When it comes to premium cable, there’s HBO, and everyone else is playing for second. Showtime has a surprisingly solid stable of streaming options accessible through its namesake streaming service and Showtime Anytime platform, a nice blend of current and classic releases. Showtime offers selections that feel more like discoveries, or something you wouldn’t immediately go to. It’s a good place to be in when you’re looking for something new.
The best movies on Showtime and Showtime Anytime
1) Drug War
Japanese filmmaker Johnnie To is an action maestro, and Drug War is one of his best. It’s a blistering ass-kicker about cops and a drug cartel. If you’re an action purist, then I hope you’ve already seen Drug War. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it in the comfort of your own home and no one has to know your shame. Drug War deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of The Raid films, the Mission: Impossible series, both John Wick blockbusters, and even Mad Max: Fury Road.
2) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
As the official home of Twin Peaks, it’s only right that Fire Walk With Me makes the list. Time has worked its magic again and turned the film’s chilly initial reception into a groundswell of support. It all culminates in the show’s triumphant return. This is a case of preaching to the choir, where fans of the show don’t need to be sold on watching it again and detractors aren’t likely to change their tune now. If you’re on the same wavelength as David Lynch, then any trip back into the mystery and grief-stricken world of Twin Peaks is a joy, as there is always something new to glean from the story, characters, and filmmaker.
3) Hell or High Water
In the oppressive heat of West Texas, a pair of desperate brothers decide to rob banks in order to pay off their mortgage. It’s a simple plan and one that might work if weren’t for the Texas Rangers on their heel or one brother’s reckless tendencies. Hell or High Water is a movie that lives in the little moments: Out of towners being schooled by an old waitress, brothers sharing a meal, partners bantering, and cops and robbers having standoffs. There’s a reason this movie became a sleeper hit at the box office and scored a slew of Academy Awards nominations. Times may be tough for the characters, but the audience reaps the riches.
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Richard Linklater’s account of an East Texas murder is a curio, even by his standards. He mixes real interviews with locals of Carthage, Texas, into his fictionalized account of Marjorie Nugent’s murder at the hands of her assistant, Bernie Tiede. Jack Black’s vocal and physical affectations walk the line of caricature, but he never crosses it. He does the best work of his acting career here. Shirley Maclaine matches, and even surpasses, Black’s work as Marjorie. The film is darkly funny and a fascinating look at a relationship gone horribly wrong.
5) The Gift
Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is a nasty thriller about a man who antagonizes a new couple in the neighborhood in increasing unsettling ways. The script is constructed on sturdy genre blueprints and builds something that is recognizable yet hard to predict. The lead trio of Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as the married couple and Edgerton as the creeper is terrific. Edgerton is well-established as a leading man, and he brings the same vigor and terseness to his work behind the camera. The Gift delivers the goods and offers enough twists to throw you off its scent.
6) The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight has grown on me since I first saw it. On the first go-round, I thought it was in exercise in indulgence and every other thing Quentin Tarantino has been criticized for doing. But the movie proved to have more going on that I gave it credit for upon a rewatch. Samuel L. Jackson, in particular, has a lot of depth to his performance, which elevates this Western mystery about a prisoner and a bounty hunter holed up in the midst of a Wyoming winter.
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7) The Others
The Others may have been slapped with lazy The Sixth Sense comparisons when it first came out, but it stands on its own as a superior ghost story. I kept waiting for general audiences to give The Others the credit it deserves. I don’t know if it ever happened, which is a shame. Nicole Kidman stars as a mother protecting her family in a post-World War II society. They’ve been sequestered away in their home, but as it usually goes in a lonely house, things go bump in the night. It’s a slow-burn film that comes to a devastating climax.
8) Déjà Vu
During Denzel Washington’s 2000s run of middling action fare, Déjà Vu is the one most overlooked. It’s a twisty story about an A.T.F. agent (Washington) using a wild new technique to solve a ferry bombing by going back in time to look for the bomber. It’s directed by Tony Scott, so you already know there’s going to be visual flair. But his frenetic style pairs perfectly with the script, and the acting is strong (particularly by Washington and Paula Patton). Give me this over Man on Fire, Out of Time, or John Q.
9) The Babadook
This acclaimed psychological horror film from writer-director Jennifer Kent was a hit on the festival circuit and with horror fans. The film’s boogeyman, the titular Babadook, has been co-opted by the LGBTQ community, as you may have heard. Social impact aside, The Babadook is a freaky film about a single mother slowly losing her mind. Essie Davis plays the mother, and she gives one of the more memorable horror performances of recent times. It’s a testament to Davis and Kent that they can wring nigh unbearable tension out of something as simple as a child coming into his mother’s room.
10) Trading Places
Everyone always touts Eddie Murphy’s work in the ‘80s as a defense for his latter career choices. At first it was a reflex, but as time goes by, it’s become more of a necessity. Murphy’s run in the ‘80s is like Will Ferrell’s 2000s. Murphy and fellow ‘80s titan Dan Aykroyd are tremendous as a hustler and an investor trying living like the other half as part of someone else’s scheme. Directed by another ‘80s mainstay John Landis, Trading Places is hilarious and biting and holds up extremely well.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.