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90 Movies You Have to Watch at Least Once in Your Life

The essentials. (Netflix password not included.)

roman holiday
Getty/Marvel Studios

The popcorn's been popped, the sweatpants are on, and the evening is your oyster. Your next challenge: Figuring out exactly which of the great movies available to you is the one you're going to commit to tonight. No matter what you're looking for—romance, drama, comedy—there are certain movies that, if you haven't seen yet, now's the perfect time for. After all, if the past couple of months cooped up in our homes has taught us anything, it's that there's nothing better than a movie to take us to a place that's far, far away from our current one. These are modern classics, the best of the best, the movies that millions of people are most likely jealous that you get to see for the first time. There are a few that might be outside your comfort zone, and a couple that'll introduce you to cultures and environments you know nothing about. This list may be long, but FOMO is eternal. Now's the perfect time to catch up on the films that your friends can't believe you haven't seen yet. Here are the 88 essential films absolutely everyone should see (and if you've seen them, ones to watch again and again).

jack and rose in the titanic
Paramount Pictures
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Titanic (1997)

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Star-crossed lovers Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) develop feelings for each other while on board an ill-fated ship, the R.M.S. Titanic. The winner of 11 Academy Awards is a little over three hours long, but with a story as compelling as this one, it'll seem like no time at all.

the farewell
A24
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The Farewell (2019)

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In her Golden Globe-winning role, Awkwafina plays Billi, a woman on a trip to China for a "family wedding" that's actually a final goodbye to her grandmother. While there, Billi struggles to find a deeper connection to the country and tries to understand her family's decision to keep her grandmother's sickness a secret from her.

casablanca
United ArchivesGetty Images
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Casablanca (1942)

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Set in the early years of World War II in Casablanca, Rick Blaine's (Humphrey Bogart) nightclub is an oasis for refugees despite the warnings he gets from local authorities. But things get rocky when an ex-lover and her boyfriend show up, bringing with them a challenge that Rick has to face. One of the most famous old Hollywood films of all time, Casablanca is a love story you won't forget.

grease, romantic movies
Everett Collection
4 of 90
Grease (1978)

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During one magical summer, Australian Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) falls in love with the Californian bad boy Danny (John Travolta). But Sandy has to head back home and leave Danny behind—or so they both think—until they cross paths at Rydell High School in the fall. The film was the highest-grossing musical-movie for 39 years.

Thelma And Louise
Fotos InternationalGetty Images
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Thelma and Louise (1991)

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Two friends set out on a road trip, but end up on the wrong side of the law after Louise shoots and kills a man who tries to rape Thelma. It’s a story of freedom and female friendships that has a lot of great scenes, some of which feature a shirtless 26-year-old Brad Pitt.

black panther chadwick boseman
Black Panther
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Black Panther (2018)

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What's so devastating is that this movie didn't just change the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the better, earn the first Oscar Best Picture nom for a superhero film (it won two other Oscars!), represent an enormous shift in the film industry, and be an inspiration to Black kids and adults alike. It's also one of Chadwick Boseman's final works before he passed away, having quietly battled colon cancer for years, including production on this film. Watched in that new light, it makes his steely, beautiful, mesmerizing performance all the more heartbreaking. If you haven't watched, watch. If you have, watch it again.

dreamgirls   films for hamilton fans
Dreamworks
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Dreamgirls (2006)

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The film that proved Jennifer Hudson was so much more than an American Idol star (though we can't forget that Beyoncé absolutely crushed her role, too). Three close friends get the chance of a lifetime to be the backup singers for national star James Early (Eddie Murphy), but with fast fame, some things come at a price.

butch and sundance
Silver Screen CollectionGetty Images
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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

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Robert Redford! Paul Newman! Really strong facial hair game! What could go wrong? Well, actually, a train robbery does go wrong, leaving outlaws Butch Cassidy (Newman) and The Sundance Kid (Redford) on the run from a seriously dangerous posse as they try to leave rural Wyoming for Bolivia. It's a Western film you can't miss.

Fun, Adaptation, Room, Games,
Neon
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Parasite (2019)

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An unemployed family of four slowly starts to insinuate themselves into the lives of the crazy wealthy Park family. Then, there's an incident that can’t entirely be cleaned up in a cleaning shift. Long after the credits roll, you’ll be questioning the ending and mulling over the tough, important themes.

editorial use only no book cover usage
mandatory credit photo by ben glasswarner brosregencycanal kobalshutterstock 5884445y
kevin costner, whitney houston
the bodyguard   1992
director mick jackson
warner brosregencycanal 
usa
scene still
drama
bodyguard
Ben Glass/Warner Bros/Regency/Canal +/Kobal/ShutterstockShutterstock
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The Bodyguard (1992)

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Whitney Houston's first debut as an actress is precisely what you expect: amazing. The film about a famous singer and her ex-secret-service-agent-turned-professional-bodyguard (Kevin Costner) is equal parts swoon-worthy and edge on your seat thrilling. And the soundtrack? It's still the bestselling soundtrack album of all time, with more than 42 million copies certified worldwide.

something's gotta give, diane keaton, jack nicholson, 2003, c columbiacourtesy everett collection
©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett CollectionEverett
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Something's Gotta Give (2003)

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Nancy Meyers hasn't just given us beautiful kitchens to ogle (although her sets are gorgeous and I want it all). She's also given us iconic films we've watched over and over, like The Parent Trap and The Holiday. But her crowning achievement might be this little gem, which actually dares to be a rom-com that doesn't just involve hot New Yorkers in their 30s. Instead, we get hot a 50 and 60-year-old flirting and falling in love just as well as their younger counterparts. Hollywood, take note.

daniel craig in 'casino royale'
Everett
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Casino Royale (2006)

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James Bond is known in the movieverse for its action-packed, women-objectifying spy films, but all that changed when Daniel Craig took over the role. His first movie as Britain's most notorious secret agent is filled with deception, love, unreal stunts, strong female leads, and a twist ending you won't see coming. If you've never seen a 007 film before, let this one be your first.

coming to america arsenio hall eddie murphy
Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
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Coming to America (1988)

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Since there's a sequel in the works, take some time to watch the original—quintessential Black '80s humor at its finest. Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is wary of the arranged marriage set up for him and sets out to Queens to find a woman he can love. Ignore some of the dated tropes, come for the sweetness in Murphy's performance: He's very much playing against his own "funny jackass" type with a vulnerable, hopeful, sweet yet profoundly stubborn monarch-to-be. But don't worry—keep an eye out for the trademark "Eddie Murphy playing another character" cameos for some of that characteristic wittiness.

Barechested, Human, Human body, Muscle, Performance, Flesh, Neck, Chest, Scene,
Summit Entertainment/Kobal/Shutterstock
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Memento (2000)

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Before Christopher Nolan was known as the popular director with brain-bending plots, he made this small film. It's about a man who has no short-term memory, who's after vengeance for his murdered wife—oh, and it's shot almost entirely in reverse chronology. It's the thing that put Nolan on the map, and it holds up incredibly well. This isn't just a gimmicky premise; It also happens to be a great movie with an impressive twist ending.

diary of a teenage girl photo from the film
Everett
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Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

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Set in San Francisco in the '70s, 15-year-old Minnie (Bel Powley) has just had sex for the first time, and she wants a lot more of it. Director Marielle Heller gives us the sex-positive coming of age movie you never thought would arrive, while throwing in great performances from Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgård. You'll wish you had this movie as a teen.

bridesmaids kristen wiig 
no merchandising editorial use only no book cover usage
mandatory credit photo by suzanne hanoveruniversalkobalrexshutterstock 5885429p
kristen wiig
bridesmaids   2011
director paul feig
universal pictures
usa
scene still
mes meilleures amies
Suzanne Hanover/Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
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Bridesmaids (2011)

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It's like an anti-Sex and the City. Women who've lived through planning or being in a wedding will recognize A LOT in this hilarious film: Passive aggressive infighting. Disagreements about the insane costs of a shower and bachelorette party. The special awkwardness that comes from several strangers who only have one thing (the bride) in common. Judd Apatow's made sweeter movies, including the classic 40 Year Old Virgin, but this one dares to be brutally honest.

white collar worker, job, employment, desk, uniform,
Dreamworks Skg/Kobal/Shutterstock
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She's the Man (2006)

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The '00s weren’t the '00s without Amanda Bynes, and She’s the Man proves it. When Viola (Bynes) finds out that her school is cutting the women’s soccer team, she decides to take a chance and disguises herself as her twin brother to play for his school. When she gets there, she starts to fall for her roommate and teammate, Duke (Channing Tatum). Things get messy.

sylvester stallone as rocky
Silver Screen Collection
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Rocky (1976)

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It’s the classic underdog story that made Sylvester Stallone a household name. The movie follows boxer Rocky Balboa on the road to fight heavyweight champion Apollo Creed in a match deemed “a somebody v. nobody.” The film, written by Stallone, would go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 1977.

Blue, Yellow, Fashion, Organism, Room, Textile, Smile, Long hair, Photography, Leisure,
Francois Duhamel/Annapurna
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Booksmart (2019)

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Olivia Wilde’s directional debut about two overachieving high school seniors' wild night on the eve of their graduation is so stomach-hurting-from-laughing-too-hard funny. It hits to my inner core a level of nostalgia I haven’t felt in years. Oh, to be 17-years-old again.

Jaws
Universal PicturesUniversal
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Jaws (1975)

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When Steven Spielberg made this movie, I’m unsure if he knew it would become the face of anti-shark propaganda, and make a whole generation scared to get in the water. Regardless, this movie about a sheriff, marine biologist, and fisherman hunting down a shark that’s terrorizing their beach town is must-see.

Liam Neeson in "Schindler's List" by Spielberg
ullstein bild Dtl.Getty Images
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Schindler's List (1994)

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A movie about the Holocaust is almost guaranteed to be poignant (and, frankly, depressing), but under Stephen Spielberg's expert direction, this one surprises with its restraint. That's deliberate—the sadness and symbolism build throughout the film so that you have a full sense of what happened, who did it, and why it matters so, so much. The movie's in black and white, with the smallest pop of color to offer a moment of hope and then (devastatingly) all possible heartbreak in one unforgettable image.

On the set of The Shining
Sunset BoulevardGetty Images
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The Shining (1980)

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Jack Nicholson is on this list a few times, but this is probably his most well-known role. The Torrance family, husband Jack, wife Wendy, and son Danny, are staying in the Overlook Hotel during the winter. Then, the hotel begins to come alive with a terrible, terrifying evil. Stephen King famously hated this adaptation, because Stanley Kubrick takes out all the empathy from the patriarch (Nicholson, playing crazy like he was born to do it). But it makes the story even more powerful. Viewed through today's lens, it's also a haunting look at the effects of domestic violence.

selma
editorial use only no book cover usage
mandatory credit photo by atsushi nishijimaparamountpatheharpokobalshutterstock 5885141am
lorraine toussaint
selma   2014
director ava duvernay
paramountpatheharpo films
usa
scene still
drama
Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount/Pathe/Harpo/Kobal/ShutterstockShutterstock
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Selma (2014)

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Many films have been made about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the subject might feel overdone at this point. But not in the hands of masterful director Ava DuVernay. The film wisely chooses to stick to a short time period: the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches, culminating in King's famous speech at Capitol Hill (unfortunately, the setting of unrest and protect will feel very, very modern). It also wisely represents each character, including King himself, as human beings with depth and flaws. It's a biopic that feels like anything but.

tangerine film, editorial use only no book cover usage
mandatory credit photo by augustas quirkmagnoliaduplass brothers prodskobalshutterstock 5879020d
kitana kiki rodriguez
tangerine   2015
director sean baker
magnolia picturesduplass brothers productions
usa
scene still
comedydrama
Augustas Quirk/Magnolia/Duplass Brothers Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock
24 of 90
Tangerine (2015)

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Shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, this film is groundbreaking for another reason: It actually cast (unbelievably talented) transgender actors to play transgender characters. And with all that, this movie is most known for being utterly hysterical and beautifully poignant. Sex workers traverse L.A. in search of friends, clients, and spurned lovers—with some of the snappiest banter I've heard in years. The film's not perfect, but it's hopefully the start of more films like it.

natalie portman in annihilation from paramount pictures and skydance
Photo credit: Peter Mountain
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Annihilation (2018)

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Based very, very loosely on the book of the same name, Natalie Portman is a scientist who goes in search of her husband. She enters Area X, a mutated, trippy landscape that's been expanding ever since it was hit by a meteorite. And shit just keeps getting weirder and scarier. This is directed by Alex Garland, the same guy who did Ex Machina (another fascinating, freaky watch). Honestly, he's becoming the next big sci-fi director, and this proves it.

Dazed and Confused - 1993
Universal/Gramercy/Kobal/REX/ShutterstockShutterstock
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Dazed and Confused (1993)

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A movie about the last day of school for a group of teenagers in Austin, Texas, in 1976, starring Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck? Sign us up. You'll be quoting McConaughey for weeks after it's done.

Pride and Prejudice
Alex Bailey/Working Title/Kobal/ShutterstockShutterstock
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Pride and Prejudice (2005)

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The only acceptable film adaptation of the beloved Jane Austen novel is the 2005 movie from Joe Wright (fight me). In this film, we find Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy fighting their feelings for each other over the course of two "please, someone, kiss!"-filled hours. The final scene of this film is so beautiful, it makes me cry every time.

Face, Zombie, Head, Forehead, Human, Fiction, Eye, Mouth, Fictional character, Flesh,
Orion/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Believe the hype on this one—this film set the stage for smart horror movies to come. It was unbelievably innovative for the time by integrating modern research about sociopaths from the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. It really shows: Hannibal Lector is smart and charismatic as well as being, you know, the scariest ever. He's widely known as one of the best book/film villains of all time.

Robin Williams In 'Dead Poets Society'
Archive PhotosGetty Images
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Dead Poets Society (1989)

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Set at a New England private school in 1959, this movie follows an English teacher, played by Robin Williams, and his relationship with his students as he teaches them to live a little more through poetry. The movie gave Williams his second Oscar nominee, and Ethan Hawke said that working on this movie inspired him to continue to be an actor.

The Princess Bride, romantic movies
Everett Collection
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The Princess Bride (1987)

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This is the best Rob Reiner movie, without a doubt. 'The Princess Bride' is a fairytale story of a princess and her one true love's journey back together after many years apart. It's very fun, very wholesome, and just all-around a feel-good movie for the ages.

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