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.
Annihilation is not a sci-fi action movie, but it’s so much better than that. The new film from Ex Machina director Alex Garland is a cerebral, horrifying look at self-destruction, decay, and coming to grips with both. Natalie Portman plays a biologist who, along with a team of fellow scientists, goes to investigate an unexplained phenomenon called “The Shimmer” in order to find out what happened to her husband (Oscar Isaac). The imagery in the movie is stunning, and it features some truly horrifying creatures. At times the film plays like “What if Kubrick and Tarkovsky had a baby, and that baby made The Thing?” It’s riveting, mesmerizing, and an experience you won’t soon forget. – Matt Goldberg
Ryan Coogler’s Marvel movie might end up being one of the most influential films of the decade. It’s a movie that fearlessly puts politics at the center of a blockbuster, and celebrates black men and women who are able to change the world. Although it occasionally has to stick to the superhero script, following the rise of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he grapples with what kind of country he wants Wakanda to be is compelling stuff, especially when matched against the alluring villain Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Beautifully crafted with outstanding costume design, art direction, and cinematography, Black Panther is a wonder to behold, and you’ll want to return to Wakanda moments after the credits roll. – Matt Goldberg
If you’re afraid Phantom Thread keeps up the obtuseness of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s previous two features, Inherent Vice and The Master, don’t be. This movie is hilarious. Not hilarious for a 1950s London fashion world-set period drama, but straight-up hilarious. Anderson has crafted a meticulous, snappy romance here that is packed to the brim with the kind of high society biting wit that would make the cast of Downton Abbey blush.
The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis in his final onscreen role as an iconic dressmaker in 1950s London, who lives and works alongside his sister (Lesley Manville). However, after striking up what he thinks will be another short-lived relationship with a young woman from the country (Vicky Krieps), his fine-tuned world—in which everything revolves around him—is upended in the best way possible. There are shades of Rebecca here, and the entire film is impeccably crafted with a phenomenal Johnny Greenwood score and gorgeous cinematography. The performances are fantastic, breathing life into complex, self-serious characters while Anderson’s script knows exactly which buttons to push.
Phantom Thread is a delight through and through; a story about love, sacrifice, and “tortured” artists. And it may just be one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s very best films. — Adam Chitwood
This movie is a pure delight from start to finish, and it’s even better than the terrific first film. This time around Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is trying to get a birthday present for his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton), but he ends up getting framed for robbery by a nefarious, diabolical, washed-up stage actor (Hugh Grant being hilarious and wonderful). Paddington’s family must unite to prove his innocence while Paddington learns to make friends in prison, including the facility’s grizzled cook, Knucles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson).
There should be a law against making a movie this charming and lovable, but Paddington 2 is just a bright ray of sunshine about the importance of being kind and helping others. It should be corny and mawkish, but it comes off as completely earned and honest. If you’re feeling down, Paddington 2 will definitely brighten your day. – Matt Goldberg
When you have Steven Spielberg and this cast at the top of their game, you’re bound to come away with a good movie. While many will point out how timely The Post is—and it certainly doesn’t shy away from the necessity of a free press or the importance of powerful women in the workplace—the film is also just remarkably crafted from top to bottom. The entire cast is outstanding, Spielberg continues to show why he’s a living legend, and the story is impeccably told even if it can be a little on the nose at times with its critiques and declarations.
And yet The Post makes for an enjoyable picture where you get to see seasoned journalists diving into the nitty-gritty of their work. For anyone who misunderstands journalism or is quick to blow off the media, The Post makes a forceful point about what journalists actually do both in terms of dramatically finding sources and the less glamorous work of digging through pages of documents. In a time where the President whines about “Fake News” every time he hears a story he doesn’t like, The Post feels like a story we need now more than ever. – Matt Goldberg
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will probably go down as the most divisive Star Wars movie to date. Whereas the Original Trilogy and The Force Awakens are liked-to-loved and the prequels are generally ignored, The Last Jedi, by virtue of taking bold chances and really toying with the mythology is bound to split audiences into those who appreciate how it’s doing something different and those that wish it was more familiar. For me, I’m glad that writer-director Rian Johnson takes some risks with the latest film, upending expectations but never losing sight of character arcs.
The Last Jedi is a Star Wars movie that’s actually challenging, still offering space fantasy escapism, but tuned into the political undertones of this world as well as the dynamics that make it tick. The movie does so many things right, and there’s just as much love here for the Star Wars movies as there was in The Force Awakens. The key difference is that while Abrams paid loving homage to the original trilogy, Johnson wants to take Star Wars apart and see what makes it tick. That makes The Last Jedi a more rewarding experience even if it’s bound to upset some die-hard fans. – Matt Goldberg
Biting and acerbic, I, Tonya is a powerful, thoughtful, and surprisingly funny look at how notorious figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) never got a fair shake. Best viewed with the 30 for 30 documentary The Price of Gold so you can see how accurate I, Tonya really is, Craig Gillespie‘s movie zeroes in on the fact that Harding didn’t make herself a victim, and yet she was abused throughout her life, first by her mother LaVona (Allison Janney in an Oscar-worthy performance), then her husband Jeff (Sebasitan Stan), and finally by the public at large.
What’s refreshing about I, Tonya is that it doesn’t make Harding out to be a martyr or a saint. She’s not exactly “likable”, but what the film asks from us is to understand where she came from and how she got a raw deal. It’s the kind of story we weren’t telling in the 90s because we were too busy ridiculing Harding, and the great well of empathy the movie has for her is astounding. Thankfully, the movie never becomes sappy thanks to the electric performances, a sharp tone, and Coen-esque humor. I, Tonya may not give Harding a “second chance”, but it shows she never really had much of a chance at all. – Matt Goldberg
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
2/23 – We’ve removed The Florida Project and added Annihilation.
2/16 – We’ve added Black Panther.
2/1 – We’ve removed Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, which is now available on Blu-ray/DVD.
1/19 – We’ve removed IT and Blade Runner 2049; we’ve added Paddington 2.
12/22 – We’ve removed Stronger, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and Dunkirk; we’ve added The Post.
12/15 – We’ve removed Detroit and added I, Tonya and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
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.