The 40 Best Movies on Showtime (2019)

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The 40 Best Movies on Showtime (2019)

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

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

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

40. Something’s Gotta Give

Year: 2003
Director: Nancy Meyers
When you’ve got two giants of cinema exploring love later in life, you can expect great chemistry. That’s what happens with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton when the former breaks his streak of dating women in their twenties and falls for the mother of one of his girlfriends (Amanda Peet). With a soundtrack that spans genres and generations (Badly Drawn Boy, Jimmy Cliff, Paul Simon and Django Reinhardt, to name just a few), it’s a worthwhile take on the opposites-attract rom-com. —Josh Jackson

39. We Own the Night

Year: 2007
Director: James Gray
We Own the Night, a thoughtful crime thriller set in 1988 New York, was produced in part by its stars Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg, who play conflicted brothers. Wahlberg is the hard-nosed, New York City cop Joseph Grusinski who tries to clean up the city’s drug trade while his brother Bobby Green (Phoenix) manages the hottest nightclub in Brooklyn, an establishment where drugs are a big part of the attraction. A clash becomes inevitable, even more so because their father (Robert Duvall) is the deputy chief of police. Wahlberg’s role is incredibly reminiscent of his performance in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning The Departed, though not nearly as powerful. And Duvall could have called it in and done just as well. Phoenix, however, gives a strong showing as a man unwillingly pulled through a life-threatening transition, greatly improving a fair-to-middling script. Bobby so disdains his family’s idealism that he even changes his last name, a move that unwittingly reveals no police ties to his drug dealer friends. But when his brother is hospitalized by an assassin’s bullet, Bobby agrees to infiltrate the drug ring. There are no dirty cops in We Own the Night. Rather, we see good guys trying to do the right thing. Instead of surprising us with abrupt character changes, director James Gray (Little Odessa) takes us through Bobby’s personal torment in self-discovery as he realizes how strong his blood ties really are. —Tim Basham

38. High Plains Drifter

Year: 1973
Director: Clint Eastwood
A ghostly figure on horseback emerges from a distant, hazy heat mirage recessed in the depths of a desert plain. High-pitched banshee wails squeal like souls of the damned crying out from the land of the dead as the drifter rides into the seaside mining town of Lago. Bystanders gaze at the rider with fear, distrust or possibly a startled look of recognition. A stranger has arrived, and all the dark secrets of the town will soon meet the harsh light of day. Clint Eastwood’s second film at the helm as director, High Plains Drifter finds him coming to terms with his Spaghetti past in this direct homage to the films of Sergio Leone. In the town of Lago, there are no innocents. This message is brought home repeatedly with stark close-ups emphasizing features distorted with anger and rage, rendered grotesque with the almost unbearable weight of their sins. Even Eastwood’s drifter is no heroic icon, almost immediately losing the sympathies of the audience by committing a casual rape of an uppity townswoman who ultimately turns out to be just as complicit as everyone else. Despite its cynical depiction of humanity and its dark subject matter, this brooding, yet never gloomy Western gothic keeps its tight hold on you, depicting a town slowly unraveling, turning against itself as its dirty secrets are exposed by a possibly supernatural entity. —Joe Pettit Jr.

37. Band Aid

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

36. About a Boy

Year: 2002
Directors: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
No stranger to romantic comedies, Hugh Grant delivered perhaps his best performance ever in About a Boy, a different kind of rom-com. Through his relationship with a young teenager, Grant subtly transforms from notorious womanizer into, well, a man capable of loving the beautiful Rachel Weisz. Grant’s relationship with the boy is tender and thoughtful, much like the film itself. —Jeremy Medina

35. Operation Odessa

Year: 2018
Director: Tiller Russell
Way back—like, way, way, way back, when the ’80s were becoming the ’90s and the bad guys were Colombian and in some cases, for whatever reason, still also Russian, and you had to be the worst DEA agent ever if you couldn’t make a collar in Miami—there was an émigré Russian Jew who called himself “Tarzan.” Tarzan started American life in Brooklyn, where he found bountiful work as an arson-oriented enforcer for the Gambino family. He then became a super class-act strip-club owner in his spiritual home: Miami, Fla. There, he met a grafter, or dealer, or I’m not sure what you call marina owner Juan Almeida. Having been introduced at Tarzan’s ultra-classy establishment, Porky’s, and by Vanilla Ice, no less, the two became entangled in a little funny business with the government. Showtime would like to take you back—way, way back—to when they Tore Down That Wall and the Soviet Union collapsed. Their documentary Operation Odessa tracks Tarzan, Almeida, and a Cuban “businessman” (spy) named Tony Yestor as they maybe possibly attempt to buy a Russian military submarine and sell it to the Cali cartel for $35 million. I know, it sounds like something straight out of Hollywood. The kind of improbable heist caper where you walk out shaking your head and saying, “Who green-lit that?” Operation Odessa is not filmed in the gritty Cops style that was used in The Trade and it also covers an incident that happened 20 years ago and, other than the fact that Yestor remains an international fugitive, it’s in the past. Maybe that accounts for the more lighthearted style, but whatever the case, director Tiller Russell made good choices here. Operation Odessa observes its subjects from a two-decade remove and uses that stance to play up how flat-out crazy the story actually is. It handles its subject matter with a little bit of irony, pacing that plays up the essential absurdity of the situation, and I applaud it for that. Because it is, in fact, a crazy story. —Amy Glynn

34. Major League

Year: 1989
Director: David S. Ward
Many can laugh at this crazy cast of oddballs, but only a select few can look back and laugh. Because for those in Cleveland and northeastern Ohio, it’s all too real. Not until the second film’s release did the Cleveland Indians finally break out of their 30-year slump. Some will say it was the new stadium. Others, the even more superstitious ones (most baseball fans), may point to the dominance and swagger of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, as portrayed by Charlie Sheen. (Fun fact: Sheen was actually a star pitcher in high school.) Whatever the case, the really bad times are in the past, and let’s hope, for the sake of another one of these movies popping up, they stay there. —Joe Shearer

33. Adventureland

Year: 2009
Director: Greg Mottola
As far as films set in Pennsylvania are concerned, they can’t all be steel mill layoffs and dark political plots: Adventureland is a pitch-perfect coming-of-age story. In the summer of 1987, twenty-somethings James (Jesse Eisenberg), Em (Kristen Stewart) and Joel (Martin Starr, who steals the movie) find each other in the purgatory of the Adventureland Amusement Park (actually Pittsburgh’s historic Kennywood), passing their days operating rides and un-winnable games when they’d rather be anywhere else. Writer-director Mottola’s success lies in his resistance to romanticizing his characters—Eisenberg’s James, in particular, is just as annoying and self-absorbed as a real 22-year-old Oberlin grad, and gets called on it. Likewise, the Pittsburgh of Adventureland is real, an insider’s city, not a city of landmarks. The film explores the day-to-day Pittsburgh of neighborhoods, of patchy, unruly yards, of dive bars, of wood-paneled basements in old brick houses teetering on strenuous hills. To these characters, it’s also a dead-end town from which escape is the best option, lest they wind up like Ryan Reynolds’ maintenance man Connell, committing adultery in his mother’s basement and bragging endlessly about meeting Lou Reed. “Your life must be utter shit, or you wouldn’t be here,” Joel observes to James at the beginning of the film. But Adventureland’s fondness for its city and its flawed characters shines through such self-deprecation. —Maura McAndrew

32. The Professional

Year: 1994
Director: Luc Besson
I’m not sure when I’ve seen an action film that’s so touching. It could have been incredibly precious and cloying: cute little girl meets strong-silent type neighbor who turns out to be an assassin. But Luc Besson puts just the right amount of edge into his film (how scary is Gary Oldman?). He coaxes a beautiful performance out of Jean Reno—mournful, weary, resigned, tender. And a young Natalie Portman showed very early on why she was destined for greatness. I challenge you to watch the final scene without getting chills. —Michael Dunaway

31. The Running Man

Year: 1987
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
While The Running Man lacks the sophistication and dynamic pacing of a certain other Schwarzenegger-starring/dystopian sci-fi/satire film, its entertainment value is nothing to sneer at. Adapted loosely from a Stephen King novel of the same name, The Running Man depicts a future where everyone dresses like they’re at an ’80s-themed Halloween party and citizens regularly tune into a show where convicted criminals must fight to survive against both their fellow contestants and professional killers. Insert Hunger Games reference here. Between the absurd production design and Paula Abdul-choreographed dance sequences, any attempted satire is all but buried in a thick layer of silly. Still, in terms of sheer fun value, this film is quite the gem.—Mark Rozeman

30. Clerks

clerks netflix.jpg
Year: 1994
Director: Kevin Smith
Does Clerks hold up? That’s a tough question. It’s the exact same movie it was in 1994, obviously, as unapologetically raunchy and jaded as ever. It’s at once barely competent as filmmaking and yet probably the most artistically cohesive and competent work Kevin Smith has ever made. Clerks was never really a great movie, per se, but made a deep impression for two reasons. First off, the rags-to-riches story behind its creation was basically the ultimate summation of the entire 1990s fascination with indie films. Here’s a guy who made an ugly, lo-fi, black-and-white comedy without professional actors for less than a year’s worth of college, and because it had a voice and verisimilitude that hadn’t really hit the big screen yet, he got distribution through the biggest indie film company of the day and the movie wound up making millions. Secondly, if you were a teenager or twentysomething at the time, Clerks was legitimately hilarious. These characters spoke like your friends, or at least like amplified versions of them. It’s far from a great movie, and most of the acting is as terrible as you probably remember, but it still has that middle-class wastrel charm that made it stand out 24 years ago, and some of the jokes still land, even if your taste in comedy has changed greatly since you first saw it. —Garrett Martin

29. Bloody Sunday

Year: 2002
Director: Paul Greengrass
Before directing the Bourne movies, United 93 or Captain Phillips, Paul Greengrass won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival and the audience award at Sundance for Bloody Sunday, a movie about the Bogside Massacre in Derry, Northern Ireland. The infamous day in 1972 saw a protest march against internment turn violent when British soldiers shot more than two dozen unnarmed civilians and 13 people died. Based on Don Mullan’s book Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, Greengrass’ script follows one of the march’s organizers, Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt). Hand-held cameras and the lack of soundtrack give the film an all-too-real feel as the tragedy unfolds. It’s a powerful piece of cinema capturing a terrible day in history. —Josh Jackson

28. Up in the Air

Year: 2009
Director: Jason Reitman
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) lives his life traveling, and he loves it, even though his job is to fire workers for employers who can’t break the news themselves. The gig’s a downer, but at least he gets to fly. His remote boss is played by the great Jason Bateman, Vera Farmiga plays a fellow traveler, and when these actors pair off they’re fantastic. The film is primarily a portrayal of Bingham’s isolation and the depressing circumstances of his job, and in doing so provides a spot-on illustration of the the life of the jaded business traveller who knows his way around an airport better than his own home. —Ryan Bort

27. The Reader

Year: 2009
Director: Stephen Daldry
Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader is a somber, desolate and profound film that does not shy away from the story’s thematic complexities. David Kross superbly plays Michael Berg, a teenager in post-World War II Germany who embarks on an affair with a stern, serious older woman named Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet). A relationship that begins through an act of kindness quickly becomes sexual, tense and volatile. She becomes entranced by the stories Michael reads to her, the grand tales of Homer, Chekhov, Mark Twain and D.H. Lawrence. One of The Reader’s virtues is its great respect for literature, for those fleeting moments in Hanna’s day where she can revel in a world that is not her own. Winslet is astonishing as Hanna, an introverted woman whose past has been locked away so deep inside of her it has robbed her of a future. When the truth about her past is revealed in the film’s second half, the shame of her secret tightens its grip on her throat. Professor Rohl (a terrific Bruno Ganz) tells Michael to learn from the mistakes he’s made so he can avoid them in his own life. But learning signifies understanding, and understanding is the phantom each character in The Reader desperately chases—that elusive resolution not attainable when horrors this tragic happen at your own doorstep, when the people responsible are staring you in the face. —Jeremy Medina

26. Donnie Darko

Year: 2001
Director: Richard Kelly
Apparently, at some point in its burgeoning cult ascendency, director Richard Kelly admitted that even he didn’t totally get what’s going on in Donnie Darko—going so far as to release a “Director’s Cut” in 2005 that supposedly cleared up some of the film’s more unwieldy stuff. Yet another example of a small budget wringed of its every dime, Kelly’s debut crams love, weird science, jet engines, superhero mythology, wormholes, armchair philosophy, giant bunny rabbits and Patrick Swayze (as a child molester, no less) into a film that should be celebrated for its audacity more than its coherency. It also helps that Jake Gyllenhaal leads a stellar cast, all totally game. In Donnie Darko, the only thing that’s clear is Kelly’s attitude: that at its core cinema is the art of manifesting the unbelievable, of doing what one wants to do when one wants to do it. —Christian Becker

25. Tootsie

Year: 1982
Director: Sydney Pollack
Can you imagine how audiences and critics might react to Tootsie if it came out in theaters today? Sydney Pollack’s film plays with gender roles and layers its portrait of an actor going full-drag with gay panic for giggles. You can just picture this film getting lambasted in 2015 for making a joke out of homophobia and for having the gall to ask viewers to sympathize with the plight of an actor who has to dress as a woman to find work. But the reason Pollack’s 1982 classic endures is because of its compassionate heart. This is a kind, empathetic movie that puts its hero, Dustin Hoffman’s cranky perfectionist thesp Michael Dorsey, in the shoes of his female peers to teach him (and us) a lesson, not to make snide jokes at the expense of the opposite sex. The humor is never mean-spirited; the message is rarely pompous, though when it is, that’s meant to be part of the point. Tootsie’s sharp comedy makes it a great piece of entertainment, but it’s the film’s sincere sensitivity that makes it timeless.—Andy Crump

24. The Killer Inside Me

Year: 2013
Director: Michael Winterbottom
British director Michael Winterbottom has yet to really break out in the American box office, but that’s probably because he couldn’t care less. His films run the gamut from purposefully difficult (A Cock and Bull Story) to the unhinged (24 Hour Party People) to the pitch dark (The Road to Guantanamo). Set in West Texas, this thriller from the director of is based on Jim Thompson’s 1952 noir-western pulp novel, previously adapted into film in 1976. It debuted at Sundance before getting picked up by IFC. Casey Affleck turned in one of the most chilling performances in recent memory as Lou Ford, who comes across as your average sheriff’s deputy. His turn as a ruthless, sociopathic murderer is hard to watch, but impossible not to admire. —Michael Dunaway

23. Tombstone

Year: 1993
Director: George P. Costmatos
Tombstone immediately gains the “Sam Elliot bump,” whereby a film with Sam Elliot appearing in it just got that much better, but it’s really Val Kilmer that makes Tombstone perhaps the best (and most purely entertaining) Western of the ’90s outside perhaps Unforgiven. As the sickly gunfighter Doc Holliday, he got the best role of his entire career, radiating both supreme confidence and extreme vulnerability in every scene, stealing the show from Kurt Russell. His final confrontation with Johnny Ringo is a great character study of two alpha males; a true “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us” situation. One of the best popcorn entertainment Westerns of all time. —Jim Vorel

22. Prince: Sign O’ the Times

Year: 1987
Director: Prince
Prince’s 1987 concert documentary is one hour and 24 minutes of a generation’s greatest musical performer at the peak of his career (sorry, Boss). With his touring band that included Sheila E. on drums, Miko Weaver on guitar, Levi Seacer Jr. on bass, Eric Leeds on sax, Boni Boyer and Dr. Fink on keyboards, and Cat Glover dancing, the film pulls mostly from his 1987 double-album Sign O’ the Times, with hits like the title track, a piano interlude of “Little Red Corvette” and “U Got the Look.” It was filmed at two European shows, but much of the music was re-recorded later at Paisley Park. Still, it has an urgency that only Prince can deliver, in multiple outfits, of course. Released theatrically in the States, the film received more love after it left theaters. Now it’s one of the best ways to see what the big deal is about a Prince concert. —Josh Jackson

21. Ghost World

Year: 2001
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Terry Zwigoff’s appropriately somber, stylish, brutally honest yet surprisingly tender Ghost World, adapted by Daniel Clowes and Zwigoff from Clowes’ comic, intimately captures the post-high school struggles of Enid (Thora Birch in perhaps the best performance of her career), a too-cool-for-school type who puts on a seemingly impenetrable exterior of ironic detachment as an attempt to hide her ever-growing insecurities regarding the adult life that’s rearing its ugly head more and more each passing day. She’s so “cool,” that she’d call Ellen Page’s Juno a poser who sold out to a corrupted mainstream ideal of teen rebellion. When Enid and her equally non-chalant BFF Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) see a missed connections ad in the classifieds (remember those, printed on actual paper?), they decide to pull a prank by setting up a date with the poster. What shows up is a shell of a man, a middle-aged dork named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) whose inherent sadness immediately attracts Enid. At first, she becomes friends with Seymour because of a hint of guilt, but eventually comes around to realize that she might have feelings for him. This scares her more than anything, since it also implies that maybe, just maybe, the perfect Ms. Enid, who’s above everyone else, might not be that different from this lovable weirdo who’s into collecting old Americana and blues records. Zwigoff and Clowes, together toeing the comic’s fine line between exaggerated cartoon characterizations and grounded regular people as protagonists, occupy Ghost World with eccentric people, to be sure, but people we all know well. Some of us even are those people. —Oktay Ege Kozak

20. Frances Ha

Year: 2012
Director: Noah Baumbach
Frances Ha is endearing, kind and, in many ways, Noah Baumbach’s best movie since the one to come before it. One could trace his films, from his debut (Kicking and Screaming) to the one before Frances Ha (Greenberg) and see a slow but increasingly steady focus on the individual, as well as his abandonment of an ironic, sometimes caustic stance against the very characters he writes. It is as if Baumbach could only write a certain type of person—the privileged, socially crippled intellectual with either too much self-awareness or none at all—and for a while it seemed like even the writer himself couldn’t stand to be in the same room with such characters. This anger faded, and what has emerged over the course of the films he’s made with Greta Gerwig (who here plays the titular Frances) is an embrace of both the flaws of his characters, and those as a filmmaker. He has settled down and created a film imbued with love, fun and melancholy. It’s a simple joy to watch. —Joe Peeler

19. Star Trek: First Contact

Year: 1996
Director: Jonathan Frakes
First Contact wasn’t the first Star Trek film incorporating time-travel, though the plot device was used only sparingly on the show—it’s not really kosher with the Prime Directive. But we’ll take the Next Generation crew and The Borg over the whale watchers in the fourth movie, A Voyage Home. While the first film from this iteration of space explorers—the crossover Generations—got a little mired in the novelty of having two Enterprise crews together, First Contact let Patrick Stewart and company tackle their most iconic villain on their own. When the Borg create a temporal vortex to conquer Earth before humanity discovers they’re not alone in the galaxy, the Enterprise rides its wake and must preserve the timeline or face extinction. It’s a tight story carrying the weight of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s personal abduction and assimilation by the Borg, driving him with an Ahab-like determination. It also conveys a hope for humanity in the wake of world war that would have made Gene Roddenberry proud. —Josh Jackson

18. The Cider House Rules

Year: 1999
Director: Lasse Hallström
Lasse Hallström’s Oscar-winning adaptation of John Irving’s novel won Michael Caine his second Academy Award, for his moving portrayal of a WWII-era abortion doctor and de facto father to an orphanage of unwanted children. Tobey Maguire is among his charges, an apprentice who reluctantly discovers, under the stern but caring Caine, he has a gift for medicine—that is, before he meets Charlize Theron and decides to venture out into the world. As coming-of-age journeys go, Cider House Rules is as faithful to the tropes as it is provocative, thanks to a balanced if still hot-button dramatization of the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate—Irving also wrote the Oscar-winning screen adaptation. The drama’s refusal to shy away from the issue, set in an age when coat-hook procedures were the norm, polarized critics and viewers alike. Hallström gently presents both sides via the film’s characterizations, aided by a terrific supporting cast including Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo and Erykah Badu. Still, the film is largely, and lovingly, about a young man finding his way.—Amanda Schurr

17. The Naked Gun

Year: 1988
Director: David Zucker
The final hoorah from the comedy trio David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker—ZAZ for short—The Naked Gun is so stupid it’s hilarious. This, of course, was ZAZ’s secret weapon in films like Airplane!, and in Leslie Nielsen’s stone-faced imbecility they found their muse. A former dramatic actor, Nielsen rejuvenated his career by playing Frank Drebin, a hapless L.A. police detective trying to prevent the assassination of Queen Elizabeth. (And in his courting of possible femme fatale Priscilla Presley, he taught us the importance of wearing full-body condoms.) A wonder of slapstick and deadpan silliness, The Naked Gun makes jokes about terrorists, gay panic, boobs, even “The Star-Spangled Banner.” There’s a character named Pahpshmir. Good lord, it’s all so gloriously idiotic. —Tim Grierson

16. The Queen

Year: 2007
Although Stephen Frears’ film is called The Queen, it chronicles the days after Princess Diana’s fatal car crash and has nearly as much to say about prime minister Tony Blair and modern celebrity culture as it does Her Majesty. After the accident, the Queen (Helen Mirren) prefers to keep the family’s response private, but Blair believes she should speak to the rapidly growing throng of mourners outside Buckingham Palace. It may not sound suspenseful on paper, but The Queen is just that; it’s taut, energetic and frequently funny. What’s most interesting about the film’s attitude is that it casts Blair as its hero, but instead of possessing the traits that we’ve admired in other movie heroes—courage, wit, accuracy with a pistol—this hero’s talent is that he has the ability to project an image the people want to see. What he thinks of Diana is never entirely clear, but in this film—in this age—it hardly matters. The screenplay reduces Elizabeth to human scale, but Mirren, with a layered, realistic performance, brings her back from the brink of parody. If the entire royal family had bumbled around the house the way James Cromwell does as Prince Philip, the movie might have seemed like Fawlty Towers. But by playing Elizabeth as contrastingly sharp—even when she’s micalculating the public’s expectations—Mirren re-humanizes the caricature. She plays the queen not as someone unaware times have changed but as someone fighting to continue the old ways, more irked than confounded that people aren’t following the rules. It’s a clash of old and new, of royal privilege and celebrity privilege, and standing at the juncture is Diana, beholder of charisma, a royal and then a royal no more, a celebrity but one made through her connection to people who were born with power. —Robert Davis

15. Baby Driver

Year: 2017
Director: Edgar Wright
Baby Driver is a sugar missile of endorphins aimed directly at the movie dork’s pleasure center, a film that is so eager to get you on its candy-crush wavelength that resistance doesn’t just seem futile, but downright uncharitable. This is nothing you haven’t seen before—I’ve seen it joked that Baby Driver is sort of a YA Drive—and I suspect Wright’s fully aware of that. This movie is all about sensation, about grooving on the very specific but unquestionably catchy hook Wright has laid down for you. The movie is wall-to-wall music, seemingly taken straight from Wright’s own iPod, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We’ve all imagined ourselves, while walking down the street listening to the music in our ears at maximum volume, in a private movie of our own creation, and it is quiet the achievement of Wright to have essentially made that movie real. —Will Leitch

14. Snatch

Year: 2000
Director: Guy Ritchie
Love or hate him, Guy Ritchie has redefined the gangster genre with his hyper-stylized touch. Snatch may be a lesser remix of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but it boasts a multifaceted plot, frenzied action and dazzling eye candy. And how can you not love characters with names like Franky Four Fingers, Bullet Tooth Tony and Doug the Head?—David Roark

13. Spotlight

Year: 2015
Director: Tom McCarthy
Always a director who’s drawn great performances from his ensembles—we’ll set aside the disastrous The Cobbler for a moment—actor-turned-filmmaker Tom McCarthy has made his best drama since his first, 2003’s The Station Agent, with this stripped-down depiction of the Boston Globe’s 2001 investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual misconduct. Starring the likes of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and John Slattery, Spotlight is about nothing more than watching smart, passionate reporters do their job, digging into a story and using their savvy and moxie to bring it to the world. The cast lets its characters’ jobs fill in the backstory of their lives, and in the process Spotlight does what Zodiac, The Insider and All the President’s Men did before it: let us appreciate the difficulty and rigor required for good journalism. Special kudos to best-in-show Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, a ruthless bloodhound of an investigative reporter who may inspire a lot of impressionable high school juniors in the audience to take up the profession. —Tim Grierson

12. The Death of Stalin

Year: 2018
Director: Armando Iannucci
You can trace that dynamic from The Thick of It, through In the Loop and Veep, and then especially in his new film, The Death of Stalin, whose subject matter can be inferred from a mere glance. The Death of Stalin marks a major temporal departure for Iannucci, known for skewering contemporary political embarrassments and turmoil, by taking us back to 1953 Russia. Years out from the Great Purge, the country remains in the grip of widespread fear fomented by nationalism, public trials, antisemitism, executions, mass deportations and civic uncertainty. Iannucci asks us to laugh at an era not known for being especially funny. That’s the give and take at the film’s core: Iannucci drops a punchline and we guffaw, then moments later we hear a gunshot, accompanied by the sound of a fresh corpse hitting the ground. Finding humor in political violence is a big ask, and yet Iannucci’s dialogue is nimble but unfailingly harsh, replete with chafing castigations. We howl with laughter, though we can’t help feeling bad for every poor bastard caught on the receiving end of trademark Iannucci verbal abuse, which typically means we end up feeling bad for every character in his films. He spares no one from insult or injury, even when they’re lying dead on the floor, soaked in their own piss. A tale of mortal sins as well as venial ones, The Death of Stalin adds modern urgency to his comic storytelling trademarks: As nationalist sentiment rears its ugly head across the globe and macho authoritarian leaders contrive to hoard power at democracy’s expense, a farcical play on the political clusterfuck that followed Stalin’s passing feels shockingly apropos. It takes a deft hand and a rare talent to make tyranny and state sanctioned torture so funny. —Andy Crump

11. The Untouchables

Year: 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Al Capone and Eliot Ness—the quintessential gangster and the original G-Man—lock horns during Prohibition in one of the greatest American cop movies ever made. The all-star cast is great, but it’s Sean Connery as Ness’s sidekick, Jim Malone, who elevates this film from standard shoot-em-up to high drama. Director Brian DePalma juxtaposes the stylized and slick with the violent and vulgar, and the contrast serves to heighten our awareness of each. The costumes are rich, the dialogue is a pulp-writer’s dream, and the fact that Capone is brought down by the office nerd makes everyone feel great. —Joan Radell

10. Jackie Brown

Year: 1997
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino’s gem Jackie Brown sees Pam Grier as the title character who shakes up the world of bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). Jackie is the pawn used by everyone from big-time smugglers to the ATF and LAPD. In a world of shifting alliances, unexpected romances and too many double-crosses to keep track of, the charismatic flight attendant finds herself in the middle of it all. One of the most brilliant notes in both the main actors’ performances is the stillness that each brings to their characters—but if the actors are part of the orchestra, so is the music. —Michael Dunaway

9. Trainspotting

Year: 1996
Director: Danny Boyle
Based on the gritty Irvine Welsh novel of the same name, this early film from the director of Slumdog Millionaire and Millions follows a thuggish group of heroin addicts in Scotland and features brilliant performances from young Ewan McGregor, Kelly Macdonald and Robert Carlyle. At times funny, gripping and nightmarishly haunting, Trainspotting is not an easy movie to forget. —Josh Jackson

8. Punch-Drunk Love

Year: 2002
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
It may be hard to recall, but there was once a time when the world believed in Adam Sandler—and we have P.T. Anderson to thank for such a glimpse of hope. Compared to the scope of There Will Be Blood, or the melancholy of Boogie Nights, or the inexorable fascination at the heart of The Master, Punch-Drunk Love—a breath of fresh, Technicolor air after the weight of Magnolia—comes off like something of a lark for Anderson, setting the stage for the kind of incisive comic chops the director would later epitomize with Inherent Vice. But far from a bit of fluff or a reactionary stab at a larger audience, Punch-Drunk Love is what happens when a director with so much untapped potential just sort of throws shit at the wall to see what sticks. A simple love story between a squirmy milquetoast (Sandler) and the woman (Emily Watson) who yanks him from his stark blue shell, the film is part musical, part silent film and all surreal comedy. That this is Sandler’s best role is hardly up for debate; that this may be Jon Brion’s best soundtrack is something we can talk about later. That the rest of the film, which in any other director’s hands would be a total mess, feels so exquisitely felt is almost … magical. And that? That’s that, Mattress Man. —Dom Sinacola

7. Bull Durham

Year: 1988
Director: Ron Shelton
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

6. Field of Dreams

Year: 1989
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
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

5. Inglourious Basterds

Year: 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino’s dual loves of vengeance and cinema have never had a purer expression than the face of a Jewish cinematheque owner (Melanie Laurent) projected Oz-like onto the smoke of Nazis aflame. To an almost touching degree, Inglourious Basterds recognizes that the vengeance driving so many films—and certainly Tarantino’s own—is a cinematic impulse, a fantasy of light and sound, a bonfire of highly combustible nitrate film stock, cleanly separated from common sense and actual history. For once, Tarantino doesn’t allude left and right to other movies, but instead makes celluloid itself a literal part of the story. In this way, he manages to ignite the screen time and again. —Robert Davis

4. Rushmore

Year: 1998
Director: Wes Anderson
Rushmore introduced the world to Jason Schwartzman and helped pivot Bill Murray’s career from broad comic to art-house juggernaut. An unlikely inter-generational love triangle leads to one of the most entertaining feuds in filmdom. Schwartzman’s Max Fischer is an ambitious yet academically underachieving student at the prestigious Rushmore Academy in Houston, and Bill Murray plays wealthy industrialist Herman Blume. The two strike up an unexpected and unconventional friendship, but both end up falling for Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), a teacher at Rushmore. When Max goes too far in trying to prove himself to Ms. Cross by breaking ground on a new building without the school’s permission, he’s finally expelled and ends up in a soul-crushing public school. To make matters worse, he finds out that Herman has begun dating the object of his desire. As with Bottle Rocket, Ruhsmore was co-written by Owen Wilson who, like Max, was expelled from a prep school. He and Anderson began work on the script long before Bottle Rocket was filmed, and Rushmore contains even more of the DNA found in the rest of Anderson’s catalog. Few films remain re-watchable into the double digits, but this one just keeps getting funnier. —Josh Jackson

3. The Hurt Locker

Year: 2008
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty may have been more ambitious in its step-by-step chronicle of the efforts to find and kill Osama bin Laden, but her preceding War on Terror film, The Hurt Locker, remains the more resonant achievement. It’s essentially a character study in the guise of an action movie, with Bigelow’s subject Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), a devil-may-care maverick who not only has a knack for disarming bombs, but loves doing it to a reckless degree. Beyond its hair-raising action and suspense set pieces, much of the film’s drama is driven by the tensions James’s hot-dog tendencies create between himself and everyone around him. But perhaps the film’s most noteworthy achievement lies in the way Bigelow uncannily inhabits James’s perspective while also standing outside of it. When, in its quiet epilogue, James finds himself immediately bored by suburban life and itches to return to the adrenalized theater of war, after nearly two hours of relentless nerve-wracking tension, we in the audience feel the same sense of stagnation he does. “War is a drug,” says journalist Chris Hedges in a quote that opens the film. In The Hurt Locker, Bigelow makes us understand that perspective in the most visceral way possible, to truly revelatory effect. —Kenji Fujishima

2. Pulp Fiction

Year: 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Still Quentin Tarantino’s greatest accomplishment, Pulp Fiction rehashes a handful of other great gangster movies to form a modern masterpiece. In a full-circle plot of crossings and complications, the smart elick of a movie takes us on an ultra-violent and ultra-funny ride with John Travolta at his best and Samuel L. Jackson dropping F-bombs like no one else. —David Roark

1. Raging Bull

Year: 1980
Director: Martin Scorsese
The best film of the 1980s contains one of the all-time-great feats of directing and one of the all-time-great feats of screen acting: The status that Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull has achieved in the years since its release is completely earned. Over the years, much has been made of the weight Robert De Niro gained while filming Raging Bull to authentically capture the physical transformation of boxer Jake LaMotta. While it’s a great symbol of his commitment, the pounds don’t begin to explain the depths of the character portrait he and Martin Scorsese created. The film looks unforgivingly at a fragile, insecure man who communicates his need for love with jealousy, anger and violence. Scorsese’s shots convey the overly suspicious workings of LaMotta’s head, then back out to coldly observe the horrific violence that ensues. Watching it is a fully felt experience. But then there are the boxing scenes: Scorsese deserves endless praise for finding such lively, inventive ways to capture the experience inside the ring. Still, what’s really amazing is that he goes beyond a great sports sequence—each fight serves as a window into LaMotta’s soul. The camera movement, the quick edits, the sudden shifts in speed all reflect his mental state, his need to damage himself or cause damage to others. Such expressive, visceral filmmaking has rarely been equaled. —Michael Burgin

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