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—and we’d recommend such recent Netflix originals as the divisive Okja and the wonderful The Meyerowitz Stories—none quite compare to the communal 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 a diehard couch potato, but we also want to recommend the best of what’s in theaters right now. And there’s a lot of great cinema to see outside the house in November.

Here are the 10 best movies in theaters right now:

thelma-movie-poster.jpg 10. Thelma
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Director: Joachim Trier
Thelma (Eili Harboe) is a meek and quiet young woman moving away from her strict Christian parents (Henrik Rafaelsen, Ellen Dorit Petersen) for the first time in her life. To study Biology at a Norwegian university. She’s devoted to her faith and doesn’t indulge in alcohol, drugs or other earthly desires. But all of that changes when she sits next to Anja (Kaya Wilkins), a warm-hearted and empathetic schoolmate, during a study session. The two don’t even know each other yet, but Thelma’s close proximity to a girl she feels an intense attraction toward is enough to trigger a violent seizure, which may or may not be the result of her intense rejection of her feelings, spurned by her religious upbringing. With subtle yet passionate performances by its two leads, the film would have worked fine as a straight drama about Thelma’s journey towards (hopefully) acknowledging her nature. What makes Thelma so special is in the way Trier and co-writer Eskil Vogt wrap this already palpable drama around a fairly downplayed supernatural horror premise with surgical precision. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review

square-ostlund-movie-poster.jpg 9. The Square
Release Date: October 27, 2017
Director: Ruben Östlund
The Square starts with a hangover and ends with a headache, but don’t feel too bad for the well-meaning fool suffering from them. His ailments are entirely his own damn fault. This is what happens when you try to shoulder the combined weight of the world’s problems by yourself without shrugging: You buckle. In the case of our well-meaning fool, Christian (Claes Bang), that burden is made heavier by hubris, pomp, the kind of commodifiable liberal arrogance that dupes people into thinking they’re helping by responding to mass shootings and natural disasters with hashtags. Christian’s intentions are good—grand even—but he’s just one person. One person can’t wash away humanity’s woes, especially when that person is an inveterate asshole. If you know the movies of Ruben Östlund, though, this won’t come as a surprise: Crummy examples of manliness are his bread and butter. Östlund’s last movie, 2014’s superb Force Majeure, a biting satire of disgraced masculinity, is all about dissecting gender roles and finding sympathy for its protagonist following an act of humiliating cowardice. The Square explores similar thematic pursuits but couches them in an equally biting satire of the art world, and if you’re taking the mickey out of the art world, you’re taking the mickey out of the world at large. Art, after all, is innately political, and The Square has politics in its DNA. —Andy Crump / Full Review

wonderstruck-movie-poster.jpg 8. Wonderstruck
Release Date: October 20, 2017
Director: Todd Haynes
Todd Haynes has often tinkered with genres and cinematic styles, turning the Douglas Sirk film inside out for Far From Heaven or rethinking the biopic with his adventurous Bob Dylan drama I’m Not There. With Wonderstruck, the director turns his attention to the family film, using as inspiration the same author whose source material was the fuel for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Working from a screenplay by Brian Selznick (who also wrote and illustrated the 2011 novel), Haynes splits his narrative into two interweaving pieces. The first takes place in 1977: A 12-year-old named Ben (Oakes Fegley) is mourning the recent death of his saintly mother (Michelle Williams), while pondering the whereabouts of his father, a man he never met. The second thread occurs in 1927: A young deaf girl named Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is drawn to a silent-screen star (Julianne Moore), venturing from New Jersey to New York to meet her. Both storylines involve the characters taking trips to the Big Apple in the hopes of finding something or someone that brings meaning to their life, and Haynes (working with editor Affonso Gonçalves) often deftly moves between the two, finding intersecting emotional through-lines. There’s a fascinating tension between Haynes’ clinical, meticulous approach and the conventions (and limitations) of the story he’s telling. Though not nearly as chilly as most of his works, Wonderstruck nonetheless resists catering to the mawkishness of the source material. Instead, Haynes emphasizes the universal need for community that both kids face, and in the process Wonderstruck emerges as an exceedingly intelligent children’s film that values the brains of its young characters—as well as the kids’ who might see it. This may not be Haynes’ best work, but it’s the one most likely to make you cry. —Tim Grierson / Full Review

sacred-deer-movie-poster.jpg 7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Release Date: October 20, 2017
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
In the uncanny valley of a Yorgos Lanthimos film, characters resemble human beings…but not entirely. In movies such as Dogtooth and The Lobster, the Greek writer-director has become a maestro of the queasy/funny horror-comedy, turning our universal anxieties into psychologically rich satires in which life’s mundane surfaces give way to dark, often bloody realities we don’t want to acknowledge. His movies are funny because they’re so shocking and disturbing because they’re so true. But for them to really soar, their provocations need to be grounded in recognizable behavior, which gives Lanthimos a foundation to then stretch his extreme stories past their breaking point. With his latest, we see what happens when his underlying ideas are not as complex as the intricacies of his execution. The Killing of a Sacred Deer reunites Lanthimos with his Lobster star Colin Farrell, who plays Steven, a cardiologist, who’s married to an ophthalmologist, Anna (Nicole Kidman). They have two children, teen Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and her younger brother Bob (Sunny Suljic). It would be hard to describe their personalities because, in typical Lanthimos fashion, they don’t really have any. Quickly, Sacred Deer introduces us to the fly in this particular ointment. His name is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a moody teen who seems as lobotomized as the other characters. There’s one crucial difference, though: He has befriended Steven for reasons that feel sinister but will only eventually become clear, and he keeps insinuating himself into the man’s world. It wouldn’t be much fun to reveal where Sacred Deer goes from there, but Sacred Deer may be Lanthimos’s most visually and sonically ambitious work—technically, it’s pristine—clever without ever quite deciding precisely what it’s about. —Tim Grierson / Full Review

sweet-virginia-movie-poster.jpg 6. Sweet Virginia
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Director: Jamie M. Dagg
A guy walks into a bar. He walks out of the bar. He walks into the bar and shoots everyone inside. That’s the bleak punchline opening Appalachian neo-noir Sweet Virginia, a film which rambles, hidden in the darkness of a town where dawn never seems to break. Literally: Nighttime seems endless in this film, either shot at twilight or during the witching hour, the perfect environment for Elwood, a hitman with the single-minded intensity of a Travis Bickle or an Anton Chigurh, who sits in his room at a sprawling motel like a dormant volcano (and the viewers are the only geologists in town). Elwood is played by Christopher Abbott, who’s before undermined the innocent face and soft-spoken demeanor inherent in his recurrence as an ex-boyfriend that’s fallen on hard times in Girls, but never like this. He’s much tougher than he looks, and the only person he becomes close with during his stay is the exact opposite. The motel’s owner, an ex-rodeo star named Sam (Jon Bernthal), is a burly, bearded cowboy with a limp and early-onset Parkinson’s. The two develop a strange relationship that slowly escalates while we find out who owes Elwood, why Elwood is owed and how Elwood’s debt can’t be paid. Director Jamie M. Dagg only touches on his plot briefly enough to make us worry about what information we’re missing, which is the opposite of the classical noir strategy to overwhelm the viewer with misdirection, betrayal and circumstance. There’s a confounding simplicity to Sweet Virginia—Dagg’s direction creates the proper atmosphere, but Benjamin and Paul China’s script fills it with nocturnal life. And like any good noir, all comes down to desire and absurd nihilism. —Jacob Oller / Full Review

three-billboards-movie-poster.jpg 5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Director: Martin McDonagh
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand as Mildred, a divorced mother who lives in a rural Missouri community. Everybody in a small town knows everybody else’s business, and Mildred is Ebbing’s walking tragedy: She’s the woman whose teen daughter was recently raped and murdered. Unhappy that the local police force, led by the cantankerous Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), has failed to find her girl’s killer, Mildred decides to take action, buying up three billboards outside of town and splashing an accusing message across them: “Raped while dying. And still no arrests. How come, Chief Willoughby?” Whether it’s Our Town or Dogville, fiction occasionally uses small towns as a microcosm for America at large, showing what’s wonderful or toxic about our country. Judging by this film, the state of our union is fractious and violent—and only getting worse. You probably didn’t need a movie to tell you that, but writer-director Martin McDonagh’s volatile comedy-drama keeps poking at our scabs, pinpointing our humanity and surprising us with a series of small revelations. This is a film that’s proudly impertinent but also deeply morally serious. And even if Three Billboards doesn’t always hold together, that’s appropriate for its anxious characters who are, themselves, a little unsteady. —Tim Grierson / Full Review

florida-project-movie-poster.jpg 4. The Florida Project
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Director: Sean Baker
However useful a surreal approach to reframing paradise may be, Sean Baker’s new film, The Florida Project, presents a more acute critique. Baker plunges his audience into his worlds through the lens of social realism, his camera on the same playing field as Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and the manager of the motel they live in, Bobby (Willem Dafoe). The camera lives with the characters, watches them haul a bed-bug-infested mattress outside, or sit and eat pancakes by a small creek-ish ditch. Nothing climactic happens in these scenes, we just get to watch and not pass judgment—or pass judgment, whatever, it’s up to us. Baker never interferes; the equality of these scenes under the eye of his camera makes his film’s pointed ideas about survival and joy all the more striking. The film may be buoyed with a sense of humor and, occasionally, wonder, but Halley’s life is framed by an internal struggle over whether humor and wonder can help her retain her autonomy at all in spite of her class status. The Florida Project is spattered with profound sadness, with moments of externalized, violent frustration at presumed helplessness, at practically being born into all this. To what degree you believe Baker to be condescending or patronizing or exploitive is up to you, but the film’s bursts of light, its idea of what caregiving looks like when caregiving is a privilege, is handled with sensitivity. When the film switches from 35mm to digital in its final shots, Baker imbues his camera, now mobile, with freewheeling liberation. No matter what happens after The Florida Project ends, in those last moments, these kids are born to live. —Kyle Turner / Full Review

blade-runner-2049-movie-poster.jpg 3. Blade Runner 2049
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Director: Denis Villeneuve
 Blade Runner 2049 is undoubtedly the most gorgeous thing to come out of a major studio in some time. Roger Deakins has inculcated (original Blade Runner cinematographer) Jordan Cronenweth’s lived-in sense of a future on the brink of obsolescence, leaning into the overpowering unease that permeates the monolithic Los Angeles Scott built. The scale of the film is only matched by the constant dread of obscurity—illumination shifts endlessly, dust and smog both magnifying and drowning the sense-shattering corporate edifices and hyper-stylized rooms in which humanity retreats from the moribund natural world they’ve created. There is a massive world, a solar system, orbiting this wretched city—so overblown that San Diego is now a literal giant dump for New L.A.’s garbage—but so much of it lies in shadow and opacity, forever out of reach. What Scott and Cronenweth accomplished with the original film, placing a potboiler within a magnificently conceived alternative reality, Villeneuve and Deakins have respected as they prod at its boundaries. There’s no other way to describe what they’ve done other than to offer faint praise: They get it. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review

thor-ragnarok-movie-poster.jpg 2. Thor: Ragnarok
Release Date: November 3, 2017
Director: Taika Waititi
Sixteen films and nearly a decade into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)—and in the midst of renaissance/deluge of superhero movies in general—it’s not unusual to encounter some grumbling about both the genre and the MCU. You’ll find plenty of folks who bemoan its formulaic approach to plotlines, the overall weakness of its villains and lack of female heroes getting their due. Starting with Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man, there was also the rapidly accepted conventional wisdom that Marvel Studios was not the place for any director wishing to put his or her stamp on a franchise. Then along comes Thor: Ragnarok. The third film in the arguably least-loved franchise of Kevin Feige and company’s box office-melting enterprise, it’s also the liveliest, funniest and “loosest” film of the bunch (and that includes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). Much, if not all of this can be credited to director Taika Waititi, who seems determined to mine every ounce of comedy—be it physical, situational or conversational—from a tale that’s both rollicking buddy movie and retelling of the least uplifting tale in all of Norse mythos. Given the source material and the director’s track record, I’m not surprised there was plenty of ammo for Waititi or how well he used it—I’m just shocked and delighted he was allowed to use it in the first place. —Michael Burgin / Full Review

lady-bird-movie-poster.jpg 1. Lady Bird
Release Date: November 3, 2017
Director: Greta Gerwig 
Before Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan)—Lady Bird is her given name, as in “[she] gave it to [her]self”—auditions for the school musical, she watches a young man belting the final notes to “Being Alive” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company. A few moments before, while in a car with her mother, she lays her head on the window wistfully and says with a sigh, “I wish I could just live through something.” Stuck in Sacramento, where she thinks there’s there’s nothing to be offered her yet she pays acute attention to everything her home does have to offer, Lady Bird—and the film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, that shares her name—has ambivalence running through her veins. What a perfect match: Stephen Sondheim and Greta Gerwig. Few filmmakers are able to capture the same kind of ambiguity and mixed feelings that involve the refusal to make up one’s mind: look to 35-year-old Bobby impulsively wanting to marry a friend, but keeps him from committing to any of his girlfriends, in Company; the “hemming and hawing” of Cinderella on the, ahem, steps of the palace; or Mrs. Lovett’s cause for pause in telling Sweeney her real motives. Lady Bird isn’t as high-concept as many of Sondheim’s works, but there’s a piercing truthfulness to the film, and arguably Gerwig’s work in general, that makes its anxieties and tenderness reverberate in the viewer’s heart with equal frequency. —Kyle Turner / Full Review

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