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 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:

hobbs-shaw-movie-poster.jpg 10. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Release Date: August 2, 2019
Director: David Leitch
This is the best kind of ridiculousness. Silly earnest monologues are elevated by great acting for comic effect the same way the physics-bending close calls. At one point, Idris Elba—the man who gave us Stringer Bell, DCI John Luther and Nelson freaking Mandela—actually utters the phrase “Genocide Schmenocide” and deserves an Oscar for somehow making that work. Helen Mirren, an actress of such depth she’s been awarded The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, doesn’t look out of place acting opposite Jason Statham because Statham can hold his own against the best. Vanessa Kirby, coming off a show-stealing turn as Princess Margaret in The Crown deserves her own spinoff and whatever Marvel role might come available next. Ryan Reynolds continues his Reynoldssance with a long cameo, recreating his Deadpool schtick as Hobb’s CIA handler. Dwayne Johnson has made the long journey from wrestler once known only as The Rock to bit-part villain to one of the most charismatic leading men of this century. And all of this would simply not work otherwise. The constant banter, the soapy family drama and the dizzying jump cut action scenes would all fall apart in lesser hands. Our movies editor Dom Sinacola maintains that this is one of the weaker entries in the franchise (and obviously I’m not in a position to argue its relative ranking), but to me, this international sci-fi spy thriller is just about the highest form of popcorn entertainment. I believe Jason Rhode now when he wrote of Fate of the Furious in 2017, “It is so over-the-top that it establishes a new top. ... Its exaggerations—like when The Rock lifts an insufferable bureaucrat against a wall by ninety degrees—are as much a part of its deliberate technique as the oversized gestures of kabuki or opera. ... It’s so clever, so perfectly executed, emotionally sincere, self-aware and gloriously cinematic that I think it’s made me happier, and more entertained, than any other movie I’ve seen this year.” That’s a joyous thing. I can’t yet speak to the rest of the franchise (but be sure I’ll at least go back and watch all the Hobbs entries), but Hobbs & Shaw perfects what we loved about those old Bond openings in a way so many other big-explosion action flicks have tried and failed. There’s a reason the franchise has lasted nine entries, and I’m all in for number 10. —Josh Jackson / Full Review

booksmart-movie-poster.jpg 9. Booksmart
Release Date: May 24, 2019
Director: Olivia Wilde 
Booksmart, the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde, is another journey down the halls of a wealthy high school days before graduation, but it’s different enough to be endearing. Written by an all-female writing team—Susanna Fogel, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman—it centers on life-long besties Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) as they attempt to party one time before the end of high school. Wilde and company draw from a whimsical, rainbow palate to explore friendship at diverging roads. Feldstein and Dever shine as an odd couple. Molly wants to be the youngest person ever elected to the Supreme Court, while Amy seeks to discover what possibilities life may open up for her. Easily feeding off of one another’s energy, as Amy and Molly travel around town, jumping gatherings, trying to reach the ultimate cool kids’ party, they cross paths with a diverse array of students also attempting to hide their painfully obvious insecurities. As the night progresses, those masks begin to slip, and the person each of these students is striving to become begins to emerge. The pendulum of teen girl movies swings typically from Clueless—girl-powered, cutesy, high-fashion first-love-centered—to Thirteen, the wild, angry, depressed and running from all genuine emotion kind of movie. Most of these films lay in the space of heteronormative, white, upper or middle class, and able-bodied representation. Even in films centered on otherness, like Bend It Like Beckham, the white best friend is given equal space in the advertising of the film, and the original queer angle was written out in favor of a love triangle. Visit nearly any segment of the internet visited by Millennial, Gen X, and Gen Z women, and the cry for better representation is loud and clear. There’s a fresh-faced newness of raw talent in Booksmart that begs to be a touchstone for the next generation of filmmakers. Like Wes Anderson’s Rushmore or Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides, Booksmart is an experience cinema enthusiasts will revisit again and again. —Joelle Monique / Full Review

spider-man-far-from-home-poster.jpg 8. Spider-Man: Far from Home
Release Date: July 3, 2019
Director: Jon Watts
Coming on the heels of the hefty hunk o’ cinematic event that was Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far from Home is, as one would expect, much lighter fare. That doesn’t stop this 23rd and final entry in the MCU’s initial Feige Phase barrage from serving as an effective coda for Endgame even as it presents what is, in many ways, a classic Spider-Man adventure. Far from Home takes place soon after the events of Endgame: Peter Parker’s school, like the rest of the world, is dealing with the practical challenges of having half a student body that vanished five years earlier suddenly return—at the same age they left. Everyone knows about the Avengers’ sacrifices—Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is mourned and mythologized in particular. For his part, Peter (Tom Holland), a guy whose father figures have an especially short lifespan, is trying to mostly ignore the big questions associated with trying to fill his mentor’s shoes in favor of keeping his eyes on a more personal, but no less daunting goal—telling MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. To do so, all he needs is an upcoming class trip to Europe, a Murano glass necklace and some time that doesn’t involve web shooters and saving the world. Along with having a Grade A capturing of a C-tier villain (Mysterio), Spider-Man: Far from Home is (relatively) small, sincere and funny, and has more than your usual MCU allotment of post-credit bombshells. Though a comparatively recent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is already Tom Holland’s fifth film as Spider-Man in three years. Like so many other casting decisions made in the MCU, he’s proven himself near perfect in the role. No Golden Age lasts forever, and the MCU will eventually stumble—but as long as they can spin box office (and audience) gold from relatively the Mysterios and Vultures of Spidey’s rogues gallery, it won’t be Holland’s Spider-Man that is the first to stumble. —Michael Burgin / Full Review

midsommar-movie-poster.jpg 7. Midsommar
Release Date: July 3, 2019
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

art-self-defense-movie-poster.jpg 6. The Art of Self-Defense
Release Date: July 12, 2019
Director: Riley Stearns
Boys aren’t supposed to enjoy being fussed over or decorated, and boys who do need to be corrected, the thinking goes. The Art of Self-Defense seems at first as if it’s just about how silly the axiomatic trappings of masculinity are. Then you realize that, no, it’s also about how scary they are, too. Casey (Jesse Eisenberg, in a role seemingly written to fit him like a glove) is a squirrely man who works a boring job and finds himself at the bottom of every social pissing order he encounters, be it French tourists who ridicule him in the steadfast belief he couldn’t possibly understand their language (he can), or the jerks at the office who sit around talking shit. When he’s randomly attacked on a walk back home from the store, it knocks something loose in him, and he finds himself taking whatever steps necessary to protect himself, be it by buying a gun or wandering into the karate dojo of “Sensei” (Alessandro Nivola). Sensei’s straight-faced sophistry is exactly what a terrified, inadequate young man like Casey is searching for, and he quickly throws himself into the inner workings of the dojo to the exclusion of all his other responsibilities.

Inevitably, Casey finds himself at Sensei’s mercy, manipulated into committing violence against a random bystander. He begins to witness firsthand the abuse Sensei levels at his own students, the tactics he uses to build their self-esteem through group violence, but never high enough that they aren’t in awe of him. That includes Imogen Poots’ super serious, murderously intense Anna, one of the dojo’s founders who nonetheless is passed over for promotion time and again. She’s useful for teaching the children’s morning classes, though, because of course a woman has stronger maternal instincts—it can’t be helped. The world of The Art of Self-Defense is an immaculately contained space, as claustrophobic and unmoored as modern life, filmed almost exclusively in cramped interiors and dingy rooms with sickly lighting. Something feels off about Sensei and his dojo right from the get-go, and as more layers of his deception and manipulation are peeled back, it all paints a perfect portrait of a social order based on hateful, dangerous bullshit, but one so alluring that you completely believe the prisoners within it really would never think to leave. Though the film veers heedlessly into the truly Grand Guignol, the parody of toxic masculinity only feels exaggerated by a very little bit. The Art of Self-Defense doesn’t argue for compassion and acknowledgment of one’s softer side so much as it argues you should fight against toxic bullshit. Preferably with a well-timed sucker punch. —Kenneth Lowe / Full Review

the-farewell-movie-poster.jpg 5. 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

toy-story-4-movie-poster.jpg 4. Toy Story 4
Release Date: June 21, 2019
Director: Josh Cooley
We were all concerned about Toy Story 4. How could we not be? This is perhaps the most beloved animated franchise of the last 50 years, and, in the eyes of many, each movie has been a little better than the last one. That final one, Toy Story 3, ended in such a perfect, emotionally devastating fashion that trying to follow it up felt like the ultimate fool’s errand. And in the nine years since that installment, Pixar, as a company, has changed, becoming more corporate, more sequel-focused, more …Disney. What a relief it is, then, that Toy Story 4 is such an immense joy. It might not reach the heights of Toy Story 3—which manages to be a prison escape movie that also happens to be a profound dissertation on grief and death and features a surrealist tortilla—but it is a more than worthy member of the Toy Story family. Like its protagonist, it’s less concerned with trying to do something revolutionary just because it’s done it in the past and instead worries about what comes next …what the next logical progression is. It finds the next step, for Woody (voiced as ever by Tom Hanks in what honestly has always been one of his best roles), and the franchise, while still being as hellzapoppin’ and wildly entertaining as you have come to expect from this franchise. The overarching theme in Toy Story 4 isn’t as much death as it is loss—loss of purpose, loss of meaning, loss of value. What do you do with yourself when the best thing you’ll ever be a part of is already over? How do you find drive in life when your lifelong goal has been accomplished? How do you handle getting old and not being needed anymore? If these seem like heady concepts for a Toy Story movie …you’ve never seen a Toy Story movie. —Will Leitch / Full Review

the-mountain-movie-poster.jpg 3. The Mountain
Release Date: July 26, 2019 (select cities)
Director: Rick Alverson
As his boss, Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), flirts with a group of hospital staff, our young, torpid protagonist Andy (Tye Sheridan) fixates on a corner of the hospital hallway so ordinary it may be invisible, so dusty it may not even exist. No one usually notices seams like this—the literal borders where pieces come together, where we’re given spaces to live within. He stares at the corner; so do we, noting the molding and dust particles gone matte-green and bored symmetry. Until our attention’s suddenly broken by Andy taking a picture. He’s driven here with Wally (as the “ladies call” him, a guy Andy’s only recently met who “knew” Andy’s “mother”) to help convince these doctors and nurses populating these hospitals and asylums and assorted holding facilities, all hidden within the morass of forests and mountain country spreading from Washington down into California’s Mt. Shasta area, of a controversial new mental health procedure Wally’s pitching. Traveling lobotomist, Wally enlists Andy to document his exploits. And for a man like Andy, who spends large portions of his day staring—at walls and floors and middle distances and nothing—observing and documenting seem like constructive uses of time. Scrunching their world within a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, director Rick Alverson and cinematographer Lorenzo Hagerman seem obsessed with frames—with how hallways and doorways and stairwells and roadways and limited fields of vision define the bodies of our characters, confine them to estimable empty space. Andy and Wally—two tall, lithe men—say very little, as is the case with most people they encounter on their sojourn throughout the Pacific Northwest, spreading the gospel of Wally’s methods. What little we learn of those methods we learn alongside Andy, who comes to realize that the same methods were used on his mother, a former patient of Wally’s. They involve electro-shock therapy, then an ice-pick-like tool inserted into the patient’s frontal lobe through the eye socket. We stare as someone maybe dies on the operating table. “Bring in the next one,” Wally demands, blood splotched across his own eye socket.

Throughout, Tye Sheridan embodies Andy as a physical manifestation totally uncomfortable with what that means. Tilted and inward, Andy stipples through every set as if he can’t get the performance of being human quite right, and his many dreams of sex in flux confuse that alien feeling even further. He wonders where his mother’s mind went because that’s where he’s supposed to be—not exactly dead, but not exactly regulated by all these hallways and doorways and roadways and other kinds of frames and borders and structures that keep us down. By contrast, Jeff Goldblum wields his large body like the force for good it could be, knowing he holds sway with those in his orbit, but equally aware of how exaggeratedly he also holds the weight of what kind of travesties his character’s committing. Both actors—one near the end of his career and one only beginning—occupy the screen magnificently, effortlessly, as if they’re conjuring strange iconography from a collective traumatic past. It’s heartbreaking stuff. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review

nightingale-movie-poster.jpg 2. The Nightingale
Release Date: August 2, 2019 (select cities)
Director: Jennifer Kent
Calling The Nightingale a revenge film sets an expectation of triumph, found in the satisfaction of grim justice done on the unjust. Let it be known that there’s no such catharsis in Jennifer Kent’s followup to her 2014 debut The Babadook. Revenge, while indeed a dish best served cold, tends to be prepared in one of two ways in cinema: with fist-pumping vigor or soul-corroding sobriety. The Nightingale sticks with the recipe for the latter. This is neither a pleasant movie nor a pleasing movie, but it is made with high aesthetic value to offset its unrelenting pitilessness: It’s fastidiously constructed, as one should expect from a director of Kent’s talent, and ferociously acted by her leading trio of Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr and Sam Claflin, respectively playing Clare, an Irish convict driven by rage; Billy, an Aboriginal tracker driven by vengeance; and Hawkins, a British military officer driven by cold ambition and bottomless malice, who’s also Clare’s master and rapist. They’re three peas in a horrible pod, being 1820s Tasmania during the Black War, when English colonists slaughtered Aboriginal Tasmanians to the latter’s near extinction. It’s an altogether dark time in the country’s long history. Thus, The Nightingale is an appropriately dark film—but Kent is too shrewd a filmmaker to argue that Clare’s suffering trumps Billy’s, or to make any equivalency between them. She understands what must happen to fulfill Clare’s part in the story, and what must happen to fulfill Billy’s part. That she’s able to so seamlessly achieve both is an incredible accomplishment. The Nightingale is a far cry from The Babadook on obvious grounds of genre and style, though there are horrors here aplenty: Nightmare beats where Clare dances with Aidan, then with Hawkins and her other attackers. But the film expands on Kent’s interest in women’s stories by telling Billy’s tale alongside Clare’s, and shows once more her gift for making well-tread genre elements feel unique. If The Nightingale denies the traditional satisfactions of revenge cinema, it discovers new ones as well. —Andy Crump / Full Review

once-upon-time-in-Hollywood-movie-poster.jpg 1. 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

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