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.
The Shape of Water
A romance story between a mute woman and a fish man seems like a joke at first, but in the hands of director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro, it’s one of the finest fantasy romances of the year. The story takes place during the Cold War and follows Eliza (Sally Hawkins), a cleaning lady at a government facility that has recently captured an amphibious creature (Doug Jones). Eliza falls for the fish man and resolves to free him, with the help of her kindly neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), from captivity and the torture he’s receiving at the hands agent Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).
Del Toro has long been a master of design, but what makes films like The Shape of Water stand out is that he’s completely unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. While others may have worried about the story being too weird or too earnest, del Toro makes his movie about unconventional love and how essential it is to our world. The sci-fi trappings may be in his comfort zone, but like his best films, the genre gives itself over to deeper themes and emotions. The Shape of Water is about the transcendent power of love, so it’s only fitting that the film transcend genre. – Matt Goldberg
The Disaster Artist
Whether you’ve seen The Room or not, The Disaster Artist is a painfully funny and surprisingly heartwarming story about following your dream no matter the cost or your perceived level of talent. Rather than simply making a movie for Room devotees, director/star James Franco has made an ode to friendship, starring opposite his brother Dave to tell the story of Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, respectively, and their unlikely kinship that led to one of the best bad movies ever made. Stacked with an outstanding comedic cast, you’ll be laughing from start to finish, but you’ll also feel a great swell of sympathy for Wiseau. The Room may be one of the worst movies ever made, but The Disaster Artist is among the year’s best. – Matt Goldberg
Although Pixar isn’t the unstoppable force it once was, they can still put together a great movie from time to time and Coco is definitely the studio operating at the top of its game. While it certainly falls into the familiar Pixar tropes—a buddy movie where two characters go on a trip of some kind—Lee Unkrich’s film stands apart due to its deep and abiding love for Mexican culture and putting the importance of family at the core of the story.
The movie boasts excellent music, a heartwarming story, memorable characters, and eye-popping design as its leads traverse the Land of the Dead on Dia de Los Muertos. Although I thought the film would be enjoyable, I didn’t expect it to eventually move me to tears. This is the movie you need to see with your family this holiday season. – Matt Goldberg
Call Me By Your Name
Call Me by Your Name is not only one of the best movies in theaters right now, it’s one of the best movies of 2017. Based on the novel by André Aciman and directed by A Bigger Splash and I Am Love filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, the film takes place in 1983 and stars Timothée Chalamet as a precocious 17-year-old American-Italian boy who’s on summer vacation with his family at their Italian villa. When a charming American scholar (Armie Hammer) comes to work with the boy’s father, a summer romance sparks that awakens feelings of first love. The film is rapturously sensual, carefully crafted, and wildly emotional. For two hours, Guadagnino and these actors transport the audience to an Italian summer full of possibility, anxiety, lust, and love. The performances are astounding and Guadagnino’s attention to detail—from the tactile sound design to the lush visuals—leads to an intimate, transfixing viewing experience that is impossible to shake long after you’ve left the theater. – Adam Chitwood
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
If you need a Coen-esque fix for this year, you’re not going to do much better than Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Featuring Frances McDormand in yet another Oscar-worthy turn, she plays an angry, grieving mother who, in her rage at the local police department being unable to solve her daughter’s rape and murder, rents three billboards calling out the sheriff (Woody Harrelson).
What makes Three Billboards such a marvel is that even though McDonagh beautifully laces it with pitch black humor, the soul of the movie is about the impossibility of justice and the cost of redemption. Rather than offer homilies and salves, Three Billboards is bitter and angry, and it provides no easy answers. Even the redemption arc for a corrupt local cop, played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell, is complicated by his vile actions against his personal sacrifice. Three Billboards isn’t a light movie, but it’s one that’s absolutely worth seeing. – Matt Goldberg
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut may not break the mold of the coming-of-age dramedy, but it does it about as well as anyone else. The movie follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan gunning for yet another well-deserved Oscar nomination), a senior at a Catholic high school who dreams of moving away from Sacramento and living to her full potential at an East Coast college. During the course of her tumultuous senior year, she falls in love, out of love, in love, out of love, and has constant friction with her mother (Laurie Metcalf).
Despite being a coming-of-age dramedy, Gerwig’s does what all the best films of the genre do, which is to feel lived in and genuine. Rather than aiming for quirk or whining about being misunderstood, Lady Bird comes across as a real person. She may be a bit more colorful than your average teen, but her moods and desires always come across as honest, which lends the film not only credibility, but warmth and charm. – Matt Goldberg
The third Thor movie is an absolute blast. The latest installment is drastically different than the first two Thor movies and while it weaves in a lot of what came before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the tone is all director Taika Waititi. The movie is unabashedly comic, silly, and willing to go to any lengths for the best joke possible, and it usually succeeds. Waititi realizes that star Chris Hemsworth is an incredibly gifted comic actor, and gives him room to shine will surrounding him with a cast of colorful characters.
While the extreme difference in tone may alienate those who loved the first two Thor films, Ragnarok feels like the more rewarding direction for the character. It has a clear personality, it’s gorgeous to look at, the score is one of the best ever for a Marvel movie, and it’s fun from start to finish. By the time it’s over, you’ll be debating which character steals the movie (the correct answer is Korg). – Matt Goldberg
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
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
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
12/1 – We’ve removed Logan Lucky and added The Disaster Artist and The Shape of Water.
11/24 – We’ve removed Good Time and added Coco and Call Me By Your Name.
11/17 – Wind River and Brigsby Bear are now on Blu-ray/DVD.
11/10 – Your Name and Ingrid Goes West are now available on Blu-ray/DVD; we’ve added Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
11/3 – We’ve added Thor: Ragnarok and Lady Bird.
10/27 – War for the Planet of the Apes and Personal Shopper are now on Blu-ray and DVD, so they’ve been removed from the list.
10/20 – We’ve removed Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Beguiled, which are now on Blu-ray/DVD.
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.