34 movies to watch in your 20s

The social network sonySony‘The Social Network’ is a movie everyone should see before they turn 30.

A person’s 20s is one of the most exciting times in their lives.

Though some 20-somethings have finished university, are starting a career, and have maybe fallen in love, others are weathering a tumultuous era filled with self doubt and more than a few quarter-life crises.

Here are 34 movies that reflect that mindset, and can help you shape your worldview.

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'The Graduate'


What it's about: There's no better movie about the confusing aimlessness of post-collegiate life than Mike Nichols's 1967 film. If you thought your life was confusing, at least you're not a jobless, disillusioned recent college graduate torn between loving an older woman or her daughter.

'In a World...'

Roadside Attractions via Netflix

What it's about: 'In a World...' -- directed by, written by, and starring Lake Bell -- is about a young woman who tries to become a voice-over artist, even though her voice isn't as naturally baritone. It's a charming, empowering screwball comedy about workplace sexism and how to prove everyone wrong when you're underestimated.


What it's about: The rollicking journey of a transgender sex worker who finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her. It's a lesson in finding friendship when you think you're alone and being persistent when you're cast aside by someone close to you.

'The Devil Wears Prada'

What it's about: As far as workplace comedies go, 'The Devil Wears Prada' can't be beat. It's an insightful movie about the expectations of ambition, kindness, and finding a purpose in this world.

'Office Space'

What it's about: Since most people begin their careers in their 20s, they will become familiar with the repetitive feeling of going into the office, doing their work, and then leaving for the day. 'Office Space' skewers the repetitiveness of that way of life, and the oddness of the rituals that come with work culture. It's perfect for waking you from your stupor.

'Groundhog Day'

What it's about: Like 'Office Space,' 'Groundhog Day' accurately conveys the perils of living every day without any difference. It has a stronger message, though, when it comes to seizing your life and changing it.

'Touki Bouki'

The Criterion Collection

What it's about: A couple in Senegal dream of going to Paris, and try out various schemes to raise money for their trip. Anyone with wanderlust can relate.

'500 Days of Summer'

Fox Searchlight

What it's about: There are a lot of great rom-coms out there, but few actually have anything to say. '500 Days of Summer' is the rare romance movie about a failed relationship and how hard it is to get over one.


Summit Entertainment

What it's about: Based on writer Will Reiser's own experience with cancer, '50/50' is one of those movies about how close we all are from having our life turned upside-down. It's a call to appreciate everything you have and hold the people close to you even closer.

'The Big Chill'

What it's about: 'The Big Chill' is the quintessential movie about baby boomers growing up and reflecting on their youth. It's also really funny.

'Red Beard'


What it's about: Akira Kurosawa's 1965 masterpiece is about a young doctor from the city who's assigned to a rural clinic in a remote town. It's a story about the differences of unfamiliar places, and the differences you can make there.

'Love and Death'

United Artists

What it's about: 'Annie Hall' is the usual Woody Allen movie on these sorts of lists. But one of his earlier, funnier movies, 'Love and Death,' also starring him and Diane Keaton, does a better job at making fun of the courtship rituals of love and worrying about money, even if it is a sillier movie.

'After Hours'

Warner Bros.

What it's about: Like many young people, Paul Hackett just wants to spend the night enjoying himself downtown and trying to find a woman who likes him back. Then he gets caught up in a flummoxing web of complications that prevents him from going home. You'll recognise the feeling.

'The Social Network'


What it's about: The ultimate cautionary tale about the price of ambition and the rivalries that can come out of it. Plus, it's just a great college movie.

'The Wolf of Wall Street'

What it's about: 'The Big Short' or 'Inside Job' might be a better lesson in the financial crisis that effects every twentysomething, but 'The Wall of Wall Street' is the best portrait of greed of the late-2000s, and the glorification of it that led to ruin.

'Beyond the Lights'

Relativity Media

What it's about: A rising pop star starts to succumb to the pressures of fame. But she falls in love with a police officer who supports her while juggling his own career ambitions. It's a surprising, moving gender flip of the usual 'supportive, background wife' trope.

'Tucker: The Man and His Dream'

Paramount Pictures

What it's about: The 'Godfather' movies and 'Apocalypse Now' are often highlighted as Francis Ford Coppola's best movies. But it's his overlooked 1988 film that deserves to be seen by just as many people. It's based on the true story of an engineer who takes on the big three car American car companies by producing the Tucker 48 sedan. It's an inspiration for any entrepreneur with a creative idea who thinks the odds are stacked against them.


'No One Knows About Persian Cats'

What it's about: A hybrid documentary-narrative movie about the underground rock scene in Iran. Because the government bans different kinds of music, young musicians practice, perform, and party in obscure places. It's a riveting portrait of creativity blooming in the unlikeliest of places.

'Before Sunrise'

Columbia Pictures

What it's about: Richard Linklater's 1995 film, along with its sequels 'Before Sunset' and 'Before Midnight,' are the best portrayals of love ever put to screen.

'Defending Your Life'

Warner Bros.

What it's about: The premise of the classic Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep film is simple: What if, after you died, you had to defend yourself to get into Heaven? It taps into a universal anxiety, and the couple pulls it off brilliantly.

'Chungking Express'


What it's about: The weird thing about trying to find companions in a big city is that it's really lonely. No movie understands that better than this Hong Kong-set drama.

'Toni Erdmann'

Sony Pictures Classics

What it's about: Nominated last year for a best foreign language film Oscar, 'Toni Erdmann' is a hilarious movie about a wacky dad trying to reunite with his cold, business-like daughter by wearing a bad wig and false teeth and calling himself 'Toni Erdmann.' It's like if an Adam Sandler movie were actually good.

'The Royal Tenenbaums'

Buena Vista Pictures

What it's about: Speaking of family-themed movies for grownups, it's pretty much impossible to get through the story of the dysfunctional Tenenbaums family without crying.

'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

Focus Features

What it's about: After their relationship goes awry, a couple decides to erase their memories of each other. Only in the process do they realise how important they were to one another.

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1'

Warner Bros.

What it's about: Every 'Harry Potter' movie is about growing up. At the end of the series (with the exception of an epilogue), the main characters are no more than 18 years old. But the actors who play them are in their 20s by then, and Harry and the gang are living far out of the reach of parental supervision.

The first 'Deathly Hallows' movie, more than any other in the series, is about those best friends struggling with their independence, and trying to keep it together in a frightening world.



What it's about: In three chapters, director Barry Jenkins tells us the story of Chiron, a young gay black male coming of age in Miami. Everyone can empathise with one of its central messages: why didn't things go as planned? And is it too late to change?


Sony Pictures Classics

What it's about: Marjane Satrapi directing the movie based on her own graphic novel based on her own life. It's about her growing up in Tehran during the Iranian revolution, told in startlingly beautiful animation. This moving film will make you realise that a harsh life is a starting point for inspiration.

'Frances Ha'

IFC Films via Netflix

What it's about: It's about a dancer who doesn't have a job as a dancer who struggles to keep an apartment and chases after her dreams, even as they slip away from her. Very relatable.

'Legally Blonde'


What it's about: The story of Elle Woods -- who gets herself into Harvard Law School to chase after a man, then realises she's better without him -- is an empowering story about how looks can be deceiving.


Warner Bros.

What it's about: Adonis Creed -- son of boxer Apollo Creed -- trains under Rocky Balboa in a quest to become a boxing champion, seeking a mixture of honour and evasion from his father's legacy. Anyone who's had a sense of destiny, or a complicated relationship with their parent's wishes for them, can relate.

'Obvious Child'


What it's about: Jenny Slate stars in a painful comedy about deciding whether to have an abortion and the uncomfortable realities of young womanhood.


What it's about: As you enter 'the real world,' it's always good to remember what's behind you. 'Boyhood' -- shot over 11 years -- is by no means universal, but it's an unparalleled portrait of growing up.


Paramount Pictures

What it's about: A couple of playboys, played by Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, chase after the daughter of the family chauffeur, Sabrina. Played by Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina foils their attempts to manipulate her and gets love on her own terms.

'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World'

Universal Pictures

What it's about: Edgar Wright's witty, face-paced action comedy holds a deeper message: everyone you meet has their own past and their own baggage that comes with it. When you learn to understand that, you can forge deeper, lasting friendships -- and skillfully destroy an ex-boyfriend in battle if you need to.

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