The 30 Best Movies From The 2000s

Aug 19, 2021

Category: Entertainment

The new millennium was an exciting period in the world of filmmaking. Thanks to a fervent movie-going public, annual domestic box offices numbers saw total gross profit figures in the billions and even went entirely unaffected by the financial crash of ’08, eventually surpassing $10B in 2009 — more than five-fold last year’s number. This convinced the suits at the studios to shell out ever-increasing — and at times record-setting — budgets to create larger-than-life productions.

These factors — and several others to a lesser extent — ultimately gave way to a slew of critically acclaimed and incredibly iconic movies from across a variety of genres. And while there’s absolutely no shortage of seriously stellar flicks that debuted over the course of the decade, there are a handful of objective aughts classics that stand out from the rest, and it’s this collection of films that we’ll be exploring today in this guide to the best movies of the 2000s.

Photo: Lionsgate Films

American Psycho

Based on Bret Easton’s hit 1991 book, American Psycho is a unique and satirical horror film co-written and directed by Mary Harron and famously starring Christian Bale in his role as Patrick Bateman as the investment banker-turned-serial killer succumbs to a world of violence and depravity all behind a witty and unnerving narration.

Year Of Release: 2000
Director: Mary Harron

Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Debuting in 2004, Anchor Man was destined to be an instant classic right out of the gate, with the film being produced by Judd Apatow, written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, directed by the latter, and starting Ferrell in the lead role of Ron Burgundy alongside Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Fred Willard, David Koechner, and a slew of other comedic heavy-hitters.

Year Of Release: 2004
Director: Adam McKay

Photo: 20th Century Studios

Avatar

The number one grossing movie of all time (upon its release), raking in more than two and three-quarter billion dollars against a $237M budget, Avatar was an at times ham-fisted, yet nonetheless thoroughly innovative and envelope-pushing blockbuster that delivered groundbreaking special effects and was legions of film-goers’ introduction to 3D movie technology. Written and Directed by James Cameron, this film would set the bar in terms of CGI standards in the years that followed.

Year Of Release: 2009
Director: James Cameron

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Best in Show

From the same brilliant and hysterical minds behind such classics as Waiting For Huffman, This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, and a host of other stellar comedies and mockumentary films, Best In Show is a comedic tour de force that follows around an ensemble of unique (fictitious) characters as they prepare for and compete in an elite annual dog show.

Year Of Release: 2000
Director: Christopher Guest

Photo: 20th Century Studios

Borat

Borat wasn’t just an immensely popular movie upon its release, it was a bonafide cultural sensation, giving Sacha Baron Cohen’s popular Kazakh reporter from the HBO series, Da Ali G Show a feature-length runtime to explore the character and hilariously interact with a host of unsuspecting and unwitting members of the public.

Year Of Release: 2006
Director: Larry Charles

Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

Catch Me If You Can

Steven Spielberg at his absolute best, Catch Me If You Can tells the absolutely remarkable real-life story of young genius and con-man Frank Abagnale, as he posed (and worked) as a pilot, an attorney, and a doctor, and fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in the process, all before the age of 20 — and with federal authorities hot on his trail for much of the time.

Year Of Release: 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg

Photo: Miramax

City of God

A gritty and unflinching look at the harsh existence that is a life growing up around a world of gangs in the infamous favelas of Brazil, City of God is another raw modern-day classic. Despite being shot with a budget of only $3.3M, this 130-minute flick manages to deliver a disturbingly authentic look at an adolescent kid coming of age in a gang-infested developing country.

Year Of Release: 2002
Directors: Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund

Photo: Sony Pictures

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Directed by Ang Lee, CT,HD was another box-office sensation, taking in more than $200M and winning a heap of noteworthy awards, including the Academy Awards for “Best Foreign Feature” and “Best Cinematography”, just to name a few. The movie combined beautiful sets with brilliantly choreographed hand-t0-hand combat, sword, and knife fight scenes that utilized advanced wire, rigging, and harness systems.

Year Of Release: 2000
Director: Ang Lee

Photo: 20th Century Studios

Idiocracy

An exceedingly average individual in the U.S. military is accidentally sent forward in time, only to discover a world that has devolved to embrace many of mankind’s worst traits. While a purely fictional comedy, Mike Judge manages to deliver an, at times disturbingly accurate glimpse into the future of humanity, albeit with plenty of laughs along the way.

Year Of Release: 2006
Director: Mike Judge

Photo: The Weinstein Company

Inglorious Basterds

An alternative history flick written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds tells the story of a group of American soldiers during WWII attempting to ultimately assassinate high-ranking Nazi leaders. This movie’s stellar story and action are made all the better by a heavy-hitting cast including Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Brad Pitt, and Diane Kruger, just to name a few.

Year Of Release: 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Photo: Miramax

Kill Bill: Volume One

Another cinematic triumph from Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill: Volume One tells the tale of a scorned bride on her relentless quest for revenge, though the movie is also a blatant love letter and homage to a variety of genres that have inspired Tarantino including anime, grindhouse flicks, spaghetti Westerns, and martial arts movies, amongst others.

Year Of Release: 2003
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Photo: Universal Pictures

Knocked Up

Knocked Up sees the film’s writer, producer, and director Judd Apatow at his very best, delivering a hilarious and immensely relatable comedy about relationships, parenting, and the phases of adulthood. Witty dialogue, brilliant delivery, and a comedic powerhouse of a cast — that stars Seth Rogen alongside Katherine Heigl, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jay Baruchel, and Jonah Hill — collectively make this one a bonafide modern classic.

Year Of Release: 2007
Director: Judd Apatow

Photo: New Line Cinema

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s cult classic book and the first installment in The Lord of the Rings series, LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring is an amazing example of how advancements in computer-generated graphic and special effects of the era allowed a director — in this case, Peter Jackson — to hugely enhance his story-telling abilities and bring this epic fantasy tale to life like never before.

Year Of Release: 2001
Director: Peter Jackson

Photo: Focus Features

Lost in Translation

Winner of a trio of Golden Globe Awards as well as taking home “Best Original Screenplay” at the 76th Academy Awards Show, Lost In Translation was another early 2000s runaway film success from the mind of Sofia Coppola, who wrote, directed, and produced the film. The cast and the chemistry between the actors also contribute to what makes this movie so special, as does the Japanese setting.

Year Of Release: 2003
Director: Sofia Coppola

Photo: Universal Pictures

Love Actually

Love Actually is a delightfully charming tale that follows the lives of numerous loosely intertwined individuals over the course of a holiday season. Fast-paced and engaging, this movie is difficult to pin down to a single genre, as it truly does offer a little bit of everything, and as such manages to appeal to an incredibly broad audience. For obvious reasons, this one tends to get a lot of plays around the Christmas season.

Year Of Release: 2003
Director: Richard Curtis

Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Man on Wire

Man On Wire is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning documentary that recounts the story of how French high-wire artist and tight-rope-walker Philippe Petit and his colorful circle of friends managed to illegally erect a high-wire in 1974 between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City. The tale of how Philippe and his pals pulled off this stunning feat is just as riveting as the footage of him walking across the wire between the two towers at nearly 1,800’ off the ground. It’s also worth noting that this film has a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Year Of Release: 2008
Director: Man on Wire

Photo: 20th Century Studios | DreamWorks Pictures

Minority Report

A glorious example of modern science fiction done right, Minority Report explores a world set in 2054 and manages to bring this universe to life using (then) state-of-the-art special effects and computer graphics. Released in 2002 and starring Tom Cruise, this film is directed by Steven Spielberg and is based — albeit very loosely — on the 1956 short story by Philip K. Dick of the same name.

Year Of Release: 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg

Photo: Newmarket Films

Memento

Memento was an early example that encapsulates much of what people love about the movies of Christopher Nolan, being dark, gritty, fast-paced, beautifully shot, and mind-bending, and complex. Told in reverse chronological order, this suspenseful thriller follows a protagonist that suffers from anterograde amnesia (ie is unable to make new memories) on his journey to solve the murder of his wife and hunt down her killer.

Year Of Release: 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan

Photo: Searchlight Pictures | MTV Films | Paramount Pictures Studios

Napoleon Dynamite

Probability best described as a mainstream cult classic, Napoleon Dynamite was another profound cultural phenomenon. The movie told a wildly quirky and idiosyncratic story crammed with equally colorful characters and was so popular that — not unlike when Borat was released — it was difficult to walk down a hallway without hearing people mimicking lines from the offbeat blockbuster comedy.

Year Of Release: 2004
Director: Jared Hess

Photo: Paramount Vantage | Miramax | Universal Pictures International

No Country for Old Men

No Country For Old Men is another modern classic that was practically guaranteed to be a hit, considering that it’s a novel written by legendary author Cormac McCarthy that’s been adapted by the Coen Brothers and features a star-studded cast anchored by Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin.

Year Of Release: 2007
Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen

Photo: CJ ENM | Hakuhodo DY Music & Pictures

Old Boy

Not just one of the best movies from the 2000s but one of the best movies ever made, period, Old Boy is a cinematic masterpiece and one of the greatest revenge stories ever put to the silver screen. A Korean film directed by Park Chan-Wook, Old Boy is a dark and twisted thrill ride that genuinely keeps audiences on the edge of their seats and includes some of the most brilliantly choreographed and shot fight scenes of all time. We urge you to watch the original and not the Spike Lee-directed 2013 American remake.

Year Of Release: 2003
Director: Park Chan-Wook

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Pan’s Labyrinth

From the mind of Guillermo del Toro comes this eerily brilliant modern-day fairy tale that hugely managed to capitalize on advancements made in both practical and special effects of the era. Of course, this movie masterpiece wouldn’t be half of what it is without the equally innovative costume and set designs brought to life during the production of Pan’s Labyrinth.

Year Of Release: 2006
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Photo: Paramount Pictures Studios

School of Rock

Written and directed by Mike White, this School of Rock tells the thoroughly epic tale of a down-on-his-luck rocker (played by Jack Black) who fraudulently attains a temporary position teaching at an elite prep school, only to discover his student’s musical abilities, which he then attempts to harness to create an act for a “Battle of the Bands” contest. Heartwarming and hilarious, this movie also plays like something of an education on the history of rock and roll — or a “rock 101” if you will.

Year Of Release: 2003
Director: Mike White

Photo: Universal Pictures

Senna

One of the greatest racing movies of all time, Senna is a Sundance Award-winning documentary that follows the illustrious life and tragic death of legendary racecar driver and three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna, exploring the once-in-a-generation driver’s otherworldly behind-the-wheel skills, as well as some of his unusual driving techniques and his life off of the race track. It’s a story of triumph and heartbreak, though undoubtedly one that everybody should see.

Year Of Release: 2010
Director: Asif Kapadia

Photo: Universal Pictures

Shaun of the Dead

The first installment of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost’s now-iconic “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” — which also includes 2007’s Hot Fuzz 2007 and 2013’s The World’s EndShaun of the Dead is one of the best horror comedies ever made, following an unlikely and somewhat unambitious protagonist and his equally ill-equipped best-friend as they attempt to survive a zombie outbreak in London using knowledge largely gleaned through movies and via conversations down at the pub.

Year Of Release: 2004
Director: Edgar Wright

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Dark Knight

The second installment in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, this hugely successful blockbuster took a markedly darker and grittier approach than previous directors had taken when shooting superhero movies, giving it an incredibly unique feel and aesthetic. We’d also be remised if we didn’t mention the late Heath Ledger’s epic portrayal of the Joker in this 2008 smash hit.

Year Of Release: 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan

Photo: Universal Pictures

The Fast and the Furious

While we’re readily aware that The Fast and the Furious is by no means what you’d call innovative or high-brow filmmaking, it is nonetheless a lovable modern-day classic — especially amongst car enthusiasts — that’s spawned eight sequels, plus a feature-length spinoff (and a forthcoming FaF10 installment in 2022), all of which have been a massive success at the box office. And, while it’s hard not to laugh at the movie’s blatant lack of understanding of nitrous oxide systems or flashing in-cockpit displays reading “Warning!!! Danger to Manifold,” this movie still boasts a special status that’s near and dear to us.

Year Of Release: 2001
Director: Rob Cohen

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Training Day

Training Day is a gritty 2001 crime movie that stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in their respective primes. The film features Denzel Washington as a seasoned and renowned narcotics agent that is taking an LAPD officer (played by Ethan Hawke) on a one-day evaluation on the streets of Los Angeles — roles that earned Washington an Academy Award for “Best Actor” and Hawke a nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” at the 74th iteration of the event.

Year Of Release: 2001
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

V For Vendetta

Based on the British 1992 dystopian political graphic novel written by Alan Moore, illustrated by David Lloyd, and published by DC, V for Vendetta was a 2005 blockbuster that largely resonated with audiences due to its top-notch fight choreography, engaging story, and its general spirit of rebellion. This latter point is so true in fact, that the Guy Fawkes mask seen in this film has become something of a symbol for rebellion, fighting back, or uprising.

Year Of Release: 2005
Director: James McTeigue

Photo: Paramount Pictures Studios

Zoolander

Unequivocally one of the decade’s biggest comedies of the decade (if not one of the biggest of all time), Zoolander is a genuinely hilarious 2001 film that stars Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller — the latter of which also directed and co-wrote the movie’s screenplay — starring alongside Will Ferrell, Mila Jovovich, Jon Voight, and Jerry Stiller. The movie takes a very tongue-in-cheek look at the world of male modeling, playing with the ideas of trends and stereotypes in the fashion industry to brilliant and gust-busting effect.

Year Of Release: 2001
Director: Ben Stiller

The 30 Best Movies From The ’90s

Want to check out our favorite flicks from the previous decade, then be sure to cruise over to our guide to the best movies from the ‘90s to get your cinematic nostalgia fill with 30 of the best films from ’90 to ’99.

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