The Best Movies on Showtime (2018)

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The Best Movies on Showtime (2018)

Showtime offers more than 500 movies streaming on demand. We’ve gone through the catalog and selected our favorites to recommend. Many of these aren’t available on any of the premium cable channel’s streaming competitors. And Showtime is no longer just available to those with a cable package. You can add a subscription to your Amazon, Hulu or PlayStation accounts or access it via Apple, Android or Roku devices.

For extensive guides to the best movies on other platforms like Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, On Demand, YouTube, Shudder and The Best Movies in Theaters, visit all our Paste Movie Guides.

Here are the 40 best movies available on Showtime right now.

gods-pocket.jpg 40. God’s Pocket
Year: 2014
Director: John Slattery 
When Philip Seymour Hoffman died in 2014, he left behind a few performances that hadn’t yet been released. Among those was a starring role in the debut feature from Mad Men’s John Slattery. God’s Pocket is set in a working-class South Philadelphia neighborhood in the early 1980s. Hoffman plays a low-level thief who tries to cover his loser stepson’s accidental murder. The plot is a little thin and nothing you haven’t seen before, but Hoffman’s performance alone makes this worth watching. The superb cast of Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks and John Turturro, and the grimy world of God’s Pocket, are just bonus. —Josh Jackson


band-aid.jpg 39. Band Aid
Year: 2017
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
At a glance, Band Aid sounds way too adorable to be good: splintering married couple turns fighting words into alt-pop gems and in doing so, resuscitates the marriage. (My internal twee alert sounded the alarm when I first read that mawkish title…) Indeed, Band Aid is terribly charming, but it manages to finds a way to be true, too—a tribute to writer-producer-director-star Zoe Lister-Jones, who deftly steers the film into a caustically optimistic tone that befits the marriage of these flawed and heartbroken people … a most imperfect union that discovers, if not a raison d’être, a way to stay together anyway.
—Chris White


cold_in_july_ver2 (Custom).jpg 38. Cold in July
Year: 2014
Director: Jim Mickle
Richard Dane seems like a decent-enough man. Living in East Texas in 1989, he has a wife and child, and when he hears a noise coming from the living room late one night, he goes out cautiously, holding his dead father’s gun tentatively. He didn’t mean to kill anyone. And he certainly didn’t intend to have just about everything in his world change in the moment when he accidentally pulled the trigger. Michael C. Hall plays Richard, not overdoing the character’s regular-hick modesty. Adapted from Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, Cold in July has a steely, slightly off-kilter vibe. Less extreme than the regional portraits preferred by the Coen brothers, the movie soaks up the period details, particularly in Jeff Grace’s wry nod to the synthesizer-driven scores of the 1980s. As in his past films, Mickle demonstrates an impressive degree of tonal control: Cold in July clearly pays homage to a certain style of bygone genre filmmaking, but not at the expense of the characters or the stakes. (Still, not for nothing is a crucial scene set at a drive-in theater.) Consequently, the film has both a giddy, escapist feel and a grim suspense, its self-conscious artificiality melding perfectly with its barebones emotional authenticity. —Tim Grierson


vanilla-sky.jpg 37. Vanilla Sky
Year: 2001
Director: Cameron Crowe 
Cameron Crowe’s follow-up to Almost Famous was confusing, aching and beautiful, and the music and that played throughout its disorienting scenes—eerie selections from Radiohead, Sigur Rós and Jeff Buckley, plus oddly jaunty moments thanks to Peter Gabriel Todd Rundgren—perfectly augmented that off-kilter mood. As a bonus, Crowe tossed Sigur Rós in the mix three years before Steve Zissou and his crew confronted the jaguar shark to the tune of “Staralfur.” —Rachael Maddux


art-of-the-steal.jpg
36. The Art of the Steal
Year: 2009
Director: Don Argott
In the early 20th century, Albert Barnes rose from his blue-collar beginnings to considerable wealth, assembling what would become the most impressive collection of post-impressionist art in the world (181 Renoirs, 59 Matisses), currently valued at over $25 billion. He housed it all in an impeccably civilized foundation on private property outside the city of Philadelphia as an act of defiance against his lifelong enemies, the Philadelphia art establishment and city government. Then, as a final middle finger to those forces, he clearly demanded in his will that the collection never be sold, loaned or moved, and specifically never to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You can guess from the title what happened next. An infuriating look at a government’s brazen attempt to steal a priceless collection from a foundation that Matisse called “the only sane place to see art in America.” —Michael Dunaway


bad-santa.jpg 35. Bad Santa
Year: 2003
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Available On: Netflix 
Billy Bob Thornton is sublimely degenerate, as only he can be, but the film’s ending has one of the most redemptive turns this side of It’s A Wonderful Life. A true masterpiece of a dark comedy, in Bad Santa we see the titular Anti-St. Nick pee himself, get wasted, swear at kids, disrespect authority and plan on robbing the very mall in which he (barely) works. That the aforementioned Bad Santa is not just a vulgar caricature is testament to Thornton’s these-are-the-facts deadpan, countered by two brilliant supporting performances from the late greats John Ritter and Bernie Mac, as well as Thornton’s genuinely touching rapport with innocent cherub Thurman Murman (Brett Kelly). —Greg Smith


hellion.jpg 34. Hellion
Year: 2013
Director: Kat Candler
Kat Candler’s Hellion is set in the aftermath of a family losing its matriarch, and no one is handling her death very well. Jacob (Josh Wiggins) is the titular hell-raising pre-teen who takes his younger brother on dangerous adventures in vandalism. Aaron Paul is his grief-stricken father trying desperately to hold the family together. Jacob sees a motocross rally as his chance for some redemption, but this is no heart-warming sports movie. It’s an intimate look at a difficult childhood offering no easy answers, one that leads you to care deeply about its flawed but sympathetic characters. —Josh Jackson


doctor-parnassus.jpg 33. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Year: 2009
Director: Terry Gilliam 
The premise of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a perfect vehicle for Gilliam’s imagination, which has remained wonderfully bizarre through the years. Christopher Plummer plays Dr. Parnassus, an ancient carny with a magical mirror that transports people inside their own imaginations. He’s pitted against that most notorious of gamblers, the devil, played by Tom Waits, who proves yet again that he’s just as fine an actor as he is a singer or songwriter. A stranger named Tony (Heath Ledger) joins the traveling troupe in Ledger’s final performance before his death, a third of the way through filming. Gilliam’s decision to use Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to portray Tony inside the mirror, was a clever work-around, but Plummer and Waits steal this show, anyway. Their epic struggle, we learn, has been going on for centuries, but the further we get into the film, the more confusing the battle becomes. On one side, we have story and imagination. On the other, temptation? Selfishness? Ease? Like Michel Gondry, Gilliam is adept at creating visual splendor and is capable of creating a masterpiece when the story is there to back it up. Unfortunately all the lovely threads Gilliam follows never quite weave together, but the film is worth watching for its individual moments of movie magic. —Josh Jackson


weiner.jpg 32. Weiner
Year: 2016
Directors: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
“Why did you let me film this?” This simple question, posed at the end of Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Weiner, is as baffling to the movie’s subject as it is to everyone else. Anthony Weiner gave a documentary crew incredible behind-the-scenes access to his 2013 New York mayoral campaign while his political career crumbled and his personal life turned to a shambles. He campaigned on (and the crew filmed on), refusing to acknowledge that he sunk himself by making the exact same mistake that sunk his career years earlier—maybe because he’s an egotist and couldn’t bear being out of the spotlight, or maybe because he’s an idealist, believing that people would see past his online indiscretions and vote based on his ideas. Or maybe he’s nothing more than a self-destructive glutton for punishment. Whatever the truth, the public will remember Weiner for his scandals, which fell from the sky like a host of divine gifts to late-night comedy. Directors Kriegman and Steinberg so superbly convey the sweeping excitement Weiner could generate that it makes things all the more depressing when he can’t even get five percent of the vote. The movie shifts from energetic editing, showing people’s love for the candidate, to a claustrophobic, drawn-out humiliation. If the filmmakers had an agenda besides studying Weiner’s character, they did a great job of hiding it. Weiner shows many facets of his personality: He can be charming and funny, but he can also be a petulant, entitled jerk. The veneer wears off as the stress mounts, making things increasingly uncomfortable—it’s excruciating to watch this man try to salvage respect from certain humiliation, but it makes for a devilishly intimate look into the madness of modern politics. —Jeremy Mathews


zack-and-miri.jpg 31. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Kevin Smith  used the experiences of making his first film (Clerks) at night in the convenience store where he worked, and injected it into Zack and Miri Make a Porno, where cash-challenged roommates shoot their first adult film at night in the coffee shop where they work. Zack (Seth Rogen) and his partner/roommate/possible love-interest Miri (Elizabeth Banks) attend their high-school reunion where Miri tries to reacquaint herself with Bobby, her unrequited high-school crush hilariously played by Brendan Routh. When Miri learns Bobby’s “partner” is a gay porn star (Justin Long in a memorable performance) Miri is shattered but Zack is inspired, and the two begin to shoot their homemade porn film to help pay the rent. The audition scenes are priceless (use your imagination to learn Bubbles’ talent), but when Zack and Miri have to star in their own film they discover more than just sex. —Tim Basham


wristcutters.jpg 30. Wristcutters: A Love Story
Year: 2006
Directors: Goran Dukic
Most people are afraid to say the word “suicide” in polite company, not to mention making a film that engages the subject directly. But Goran Dukic had no reservations about adapting Etgar Keret’s novella Kneller’s Happy Campers—the story of an afterlife created exclusively for suicide victims—into the dark comedy Wristcutters: A Love Story. Starring Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon and Tom Waits, (with a cameo from Will Arnett), the movie somehow approaches suicide with both humor and compassion. “Everything’s the same here; it’s just a little worse,” main character Zia says after cutting his wrists and then finding himself in an unexpectedly familiar afterlife. “I’ve thought about suicide again, but I’ve never tried it. I didn’t want to end up in a bigger shit hole than this one.” Dukic’s characters work at pizza joints, live in apartments and shop for groceries. They’re in dysfunctional relationships, and they face everyday struggles. We even see an entire family of suicide victims—mother, father and two sons. Since the characters are so realistic, Dukic made a few distinct adaptations to the story to emphasize the absurdness of a world populated only by suicide victims. There are no stars in the sky of this Great Beyond, and nobody smiles. The suicide flashback scenes uncomfortable to watch, to say the least, but essential for understanding the characters and the idea that we can’t escape our problems without working through them. —Kate Kiefer


tinker-tailor.jpg 29. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Year: 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Steeped in the monochrome color palette and noir soundtrack of 1970s espionage cinema, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carré’s classic bestselling spy novel offers smart, nostalgic entertainment for a discerning adult audience. Set in 1973 at the height of the Cold War, the film turns on the suspicion that a double agent has infiltrated Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a.k.a. MI6. Shortly after a botched operation to ferret out the mole ends his career, Control (John Hurt) dies, leaving his investigation in the hands of retired operative George Smiley (Gary Oldman). With grayed blond hair and owlish glasses, Oldman disappears into his role, not only physically but behaviorally. Smiley is a still man, watching and waiting, while his mind whirs, processing and analyzing years’ worth of data, information and memories. —Annlee Ellingson


brand.jpg 28. Brand: A Second Coming
Year: 2015
Director: Ondi Timoner
Russell Brand is a powerhouse of 21st century media—beginning as a groundbreaking stand-up comedian, he moved into film acting (achieving breakout status in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and then, unpredictably, into status as a substantive social and political commentator. He also managed to work in a brief and headline-rich marriage to singer Katy Perry. His outrageous antics are given an additional edge by his well-publicized struggles with substance abuse. When you think about it, perhaps the only documentarian that would be up to the challenge of capturing Brand’s worlds of personality on film would be Ondi Timoner, perhaps the documentary world’s premier chronicler of brilliant insanity (or is it insane brilliance?). Perhaps most impressively of all, Timoner doggedly pursues—and arguably captures—the sincere and tender soul behind the bluster. —Michael Dunaway


witness.jpg 27. Witness
Year: 1985
Director: Peter Weir
In any discussion of Pennsylvania’s cultural eccentricities, we’d be remiss to leave out the Pennsylvania Dutch, otherwise known as the Amish, whose population still tops 300,000 to this day. Peter Weir’s Witness is, surprisingly, still the only mainstream cinematic treatment of the Amish, a group that’s often the butt of jokes and general misunderstanding in popular culture. Witness takes an open-minded approach, depicting the Amish as a group of people who, though they live according to a rigid set of beliefs, are not terribly different from the rest of us where it counts. That said, this is very much a film of the Reagan era, playing up the juxtaposition between a city rife with depravity and the quaint, simple life of the Amish. Harrison Ford (in the role that garnered him his only Oscar nomination) plays John Book, a police officer forced to hide out with an Amish widow, Rachel (Kelly McGillis), when her son (Lukas Haas) witnesses one of Book’s fellow officers (Danny Glover) commit a murder. The Philadelphia of Witness is almost cartoonishly corrupt and conspiratorial, but the film balances this with its sensitive rendering of its characters. Raised in the Amish community, Rachel is generally naïve to a lot of American culture, but she’s still a mature, fully formed human being, and the film doesn’t take the easy way out by “rescuing” her from her Amish life. John and Rachel share a crucial understanding, but in the end they step back into their own worlds, unable to bridge the gulf. —Maura McAndrew


a-beautiful-mind.jpg 26. A Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Director: Ron Howard 
A Beautiful Mind is Russell Crowe in his prime. John Nash began showing early signs of schizophrenia as he entered graduate school at Princeton and Crowe’s eyes simulate perfectly the isolation and anti-social feelings Nash must have been going through during those times. Ed Harris plays the government agent who recruits Nash to look for patterns in newspapers. Their chemistry is intense and Nash’s frustration and fear of the Soviets brings insight into his character and his mind. —Muriel Vega


battle-royale.jpg 25. Battle Royale
Directors: Kinji Fukasaku
Year: 2000
It’s OK to compare Battle Royale to The Hunger Games movies—to find how the lasting accomplishments of the latter franchise were done better and with so much more efficiency by the former—because you probably will anyway. Battle Royale, like the immensely successful four-film crash course in crafting an action star who is really only a symbol of an action star, chronicles a government-sanctioned battle to the death between a group of teens on a weird, weapon-strewn island. (There are even regular island-wide announcements of the day’s dead as the sun sets on the remaining children.) Yet, Battle Royale is so lean in its exposition, so uninterested in dragging out its symbolism or metaphor, that one can’t help but marvel at how cleanly Fukasaku (who had a full career behind him when he made this, only three years before he died) can lend depth to these children, building stakes around them to the point that their deaths matter and their doomed plights sting. What the director can do with such a tenuous premise (which The Hunger Games takes multiple films to do, and without a single ounce of levity) is astounding—plus, he wrangled Beat Takeshi Kitano to play the President Snow-type character, which Kitano does to near-perfection. That Battle Royale II sets out to up the stakes of the first film, especially given the first film’s crazy success in Japan, is to be expected, but stick to the first: Battle Royale will make you care about kids murdering each other more than you (probably) would anyway. —Dom Sinacola


bridge-of-spies.jpg 24. Bridge of Spies
Year: 2015
Director: Steven Spielberg 
Once again, Steven Spielberg tells a story set in the past but about the present: In 1957, American lawyer Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks) is called upon to defend Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), on trial for his life. Although taking the case makes Donovan one of the most despised and misunderstood men in the country (not to mention his own home), he throws himself into it with gusto. As he sees it, giving his client a proper defense vindicates and celebrates American values rather than undermining them. This is clearly Spielberg’s view, and there’s a superficially inspiring quality to the film: We’re invited to take pride in Donovan’s righteous stance and share his belief in the principles upon which the country was built. Yet that very sense of patriotism is undermined by the fact that the country in which Donovan and Spielberg believe is shown to be a place populated by morons who aren’t worth defending or saving. Thus the film takes on a strange, contradictory tone reminiscent of the best of Frank Capra’s work. It’s a movie intent on defending American values in an America where those values have been so corroded as to be practically nonexistent. Bridge of Spies is right up there with his most provocative work, yet it has a straightforward, deceptive simplicity, never forcing contradictions or complexities down the audience’s throat, making them all the more fascinating. —Jim Hemphill


tale-of-tales.jpg 23. Tale of Tales
Year: 2016
Director: Matteo Garrone
In Matteo Garrone’s previous two films—his 2008 breakthrough Gomarrah and its follow-up, Reality—the Italian director occasionally strained to say something meaningful about, respectively, mob crime culture and society’s fascination with celebrity. But with Tale of Tales, he ends up being far more profound without breaking much of a sweat. Instead of working in drama or satire, Garrone shifts gears and plunges into 17th-century fairytales. As a result, he’s produced a work that’s deeply odd but also oddly stirring. Inspired by a collection of fairytales by Italian author Giambattista Basile, who died in the 1630s, the film consists of three stories, each involving a separate kingdom. There’s no immediate connection between the tales, and Garrone weaves in and out of the stories, often ending on a cliffhanger or otherwise suspenseful moment before leaping to a different story. But unlike the moralistic folktales of our childhood with their pat lessons, these yarns start in one place and travel across terrain you could never anticipate. In one, a barren king (John C. Reilly) and queen (Salma Hayek) learn that to have a child they must slay a dangerous sea creature and steal its heart. In the second, an easily distracted king (Toby Jones) ignores his daughter’s (Bebe Cave) wish to find a husband because he’s obsessed with a flea that seems to have taken to him the way a loyal dog takes to his master. And in the final tale, a lustful king (Vincent Cassel) becomes smitten with one of his subject’s singing voices, having no idea that the woman and her sister (Hayley Carmichael, Shirley Henderson) are actually wretched-looking hags. Each story is set up to seem fairly obvious, but Garrone isn’t out to make any obvious points or take us down conventional narrative paths. —Tim Grierson


carol.jpg 22. Carol
Year: 2011
Director: Todd Haynes
In Todd Haynes’ Carol, Therese’s (Rooney Mara) heart is encased and inaccessible—as if only to be glimpsed through the glass of a telephone booth or through the lens of her camera—until one day a woman named Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), who, from across the room, transforms Therese’s way of seeing with a little gesture of her head and a flirtatious, “I like the hat,” finally unearths it. Soon, Carol and Therese begin to dissolve into one another, to the music of “You Belong to Me,” no less. Bookended by a hand on shoulder, Therese continues to conceive of what her desire means, and the two dizzyingly create their own language of connection, fueled by Haynes’ acute eye, Ed Lachman’s grainy, Saul Leiter-reminiscent cinematography and the sounds of Carter Burwell’s propulsive score. —Kyle Turner


babe.jpg 21. Babe
Year: 1995
Director: Chris Noonan
Not since Wilbur has a pig so captured the hearts of moviegoers, but this Australian production, with a screenplay co-written by Mad Max’s George Miller and director Chris Noonan, actually made for a better movie than either of the adaptions of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Babe was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and took home the prize for Best Visual Effects thanks to the lifelike anthropomorphized farm animals who rally around the titular hero. The underrated sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, is also available on Showtime. —Josh Jackson


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