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 71 essential movies everyone should see.
Saoirse Ronan shows us why she's an icon in this '50s story of an Irish immigrant who moves to New York. She falls in love with a local, but then has to return back to Ireland for some unexpected business—and finds herself forced to choose between two countries and two men. Sounds good, right?
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.
Long before Netflix gave us Stranger Things, Steven Spielberg's Super 8 was the supernatural fix we'd craved. The story follows a group of friends who witness a horrific train crash that doesn't feel like an accident. It doesn't take long before weird events start to occur in their town...by things that can't be human.
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.
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.
Set in London in 2020, a masked man named V seeks help from a woman named Every (played by Natalie Portman) to help overthrow the fascist government that's taken over the city following a world war. The story is based on the 1998 DC/Vertigo comic series, and will have you thinking long after the credits roll.
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.
Somewhat based on the life of writer and director, Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous is a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old boy who is offered the chance to write for Rolling Stone about a new rockbound that’s on the come up. It's a love letter to 70s culture in the best way.
Uma Thurman kills (literally) as a former assassin who wakes up from a coma post-assassination attempt seeking revenge. She then sets off on a mission to get back at an ex-lover and friends who killed her husband-to-be and her unborn child on her wedding day four years ago. It's a king of girl power you would only see in a Quentin Tarantino film.
If you ever thought a haircut couldn't be frightening look at Javier Bardem as Chigurh. In this Coen brothers film, it follows Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) fleeing East Texas with two million dollars he found at a drug deal gone bad. It turns into a terrifying game of cat and mouse as Chigurh sets out to find Moss to get back the cash that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Watch Timothée Chalamet's breakout role starring alongside Armie Hammer in this heart-wrenching romance film. It's set in Lombardy, Italy, in 1983 and follows Hammer and Chalamet's life alerting summer of love. Fair warning: bring lots of tissues.
Winner of Best Original Screenplay at the 2008 Oscars, Juno follows the story of teenage girl's unexpected pregnancy and her journey. It's a coming-of-age story that reminds you why this genre of films reigns superior and it also sports a 2007 Michael Cera as the love interest that's just unforgettable.
This second movie in the Batman trilogy is arguably the best of the bunch. Heath Ledger sets the standard what it takes to play the Joker, as he won an Oscar for his performance. Some say it's the best superhero film ever made and we have to agree.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.