Whether you fancy romance, comedy, drama—or any hyphenate in-between—there are certain films that are undeniable must-sees. Some are important because they make you uncomfortable (but have plenty of teachable moments), others entertain, but above all, this particular set will make you think. And thinking is what you're supposed to do as a real-life adult, no? This list may be long, but FOMO is eternal.
It's not often that a movie so perfectly taps into the spirit of the times, but in a year where Trump's presidency has sparked tense discussions about police brutality, race, and false liberalism, this was the breakout movie that did the job—in the horror genre, no less. Director Jordan Peele turns the typical horror script on its head with this blend of cultural criticism and horror tropes.
Yes, you've heard all the buzz about this movie. But if you haven't seen it yet, make room in your schedule. Moonlight is a beautifully filmed coming-of-age story of a gay black boy growing up in a housing project in Miami. The many-layered film sheds light on aspects of black identity that are rarely spotlighted on film and was a truly watershed moment at the Oscars.
This riveting newsroom drama, based on real events, follows the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Spotlight" team as they investigate cases of sexual abuse by the Catholic church in the Boston area. Expert performances from the well-rounded cast (including Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) plus an examination of the career-defining journalism undertaken here make this a must-see.
This hilarious romantic comedy spins laughs out of an unconventional feminist narrative about a woman getting an abortion. Jenny Slate plays a hapless twenty-something comedian who falls pregnant after she meets a nice guy in a bar. The story is compelling for its honesty and how it makes room for female characters to be unabashedly bawdy and comfortable in their own skin.
Though its direction was very controversial, this French film redefined the modern love story with an examination of all the beauty and pain of falling in and out of love. The impeccable acting from ingenues Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux put them on the international map, and their emotional performances are well worth the watch.
J.Laaaaaw. What looks from the outset like a typical rom-com delves deeper into the motions of mental illness, as a bipolar man tries to reconnect with his estranged wife following his release from a psychiatric ward. He meets a recently widowed woman (Jennifer Lawrence) with her own problems, who convinces him to join a dance competition with her to help him win his wife back.
If you've ever wondered what #RelationshipGoals look like, check out Wes Anderson's sepia-tinted childhood love story that's full of charm (pastel colored record players and knee high socks abound) and an all-around outstanding cast that features Tilda Swinton and a very off-brand Edward Norton.
Every millennial needs to see this heartwarming film about a girl finding her way in New York, getting her sh*t together, living month-to-month (Okay, I see you), and learning to be self-sufficient. All the laughs, all the feels, Greta Gerwig at her best, and it's all filmed in black-and-white.
The grasshopper becomes the master in this modern silent film which sees a famous actor eclipsed by the beautiful protege he loves.
No movie has ever spoofed high school culture as brilliantly as Mean Girls, whose hilarious script by Tina Fey has become iconic, bringing the phrases "so fetch," "I know, right?" and "cool mom" into our modern language. It lives on in countless memes and GIFs, even though the movie's more than 10 years old at this point.
One of the smartest love stories ever written (it won best screenplay at the Oscars that year) captures a couple who both undergo a treatment to erase each other from their memories following a breakup. The dream, right? Not so, as they revisit their life together in woozy flashbacks and realize that they're not ready to let go just yet.
The film that gave us all acute wanderlust for Japan sees an unexpected friendship blossom between a movie star played by Bill Murray and a young and lonely wife (Scarlett Johansson) who explore the sprawling city of Tokyo together.
The movie trilogy that forever set the standard for how excellent movie adaptations of books can be owes a lot to director Peter Jackson in this stunning rendering of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic. "The one ring to rule them all" must be destroyed and it's up to the littlest creatures of Middle Earth, the hobbits, to round out the fellowship that will take the ring deep into the fires of Mount Doom.
This famous modern French flick is a quirky story about a do-gooder woman who wants to set the world around her right with a series of good deeds. The inventive use of color and the creative dialogue made it a super accessible watch for international audiences, who all rooted for Amélie Poulain to find love and happiness for herself, too.
The elaborate costumes, the stunning visuals, and the beautiful art direction are all key features of this art house movie by Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai. And though there's sparse dialogue, sit back and prepare to be enchanted by the slow but captivating scenes of two married neighbors falling in love.
A horror movie in its own right, Requiem for a Dream takes a disturbing dive into the lives of four drug addicts who are reeling from dependency, all set to a chilling soundtrack scored by Clint Mansell (you've probably heard it in many other movie trailers since then).
Volumes could be written about the sheer brilliance of this movie, but if you've never seen it, know that it's one of the best teen movies ever made, from the script to the acting (two words: Heath Ledger *swoons*) to the speech-making and wooing that make this feel like a modern Shakespearean comedy.
You may know this movie solely from its iconic plastic bag scene, but the full movie is worth seeing for its satire on middle class ideals of beauty, strength, and success. The film follows House of Cards' Kevin Spacey as he undergoes a midlife crisis and also stars Annette Bening and Thora Burch, as his wife and daughter.
Even if you don't realize it, many action and virtual reality flicks owe their effects (see the slow motion action scenes) to this iconic '90s film that blurs the lines between dreams and reality. The film is set in dystopian future in which most people's "reality" is really just a simulated world called "The Matrix." One computer hacker named Neo learns the truth of his existence and tries to fight back against the machines who run this alternate universe.
Still one of the most quotable of all the Coen Brothers' movies, this film is notable for its hilarious script, continually madcap sequence of events, and stoner dialogue from lead actor Jeff Bridges AKA "The Dude".
If you've ever wondered whether your life is just one big sitcom, The Truman Show illustrates what happens when one man, played by Jim Carrey, realizes that his entire life is scripted for television.
Director Wes Anderson's taste for quirk is on full display in this comedy about an overachieving nerd (who you probably recognize versions of from high school) who gives it all to win over a beautiful math teacher at his school.
Paul Thomas Anderson's wild and colorful flick Boogie Nights is a classic for its portrayal of sex and excess in the swinging '70s starring Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg, AKA porn star "Dirk Diggler." Schedule it for a viewing if you're looking for a hot and sexy time.
Robin Williams plays a professor who discovers that his school janitor (Matt Damon) is actually a math whiz. Between the Elliott Smith soundtrack and the brooding performance from Matt Damon, it's the sad girl '90s movie that dreams are made of.
This hilarious black comedy directed by the Coen brothers launched the TV show of the same name in 2014. And for good reason—the original film was full of darkly ironic twists and turns, anchored by a stellar performance by Frances McDormand (she won the Oscar for Best Actress that year), who plays a pregnant (!) police chief investigating a kidnapping and ransom deal gone off the rails.
A story told in reverse, The Usual Suspects begins when the survivor of a grisly gun battle onboard a ship details how it all began with five criminals meeting up a random police lineup.
Cher Horowitz stole everyone's heart in the '90s as the well-intentioned Valley Girl with an enviable revolving closet who set out to prove she wasn't "just a ditz with a credit card." Inspired by Jane Austen's Emma, the film sees her trying to play matchmaker at school, until she gets caught up in her own love triangle.
Quentin Tarantino is at his most quotable in this dark crime comedy starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson who play hitmen trying to reclaim a stolen suitcase for their mob boss. The chemistry of the outstanding cast members (including Tarantino favorite Uma Thurman) and the bizarre script routinely land this at the top of critics' lists for the best film of the century.