Thanks to the advent of streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, movie fans now have unending libraries of choices at their disposal at all times.
But even with thousands of titles literally at your fingertips, it can still be tough to know what to watch.
Thankfully, we’re here to help.
Here’s a look at six movies—each dealing with a different theme—that everyone should watch by the time they are 35.
Got more suggestions? Be sure to leave them in the comment section.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Why? It’s a look at the importance of family—even dysfunctional ones.
Wes Anderson’s early masterpiece has all of the hallmarks that his films have become known for: dry humor, sharp dialogue, carefully designed set-pieces, storybook inspired pacing. But for all of its laughs, the film deals with some exceptionally heavy ideas through the perspective of different members of the Tenenbaum clan like suicide, betrayal, the need for approval and forgiveness.
The movie’s family seems to have it all when it comes to money and fame, but as their patriarch, Royal Tenenbaum, attempts to finally make peace with his children (in his own dysfunctional way), we see that the only thing that really matters is love and relationships.
Stranger than Fiction
Why? It asks big questions about purpose.
One of Will Ferrell’s most surprising roles is also one of his best. In Stranger than Fiction, Ferrell plays a man who starts to hear a voice narrating his own life. That sets off a race to find the source of the voice to stop his foreshadowed death.
But throughout the adventure, Ferrell’s character wrestles with big ideas like purpose, personal fulfillment, risk-taking and his own mortality. The movie is funny, but it also forces the viewer to think about their own lives and personal choices while learning that every life represents a story worth telling.
Why? It’s a lesson about grace and faith.
The Mission tells the story of a Jesuit mission in 1740s Argentina, and the relationship between a priest (Jeremy Irons) and a slave-trading mercenary (Robert De Niro).
The film’s plot takes some unexpected twist, but at the heart of the historical epic is De Niro’s quest to find forgiveness.
Yes, he can intellectually understand the concept of the Gospel, but it’s the emotional distance that he feels from his own terrible past and grace found in Christ that provide the film’s real tension.
Why? It will expand your worldview.
Based on Marjane Satrapi’s auto-graphic-novel, Persepolis is the simple and bracingly beautiful tale of Marjane growing up in 1970s Iran, where her curiosity, imagination and love of Western pop-culture trash gets her in trouble with the police state imposed after the revolution. Her tale is wondrous for both what you’ll find relatable and what you won’t.
Marjane’s personal struggles—be they with boys, authority, prejudice or misogyny—are so deeply human, so spectacularly told that you can’t help but be caught up in her narrative, and in getting to know her, you discover things about yourself you never dreamed.
12 Years a Slave
Why? It’s a haunting reminder of an important chapter in American history.
12 Years a Slave is not an easy film to watch, but it is an essential one. Based on the actual 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup—who was kidnapped and sold into slavery—the film presents a brutal look at slavery in America.
But beyond its historical merits, the film deeply examines American society and the distorted values that allowed such a terrible practice to exist.
Why? It’s a profound examination of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence has become a cultural buzz-word, and personality tests are everywhere. But despite being an animated children’s film, Inside Out presents one of Hollywood’s most creative—and most profound—looks at people’s interior lives.
Much of the film takes place inside of the mind of a child, with each of her emotions taking on lives of their own. Sure, the movie reduces interactions to Disgust, Joy, Fear, Sadness and Anger, but its ambitions provide deep insights into how our emotions affect our lives, and why it’s so important to be in touch with them.