As Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Looking at the stock market these days, it might not seem hard to justify a pessimistic stance. The S&P 500 index is down by roughly 21% over the last year, and the growth-heavy Nasdaq Composite index has plummeted by 33%. The market is in a turbulent state, but those challenging conditions are also creating opportunities. 

Some incredible companies have seen precipitous valuation pullbacks, and investors who take a buy-and-hold approach now with the right stocks stand to see potentially life-changing long-term returns. For example, these category-leading companies stand out as great investment options in the current bear market. 

A person standing on a stack of gold coins.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. CrowdStrike

Cyberattacks become more common with each passing day, but CrowdStrike (CRWD 0.69%) is providing tools to help customers fight back against a rising tide of threats. The company's Falcon platform provides industry-leading endpoint device protection services that help ensure that computers, mobile devices, servers, and other hardware can't be compromised and used to attack networks. 

The company's revenue increased 53% year over year to $580.9 million in the third quarter, and the business's subscription services recorded a non-GAAP (adjusted) gross margin of 78% in the period. Spurred by strong sales growth and continued gross-margin strength, CrowdStrike's adjusted free cash flow jumped 41% to $174.1 million in Q3. It was another great quarter for the cybersecurity specialist, but the market fixated on management's warnings about looming macroeconomic pressures and its guidance that sales growth would decelerate to roughly 45% in Q4.

CrowdStrike stock slumped following the Q3 release and has continued to move lower as market pressures drove sell-offs for growth stocks as a class. The company's share price is now down 50% over the last year and off by 62% from its high, but I believe that long-term investors will be able to score big wins by treating this pullback as a buying opportunity. Protection against cyberattacks will only become more essential for businesses and institutions, and CrowdStrike remains fantastically positioned for the long term.

2. Airbnb 

Airbnb (ABNB -0.09%), too, has seen a dramatic valuation pullback as investors have weighed macroeconomic challenges and moved out of growth stocks. The rental specialist's share price is down roughly 56% from its high and 37% over the last year. This is another case where a promising company has been posting great business results but still suffered big share price declines, and investors who buy in now can take advantage of the disconnect. 

Airbnb posted a blockbuster performance in the third quarter, with sales jumping 29% year over year to $2.9 billion and net income surging 46% to $1.2 billion. Free cash flow also jumped more than 80% to $960 million in the period, and the company generated an impressive $3.3 billion in free cash flow over the trailing 12 months. Now that the bear market has pulled Airbnb's market capitalization down to roughly $52 billion, it's valued at less than 16 times trailing free cash flow -- a level that looks attractive given that the business is on track to continue growing sales at a solid clip and has potential for continued margin expansion. 

Airbnb has already had a revolutionary impact on the travel and accommodation-rental industries, but its long-term growth story is just getting started. The company has already proven that it can scale quickly and cost-effectively, and there's a good chance that it will deliver big gains for investors who take a buy-and-hold approach with its stock now. 

3. Appian

Appian (APPN -2.51%) is a leading provider of low-code and no-code software creation tools that allow users to take a simplified, modular approach to building applications. The company's software suite makes it easy for companies to create applications that can automate processes and make their workflows more efficient.

Even better, Appian's services allow businesses and institutions to make crucial changes without the need to hire large internal development teams or contract with external providers, cutting down on operating costs and providing new degrees of flexibility. And despite macroeconomic pressures and the easing of some growth catalysts, Appian's core business growth has actually been accelerating. 

The company grew sales 28% year over year to $117.9 million in the third quarter, up from 20% growth in the prior-year period. Appian's cloud-based subscription services saw a 115% net revenue retention rate in the quarter, which means that its existing customers on average increased their spending by 15% compared to the prior-year period. And the business is in a good position to continue adding new clients and expanding its relationships with those already using its services.

With the stock down 50% over the last year and 84% from its high, Appian offers huge upside for patient investors.