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

The essentials. (Netflix password not included.)

must watch movies
Design by Susanna Hayward

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 plenty of classics that, if you haven't seen them yet, now's the perfect time. 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 probably jealous that you're getting 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 100 essential films absolutely everyone should see (and if you've seen them, ones to watch again and again).

fun, adaptation, room, games,
Neon
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Parasite (2019)

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An unemployed family of four slips 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.

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.

bombay, india  movie goers watch the popular hindi film dilwale dulhania le jayenge the brave hearted will take the bride away at the citys prestigious maratha mandir movie hall in its matinee show  in bombay 09 may 2005  the film affectionately called ddlj by its acronym will be bollywoods first movie to complete 10 years of screening at the popular maratha mandir theatre on 13 may 2005 the shah rukh khan kajol starrer still sees over 60 percent occupancy in the theatre every day for the 1130 matinee afternoon show   afp photo indranil mukherjee  photo credit should read indranil mukherjeeafp via getty images
INDRANIL MUKHERJEEGetty Images
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Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

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The longest-running Hindi film of all time (going on 25 years now!) is an absolute delight. The Bollywood rom-com about two young star-crossed lovers who fall in love despite their parents' critiques ended up winning 10 Filmfare Awards—India’s Academy Award equivalent —and changed the game forever.

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.

rebel trio
John Kobal FoundationGetty Images
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Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

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Two words for you: James! Dean! The old Hollywood icon's second to last film, as teenager Jim Stark, before his untimely death in 1955 ended up being one of his most celebrated. The unlikely bond shared on-screen between him, John "Plato" Crawford (Sal Mineo), and Judy (Natalie Wood) gave American youths at the time a movie where they could finally see themselves on the screen.

promising young woman 100 best movies
Focus Features
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Promising Young Woman (2020)

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This very dark comedy juxtaposes one woman's insatiable quest to avenge her best friend's tragic assault in front of a backdrop of all things frilly, pink, and sweet. That stark contrast only makes the movie's incredibly intense climax that much more shocking. Promising Young Woman was nominated for five Oscars in 2021, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Carey Mulligan, and a history-making Best Director nod for Emerald Fennell.

carmen jones
FPGGetty Images
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Carmen Jones (1954)

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This underrated musical set at an all-Black army camp follows Carmen (Dorothy Dandridge), who, despite being sought after by every man at the base, has her sights set on the super married Joe (Harry Belafonte). Dandridge's performance as Carmen Jones got her nominated for an Oscar, making history as the first African American actress in a leading role to be nominated.

daughters of the dust
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Daughters of the Dust (1991)

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Quick history lesson: Daughters of the Dust was the first feature film directed by a Black woman distributed in theaters in the U.S. It tells the story of three generations of Gullah women in pre-Civil War times living on Saint Helena Island who are stuck on deciding whether to stay or migrate north for a better life. The film's scenery is stunning, but the real beauty of the film is its complex characters.

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.

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