There are a lot of things we're supposed to do and goals that we're supposed to meet by the time we're 30, but, since I don't have thousands of dollars lying around waiting to take me on an eat, pray, love tour around Europe, I'm much more interested in turning my attention toward movies that every woman should watch in her 20s. Travel is great, and I'm sure we'd all love to have immaculately decorated apartments and a signature scent, but, sometimes, you need to get your head right before the rest of that stuff makes sense. That's what these movies are intended to do.
The decade between 20 and 30 is a moment when you're not only smart enough to assimilate new ideas, but hopefully curious enough to seek them out, and mature enough to admit when you're wrong. And, for those reasons, I'm a big proponent of packing your 20s with as much culture and stimulus as possible.
These movies, for me, help define what it's like to be not just a woman, but a human, shedding light on tricky concepts like privilege, sexual orientation, racial bias, women's rights, civil rights, equality, identity, and, above all, our deeply-flawed humanity. No one is supposed to be good at handling these issues right away, so it helps to have it all wrapped up in a two-and-a-half-hour package. So, here they are, my own (highly subjective) picks for 14 movies that every woman should watch in her 20s.
1. (500) Days Of Summer
This is one of the first movies I ever saw that showed me what a relationship with someone you aren't suited to looks like from the outside. In my early attempts at coupling, I was so nervous to be alone or to hurt someone else that I ended up compromising and demanding compromise in ways that were damaging to both of us, and Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's relationship in (500) Days Of Summer really illuminated that for me.
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
A 6-year-old taking hold of her future and setting out alone on a mystical, magical quest to locate her mother after her father falls ill? Legitimately, what is more empowering than that? I wish I'd seen this as a kid, but seeing it now is the next best thing.
3. Young Adult
I think we all need a reminder once in a while not to be garbage people and actually care about things, and Charlize Theron in Young Adult is that reminder and more. Plus, I think it's important to see a flawed female character in a script once in a while instead of holding them to the same impossible standards that crowd in on us in real life.
A very important look at the chilling cycle of violence, the way our histories inform our future behavior, and our human ability to triumph over adversity. It will be uncomfortable, but I strongly recommend putting yourself through it.
This is partly to give yourself a break from the heavy-hitters I just listed, but also a great example of what relationships should actually be built on — friendship and trust — versus what they shouldn't — love at first sight. Also sisters before misters, get wise to that quick.
6. Obvious Child
The only movie I've ever seen that deals with abortion in a way I can actually related to. God bless you and your willingness to laugh at the hardest and scariest things in life, Jenny Slate. Seeing subject matter like a woman's autonomy over her own body treated with such a genuine respect is exactly what lawmakers and Republicans need in this day and age, and you can benefit from it too.
7. The Kids Are All Right
I grew up with a lesbian mom, so I've seen more than my fair share of LGBTQ relationships, and can recognize what a great job this movie does at dealing with them. The relationship between Julianne Moore and Annette Bening's characters isn't perfect, but it is real, and that's the crucial part.
Twenty-somethings are at a stage where they're just past being kids but not quite fully embracing adulthood yet — at least I am — so watching a family mold and grow over a period of 12 years was super enlightening to me. It all really does pass in just the blink of an eye, for one thing, but also your parents had no idea what they're doing either, which hopefully makes you feel a little better about your adulting abilities.
Based on the autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, Persepolis follows a young woman growing up in Iran and the struggles she faced to feel accepted and like she belonged. A must-watch for really anyone, but especially a young woman feeling like no one else in the world could possibly understand what you're going through. Also, how refreshing to see an animated film about a woman, by a woman! Also also, it has subtitles, and reading is good for you.
10. Fruitvale Station
If you've struggled to connect with the insane racial tension that's been tearing our country apart of late (or maybe forever?), Fruitvale Station is guaranteed to put you there emotionally and make you understand what's at stake here. Michael B. Jordan stars as Oscar Grant, the young man who was shot by a transit official in San Francisco in 2009 while handcuffed and face down on the ground.
It's the dark comedy of two sex workers trying to seek revenge on the pimp who cheated on one of them during her prison stay, with the added detail that both are trans women. But, because that isn't the main point or focus of the film, the audience gets to explore their characters not just as trans women but as people — getting angry, being hurt, and making each other laugh.
12. It Follows
I can't believe I'm saying this about a horror film, but this movie tackles a lot of issues about sex and unwanted attention and victim-blaming and all that, making it a very scary must-see.
For as far as we still have to go, this movie is a reminder of how far we've come in the fight for equality. Even just the bold feminism of the trailer had me hyped, so combine a history lesson and a feels session with the full movie.
14. Inside Out
Everything you feel is real and acceptable and we need sadness to be happy. I'm not crying; you're crying.
And there you go! You're now ready to proceed to your 30s with (hopefully!) a clearer idea of the world and your place in it. Turns out your 20s are good for something other than newly-painful hangovers. Whoever thought Netflix and chilling could be so productive!
Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures