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

The essentials every woman should see.

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Universal PicturesShutterstock

Whether you fancy romance, comedy, drama—or any genre 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. Here are the 81 essential movies every woman should see.

Gregory Peck And Audrey Hepburn In Roman Holiday
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Roman Holiday (1953)

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Audrey Hepburn won an Academy Award for her turn as a princess who ditches her schedule (and her entourage) in favor of exploring Rome, only to fall asleep on a bench and get rescued by a hunky American reporter played by Gregory Peck. A classic romance film.

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Black Swan (2010)

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Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis play rival ballerinas in this creepy psychological drama about Swan Lake and harnessing your darker side. Portman won an Oscar for it, so you know it's good.

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Julie Delpy And Ethan Hawke In 'Before Sunrise'
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Before Sunrise (1995)

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In this swooningly romantic movie from Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke play a pair of travelers—she French, he American—who have a chance meeting in Vienna and decide to spend the evening before his departing flight walking around the city and talking to one another. In 2005, the sequel Before Sunset continues the story, and then in 2015 the trilogy is wrapped up with Before Midnight. All of them are worth watching over and over.

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"His Girl Friday" Film Still
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His Girl Friday (1940)

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Carey Grant and Rosalind Russell play a formerly married couple—he an editor, she an investigative reporter—who have to team up for one last assignment. Of course, the fact that he hired her only after finding out she was engaged to someone new might have something to do with it, but Russell is hilarious and their chemistry is bananas in this romance.

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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The filmmaking in this sequel to the Australian dystopian road movie for the 1980s simply has no right being as good as it is. Not only that, but this tale of a wasteland populated by bloodthristy (literally) driving gangs ends up being a pretty feminist tale when all is said and done (thanks, Charlize Theron!)

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Carrie
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Carrie (1976)

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Sissy Spacek is the one true Carrie—a bullied young woman who develops telekinetic abilities just in time for a prank prom invite to turn into a full-fledged bloodbath. I know we shouldn't condone violence, but it's hard not to root for poor Carrie after her classmates dump pigs' blood on her in her prom dress, right?

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West Side Story
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West Side Story (1961)

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Just in time for the Steven Spielberg remake, revisit the classic movie adaptation of one of the most beloved musicals ever. Based loosely on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, two rival Harlem gangs try to keep Tony and Maria apart. The music is amazing.

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Gregory Peck and Mary Badham in To Kill a Mockingbird
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To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

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Scout Finch tells the story of how her father, Atticus, a smallt own lawyer in the rural South, defended a wrongfully accused black man in this adaptation of Harper Lee's beloved novel. Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is how most people who've seen this movie think of the character, and you will too when you see it.

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'Arrival' (2016)

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An alien story like you're never seen it before, Arrival has one of the best reveals in modern movie history. Less a sci-fi thriller and more a linguistic mystery that unravels into a beautiful story about love and survival. Plus, Amy Adams is the hero we deserve.

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Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy
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Desk Set (1957)

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Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (lovebirds in real life) play a couple of feuding corporate employees. She's the head library reference clerk, heading a team of brilliant women who can answer factual questions at the drop of a hat, while he plays a computer expert sent to automate her department. Sparks fly in this rom-com tale of woman against machine.

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What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)

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Notorious rivals Joan Crawford and Bette Davis take turn devouring the screen (and, off-screen, devouring tabloid pages) playing two aging child star siblings with a disturbingly toxic relationship.

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MGM
Legally Blonde (2001)

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Heard of the bend and snap? If you can believe this movie came into our lives 17 years ago, it's time to give it a watch if you haven't already—simply to witness the evolution of Reese Witherspoon and her incredible acting. What, like it's hard?

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Universal Pictures
Lady Bird (2017)

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Greta Gerwig's film has landed multiple Oscar nominations, and for good reason. Any teen growing up in suburbia can relate to this coming-of-age film (especially those who went to Catholic school). Viewers often find it similar to the 2002 comedy/drama Real Women Have Curves.

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Molly's Game (2017)

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The unbelievably talented Jessica Chastain plays Molly Bloom, the 26-year-old Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target. The American crime drama is equally chilling as it is fascinating.

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Warner Bros.
Wonder Woman (2017)

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Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is the ultimate superhero as she fights alongside men in war while discovering her true power and potential. Despite its Oscars snub, Wonder Woman gives girls everywhere the affirmation they need that women are just as powerful as their male counterparts.

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Walt Disney
The Parent Trap (1998)

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A classic and super relatable movie if you've ever attended sleepaway camp (or you know, have a twin you didn't know about then make a plan to reunite your divorce parents then live happily ever after). Prepare to get all the feels watching Lindsay Lohan in her glory days playing both (yes, both) Hallie and Annie Parker alongside Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson. #DreamFamily

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You've Got Mail (1998)

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The MarieClaire.com team is *very* passionate about this movie, and for good reason. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the 1998 drama/romance tells the story of two neighborhood bookstore rivals who absolutely hate each other in real life, then fall in love online, and well...we won't spoil the rest for you. (The good ol' AOL days.)

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Forrest Gump (1994)

If we had a penny for every time somebody raved about this movie, we would be *very* rich. Gump takes us through his life, which will have you continuously alternating between laughing, crying, and smiling. A must-see that will continue to make its way to people's screens for years to come.

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The Sound of Music (1965)

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Julie Andrews plays an Austrian nun during World War II in the Academy Award-winning film. When she comes to the villa of retired naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp to be governess to his seven children, she begins to realize how much the family means to her. The latter part of the movie has an unexpected twist and displays the unfathomable truth of what it was like living through Nazi Germany.

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Get Out (2017)

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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.

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Moonlight (2016)

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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.

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Obvious Child (2014)

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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.

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Spotlight (2015)

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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.

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Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

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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.

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Her (2013)

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Save this for a day when you're not feeling a case of the sads, because it may make you a little blue. Spike Jonze's Her imagines a not-so-distant future where high waisted pants are still a happening trend and where one lonely man falls in love with his Siri-esque operating system.

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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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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.

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Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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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.

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Frances Ha (2012)

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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.

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Paramount Pictures
Mean Girls (2004)

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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.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)

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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.

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Lost in Translation (2003)

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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.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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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.

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Amélie (2001)

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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.

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