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35+ Classic 2000s Movies to Watch (or Rewatch)

The Y2K Armageddon was a bust. Nope, the computers ran just fine when the clock struck 2000. But a year later, everything changed. When the planes flew into the Twin Towers, our country was brought to its knees. We still haven’t recovered, but movies have helped us get through our trauma together. War movies took on new meaning in the early 2000s, and movies specifically about 9/11 hit home. We will “never forget,” and movies help us to remember.

Coming together as a community defined movies in other genres, too. Romance, race relations, environmental activism, coming-of-age stories: the best movies of this decade often had an underlying community message. Social movements were also taking off, and movies reflected community rallying for LGBTQ and environmental activism, to name just two examples. 

Such movies were best seen in the theater because that dark magical space enhances the sense that “we’re all in this together.” We even peek at strangers’ faces in a theater at the movie’s ending—we like to see others’ reactions and puffy eyes; it confirms and deepens our own emotions. During the Academy Awards, Frances McDormand invoked theater magic when she said, “Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible. And one day, very very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder to shoulder, in that dark space and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.” 

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The big-screen movie theatre is the post-vaccination rainbow, and the dark theater helps us to snuggle again, as we once did. We also now have big comfy reclining theater seats—people were super excited about these seats when they became the new standard in many major movie theatres in the early 2000s. 

Social media begins to play a role in movie promotions

Online communities also played a huge role in the experience and success of movies in the new Millenium. This is especially true for the fantasy franchise movies that became cultural sensations: Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Twilight. Fans cultivated and shared their obsession on social media—on fan sites, chat rooms, MySpace (2003), and later on Facebook (2004). Theater owners spurred the mania with midnight screenings to open these films. Even the videotape and DVD releases of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for instance, became available at midnight at places like Walmart and Blockbuster. The Harry Potter books published in this decade also had party-filled midnight releases at Barnes & Noble. 

What’s more, families went all-in with costumes when they went to the theater, especially for midnight screenings. Hogwarts capes, Captain Jack Sparrow or Elizabeth Swann pirate outfits, “Team Jacob” t-shirts: This is how we defined ourselves and let our fan flags fly. Theater owners reported scenes of mock swordplay in front of movie houses when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest opened in the summer of 2006. 

Girls from middle school through high school decided whether Edward or Jacob was their guy—did they really want the drama of a mind-reader? And Harry Potter meant that Millennials and their families grew up with spectacular and even life-changing magic. These wizards, one and all, met up in the Diagon Alley known as the movie theater. 

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Read on for a comprehensive list of the best 2000s movies.

Best 2000s Movies: Love Actually (2003)

Directed and written by Richard Curtis, this charming ode to love instantly became both a favorite Christmas movie and everyone’s go-to romantic comedy. It’s a star-studded cast: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, and Rowan Atkinson. The film opens with a voiceover musing from David (Hugh Grant). He notes that the arrivals terminal at Heathrow airport is a great place to witness pure love among family and friends. He also comments that all the messages left by the people who died on the 9/11 planes were messages of love and not hate. 

Love Actually goes on to tell 10 different love stories that link to one another or have a touchpoint. Each vignette is absorbing on its own, and the totality of the stories sweeps you off your feet. The film winds up—you guessed it—in Heathrow Airport, where a month after Christmas the love stories continue. The scenes in the airport dissolve into footage of actual arrivals at Heathrow, while the Beach Boys song “God Only Knows” plays. Grab tissues. The screen becomes a grid of love scenes that form the shape of a heart. This movie bottles airport love and magnifies it. No wonder viewers return to it again and again during Christmas or any time of year, actually.

“I don’t know why Love Actually is still so popular,” Hugh Grant said in a 2018 interview. I think we all know why, though.

How well do you remember Love Actually? Take our quiz to find out. Plus, here are 13 stars you completely forgot were in Love Actually.

Movie tickets sold: Love Actually was a huge success earning $246 million worldwide; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2003 was $6.03

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Where to watch Love Actually: Watch now on Peacock

Best 2000s Movies: Almost Famous (2000)

Directed and written by Cameron Crowe, this comedy-drama is semi-autobiographical and a cult classic. Cameron Crowe himself (who we interviewed following the premiere 20 years ago) was a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 70s. He covered bands like The Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Led Zeppelin

The cast of Almost Famous includes Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Fifteen-year-old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is a prodigy who gets to skip school and pursue his dream—writing for Rolling Stone magazine. His nurturing mom lets him go on the road with the fictional 70s band Stillwater, but not without stress and lectures over the phone. 

This coming-of-age movie follows William’s adventures as he becomes part of Stillwater’s inner circle. We see groupies, known as “Band-Aides,” and we bond with the band in an iconic sing-along on the tour bus. Elton John’s Tiny Dancer comes on the radio, and one by one the band members chime in. To this day, many fans can’t hear that song without visualizing that scene and feeling its vibe all over again. We all get to be “Band-Aides” as well as teenagers watching this movie, and what’s better than the golden age of rock?  

(Here are the best one-liners to use from Almost Famous)

Movie tickets sold: Almost Famous was a hit earning $47 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2000 was $5.39

Where to watch Almost Famous: Watch now on Amazon Prime

Best 2000s Movies: Legally Blonde (2001)

Directed by Robert Luketic, this comedy is based on Amanda Brown’s novel of the same name. It stars Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber, and Jennifer Coolidge. The movie was an instant hit at the box office and a huge reason why Reese Witherspoon remains a fan favorite today. The movie led to sequels and Legally Blonde: The Musical that opened on Broadway in 2007. The movie sequel Legally Blonde 3 is planned for release in May 2022. Reese Witherspoon nailed Harvard Law freshman Elle Woods, lampooning the Southern California blond stereotype. 

Smart girls everywhere—blond or brunette—gleefully quoted Elle’s cross-examination of the witness: “Because isn’t the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you’re forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thygocolate?” It’s not just the funny beauty know-how that drives this satisfying beauty-and-brains story; it’s Elle’s growing confidence. As her sharp intellect blooms, so does everything else about Elle—her depth, kindness, and trustworthiness. Dumping her “bonehead” boyfriend is a personal triumph too. 

Movie tickets sold: Legally Blonde was a smash hit earning close to $142 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2001 was $5.66

Where to watch Legally Blonde: Watch now on Netflix

Best 2000s Movies: Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Directed by Sharon Maguire, this film became a smash hit at the box office and a cult film that spawned a successful Bridget Jones franchise — Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016). In Britain, Bridget Jones is held up as a cultural icon. The original movie is based on English novelist and screenwriter Helen Fielding’s novel which is a reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

The movie stars Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones and Colin Firth and Hugh Grant as the men vying for her affections. Bridget Jones embodies charm and intelligence—but it’s the endearing hapless quality and self-deprecation that viewers love. (A similar winning blend is found in Kristen Wiig’s character in Bridesmaids.) Bridget Jones keeps a diary of the things she wants to do—quit smoking, lose weight, and find Mr. Right. She falls short in hilarious ways and gets herself into a pickle more than once. Only one of her suitors likes her “just as you are.”  And only one is the worthy Darcy for this feisty feminist who challenges the social order, just as Elizabeth Bennett did in the famous “novel of manners” Pride and Prejudice.

Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Movie tickets sold: Bridget Jones’s Diary was a fan favorite earning nearly $278 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2001 was $5.66

Where to watch Bridget Jones’s Diary: Watch with STARZ

Best 2000s Movies: Erin Brockovich (2000)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this biographical legal drama stars Julia Roberts