnerable. Like a Whitman-esque dream, imaginary Hitler (Waititi) contains multitudes. Waititi performs the role of dictator with such ridiculous fanfare, his interpretation couldn’t be mistaken for the real thing. Occasionally clown-like with a reserved charisma aimed directly at Jojo’s sensitive side, Hitler works to build the young boy up like a father would pal around with his son. But when dismissed, this internal figure becomes irate, launching into a horrendous tirade typically reserved for large crowds. Representing the fear of going against the state, the insecurity around his status as a male and the longing he has for his father, who has been away at war for over a year, Jojo’s imagination powers his entire world view—it just happens to take the shape of Hitler. In Jojo Rabbit, Waititi infuses a level of humanity into WWII without blindly forgiving those responsible, nor hiding behind the guise of good guys in bad situations, nor allowing even a 10-year-old boy to get away with hate without swift retribution and thorough self-examination. Combined with larger-than-life characters, splintering tragedy and a unique coming-of-age journey, Jojo Rabbit conveys a message about love’s ability to conquer loneliness. That’s a message that’s fervently needed. —Joelle Monique / Full Review


hustlers-movie-poster.jpg 9. Hustlers
Release Date: September 13, 2019
Director: Lorene Scafaria
If you only saw the trailer from Hustlers, the flashy cash throwing, fake meltdowns outside of a hospital and, of course, the incredible athletics of Jennifer Lopez on the pole might lead you to assume that writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s film is a female version of The Hangover. Instead, Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the Universe) has crafted a story of survival and friendship that more accurately compares to classics like The Apartment. At the center of the story resides Destiny (Constance Wu). Destiny’s elderly grandma accumulated a lot of debt, her parents disappeared from her life when she was a child, and all that stands between the little family she has left and homelessness is her ability to work as a stripper. For her, being an exotic dancer pays better than anything she could get with her GED-level education. It’s legal, and it allows her to help her grandma from pawning all of her jewelry. Enter Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). If Ramona showed up at the World Pole Dance Competition, all of the other competitors would go home. She’s confident in a way that makes everyone fall in love with her. Accordingly, Lopez and Wu are dynamic together. Their back and forth works when they’re fighting, when they’re figuring out how to best cook up their drug cocktail, and when they’re sitting around the Christmas table. The gaggle of women who join their crew feed into that energy, culminating in a wonderful ensemble. Rich in character portrayal and energy, the crew is wonderful to watch—even as they systematically destroy lives. An enviably stacked cast and gorgeous cinematography by Todd Banhazl (Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer) come together to present a heartbreaking story of the distance some will travel to get their piece of the American dream. —Joelle Monique / Full Review


waves-movie-poster.jpg 8. Waves
Release Date: November 15, 2019
Director: Trey Edward Shults
“You gotta take pride in what you do, son,” Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) sternly tells Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). A man of high expectations, Ronald pushes his son to perform—and Tyler doesn’t handle those expectations in the best way. On the surface, Tyler has the perfect life: a supportive family, a loving girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie), and a wrestling career that’s on track to take him to college. Under the watchful eye of his father, he has a strict exercise regimen. But when he develops an injury, his anxiousness to perform for his father overwhelms him, his accident snowballing into a series of unfortunate events. The prominent source of Waves’s beauty is its stellar cast. Kelvin Harrison Jr. has proven he has a knack for playing off-balance characters since Julius Onah’s Luce; as Tyler, he balances rebellion and anxiety with aplomb. It’s truly captivating to witness his fast descent into madness while posing as an immovable force to his loved ones. Sterling K. Brown, as the inflexible elder, sparks moments with Tyler that, while well-intentioned, are explosive, fostering a tete-a-tete between father and son that is equally uncomfortable and relatable. Behind these performances is a solid script from writer/director Trey Edward Shults. This is Shults’ third film with A24 and matches the focus on family dynamics in his prior films, Krista and It Comes at Night. Here, he breaks the story into two halves separated by a traumatic event. Truth be told, the “young man spiraling out and destroying everything in his path” is not an unfamiliar story—though Harrison Jr. masterfully carries the first half of the film—but when Waves centers on Tyler’s sister Emily (Taylor Russell) in its second half, the family is still reeling from the pivotal tragedy, sparking some intense, emotional scenes between them. In Emily’s case, she’s confronted with online bullying, which forces her to isolate herself from everyone, but it’s the budding relationship between her and Luke (Lucas Hedges) that gradually draws her out, opening her up to heal. Drew Daniels, a frequent collaborator of Shults’s, steeps the director’s words in hazy cinematography. Never excessive, Daniels’ emotional cues add weight to Shults’s complex family drama. Frenetic, anxious and visually stunning, the cinematography of Waves invites us to wade into this world, never warning us there’s still a chance we could drown. —Joi Childs / Full Review


lighthouse-movie-poster.jpg 7. The Lighthouse
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Director: Robert Eggers
Sometimes a film is so bizarre, so elegantly shot and masterfully performed, that despite its helter-skelter pace and muddled messaging I can’t help but fall in love with it. So it was with the latest film by Robert Eggers. An exceptional, frightening duet between Robert Pattinson and Willam Dafoe, The Lighthouse sees two sailors push one another to the brink of absolute madness, threatening to take the audience with them. Fresh off the sea, Thomas Wake (Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) arrive at the isolated locale and immediately get to work cleaning, maintaining and fixing up their new home. Everything comes in twos: two cups, two plates, two bowls, two beds. The pair work on the same schedule every day, only deviating when Thomas decides something different needs Ephraim’s attention. Like newlyweds sharing meals across from one another each morning and every evening, the men begin to develop a relationship. It takes a long time for either of the men to speak. They’re both accustomed to working long days in relative silence. They may not possess the inner peace of a Zen monk, but their thought processes are singular and focused. Only the lighthouse and getting back to the mainland matters. Eggers uses the sound of the wind and the ocean to create a soundscape of harsh conditions and natural quarantine. The first words spoken invoke a well-worn prayer, not for a happy life, or a fast workday, but to stave off death. A visceral ride, The Lighthouse explores man’s relationship to the sea, specifically through the lens of backbreaking labor. Thomas and Ephraim’s relationship is like a Rorschach test. At times they are manager and worker, partners, enemies, father and son, competitors, master and pet, and victim and abuser. In many ways Eggers’ latest reminds of Last Tango in Paris, which explored a similar unhealthy relationship dynamic. Just as captivating, frightening and thought-provoking, The Lighthouse shines. / Full Review


honey-boy-movie-poster.jpg 6. Honey Boy
Release Date: November 8, 2019
Director: Alma Har’el
Honey Boy, written by Shia LaBeouf himself, is an attempt to reckon with his upbringing while exorcising his childhood demons. Life with Papa LaBeouf, real name Jeffrey Craig, was fraught, as Honey Boy tells it: Jeff, dubbed “James” in the film and played by LaBeouf, treated Shia, dubbed “Otis” and played by Noah Jupe, as both his meal ticket and a repository for his macho animus. A Vietnam vet from a broken home who suffers from PTSD, James is as much a product of parentage as Otis; as Honey Boy unfolds, he transfers that burden to Otis on a rollercoaster combination of negligence, violence and what passes as love. Har’el introduces audiences to adult Otis (Lucas Hedges) shooting a blockbuster, getting wasted in his trailer, crashing his car, and, as LaBeouf did in 2014 and 2017, berating arresting police officers when they arrive on the scene. This is Honey Boy’s most logical starting place: establishing the character’s exterior before excavating his interior. The purpose of LaBeouf’s narrative is to peel the layers of what culture refers to as “toxic masculinity,” once a phrase used to describe very specific brutal male behavior, now a qualifier for any actions men take that are either unflattering or unfashionable. Har’el wants viewers to see Otis as they saw LaBeouf in headlines and on TMZ. She has to for Honey Boy to function. At the center of 20-something Otis, whose raving, intoxicated entitlement ignites LaBeouf’s plot, rests adolescent Otis, whose impressionable mind is in the hands of a negative male influence. Neither Har’el nor LaBeouf pardon adult Otis’ infractions or James’ cruelty: Honey Boy holds them accountable through its depictions of treatment, where Otis clashes with his doctor (Laura San Giacomo) during their therapy sessions. As Honey Boy cuts from past to present, the colorful and tender moments of Otis’ boyhood—especially the innocent love that blooms between him and the teenage girl who lives in a motel room across the lot from his (played by FKA twigs)—serve as a reminder of what curing toxicity bestows: The freedom to show the tenderness he shares with the shy girl and which James vehemently discourages. The film suggests that dousing Otis’ capacity for empathy is the greatest failure of James’ parenting. —Andy Crump / Full Review


synonyms-movie-poster.jpg 5. Synonyms
Release Date: October 22, 2019 (limited cities)
Director: Nadav Lapid
It takes Yoav (Tom Mercier) all of 10 minutes to arrive at his swanky Parisian Airbnb, strip for a shower and step out of the tub to find that he’s been robbed blind and naked, with only a workmanlike grasp on French to help him get by. As he lies freezing in the bathroom, he’s rescued by two good-enough Samaritans living in the same building, Emilie (Quentin Dolmaire) and Caroline (Louise Chevilotte). They carry Yoav to their flat, wrap him up in fur blankets, and bring him back from the brink. “I have nothing anymore,” he tells them, staring up at the ceiling as if watching Heaven’s gates slowly receding from view. Materially, he’s right. In terms of identity, he’s wrong, and Nadav Lapid devotes the following 110 minutes of his film to proving as much. Selfhood is Lapid’s chief concern. It’s Yoav’s impetus for abandoning his country for another. He has valid justifications for his exodus; Israel, as he describes it, is an odious nation, one synonym among many in his arsenal for excoriating his birthplace. (“No country is all that at once,” Emilie gently tells him after entertaining Yoav’s fiery tirade. “Choose.”). But Yoav recklessly believes he can cash in his old nationality for a shiny new one to solve his worldly woes, change who he is, where he comes from, and better himself in so doing. Synonyms, in its hyperkinetic and eccentric fashion, argues that trading one’s national identity simply means trading one problem for others; every national identity, either within or without, has its own unique and inescapable baggage. Synonyms takes its title literally and very, very seriously, though mercifully the film isn’t an especially serious one. One moment, an Israeli man is being dragged through Paris’ streets by the bumper of a black SUV; the next, Yoav’s having a good, delirious time at a nightclub, the evening crescendoing as he and a strange woman tear into bread at either end of the loaf, gyrating and staring into each other’s eyes with feral desire. Whichever mode Synonyms operates in, Lapid presents the viewer with motifs and ideas with overlapping meaning, with eventually the overwhelming realization that virtually everything in all of human existence becomes synonymous with anything else, given the proper framing: Style with outsidership, modeling with pornography, isolation with autonomy, identity with violence, with grief, with spiritual desolation. That’s Synonyms’ great tragicomic epiphany: No matter how different they sound or seem, words and identities are all ultimately the same. —Andy Crump / Full Review


beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-movie-poster.jpg 4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Release Date: November 22, 2019
Director: Marielle Heller
One of the best things about A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is how stubbornly it resists what you think it is going to be. Sure, this isn’t an exposé of Fred Rogers: In this telling, he’s kindly and pure—but the film never lets that be the end of it. The easy piety of the public perception of Mr. Rogers, the idea that you can simply Be Kind and stick to that platitude and that will be enough, is one the movie roundly rejects. Rogers himself is elusive, mysterious, but he’s also palpable and tangible: He exists in our physical realm and runs into the same challenges the rest of us do, sees the same pain and strife as everyone else. In fact, Mr. Rogers is not the main character of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The protagonist is Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys, playing a fictionalized version of writer Tom Junod), a highly successful magazine journalist and new father who is cynical about the world and crippled with rage at his alcoholic father (Chris Cooper) for leaving his mother when she was dying of cancer. His editor (a charming, much-missed Christine Lahti) assigns him a short 400-word profile for the magazine’s “Heroes” edition of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks, of course), and the two men meet and talk. You think the film is going to go in a familiar direction from then on, with the cynic journalist having his heart warmed by the human kindness (that word again) of this American hero. And it does, a little. But the movie is more willing to get its hands dirty than that. It wants to put in the work. The film is anchored in Hanks’ inherent goodness and likability as Rogers: He might be too big and too urgent to truly capture Rogers, but he captures the calmness of Rogers, that sense of total presence in the moment. The movie argues not that we should all be like Mr. Rogers, but that when tragedy hits us, and anger envelopes us, we must strive for grace wherever we can find it. The movie is tougher, and more rigorous, and more interested in the hard work of healing than empty slogans. It is true to the spirit of Mr. Rogers without every deifying him. I bet he would have loved it. —Will Leitch / Full Review


knives-out-movie-poster.jpg 3. Knives Out
Release Date: November 27, 2019
Director: Rian Johnson
Knives Out is the type of movie that’s not so much a dying breed as one that just occurs uncommonly “in the wild.” Hollywood seems to release a new take on the classic (i.e., Agatha Christie-imprinted) murder mystery “who dunnit”—where an eccentrically mannered detective attempts to figure out who amongst a roomful of suspects has committed murder most foul—every five-to-10 years. For most viewers, the pleasures of such movies go beyond trying to figure out the killer before the detective does—there’s also typically a star-studded cast chewing up the scenery. Beyond dependable Christie fare like Death on the Nile (1978) and Murder on the Orient Express (2017), there’s Clue (1985), Gosford Park (2001) and now Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. Johnson’s latest starts out in classic who-dunnit fashion—acclaimed mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead by apparent suicide the night after gathering his family together and delivering a series of unpopular messages. Enter the local police (led by Lakeith Stansfield’s Det. Lt. Elliott) and eccentrically mannered (there we go!) private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). Suspects are interrogated. Secrets are revealed. Then, right as the viewer is gearing up to lay some Sherlock Holmes/Hercule Poirot/Encyclopedia Brown-level discernment on all this, Johnson reveals what happened to the elder Thrombey. This flips the entire experience for the viewer, as they go from trying to figure out what happened to wondering if the truth will be discovered. Much as he did with Dashiell Hammett-style noir in his debut, Brick, Johnson shows both a reverence for and a willingness to tinker with the tropes and formula underpinning his story. It’s all delightful to watch. If, ultimately, Knives Out accomplishes what it sets out to do—which might sound like faint or even damning praise with another film or in another genre—here it’s meant as the sincerest of plaudits. —Michael Burgin / Full Review


parasite-movie-poster.jpg 2. Parasite
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Director: Bong Joon-ho
“That’s so metaphorical,” exclaims the son of the Kim family, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), holding with childlike reverie a large rock sculpture, a wooden base solidifying its aesthetic and cultural value. The pointedly nice object stands apart from the basic keepsakes in the Kims’ fairly dingy and cramped home, inhabited by unemployed driver father, Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), unemployed mother, Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), and not-in-art-school daughter, Ki-jeong (Park So-dam). Brought to them by Ki-woo’s wealthy friend, the rock is supposed to foretell great financial wealth to whatever family keeps it in their home. Irritated at their own situation, at the lack of space, at the lack of immediate value the rock has, Chung-sook mutters, “Could’ve brought us food.” In Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, those that live with a stark awareness of inequality operate with a sense of cognitive dissonance. It’s this paradox of thought that allows Ki-woo to be both naively worshipful towards what a rock sculpture could bring them, but also understand, at other times, that wandering around isn’t how one ascends into power. At the behest of said wealthy friend, he becomes the English tutor for the daughter, Da-hye (Jung Ji-so), of the grotesquely affluent Park family: astute patriarch (Lee Sun-kyun), dim matriarch (Cho Yeo-jeong), manic artsy son, Da-song (Jung Hyun-joon), and severely loyal housekeeper, Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun). But as the Kim and Park families grow increasingly closer, both the differences and similarities between them blur beyond discernment.

Bong’s interest in income inequality and class has spanned the majority of his career, examining the ways it impacts the justice system (Memories of Murder, Mother), the environment (Okja) and the institutions responsible for both the exacerbation of wealth inequality and failing to protect those most marginalized by that inequality (Snowpiercer, The Host). For Parasite, Bong takes a slightly different angle—he’s no less interested in inequality’s consequences, but here he sees how class as performance manifests, particularly when people are plucked from one echelon of society and put in another. As we watch both families act in different, but intersecting, pieces of social/anthropological theatre, Bong cuts through their mutual hunger, and what ultimately and tragically separates them, with a jaundiced eye and an acidic sense of humor. Laughing during Parasite feels like choking on rust. (Cho, especially, finds the perfect amount of absurdity as the somewhat doltish mother, truly a testament to rich ladies being easily knocked over by a feather.) But Bong is not interested in metaphor, and not the kind written on rocks. Even through its absurdist, bleakly satirical lens, Bong understands that social inequity is not just theatre, but lived experience. Sometimes the rock is just a shit-stained rock. —Kyle Turner / Full Review


irishman-movie-poster.jpg 1. The Irishman
Release Date: November 27, 2019 (on Netflix; still in limited theaters)
Director: Martin Scorsese 
Peggy Sheeran (Lucy Gallina) watches her father, Frank (Robert De Niro), through a door left ajar as he packs his suitcase for a work trip. In go trousers and shirts, each neatly tucked and folded against the luggage’s interior. In goes the snubnose revolver, the ruthless tool of Frank’s trade. He doesn’t know his daughter’s eyes are on him; she’s constitutionally quiet, and remains so throughout most of their interaction as adults. He shuts the case. She disappears behind the door. Her judgment lingers. The scene plays out one third of the way into Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Irishman, named for Frank’s mob world sobriquet, and replays in its final shot, as Frank, old, decrepit and utterly, hopelessly alone, abandoned by his family and bereft of his gangster friends through the passage of time, sits on his nursing home bed. Maybe he’s waiting for Death, but most likely he’s waiting for Peggy (played as an adult by Anna Paquin), who disowned him and has no intention of forgiving him his sins. Peggy serves as Scorsese’s moral arbiter. She’s a harsh judge: The film takes a dim view of machismo as couched in the realm of mafiosa and mugs. When Scorsese’s principal characters aren’t scheming or paying off schemes in acts of violence, they’re throwing temper tantrums, eating ice cream or in an extreme case slap-fighting in a desperately pathetic throwdown. This scene echoes similarly pitiful scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel and Rashomon: brawls between wannabe roughs afraid of brawling, but forced into it by their own bravado. The Irishman spans the 1950s to the early 2000s, the years Frank worked for the Bufalino crime family, led by Russell (Joe Pesci, out of retirement and intimidating). “Working” means murdering some people, muscling others, even blowing up a car or a building when the occasion warrants. When disengaged from gangland terrorism, he’s at home reading the paper, watching the news, dragging Peggy to the local grocer to give him a beatdown for shoving her. “I only did what you should,” the poor doomed bastard says before Frank drags him out to the street and crushes his hand on the curb. The Irishman is historical nonfiction, chronicling Sheeran’s life, and through his life the lives of the Bufalinos and their associates, particularly those who died before their time (that being most of them). It’s also a portrait of childhood cast in the shadow of dispassionate brutality, and what a young girl must do to find safety in a world defined by bloodshed. —Andy Crump / Full Review

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