lostLost (2004–2010, ABC)
I spent six years of my life racing home very Wednesday night so I could watch Lost, a show that was, at first, about a plane bound from Australia to Los Angeles that crashed on a deserted island, and how those who miraculously survived tried to solve the mystery of where and how they landed, and how to get home. Stranded on an island is the most basic concept ever, right? Not in this case! By the end of the series, the show had become about time travel, mythology, magic, the nature of reality, philosophy, physics, parallel worlds, and God, among other things. Starring a really strong ensemble cast and set over various parallel time periods, Lost was seminal network television—one of those shows that changed how people think of the medium. It was arguably the first show to fully take advantage of the internet, with various show-related sites and Easter eggs dropped all over the web throughout its duration. I cannot believe that it’s been 10 years since ABC aired the first episode, because I still think so much about this show and how intricately it was plotted out (though, notoriously and predictably, longtime fans were hella mad about the ending, including me!). If you are really into strange coincidences and television that references literature, sci-fi, and/or The X-Files, get into this show immediately, and prepare to have your mind explotado. —Julianne

the lookoutThe Lookout (2007)
I’ll admit it: The only reason I wanted to watch Lookout was to stare at Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face. But it’s such a good movie that it ended up being one of my favorites, with or without JGL’s dimples. It’s about a former hot-shot high school jock whose promising future is derailed by a traumatic brain injury. Four years after his accident, he’s working as a janitor at a bank and has lost the ability to carry out basic tasks like counting money and reading the newspaper. He meets a couple of con artists who exploit his precarious mental state and manipulate him into helping them rob the very bank where he works. This is a heist movie, so there’s fantastic suspense and action. It also explores some of the frustration, confusion, anger, and small yet meaningful triumphs that someone with a brain injury might experience on a daily basis. The story ends up being just as profound as it is thrilling and so unlike anything you’d expect from this genre. The best thing about The Lookout, though, is Gordon-Levitt’s performance—the guy is so versatile and daring, and both of those qualities (plus his smile, of course) are really on display here. —Amber

pippiThe New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988)
We celebrated my cousin’s eighth birthday by going to the mall to see The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, an energetic musical based on Astrid Lindgren’s fantasy books for kids. At the sleepover afterwards, my cousin, her friends, and I stayed up all night eating pizza and attempting to reenact some of the scenes. We took turns impersonating pigtailed Pippi Longstocking, a plucky redhead who, after her father is shipwrecked, is left to her own devices at her eccentric family’s (possibly haunted) home, Villa Villekulla. Pippi’s adventurous antics with her horse and pet monkey inspired us so much that we danced around the house, ran up and down the stairs, and had a mini ice-cream fight until the adults made us go to bed. Whenever I feel like being a grownup is the worst thing ever, I rewatch Pippi Longstocking to remind myself that my spunky spirit will never leave me. —Jamia

beginnersBeginners (2010)
I am quite serious when I say Beginners helped me understand the way in which I want to love and be loved. Mike Mills treats his characters and their flaws with such tenderness and empathy that it cracks me wide open every time I see it. Oliver (loosely based on Mills) cannot figure out why love hurts so badly, and his dad (loosely based on Mills’s dad) is a recent widow, recently out of the closet, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, and for the first time learning how good love can feel. We will never completely know our parents or our partners or our friends. But this movie made me see that there is no better way to show someone you love them than to give them the space to be themselves—even when they don’t know or haven’t become who that person is, and when doing so is the scariest thing you can imagine, because it means they might leave. —Lena

fallen_angelsFallen Angels (1995)
This is a movie you watch when you can’t decide whether you want to fall deeply in love or all the way out of it. It’s about searching and confusion, and there are a lot of subtle love-and-loss moments wrapped up in the kinds of gorgeous washes of color that Wong Kar-Wai’s films are known for. Fallen Angels is not even my favorite movie he’s directed, but it’s the most fitting for me right now, I think, because watching it is like slowly waking up after hibernation and/or shaking off bad dreams. A sort-of sequel to the super-charming Chungking Express (1994), it follows two very loose narratives—one about a hit man and his lover, Blondie, and one about a thief and his lover, the jilted ex-girlfriend of the hit man—and the script is mostly improvised. If you are looking for a neat hero’s tale, this is not the movie to watch. My favorite scenes are the ones that happen in bed, because there’s often a kind of tragic mixture of masturbation and tears that I can really relate to (sad-girl nation, population: me). This film will not make you feel good, but it could make you feel less alone. The latter seems more important to me, at least right now. —Arabelle

son of rambowSon of Rambow (2007)
I don’t think there is anything better than making a new friend. I love the excitement that happens when you relate to someone on a special level and you start dreaming about the adventures you will go on together. Son of Rambow is filled with these sincere friendship vibes. The main character is Will Proudfoot, a shy boy whose family follows a very conservative religious lifestyle. Will is an outcast at school because his parents forbid him from watching TV. One day he is forced to wait in the hallway while his class watches a documentary, and that’s where Will befriends the baddest kid in school, Lee Carter. Will and Lee are polar opposites, but they relate to each other because they’re equally ostracized by their peers. Before long, they’re best friends. Inspired by the action film First Blood, Will and Lee decide to make an action movie of their own. They meet in secret to record scenes and cast sweet old folks from a nearby nursing home, as well as some of the French exchange students who are visiting their school (including a suave, androgynous boy named Didier Revol, played by Jules Sitruk, who is next to impossible not to crush on). —Shriya

mortified nationMortified Nation (2013)
Since the late ’90s, a man named Dave Nadelberg has been putting on shows in which real-life people stand up in front of an audience and read the choicest lines from their real-life teenage diaries. Appropriately, he called this series Mortified (though I promise the older you get, the less embarrassed you’ll be to share your teenage thoughts with others), and it became wildly popular, mostly because everyone can relate to feelings of awkwardness, insecurity, crush-craziness, game-obsession, parent-fury, etc., which means that shit is REALLY funny to every human on earth. The movie Mortified Nation documents various Mortified events around the country, and it’s hilarious. Highlights include a man who wanted to be Eminem when he grew up and chronicled his every outfit, and another man who spent his youth writing about how he was not gay, even while crushing on a boy at his school and participating in same-sex trysts. It sounds sad, and there’s an element of that, but the lesson is that with some distance, things that seem huge at the time will be awesome in the future. So, no matter how weird you feel about your diary now, do not ever discard it! You don’t have to share it with anyone, but as Mortified Nation shows, sometimes rereading it as an adult is like giving your teen self a big old hug. —Julianne

frances haFrances Ha (2012)
I am glad I was alone when I saw this movie in the theater, because the experience was mortifying to me. I felt like Greta Gerwig, the movie’s star and co-writer, had found my old letters and read each one out loud in her creation of her character, Frances, a modern dancer halfheartedly following her dreams in the big city. Frances is obsessed with her friends but is so self-centered that she’s unable to see them as real people with lives outside her own (she pitches a fit when her BFF finally finds love). She’s ill-suited to her professional situation but refuses to let self-analysis and concerned co-workers guide her into alternatives that could ultimately improve her life. She’s bright and sweet and wacky, but also one of those characters you want to take by the shoulders and shake the crap out of, because nothing else seems to have gotten her to see her situation rationally. Ugh, I hate coming to terms with reality sometimes! Thankfully, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Frances. Hope for dreamers? Yes, definitely. Frances, thank you. Now get out of my head! —Caitlin D.

best_fiendMy Best Fiend (1999)
The German actor Klaus Kinski was far from a kind or generous person. In the first scene of this this posthumous documentary about his life, you see archival footage in which he interrupts one of his own stage performances to scream insults at his audience. There are a LOT of scenes where Kinski screams at people in this film, and you can easily see what a terrifying person he could be (and often was). For all his character flaws, though, he was a remarkable actor. The director Werner Herzog, who worked with Kinski on five movies before making this film about their relationship, was mesmerized by Kinski’s skill. He also found the actor arrogant, tempestuous, and aggressive. Creatively, the two were bound together, as full of respect and passion for each other as they were vitriol and spite. Like, have you ever had a relationship that seethes with so much rage and love that you feel like it might kill you? According to this movie and Kinski’s excellent, deranged autobiography, Herzog and Kinski came close to literally murdering each other out of anger and frustration at least twice in their lives. Despite their differences, Kinski was truly Herzog’s muse and partner, and the sad-eyed affection with which Herzog approaches his dead friend/antagonist in this movie is stunning. “Every gray hair on my head, I call Kinski,” says a weary Herzog at one point. The reverence he feels towards his muse is clearest, and most heartbreaking, in the movie’s final scene. In an outtake from one of Herzog’s movies, Kinski gently plays with a butterfly. It lands on his grinning face, then flits to his outstretched hand, then over to his shoulder. Kinski is overjoyed and laughs like a little kid. This scene kills me. The director has shown you all of his friend’s ugliness, then he chooses to leave you with a moment in which Kinkski’s beauty is stunning and complete. Herzog, the person perhaps most taxed with Kinski’s brutal hotheadedness when he was alive, always found a way to see past it, to his radiance. —Amy Rose

gerryGerry (2002)
Gerry is the first movie in what is known as director Gus Van Sant’s death trilogy, which comprises three films loosely based on real-life tragedies. This one is about two friends called Gerry, one played by Matt Damon and the other played by Casey Affleck. Watching it, I had that sense of dread that makes you want to scream at the screen, “No! Don’t do that!” from the moment the Gerrys decide to go for a hike in the desert without supplies. As they head back, they realize they have no idea where they are. This is when the movie really starts to feel as dark and unsettling as a horror flick. The Gerrys try to find their way, and start to lose their minds, in what is definitely one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen (the film was partially shot in California’s Death Valley and Utah’s Salt Flats). It’s disturbing to watch, but at the same time, it gave me the visual and emotional space to reflect on times I’ve felt lost and managed to survive. —Stephanie

never let me goNever Let Me Go (2010)
I guess I need to start this recommendation off with a warning: Never Let Me Go is a completely soul-shattering story. I was exhausted the first time I saw it because I’d just stayed up most of the night to finish the novel the movie is based on. By the time the credits rolled, I was a bleary-eyed mess. An older woman sitting behind me came up and put her hands on my shoulders, assuring me, “It’s only a movie!” To which I replied, between sobs, “But…it’s…so…sad!” It follows the lives of three friends, Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy, from their childhoods at the isolated and mysterious Hailsham school to their teen years in “the Cottages,” near the English seaside. As the trio grow up, they learn that they are members of a select group of humans born with a very specific purpose. I won’t divulge what that purpose is, but it weighs heavily on them through the rest of their confusing, and sometimes devastating, lives. Never Let Me Go brings up a lot of questions about love, friendship, morality, and exploring one’s purpose in life, and the twist is guaranteed to stick in your brain, and maybe even haunt you, for a long, long time. —Hannah

gates of heavenGates of Heaven (1978)
This documentary is ostensibly is about pet cemeteries, but it’s actually an existential meditation on par with anything Sartre or Camus ever gave this world. There are so many scenes that ponder what it means to have a soul. Some of then are overt, like when the wife of one pet-cemetery owner gives the film its name by saying, “Surely, at the gates of heaven, an all-compassionate God is not going to say, ‘Well, you’re walking in on two legs—you can go in. You’re walking in on four legs—we can’t take you.'” Others are more subtle, like when that same woman’s son, resting his face on his hand with a hurt/hopeful look on his face, talks about how he loves to blare music into the California hills on his brand-new stereo system. “You can hear it for miles away,” he says, and you can only assume that he wishes he had somebody closer at hand to listen with him. Or when, after a lifetime of trying his hardest to create a final resting place for people’s beloved pets, another cemetery owner runs out of the money he needs to follow through on that noble goal, and the hundreds of animals buried on his property have to be exhumed and relocated. If you want to see (and feel) heartbreak incarnate, it’s that guy. I cried through this entire movie. Every single “character” is not a character, but a whole and true and sympathetic person. I fucking adore this life so much when what seems like a simple question—“Who would own a pet cemetery?”—results in a resolutely gorgeous, empathetic, and elevated portrait of what, who, and why people love the way they do. THANKS, DEAD ANIMALS, AND RIP! (Also, incredible fact: This documentary is responsible for the other director I swooned over in this rex post, Werner Herzog, eating his shoe.) —Amy Rose

gravityGravity (2013)
One of the first trailers released for Gravity showed a space shuttle breaking apart after an unknown catastrophic event and an astronaut floating off alone into the vast, vast, super vastness of space. When I saw it, I wondered, What else could possibly happen to this person? Isn’t spinning into the void enough?! The answer to that question is that a TON more stuff—scary, shocking, exhilarating stuff—can happen! Sandra Bullock plays the drifting astronaut, a medical engineer on her first space mission who is struggling physically and psychologically to deal with her jacked-up situation. The movie’s visual effects are incredible—at a press conference last fall, a journalist asked director Alfonso Cuarón what it was like to film in space, which I think was supposed to be a joke, but the movie is so realistic-looking that I could see how someone could make that mistake. It’s one of the most stunning movies I’ve ever seen. And it’s about summoning the will to survive in the most desperate situations, which is beautiful in and of itself. —Amber

hit so hardHit So Hard (2011)
The idea for this documentary was born when Hole’s drummer, Patty Schemel, discovered video footage she’d recorded while the band was making and touring to support their now-worshipped 1994 album Live Through This. The director, P. David Ebersol, combined these older recordings with recent interviews with Schemel’s family (her brother Larry also is a musician, and their relationship shaped Patty’s career), her bandmates (Courtney Love eats cookies through a lot of it), and the many other musicians she has worked with and been inspired by (including drummers Kate Schellenbach of Luscious Jackson and Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s). The resulting documentary follows an incredible and heartbreaking arc: Patty starts out as a kid in small-town Washington, where she always felt different; she comes out to her parents as a teenager; she joins Hole and becomes famous; she watches Kurt and Hole’s bassist, Kristen Pfaff, die from drug overdoses just two months apart; she is kicked out of the band and hits rock bottom, living on the streets, addicted to crack. That she found her way out of that dark place through love, music, and working with animals, is a testament to her fierce survival instinct. She lived to tell her tale, and it’s one I think you will connect with, even if you aren’t familiar with or a fan of her music. —Stephanie ♦