40 Movies Every Woman Should See Before She’s 40

Twentieth Century Fox

We get it: You’re a busy lady. But just as there are books you’ll appreciate most before a certain age, there are movies, too. Because think about it—would you still care about the plight of characters like Holly Golightly or Annie Hall if you met them in your fourth decade? Probably not. That’s why you need to get a move on and check the following 40 films off your list.

Paramount Pictures


'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

Because sometimes the only way to pick yourself up is to put on your favorite LBD and enjoy your coffee and croissant with a side of bling.

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Twentieth Century Fox


'9 to 5'

Damn the man in this kooky musical about three female colleagues (Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda) who unite to turn the tables on their sexist boss.

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this is 40
Universal Pictures


'This Is 40'

Let Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) teach you how to handle turning 40 in this comedy about the ups and downs of marriage, parenthood and getting older.

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Universal Pictures


'The Breakfast Club'

That scene where they each reveal why they landed in detention in the first place still gives us chills—even at 35.

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Castle Rock Entertainment


'When Harry Met Sally'

This New York City-set film—starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal—provides a definitive answer to the age-old question: Can men and women really be friends?

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the joy luck club
Hollywood Pictures


'The Joy Luck Club'

What's it like to be an immigrant and watch your first-generation child grow up in America? These four ladies and their daughters show us just that.

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Warner Bros.



Humphrey Bogart serendipitously runs into the love of his life (Ingrid Bergman) in Morocco during World War II. Too bad she’s traveling with her fugitive hubby, who happens to be on the run from German Nazis.

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Amblin Entertainment


'The Color Purple'

An impoverished woman (the great Whoopi Goldberg) grapples with her identity after years of abuse in this film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker.

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Claudie Ossard Productions



Yes, this inventive film about a Parisian girl following her own sense of justice has subtitles. And yes, it’s one of the greatest movies you’ll ever see/read.

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Paramount Pictures


'Forrest Gump'

How anyone could have missed this 1994 Oscar winner, we’ll never know. But it’s a beautiful ode to life’s accidental moments, as told by a man (Tom Hanks) who accidentally participates in all the most historic ones.

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'Gone with the Wind'

A Civil War drama to remember, this four-hour flick follows Scarlett O’Hara, a petulant southern belle, and her countless love affairs. (Cue the Clark Gable entrance here.)

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what men want
Paramount Pictures


'What Men Want'

Ali is suddenly able to hear what men are thinking after drinking a psychic’s concoction. Her male colleagues don’t know what hit them.

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Twentieth Century Fox


'The Sound of Music'

Julie Andrews leaves convent life behind to nanny and sing with the children of a widowed naval officer—who happens to be equally musical (and dashing).

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girls trip
Universal Pictures


'Girls Trip'

Introducing the Flossy Posse, a group of childhood best friends who reunite for a much-needed vacay.

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New Line Cinema


'Now and Then'

All hail 1970s summer nostalgia. Whoever says they don’t believe in ghosts might turn into a believer after seeing this coming-of-age film.

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Vestron Pictures


'Dirty Dancing'

You’ve got Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, plus a summer filled with life lessons. (Namely, nobody puts baby in a corner.)

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the photograph
Universal Pictures


'The Photograph'

When Mae (Issa Rae) finds an old photograph of her late mom, she dives into her family history for the first time.

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Columbia Pictures


'The Way We Were'

Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand’s on-screen relationship is proof: Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you are meant to be with them. (“Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.”)

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Paramount Pictures


'The Godfather'

Crime boss Marlon Brando loves doing people favors—unless they jeopardize his family and the dynasty he’s worked so hard to build. Get on board for the quotes alone.

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Castle Rock Entertainment


'The Shawshank Redemption'

Two inmates bond over the years in prison—and make an epic promise to find each other should they ever make it out.

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Columbia Pictures


'Almost Famous'

This film—about a boy assigned to write a story for Rolling Stone about an up-and-coming rock band—might be one of Kate Hudson’s best performances to date.

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always be my maybe
Ed Araquel/Netflix


'Always Be My Maybe'

After 15 years of no contact, childhood sweethearts reunite in an attempt to rekindle the spark.

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Pathé Entertainment


'Thelma and Louise'

An Arkansas waitress (Susan Sarandon) invites her best friend Thelma (Geena Davis) on the road trip of their lives. And we do mean their lives.

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Twentieth Century Fox


'Waiting to Exhale'

Four friends—Whitney Houston, Lela Rochon, Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine— connect over their love lives and the serious lack of decent men. (It’s a can’t-miss for the Whitney soundtrack alone.)

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Universal Pictures



Jordan (Regina Hall) is the boss, whether her employees like it or not. When she mysteriously transforms into her 13-year-old self right before a big presentation, everything changes.

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Orion Pictures


'The Silence of the Lambs'

FBI student Jodie Foster enlists the help of a brilliant psychiatrist turned violent psychopath (Anthony Hopkins) to track down a serial killer in this gut-wrenching—and intoxicating—film.

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last holiday
Paramount Pictures


'Last Holiday'

After being diagnosed with a terminal illness, Georgia (Queen Latifah) collects her life savings and jets off to Europe.

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Universal International Pictures


'To Kill a Mockingbird'

In this film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Harper Lee, Gregory Peck defends a black man wrongfully accused of rape—and educates his children about prejudice.

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Embassy Pictures 


'The Graduate'

The Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack alone is reason enough to see this film about a college graduate torn between the OG cougar, Mrs. Robinson, and her daughter.

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Touchstone Pictures


'Pretty Woman'

Julia Roberts learns the hard way: The number one rule of being an escort is you do not fall in love. You may, however, eat pancakes with your hands.

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Gold Circle Films


'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'

Nia Vardalos plays a Greek woman who falls in love with a non-Greek man (John Corbett) and has to break the news to her overbearing—yet totally lovable—clan.

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sister act
Touchstone Pictures


'Sister Act'

Singing nuns + Whoopi Goldberg. Need we say more?

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'Singin' in the Rain'

Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds sing (and tap-dance) their way through this musical about a silent film company struggling to incorporate sound.

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Paramount Pictures


'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'

Wise guy Matthew Broderick fakes the flu and paves the way for the ultimate sick day. Too bad his high school principal catches wind of his scheme. It’ll make you feel 17 again in the very best way.

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like a boss
Paramount Pictures


'Like a Boss'

Mia and Mel (Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne) built their cosmetics company from the ground up. However, their friendship is put to the test when someone offers to buy their empire.

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Columbia Pictures


'Kramer vs. Kramer'

Meryl Streep won an Oscar for her performance as a mom who leaves her husband (Dustin Hoffman) and son, sparking a heated custody battle.

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'The Wizard of Oz'

After a tornado tears up Kansas, Dorothy and her dog Toto must follow the yellow brick road to Oz, avoiding the Wicked Witch of the West along the way.

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Universal Pictures



Kristen Wiig is adjusting to the real world when her bakery gets shut down and her best friend gets engaged. Watch with your squad for laugh-out-loud comedy.

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Universal Pictures


'Erin Brockovich'

This film is based on the real-deal single mom turned legal assistant who battled a California power company accused of contaminating a small town’s water supply.

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Gold Circle Films


'Bridget Jones's Diary'

Eternally single Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is determined to lose weight, stop swearing and find a man in this delightful British comedy. Let’s just all slide past the fact that she’s only 32.

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Rachel Bowie

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Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...
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Greta Heggeness

Senior Editor

Greta Heggeness is a California-based editor at PureWow and has been writing about entertainment since 2015. She covers everything from awards shows to exclusive celebrity...
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