The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

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The 10 Best Movies in Theaters Right Now

For all of the at-home movie-watching options available to today’s audiences, none quite compare to the experience of going out to catch a film in a theater. Paste’s monthly guides for Netflix, HBO and Amazon cover the best of what’s out there if you’re an unrepentant couch potato, but we also want to recommend the best of what’s in theaters right now, a few titles of which are on our list of the 25 best movies of the year so far. And for some of these films, seeing them on a big screen—in public (gasp)—is the best way to support a small film most people wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see.

Check out the 10 best movies in theaters right now:

angel-has-fallen-movie-poster.jpg 10. Angel Has Fallen
Release Date: August 23, 2019
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
If the Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) of London Has Fallen was a Jack Bauer for the Trump era—belligerently and relentlessly violent, doubling down on absolutely everything, “thirsty as fuck”—then the Mike Banning of Angel Has Fallen is a Jack Bauer for whatever moribund purgatory we currently endure. The ...Has Fallen series, of which Angel is the third entry, bears more than obvious resemblance to 24, our good big rectangle boy Mike Banning a cinematic euphemism for similarly fallen former government agent Jack Bauer—both inhumanly committed to their country, and both ruined by it. n 24, what seemed to begin as a jingoistic macho fantasy emerged pretty quickly as a distended study on just how much patriotism costs. In Angel Has Fallen, Mike Banning’s body is an open sore, his head a steaming pile of CTE and PTSD, the whole movie a sometimes weirdly somber affair about the toll of violence. (The last line of the movie is Nick Nolte announcing he’s going to pee himself.) The Henry Sr. to Mike’s Indiana Jones, Nolte is Clay Banning, a decorated veteran haunted by his past. Reunited with his son after however many long years, Clay’s living in the wilderness of Virginia, ensconced within a carefully concealed acre of explosives and surveillance and one well-constructed underground tunnel, only compelled to surface when his son has nowhere else to go. Framed for an attack on President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman, the only man allowed to play Movie President anymore, hot off his many sexual harassment allegations) that left his whole security team dead but the mission unfinished, Mike ends up on the run, murdering (and stealing a semi) his way back to his wife (Piper Perabo) and baby daughter and special best friend the President, who surely will believe that this is all a mistake once he wakes up from that coma.

Director Roman Ric Waugh’s introduction of Mike Banning this time around foregrounds the man’s physical dissolution. Stricken by frequent migraines and constant back pain, only symptoms of deeper issues to come, our hero denies pleas from his doctor to quit his taxing job as his best friend the President’s personal heavy. To his credit, Gerard Butler has settled well into his late-40s body; he is a massive block of cheese, and as Mike Banning he’s learned how to wield that bulk to empathetic ends, embracing the misery of his character’s day-to-day existence. We feel for Mike Banning more than in any other installment, because Butler carries him like he’s seriously struggling, gritting his teeth and holding conversations seemingly staring through a fog. The man hurts. While Olympus Has Fallen sequel London Has Fallen gave Iranian-Swedish director Babak Najafi the chance to push Banning to gleefully needless extremes, Waugh complements his predecessor by attempting something subtler and smaller: to slow Mike Banning down without wrenching the franchise to a halt. Angel Has Fallen isn’t a drastic reimagining of the Fallen mythos, more a simplification, a head-stab at some intimacy. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review

good-boys-movie-poster.jpg 9. Good Boys
Release Date: August 16, 2019
Director: Gene Stupnitsky
The entirety of Good Boys’ marketing relies on catering to an audience who wants to watch a raunchy comedy with 12-year-olds constantly blurting out the f-word and making sexually charged adult jokes. This is one of the rare R-rated releases whose red band trailer the studio heavily prioritizes, and all it represents is a supercut of most instances where the three tween protagonists curse up a storm. The premise, and even specific story beats, follow Superbad so closely that Good Boys could have been retooled as a direct prequel to that hit high school sex romp throwback. (Not surprising that Superbad writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produced it.) Early bloomer Max (Jacob Tremblay), insecure Thor (Brady Noon) and vigilant Lucas (Keith L. Williams), a.k.a., The Beanbag Boys, have been best friends since childhood. Just like in Superbad, our nerdy trio is finally invited to the cool kids’ party and want to hook up with the girls there. Of course, this being a story about 12-year-olds, their goal is downgraded from their first sexual experiences to their first kisses. Max is especially smitten with a classmate, believing wholeheartedly that one kiss with her will turn her into the woman with whom he will spend the rest of his life. However, an ill-advised mission to gather intel on how to kiss results in the Beanbag Boys losing Max’s father’s (Will Forte) precious drone, which prompts a series of wacky adventures to retrieve this McGuffin or Max will be grounded and won’t get to kiss. The mandatory slapstick that results is mostly hilarious—see: the unorthodox way the kids try to pop back in their friend’s dislocated shoulder—though sometimes superfluous and unintentionally terrifying for parents, like a sequence that involves a remake of the freeway scene from Bowfinger. Mainly, Good Boys manages to stand on its own two tiny feet independently from Superbad in how much the dialogue and behavior of the kids ring true. In many ways, the “R” rating feels natural, relatable even: This was the time we all experimented with adult language. What the film’s script gets so painfully right is how we used the words without understanding them. Meanwhile, the thematic glue that holds Good Boys together is that balance between the value of such close friendships and the importance of gracefully taking the next steps into adulthood. Thankfully there’s a lot more depth to Good Boys beyond the carnival curiosity of paying admission price to hear some tween potty mouth. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review

midsommar-movie-poster.jpg 8. Midsommar
Release Date: August 30, 2019 (re-released in select theaters as a Director’s Cut)
Director: Ari Aster
Christian (Jack Reynor) cannot give Dani (Florence Pugh) the emotional ballast she needs to survive. This was probably the case even before the family tragedy that occurs in Midsommar’s literal cold open, in which flurries of snow limn the dissolution of Dani’s family. We’re dropped into her trauma, introduced to her only through her trauma and her need for support she can’t get, and this is all we know about her: She is traumatized, and her boyfriend is barely decent enough to hold her, to stay with her because of a begrudging obligation to her fragile psyche. His long, deep sighs when they talk on the phone mirror the moaning, retching gasps Pugh so often returns to in panic and pain. Her performance is visceral. Midsommar is visceral. There is viscera, just, everywhere. As in his debut, Hereditary, writer-director Ari Aster casts Midsommar as a conflagration of grief—as in Hereditary, people burst into flames in Midsommar’s climactic moments—and no ounce of nuance will keep his characters from gasping, choking and hollering all the way to their bleakly inevitable ends. Moreso than in Hereditary, what one assumes will happen to our American 20-somethings does happen, prescribed both by decades of horror movie precedent and by the exigencies of Aster’s ideas about how human beings process tragedy. Aster births his worlds in pain and loss; chances are it’ll only get worse.

One gets the sense watching Midsommar that Aster’s got everything assembled rigorously, that he’s the kind of guy who can’t let anything go—from the meticulously thought-out belief system and ritual behind his fictional rural community, to the composition of each and every shot. Aster and his DP Pawel Pogorzelski find the soft menace inherent to their often beautiful setting, unafraid of just how ghastly and unnatural such brightly colored flora can appear—especially when melting or dilating, breathing to match Dani’s huffs and the creaking, wailing goth-folk of The Haxan Cloak. Among Midsommar’s most unsettling pleasures are its subtle digital effects, warping its reality ever so slightly (the pulsing of wood grain, the fish-eye lensing of a grinning person’s eye sockets) so that once noticed, you’ll want it to stop. Like a particularly bad trip, the film bristles with the subcutaneous need to escape, with the dread that one is trapped. In this community in the middle of nowhere, in this strange culture, in this life, in your body and its existential pain: Aster imprisons us so that when the release comes, it’s as if one’s insides are emptying cataclysmically. In the moment, it’s an assault. It’s astounding. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review

promare-movie-poster.jpg 7. Promare
Release Date: September 20, 2019 (limited dates and cities)
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
You may not know Hiroyuki Imaishi’s name from a glance, but if you’ve paid attention to any mecha or action-oriented anime released in the past two decades, you most certainly know his work. The 47-year-old veteran behind 2016’s Space Patrol Luluco, 2013’s Kill La Kill and, most famously, 2007’s Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Imaishi has established himself over his nearly 25-year career as one of the preeminent directors of action anime alive today. Known for his anarchic art style, eccentric premises and hot-blooded heroes with way more courage than common sense—harkening to the “Super Robot” action series of the late ’70s and early ’80s—Imaishi is your man for gorgeous anime with big explosions and big emotions. Promare, his first feature in over 15 years and the first film from his Studio Trigger, as well as his third collaboration with screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima, does little if anything to buck that trend. Galo Thymos, a brash, likable and frankly very stupid young man whose life motto is, and I quote, “balls to the wall,” is our protagonist. Galo is a rookie firefighter of the Burning Rescue squad, a high-tech team of mech suit-clad rescue workers tasked with fighting the Mad Burnish terrorist organization made up of humans with destructive pyrotelekinetic abilities. In the wake of capturing Lio Fotia, the leader of Mad Burnish, Galo sets out to discover the origins behind the Burnish terrorists’ abilities and the shadowy malefactors who seek to exploit those powers for their own ends. On the whole, Promare is about as emotionally complex as the Saturday morning cartoons from which Imaishi owes much of his earliest inspiration, with comically elaborate vehicular transformation sequences and a manic sense of irreverent humor accompanying much of the dialogue between characters. But If there’s one aspect of the film where Promare distinguishes itself, it’s with its art style. Rich in brilliant blue and fuschia tones, crisp CG-rendered action sequences and clever callback visual gags like bold-type, screen-eclipsing title cards (à la Kill La Kill), Promare is the best-looking anime to come out of Studio Trigger to date—and quite honestly, could give 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse a run for its money in terms of the sheer density of visual stimuli displayed on screen. —Toussaint Egan / Full Review

the-farewell-movie-poster.jpg 6. The Farewell
Release Date: July 12, 2019
Director: Lulu Wang
Family, falsehood and farce: all the comforts expected of a funeral—when the funeral isn’t a funeral but a wedding. Yes, two people do end up getting married, but no one cares about matrimony as much as saying goodbye to the family matriarch, stricken by a diagnosis with an inevitably fatal outcome. Here’s the trick: No one told her about it. She thinks all of the hoopla is just about the bride and groom to be. The Farewell, Lulu Wang’s sophomore film, is many things. It’s a meteoric leap forward from the tried-and-true rom-com formula of her debut, Posthumous. It’s a story made up of her own personal roller coaster of loss. It’s a neat and, 26 years after the fact, unexpected companion piece to Ang Lee’s underappreciated masterpiece The Wedding Banquet. Mostly, it’s a tightrope walk along the fine line between humor and grief.

Chinese-American Billil (Awkwafina) travels to China to see her grandmother (Zhao Shuzen) one last time, as grandma’s just received a death sentence in the form of terminal lung cancer, but the clan keeps mum because that’s just what they’d do for anybody. A wedding is staged. Cousins and uncles and aunts are convened. Masks, the metaphorical kind, are donned. Wang knows how to find the perfect tonal sweet spot from scene to scene in a sterling example of having one’s cake while also eating with gusto. With exceptions, moments meant to be uncomfortable and prickly on the surface are hilarious beneath, and moments meant to make us laugh tend to remind the viewer of the situation’s gravity. It’s perfect alchemy, yielding one of 2019’s most intimate, most painful and most satisfyingly boisterous comedies. —Andy Crump

once-upon-time-in-Hollywood-movie-poster.jpg 5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Release Date: August 2, 2019
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is as much a run through Quentin Tarantino’s obsessions as any of his other movies—Spaghetti Westerns, bad ’60s television, Los Angeles subculture, so, so many women’s feet—but there is an odd, almost casual generosity that I’d argue is entirely new to him. Is it possible Tarantino, at 56, has finally decided to share? This is a film that luxuriates in its indulgence, but it opens the door for us, at last lets us in. It’s an elegy for a long-dead Los Angeles that Tarantino both wants to sell us on and vigorously stir back to life, an era that, because it ended in violence, can only be resuscitated through that same violence. But more than anything, this is the most Hang Out Film of any of Tarantino’s films, a world that he wants to live in and roll around in and maybe just spend forever in. We follow three characters with three stories, though it takes a while for two of the stories to separate and they all end up in the same place. There’s Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an old-time television star with talent but an alcohol problem whose time seems to be passing him by, symbolized by a series of villainous guest spots on TV shows with diminishing returns. There’s Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Dalton’s old stuntman and full-time assistant/gofer, a man with a dark past but the sunny, sun-splashed disposition of a guy who’s always going to get away with it. And then there’s Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), the Sharon Tate, an up-and-coming movie star who lives just down the road from Dalton with her husband Roman Polanski, with the whole world ahead of her but with … occasional strange characters showing up outside her house. The movie leisurely weaves in their stories, sometimes down narrative cul-de-sacs, sometimes their goings-on simply an excuse to dance through Tarantino’s meticulous, almost sensuous recreation of 1969 Hollywood. But it’s all leading up to the moment when they all cross paths, and history both gets in the way and is shoved aside. The greatest achievement Tarantino pulls off here is, by pure force, to yank this era back to life, to recreate it and revive it as if driven by some sort of religious mania. Dalton might be on his way down and Tate on her way up, but they’re a part of the same world nonetheless, and when their paths cross, it feels like divine justice: It feels like Tarantino at last making history lock up the way it was supposed to. It elevates the material while consciously never wanting to rise up from the muck. This is as close as Tarantino will ever come to showing his full heart, what there is of it. —Will Leitch / Full Review

ad-astra-movie-poster.jpg 4. Ad Astra
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Director: James Gray
Brad Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut from a “future near to ours,” who, when we meet him, is somehow surviving an explosion from an international space station by using his preternatural ability to control his heart rate and his breathing, remaining calm in the face of mortal peril. The explosion was caused by a series of solar flares that, it’s learned, may be caused by an experiment years before led by Roy’s father, Griffin (Tommy Lee Jones), who was thought to have died but may be alive and in fact may have sabatoged the mission. Government officials, fearing the flares could end up destroying all life on planet Earth, want Roy to send a message to Griffin’s ship, hopefully persuading him to halt the flares and come back home. Roy, who hasn’t seen his father since he was a teenager, isn’t sure the mission’s going to work…but he’s haunted by his own demons, demons not entirely disconnected from his father. If this sounds like an exciting space yarn, know that director James Gray is in a much more meditative state here: The film is more about the mystery of the soul of man than it is about the mystery of the universe, or even about some big spaceship fights. The universe is the backdrop to the story of a man and his thwarted issues with his father, and his inability to connect with anyone else in the world because of it. Like many of Gray’s films, Ad Astra is about the depths one can find within oneself, how far down anyone can climb and hide. Pitt wouldn’t seem like the ideal actor for a part like that—charisma drips off him so effortlessly that it leaves a trail behind him wherever he goes—but he’s impressive at playing a man who doesn’t understand himself but suspects the answer to the riddle that has vexed him his whole life must be in this man who gave him life but whom he never really knew. There’s a reserve here that Pitt draws on that works well for him; it’s a serious performance, but it never feels showy. He is searching for something, knowing full well he probably won’t find it. Gray does provide some thrills on the journey of father to find son, and they are extremely well-crafted, particularly a battle with space pirates on the moon that takes place in a world without both gravity and sound. And in Pitt he has a solid emotional center that the audience will still follow anywhere, even if it’s to the ends of the solar system just to confront his daddy issues. —Will Leitch / Full Review

downton-abbey-movie-poster.jpg 3. Downton Abbey
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Director: Michael Engler
“A royal visit is like a swan on a lake,” a footman opines. “Beauty and grace above, demented kicking below.” And this, more or less, is what we are treated to for two hours by Julian Fellowes and his film revival of Downton Abbey, which has returned four years after its series finale. The PBS (in the U.S.) juggernaut is now an Avengers-level film event for Anglophiles, as the entire original cast (or at least, those who were still part of the show in the final season) have returned to tell one more tale from the stately Yorkshire manor. This time, the King and Queen of England are coming for a visit, which is a perfect capsule tale that allows fan-favorites upstairs and down to put on a show. The same can be said of the film, which is never surprising and yet immensely satisfying. We’re introduced to several new characters whose arcs throughout the movie can be guessed during their first appearance onscreen. Yet, because of the production’s light, witty and fully immersive aesthetic, all of it remains a delight (even one very silly attempt at an action sequence). Basically when it comes to the Downton movie, as Barrow (Robert James-Collier) states early on: “You can like it or lump it,” and that about sums it up. There are some incredibly funny sequences, a few genuinely heartwarming ones and so many plots it will nearly make your head spin. But that’s the Downton we know and love, and seeing so many familiar faces and dynamics is like visiting old friends for one more jolly reunion. Downton has always been an ideal, and the movie plays into that with joyous and wonderfully clever verbal exchanges (plus some costuming to die for). Though the series ended in a fully satisfying way, the movie provides yet another perfect finale—while leaving the door open for more stories. “One hundred years from now Downton will still be here, and so will the Crawleys,” Carson (Jim Carter) says matter-of-factly to Ms. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) as they stroll out the front of the manor into the evening, another mark of changing times. We want to watch as much of it as we can. Long live Downton Abbey. —Allison Keene / Full Review

chained-for-life-movie-poster.jpg 2. Chained for Life
Release Date: September 11, 2019
Director: Aaron Schimberg
Throughout Chained for Life, director Aaron Schimberg forces his characters into a tete-a-tete between sympathy and empathy, between acting as object and as subject. In fact, Ingenue Mabel (Jess Weixler) might think that sympathy and empathy are effectively the same thing. They come from the same place. When speaking to a journalist on the set of the schlocky horror movie she’s starring in, she avoids broaching controversial subjects. On casting, particularly the casting of differently-abled people for said movie, she demurs, saying that it’s up to the director, but in her avoidance of discussing the social and political implications, ends up defending Orson Welles doing blackface for his adaptation of Othello. Rookie mistake? When the people playing the “creepy” hospital residents in the film arrive, everyone (other actors, the craft person, the cinematographer, etc.) treats them nicely in such an overly practiced way they can barely keep the contempt from seeping through their teeth. Most of these performers new to the set don’t seem to care, but Adam (Adam Pearson, seen in Under the Skin) smells the crew’s shit. He’s right to: Mabel literally practices in the bathroom how to conduct herself. So nice, so perky, so happy to give Adam, who has neurofibromatosis, acting tips on his first day and corny platitudes like “you’re too hard on yourself.” They play an acting game, with Mabel performing emotions: happiness, sadness. Adam then offers “empathy.” Mabel is caught off-guard. She makes a face. “I think that’s pity,” he says, unsurprised. Sympathy is hierarchical, and empathy is supposed to ask people to identify with others for the sake of justice—as if it’s a replacement for justice—but empathy is peanuts in the face of systematic discrimination and oppression. Schimberg wrestles with this idea, navigating a cultural landscape saturated with (necessary) conversations about representation in media, but what he posits is unlikely to make your garden variety self-identified woke person feel better. Representation is a double-edged sword, particularly when the site of representation (movie, TV show, book) is created or directed by someone not of the group being represented. Pearson, whose performance swings easily between actor acting and his own character traversing the landscape, bounces back and forth, object and subject, whether being condescended to by Max, struggling with the director regarding blocking or talking of his dreams with his friends. He commands scenes with no time for our pity. Chained for Life has no time for it. The film just wants to see its characters live. —Kyle Turner / Full Review

hustlers-movie-poster.jpg 1. Hustlers
Release Date: September 13, 2019
Director: Lorene Scafaria
If you only saw the trailer from Hustlers, the flashy cash throwing, fake meltdowns outside of a hospital and, of course, the incredible athletics of Jennifer Lopez on the pole might lead you to assume that writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s film is a female version of The Hangover. Instead, Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the Universe) has crafted a story of survival and friendship that more accurately compares to classics like The Apartment. At the center of the story resides Destiny (Constance Wu). Destiny’s elderly grandma accumulated a lot of debt, her parents disappeared from her life when she was a child, and all that stands between the little family she has left and homelessness is her ability to work as a stripper. For her, being an exotic dancer pays better than anything she could get with her GED-level education. It’s legal, and it allows her to help her grandma from pawning all of her jewelry. Enter Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). If Ramona showed up at the World Pole Dance Competition, all of the other competitors would go home. She’s confident in a way that makes everyone fall in love with her. Accordingly, Lopez and Wu are dynamic together. Their back and forth works when they’re fighting, when they’re figuring out how to best cook up their drug cocktail, and when they’re sitting around the Christmas table. The gaggle of women who join their crew feed into that energy, culminating in a wonderful ensemble. Rich in character portrayal and energy, the crew is wonderful to watch—even as they systematically destroy lives. An enviably stacked cast and gorgeous cinematography by Todd Banhazl (Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer) come together to present a heartbreaking story of the distance some will travel to get their piece of the American dream. —Joelle Monique / Full Review

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