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50 "Old" Movies Every Young Person Needs to Watch

Not too old. Like, not black-and-white old.

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    The Breakfast Club (1985)

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    Working Girl (1988)

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    Moonstruck (1987)

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    Reality Bites (1994)

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    Pretty Woman (1990)

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    When Harry Met Sally (1989)

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    Before Sunrise (1995)

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    Man in the Moon (1991)

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    Ghost (1990)

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    Parenthood (1989)

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    Heathers (1989)

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    Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

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    Flashdance (1983)

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    Top Gun (1986)

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    The Bodyguard (1992)

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    My Girl (1991)

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    Single White Female (1992)

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    Thelma & Louise (1991)

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    Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

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    Say Anything (1989)

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    Overboard (1987)

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    E.T. (1982)

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    Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

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    A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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    Now and Then (1995)

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    Big (1988)

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    Fatal Attraction (1987)

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    Dirty Dancing (1987)

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    Pretty in Pink (1986)

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    Sixteen Candles (1984)

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    Three Men and a Baby (1987)

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    Basic Instinct (1992)

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    Dead Poets Society (1989)

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    Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

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    Back to the Future (1985)

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    Look Who's Talking (1989)

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    The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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    Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

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    The Goonies (1985)

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    Uncle Buck (1989)

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    Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (1991)

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    Showgirls (1995)

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    Newsies (1992)

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    Misery (1990)

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    Death Becomes Her (1992)

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    My Cousin Vinny (1992)

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    The Sandlot (1993)

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    Mystic Pizza (1988)

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    Wayne's World (1992)

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    Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)

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  • Five high-schoolers (a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal) spend a Saturday in detention together — and realize they're not that different from each other after all. Soundtrack gem: "Don't You (Forget About Me)," by The Simple Minds.

  • Melanie Griffith, whom you might now know as Dakota Johnson's mom, is Tess McGill, a Staten-Island secretary at a Wall Street investment bank whose hack boss (Sigourney Weaver) steals her merger idea. When said boss breaks her leg and is out of the office, Tess takes back what's hers. Soundtrack gem: "Let the River Run," by Carly Simon.

  • Cher won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Loretta, a woman who falls for her fiancé's brother (Nicolas Cage). Here's her acceptance speech, which you should watch for fun.

  • The movie that defines '90s angst: Lelaina (Winona Ryder) is an idealistic college graduate and aspiring documentarian; her best friend, Troy (Ethan Hawke), is a cynical dropout who can't keep a job. There's also Sammy (Steve Zahn), who just came out to his family, and Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), who worries she's HIV-positive. Soundtrack gems abound. (Fun fact: This is Ben Stiller's directorial debut.)

  • You'd be hard-pressed to find a performance more charming than Julia Roberts's as Vivian, a sex worker who agrees to spend a whole week with a wealthy businessman (Richard Gere) — then winds up falling for him (and he for her). There's a shopping montage set to Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" that is easily the best shopping montage in movie history.

  • You've probably heard of the "I'll have what she's having" scene, in which Meg Ryan (Sally) shows Billy Crystal (Harry) how easy it is for a woman to fake an orgasm — but that's just foreplay. Enjoy the whole experience.

  • Céline and Jesse (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) meet on a train in Europe and spend a magical evening together in Vienna, walking and talking. Watch the equally wonderful sequels, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, if you want more of their thoughts on the meaning of life and love (you will).

  • This was Reese Witherspoon's first role, at 15, and it's a gut-wrenching one at that. She plays Dani, a rural Louisiana teenager who falls for the new farm-boy next door (Jason London) — only he has eyes for Dani's older sister. That's not even the sad part.

  • This is that movie with the famous pottery/sex scene! Patrick Swayze is not a ghost at that point, FYI, but he becomes one shortly thereafter. With the help of medium Oda Mae Brown (played by Whoopi Goldberg, who took home an Oscar for her performance), he communicates with the love he left behind (Demi Moore), who's in danger herself.

  • Before the TV show, there was the Ron Howard-directed movie with its all-star cast (Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest, Keanu Reeves, and so on). The story is simple — it follows the ups and downs of the Buckman family — but the results are spectacular. P.S. The movie also stars a young Joaquin Phoenix, then called Leaf.

  • The ultimate mean-girl movie, in which Winona Ryder's character, a Veronica in a high-school clique of Heathers, gets roped into staging the suicides of popular kids by her brooding sociopathic boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater).

  • Oh, you played hooky once in high school? There's no way you had as much fun as Ferris, who rode around in a Ferrari convertible, crashed a parade float, and ate at a fancy restaurant by pretending to be a very rich man. Live vicariously.

  • This is the godmother of inspirational dance movies: Alex Owen (Jennifer Beals) is a working-class Pittsburg woman, making her living as a welder and an exotic dancer, but her dream is to get into ballet school. Soundtrack gem (and a good way to describe watching this movie): "What a Feeling," by Irena Cara.

  • Damn, Tom Cruise in aviators. Playing a badass Navy pilot in training. What are you waiting for? Soundtrack gem: "Take My Breath Away," by Berlin.

  • Whitney Houston plays a pop star who hires a bodyguard (Kevin Costner) to protect her from a stalker. There's a great twist — and one of the best soundtracks of all time.

  • Vada Sultenfuss and Thomas J. (the remarkable Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin) are best friends. They ride bikes, climb willow trees. But don't let that storyline fool you: This movie will rip your heart out.

  • Maybe you've used the expression "single white female" to describe that woman who tries a little too hard to be like you — but did you know it comes from this thriller starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh? You'll be surprised how much they look alike, once the latter's character gets her creep on.

  • This movie is one to watch with your best friend. It follows two women (played by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) on the lam, blazing past all men who stand in their way. Featured: shirtless Brad Pitt, in one of his first movie roles.

  • A boy called in to a radio show to find his widower dad love. This is another great romance by Nora Ephron (who also wrote When Harry Met Sally).

  • After graduation, hopeless romantic Lloyd Dobler finds the nerve to tell valedictorian Diane Kourt that he has a crush. They start up a wonderful romance but are derailed by her dad. Soundtrack gem: "In Your Eyes," by Peter Gabriel.

  • When a rich woman (Goldie Hawn) falls off a ship and gets amnesia, a working-class single dad of four boys (Kurt Russell) claims she's his wife. (She'd recently stiffed him on a job and this is his payback.) Actually, this is pretty ... twisted? Watch anyway.

  • One of the most heartwarming tales of friendship (between a kid and an alien); directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Drew Barrymore when she was a peanut.

  • The title says it all.

  • Freddy, with his burned face and knives for fingers, kills teenagers in their dreams. For those of you who think PG-13 movies are scary, please, have at this.

  • Four best friends reunite in adulthood and remember their childhood years. Sex and the City fans: You'll notice there's a Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte in this group.

  • The giant FAO Schwartz piano (R.I.P.) has made a lot of pop culture appearances, but this was its first and its best. The story follows Tom Hanks as an "adult" who's actually a kid. He made a carnival wish to be "big" — and, somehow, it was granted.

  • This is the movie starring Michael Douglass, Glenn Close, and a boiled bunny (surely, you've heard about it). Glenn plays a mistress who gets a little crazy.

  • Step aside, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone: The Lift was done right only once in the movies, and it was by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in this timeless wrong-side-of-the-tracks love story.

  • Another wrong-side-of-the-tracks love story (these were big in the '80s), with a spectacular dance scene by a character named Duckie (Jon Cryer). It also stars Molly Ringwald, so you know it's an instant classic.

  • See? Molly Ringwald. This time in a movie in which her whole family forgets her sixteenth birthday, and she's of course obsessed with the most popular guy in school. (There's a character in the movie that traffics in stereotypes, Long Duk Dong, which does taint the movie's legacy a bit. See for yourself.)

  • Yes, that is Richard from Friends. His name is actually Tom Selleck, and this is a movie in which he plays one of three bachelors who are forced to take care of a baby that was left on their doorstep.

  • Sharon Stone is the prime suspect in the murder of a rock star, so of course the detective played by Michael Douglas has an affair with her. (Michael's movie characters make horrible choices.)

  • Robin Williams plays an English teacher at an elite boarding school who teaches his students to love poetry — and take ownership of their lives. You may have heard fans saying, "Oh captain, my captain," when Robin Williams died. This is the movie they were quoting.

  • The live-action-animated hybrid that introduced the world to Jessica Rabbit and Toontown; directed by Robert Zemeckis.

  • Another Robert Zemeckis fantasy, this one starring Michael J. Fox as a teen who travels back in time to 1955, where he meets his parents. Christopher Lloyd is the kooky scientist who gets him there. Watch the whole trilogy.

  • Kristie Alley plays a single mother who falls for her cabbie (John Travolta) as she tries to get her life in order. It's prime Amy Heckerling, who would later bring you Clueless, of course. Special appearance by Bruce Willis as the voice of Mikey, the baby who talks to you, the viewer. The second and third film are highly recommended as well.

  • Even though he's innocent, a banker is sentenced to life for the murder of his wife and her lover. While in prison, he develops one of the most important friendships in cinematic history. Shawshank is based on a Stephen King novella and was nominated for seven Oscars in 1994, so you know it's gonna be good.

  • As the title suggests, an inventor (Rick Moranis) accidentally turns his kids and his neighbor's kids into teeny-tiny versions of themselves. There's adventure in both how the kids find their way home and that classic scene involving a bee.

  • After finding an old map to a hidden treasure, a group of kids set out to find the loot and save their town. Only problem is? Some bad guys (and their mom — the baddest of all) are after the gold too.

  • Uncle Buck agrees to care for his nieces and nephew — who are all sad/angry that their parents moved them to a new town — when his brother and sister-in-law have to rush to be with her sick father. He's rough around the edges (drinks, smokes, doesn't have a job), but it turns out he's the exact sort of down-to-earth sweetheart the children need in their lives.

  • The babysitter is literally dead! To help support her four younger siblings while her mom is away for the summer, Sue Ellen (Christina Applegate) gets a grownup job by lying about her age. In the process, she learns some adult lessons.

  • This cult classic erotic thriller stars Elizabeth Berkley, aka Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell, as a showgirl. That's really all you need to know.

  • Directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega (who would go on to bring you the High School Musical franchise), this musical masterpiece about a group of newsboys who go on strike also stars a young and very handsome Christian Bale.

  • This is based on a novel by Stephen King, so you can count on it to be creepy AF. It stars Kathy Bates as a profoundly disturbed superfan who rescues her favorite author from a car crash, begins to nurse him back to health — but then won't let him go. "He didn't get out of the cockadoodie car!" You will understand this if you watch.

  • Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn play rivals who try to out-hot and out-young each other in competition for the same man. When a potion that promises to keep them young forever enters the mix, things get extremely weird. Think: zombie weird.

  • After he and a friend accidentally confess to murder, Bill Gambini calls in his very Italian cousin Vinny, a lawyer of sorts, to get them off. Joe Pesci (Vinny) and Marisa Tomei (who plays his girlfriend) nail their roles, not to mention their thick Brooklyn accents.

  • A coming-of-age movie set in 1962. And, no, you don't need to care about baseball to love it.

  • Sisters Kat and Daisy (Julia Roberts) couldn't be more different: Kat's Yale-bound, Daisy just wants to find love. The thing that binds them is that they both work at a pizza place (hence the title) — that, and ultimately, sisterhood.

  • This was a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live before becoming a movie. See? People loved it that much.

  • Baby Sarah Jessica Parker! A dance competition! I couldn't help but wonder: Why haven't you watched this yet?!