The Best Movies of the 2000s Offer Much More Than Turn of the Century Nostalgia
Maybe it’s just nostalgia talking, but, looking back, the noughties were actually pretty nice. Of course, then again, everything looks better when it’s in hindsight and bedazzled.
Sure, the decade might have started off with a bit too much residual denim and iridescence left over from the Nineties, but by the time 2009 rolled around we were longing to go back to the days of Brangelina and *NSYNC. It was the cringe era that is now dripping with sweet naivety. And, that many of us are shocked to remember is now two decades ago.
Regardless of how many fashion faux pas you made, or how much you invested into alt-rock CDs that are now obsolete, it’s important to let yourself revisit those years with the forgiving knowledge that you were doing your best. Hey, at least you don’t have as much to kick yourself over as Blockbuster does, seeing that they turned down a chance to buy Netflix in 2000.
From before-their-time brilliance to sign-of-the-time classics, these films have stood out as some of the most memorable titles of the 2000s. Hindsight 2020.
1| Brokeback Mountain
Maybe it’s the lack of gay love stories in mainstream cinema to this day, or maybe it’s the Oscar-winning writing and directing, but we just can’t quit this one. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger star in this touching, homoerotic tale of two cowboys in the great wilderness of Wyoming.
2| Slumbdog Millionaire
Dev Patel stars in this Danny Boyle-directed classic as a young Indian man who makes his way from the outskirts of Mumbai to the hot seat on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. His life story, told as an explanation to police accusing him of cheating, reveals the rich depth of knowledge that comes from a life lived passionately.
3| No Country for Old Men
This film is a pitch-perfect Coen brothers’ take on Cormac McCarthy’s neo-Western novel of the same name. No Country for Old Men navigates the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong in Eighties Texas.
4| The Departed
This isn’t just another Boston movie. In fact, some would argue that it’s the Boston movie. Set in the infamous neighborhood of South Boston, The Departed tells a tale of the tangled lines between local law enforcement and the Irish mafia. Based on the Chinese hit Infernal Affairs, the Scorsese-directed thriller won Best Picture in 2007. Justice for the rat at the end.
5| The Hurt Locker
Based on journalist Mark Boal’s accounts of his experience with a bomb squad deployed in Baghdad, Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker employs a psychological lens on the American troops serving in the Iraq War. Bonus fun fact: this film helped Kathryn Bigelow beat her ex-husband, James Cameron, for the Best Director Oscar trophy.
6| Pan's Labyrinth
One of the most iconic tales spun by the fantastical Spanish director Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth pulls an otherworldly gauze over WWII Spain through the eyes of a young girl. Something like a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland, the film unfolds into an underworld of fantasy that begins to blur the girl’s dark surroundings.
7| Spirited Away
A Studio Ghibli classic, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away has made a name for itself as one of the most acclaimed animated films of all time. The film follows a young girl who inadvertently stumbles into the spirit world of Japanese folklore while moving to a new town.
Nothing says 2000s like paying way too much money to watch James Cameron’s Avatar in an IMAX theater. (Bonus points if it was in 3D.) Still, a home viewing of this visual tour de force will surely transport you to the fictional realm of Pandora, where the N’avi species call home.
9| A Beautiful Mind
Directed by Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind features Russell Crowe as acclaimed mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. The biographical drama follows Nash’s life from his initial fame, to his schizophrenia diagnosis, and his eventual triumph over the obstacles of his condition.
10| Inglorious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, in true Tarantino fashion, is a multi-plot war film about the Nazi assassination attempts of a team of Jewish soldiers led by their captain, played by Brad Pitt.
Based on Sapphire’s best-selling novel Push, Precious follows a Black teenaged girl living in Harlem who is persevering through the challenges of illiteracy and her second pregnancy when she receives the opportunity to transfer to a new school. Gabourey Sidibe’s debut performance is one to be remembered.
12| There Will Be Blood
Based on the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair, Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood is a dark examination of the capitalist monsters who built the foundations of modern America. With a beautifully chaotic score by Jonny Greenwood and an Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, it's not just one of the best films of the 2000s, but of all time.
13| Love & Basketball
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Love & Basketball remains a turn-of-the-century romance masterpiece. Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps star as best friends and lovers who try to balance their own relationship with their basketball careers from childhood through adulthood.
14| Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee's martial arts masterpiece broke new ground for foreign film in the United States. It became the highest grossing foreign-language film in American history and set Academy Awards records with 10 nominations, including one for Best Picture.
15 | The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Our modern-day Wizard of Oz, Peter Jackson's adaptation of the fantasy classic is a masterclass in epic storytelling. With unparalleled special effects, touching performances, and large-scale battle sequences, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King took home Best Picture for the entirety of this nine-hour trilogy. It was also the first fantasy film to ever be awarded the Academy's highest honour.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.