The Best Movies in Theaters Right Now
While we’re overwhelmed with what to watch at home with so many streaming services offering so many choices, not to mention the age of Peak TV, the theater can be somewhat forgotten. And yet we will always advocate for theaters because they’re unique settings where you can truly become lost in a story, free from distraction and letting a storyteller hold your attention for a couple hours.
We’ll be updating this article weekly, and we’ve compiled the best movies that are currently in theaters. Some of these are almost on their way out while others will be here for a few months, but until these films hit Blu-ray and DVD, we’ll be recommending that you get out, find them at your local theater, and lose yourself in the magic of the big screen.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
The origin of Wonder Woman may be the hook for some people, but Angela Robinson’s story about author William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), and their mistress Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) is far more Kinsey than superhero tale. Robinson wants to look at a healthy polygamous relationship and the emotional complexities it creates, especially for the era. The Marstons and Bryne had to keep their relationship a secret and concoct fictions for their real lives before investing what they had experienced into the creation of Wonder Woman.
Although the movie does play by some standard biopic beats, the richness comes from the characters and the way Robinson never dives into a male gaze. The sexuality between the three leads is never meant to titillate a male audience but instead show the emotional connection and physical trust that’s been built between William, Elizabeth, and Olive. Complimented by a jaw-dropping performance from an acid-tongued Hall, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is both wonderfully uplifting and surprisingly sexy. – Matt Goldberg
Blade Runner 2049
Whether you’re a fan of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner or not, director Denis Villeneuve does justice to the original and builds on its ideas with his sequel, Blade Runner 2049. The new movie takes place thirty years after the original and follows K (Ryan Gosling), an LAPD detective assigned to “retire” (execute) older model replicants (highly advanced androids) when he makes a startling discovery that could upend the world order.
If you go see Blade Runner 2049, you should seek it out on the biggest screen possible. Famed cinematographer Roger Deakins has truly outdone himself here with a captivating mixture of neons, shadows, and a color palette that varies depending on one of the movie’s many imaginative locations. The film is a triumph of the sci-fi genre, and it will have you turning over its weighty themes well after the credits roll. – Matt Goldberg
The Florida Project
This movie will break your heart in the best way possible. Sean Baker’s follow up to Tangerine takes place in a shoddy motel near the Orlando theme parks, and follows the rambunctious 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friends as they spend the summer having fun, completely unaware of the poverty that afflicts their lives. It’s an odd mixture of childish exuberance and crushing maturity, but Baker makes it work brilliantly by letting us see the world through Moonee’s eyes.
The film is socially conscious in all the best ways, never preaching at the audience but instead just lets the situation of forgotten people unfold. The naturalism on display never feels forced or self-conscious, and by giving the movie over to the cast, Baker comes away with a powerful film. Additionally, Willem Dafoe gives one of the best performances of his career, and in a shocking turn, Caleb Landry Jones plays a completely normal guy. – Matt Goldberg
Although it deals with the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing, David Gordon Green’s Stronger is all about the individual struggle and defying easy notions of heroism. The story follows Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), who lost both of his legs in the attack, but was able to identify one of the bombers from his hospital bed. While the world tried to push on him the easy slogan of “Boston Strong”, Jeff, along with his girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany), struggled with the hard reality of his PTSD and adjusting to his new life without his legs. Bolstered by outstanding performances from Gyllenhaal and Maslany, Stronger is a surprisingly thoughtful look at the story we don’t see when the simple narratives are stripped away. – Matt Goldberg
The LEGO Ninjago Movie
Although it’s not quite as sharp as The LEGO Movie or The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie has a big, goofy heart that’s hard not to love. The story follows Lloyd and his pals, who moonlight as a group of ninjas trying to protect their city from the evil Lord Garmadon, who happens to be Lloyd’s father. Although it returns to the same themes of previous LEGO movies—father-son estrangement, reconciliation—it still makes for an enjoyable family film when it dives head first into silly humor and wild antics. Even if you’re not familiar with the Ninjago brand, you’ll still probably have a good time with The LEGO Ninjago Movie. – Matt Goldberg
Even if you don’t consider yourself a horror fan or a Stephen King fan, you’re still going to have a blast with IT. Based on the first-half King’s 1986 novel, the story has been updated to take place in the late 80s, and follows a group of teenagers in Derry, Maine who discover an ancient evil is recreating their worst fears in order to devour those unlucky enough to come into the creature’s path. While director Andy Muschietti clearly relishes the funhouse thrills his monster provides, what sets IT apart is its love and adoration for its young cast members. IT is a coming-of-age movie first and a horror film second, but that emphasis on character and emotion (along with the outstanding direction and cinematography) make the film stand head and shoulders above your average monster movie. – Matt Goldberg
Steven Soderbergh has been gone for too long. While he never really left us (his “retirement” from directing involved helming two seasons of The Knick), Logan Lucky marks his first theatrical feature since 2013’s Side Effects, and he hasn’t missed a beat. While it’s a bit reductive to refer to the film as a hillbilly Ocean’s Eleven (even the movie makes the Ocean’s 7-11 joke), it’s just as fast, fun, and endlessly enjoyable as Soderbergh’s Ocean’s movies. The cast is outstanding, the humor is whip smart and delightfully oddball, and it’s an absolute joy to watch from start to finish. The moment the movie was over, I wanted to walk right back in and see it again. – Matt Goldberg
Ingrid Goes West
Loosely described as The Talented Mr. Ripley with a social media twist, Ingrid Goes West is a delightful and surprising dark comedy that’s definitely worth checking out. Directed by Matt Spicer, the film tells the story of an unstable young woman played named Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) who becomes obsessed with an Instagram celebrity and “lifestyle guru” named Taylor, played by Elizabeth Olsen. Ingrid reshapes her entire life around the lifestyle Taylor shares on Instagram and moves to California in the hopes of becoming her best friend. There are definitely strong Talented Mr. Ripley vibes here, but Spicer keeps things refreshingly unique and funny with a twist-y story that barrels towards a surprisingly moving conclusion. Plaza gives the best performance of her career, O’Shea Jackson Jr. delivers a hilarious scene-stealing performance as a Batman-obsessed landlord, and Billy Magnussen once again proves he can play douche like no other. Ingrid Goes West is original, funny, and surprising and well worth checking out. – Adam Chitwood
Rarely do movies feel as liberated as Benny and Josh Safdie’s Good Time feels while you’re watching it. Thrown into the psychological and physical maelstrom that surrounds Connie Nikas, a low-level hustler and criminal on the run after an armed bank robbery, the audience witnesses a series of rapid-fire trials that test the thief as he attempts to free his mentally challenged brother (Benny Safdie) from imprisonment. He outruns the police, coaxes his wealthy girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into lending him bail money, stages a breakout at a local hospital, breaks into an amusement park, and barters for his share of a Sprite bottle filled with hallucinogens, all in the name of getting his brother home.
Robert Pattinson, far away from the empty postures of Twilight, gives a revelatory performance as Connie, happily embodying a mind that thinks of viable solutions rather than the moral sort. The actor anchors the movie but he never outshines the material, which is edited into an eruptive symphony of sensations and given a disjointed, gripping score by Oneohtrix Point Never mastermind Daniel Lopatin. Nothing feels preordained or familiarly structured to lead you by the hand to what happens next. Rather, the film feels as if it just burst out of its cage, shook the sleep of itself, and promptly bared its teeth. – Chris Cabin
Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film is bound to be controversial more than one reason. While the movie takes place during the 1967 Detroit riots, the main plots focuses on the interrogation and torture of black and female suspects at the Algiers Motel during that time. Detroit is part war-film, part horror-film, and all of it is painful to watch, but feels necessary.
Some may argue that Bigelow, a white filmmaker, working from a script by Mark Boal, a white writer, is not the best person to take on this story, but I believe she and Boal are confident in their point of view, which isn’t to speak for the black community, but rather to condemn passive racism among white viewers. It’s a film that constantly invites the kind of privileged hindsight we see in news stories where white officers kill black suspects, and then it turns around and condemns white audiences for a holier-than-thou perspective. It’s a film that carries itself as a wake-up call, and while some audience members will pride themselves on being sufficiently woke, hopefully it will get others to consider their deeply-held biases. – Matt Goldberg
Taylor Sheridan, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind Sicario and Hell or High Water, makes his directing debut by closing out his “frontier trilogy” with the story of a wildlife officer (Jeremy Renner) and an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) investigating a murder on a Native American reservation. Like Sicario and Hell or High Water, Wind River is a fascinating look at the current state of American civilization, and the privileges and prejudices within.
Although Wind River isn’t as polished as Sicario or Hell or High Water, it’s still incredibly thoughtful as Sheridan adapts a Cowboys and Indians story for the present day, discovering that the boundaries that separated the two sides have shifted and reformed along economic lines. It’s not an easy film, and it’s certainly one that will invite discussion, but if you liked Sicario and Hell or High Water, you definitely need to make time to check out Wind River. – Matt Goldberg
While the premise of Brigsby Bear sounds incredibly dark, like a mix between The Truman Show and Room, the execution is a surprisingly sweet and funny story about the power of creativity. Co-written and starring SNL member Kyle Mooney, the story follows James Pope, a young man abducted as a baby and raised by two people he thought were his parents as well as a TV show called “Brigsby Bear.” When he’s rescued by authorities and brought back to the real world, he learns that not only were his parents his abductors, they also made “Brigsby Bear” exclusively for him. He begins to reintegrate into society by trying to make a Brigsby Bear movie
Although the story could have gone down a twisted path, the movie is incredibly confident in its tone and story, and it’s a loving tribute to how art not only empowers us, but how it can also save us. It’s an unexpected triumph, and definitely an indie that you should seek out this summer. – Matt Goldberg
Dunkirk is the movie that Christopher Nolan has been building toward his entire career. It’s a purely experiential piece of filmmaking—a completely immersive, wholly unique take on a “World War II movie.” Instead of choosing a couple of characters to follow or creating a fictional dramatic narrative within the overall structure of the evacuation of Dunkirk, Nolan instead decides to put his audiences in this event using his greatest tool: cinema. Nolan wisely dispatches with reams of dialogue or giving his characters complex backstories that allow audiences to “relate.” We relate because we feel the pressure these characters are under, and the strong performances from the ensemble allow the audience to put themselves in literally anyone’s shoes. We’re scared, we’re anxious, we’re angry—we feel all the same emotions as these characters because Nolan has so carefully immersed us in their story, not because he had a character give a monologue about a girl back home.
On a filmmaking level, Dunkirk is astounding. Working with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema on IMAX and 65mm film, Nolan conjures imagery that’s herculean in its clarity, but he also doesn’t forget he’s working in film, which can be a majestic medium. There are images in this movie that are almost otherworldly, but Nolan isn’t using visual effects or camera tricks—he’s just using the best tools at his disposal with great skill to bring these images to life.
A word of advice: See Dunkirk large and loud. This is an experience designed for the theater. Don’t wait for home video. – Adam Chitwood
War for the Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes franchise is one of the best film franchises of all-time, and War for the Planet of the Apes is among its best entries. The culmination of the story that began back with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, War feels like its own beast while still building on everything that came before. It’s a trilogy capper in the truest sense, but unlike other threequels that struggle to figure out a direction to go, War is arguably the best film in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy.
There’s so much to love about the new Apes film. Director Matt Reeves makes bold choices with his direction and storytelling, continually taking the narrative in unexpected directions that are still deeply influenced by the Western and War genres as well as the Old Testament. Andy Serkis yet again reminds us that he is the forerunner of an entirely new way of acting, and that his performance as Caesar will be one of cinema’s all-time great characters. And while the “War” part of the title might imply an action-heavy spectacle, the film is more invested in the dramatic arcs of its various characters.
If you’ve never been into the Apes franchise, you’re long overdue. You won’t want to start with War, but you’ll want to catch up with Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as soon as possible so you can appreciate this excellent trilogy. Then go back and watch the original saga from the 60s and 70s to see how bonkers these movies truly get. – Matt Goldberg
Don Siegel’s 1971 film—starring Clint Eastwood as a wounded Northern soldier who is tended to in a Southern all-girls school—was a film that had a lot of room for improvement. Sofia Coppola did improve upon the original. Not just by not having a grown man kiss a 12-year old girl, but by making the soldier’s backstory more interesting via one sentence of dialogue and by giving the women of the house more self actualization.
In Coppola’s The Beguiled, Colin Farrell’s wounded soldier is a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant from Ireland who has no side in the war; he’s just getting a paycheck for enlisting for the North after docking. After running away with a bad leg wound, he hopes to start his new life as a deserter now that he’s cashed in. He’s an opportunist. And the women in the house are an opportunity of a new life elsewhere, a new life that he’s yet to experience in America since he enlisted for payment. Losing his leg would cripple his opportunity and freedom in this new land.
In Eastwood’s Beguiled, McBurny is a US-born Quaker who’s opposed to using guns and that’s why he gets shot. Essentially he’s a Hacksaw Ridge folkie, per description, though his throbbing desire to get laid and his use of firearms in the third act belies the religious declaration of that film. And Eastwood simply plays McBurny as a man in heat, whereas Farrell’s McBurny was trying to seize the best opportunity as a man of no border allegiance and nary any spoken of faith. The women in both films throw themselves at the soldier, but Coppola’s version focuses more on the bartering power they have with them, giving them some equal footing due to his injury and desire to flee the war.
Coppola’s careful attention to female body language and her brief asides to McBurny’s opportunistic nature makes The Beguiled work narratively for both genders, as opposed to being closed off to one perspective. Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning’s full body language is fit into each shot. And I mean full body language; glances that move from the eyes to the spine, to the hips, to the earth. This version is a portrait of the manipulative male ego and the fragility of the male ego when that manipulation is countered. And it’s witty! There are exposed shoulders, cold shoulders, and ultimately no shoulder to cry on for anyone hoping they’ll have a better life after the Civil War ends.
The only real critique I have is that the pace feels a little rushed to get to the end, but that also speaks to how much more time we’d like to spend with the women in the house. That itself is a monumental improvement. — Brian Formo
It’s rare that a Japanese anime feature film makes its way into theaters around the world, rarer still is the anime film that works its way into the hearts and minds of moviegoers. Makoto Shinkai‘s Your Name is one such rare gem. It’s part body-swapping comedy, part sci-fi/fantasy tale that blurs the border of tradition and technology, and part romance centering on star-crossed lovers and high school students, Mitsuha and Taki. And each of those parts is but a high-concept pitch to give audiences something to hold onto; the real beauty of Your Name is in the way Shinkai twists each of these familiar ideas into something magical and unexpected, and the full picture is something greater altogether.
The FUNimation Entertainment release is likely only in North American theaters for a limited time, so see it while you can. And for my full thoughts on the film, check out my review here. - Dave Trumbore
10/6 – We’ve added Blade Runner 2049 and The Florida Project.
9/22 – Wonder Woman, The Big Sick, Slack Bay, Raw, and Paris Can Wait are all now on Blu-ray/DVD so they’ve been removed; we’ve added The LEGO Ninjago Movie and Stronger.
9/8 – We’ve added IT.
8/25 – Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol 2 is now on Blu-ray, so we’ve removed it from this list.
8/18 – We’ve added Logan Lucky.
8/11 – We’ve added Ingrid Goes West and Good Time.
8/4 – Colossal is now on Blu-ray; we’ve added Detroit and Wind River.
7/28 – We’ve added Lady Macbeth and Brigsby Bear.
7/21 – Free Fire and Kong: Skull Island are now on Blu-ray; we’ve added Dunkirk.
7/14 – The Lost City of Z and A Quiet Passion are now on Blu-ray; we’ve added War for the Planet of the Apes.
7/7 – Song to Song is now on Blu-ray/DVD; Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Beguiled, and Paris Can Wait have been added.
6/28 – Get Out, Power Rangers, T2 Trainspotting, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, and John Wick: Chapter Two are now on Blu-ray/DVD, so they’re off the list. We’ve added Wonder Woman, The Big Sick, and Baby Driver.
5/3 – La La Land and Hidden Figures are now out on Blu-ray/DVD so they’ve been removed; we’ve added The Lost City of Z, Colossal, A Quiet Passion, Slack Bay, Free Fire, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.