The 10 Best Movies in Theaters (October 2016)

Movies Lists MOONLIGHT
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The 10 Best Movies in Theaters (October 2016)

For all of the at-home movie-watching options available to today’s audiences, none quite compare to the communal experience of going out to catch a film in a theater. Paste’s monthly guides for Netflix and HBO and Amazon and Showtime and Redbox cover the best of what’s out there if you’re a diehard couch potato, but we also want to recommend the best of what’s in theaters right now, from indie films playing the local arthouse to blockbusters running on multiple megaplex screens. (Some may be easier to find in your city than others.) Remember: Great films are worth the effort.

Here are the 10 best movies out in October:

10. Christine


Release Date: October 14, 2016
Directors: Antonio Campos
Why did TV journalist Christine Chubbuck take her life on camera in 1974? The brilliance of this Antonio Campos drama is that it tries to answer that question while still respecting the enormity and unknowability of such a violent, tragic act. Rebecca Hall is momentous as Christine, a deeply unhappy woman whose ambition has never matched her talent, and the actress is incredibly sympathetic in the part. As we move closer to Christine’s inevitable demise, we come to understand that Christine isn’t a morbid whodunit but, rather, a compassionate look at gender inequality and loneliness. —Tim Grierson / TIFF Review

9. The Alchemist Cookbook

alchemist cookbook.jpg

Release Date: October 7, 2016
Director: Joel Potrykus
Condescension is as far from Potrykus’s black-comic sensibility as one could imagine. That is not to say, however, that his oddball protagonists—Sean here, and the characters Joshua Burdge played in the director’s previous two features, Buzzard and Ape—are likable characters by any means. Buzzardcentered around a slacker named Marty Jackitansky who made it a badge of honor to try to scam the capitalist system in his own small ways, and who spent much of his free time perfecting a Freddy Krueger-like “Power Glove” with knives sticking out of it. Never does Potrykus try to make this main character appealing any more than he lets Sean off the hook for his increasingly crazy behavior out in the woods. And yet, Potrykus’s films seem animated by a genuine fascination with his eccentric main characters: a sincere desire to dissect them, to understand them, to present them to us in all their unadorned loopy glory for either our amusement or disdain. —Kenji Fujishima / Full Review

8. Under the Shadow

under the shadow.jpg

Release Date: October 7, 2016
Director: Babak Anvari
The appeal of Under the Shadow is not in ascertaining what the djinn really is or what it might want, but what its “presence” reveals about the film’s lead, wracked by doubt in her abilities as a mother and inherently distrustful of her own environment—not to mention what it reveals about writer-director Anvari, whose life during this time wasn’t hugely dissimilar from Dorsa’s (he, like Dorsa, was largely raised by his mother in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq conflict, his doctor father sent by the government to the frontline). His is a film about the supernatural, but it’s also by his own admission autobiographical. It’s a primal scream of a movie, with the djinn possibly the unease Anvari felt as a child made physical, a manifestation of his former country’s anxiety at a time of unremitting strife. —Brogan Morris / Full Review

7. Miss Hokusai


Release Date: October 14, 2016
Director: Keiichi Hara
Keiichi Hara’s follow-up to his 2013 breakthrough Colorful is a fantastical period piece situated around one of the most prolific artists in Japanese history. Set in 1814 in the city of Edo, Miss Hokusai is the story of O-Ei Katsushika, a talented Ukiyo-e painter whose talents and accomplishments are otherwise dwarfed in the shadow of her father, the legendary Ukiyo-e master Hokusai. Hara’s film follows O-Ei’s struggle to come into her own as an artist while wrestling with the resentment she feels towards her father, whose itinerant and emotionally absent lifestyle have caused him to neglect O-Nao, Hokusai’s blind and sickly daughter. A far cry from the sci-fi action and fantasy plots that typify most impressions of anime, Miss Hokusai is a beautifully animated coming-of-age story filled with uncanny visual references to Hokusai’s most famous compositions and a memorable score by Harumi Fuuki and Yo Tsuji. A cinematic portrait of the artist as a young woman growing to know herself and shape her own life. —Toussaint Egan

6. Aquarius


Release Date: October 14, 2016
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
By the movie’s climax, one woman’s struggle to hold on to her apartment takes on a dramatic weight found in the most ambitious, large-scale epics—yet Filho’s touch couldn’t be lighter. His direction is elegant and restrained, because he has the confidence not to force his effects. He believes in his ideas, and knows they’ll deepen and expand in the viewer’s mind if he just presents them unadorned. Undoubtedly, part of his confidence comes from the gift he got from Braga, who gives the performance of her career. She does the same thing with her voice, face and body that Filho does with his camera, finding economical gestures that express infinite emotions and ideas. I can’t think of many other roles that so fully encapsulate the human condition in all its humor, tragedy, loss, triumph, eroticism, weariness, fear and hope. Clara is one of the great heroines in contemporary cinema, and her story is one that will endure. —Jim Hemphill / Full Review

5. Tower


Release Date: October 12, 2016
Director: Keith Maitland
Maitland’s artistic representation of these events is striking, and you may assume that he intends to be timely in releasing the film in the year of their semi-centennial anniversary. That the film is as meaningful today as it would have been in 1966 is a grim testament to how little things have changed since then, though it must be said that much of what has changed doesn’t paint an especially sunny tableau. The lethal efficacy of commercially available firearms, for example, has advanced enough in the intervening years that it isn’t hard to imagine Whitman’s final body count being much higher in 2016 than it was even in 1966, and what of the fear Austin police officer Houston McCoy (Blair Jackson) expresses regarding the shooter’s identity at the film’s 11-minute mark? —AC / Full Review

4. Certain Women


Release Date: October 14, 2016
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Reichardt’s less-is-so-much-more approach is again on display beautifully in Certain Women, a series of three barely interconnected stories in which the empty spaces are pregnant with meaning and resonance. As usual with her films, Certain Women is so delicately but smartly constructed that ecstatic reviews may give people the wrong idea about its greatness. Certain Women is wonderful not because it’s some towering, imposing colossus, but because every small moment feels thoughtfully considered, fully lived-in. Certain Women seeps into the skin and expands in the mind. It leaves you shaken—even though nothing seemingly momentous has happened. —TG / Full Review

3. The Handmaiden


Release Date: October 21, 2016
Director: Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook has evolved beyond the grimier, nerve-bending interests of his earlier pictures and has chosen to put greater emphasis on sex, mystery and subverting the trope of feminine subservience. Oddly, his shift in focus doesn’t noticeably impact his storytelling formula, and if The Handmaiden lacks graphic depictions of slashed Achilles tendons and improvised dentistry, it is by no means tame: Orthodontic brutality has been replaced by psychological brutality. The latter is a familiar instrument in Park’s toolbox that he historically prioritizes below physical anguish, but The Handmaiden favors the shock of abuse to the shock of violence, to say nothing of its scenes of sexual abandon. In our American cultural context, The Handmaiden’s open carnality feels like a hand grenade of provocation in our normal pop diet of stabbings and shootings. —A.C. / Full Review

2. American Honey


Release Date: September 30, 2016
Director: Andrea Arnold
Utterly absorbing and intensely moving, writer-director Andrea Arnold’s American Honey is one of those big, bold, swing-for-the-fences societal portraits that few filmmakers dare attempt. There’s good reason: Try for a definitive snapshot of a country or a generation, and you risk overreaching or succumbing to pretension. Running nearly three hours, American Honey doesn’t let those concerns get in its way, and the result is the sort of electric audacity that paves over the movie’s occasional wobbles. With Red Road and Fish Tank, Arnold has looked closely at poverty, youth and desperation in her native England. With American Honey, she turns her attention to the United States, and what she finds is a vibrant, troubled, mesmerizing land. —TG / Full Review

1. Moonlight


Release Date: October 21, 2016
Director: Barry Jenkins
Told in three segments, Moonlight is a devastating and moving portrait of a young life that asks us to engage in the nature-versus-nurture debate all over again. Played by three actors, Chiron is an African American growing up in Tampa as a child, a teenager and then in his 20s, and writer-director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) charts the different ages to see how questions of sexuality, racism and masculinity influence him at each stage. Naomie Harris astonishes as Chiron’s drug-addicted mother, and Mahershala Ali is a marvel as a local dealer who decides to take Chiron under his wing. Moonlight slowly becomes a love story, but not before it encompasses a very different kind of Boyhood: one in which a black child’s upbringing can be threatened by external and internal forces that others are privileged enough to ignore. —TG / TIFF Review