Death Becomes Her (1992)
Our brains are funny things. When we’re children, we can read, play with, or watch a certain thing over and over and over again, and then, as we grow up, we sometimes forget all about it, as if it never existed. Even though it was once engraved on our frontal lobes, it simply vanishes. Death Becomes Her is one of those things. I watched this movie about a hundred times as a kid, and then abruptly abandoned and forgot it. Last year, however, someone was playing it at a Halloween party, and I stopped dead in front of the screen. I knew this movie; I knew it as well as I know my own hands. Everything suddenly came rushing back. HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN DEATH BECOMES HER?? It stars Goldie Hawn, Meryl freaking Streep, Isabella Rossellini, and Bruce Willis, and it is so spectacularly dramatic, so hilariously gory, and so so so funny. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn play two aging, wealthy rivals (with great clothes) fighting over one man, plastic surgeon Bruce Willis. Obsessed with their fading looks, they separately find their way to a strange temptress, played by Isabella Rossellini, who gives them both the secret to eternal youth and life. I can’t tell you any more, but y’all, Goldie and Meryl start using spray paint as makeup, there are ridiculous special effects, disgusting and hilarious things happen, and you should watch this immediately and never, ever let your brain trick you into forgetting it. —Krista

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
To me, Singin’ in the Rain was always one of those movies. One of those movies you knew existed, and knew was technically a classic, and knew you should totally watch, promise. But when I thought of it— and its title song—for some reason all I could think of was an American version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang mixed with one of those movies starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. So I avoided it, and when I had to watch it in a film class, I was less than enthused…until the first scene, when I realized, Oh shit! I have made a huge mistake! This movie is so funny and so smart, and has the best “Hollywood sure is dumb” moments I’ve ever seen. Plus, Donald O’Connor’s performance of “Make ’Em Laugh” touches my heart in ways no comedian ever has. Also, Gene Kelly’s face. Always also Gene Kelly’s face. —Shelby

The Dreamers (2003)
If I had a bucket list, I would definitely want to include a run through the Louvre—time to beat: 9 minutes 28 seconds—thanks to The Dreamers. Strip away the heady history, politics, and sex in this movie and you’re left with the three main characters in 1968: Matthew, a young American visiting Paris, and twins Isabelle and Theo. Matthew falls in love with both of them, but they bond hardest over their shared obsession with the cinema. The scenes where they re-enact scenes from old movies are what I like most about this film. Who can blame them for their obsession, with the Cinémathèque Française so close? As Matthew says, “Only the French would house a cinema inside a palace” (a visit here would also go on the imaginary bucket list). The Dreamers is powerful and funny, and at times very odd—but itsays so much about ’60s Paris and the escapism in French cinema. All I need now is to find two others to run the Louvre with me, and I’m certainly not saying no to a Louis Garrel lookalike. —Caitlin

A Star Is Born (1954)
It is fitting that this story has been told by Hollywood filmmakers three times already (with a fourth installment, starring Beyoncé, rumored to be in the works, maybe possibly?), as it’s a classic Hollywood tale: gal has talent, gal gets famous, gal’s life falls apart, gal has to pull it all back together. The 1954 version, starring Judy Garland, is a beautiful and heartbreaking film, especially when you consider how Garland’s real life mirrors her character’s. Watching the star process happen is fascinating; Esther is sent through the studio system, subjected to hair and makeup horrors, given a new name (as Frances Gumm became Judy Garland, so Esther Blodgett became Vicki Lester), and rises to the top, though her personal life (particularly her marriage) suffers as her professional life blooms. Judy Garland is perfect beyond perfect in this movie. Perfect singing, perfect dancing, perfect acting, perfect everything. If you love old movies, you’ll love seeing the inner workings of the biz, and the dramatization of glamorous parties, movie star lives, and the gorgeous costumes and sets. I’m sure they’ll make this movie a dozen more times over the next hundred years, but I doubt they’ll make a version as good as this one. —Pixie

1999-2001, The WB

A decade before creating Glee, Ryan Murphy was exploring the tragicomedy that is high school on Popular. The show, which I was hopelessly addicted to when I was 16 and still can’t get enough of, zeroes in on rival cliques led by Brooke, a prim, seemingly perfect cheerleader, and Sam, an outcast (with a spectacular collection of chunky ’90s platform boots) who rejects everything that Brooke stands for. The girls butt heads at school, and then at home, when Brooke’s dad and Sam’s mom get engaged. Popular’s 43 episodes manage to be super witty while tackling body image (from female and male perspectives), activism, sexuality, discrimination, unrequited crushes, and naturally, social status. What’s really cool about the show, though, is that it has hints of so many great teen movies and TV series (the snappy quips and pop culture references of Clueless and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the soapiness of Beverly Hills, 90210) but also has these quirky, surreal elements (characters named Cherry Cherry and Poppy Fresh; a no-nonsense science teacher with a metal finger; the cheerleaders have a Prada allowance; the school’s glamorous girls’ bathroom is decorated in honor of Vertigo actress Kim Novak) that are totally unique and fun. —Amber

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1998)
I’m not sure when it’s going to happen, but one of these days, America is going to wake up and realize that Kirsten Dunst is one of the most underrated comic actresses of her time and that this film, a spoof about pageants small towns also starring Brittany Murphy, Denise Richards, a pre-fame Amy Adams, and a supremely deranged Kirstie Alley, is one of the most underrated films of the d’90s. (Or perhaps ever? Perhaps ever.) Dark, twisted, and hilarious, the movie centers on the American Teen Princess Pageant being held in Mount Rose, Minnesota, where Alley’s Gladys Leeman reigns over all, even choosing the year’s theme: “Proud to Be an American.” (This, naturally, follows her pageant theme ideas for the previous three years: “Buy American,” “USA is A-OK” and “Amer-I-Can!”). One of my best friends growing up was from a town in Minnesota that apparently was a lot like Mount Rose, and this movie owned her heart in under three minutes–as soon as Kirstie Alley offered potential contestants “coffee and bars,” she lost her mind (“It’s so perfectly Minnesota!”) and didn’t stop laughing until the movie was over. Miss Congeniality is the “nice” pageant movie, I guess, but this one is the funnier (and darker) of the two–the dance numbers alone are comedy gold, and the costumes, escalating ridiculousness, and perfect line readings don’t hurt, either. People are jerks, dreams are ruined, and bars are served. It is perfection. —Pixie

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
If you are looking for a film that is incredibly eerie and features a whole lot of tension and drama between two ballsy women, WATCH THIS MOVIE. Bette Davis plays an older lady who was once a child star, who’s living with her sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford). The image that stays with me is of an old woman caked in childish doll-like makeup, unable to separate herself from the person she once was. If that sounds gloriously terrifying to you, this is the movie for you tonight. You will not be disappointed! —Tara

Titanic (1997)
You know how you have that one friend who always exaggerates everything, and says stuff like, “Oh, my god, I loved that movie, I saw it like 17 times in the theater,” even though the truth is that they saw it maybe twice, ever? In 1997, it was entirely possible to have several of these friends be actually telling the truth about the movie Titanic, which made approximately nine kerbillion dollars at the box office thanks to fans who went to see the doomed ship—and its doomed lovers, played by the excruciatingly beautiful Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet—fall apart, over and over again. It’s not hard to see why: James Cameron—not the director you look to for quiet, subtle pictures—blends history and epic tragic romance to create a movie that is staggering in scale and intensity, drawing you in first with a sense of peace and beauty (the detail given to the ship, the ocean setting, and the costumes is impeccable) and then hammering you with the bleak reality of things as all of that beauty, and the false sense of peace that had come along with it, violently breaks and slips into the sea. It’s one of those movie experiences you need to prepare yourself for, paced in a way that lets you breathe and giggle for a while (especially when Billy Zane, in perfect villain mode, turns up) until things go wrong and emotional overdrive kicks in. I don’t know many people who can take the sight of the elderly couple clutching each other as the waters rushed in—a nod to real-life passengers Isidor and Ida Straus—without losing it, and the fear, sadness, and hopelessness are almost too much to bear at times. It’s all a bit strange, really. For every easily mocked pop culture touchstone it created—the Celine Dion song, “I’m the king of the world!,” the “Heart of the Ocean” necklace that was dropped into the ocean but then apparently recovered for Britney Spears, the one-person-capacity floating door that Cameron, 15 years later, is still trying to convince people about—there is a genuine sense of human tragedy, a reminder of something horrible that happened in the midst of so much progress, a commentary on class and privilege and excess and how merciless the forces of nature–both human and otherwise–can be. —Pixie

The Sound of Music (1965)
This movie is very near and dear to me—I know every single word of dialogue and song. It’s a three-hour musical about an adorable singing nun, Maria, who becomes a governess for the adorable, singing Von Trapp children in Austria. Their handsome, singing Naval captain father has forgotten how to love since his wife died. Also, there are Nazis who are trying to take over Austria and force the captain into defending the Third Reich. There are also snarky nuns, a (gay?) dandy of an uncle and a vixenish baroness intent on having the captain to herself. PERFECT FOR CHILDREN! Right? RIGHT. There are songs that you want to sing every word to, the supersaturated Easter-egg shades of ’60s Technicolor, and costumes that I have coveted since young young childhood (dirndls, so many dirndls). BONUS: Fraulein Maria makes clothes for the Von Trapp children out of her awesome old floral drapes, from head-kerchiefs to lederhosen. Ultimate DIY moment! —Elizabeth

The Fall (2006)
This is one of my favorite movies; I pull it out when I am feeling down, or want to bond with a new friend. It’s just so ridiculously beautiful it’s kind of impossible not to love it—the cinematography is like, obnoxiously gorgeous. When I first watched it on Netflix Instant it probably took twice as long as the its actual 117 minutes because I was screencapping it every five seconds. It’s the ultimate film for fashion inspiration and art direction to me, because every single shot is so meticulously beautiful and vibrant it revitalizes you. And Lee Pace is in it! In multiple roles! It’s one of my favorites to escape into because of the dramatic, sweeping landscapes and endearing characters. Also, Lee Pace. Lee Pace is definitely a supreme babe. —Arabelle

Funny Girl (1968)
I once read a biography of Fanny Brice that pretty much stated that Funny Girl, the Broadway-musical-turned-movie based on her life, was successful mostly because “Streisand turned it into a tour de force for her own talents,” pointing out that Brice’s theater career had been somewhat forgotten (as opposed to her successful radio career) in the days since she’d knocked ’em dead in the Ziegfeld Follies. I suppose this is what happens with any biopic: the performance, if it’s good enough, takes a real-life story and turns it into some sort of alternative legend, and Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice is now as legendary as the woman herself, thanks mostly to Streisand’s empathetic, funny portrayal and songs destined to be sung by anyone with a deep love for jazz hands and spirit fingers forevermore. —Pixie

Imitation of Life (1959)
Set in the late 1940s and ’50s, Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life is about two tumultuous and intertwined mother-daughter relationships. Lana Turner plays Lora Meredith, a widow and stage actress who is so ambitious and focused on her budding Broadway career that she ends up neglecting her daughter Susie (Sandra Dee). But the real heart of this story is Annie (Juanita Moore), the black woman who works for Lora (she’s a live-in nanny and maid). See, Annie’s light-skinned daughter Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) can pass for white, and she resents and rejects her dark-skinned mother. Based on the novel by Fannie Hurst, Imitation of Life is a masterful melodrama with several kind of campy, over-the-top moments (in the middle of a romantic chat with her paramour, Lora stares off into space and says in a breathy voice, “I want more…everything”) that also manages to be a stirring examination of race and identity. Maybe I’m weird, but what I love most about this movie is that the entire third act is filled with sobbing. Lora cries with Susie, Sarah Jane cries with Annie, and—oh my god—it’s all fantastic! —Amber

Mystic River (2003)
This dark, dramatic movie (based on the phenomenal novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane) starts with a horrible event in a working-class neighborhood in Boston. The mystery is solid and addictive, full of twists and turns and red herrings, but what sets it apart—and what won it multiple Oscar nominations as well as wins for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins—is the characters. They are so flawed and so human; they raise a murder mystery to the level of a Shakespearean tragedy. Keep your eye on Annabeth in particular—she’s pure Lady Macbeth. —Stephanie

Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Selma is a Czech immigrant, living in the U.S. with a boring, low-paying factory job. She has a degenerative eye disease, so she’s losing her sight—which she has to hide from her employers—and saves money to pay for a procedure that will prevent her son from suffering a similar fate. Sounds like the perfect premise for a musical, right? Well, it is when you have provocateur Lars Von Trier at the helm and Björk in the lead role. The song and dance numbers are Selma’s daydreams—she escapes from her dreary circumstances by imagining herself in the middle of elaborate, classic Hollywood-style musicals. The soundtrack here is obviously ridiculously cool and driven by Björk’s gorgeous, otherworldly voice. My favorite moment, though, is this brief but awesome tap-dance routine by Joel Grey, who was 68 years old at the time (and who is, I think, one of the most adorable human beings ever). This movie breaks my heart every time I see it—the story is tragic and Björk’s performance is visceral and beautiful—but the whole thing is just so fabulous and innovative that that hasn’t stopped me from watching it over and over. —Amber

The Red Shoes (1948)
In an early scene of this luscious Technicolor backstage musical by the awesome filmmaking team known as the Archers (A Matter of Life and Death), aspiring dancer Victoria Page (classically trained ballerina Moira Shearer, whose red mane seems to glow from within) meets the brooding ballet director Boris Lermontov. “Why do you want to dance?” asks the older man haughtily. “Why do you want to live?” Vicki shoots back. “Well, I don’t know exactly why, but…I must,” he sputters. “That’s my answer, too,” she responds. But when she rises through the ranks of Lermontov’s prestigious company, Vicki’s romantic conviction is tested; her love affair with the brilliant composer Julian Craster spurs the jealous Lermontov to force her to make an impossible choice between personal happiness and artistic transcendence. The film culminates in the uninterrupted 17-minute presentation of Craster’s ballet The Red Shoes, an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story about a pair of cursed slippers that force a girl to dance herself to death, with Vicki in the starring role. The wordless sequence, in which the stage expands into a 3D universe of its own, is such a perfect fusion of filmmaking, visual art, dance, and music that it moves me to tears. A devastating love letter to the passionate, inspiring, and sometimes destructive drive of artists in pursuit of their dreams, this fairy-tale-within-a fairy-tale will make you want keep creating, no matter the cost. —Rose

The Godfather (1972)
I wanted to see The Godfather for years, because I knew it was like this staggeringly iconic movie. But I never realized how much I’d love it until I finally saw it. It’s about an Italian Mafia family, its empire, its violence, and everyone’s relationships with one another. It also has a gorgeous score by Nino Rota and is crazily suspenseful—one of the most riveting films I’ve ever seen. —Tara

The Godfather: Part II (1974)
This movie picks up where The Godfather left off, but it also goes into the past to show the life of the young Godfather, played by a dreamy Robert DeNiro. The scenes in the 1920s are just as powerful and darkly beautiful as the present-day ones. There is a whole lot of betrayal, lust, gunfire, and golden Hollywood drama. —Tara

Titus (1999)
Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s most violent and brutal tragedies. It’s a story of revenge, pitting Titus, a victorious Roman general, against Tamora, Queen of the Goths. Titus returns from war, bringing Tamora, her sons, and her secret lover as his captives. When he kills Tamora’s eldest son as a sacrifice in honor of his own sons who died in the war, she swears vengeance upon him. More drama ensues when the new emperor of Rome decides he will marry Titus’s daughter, Lavina, even though she was betrothed to his brother. From there all hell breaks loose and it is seriously ugly—there’s a brutal rape, parents killing their children, parents being served food made of their children. As dark and horrible as the events of the story are, though, the film itself is gorgeous. It opens with a little boy—Titus’s grandson—playing with toy soldiers, which then leads into the war and the world of Shakespeare’s play. The costumes and settings blend various eras of history so you almost feel like Rome never fell and that this could be taking place in the present day. It’s one of the most interesting and visually stunning cinematic explorations of Shakespeare’s work. —Stephanie ♦