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.”
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.
Im gonna spend my entire life chasing the high of a Harry Potter midnight book release
— Birdie (@unluckykalechip) July 13, 2017
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.
its 2009 and you’re in line at Hot Topic for the first Twilight movie midnight release. a fight breaks out between team Edward and team Jacob.
— overly caffeinated king (@helliotboy) January 31, 2018
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.
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?
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.
twenty years later we are still talking about the cinematic masterpiece legally blonde and i think that’s beautiful
— rachel syme (@rachsyme) April 26, 2021
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.
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, Albert Finney, and Danny DeVito. It tells the true story of Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), who fought against the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) regarding its culpability for the Hinkley groundwater contamination incident. Hinkley is a community in the Mojave Desert in California; PG&E dumped carcinogenic chromium in its water as early as the 50s and swapped it out for “safer” chromium later on. An abnormally high rate of cancer plagued the citizens of this town. The film was a watershed event for environmental activism; the term “cluster cases” (when a high rate of cancer signals an environmental cause) became part of the national conversation.
Early in the film, the real Erin Brockovich makes a cameo appearance as a waitress named Julia. Julia Roberts captures the smarts and grit of this woman who starts her journey as an unemployed single mother of three. She fights her way into the legal clerk job leading to her big case; she inspires the trust of the townspeople; she’s unstoppable in her detective work chasing down a corporate cover-up. The town filed a class-action lawsuit, and PG&E settled the case in 1996 for $333 million, the largest settlement of a class-action lawsuit in US history. As disturbing as the story is, the movie is also resolutely hopeful and shaped the future of corporate responsibility and transparency.
Movie tickets sold: Erin Brockovich was a big success earning nearly $258 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2000 was $5.39.
Where to watch Erin Brockovich: Watch now on fuboTV
Best 2000s Movies: Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
Directed and written by Gurinder Chadha, this rom-com sports film is the highest-grossing sports film to focus on association soccer. Starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Archie Panjabi, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the film mainly follows a friendship between two gifted soccer players Juliette “Jules” Paxton (Keira Knightley) and Jesminder “Jess” Bharma (Parminder Nagra), the daughter of British Indian Sikhs living in Hounslow, London.
The 18-year-olds meet each other for the first time in a park, and Jules convinces Jess to play for the local team Hounslow Harriers. The only problem is, Jess’s family is conservative and forbids her to play. How the girls overcome their challenges together is entertaining, but the spectacular soccer-playing delivers the feel-good factor. The title of the movie refers to David Beckham’s skill at scoring from free kicks by curling the ball past a wall of players. David and Victoria Beckham even make cameo appearances in this movie that gives a major high-five to girls.
i can’t decide what the best soccer movie is: bend it like beckham, she’s the man, or ashlyn harris’s instagram stories
— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) July 9, 2019
Movie tickets sold: Bend It Like Beckham was a hit earning over $74.5 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2002 was $5.81.
Where to watch Bend It Like Beckham: Watch now on Disney+
Best 2000s Movies: Atonement (2007)
Directed by Joe Wright, this romantic war drama is based on Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel of the same name. The book is a huge wow, and so was the movie.
Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Vanessa Redgrave, the film chronicles a sex crime and its reverberations across six decades, from 1935 through WWII and well into the protagonist’s elder years. Set in England, the film opens with a wealthy family hosting cousins on their grand estate. The family’s two daughters, ten years apart, are beautiful and sharp-eyed. But 13-year-old Briony’s perceptions are clouded by emotions and perhaps her vivid imagination as a budding writer.
That’s what makes this movie so complex and thought-provoking—it explores perspective, confirmation bias, and its long-lasting consequences. The film also involves a beautiful love story between the housekeeper’s son Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley)—it’s a love that hangs in the balance, making this movie a must-see. Saoirse Ronan as 13-year-old Briony delivers a breakout performance so spot-on that she carries a whole world in her expressive face.
Movie tickets sold: Atonement was a hit earning $129 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2007 was $6.88.
Where to watch Atonement: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2000s Movies: Juno (2007)
Directed by Jason Reitman, this comedy-drama was a defining film of the decade and a huge hit among critics and moviegoers. It’s a coming-of-age story starring Elliot Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, and J.K. Simmons. Smart-talking 16-year-old Juno MacGuff (Elliot Page) is a Minnesota high-schooler with an independent streak and a wise soul. She confronts an unplanned pregnancy with Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), her close friend she hastily tried sex with. Paulie loves Juno, but Juno keeps him at a distance, especially now that she’s pregnant.
Juno tells the story of their relationship and Juno’s search for adoptive parents (through the Pennysaver personal ads), after contemplating abortion and deciding against it. A few critics believed the movie was too much a fairytale view of teenage pregnancy because Juno’s parents were supportive of Juno after an initial freak-out. She largely avoided stigma in high school, too. Yet Juno’s thoughtfulness and her parents’ unconditional love make this movie an important look at the social context—perhaps not so far-fetched—that gives rise to “choice.” Juno and Paulie overcome their confusion and anxiety to stay true to each other. Their shared love of rock music and grunge is a charming thread, and Juno’s soundtrack topped the charts. Featuring songs by Kimya Dawson, Sonic Youth, Cat Power, The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, and The Moldy Peaches, the soundtrack sparked a cultish obsession on its own.
It is 2008.
You are bumping The Moldy Peaches from your jailbroken iPod Touch.
Your favorite movies are Juno and Napoleon Dynamite.
Your best friend is emo, and you sit with them on the lunch table.
Your scarf is getting warm.
— Froyo Tam 💽 #BlackLivesMatter (@FroyoTam) October 25, 2019
Movie tickets sold: Juno was a cult favorite earning more than $231 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2007 was $6.88.
Where to watch Juno: Watch now on Hulu with STARZ
Best 2000s Movies: The Hangover (2009)
Directed by Todd Phillips, this comedy was the first installment in The Hangover trilogy. It tells the story of Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper), Stu Price (Ed Helms), Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) who travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party to celebrate Doug’s approaching marriage. There’s one tiny problem: the groom goes missing after a night of revelry. And, oh wait, they wake up to find a tiger in their hotel room. The mad scramble that ensues is the funniest night in the day in the life of friends you’ll ever see. The film was a huge critical and commercial success; at the time, it was the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever in the US. The sequel broke this record. It’s a must-see before any bachelor or bachelorette party or any time you want gut-busting laughter.
If my 21st doesn’t end up like the movie “The Hangover” imma be very disappointed.
— Hails (@HaileyReed22) August 10, 2017
Movie tickets sold: The Hangover was a major hit earning $465 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2009 was $7.50.
Where to watch The Hangover: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2000s Movies: Sideways (2004)
Directed by Alexander Payne, this comedy-drama is adapted from the 2004 novel of the same name. It stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, and Virginia Madsen. The film follows two fortysomething men–depressive Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) and womanizer Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church)–as they take a road trip to celebrate Jack’s approaching wedding.
But it’s not just any road trip—it’s a brilliant one going straight into the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. This film was a critical and commercial hit because it is such a lovely blend itself: part road trip, part buddy movie, and part wine enthusiast. The dialogue is clever, and appreciating wine plays a role in relationships and seduction.
Take this quote from Maya (Virginia Madsen): “I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today, it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive.”
Or this from Miles (Paul Giamatti): “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f*cking Merlot!” Cranky Miles is obsessed with Pinot, and you see why he sticks up for the temperamental grape. According to a recent NPR story, pinot noir production surged 170 percent since that movie. Winemakers call it “The Sideways Effect.”
Movie tickets sold: Sideways was a cult favorite earning $109.7 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2004 was $6.21.
Where to watch Sideways: Watch now on Cinemax
Best 2000s Movies: Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Directed by Ang Lee, this romantic drama is adapted from the 1997 short story of the same name and stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams. The movie was a critical and commercial hit. It was also an important cultural moment as it depicted the sexual passion and complicated emotional relationship between two cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Their relationship unfolds against the backdrop of the American West, from the 60s through the early 80s.
The film is considered a catalyst for the queer movement as it pushed “queer cinema into the mainstream,” according to film scholar and cultural critic B. Ruby Rich, who coined the term “New Queer Cinema.” The cinematography is beautiful, and the longing, passion, and bottled-up emotion make this a great romance movie, period. Longing also takes on new meaning now that Heath Ledger is gone and we miss him deeply. His glorious shyness is on display in this movie.
Movie tickets sold: Brokeback Mountain was a hit earning close to $177 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2005 was $6.41.
Where to watch Brokeback Mountain: Watch now on Netflix
Best 2000s Movies: Billy Elliot (2000)
Directed by Stephen Daldry, this “small” British drama film created so much big love for the well-told story of a British miner’s son who discovers a passion for ballet. The film stars Jamie Bell as 11-year-old Billy, Gary Lewis as his father Jackie, and Julie Walters as his ballet teacher Sandra Wilkinson. On his way to a boxing class, which he hates, Billy spots a ballet class and is drawn to it. He’s gifted at ballet but struggles against stereotypes and prejudice—his father and older brother Tony are miners on strike in 1984 northern England.
Fortunately, his dance teacher encourages him and sets him on the path to the Royal Ballet School in London. At an audition, Billy describes the feeling of dancing as being “like electricity.” That’s what this movie feels like. In an iconic moment, dance and the appreciation of dance come together in one expression. Every movie should have such a powerful moment.
Movie tickets sold: Billy Elliot was a hit earning over $109 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2000 was $5.39.
Where to watch Billy Elliot: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2000s Movies: every single Harry Potter movie (2001-2010)
Distributed by Warner Bros., the Harry Potter film series is based on the eponymous novels by J.K. Rowling. Four directors worked on the series: Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, and David Yates.
The cast of Harry Potter includes Danielle Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Helena Bonham Carter, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Richard Harris, John Hurt, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, and many other stars.
The movies made us all believe not just in magic, but that our world was suddenly divided into two groups––not Muggles and Wizards but rather people who know Harry Potter and people who don’t. Apparently, some people are still staggering around out there unclear about Hogwarts or quidditch or butterbeer. The thing is, we just don’t know them. It’s also hard to describe the wizarding world unless you’ve been there. A Harry Potter enthusiast notes on a movie fan page, one of her “all-time favorite scenes from the Harry Potter films is the opening sequence of Sorcerer’s Stone.” She loves how Dumbledore emerges from the trees onto Privet Drive, slowly dimming the street lamps, while a nearby tabby cat’s shadow turns into Professor McGonagall. She says we’re “eased into this magical world slowly,” with one foot still in the recognizable suburbs. We’re not shocked into it with flashy effects. It’s like we don’t realize how our lives are about to change– until they do.
Movie tickets sold: Harry Potter movies were some of the most successful movies of all time, earning an astounding $7.73 billion at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. rose from $5.39 in 2000 to $7.89 in 2010.
Where to watch all the Harry Potter movies: All of them are available to stream on Peacock
Best 2000s Movies: The Twilight Saga (2008-2010)
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, this blockbuster series of vampire-themed romance fantasy films were based on Stephenie Meyer’s novels. The cast of Twilight includes Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Nikki Reed, Anna Kendrick, and Jackson Rathbone.
The series took us by storm, even if we’d never liked vampire stuff to begin with. Was the allure of these movies the brooding Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) or the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson)? Their love story has its share of dilemma, not to mention sexual tension. Adolescent viewers were even more game when Jacob (a buff Taylor Lautner) entered the fray with his protective werewolf powers. Yet many moviegoers, like Bella, succumbed to the charms of the pale-faced 108-year-old vampire. “I know what I want,” says Bella. And so did we—more Twilight, please.
Movie tickets sold: The Twilight trilogy was a major hit earning a staggering $3.3 billion at the box office worldwide; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2008 was $7.18, and rose to $7.89 by 2010.
Where to watch the Twilight saga: Watch the first Twilight movie on Hulu
Best 2000s Movies: The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (2003-2007)
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the fantasy series is based on Walt Disney’s theme park attraction of the same name and ignited the media franchise. The fictional stories are set in the Caribbean, during the “Golden Age of Piracy,” and follow the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Other stars featured include Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem.
The swashbuckling series was a huge commercial and even critical success, despite being considered a “popcorn” movie by some critics who say the franchise is largely about fun. Moviegoers sure did have fun. Fans aligned themselves with one pirate or another over social media and dressed in a pirate costume for the screenings.
The Pirates franchise became a cultural phenomenon for people who love to love heroes and anti-heroes and adventure. Pass the popcorn, please.
Movie tickets sold: The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy was a major smash, collectively earning $2.6 billion at the worldwide box office for the first three movies; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2003 was $6.03 and grew to $6.88 by 2007.
Where to watch the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy: Watch them all on Disney+
Best 2000s Movies: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Set in Mumbai, India, this movie tells the remarkable story of a young man accused of cheating on the Indian version of the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
The story of his life is told through memories of his past to illustrate how an uneducated boy like him could know the answers to the difficult game show questions he’s being asked. Played brilliantly by Dev Patel, an older Jamal takes us through his tragic life, the loss of his mother, meeting his one true love, Latika (Freida Pinto), and his complex relationship with his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) to prove how he is able to answer each question correctly. Jamal continues to win round after round — and the hearts of everyone — while on his way to winning 20 million rupees; however, he admits he only played the game in the hopes that Latika would be watching.
Directed by Danny Boyle, the film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and took home eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director; it also won a variety of others, including BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice Awards.
Movie tickets sold: Slumdog Millionaire was a smash hit earning $383.8 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2008 was $7.18.
Where to watch Slumdog Millionaire: Watch now on Cinemax
Best 2000s Movies: A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Directed by Ron Howard, this American biographical drama is inspired by the 1997 book of the same name. The film explores the life of brilliant mathematician John Nash, who won the 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics for his revolutionary work on the mathematics of game theory. It stars Russell Crowe as John Nash, Jennifer Connelly as his wife Alicia, Ed Harris as William Parcher of the US Department of Defense, and Christopher Plummer as Dr. Rosen, Nash’s psychiatrist.
The film opens with Nash arriving at Princeton University as a graduate student. He’s eager to come up with a new theory, and one night he’s inspired while out with a group of friends. They discuss approaching women at a bar, and one classmate cites the “every man for himself” principle. Nash argues that a cooperative approach would lead to better chances of success. The “Nash equilibrium,” as it later came to be known, is a key concept in game theory. Unfortunately, Nash’s success is hampered when he develops paranoid schizophrenia as a young man.
A Beautiful Mind follows his journey with mental illness, marriage, and fatherhood, learning how to manage his illness to successfully teach at Princeton. Game theory sounds cool because it is cool– though it’s not necessarily tied to video games, as you might think. Game theory uses math and logic to understand decision-making. Today it’s used in economics, psychology, political science, biology, and computer science.
Movie tickets sold: A Beautiful Mind was a popular hit earning $317.6 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2001 was $5.66.
Where to watch A Beautiful Mind: Watch now with Peacock
Best 2000s Movies: Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Written, produced, and directed by Nancy Meyers, this love story extends beyond Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson falling in love because everyone who saw this movie also fell in love with the New York Hamptons house where most of the story takes place. Nancy Meyers’ films are iconic for the beautiful homes featured as the backdrop to the stories she tells, and this one is no different.
So let’s talk about Something’s Gotta Give in two parts:
- The Story: Playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton) and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) are at Erica’s Hamptons home — “the perfect beach house” — for the weekend. They unexpectedly meet Erica’s daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) who came up for the weekend with her boyfriend, Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson), a 60-something man with a reputation for never dating women over the age of 30. Harry has a heart attack while there and is rushed to the hospital. Soon after, Marin breaks up with Harry, because it appears to her that her Mom and Harry are clearly falling for one another. Keanu Reeves also stars as Harry’s doctor — a younger love interest of Erica’s. This movie is funny, romantic, and the chemistry between the characters shines through. It’s also a welcome change to see a movie about two people who discover true love as they approach their twilight years.
- That HOUSE! It’s empirically beautiful in every way. Decorated in soft blues, beiges, creamy whites, and small touches of black, each room is chock-full of gorgeous furnishings, and no detail is overlooked. Everything about it is timeless. Still today, designers, home bloggers, and DIY renovators search up images of this house for inspo. Who wouldn’t want Erica’s bedroom, which includes a gorgeous, east-facing desk where she does all of her writing while looking at a full wall of floor-to-ceiling paned French doors? And her kitchen, which is rated as one of the most classically beautiful — and reportedly most copied — kitchens of all time, is sheer perfection. OK, the living room is amazing too.
Movie tickets sold: Something’s Gotta Give was a major hit with audiences earning nearly $267 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2003 was $6.03.
Where to watch Something’s Gotta Give: Watch now on Amazon
*See also: It’s Complicated (2009) with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin for all the same reasons. Also written, directed, and produced by Nancy Meyers, this film tells the story of love, family, and divorce, and all that goes with it. And YES! It’s set in another stunner of a house that looks like a masterclass in home design.
Best 2000s Movies: Mulholland Drive (2001)
Directed by David Lynch, this “neo-noir” mystery film is widely considered the best work of the 80s/90s king of surrealism (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet). This movie is moody and mesmerizing, blurs the lines between dream and reality, and contains absurdist elements and disruptive camera work. Clearly, we needed to discuss the film afterward, with friends over a glass of wine.
The movie stars Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Ann Miller, Mark Pellegrino, and Robert Forster. It opens with an amnesiac Rita (Laura Harring) recovering from a car accident. She befriends an aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Naomi Watts). As this psychological thriller unfolds, we’re drawn into a Hollywood that alternates between dream and nightmare and a non-linear story featuring multiple mysteries and identity-bending characters.
David Lynch gave the film the tagline “A love story in the city of dreams.” ’Nuf said.
Movie tickets sold: Mulholland Drive was a major hit bringing in more than $20 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2001 was $5.66.
Where to watch Mulholland Drive: Watch now on HBO Max
Best 2000s Movies: No Country for Old Men (2007)
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, this film is based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel of the same name. Set in the desert landscape of 1980 West Texas, the film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald, and Woody Harrelson. Many critics regard it as the Coen brothers’ best film and rank it as the best film of the decade.
The feel for the desert landscape entwines with this story of three men—a Vietnam Vet (Josh Brolin), a hitman (Javier Bardem), and a sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones)—who wrangle with unrelenting evil, stark moral choices, and the inevitability of the hunt which feels like fate stalking a man. The film opens with Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbling upon a drug deal gone bad; a chase ensues over the money he finds. The suspense is excruciating, the dialogue is fascinating, and the character study of hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) holds viewers captive every step of the way.
Movie tickets sold: No Country for Old Men was a popular hit earning $164 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2007 was $6.88.
Where to watch No Country for Old Men: Watch now on HBO Max
Best 2000s Movies: Taken (2008)
Directed by Pierre Morel, this English-language French action-thriller struck fear in the hearts of parents everywhere. Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Katie Cassidy, Leland Orser, and Holly Valance, the film turned into a franchise with two sequels and a television series that premiered on NBC in 2017. In the original film, 17-year-old best friends Kim (Maggie Grace) and Amanda (Katie Cassidy) travel to Paris to begin their travel adventure following U2 on the band’s European tour.
When they land in Charles deGaulle airport, they’re targeted by Albanian human traffickers who run a sex trafficking ring led by brutal mob boss Marko Hoxha (Arben Bajraktaraj). It all happens so quickly and plausibly and soon the girls are ambushed in the apartment as they put down their suitcases. They’d made the horrible mistake of agreeing to share a cab with a handsome stranger who’d approached them at the airport.
But the traffickers didn’t calculate this: Kim’s father is a former CIA operative and Green Beret Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). His hunt for his daughter and pursuit of the traffickers have you on the edge of your seat. It’s a cautionary tale to watch with your kids. Without Liam Neeson’s performance, demonstrating Mills’s utter command of a “very particular set of skills,” the movie might be unbearable to watch.
Movie tickets sold: Taken was a hit earning just shy of $227 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2008 was $7.18.
Where to watch Taken: Watch now with STARZ on Hulu
Best 2000s Movies: Crash (2004)
Directed and co-written by Paul Haggis, this crime drama film was inspired by a real-life carjacking of Paul Haggis’s Porsche in 1991 outside a video store on Wilshire Boulevard. The film stars Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Thandiwe Newton, and Ryan Phillippe.
A self-described “passion piece” for Paul Haggis, the film was a critical and commercial success. However, it also sparked controversy. Some said the movie, which explored racial and social tensions in Los Angeles, oversimplified race relations.
Regardless, Crash is an absorbing, important movie that tells multiple stories of Angelenos whose lives intersect—collide—precisely because they are disconnected from one another and judge through the prism of race. The characters lament the loss of touch and strive for redemption.
Movie tickets sold: Crash was a hit earning over $101 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2004 was $6.21.
Where to watch Crash: Watch now on Hulu
Best 2000s Movies: The Blind Side (2009)
Based on the Michael Lewis book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, this is a heartwarming biopic on the life of NFL star Michael Ohr who beat the odds, escaped the projects in Memphis, TN, and came to live with the Tuohy family.
The movie stars newcomer Quinton Aaron as Michael Ohr, Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy, Sandra Bullock — who won an Oscar for Best Actress — as Leigh Anne Tuohy, Kathy Bates as Miss Sue, and Lily Collins as Collins Tuohy. Michael’s biological mother was addicted to drugs, so Michael was taken from his home as a young boy and made a ward of the state; he ran away from every foster home where he was placed. Eventually, he is given an opportunity to attend a private Christian school on a scholarship, where he meets a younger student named SJ Tuohy, played by Jae Head.
Leigh Anne eventually convinces her husband to give him a place to sleep for the night, which ultimately turns permanent. Michael becomes a legal member of the Tuohy family and all of their lives are forever changed for the better. Fate, chance, and a whole lot of love are major themes in this movie and we felt inspired by it all — especially since it’s based on a true story.
Movie tickets sold: The Blind Side was a popular hit pulling in nearly $307.7 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2009 was $7.50.
Where to watch The Blind Side: Watch now on HBO Max
Best 2000s Movies: The Hurt Locker (2009)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this war thriller was loosely based on the experiences of screenwriter Mark Boal, during his time as an embedded reporter following the military in the Iraq War. Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Christian Camargo, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Guy Pearce, the film follows an army bomb squad – the Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team — and focuses on their reactions to the stress of combat.
When Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) arrives at Camp Victory, he’s already defused 873 bombs. He has nerves of steel, but his maverick methods alarm his new team members who feel the terror of their job constantly. The film is tightly shot, and we get into the heads of these men and see combat as life-or-death decision-making every single moment. James himself seems like a human war machine, who defuses bombs masterfully under enemy fire. He also has an uncanny instinct for knowing the minds of bombers and an affection for the innocent civilians. The Hurt Locker is packed with suspense and stellar performances.
Movie tickets sold: The Hurt Locker was a popular hit pulling in nearly $50 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2009 was $7.50.
Where to watch The Hurt Locker: Watch now with Showtime on Hulu
Best 2000s Movies: Flight 93 (2006)
Directed by Peter Markle, this was a television film premiering on the A & E Network that chronicled the events aboard United Airlines Flight 93 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The film stars Jeffrey Nording, Colin Glazer, Brennan Elliott, Ty Olsson, Jacqueline Ann Steuart, Laura Mennell, Barry W. Levy, Biski Gugushe, and Dominic Rains. The film helped our country heal from the attacks because it showed the bravery of the ordinary people aboard that doomed flight from Newark to San Francisco, which was hijacked by terrorists and re-routed for Washington, D.C, likely the Capitol building.
The passengers created a rebellion on board, trying to seize back control from the four al-Qaeda terrorists, two of whom had taken over the cockpit. Through a series of calls to friends and relatives, the passengers learned about the two planes that flew into One World Trade Center and Two World Trade Center and the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
As we watched the passengers on Flight 93 fight back, we saw heroes; we also saw heroes as we heard their phone calls with family and friends. These phone exchanges of love and bravery were transformative for all of us and became an emblem. The intimate words spoken gave us something to cling to as we imagined them in their final moments and knew the terrorists could never take away their love and bravery. One passenger speaks on the air phone to a United Airlines employee and recites prayers with her. His last audible words on that phone were directed to nearby passengers involved in the revolt: “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll.” President Bush used these words with our troops when we invaded Afghanistan.
Movie tickets sold: Flight 93 was a popular hit earning more than $77.6 million worldwide at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2006 was $6.55.
Where to watch Flight 93: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2000s Movies: Adaptation (2002)
Directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, this movie was hailed for its originality and modernist brilliance. Famed screenwriter Charlie Kaufman explodes the adapted screenplay genre by depicting a character who is himself adapting a nonfiction book The Orchid Thief into a movie. The Orchid Thief’s author Susan Orleans tells the true story of John Laroche who poaches and clones orchids from the Florida swamps. Her book and Charlie Kaufman’s film adaptation explore themes of love and obsession through Laroche’s life story.
The movie stars Nicolas Cage (Charlie Kaufman), Meryl Streep (Susan Orleans), Chris Cooper (John Laroche), Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The movie takes us through Kaufman’s experience of writer’s block, his anxieties and obsessions, his inventions (a fictional twin brother), and zany narrative departures. Through it all, his creative masterpiece blooms against all odds, like the rare ghost orchid at the film’s center. “Life seemed to be filled with things that were just like the ghost orchid – wonderful to imagine and easy to fall in love with but a little fantastic and fleeting and out of reach.” These are words from The Orchid Thief that provoke both Charlie Kaufman and viewers to feel totally alive in this movie that captures creativity as a life force.
Movie tickets sold: Adaptation was a hit earning $32.5 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2002 was $5.81.
Where to watch Adaptation: Watch now with PlutoTV
Which movie are you going to watch (or rewatch) first? Let us know on Twitter.
More Entertainment News Like This: Classic ‘90s movies that are still all the rage
Hollywood.com is a place where entertainment news actually entertains you. We’re sharing the good in Hollywood, spotlighting the feel-good stories that matter about any and every kind of celeb. Be a part of the good in Hollywood in your very own neighborhood with our movie ticketing app (coming soon!) that gives you a whole new way to buy movie tickets. Compare movie showtimes, movie theaters, and seats near you in seconds. Follow us on Instagram for more feel-good celeb stories.
FYI: this post contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small percentage on any items you buy through the links we share with you. This helps make it possible for writing entertainment news made for you.