The Social Network (2010)
Do you use social media thingies on newfangled doohickeys without ever thinking about how any of them were created? Well, I think this movie, adapted from the book The Accidental Billionaires, makes a good case for seeking out those backstories. Don’t ask me how they did it, but director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin made The Social Network about as fascinating as a video of a cat walking on a treadmill—so, you know, really fascinating! But unlike a cat video, it has depth and a sharp narrative—so after watching it, you don’t feel like you just wasted precious moments of your life. Jesse Eisenberg plays Facebook founder/Adidas-sandal-fanatic Mark Zuckerberg. The movie tracks the computer-coding whiz kid’s journey from a petulant origin story—according to this depiction of events, Zuckerberg is spurred on by a break-up—to the site’s monumental success, and all of the double-crossing, lawsuits, and fleece pullovers in between. The movie is solid all around—Eisenberg’s version of Zuckerberg is a bratty prick, and the actor’s dry, scampish delivery works so well here. And Sorkin’s script is devastatingly clever. —Amber

Ruby Sparks (2012)
Calvin has had writer’s block ever since his first, hugely successful book. He also fantasizes about a pretty girl who will compliment his dog. His therapist (played by MONICA AND ROSS’S DAD, JACK GELLER, if that means anything to you) suggests that he write straight from this fantasy. Slowly, somehow, the girl becomes real, and she becomes his girlfriend. Calvin realizes he can write whatever he wants about her and it’ll come true, so he does just that. Then Danny from The Mindy Project is like, “Calm down,” and Calvin is like, “NEVER!” and Ruby is like, “I wear brightly colored tights and speak French and do whatever you say! UNTIL I START TO GAIN A MIND OF MY OWN, THAT IS.” Then Calvin, inevitably, is like, “Wahhhhh.” It’s like Harold and the Purple Crayon, only the theme is not “use your imagination” so much as it is “don’t be a dick and use your imagination to try and control your real-life romantic partner.” Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan are delightful as Calvin and Ruby, and watching them is a special joy when you know that they’re together in real life (Zoe also wrote the film). I laughed a lot, and the score is really good and intense, and it swept me up into Calvin’s brain so that I felt physically disoriented by the end. Watch this movie, and please don’t be a dick to your loved ones. —Tavi

The Big Bang Theory
2007–present, CBS

The Big Bang Theory invites us into the lives of roommates and Cal Tech physicists Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper; their friends/colleagues Howard Wolowitz and Raj Koothrappali; and Penny, the waitress/aspiring actress who lives across the hall. (The guys are geeky and socially awkward; Penny is the exact opposite.) I didn’t expect to like this show, because I’m not usually a big sitcom fan and the hot girl/dweeby guys stereotype seemed like it would offend me. However, being a massive sci-fi geek, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up binge-watching the first three seasons. It was as though it was written for me—there were Firefly references and hilarious guest appearances from Sheldon’s hero/nemesis, Wil Wheaton (aka Wesley on Star Trek: The Next Generation). And the science on the show, whether used a plot point or scrawled as equations on whiteboards in the background, is real. The show doesn’t just appeal to my nerdy side, though. It also brings me back to the sitcoms I really loved as a kid, namely Roseanne—Leonard is played by Johnny Galecki, Darlene’s boyfriend David, and is reunited onscreen with Sara Gilbert for a couple of episodes—and Blossom. Mayim Bialik (Blossom herself, and my childhood idol!) joined the cast in season three as Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon’s socially obtuse female counterpart and, in my opinion, the best character on the show. Yes, it can be stereotypical at times, but ultimately the series never fails to make me laugh, especially when Amy is onscreen or Penny is singing “Soft Kitty” to Sheldon. In fact, I frickin’ love that song so much, I bought a soft kitty and use it to terrorize my cats. —Stephanie

Submarine (2010)
As I don’t live far from Wales, where Submarine is set, I was really looking forward to its release, and I wasn’t disappointed. First, don’t let the name deter you—submarines don’t really come into play (then again, sorry to disappoint any submarine enthusiasts out there). It’s a story about a teenage boy, Oliver Tate, who finds “that the only way to get through life is to picture [himself] in an entirely disconnected reality.” (We immediately clicked.) He’s on a quest to impress a girl, but also to unlock his own identity: “I’ve tried flipping coins, listening exclusively to French crooners—I’ve even had a brief hat phase, but nothing stuck.” It starts working out with Jordana, an angsty, red-duffle-coat-wearing pyromaniac, but things fall apart with both of their families, and soon the happy relationship turns sour. The film is like a mix between Wes Anderson’s crisp tableaux and precious home footage. It covers a load of scary themes—heartbreak, cancer, depression, virginity, bullying, infidelity—but there’s a perfect balance of charm, and it made me want to write letters, swap books, make mixtapes, get a working Polaroid camera, shoot short films, run on a beach, set off fireworks, send a paper boat down a river, and just embrace teenage awkwardness. —Caitlin

Drunk History, Vol. 6
2007-present, Funny or Die

Derek Waters’s Drunk History is a web series that tickles my funny bone so thoroughly that I can’t watch it without tears streaming down my cheeks. The premise: inebriated folks discuss historical events, then the footage is interwoven with celebrities (Ryan Gosling, Michael Cera, Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel) in period costumes, acting out all of the intoxicated narrator’s hilarious paraphrasing. The series tackles the lives of notable American figures like Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Franklin, and William Henry Harrison, but my favorite installment by far is Vol. 6, in which stand-up comic Duncan Trussell, having just downed six beers and half a bottle of absinthe, describes the tension between inventors Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. John C. Reilly plays Tesla, the Serbian-American scientist who championed alternating current (an electrical charge that continuously reverses direction), and Crispin Glover plays Thomas Edison, who, according to the video, was “an asshole.” Trussell may have been staring down at a toilet bowl while he was telling this story, but I love this installment so much because his description of Tesla and Edison’s relationship is legit—Edison was a great inventor, but he was also a huge tool, and Drunk History gets that message across in a succinct, fairly accurate, and hysterical way. —Amber

Word Wars: Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Game Circuit (2004)
If you’re like me, you spend 10 minutes agonizing over a Scrabble (or Words With Friends) turn, only to come up with a whopper like ton or bat. But I love to play, and I admire word-genius in action. Word Wars is a documentary about competitive Scrabble players, based on the book Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis. The “word freaks” in question are the kind of people who can add up the scores of all the possible moves quickly in their heads, and who have memorized the Scrabble Dictionary, and “word war” is the 2002 National Scrabble Championship in San Diego, California. It’s like a grown-up version of Spellbound, the amazing doc about spelling bees. If you like words or games or documentaries or people being exactly as freaky as they wanna be, you will love this movie. —Emma S.

Sleeper (1973)
It’s fun to see people in the distant past imagining the (somewhat less-distant) future. Woody Allen’s 1973 film Sleeper is set in 2173, and it’s a pretty bizarre but aesthetically pleasing retro-futuristic fantasy. The architecture is white with rounded edges, and there are robot butlers, “cheap Japanese flying packs,” and, of course, the enigmatic Diane Keaton. (Try and catch a glimpse of her silver platform shoes!) Protagonist Miles Monroe (Woody himself) has just woken up after being cryogenically frozen, and he humorously attempts to come to terms with the fact that all his friends have been dead for nearly 200 years, which shocks him because “they all ate organic rice!” Ridiculous antics ensue. Woody’s early films are sillier more outlandish than his later, more famous ones (e.g., Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters), and this is no exception. It’s a madcap slapstick comedy crossed with a sci-fi flick, graced with Woody’s signature neurosis. It’s a wild ride, ESPECIALLY if you enter the Orgasmatron. —Minna

Hugo (2011)
How did the man who made Taxi Driver make a film for children? you might ask. Well, this is no ordinary family film. Based on a fantastic graphic novel by Brian Selznick (read it!), Hugo is about an orphan who lives in a train station in 1930s Paris and tends to its clocks, and he becomes obsessed with putting back together a machine that reveals an incredible secret. The cold blue tones of the film, not to mention the 3D, create a mechanical fantasy world that I would love to live in. Hugo made my whole family cry! —Tara

Young Frankenstein (1974)
Blazing Saddles, History of the World: Part I, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights—no one does silly with as much wit as Mel Brooks. His entire absurdist oeuvre played a major role in developing my sense of humor (when I was in high school, I used to amuse myself by writing Brooksian parodies of fairy tales), but Young Frankenstein is especially dear to me. Gene Wilder, who co-wrote the script with Brooks, stars as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein—a descendant of the mad scientist Victor Frankenstein, who made the original “Frankenstein’s monster.” At first, Frederick denies his birthright (“My grandfather’s work was doo-doo!” he screams), but soon warms up to the idea of following in the original Dr. Frankenstein’s footsteps by bringing a corpse to life. Wilder is the nucleus of this movie and plays the role with wild-eyed fervor, but everyone in the cast—an ensemble that includes the great Cloris Leachman—has incredibly breathtaking comedic sensibilities. Though Young Frankenstein is unmistakably zany and filled with masterful double entendres, it’s also gorgeous. Shot in black and white, it’s a very effective reproduction of the kind of Frankenstein movies that were being released in the ’30s. This classic is perfect for horror fans, madcap-comedy fans, and anyone who finds Gene Wilder’s hair as mesmerizing as I do. —Amber

Bellflower (2011)
I was late to this film, because I heard “two boys build a flame-throwing car,” and I just wasn’t interested in what sounded like an arty Jackass. Big mistake. Yeah, it’s about two friends who wanna blow stuff up and build the Medusa, a tricked-out vintage car to withstand the apocalypse, but it’s also a twisted love story between Woodrow and Milly, who meet during a cricket-eating contest at a local dive bar (the scene is scored to “Running Up That Hill,” she kicks his ass, it’s awesome). Milly’s a tough chick with a mordant sense of humor, and Woodrow is a tender lover who makes giddy little meep noises and probably likes the phrase “tender lover,” so she breaks his heart and thus ends his world. From there, the chronology gets distorted and the violence that follows is hard to piece together, but it’s pretty damn original. Director Evan Glodell plays Woodrow, and he built the camera that he filmed the movie with, giving it a washed-out, sunburned brilliance, and he handled stunts and pyrotechnics himself—all for under $500,000, which is like 50 bucks in movie-money. It’s streaming on Netflix right now, so check it out. —Phoebe

I, Robot (2004)
I, Robot is by far my favorite “robot revolution” movie. The story, from a book by Isaac Asimov, takes place in 2035, where robots are everywhere. Most of them are servants, and to prevent them from harming humans, they are programmed with the Three Laws of Robotics. The main character, Del Spooner, is a robot-hating detective who is investigating the murder of his friend, robot programmer Dr. Alfred Lanning. Although the death was ruled a suicide, Del suspects murder by robot. It makes you think: What if one day, robots decided to turn on the human race? Then what? —Britney

The Master (2012)
If you haven’t already seen director Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, then do so! It’s a strange psychological tale about a drifter with a strong penchant for alcohol named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who befriends the leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of an emerging faith that eerily resembles Scientology. The narrative structure drifts in time, which is fitting for a story about the invention of a cult-like organization fixated on mastering self and memory. Phoenix’s performance is fantastic—with his awkward, hunched posture, he radiates a sense of unsuitability, a soul displaced and suffering. And Amy Adams as the Master’s wife is unusually cunning. Shot on 65-millimeter film and set to a darkly beautiful score by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, this film is one for the senses. —Tara

The Science of Sleep (2006)
Stéphane (Gael García Bernal), an aspiring artist and inventor, has always had trouble separating his dreams from reality. While this would seem to be an ideal situation for somebody in a creative field, it’s a setup for some one-of-a-kind problems. When he starts to crush on his equally creative neighbor, Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Stéphane gets caught up in his need to impress her. Soon he can’t keep track of truth, lies, actual events, and his own subconscious. Director Michel Gondry has never been big on CGI—all the special effects in the elaborate dream sequences are accomplished by combining a few tricks of perspective with a lot of crafts. Watching the movie can feel a bit like perusing Etsy, but it’s not all twee and whimsy. Like a real dream, it can get quite unsettling. Stéphane isn’t the most likeable protagonist, and at times he reminded me of self-involved artist dudes that I know in real life, but that just added a dimension of truth to a movie that is otherwise pretty surreal. —Anna

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
More than 20 years after its release, this film—which has somehow escaped classic-with-a-capital-C status—still holds up, thanks to the inspiring amounts of creativity that leak through nearly every frame. Though the special effects may look dated at times, there is a charm to them that I rarely see replicated in the current world of CGI. (I suppose it helps that the film’s director, Joe Johnston, started his career with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, creating visual effects for Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and he’s still going strong: his latest film as a director was Captain America.) Rick Moranis, the best geek to ever hit the screen (this is not an argument, this is a fact) plays Wayne Szalinski, a frustrated shrink-ray inventor who can’t seem to make his machine work. Turns out the machine just needed a little help from a baseball, which neighbor Ron Thompson sends through the window, activating the ray and shrinking himself; the Szalinskis daughter, Amy; their son, Nick; and Ron’s brother, Russ. Unaware that his machine has worked, and that his kids (and the neighbors’ kids) are now smaller than ants, Wayne sweeps them into the garbage, displacing them to the backyard, which has transformed into a terrifying jungle filled with giant bugs, mudslides, and everyday threats such as sprinkler systems and lawn mowers. This is a movie that embodies the spirit of adventure and the spirit of invention. The kids have to make their way through a world they stomp across as giants every day, seeing their own universe from a different, frightening, and sometimes beautiful perspective. I loved this movie as a kid, and even now, I’m just as enraptured and impressed by their sleeping in a Lego, feasting on a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie, and befriending an ant—the movie reminds us of how there are millions of adventures taking place each day that we’re not even aware of, right in our own backyards. It’s so much fun, and every time I watch it, I want to create and explore and eat a TON of Oatmeal Creme Pies. —Pixie

Real Genius (1985)
Real Genius is a frothy and fun ’80s teen romp about a group of brilliant college kids who are unwittingly roped into making a death ray by their professor and the group of shady government types that he works for. Val Kilmer stars as the cheeky slacker genius Chris Knight, who pulls smart-ass pranks like freezing the floors of the dorm hallway and using coin-shaped slivers of liquid nitrogen to get free food from vending machines. He takes a 15-year-old wunderkind and overachiever named Mitch under his wing, and together they work to bring down their professor. My favorite character is Jordan (Michelle Meyrink), Mitch’s brainy, hyperkinetic love interest. I first saw this movie when I was about nine years old and thought it would be so cool to be BFFs with her, the two of us sitting around being geniuses together (I was conceited and kind of delusional when I was a kid). This is a light comedy, but it has a nice little message: it’s awesome if you’re super smart and want to strive for academic excellence, but it’s also important to have fun, cut loose, and wear fuzzy mouse slippers from time to time. —Amber

The Back to the Future trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)
Whenever I feel a bit down, I play Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future theme, and then I feel like I can do anything. Travel through time in a 1985 Delorean, built by my slightly mad scientist friend, Doc Brown? No problem! Go back to 1955 to screw up—and then fix—my parents’ high school relationship in order to, you know, be born? Whatever! Help to defeat the greatest bully of all time, Biff Tannen? Can do! Get back in the machine to fix my own future problems? Navigate flying highways in 2015? Ride a hoverboard? Screw up—again—and create an entire alternate universe when I return home to 1985, which I must then return to 1955 to fix? BRING IT! End up in 1885, calling myself Clint Eastwood? I guess I can (OK, the third installment is nobody’s favorite, but you have to finish the story, man)! The point is: Marty McFly is one of the greatest characters of all time (of any time, hey-o!), and Crispin Glover’s George McFly is worth the price of admission alone. If you’ve never watched these films, you must. They are your density. I mean, destiny. —Pixie ♦