As a film student I cannot help but recommend a couple of films.
Todo sobre mi madre (1999), Spanish comedy-drama. It’s a beautiful film to behold, with very human issues handled in a very lighthearted manner. Penélope Cruz is one of the main cast.
Léon: the Professional (1994), thriller. Stars Jean Reno as the titular character, a hitman by the name of Léon, and Gary Oldman as the primary antagonist. This is also Natalie Portman’s debut, and her portrayal of a young orphan is simply wonderful.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006), comedy-drama. If you haven’t watched it, please do. If you haven’t heard of it, I don’t know what to say.
Up in the Air (2009), comedy-drama. Stars George Clooney as a person who fires people for a living.
Children of Men (2006), sci-fi. Set in a dystopian world, this film is shot in an almost documentary-like manner which lends it a very unique and immersive feel. Excellent cinematography, plus a strong plot to boot.
If you’re into Asian cinema:
Ringu (1998), Japanese horror. The original version of The Ring. In all honesty, The Ring is crap in comparison. Samara is a sad, sad shadow of the original Sadako. Watch the original. It’s a million times better.
Chungking Express (1994), Hong Kong melodrama/art cinema. The story revolves around the love lives of two cops. The film is almost pensive and dreamlike in its portrayal. Pretty much a must-watch, IMO, if you like art cinema.
Tampopo (1985), Japanese comedy. Marketed as the first ‘ramen western’ (think spaghetti westerns), it revolves around how two truck drivers help a ramen stall owner improve her cooking skills and save her struggling business. Subtle at times, and downright blatant at others, it is a very, very engaging and enjoyable film. Just a note: it’s NSFW.
Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), Chinese period epic. If you like watching pretty images, this film will blow you away. It’s probably one of the grandest films I’ve ever watched: it screams LAVISH AND OPULENT with every scene. From a critical perspective it’s not a great film, a letdown even considering the director’s other films. Check out Raise the Red Lantern (1991) or House of Flying Daggers (2004) if you’re interested in Zhang Yimou’s other films…
Coincidentally, I also just returned from the opening night of a film festival. The opening film was Television (2012), a Bangladeshi film. It was the closing film for the Busan International Film Festival last year, and it is currently selected as Bangladeshi’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards. The story revolves around a community in Bangladesh, whose leader has banned all kinds of images (photos, television etc). Comical and satirical, it’s a very entertaining film that’s easy to comprehend in spite of the foreign culture.