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. Back to the Future

back-to-future.jpg Year: 1985
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 116 minutes

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The three-part epic journey of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his legitimately insane mentor Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), all available on Showtime, not only provides the crucible through which practically every comedy-adventure made since must pass, it proves that even one insignificant kid’s actions make a universe of difference. There is little to add to a popular discussion of these films besides pointing out their diminishing returns with each successive entry, but that hardly takes away from the brilliance of Zemeckis’s storytelling. No plot point is wasted, no shot infused with anything less than humor and emotional breadth—if this sounds a bit schmaltzy, or a bit overboard with praise, then stop to consider how cherished these films are in the course of American cinema. As they mess with history, so too do they make history, and from that standpoint, it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling the need to go back to make this trilogy any better. —Michael Burgin


2. Rocky

Rocky.jpg Year: 1976
Director: John G. Avildsen
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
Genre: Drama, Sports
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Rocky may be the one of the most inspirational films of all time. The movie poses the question: What happens when a small-time boxer from Philadelphia gets a one-in-a-million shot at the World Heavyweight Championship? All Rocky Balboa wanted to do was prove that he wasn’t a bum and that he could go the distance with Apollo Creed. With a budget under 1 million dollars, Rocky would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976 and spawn the ultimate sports movie series. —Gregory Eckert


3. The Last Temptation of Christ

last-temptation.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Barbara Hershey, Harvey Keitel, David Bowie, Harry Dean Stanton, Verna Bloom
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: R
Runtime: 164 minutes

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Three quarters of the way into The Last Temptation of Christ, for three and a half minutes—transformed into an eternity by the incessant scream-whinnying of a horse off-screen—David Bowie plays Pontius Pilate as a tired bureaucrat mildly amused by Jesus (Willem Dafoe) until the maybe-Messiah’s message of love becomes an irritating waste of time. He leaves the film softly exasperated: “We have a space for you up on Golgotha. Three thousand skulls there right now, probably more…I do wish you people would go out and count them sometime. Maybe you’d learn a lesson—no, probably not.” Director Martin Scorsese knew that to keep Pontius Pilate from being villainized in the eyes of an audience conditioned to behold Jesus’s crucifiers as the bad guys, he needed an actor in the role who could be worshipped as easily as he could be despised. Because The Last Temptation of Christ is Scorsese’s take on the human side of the Jesus story—how the divinity of the Christian figure is bolstered by that side of the “man”—the director required someone who could pass the death sentence on Jesus with the gravity of a figure of authority sadly but confidently doing his job—and only that. Bowie bears that cinematic cross. Like Bowie, Scorsese’s film, greeted with expected controversy and hand-wringing from the religious right upon release, holds aloft an ambiguous grey throughout, sticking pretty closely to the Biblical account of events—at least as closely as author Nikos Kazantzakis hued in his novel, adapted by Paul Schrader. We’re never quite sure where Jesus precisely falls, navigating rage and penance and humility and lust, Scorsese’s Messiah the extremely culpable, extremely flesh-and-blood normal carpenter who must come to terms with his unbelievable responsibility up until the film’s (literally) shattering final moment. Just as we inevitably had to reconcile Bowie’s vulnerability with his iconic status, so does Scorsese expect us to realize Christ’s spirituality through the impossible obstacle of his humanity. —Dom Sinacola


4. 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


5. Boyz N the Hood

boyz-hood.jpg Year: 1991
Director: John Singleton
Stars: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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Who can forget Ice Cube as Doughboy, waxing poetic on the “life in the perspective if God was a bitch”? Oscar-nominated for his unflinching portrayal of life in the ghetto, it is difficult to believe that director John Singleton was just getting started. His freshman effort was a story of tragedy and triumph—and one that brought about immense public, private, and academic discourse on the state of America, as experienced by its second-class citizens. Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett rounded out an unforgettable cast. One could argue that Boyz n the Hood participated in the genre of blaxploitation, but Singleton’s classic was really an attempt to make the ‘hood tale an American tale, and to incite positive social change in doing so. —Shannon Houston


6. Billy Elliot

7.BillyElliot.NetflixList.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Stephen Daldry
Stars: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Jamie Draven, Gary Lewis
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

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On the surface, Billy Elliot appears to be the archetypal tale of an outsider who is driven to follow his own path at all costs, but the story of a boy (Jamie Bell) from depressed, working-class England who mortifyingly discovers that ballet is his life’s ambition, is saved from cliché by Stephen Daldry’s slightly quirky, at times witty, always deeply sympathetic portrayal of the pain of finding one’s voice in adolescence. The tearjerker caused such an impact worldwide, it was made into a Tony award-winning musical scored by none other than Elton John. —Emily Riemer


7. 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


8. Platoon

platoon-poster.jpg Year: 1986
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, John C. McGinley
Genre: Drama, Action, War
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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You can boil down Platoon to a single iconic image: Willem Dafoe, hands and arms held aloft as Vietnamese soldiers gun him down, his fellow infantrymen the sole audience to his grim and lonesome demise on the ground. Is he making an act of supplication in his final moments? Is he submitting to death itself? Or is his gesture meant to be interpreted as an acknowledgment of his helplessness, a pantomime outcry at his betrayal and abandonment? No matter how many times this scene plays out, its subtexts remain open to interpretation. What remains the same is our horror at Dafoe’s exit from the film, and what it means in context within the narrative. Platoon, like any Vietnam war movie, is unforgivingly brutal, a picture show of relentless barbarity that recreates one of America’s greatest self-made martial, political and international debacles. Also like any Vietnam war movie, or any war movie in general, really, it repurposes a host of atrocities as tense entertainment, folding the cathartic release of seeing the bad guy get what’s coming to him within the bloody details of America’s intervention in Vietnam. —Andy Crump


9. The Babadook

6. the babadook (Custom).jpg Year: 2014
Director: Jennifer Kent
Stars: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Barbara West
Genre: Horror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Between It Follows and The Babadook, the last year or so has been a strong one for indie horror films breaking free from their trappings to enter the public consciousness. Between the two, The Babadook is perhaps less purely entertaining but makes up for that with cerebral scares and complex emotion. It’s an astoundingly well-realized first feature film for director Jennifer Kent, and one that actually manages to deal with a type of relationship we haven’t seen that often in a horror film. Motherhood in cinema tends to invariably be portrayed in a sort of “unconditional love,” way, which isn’t necessarily true to life, and The Babadook preys upon any shred of doubt there might be. Its child actor, Noah Wiseman, is key in pushing the buttons of actress Essie Davis, pushing her closer and closer to the brink, even as they’re threatened by a supernatural horror. The film’s beautiful art direction approximates a crooked, twisted fairytale, with dreamlike sequences that never quite reveal what is true and what might be a hallucination. The characters of The Babadook ultimately undergo quite a lot of suffering, and not just because they’re being chased by a monster. —Jim Vorel


10. Bull Durham

bull-durham.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Ron Shelton
Stars: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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I believe in ridiculous names like Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh. I believe in romantic comedies about giving up on a certain phase of your life where characters stand up and deliver cliched “I believe” speeches that, despite being borderline cheesy, somehow ring completely true. And yes, I too believe there should be a Constitutional Amendment banning Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in Bull Durham. The most engaging presentation of the minor-league life on film—and a pretty salute to baseball, in general—this first installment in the unofficial Kevin Costner Baseball Trilogy proved that baseball could equal big box office. Costner and Susan Sarandon anchor this film that does its part to engender a love for the game and the people who court it. —Bonnie Stiernberg & Michael Burgin


11. Se7en

se7en.jpg Year: 1995
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes

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It’s hard to think of a ’90s movie that did more short-term damage to the length of your fingernails than David Fincher’s Se7en. Sticking close to detectives David Mills (Brad Pitt) and almost-retired William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) on the trail of John Doe, a murderer who plans his kills around the seven deadly sins, the film allows us to watch Somerset teach a still-naive Mills valuable life lessons around the case, which has morally charged outcomes aimed at such victims as a gluttonous man and a greedy attorney. For all the disturbing crime scenes considered, Se7en’s never as unpredictable or emotionally draining as in its infamous finale, in which Mills and Somerset discover “what’s in the box” after capturing their man. —Tyler Kane


12. Kill Bill Vol.1, Vol. 2

kill-bill.jpg Year: 2003, 2004
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

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The greatness of Kill Bill Vol. 1 was in its finely tuned balance between acting as an homage to classic martial arts movies (both Chinese and Japanese) and as a blistering entry into the genre canon on its own visceral, offbeat merits. In the early 2000s, there was perhaps no cinematic experience like it (well, at least until Vol. 2 arrived). The gory but graceful tea house battle with the Crazy 88; the intensely claustrophobic kitchen showdown—these are only two excellent examples of everything that makes a martial arts movie superb. That Tarantino filled two movies with this stuff of greatness makes for some truly transcendent viewing. —K. Alexander Smith


13. Airplane!

airplane.jpg Year: 1980
Director: Jim Abrahams
Stars: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 88 minutes

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The writing trio of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker (ZAZ) defined a genre with their disaster-movie spoof in 1980. The jokes fly fast and furious, from the “Who’s on First” confusion of a crew that includes Roger and Captain Oveur (“Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?”) to Oveur (Peter Graves) asking a kid in the cockpit, “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?” to an old lady translating jive (“Jive-ass dude don’t got no brains anyhow! Shiiiiit!”) to “stop calling me Shirley!” Ridiculous and ridiculously quotable, it’s the funniest spoof film of all time. —Josh Jackson


14. Almost Famous

almost-famous.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Cameron Crowe
Stars: Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Music
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: R
Runtime: 123 minutes

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Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film perfectly captured the essence of the world music geeks inhabit—the passion for the music; the joy in the concert experience; the obsession over the tiniest details of melody, lyrics, musicianship, artwork and liner notes; the camaraderie of fans and musicians. But even beyond the resonance that music fans feel, Crowe crafted flawless little scenes, peopled with fully fleshed-out characters who were funny, romantic, heart wrenching and utterly believable. Almost Famous is the essential movie for music aficionados, and a great one for anyone who cares about humanity.—Tim Regan-Porter


15. 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


16. 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


17. The Terminator

terminator.jpg Year: 1984
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen
Genre: Science-Fiction, Action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

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James Cameron’s first Terminator (and second feature) is less of a pure-popcorn action flick than its upscaled sequel, but that makes it all the more terrifying of a movie—dark, somber, replete with a silent villain who calmly plucks bits of his damaged face off to more precisely target its victims. The task in front of Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) seems so insurmountable—even with a soldier from the future, going after the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, duh) with modern weapons is so ineffectual, it’s nearly comical. It’s as if Schwarzenegger is playing entropy itself—entropy seemingly a theme of The Terminator series, given the time-hopping do-overs, reboots and retreads since. You can destroy a terminator, but the future (apparently driven by box office receipts) refuses to be changed. —Jim Vorel


18. Scream

14. scream (Custom).jpg Year: 1996
Director: Wes Craven
Stars: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

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Before Scary Movie or A Haunted House were even ill-conceived ideas, Wes Craven was crafting some of the best horror satire out there. And although part of Scream’s charm is its sly, fair jabs at the genre, that didn’t keep the director from dreaming up some of the most brutal knife-on-human scenes in the ’90s. With the birth of the “Ghost Face” killer, Craven took audiences on a journey through horror-flick fandom, making all-too-common tricks of the trade a staple for survival: sex equals death, don’t drink or do drugs, never say “I’ll be right back.” With a crossover cast of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan and Drew Barrymore (okay, for like 10 minutes), Scream arrived with a smart, funny take on a tired genre. It wasn’t the first film of its kind, but it was the first one to be seen by a huge audience, which went a long way in raising the “genre IQ” of the average horror fan. —Tyler Kane


19. Blue Valentine

blue-valentine.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

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Most films about disintegrating marriages are grim, gray affairs, and filmmakers often use the device as an excuse to punish their audiences. But Blue Valentine is different—the story is told with such overwhelming tenderness and humanity that although the slow unraveling of Dean’s (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) love is still heartbreaking, it feels like the director’s heart is breaking along with yours. That’s rare. It doesn’t hurt that Gosling is in top form, or that Williams gives the finest performance of her career. The script was promising enough to win the Chrysler Film Project even before those performances were turned in, and indie favorites Grizzly Bear contributed a haunting soundtrack. There was really nothing in director Derek Cianfrance’s resume to suggest he had such a nuanced, sensitive film in him, but we’ll certainly be watching his career with interest from here on out. —Michael Dunaway


20. Superbad

superbad poster.png
Year: 2007
Director: Greg Mottola
Stars: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Every generation of teens has its generation of teen movies, and Greg Mottola’s Superbad is the epitome of mine. In Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), my friends and I had a mirror for our own insecurity and awkwardness—they were our modern-day Anthony Michael Halls. In Fogell/McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), we had an icon of weird who somehow ended up a winner, a sort of photonegative of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick). And in Superbad’s constant dick jokes (care of a script by namesakes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg), we had an accurate representation of the way we all talked, maturity be damned. The film would join the pantheon of mid-2000s comedies—most notably Anchorman and Step Brothers—that created a white-adolescent-boy language made up entirely of lewd, absurd references. It’s a rom-com in many respects, but unlike its predecessors, Superbad is a romance between two buddies, a story wherein the ostensible sex drive is secondary to Platonic need. Most of John Hughes’ ’80s oeuvre centers on the cringe-worthy struggle of X character getting Y other character to notice their existence in order to have Y inevitably fall for X. No matter what else Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink have to say, their endgame remains Molly Ringwald getting with the correct Good Guy. Ditto Amy Heckerling’s iconic contributions to the genre, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, and the literary reimaginings (Ten Things I Hate About You, et. al.) that followed in the latter’s wake. In Superbad, Seth and Evan’s versions of the Good Guy aren’t Jules (a precocious Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac): they’re each other. In the film’s denouement, with the two leads snuggled up close in sleeping bags, Seth literally says, “I just wanna go to the rooftops and scream, ‘I love my best friend, Evan.’” For teenage boys struggling with anxiety over the seeming hopelessness of losing their virginity, Superbad provides a welcome respite, an acknowledgement that focusing your entire life upon your dick is pointless when there’s fulfillment to be had by your side the entire time. —Zach Blumenfeld


21. Big Fish

BigFish.jpeg Year: 2003
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 125 minutes

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It is hard to take a dysfunctional father/son relationship and make it into a magical fantasy world, but that’s just what Burton did in Big Fish. The director takes viewers on a journey of the life of Edward Bloom, an ordinary man who through his own storytelling has lived an extraordinary life. In just two hours Burton addresses death, infidelity and the feelings of estrangement with ease, but he never loses his sense of fantasy. By the end of the movie, Burton has you seeing magic in even the most mundane events and believing in the impossible. —Laura Flood


22. Shakespeare in Love

shakespeare-in-love.jpg Year: 1998
Director: John Madden
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

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Another film whose reputation has suffered somewhat since its initial reception, largely in this case as a result of an ill-considered Oscar and Gweneth Paltrow’s ill-considered management of her public spersona since then. No one is more annoyed with latter-day Goop than me, but even I can admit that Shakespeare in Love gets a bad rap. It’s delightful, especially for those with any experience in the theater whatsoever (the theater world itself is the romantic interest of the film, every bit as much as Gweneth’s Viola de Lesseps). And, it’s now safe to say out loud – Ben Affleck is fantastically charming in this film. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, you’ll be surprised at how much more you like it than you remembered. —Michael Dunaway


23. Girl, Interrupted

girl-interrupted.jpg Year: 2000
Director: James Mangold
Stars: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54%
Rating: R
Runtime: 127 minutes

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Seen through the eyes of voluntarily admitted Susanna, the film explores the difference between treating the mind vs. the brain and how people are seen as different because they refuse to conform. Susanna joins potential sociopath Lisa (Angelina Jolie) in her antics and explores her own mind through her depression and depersonalization. Winona Ryder surprises with a complex performance of a girl who is confused about who she is, her actions and what the future holds for her. The supporting cast is amazing, and Angelina Jolie wows as Lisa, the beautifully disturbed and institutionalized friend. Based on Susan Kaysen’s memoir and set in the 1960s, Girl, Interrupted made waves and made room for more films (like Rachel Getting Married) to address women’s mental health.—Muriel Vega, Shannon M. Houston


24. Bridget Jones’s Diary

bridget-jones.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Sharon Maguire
Stars: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Diehard fans of Helen Fielding’s 1996 novel may have been initially miffed at the casting of Renée Zellweger, but she was crucial to the success of Bridget Jones’ Diary, and now it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. She’s boundlessly charming as Bridget Jones, gaining 20 pounds to play the British singleton who falls for Hugh Grant and (eventually) Colin Firth. From her appalling bad public speeches to lip-synching sad FM songs in her pajamas, Zellweger carries the film on her (still slender) shoulders. —Jeremy Medina


25. Total Recall

total-recall-1990.jpg Year: 1990
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone
Genre: Science-Fiction, Action, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Very loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (and aren’t all PKD adaptations “very loose”?), Total Recall functions as a construct for Paul Verhoeven to take a high-concept premise about memory implants and lost identity and motivational uncertainty and turn it into an Arnold Schwarzenegger schlock-fest. It should be bad, but it’s not; it should be, at best, cheesy fun—but it’s even more than that. Unlike many of it’s sci-fi action peers, Total Recall never runs out of steam or ideas; it starts with the memory implant stuff, but on the back end gives us a vividly imagined Mars society with an oppressed mutant population (which is, like, the best special make-up effects portfolio ever) and a secret alien reactor that’s a MacGuffin but also a deus ex machina. The plot’s a mess but so is Arnold. It all works. Total Recall’s $60 million production budget was absolutely huge for its time, but unlike similar Hollywood ventures that put money towards glitz (like the 2012 remake, so slick it slips right out of one’s head), Verhoeven uses the loot to give us more dust, more grit, more decrepit sets, more twisted prosthetics and maximum Arnold. Verhoeven, in fact, uses Arnold as much as he uses anything else in the budget to tell this darkly exuberant story, from the contorted confusion of the set-up right on through to the eye-popping finale. It results in a sci-fi screed written in the form of a hundred Ahh-nuld faces, absurd and unforgettable. For as many times as Dick has been adapted, this is perhaps the one time the go-for-broke energy and imagination of his work has made it into the cinema (Blade Runner is something else entirely). Total Recall may have little in common with the actual content of the story it blows up, but it knows the vibe. And PKD vibes are the best kind. —Chad Betz


26. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

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Year: 2007
Director: Jake Kasdan
Stars: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Although Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story claims to be a spoof of biopics and their extreme depictions of artists—especially musicians—biopics’ exaggerations are a reflection of the frailties and eccentricities of the artists which they profile, so it’s hard to distinguish a satire about biopics from a satire about musicians. Regardless of what category the film falls into, Walk Hard does not really tow the fine line of being clever so much as it provides a fun and absurd romp with heaps of laughs. John C. Reilly, who plays rising and troubled music star Dewey Cox, skillfully presents a dopey-yet-conniving and shallow-but-sincere character with a heart of fool’s gold. Looking something like Johnny Cash crossed with Tom Waits, Cox has multiple addictions, wives and musical phases. Aspiring to a level beyond greatness after he accidentally kills his brother by splitting him in half with a machete when they are young boys growing up in Alabama, Cox is compelled to compensate for the loss of his brother, leading to a life of excess and indulgence. But Reilly isn’t the only star of the film. Kristen Wiig shines as Cox’s frustrated wife and the mother of their seemingly infinite amount of children; as Cox’s other frustrated wife and duet partner, Jenna Fischer is superb. Tim Meadows is hysterical with a stand out performance as Cox’s bandmate who can’t seem to stop doing or introducing Cox to increasingly heavy drugs. Additionally, cameos from Jack White (Elvis Presley), Jack Black (Paul McCartney), Paul Rudd (John Lennon), Jason Schwartzman (Ringo Starr), Justin Long (George Harrison), Eddie Vedder, Jackson Browne and Lyle Lovett make the film even more ridiculous. Like most films of its ilk, Walk Hard may go too over-the-top to prove itself, but there is something charming about it, underscored by its genuine love of music and affinity for musicians. It is also obvious from one of the first lines in the film (“Guys, I need Cox!”) that this project neither takes itself too seriously nor asks the same of its viewers. —Pamela Chelin


27. Nowhere Boy

nowhere-boy.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Stars: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ophelia Lovibond, Thomas Sangster
Genre: Drama, Music
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

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John Lennon taught the world that all you need is love. What the world may not realize is that he spent his entire childhood vying for it. Sam Taylor-Johnson’s debut feature film tells the story of a staggeringly bitter young John Lennon (Aaron Taylor-Johnson—director and star have since married) struggling to make sense of the relationship with his happy-go-lucky mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) and his tight-lipped caretaker Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), and ultimately with himself. What’s been called the “untold” story of John Lennon begins with a restless 15-year-old John grappling with his identity when he spots his free-spirited mother Julia (who gave John up in his infancy to be raised by her sister Mimi) in the background of the funeral for Mimi’s husband George (David Threlfall). John later discovers that Julia has lived around the corner from him with her husband and two daughters for the duration of his life. John and Julia’s secret relationship, filled with trips to the boardwalk at Blackpool and afternoon movies, plays out like a therapy session, with the audience witnessing such an intimacy between characters that watching these moments feel almost voyeuristic. An exhaustingly visceral look at a fascinating artist, Nowhere Boy is a portrait of the struggles of a boy from Liverpool who became the man whose music conquered the world. —Maggie Coughlan


28. District 9

district-9.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Sharlto Copley, David James, Vanessa Haywood
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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Let’s begin with a number: 30 million. That’s how much money Neill Blomkamp spent to make District 9, a movie small in scale but great in ambition, look like it cost four times that amount. Years later, Blomkamp’s career hasn’t realized the full promise shown in District 9, but here, he looks like a guy knows what he’s doing all the same. A genre stew blended from varying measurements of Alien Nation, Watermelon Man, Independence Day, The Fly and RoboCop, District 9 treads familiar territory in an unfamiliar place, through an unfamiliar lens, splicing documentary-style filmmaking together with stomach-churning body horror and, by the end, high-end action spectacle. Nine years ago, the end results of Blomkamp’s mad sci-fi cocktail felt revelatory. Today they feel disappointing, a remark on what he could have been and where his career might have taken him if he’d not lost himself in the morass of Elysium or turned off even his more devoted followers with Chappie. All the same, District 9 remains a major work for a first-timer, or even a third-timer, polished and yet scrappy at the same time; the film tells of an artist with something to say, and saying it with electric urgency. —Andy Crump


29. City Slickers

city-slickers.jpg Year:
Director: Ron Underwood
Stars: Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby
Genre: Comedy, Western
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 114 minutes

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If you’re like me, City Slickers falls into the category of movies you liked when they came out, but you’re not sure if they hold up. Are the jokes dated? Were they funny when I was 22, but not so much now? Well, rest easy. Sure, there are a few jokes that might be a little juvenile and Billy Crystal’s shtick is a tad over the top now and then, but for the most part, this is a film with a well-crafted screenplay and actors who know when to improvise to great effect. Daniel Stern reminds one why he’s one of the best (and most underused) comedic actors around (the birthday party scene is side-splittingly funny), and the late Bruno Kirby (whose life was tragically cut short at 57 due to Leukemia) was simply one of the most versatile actors of his generation. —Michael Burgin


30. The King’s Speech

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Year: 2010
Director: Tom Hooper
Stars: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Acting is a funny thing to judge. Often, the performances we most admire are those where actors stretch themselves the furthest by taking on roles with handicaps. Portraying the stuttering Prince Albert, who would become King George VI of Britain, Colin Firth maintains a constant aura of frustration. It’s not the way that a non-stuttering actor stutters that makes him believable, but the pitch-perfect emotional resonance of gifted actor. And while the performances of his co-stars—Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth and Geoffrey Rush as the king’s Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue—aren’t highlighted by such an obvious physical obstacle, they’re both subtly brilliant. It’s the interplay between all three actors—and the brief scenes with Michael Gambon as King George V—that make Tom Hooper’s film such a joy to watch. —Josh Jackson

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