Holiday in the SunHoliday in the Sun (2001)
Everything about this Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen classic is far-fetched, and that’s why I love it. It movie starts out with the twins being whisked out of class and onto a private jet, stocked with fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts, that takes them to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas for a surprise winter vacation (I now have a recurring fantasy whenever I’m in a boring class or meeting that this scenario will happen to me). It’s not long before the twins get caught up in all sorts of very realistic and plausible dramas—like tracking down stolen ancient artifacts and fighting with heiresses over cute boys. When I watched this on cable last year for the first time since I was a kid, I realized it’s essentially just one giant ad for the Atlantis resort, and MAN, is it effective—it’s been 13 years since my first viewing, and I’m still holding out for that all-inclusive Bahamas vacation. —Gabby

Roman HolidayRoman Holiday (1953)
Sometimes when I’ve overdosed on internet and TV and start having Homeland-themed nightmares, I like to slow it down with an old movie, and Roman Holiday is the perfect escape. Audrey Hepburn is a princess of an unmentioned country who hides out in Rome and falls into the arms of a reporter played by Gregory Peck. What she doesn’t know is that he’s been offered big bucks to write a story about her. This classic rom-com asks an everlasting question: Do you really love me, or are you using me? Before anyone gets an answer, the pair galavants all over Rome, eating ice cream and riding mopeds. Audrey also gets a sick haircut. I’m a sucker for makeover/become-someone-you’re-not stories, and this one is a prototype. It’s so much fun watching the best-of-both worlds fantasy unfold: She’s a princess and a normal girl out on the town. And there’s something about watching Audrey Hepburn dance through the streets of Rome in her summery “I’m just a normal girl” ensembles that comforts me and makes me feel like I’m going back in time. —Monika

Under the Tuscan SunUnder the Tuscan Sun (2003)
This film is about a writer who discovers that her husband has been cheating on her around the same time her best friends—a lesbian couple—find out they’re having a baby. The result of both pieces of news is that Frances leaves her home in San Francisco ASAP to fill her friends’ now-vacant spot on a trip around Italy for gay tourists. On a whim, Franny jumps off the tour bus, puts a bid on a crumbling villa, and sets about starting a new life for herself in Tuscany. She gradually learns to face her weaknesses and insecurities with the help of a new gal pal who is a free-spirited, sexually liberated guide to Franny’s post-marriage life. OK, I realize this sounds like a cheesy, culture-shock rom-com, but it’s also A LOT more. Yes, Frances rides around on the back of a Vespa with a handsome European man, but she also learns to follow her heart and deal with the shitty consequences as they come. —Brodie

Morvern_CallarMorvern Callar (2002)
Morvern Callar is a 20-something supermarket clerk living in a small port town in Scotland. One Christmas morning, she wakes up to find that her aspiring-novelist boyfriend has committed suicide, leaving behind her Christmas presents, money for his funeral, and his just-completed novel, which he asks her to send to his publisher. Morvern leaves his body and goes out to a party, telling everyone he’s gone on holiday. When she returns, she disposes of the boyfriend’s body, then she replaces his name on his manuscript with her own and sends it to the publisher. She uses the funeral cash, plus the money from the sale of the manuscript, to take a trip with her best friend to Spain, where they immerse themselves in the rave scene. I admit that this description makes Morvern sound totally callous—even amoral—but the movie is actually a nuanced portrait of a young, working-class woman from a depressed town who is trying to shake off the seemingly inescapable life she was born into. Samantha Morton plays the role perfectly, and every shot captures her character’s unconventional ways of grieving and seeking freedom. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Alan Warner, which I also highly recommend. Ten years after reading it and seeing this film, I still regularly think of how Movern’s story illustrates some of the disparities between the working poor and the educated middle class. —Stephanie

Stir CrazyStir Crazy (1980)
In this quintessential ’80s buddy comedy, Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder play Harry and Skip, two unemployed New Yorkers who head to the Southwestern United States for a fresh start. They wind up in Arizona, where they’re mistaken for bank robbers and sentenced to a whopping 125 years in prison. When Skip is selected to compete in the prison rodeo, the duo and their new pals realize that the event will be the perfect smokescreen for a jailbreak. Stir Crazy is a screwball romp of the highest order, teeming with goofiness. But the intense chemistry between Pryor and Wilder is really what makes this movie extraordinary—they play off of each other so well that you’d swear they’d been raised together. It’s an incredible and beautiful thing to behold. —Amber

Die Hard 2Die Hard 2 (1990)
In Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Bruce Willis reprises the role of John McLane, a hardboiled police officer who just wants to hang with his wife. TOO BAD FOR HIM, because this sequel finds her trapped in a plane circling above an airport that’s been overtaken by villainous drug lords for some reason. In order to bring her down, he’s gonna have to outsmart them AND the corrupt members of U.S. Special Forces they rode in on!! (As with many ’80s action movies, “outsmart” in this context mostly means “set off mad explosions to the rhythms of a very synth-heavy score.”) McLane is extraordinarily good at this and everything else required of this brand of cheesy hero—at one point, he balances on the plane’s wing while it’s still in the air. DO YOU GUYS THINK HE SAVES HIS WIFE? Can you imagine if he didn’t? Despite the fact that anyone could correctly guess the ending to this movie without having seen a single minute of it, you’ll very likely hold your breath the whole time due to all the synthsplosions and other thrills on display. It’s the perfect cornball meathead movie, and I promise it’s worth your two hours…cross my heart and hope to DIE HARDER!! KABLAM! *Cue sick keytar sound effects* —Amy Rose

Orange Is the New BlackOrange Is the New Black (2013–present, Netflix)
Based on the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, this drama/comedy/bit of heaven revolves around Piper, a delicate, entitled woman who struggles with prison life after being incarcerated for assisting her then-girlfriend smuggle drugs 10 years earlier. As the story broadens, everything becomes terrifically poignant and, at times, terrifically bizarre. Other inmates, like Red, an iron-fisted Russian cook who for a time starves Piper; Daya, who’s in prison with her mom; Pennsatucky a “faith healer”; Crazy Eyes, Piper’s not-so-secret admirer; and Sophia, a trans woman who serves as the de facto prison hairdresser, gradually enter the picture with their own fascinating and often painful secrets and personal histories. When I watched these women make friends, form surrogate families, and fall in love, I started to realize that while this may be a show about an educated, upper-middle-class white woman’s experiences in prison, but it’s also about everything that all of these characters do to try to create a little normalcy in this totally unnatural environment. The bonuses, for me, are that OITNB was created by a woman (Jenji Kohan), has a mostly female ensemble, and features women of color in key roles (that will hopefully be expanded in the show’s next season) and not just as props for the protagonist to play against. While we are introduced to the other inmates and the prison’s dynamics through Piper’s story, all of these women are presented, in large part thanks to tremendous acting by every cast member, with depth and sensitivity. It’s a show where everyone really is a star. —Amber

Apollo 13Apollo 13 (1995)
There is nothing more awesome—in the original sense of the word—than outer space. I have been obsessed with it for as long as I can remember, I think in part because of a book I received as a wee one with the most incredible pictures of planets, galaxies, and all the other things that inhabit the infinite space we also populate. Going into space is one of the greatest things we’ve achieved as humans, and it’s something I think about every time I look up and see the moon. NASA’s Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was to be humans’ third trip to the moon, but an explosion on the ship meant that astronauts never got to walk on its surface— instead they had to figure out a way to get safely back to Earth. The story is already riveting enough, but then this movie adds a bunch of GREAT actors. The first-billed star is Tom Hanks as commander Jim Lovell, but I think it’s Ed Harris as Gene Krantz (aka the guy in charge of everything back in Houston), who delivers the most incredible performance, playing a person who refuses to accept the possibility that the three men aboard Apollo 13 won’t make it back to Earth. I love this movie so much that no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I still cry and am filled with hope and nerves and excitement every time. Human beings are capable of SO much good, and this movie is a beautiful reminder of that. —Laia

Pierrot le FouPierrot le Fou (1965)
Not everyone is cut out for the domestic life. Case in point: Ferdinand (played by the hunky former boxer Jean-Paul Belmondo), a man who leaves his family and job one night when he discovers his children’s babysitter is none other than his former mistress, Marianne (Anna Karina, my dreamgirl). After she gets into trouble with some gangsters, the duo head off on a seemingly romantic getaway/crime spree that quickly turns sour, with typical relationship bickering bubbling up in between the car thefts and murders. Maybe the film’s director, Jean-Luc Godard, intended its plot to serve as a warning against giving up responsibility—a wagging finger at those who desire a life of hedonism. But on the hot summer night when I, as a teenager, first watched it on the big screen, I felt an immediate urge to head for the French seaside and rent (not steal!) a shiny convertible. The film’s bright color scheme and backdrop contrast dreamily with its moody classical score and its near-constant bloody violence. It becomes abundantly clear that Ferdinand and Marianne are a terrible match (their onscreen love closely resembles Godard and Karina’s real-life crumbled marriage), but their journey to destruction is a beautiful one. —Hannah

butch_cassidyButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Butch Cassidy was played by Paul Newman. The Sundance Kid was played by Robert Redford. The costumes in this movie were made by Edith Head (whom we love), and the music was written by Burt Bacharach (a composer who has a rep for being cheesy but whose songs have always broken my heart in one way or another). Somehow, even though I wasn’t born yet, movies made in and around 1969, like this one (even though it was technically set in the 1890s), have always looked and sounded to me like adulthood. In these worlds, running away to, say, Bolivia to flee a crime never seemed like a cop-out or even like actual criminal activity—it was almost the responsible thing to do. I grew up fantasizing that adulthood might be filled with similar high-stakes problems, and that being honest about yourself wasn’t one of them. —Lena

Year of the DogYear of the Dog (2007)
Peggy, played by Molly Shannon, is a secretary who loves nothing more than her dog, Pencil. Pencil’s companionship gives Penny a true sense of purpose. So you can imagine how hurt she is one morning when she finds him dying from toxic poisoning in her yard. In the wake of Pencil’s death, adopts a new dog, embraces veganism, and then dives headfirst into animal-rights activism. Mike White, who wrote the screenplay, wrote Peggy as someone who discovers a passion that becomes so enveloping and important to her that it pushes the other people in her life away (not unlike Amy Jellicoe, the lead character he wrote for HBO’s Enlightened). I don’t want to spoil the ending of the film because it’s one of the most beautiful final scenes I’ve ever seen, and I think about it often, but it’s so cool that a movie about a woman discovering something that means a lot to her and doggedly (get it?) pursuing it, despite everyone around her telling her it’s not as important as having a husband/child/career/mortgage, exists. —Brodie

The HoursThe Hours (2002)
The Hours is a movie about a day in the lives of three women who are connected across decades by one book, Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway. The film, which was adapted from Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, follows Woolf as she writes Mrs. Dalloway in mundane suburban London; Laura Brown, a despairing post-WWII housewife who’s reading Woolf’s novel; and Clarissa Vaughan, a 21st-century incarnation of Mrs. Dalloway herself. All three women crave escape as they battle the tedium of trapped lives and rigorous conformity, as well as mental illnesses that tighten their grip with every passing day. The Hours is visually rich—the cinematography, especially paired with Philip Glass’s soundtrack, feels almost overwhelming at times. But it’s not just beautiful to look at: It’s also emotionally nuanced in its depiction of mental illness, and of that particular madness that women across the centuries and millennia have known, when extraordinary minds are trapped in the minutiae of dull routines. For that fact alone, I see it as feminist film, and I recommend it to anyone who has ever dreamed of freedom. —Ragini

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
I can’t usually get it up for Johnny Depp. I find his studied adherence to this image of what it should look like to be a handsome cool-guy coolster—his rebellious feather earrings and facial hair, glum lean-around attitude, and whatever other markers of OUTSIDER HOTTIEDOM have you—antithetical to my personal ideas of sexiness. I’m not saying he’s a bad dude—just that I think, if pointed emotional removal is going to be attractive to me, it had better well come from motivations that don’t seem wholly performative in nature, or at least a place that I can kind of understand as genuine.
     In this movie, that place is the musty and vacant fictional town of Endora, Iowa. As the prime mover of a beautiful script written by Peter Hedges (which was adapted from his even more beautiful novel), Depp, stripped of his fedora, tinted glasses, and paparazzi pout, becomes almost unbearably lovely as Gilbert, a checkout boy with a consumptive and complicated family—a housebound mother, a mentally disabled little brother, bitter sisters. He can’t keep their home life together despite his best efforts, and for a while, his only external relationship is a sexual affair with a married woman, which he ends out of intense guilt. He is so goddamn lonely and trapped in his life, and it’s crushing to watch. There are many, many things eating Gilbert Grape—and you had better believe that when I see grief or discontent on Johnny Depp’s face here, I understand it as genuine.
     Regardless of your opinion on Johnny Depp (if you even have one), this movie is on some powerful shit. If you’ve ever felt so isolated that you can’t imagine what it would be like to feel close to another person—if you’ve rejected that idea as totally impossible and outrageous—this is your story. If you’ve ever felt like the thing that’s so relentlessly chewing at you is just the entire world itself, you’ll feel reflected here. Luckily, you’ll also see that no matter how irreversibly alienated your heart might be, your loneliness most likely won’t be a permanent truth. I’m not going to tell you how Gilbert learns this, but I can say that it will make you swoon so hard you’ll forget that Depp’s head ever knew the warm embrace of a fedora’s brim. Now go find this movie. —Amy Rose

Big Girls Don't Cry They Get EvenBig Girls Don’t Cry…They Get Even (1992)
When 13-year-old Laura is sick of dealing with her crazy family, she gets the F outta Dodge and runs away. Laura’s relatives are like the anti–Brady Bunch: there’s her cold, uncaring mother; her blaming stepfather; her three spoiled step-siblings; and her thrice-married biological father, an artist who still acts like a teenager. Laura runs away from her mother’s house to her cool older stepbrother’s place until she gets found out—then she leaves a second time, and THAT is when the real fun begins. By the end of the adventure, SPOILER ALERT: Laura realizes she belongs at home with her wacky fam. If you’ve ever struggled with your home life or felt lost in a large family, you might be able to relate. —Marie ♦