The 30 Best Movies on Showtime

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The 30 Best Movies on Showtime

Showtime boasts one of the largest offerings of streaming movies of any premium cable channel with more than 500 movies available on demand. We’ve gone through the catalog and selected our favorites to recommend. Many of these aren’t available on any other streaming site. 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 via Showtime Anytime.

You can also check out our guides, some more updated than others, to what’s on other platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO and Redbox, as well as The Best Movies in Theaters. Visit the Paste Movie Guides for all our recommendations.

Here are the 30 best movies streaming on Showtime:

1. Schindler’s List

schindlers-list.jpg Year: 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 196 minutes

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It’d be hard to find a more inspiring, moving story to tell than that of Oskar Schindler, and in doing so, Spielberg produced one of the most ambitious, wise and moving motion pictures of our lifetime. The acting is superb—a career-making role for big lumbering Liam Neeson, so carefree and cocky at the beginning, so concerned and determined in the middle, and so noble and humble at the end of the film. Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley are perfect in supporting roles. A host of unknowns give everything in their one moment on the screen. John Williams’s haunting score and Janusz Kaminski’s breathtaking black-and-white cinematography sparkle. But the script—oh, Steven Zaillian’s majestic script—is the biggest star. He manages to take a Holocaust tale and turn it into a story of triumph, the story of how much one man can do, and the regret we’ll each someday have that we didn’t do much, much more. Oskar’s “I could have gotten more out” speech is almost too much to bear. —Michael Dunaway


2. Good Will Hunting

good-will-hunting.jpg Year: 1997
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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The story of a genius janitor capable of solving the world’s most difficult mathematical problems, Will (Matt Damon) is both exasperating and lovable as the Boston boy reluctant to live up to his true potential. Robin Williams takes the oft-clichéd mentor paradigm and turns it into a wholly original character as Will’s therapist Sean. But what’s special about this film is the way Gus Van Sant captures the existential angst and, ultimately, the frustrated striving of a brilliant boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck star in their own breakthrough roles as best friends closer than even blood brothers. Though the movie touches on heart-wrenching topics like childhood abuse and heartbreak, the sarcastic humor and witty banter are just as memorable. Effortlessly charming and never overwrought. —Amy Libby


3. The Silence of the Lambs

Silence-Lambs-Criterion.jpg Year: 1991
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine
Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes

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The camera hugs her face, maybe trying to protect her though she needs no protection, and maybe just trying to see into her, to see what she sees, to understand why seeing what she sees is so important. Not even 30, Jodie Foster looks so much younger, surrounded in The Silence of the Lambs by men who tower over her, staring at her, flummoxed by her, perhaps wanting to protect her too, but more likely, more ironically, intimidated by a world that would allow such a fragile creature to wander the domain of monsters. As Clarice Starling, FBI agent-in-training, Foster is an innocent who’s seen more than any of us could ever imagine, a warrior who seems unsure of her prowess. That Jonathan Demme—a director who came up under the tutelage of Roger Corman, able to adopt then immediately shed genres at whim—corners Starling within the confines of a “Woman in Peril,” only to watch her shrug off every label thrown at her, is a testament to The Silence of the Lambs as feminist, not because it so thoroughly inhabits a female point of view, but because its violence and fear is the stuff of masculine toxicity. Demme’s film is only the second to adapt Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lector novels to the screen, but it’s the first to draw undeniable lines between the way men see Clarice Starling and the way that serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) projects his neuroses onto his victims. Demme (and Harris) links seeing to transformation to one’s need to consume, all pursued through a gendered lens, represented by the seemingly omniscient perspective of Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins), a borderline asexual cannibal who literally eats those over whom he holds court. Buffalo Bill is a monster, and so is Lector, but the difference is that Lector does not attempt to possess Clarice Starling, though he sees her, because he is in control of that which he consumes. Buffalo Bill isn’t; as a man he believes that by consuming femininity he can become it, too stupid and too self-absorbed to realize that consumption is deletion, that wanting to protect a woman is only a matter of admitting that the World of Men is a weak and evil failure of the very ideals it strives to preserve. —Dom Sinacola


4. The Fisher King

fisher-king.jpg Year: 1991
Director: Terry Gilliam
Stars: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Merceds Ruehl, Amanda Plummer
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes

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Terry Gilliam may be best known for his completely inimitable style. Tune in to a Gilliam flick even halfway through and you’ll recognize his signature repertoire of angles—low, high, and Dutch—as well as his love of rectilinear lenses and his meticulously stylized mise en scène. With The Fisher King, though, his distinct aesthetic was transplanted from realms imagined to the far more familiar backdrop of Manhattan, where shock jock Jack Lucas falls from grace after an on-air rant leads an impressionable listener to commit mass murder. Jack is given a chance at redemption when he meets Parry, a delusional vagrant questing for the Holy Grail whose wife died in that aforementioned shooting spree; they bond, and Jack sets out to help Parry score a date with his distant crush, Lydia. The Fisher King wrestles with Brazil for the title of “best Gilliam film,” but it’s almost undoubtedly the most refined entry in his body of work, a contemporary epic that truly lives up to the meaning of the word. Come for Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams, stay for the Gilliam commentary track. —Andy Crump


5. Mean Girls

mean-girls-poster.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Mark Waters
Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Before Tina Fey got stubborn—before sometimes thoughtful critiques of her occasionally limited perspective encouraged the reactionary, heel-in-ground attitude about the politics of identity and changing social norms—she was one of the most thoughtful writers and creators to engage with both of those subject matters, and how we talk about them. A crucial part of what made 30 Rock one of the smartest sitcoms in history was its investigation of what we talk about when we talk about identity politics. A lot of that sharpness has its origins in Fey’s 2004 screenplay debut, Mean Girls, a dark comedy in the vein of Heathers and Clueless, scrutinizing the social dynamics of high school and, in particular, how young women treat one another and themselves. Through the eyes of new kid, formerly homeschooled Cady Harron (Lindsay Lohan), the film submerges the audience in the nasty politics of “girl world” as she tries to make friends, schemes against the popular girls, and loses sight of herself in the process. Adapted from Rosalind Wiseman’s nonfiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence , Mean Girls has its own unique edge apart from 30 Rock, not just as a high school movie, but as a movie that dives into the operations of hierarchical systems. And for Fey, language is the key to unlocking how these high school cliques work. Fey’s lauded for her film’s memorable lines (quotes like “stop trying to make fetch happen” and “too gay to function” live on, at least in meme form), but Mean GIrls is an impressive example of translating Rosalind Wiseman’s nonfiction, sociological approach into narrative and fictive application. Essentially, Mean Girls focuses on how the high schoolers codify social dynamics—how they articulate where they or other people fall taxonomically—via class, gender and race. As time passes, Mean Girls’s imitators seem flaccid by comparison. The film’s unpacking of the cruelty of internalized misogyny has, over the course of time, grown more acidic, its schemes and backtalking as scalding as it ever was. —Kyle Turner


6. Hustlers

hustlers-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Stars: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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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
Planes, Trains & Automobiles


7. The Sixth Sense

the sixth sense poster (Custom).png Year: 1999
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 105 minutes

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It’s a shame that discussion of The Sixth Sense is today often reduced simply to mention of its famous twist ending, and its role as the film that overinflated public expectations for M. Night Shyamalan’s directorial career. To focus in on just these aspects of its legacy ignores the expert craftsmanship that makes The Sixth Sense one of the best pure supernatural horror films of the last few decades, and one of the most emotionally poignant to boot. Have the last 20 years always been kind to Shyamalan? By all means, the answer to that question is “no,” but it doesn’t diminish the fabulously well realized suspense he achieved. The heart of The Sixth Sense is its portrayal of wounded people who are all either in some state of grief, or actively fraying at their edges. Bruce Willis’ child psychologist is haunted by his failure to help a former client and the slow deterioration of his marriage. Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is an elementary school boy grappling with a “sixth sense” that must surely have made him question his own sanity at an age when most kids barely have a conception of sanity. Cole’s mother, Lynn, is profoundly alone and powerless, attempting to raise a son she’s afraid is experiencing some terrible trauma he’s afraid to share. She has no idea where the turn, and the constant anxiety is etched into Toni Collette’s gut-wrenching performance. Likewise, the ghost sequences of The Sixth Sense are utterly terrifying—not only because we’re afraid of what they might do to Cole, and because we’ve already seen evidence that he’s been physically marred by these encounters in the past—but because in his mind, he has absolutely no recourse. He’s well aware that no one else can see the things he sees, and he’s painfully mature enough to know that his mother is already at wit’s end with worry over him. Haley Joel Osment conveys all this and more, impressive for the fact that he was only 10 when it was filmed. He earned an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor, fittingly paired alongside Toni Collette’s Best Supporting Actress nomination, although the film ultimately took home none of the awards it was nominated for—despite being the rare instance of a horror film that was also nominated for Best Picture. None of it matters amidst the emotional resonance of the moments they share together. In the wake of The Sixth Sense, pop culture got caught up in parody—endless rephrasings of “I see dead people” and “he was dead all along!”—which seem to have caused some to forget just how chilling Shyamalan’s work could be at its best. Although it’s difficult to now approach the film from a place of ignorance when it comes to its twists, we can still appreciate the power of its craft, 20 years later. —Jim Vorel

8. Children of Men

children-of-men.jpg Year: 2006
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine
Genre: Science-Fiction, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 109 minutes

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We remember the dread most—the sense of relentless, inevitable doom, from its literally explosive opening moments to its breathlessly ambiguous final seconds, the whole of Children of Men shot through with dismal grayscale, as if the human race were still coming to terms with its combustion though everyone waded through the ashes. In 2027, beleaguered former activist and current bureaucrat, Theo (Clive Owen), wanders amongst the increasing civil unrest fueled by British armed forces clamping down on refugees fleeing the rest of the world’s civilizational decline. Cynical and cornered by death at every turn, Theo can’t help but assist his estranged ex wife (Julianne Moore), taking on the protection of Kee (Clare Hope-Ashitey), a Virgin Mary figure and the last known pregnant woman on Earth. Theo’s odyssey takes him through the last vestiges of a broken world, director Alfonso Cuarón staging terrible spectacles—an assault on a car, a nightmarish refugee camp, a wartorn urban battlefield—often in long takes (or digitally edited to appear as long takes) and weighted with unbelievably visceral stakes. Yet, despite all of Cuarón’s technical bravura, what remains long after Children of Men’s ended is its refusal to resolve Theo’s journey, to ascribe to what he’s accomplished any hope, hopeful that there is still time, but hopeless that there’s anything left we can do. The apocalypse has never felt so immersive. —Dom Sinacola


9. Ex Machina

5-best-so-far-2015-Ex-Machina.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Alex Garland
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

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While popular science-fiction films have taught us that, no matter what we do, robots that become self-aware will eventually rise up and kill us, recent advances in artificial intelligence in the real world have confirmed something much seedier about the human imperative: If given the technology to design thinking, feeling robots, we will always try to have sex with them. Always. Alex Garland’s beautifully haunting film seems to want to bridge that gap. Taking cues from obvious predecessors like 2001: A Space Odyssey and AI—some will even compare it to HerEx Machina stands solidly on its own as a highly stylized and mesmerizing film, never overly dependent on CGI, and instead built upon the ample talents of a small cast. The film’s title is a play on the phrase deus ex machina (“god from the machine”), which is a plot device wherein an unexpected event or character seemingly comes out of nowhere to solve a storytelling problem. Garland interprets the phrase literally: Here, that machine is a robot named Ava, played by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, and that nowhere is where her creator, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), performs his research and experiments. Ava is a heavenly mechanical body of sinewy circuitry topped with a lovely face, reminiscent of a Chris Cunningham creation. Her creator is an alcoholic genius and head of a Google-like search engine called Bluebook which has made him impossibly rich. Enter Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), who is helicoptered in after winning a lottery at work for which the prize is a week at Nathan’s house. Nathan also intends to use Caleb to conduct something of a Turing test on steroids with Ava to determine if she can truly exhibit human behavior. In fact, Ex Machina seems designed around the performances of its excellent mini-ensemble; it’s an awfully attractive film, appropriately seductive. No doubt it was intended to provoke conversations about the morality inherent in “creating” intelligence—as well as whether it’s cool to have sex with robots or not. —Jonah Flicker


10. Stand By Me

stand-by-me.jpg Year: 1986
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Stand By Me, based on King’s novella, The Body, endures as one of the quintessential coming-of-age dramas. The uniquely personal yet immediately relatable way it captures that painfully exciting period when children take their first steps into adulthood, when our inherent innocence is abruptly stolen from us, replaced with a lifetime of cynicism fueled by the indifferent starkness of reality. For Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell), four buddies from a small town in Maine, the swift end to that innocence lies lifeless in a ditch somewhere. The dead body for which the children travel for days and through many perilous adventures, just to sneak a peek, represents the final fleeting moments of their previously unshakable bond. They know that their friendship, and their childhood along with it, are on their last days, and that’s what makes the journey that precedes their discovery so special. The story’s told by the now-adult Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss), who buttons the whole affair with “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” That sentiment, in a nutshell, defines why Rob Reiner’s masterstroke on childhood nostalgia is still one of the greatest films of its kind. —Oktay Ege Kozak,/i>


11. The Deer Hunter

deer-hunter.jpg Year: 1979
Director: Michael Cimino
Stars: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: R
Runtime: 183 minutes

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Ah, The Deer Hunter, a movie of grand ambition and messy politics, one that critics exalt for its thoughtful depiction of working class Pennsylvanians while in the same breath condemning it for its racist one-sidedness and ponderous ambiguity. But despite Michael Cimino’s shortcomings, with The Deer Hunter he created a film truly unlike any other, an episodic saga that captures what Pauline Kael eloquently called “poetry of the commonplace” while also boiling over with anti-war sentiment and palpable rage regarding American troops’ experiences in Vietnam. The film’s first hour alone is a work of art, a fly-on-the-wall documentation of life in a Pennsylvania steel town (with eastern Ohio mostly standing in), as a group of friends including Nick (Christopher Walken), Michael (Robert De Niro) and Julie (Meryl Streep) prepare for two key events: a large, raucous Russian Orthodox wedding and the imminent departure of the men for Vietnam, where they realize their lives will forever be changed. The film’s shocking second act, with its POW Russian Roulette games and Nick’s torturous break with reality, is of course its most memorable. But the scenes that bookend that horror ground its most ghoulish and surreal sequences in the real sense of despondency that threatened to drown many communities in the wake of the war. —Maura McAndrew


12. Rosemary’s Baby

rosemarys-baby.jpg Year: 1968
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

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The banality of evil isn’t a concept new to the horror genre, but in Roman Polanski’s troubled hands, that banality is an unadulterated expression of institutionalized horror, one so ingrained in our society it becomes practically organic. With Rosemary’s Baby, the body of young Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is the institution through which Satan’s malice gestates, a body over which everyone but Rosemary herself seems to have any control. At the mercy of her overbearing neighbors (played by a pitch-perfect Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer), her Ur-Dudebro husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), and the doctor (Ralph Bellamy) recommended by her high society cadre of new friends, Rosemary is treated as if she’s the last person who knows what’s best for her and her fetus—a position she accepts as a matter of fact. She’s only a woman, a homemaker at that, so such is her lot. The worse she feels and the more fraught her pregnancy becomes—as well as the recurring flashes of a ghastly dream she can’t quite shake in which a ManBearPig mounts her, its glowing yellow eyes the talismans of her trauma—the clearer Rosemary begins to suspect she’s an unwilling pawn in something cosmically insidious. She is, is the absurd truth: She is the mother of Satan’s offspring, the victim of a coven’s will to worship their Dark Lord much more fruitfully. More than the director’s audacious Hollywood debut, not to mention the omen of what New Hollywood would be willing to do to tear down tradition, Rosemary’s Baby is a landmark horror film because of how ordinary, how easy, it is for everyone else in Rosemary’s life to crush a woman’s spirit and take her life. The baby has “his father’s eyes” it’s said; what of the mother’s does he have? —Dom Sinacola


13. Catch Me if You Can

catch-me.jpg Year: 2005
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 140 minutes

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For lovers of tongue-in-cheek and smooth-as-silk ’60s crime dramedies like Stanley Donen’s wonderfully twisty Charade, Catch Me If You Can is an big fat slice of cinematic comfort food. From the minimalist and pastel animated credits sequence, accentuated wistfully by John Williams’ jazzy score, to the breezy but non-condescending adventures of charming-as-hell conman Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio in a role tailor-made for him), this is a genre throwback that crackles throughout. In only his second role with the director (after Saving Private Ryan), Spielberg regular Tom Hanks, as an anal FBI agent on Abagnale’s tail, is the straight-laced foil to DiCaprio’s wild and loose youngling, but the real MVP here is Christopher Walken as Abagnale’s strong-willed yet tragically self-destructive working class father. —Oktay Ege Kozak


14. Lean on Pete

lean-on-pete-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Andrew Haigh
Stars: Charlie Plummer, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Steve Buscemi
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Lean on Pete flows with such gentle beauty that it may be hard to grasp precisely what it’s about or where it’s going. But the power of writer-director Andrew Haigh’s sublime drama is that it can support myriad interpretations while remaining teasingly mysterious—like its main character, it’s always just a bit out of reach, constantly enticing us to look closer. Based on Willy Vlautin’s 2010 novel, the movie is a smashing introduction to Charlie Plummer, who was the kidnapped John Paul Getty III in last year’s All the Money in the World. Here, he plays Charley Thompson, a 15-year-old living with his drinking, backslapping dad (Travis Fimmel) in Portland. Charley has a sweet face and a soft-spoken manner—when he talks, the last few words evaporate into the air, as if he’s too shy to even be bold enough to enunciate—but early on, we get a sense that there’s a craftiness underneath that demeanor. The first indication is his willingness to lie about his age to Del (Steve Buscemi), a craggy horse owner who reluctantly takes him on as a caretaker for his elderly racehorse Lean on Pete. Charley doesn’t know a thing about horses, but he’s anxious to find something to do now that he’s in a new town with his father, their reasons for leaving Spokane unspecified but clearly dispiriting. Familiar narrative tropes emerge in Lean on Pete: the boy-and-his-dog drama, the coming-of-age story, the father-and-son character piece, the road movie. Haigh breezes past them all, seeking something more elliptical in this deceptively slim story. With the patience and minimalist command of a Kelly Reichardt, he doesn’t dictate where his film goes, seemingly letting Charley’s restlessness call the shots. The boy’s journey gathers force and poignancy as it moves forward, and the more we understand about Charley the more unknowable he becomes. Along the way, we meet other people and see other worlds—the life of young military veterans, the reality of homelessness, the grind of the low-rent racing circuit—but Haigh views it all with the same unassuming compassion we see in Charley’s quiet eyes. —Tim Grierson


15. Stripes

stripes netflix.jpg Year: 1981
Director: Ivan Reitman
Stars: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, Sean Young, John Candy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Stripes might not be as beloved as Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day, but John Winger, the sarcastic, irreverent cabdriver who joins the army after his life falls apart, should be Bill Murray’s defining role. (Or, at least, early Murray, before he became a respectable actor.) Sure, Murray had already developed his voice at Second City and on Saturday Night Live, and premiered it on the big screen with Meatballs, but Stripes put Murray’s anti-authoritarianism up against the most authoritarian institution in America, allowing him to reach new heights of smarmy disrespect. And it’s not afraid to make him look like an asshole without trying hard to rehab him, something that can’t be said about Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day. Stripes has problems as a movie—it drags on too long, the last third is overblown and unrealistic, and the way it treats women was uncomfortable back then and would be downright unacceptable today—but between Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Judge Reinhold, John Larroquette, and a fantastic straight man performance by Peckingpah tough guy Warren Oates as the drill sergeant, it might be, laugh for laugh, the funniest movie on this list. —Garrett Martin


16. Under the Skin

under-the-skin-poster.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Krystof Hádek
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

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Under the Skin is unified in purpose and in drive. It is a biting examination of sexual politics and a dissertation on the bodies we inhabit—how those bodies create a paradigm of ownership. Scarlett Johansson plays the alien avatar, the predator, the cipher whose weakness is her awakening humanity. When she looks in a mirror, lost in a gaze at her own body, it’s a reminder to us to find some remove from our weary familiarity with ourselves, to think, “Golly, what strange things we are.” The film’s tragic conclusion is an assertion that we achieve some positive ideal of what it is to be human when we accept a state of vulnerability, when we forsake the power position in our sexual communication. When we allow for the reality of our frailty, we can care for the frailty in all around us—and this is a very dangerous thing to do. Especially in a world riddled with corruption and malice that seeks to press its advantage. Under the Skin shows us these truths with images that are impossibly beautiful, terrifying and ultimately haunting. There is no exposition, only voids which suspended shells of victims float in, laser sharp lights piercing darkness, menacingly stoic bikers, snowflakes falling into lenses. There is a scene on a beach that plays out like a Bergman or Haneke set-piece and is just as heartbreaking as that would entail. Under the Skin is a soul-crushing work and yet, somehow, the film reiterates that we must continue working towards finding our souls. An artful cascade of multiple exposures of random people, about midway through the film, would seem to symbolize the birth of empathy in Johansson’s femme fatale, and while this is the beginning of the end for her, it can’t help but resonate in Under the Skin with all the radiance of beatitude. These are scenes, statements, questions that are only possible within the framework that the film’s science fiction aspect provides, for these are not the thought processes bound by what is real, but what could be. —Chad Betz


17. Spaceballs

spaceballs.jpg Year: 1987
Director: Mel Brooks
Stars: John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Joan Rivers, Mel Brooks, Daphne Zuniga
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Originally perceived as one of writer/director Mel Brooks’ lesser works, this loving send-up of the sci-fi/fantasy genre (specifically, Star Wars) has, over the years, wormed its way into the hearts of a new generation of fans catching it for the first time at home. “May the Schwartz be with you,” “Ludicrous Speed,” “Mawg”—if these are all terms that mean nothing to you then it’s high-time you checked this movie out and see what all the fuss is about. —Mark Rozeman


18. The Witch

the-witch.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Robert Eggers
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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From its first moments, The Witch strands us in a hostile land. We watch (because that’s all we can do, helplessly) as puritan patriarch William (Ralph Ineson) argues stubbornly with a small council, thereby causing his family’s banishment from their “New England” community. We watch, and writer-director Robert Eggers holds our gaze while a score of strings and assorted prickly detritus—much like the dialogue-less beginning to There Will be Blood —rise to a climax that never comes. It’s a long shot, breathing dread: The wagon lurches ever-on into the wilderness, piling the frontier of this New World upon the literal frontier of an unexplored forest. It’s 1620, and William claims, “We will conquer this wilderness.” Eggers’ “New England Folk Tale” is a horror film swollen with the allure of the unknown. To say that it’s reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials, which take place 70 years after the events in the film, would be an understatement—the inevitable consequences of such historic mania looms heavily over The Witch. All of this Eggers frames with a subconscious knack for creating tension within each shot, rarely relying on jump scares or gore, instead mounting suspense through one masterful edit after another. The effect, then, is that of a building fever dream in which primeval forces—lust, defiance, hunger, greed—simmer at the edges of experience, avoided but never quite conquered. But what’s most convincing is the burden of puritanical spirituality which blankets the film’s every single moment, a pall through which every character—especially teenage Thomasin (Anya Taylor Joy)—struggles to be, simply, a regular person. There is no joy in their worship, there is only gravitas: prayers, fasting, penitence and fear. And it’s that fear which drives the film’s horror, which eventually makes even us viewers believe that, at the fringes of civilization, at the border of the unknown, God has surely abandoned these people. —Dom Sinacola


19. Fletch

fletch.jpg Year: 1985
Director: Michael Ritchie
Stars: Chevy Chase, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Tim Matheson, Joe Don Baker, M. Emmet Walsh
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes

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A comedy that borrows heavily from film noir, Michael Ritchie’s Fletch offered Chevy Chase a chance to show his comic range. Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher is an investigative reporter who assumed several wonderfully ridiculous disguises from John Coctotostan (“Can I borrow your towel? My car just hit a water buffalo.”) to Harry S. Truman (“My parents were big fans of the former president”). Relentlessly quotable and filled with memorable scenes (like his colonoscopy—”Mooooon River…You ever serve time, Doc?...Using the whole fist, Doc?”)—this is a comedy that only gets better with age. —Josh Jackson


20. Moon

moon.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Duncan Jones
Stars: Sam Rockwell
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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First-time director Duncan Jones is overt about his stylistic appropriations of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, right down to the sweeping orchestral music that frames the opening shots of the titular satellite and Earth. Yet, where Kubrick tapped into existential fears about human extinction and the future of civilization, Jones hypothesizes the logical conclusion of that dark vision: a world where the need for more energy has rendered humanity a manufactured cog of multinational corporations whose reach now extends beyond the boundaries of Earth. The film’s plot centers on Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the only human on a lunar mining facility that harvests Helium-3, a clean fuel that can meet a near-future Earth’s ballooning energy demands. Base computer system GERTY (Kevin Spacey) is his sole companion on Sam’s three-year caretaking mission, since a supposed satellite failure means he can only send and receive pre-recorded messages. When an accident nearly kills Sam, he’s saved by a clone of himself and begins to unravel the sinister nature of the base, and his existence. Moon cribs heavily from the retro-futuristic look of ’60s and ’70s sci-fi for its claustrophobic and sanitized depiction of the moon base, but this high-tech eye candy is only the backdrop to a larger morality tale about humanity’s ever-shrinking position within a technologically saturated society. When the human experience can be synthesized (and thus made disposable), does such a thing as “humanity” even exist? There’s a host of challenging philosophical threads throughout—cloning, masculinity, energy, corporate power—but those individual issues complement rather than engulf the larger narrative. Moon is a superlative example of science fiction that hearkens to the genre’s roots: social commentary on the human condition, without the easy catharsis of overblown special effects and space opera. It’s the ultimate rarity in modern cinema: a mature, engaging and thoughtful sci-fi movie, and proof that there’s life yet left in the genre. —Michael Saba


21. Room

room.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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A potentially sensational premise is handled with grace and incisiveness in Room, Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel. Scripted by the author herself, and hewing closely to her book’s adolescent point-of-view, the film opens in what is initially known only as “Room,” a small, crowded space filled with a bed, a wardrobe, a few kitchen appliances, a table and drawings that decorate its walls. In this environment, which boasts a skylight but no windows, live Joy (Brie Larson) and her long-haired son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the latter of whom has apparently never stepped outside Room’s sole door. That entryway is locked via a keypad, and only opened and closed by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), a bearded figure who appears in the night while Jack sleeps (or pretends to) in order to deliver supplies and have his way with Joy. Abrahamson’s film immediately sets itself alongside Jack, assuming his perspective as he narrates his thoughts, anxieties and skewed comprehension of reality. In the traumatic events that follow, what emerges is a stirring portrait of maternal altruism, as Joy sacrifices their safety, as well as her one true connection to the real world, in order to potentially offer her offspring a future that expands past the constricting walls of his makeshift prison home. —Nick Schager


22. The Fifth Element

fifth-element-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1997
Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 126 minutes

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In an early scene from Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, there’s a subtle but very telling exchange between the film’s two protagonists. Cab driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) has his daily routine interrupted when Leeloo (an early starring role for Milla Jovovich) crashes through his roof. She speaks an ancient language, so the two can’t communicate—until she says the word “boom,” that is. “I understand ‘boom’,” Korben replies. Right away, we’re cued to the limits of Korben’s worldview, mostly restricted to macho action. This is also the first hint we get that this is a self-reflexive role for Willis, breaking down his tough-guy star persona and digging deep into what exactly makes him such a reliable “guy-movie” centerpiece. For all his typical manly heroism, Korben is a misfit in the film’s flamboyant space operatic future. He’s an alpha-male, tailor-made for the ’80s or ’90s, but, after finishing his time in the military, he’s adrift. The 23rd century doesn’t quite have room for him: He lives alone following a failed marriage, has trouble holding onto his job (and his driver’s license), can’t quit smoking and doesn’t have any friends outside of his old platoon. When the mysterious Leeloo literally lands into Korben’s life, he automatically takes on the role of protector. Leeloo is, it turns out, is a supreme being, sent to Earth to protect humanity from an ancient force that threatens the planet every 5,000 years. There’s a contradiction at the heart of The Fifth Element, with Korben’s manly heroism at odds with his social ineptitude. The film doesn’t try to reconcile these, but rather lets Korben find his own path. He learns to work with others and embrace his more sensitive side, even as he’s cracking wise and kicking ass. In the end, it’s Leeloo who has the power to save Earth from an apocalyptic alien attack. She’s the supreme being sent to Earth for that purpose. But she still needs Korben, and at the last minute, he figures out his role. It’s hard to know how intentional any of this was, since Besson still gives us a stoic tough-guy who saves the day. But with , Besson doesn’t replace the male action hero, but rather makes him more complex. —Frederick Blichert


23. Rain Man

rain-man.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: R
Runtime: 133 minutes

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In this Oscar-winning Best Picture, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) embarks on a road trip with his newly discovered brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). It’s not an intentional happy-go-lucky jaunt, though—Charlie is simply trying to get more of his recently deceased father’s $3 million estate, most of which he left to the autistic Raymond. Charlie gets to learn more about his brother and his mental tics like having to stop everything in order to watch Jeopardy! and buying underwear strictly from Kmart. Hoffman is undeniably good, and his performance as a savant earned him a Best Actor in a Leading Role award. But Cruise’s portrayal of a high-strung professional who transforms into a caring brother is also a treasure. The tender moments are just as important as the comical—and the blend of laughter and tears are skillfully spread out in this 1988 classic. —Shawn Christ


24. Mississippi Grind

mississippi-grind.jpg Year: 2015
Directors: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard, Robin Weigert
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

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Filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden don’t work within genres as much as they wander around inside them. Their Half Nelson took on the inspirational-teacher film, while Sugar had a darker, more realistic perspective on the prototypical sports movie. Repeatedly, the filmmaking duo utilize the tenets of a genre but mostly focus on their characters’ specific desires, opening themselves up to criticism that their movies are too meandering for their own good. But oftentimes, those laid-back, intimate observations are where the most interesting things happen. Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that Fleck and Boden finally got around to making a Robert Altman film (before taking on the MCU with Captain Marvel). Altman, of course, was the king of the revisionist genre movie, and Fleck and Boden have taken his underrated 1974 gem California Split as their guide for Mississippi Grind, a low-key but affecting story about two gamblers (played by unexpected companions Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn) on a car trip. To be sure, this terrain—addiction, the road movie, the buildup to the big competition—has been explored plenty by other filmmakers. And, yet, moment to moment, Mississippi Grind digs into you. —Tim Grierson


25. You Can Count on Me

you-can-count-on-me.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Kenneth Lonergran
Stars: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, Matthew Broderick
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 109 minutes

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Laura Linney is nearly unmatched as an everywoman, giving import to the daily stresses of juggling work and family dysfunction. That distinction began with her portrayal of Sammy Prescott in 2000’s You Can Count on Me, with a wayward brother, an overbearing boss, an infatuated new boyfriend, an abusive ex-husband and a fatherless son spinning around her center of gravity. With a cast that aslo includes Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin and Matthew Broderick, this is a gem of a film that hopefully will get more attention now that writer/director Kenneth Lonergran has had his moment in the spotlight. —Josh Jackson


26. Field of Dreams

field-of-dreams.jpg Year: 1989
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Stars: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 106 minutes

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There’s a little fantasy in most sports dramas, overcoming impossible obstacles and peaking at the magical moment to carry the day. But Field of Dreams, adapted from W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe, isn’t a story of athletic prowess or winning the day. It’s a story of believing in the magic of sports. It’s a story of fathers and sons, of the hard work of play, of disconnecting from the worries of the real world to play a game of catch. In other words, it’s about baseball, the only sport that can turn an Iowa cornfield into a little slice of heaven. Of course Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones’ buddy journey to belief is sentimental; America’s pastime is nothing without sentiment. The major leagues may wish that all it took was new state-of-the-art taxpayer-subsidized sports complexes outside of their traditional downtown locales to spike attendance, but in 1989 we all believed. “If you build it, they will come…” —Josh Jackson


27. Spring Breakers

spring-breakers.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Watching James Franco in Spring Breakers, one has to ask: Is this a put-on? But the scarier question is, What if it’s not? The brilliance of his portrayal of Alien, a Scarface-aspiring dirt-bag, is that no matter how outlandishly over-the-top it goes—“Look at my shit!”—there remains a deeply unsettling edge to the performance that suggests a white-trash nightmare who could do real damage to those around him. We laugh at Franco as Alien, but the laughs get stuck in our throat: Just like the movie, his performance is a wickedly satiric look at our worst impressions of youth culture—until it gets so frighteningly real that we’re left dazed and amazed.—Tim Grierson


28. Amy

amy-poster.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Asif Kapadia
Stars: Tony Bennett, Salaam Remi, Nick Shymansky
Genre: Music, Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 128 minutes

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Director Asif Kapadia wisely puts his subject front-and-center; friends, family members and music industry associates are all interviewed for the film, but nearly all of them are presented as voiceovers rather than talking heads. Even when others are speaking, it’s impossible to take your eyes off Winehouse in Amy. He has a way of making her reality feel cinematic, lingering in slow motion as she looks back at the paparazzi and rolls her eyes after rushing into a car amid a flurry of camera flashes. When she wins the Grammy for Record of the Year and gazes up at a screen broadcasting the ceremony, the way her eyes light up will make you briefly think you’re not watching a documentary, but rather an awards-season biopic with some actress in a beehive wig trying to earn her Oscar. Then you’ll pity anyone dumb enough to try to top Amy with something scripted—there’s nothing like the real thing. —Bonnie Stiernberg


29. The End of the Tour

end-of-tour.jpg Year: 2015
Director: James Ponsoldt
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Becky Ann Baker
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 105 minutes

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The latest from director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, Smashed) is about journalist/author David Lipsky as much as it is the late author David Foster Wallace. Adapted from Lipsky’s book about his sometimes-confrontational interview with Wallace just after the publication of Infinite Jest, The End of the Tour raises some of life’s most difficult questions about identity, the perception of others and intellectual honesty. But Jason Segel’s performance as the earnest Midwesterner Wallace is the grounding heart of the film. Wallace’s eventual suicide is a specter haunting the entire affair, but it’s never maudlin or manipulative. Instead, these few days in the passenger seat are welcome, listening to an original man’s original perspective on life and loneliness. —Josh Jackson


30. Swingers

swingers poster.jpg Year: 1996
Director: Doug Liman
Stars: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Deena Martin, Alex Désert
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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With their breakout roles in Swingers, Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau established the personalities that still define them 20 years later. Vaughn’s a fast-talking Eddie Haskell type who isn’t quite as charming as he thinks, and Favreau’s an affable everyman with a sensitive side. This carries over to their recent work: Vaughn motormouths his way through comedies and dramas alike, while Favreau makes big budget Hollywood films that tend to be a little bit smarter and better crafted than most. The ease and charm of their friendship is what makes Swingers so memorable—it would’ve been called a bromance so often if that portmanteau existed in 1996. Swingers is a character-first comedy that captures a specific time and place in vivid detail. —Alan Byrd

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