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, because 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.
So, instead, try to find the following in a cineplex near you. It’s a beautiful time for movies, and a crucial time to support them by leaving the house. No shame in sneaking in your own snacks.
Check out the 10 best movies in theaters:
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Director: Paul Feig
Everything we know going into A Simple Favor suggests one of those Hitchcockian mysteries that blurs the lines between homage and emulation. Its premise and tone are right out of the Master of Suspense’s beginners’ playbook: Through a series of unfortunate choices or just plain bad luck, an average Joe or Jane, whom the audience projects themselves onto, gets sucked into a dangerous mystery that throws them completely out of their element and threatens their lives, leaving them with only their wits and survival instincts to get out of this madness unscathed. Director Paul Feig immediately eases us into this mood of light intrigue through a Saul Bass-inspired title sequence full of sliding split screens and uniformly pleasant colors, aided by peppy ’60s-ish French pop to smoothe out the intensity of the film’s thriller elements. Feig is primarily known as a comedy director who has a knack for improvisational R-rated banter between neurotic, but confident, female characters, and in A Simple Favor those characters participate in in a missing person thriller/mystery. Feig finds a way to keep it all fun and light, injecting well-earned humor even during the uneasiest moments. He can actually get away with capping a nerve-racking Mexican standoff with a slapstick dick punch. As messy and predictable as its plot can get, A Simple Favor is an engaging throwback to the aforementioned tongue-in-cheek mysteries, drawing much of its energy from the chemistry between Kendrick and Lively. It need not be anything more than that. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review
Release Date: September 21, 2018
Director: Michael Moore
Watching Fahrenheit 11/9 is like walking into an intervention only to find out that the meeting is about you. It’s not unreasonable, with Michael Moore at the helm, to expect another liberal circlejerk that exposes our president for the racist, misogynist, criminal, traitor, etc. he is. The past three years have been chock full of “epic takedowns” of #45 in the form of op-eds, TV talking heads and documentary material, offering Americans and the rest of the sensible world a placebo to make them feel self-satisfied and moderately sane. Do we really need our smug thoughts about the terrifying direction in which the country is going pumped back into our heads like an ouroboros of ideology? What Moore offers instead is a stern finger pointed at us, all of us. Our inactivity against and complicity in the slow-moving moral corrosion of our political system resulted in Donald Trump. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a painful but necessary sit-down with the American people to tell us that we all fucked up, that we need to get to work if there’s any hope to save this experiment called democracy. Moore’s film is surprisingly light on bashing He Who Should Not Be Named. What could he say that we don’t already know? All we get out of him is a brief moment where he calls the current POTUS a “malignant narcissist.” That’s more than enough. This is no conspiratorial doc demonstrating how Russia put him in power, either. What it is about is how we remain silent as the world dies around us—sometimes literally, as in the case of the Flint water crisis. In turn, this is the most engaging and emotionally effective Moore doc since Bowling for Columbine. Partly this has to do with the clear immediacy he demonstrates in letting us know that the liberal promise of America is on life support, sparking an urgent fire in his wit and editing that’s missing from his more recent work, but mostly the success of the film is, instead of indicting the rich and powerful, he connects with his audience personally. Everyone can share some of the blame, and should carry some of the burden if there is any hope for course correction. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review
Release Date: October 5, 2018
Director: Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born reminds us that clichés exist for a reason—because they embody a whiff of universal truth that can hit us right between the eyes when it becomes our reality. This latest remake of a perennial Hollywood story doesn’t offer many new insights, but it reaffirms what we know—or what we think we know—about relationships, artistry, the trappings of fame and the demands of the entertainment industry. Its comforting familiarity is both its greatest limitation and its appeal—there are certain songs we love hearing over and over again, and A Star Is Born’s tale of “making it” is one we apparently never tire of. Cooper, who makes his directorial debut and also co-wrote the adaptation, stars as Jackson Maine, a roots-rocker of considerable popularity. But not all is right with the man: Tinnitus is robbing him of his hearing, and his addiction to drink and drugs is becoming worrying to those around him. One night after a show, he goes looking for a bar, stumbling upon a performance from Ally (Lady Gaga), who belts out an impassioned rendition of “La Vie en Rose.” Jackson is captivated by this aspiring singer-songwriter. She tells him she’s been told she’s not pretty enough to make it in the music business. He tells her she’s beautiful. A Star Is Born quickly throws these two mismatched souls together, as Jackson brings her onstage at his next sold-out show to duet with him on an arrangement he’s put together of one of her songs. The performance goes viral. Ally suddenly is in huge demand. The two become lovers. You know every word by heart. His Cooper acknowledges the clichés of his setup while asserting that there’s something eternal and cyclical about their underlying tenets. Yes, we’ve seen all manner of stories about fading stars, rising stars, the toxicity of ego and the struggle to balance career and romance—as you watch this new movie, you feel like you’ve known its contours all your life—but the predictability is part of these characters’ tragedy. —Tim Grierson / Full Review
Release Date: September 28, 2018
Director: David Lowery
Of the many things that David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun does right, staying fixated on Redford’s face is the smartest. Redford, in what he has said is his last performance (though he’s since backtracked from that), plays Forrest Tucker, who, we learn at a calm, leisurely pace, is a lifelong bank robber. And I really mean lifelong: He’s still at it in his eighties in the year 1981, with a small, equally elderly crew (played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits!), hitting banks across the Southwest with precision, intelligence and, more than anything else, a disarming politeness. (All his victims keep remarking how friendly he is.) Meanwhile, a Texas cop (Casey Affleck), dissatisfied with his career, trails him and becomes part of a cat-and-mouse game, with Tucker leaving him playful notes and even, in one terrific scene, popping in on him in the bathroom. The lifelong rogue, who has spent most of his life being sentenced to prison and then busting out, also comes across a widow named Jewel (Sissy Spacek), and they have a gentle, wistful courtship. He clearly cares for her … but he’s a bank robber, and he’s never going to stop. Lowery pushes the story on with a style that’s both lively and laconic, like his star himself; the movie has the rhythm of a fun ’70s laid-back thriller but a certain undeniable mournfulness about the passage of time, of growing old, of lessons learned. (There’s a scene with Redford and Spacek talking on the porch about how their younger lives feel like different people all together that leaves a warm haze that never lifts for the rest of the film.) Lowery wrote the script, and it shares several thematic similarities to his last film, A Ghost Story, also starring Affleck. That film was obsessed with the passage of time, to the point that time itself became almost the main character of its story, eternity’s indifference both awing and moving in equal measure. This film is much lighter and straightforward than that movie, but that idea of identity, and how it evolves and stays constant throughout the decades, is foregrounded here, as well. The story of both is the story of time, how it tricks us, and jolts us, and moves us, the person we are the same we have always been, but also not. The Old Man and the Gun is a jaunty joyride, a valedictory for a beloved American icon and a giddy true story. But Lowery ties it all together at the end: It’s a story about how the years go by, and who we are. It’s a story about all of us. —Will Leitch / Full Review
Release Date: October 5, 2018
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
During the sobering, somber opening scene of The Hate U Give, an emotionally rousing and vital drama about police brutality against people of color, the smart and resourceful Starr (Amandla Stenberg) is barely in grade school when she’s given The Talk—in which African American parents must instruct their children on how to act when they’re pulled over by the police so they won’t get shot—by her loving father, Maverick (Russell Hornsby). Upon reaching her high school years, Starr’s protective mother Lisa (Regina Hall) sends her to Williamson, a prep school in an affluent neighborhood, mainly as a way to provide a brighter—and whiter—future for her daughter while keeping her away from the violence inherent in their predominantly black neighborhood of Garden Heights. Starr’s voice-over, handled honestly as a way to insert the audience into Starr’s psyche (and not as a narrative crutch), informs us that Starr has to act as non-black as possible when she’s at Williamson. Meanwhile, her white classmates can appropriate her culture as much as they desire, as much as they can consume through mainstream media. Back in Garden Heights, she might feel like she’s allowed to be herself, but her neighbors see her as too white and snobby. Then, Starr’s life turns upside down. One of her best friends (Algee Smith) from childhood is shot by a cop who “mistook” his hairbrush for a gun. Starr witnesses the event and has to decide between keeping her mouth shut in favor of maintaining the “non-threatening black girl” illusion at Williamson, or come out to the public regarding what she saw and be branded a “troublemaker.” Casting Amandla Stenberg to carry the project was an inspirational choice: She’s luminous and always captivating in the part, delivering a natural performance that allows easy access to Starr’s soul. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review
Release Date: October
Director: Ike Barinholtz
The Oath is a cutting indictment of all sides, reserving the most resentment for itself—or at least for writer-director Ike Barinholtz, who makes a dark comedy about a news-obsessed upper-middle-class woke white man, an identity which many of us both claim and resent ourselves for claiming. Which is why, even if you don’t fulfill all of the preceding quantifiers, the film can feel so painfully, hilariously relatable: It’s about being angry all the time when you have no real reason to be—about seeing the world so cynically you make the lives of everyone around you, everyone you love, just that much more miserable. Chris isn’t a bad guy, either. Barinholtz plays him in The Oath as he did the dad in Blockers: a genuine person just trying to do what’s right for his family, bound every now and then to lose control, to make mistakes, but otherwise a decent adult human being. Chris witnesses the world around him devolve into political madness, goes to protests every now and then and goes to his office job every day, addicted to his phone and cable news, wishing everything weren’t so wrong and unfair and generally flabbergasted when other people, especially his family members, don’t agree. Still, he’s got a loving wife (Tiffany Haddish, whose performance consistently grounds the movie’s hyperbole), a bright daughter (Priah Ferguson) and a beautiful suburban house big enough to host his family over Thanksgiving—a holiday which happens to fall on the day before the deadline for signing the so-called “Loyalty Oath,” declaring one’s fealty to the faceless President of the United States. Barinholtz seems to understand—especially in how quickly his naturalistic studio comedy devolves into bleak violence—that not only are many of us pretty much terrified of how closely disaster looms, but that such a contrived situation, overtly fascistic but hilariously couched as a way to get some easy tax benefits, would have five years ago seemed too ridiculous to ever happen. Today? Sure, why not. He directs the film with compassion and a trust in his actors that allows scene after scene to breathe, settling in for a peaceful moment or holding the cut for one extra uncomfortable beat to let an awkward encounter linger. More than anything, The Oath buzzes with fatigue, with the knowledge of one’s inevitable responsibility to do something, anything, to stem the tide of unpleasantness to come—and Barinholtz captures it so well, with only his first film, that specific, quietly universal exhaustion of being alive in 2018. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Director: Marielle Heller
Withnail and Sookie St. James make a perilous odd couple, but if you can dip jalapeno peppers in chocolate and get away with it, you can put Richard Grant on the same screen as Melissa McCarthy and make a movie that’s equally as sweet as spicy. The better word, the most accurate word, to describe Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the new movie from The Diary of a Teenage Girl director Marielle Heller, is “bitter,” but however you qualify the film, it’s a gem: rough around the edges, sharp to the touch, surprisingly warm.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the tale of Leonore Carol “Lee” Israel (McCarthy), celebrity biographer, who in the 1990s found herself broke and so in need of work that she turned to forgery, penning fake letters by dead authors and selling them off to a tidy sum per piece. She’s aided by her friend, Jack Hock (Grant), a bon vivant bordering on sociopathic in his disregard for the severity of Lee’s circumstances. Watching McCarthy in grouch mode is entrancing, not the least because she’s so good at nodding to Lee’s innermost insecurities without ever showing them. No one, at a glance, might guess at what’s happening under Lee’s hood, so distracting are her boozy, pugilistic tendencies. But Lee’s nursing a case of desperation that’s more crippling than a hangover, as well as fear of being left behind by her own industry. Her biographical style is over. People want warts. Lee doesn’t let people see her warts; why the hell would she bother exposing the warts of others?
The writing world doesn’t have any use for a woman who won’t play by the rules set out for her to follow. Men like Tom Clancy get to wear their smugness like a crown and make obscene chunks of change writing crap, but a gifted woman with a bad attitude gets kicked to the curb. It’s the great injustice of Lee’s life. We don’t condone her for making a career change to crime, and yet the crime lets her put her talent to good use, showing up the literary elite as the jackasses they are, and there’s considerable pleasure to derive from watching as Heller stages Lee and Jack as drunken, foul-mouthed, avenging angels, righting the wrongs dealt them through pranks and felonies. The greatest pleasure Can You Ever Forgive Me? offers, though, is the chemical reaction between McCarthy and Grant, perhaps an unlikely pairing but no more perfect a pairing than you will find in theaters as we roll into the juddering doldrums of awards season. —Andy Crump
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Director: Damien Chazelle
We first meet Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as a remote, almost chilly flyboy who is less Maverick than a willful, stoic technician. The year is 1961, and he and his wife Janet (Claire Foy) are paralyzed by the malignant tumor attacking their daughter Karen’s brain. When she dies, the family barely holds itself together and, in fact, Armstrong joins NASA in large part because the couple’s mourning is tearing them both apart. From there, we follow many of the familiar contours of the NASA story and Armstrong’s part in it, as he digs himself deeper and deeper into his work—and removes himself further and further from his family—in an obsession with … what, exactly? One of the movie’s slyest, most daring and affecting conceits is that we never quite know what’s going on with Armstrong, and neither does anyone else in the film, not least of all Janet, who is left raising two increasingly difficult boys while her husband buries himself in his work, perhaps to hide the grief that consumes him. It just turns out that work is something that’s going to change the world. This would seem like a bit of a turn for director Damien Chazelle, whose Whiplash and La La Land barely seem to exist in the same universe of Neil Armstrong and the space race. But his lyrical intensity, his ability to find the hard edges of his story while still being able to leave us in awe, is a perfect fit for this material. The space sequences, of which there are three major ones, are like musical numbers of their own, with Chazelle plunging us into the terror of what’s happening, the utter sense that, for all the technical know-how and noble intentions, everything could explode at any minute without anyone having the slightest idea why. These were, after all, experiments, and with those experiments came tragic failures. Chazelle is able to ground us with the details while making sure, when it all clicks together, that it can still soar. Chazelle has shown the ability to lift us off our feet before, but this is a major step forward. —Will Leitch / Full Review
Release Date: September 28, 2018
Director: Robert Greene
Robert Greene opens his essential new documentary, Bisbee ’17, with a quote from American writer Colin Dickey’s 2016 book, Ghostland: “Cities that are haunted … seem to straddle past and present as though two versions of the same city are overlaid on top of each other.” He’s talking about haunted manors littering the United States specifically and not the Arizona burg of Bisbee, but the town Greene acquaints us with indeed straddles its past and present, and something more—a collision between the two in the form of theater. In 1917, at the height of World War I, Bisbee was a critical hub in the war effort, not just a copper town but the copper town churning out minerals and profits. Then the miners went on strike, demanding safer work conditions and railing against campwide discrimination. To quash protests, Bisbee’s sheriff deputized a small army of locals, rounded up strikers in the early morning of July 12th, stuck them on cattle cars, and dropped them off in the New Mexico desert in an effort by the Phelps Dodge mining company and Bisbee’s law to halt dissent and restore order to their bottom line. Greene comes into the story 100 years later, as Bisbee’s current residents, prepping for the Bisbee Deportation’s centennial, decide they must recognize the evils of Bisbee yesteryear. How best to do so? By putting on a reenactment, casting townsfolk as miners, as the sheriff’s posse, as witnesses to the travesty. This is Greene’s jam: He blends traditional documentary techniques, talking head interviews and appraisals of primary sources, with the artifice of feature narrative. Greene’s craftsmanship invites awe as easily as the reenactment itself, scrappy but successfully harrowing in execution. The players get into their roles with more than professional enthusiasm—their performances exhibit a relish and zeal both shaped by an underlying desperation to observe the truth when for so long Bisbee has lived with truth unspoken. As the crimes of the deportation haunts Bisbee and its inhabitants, so, too, are we haunted by them through the filter of Greene’s lens. But that experience, the experience of being haunted, proves vital. Maybe it’s necessary to let history haunt us. —Andy Crump / Full Review
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Dario Argento’s original synthesized his many experiments with the giallo form—the mid-century thrillers and violent crime stores much of Argento’s peers were churning out—into something essential. Gone were the questions of whodunit, the investigative layer of procedure litigating how such evil could make its way into this world, replaced by both a focus on the victims of this murder mystery and a sensual connection to the horrors flaying their young bodies apart. That the film takes place in Munich’s Tanz Dance Academy, though little dancing occurs, projects the film’s insinuated physicality onto the walls and floor as chimeric splashes of fairy tale color, especially (of course) red—we always remember the red—its vibrancy emphasized by Goblin’s monolithic score. Women, in Argento’s film, are vessels: for life, for gore, for art. Luca Guadagnino’s remake, and David Kajganich’s screenplay, simply tell the audience this—over and over and over. What Argento implied, Guadagnino makes literal. And so much of Guadagnino’s film is about transformation—how Germany had to reimagine itself to break the spell of its evil past; how art contorts oneself, irrevocably changes those who create it; how even the media in which the director works must adapt and mature and evolve to transcend the idea that a movie like Suspiria maybe should have been remade in 2018 at all. What Argento made subtext, Guadagnino reveals as text: As much as Suspiria explored the essence of giallo, Guadagnino explores the essence of Suspiria. Less fetishized, much less fantasized, the violence of 2018’s Suspiria is so much more harrowing than Argento’s, because Suspiria 1977 is its violence, and Suspiria 2018 wields its violence like an upsetting symbol, simultaneously too real and too absurd. Much of Guadagnino’s Suspiria feels beholden to nothing, indulgent and overwrought, existing only for itself. Art should never have to justify its own existence, but also: Why does this exist? What motivations conceived this film that seems to want very little—to maybe even dislike—the movie on which it’s based? And yet, it’s unforgettable, as ravishing as anything Guadagnino’s lazily captured in the Italian countryside, as disturbing as any horror film you’ve seen this year and, like the 1977 original, unlike anything you’ve ever felt helplessly drawn to before. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review