The 2000s were a weird time for cinema — kind of sandwiched in between the indie 90’s scene and the blockbuster 2010’s scene. But there are so many great movies that came out between 2000 and 2009, that we thought it would be interesting to look back at what made them so great. So without further ado, this is our list of the best movies of the 2000s.
In Bruges is one of the most underappreciated films of the 2000s -- but hey what would one expect from a movie written and directed by Martin McDonagh, one of the most underappreciated artists of this generation?
I should say that McDonagh was underappreciated -- in 2017 he finally received widespread recognition he deserves for writing and directing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Best Movies Made in the 2000s
34. Persepolis (2007)
There were a lot of great animated movies in the 2000s, including but not limited to: Shrek, Howl’s Moving Castle, Up, Monsters Inc., and Wall-E -- but we’re going to give the spot here to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
We don’t often see animated movies comment on subject matter outside the form’s assumed restraints -- but Persepolis, along with Waltz with Bashir the following year, revitalized the idea that animated movies can be more than all-ages audience pleasers.
Sofia Coppola’s melancholy mood piece Lost in Translation is one of the best movies of the 2000s. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson star in the picture, which follows their two characters as they develop an intense relationship over a short period of time.
Coppola won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation. For many, her script is considered one of the greatest of all-time.
Eastwood’s 2000s Fighter Movie
32. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Million Dollar Baby was a hit with the Academy in 2005, winning Best Actress for Hilary Swank, Best Supporting Actor for Morgan Freeman, Best Director for Clint Eastwood, as well as Best Picture.
Classic 2000s Comedy
31. Zoolander (2001)
“Did you ever think there’s more to life than being really, really, really, ridiculously good looking?” asks Derek Zoolander in the hit 2001 comedy Zoolander. That’s just one great quote from Zoolander -- I could probably fill up a wall with other ones.
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, and Will Ferrell bring Zoolander to life with audacious performances. The Zoolander screenplay, written by Drake Sather, Stiller, and John Hamburg is a personal favorite of mine.
Blockbuster 2000s Films
30. Star Trek (2009)
J.J. Abrams has proven to be the go-to-guy for rebooting dormant franchises. Just think about it: what are the chances that Abrams would be the directing force behind rebooting the two most popular sci-fi franchises of all-time, Star Wars and Star Trek.
I think most can agree that Abrams did a much better job with Star Trek than he did with Star Wars. The 2009 reboot of Star Trek was a huge hit with critics and moviegoers, more than doubling its budget at the box-office.
Want to learn more about how to frame a movie? Look no further than Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others. There have been more than a few voyeuristic classics over the years, like Rear Window and The Conversation, but The Lives of Others may be the best of them all.
The Lives of Others follows the espionage trade in East Germany ahead of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Best Movies of the 2000s Ranked
28. The Wrestler (2008)
Aronofsky made the bold choice to cast Mickey Rourke in the leading role of The Wrestler, but what a great choice it was. Rourke is magnetizing in the role of Randy Robinson -- controlling the screen with emotional nuance and physical dominance.
Best Movies of the 2000s Decade
27. The Royal Tenenbaums (2003)
The Royal Tenenbaums is a masterclass on how to use mise-en-scene. In other words, it’s a lesson on how to distinctly set the stage for scenes in bold and creative ways. Wes Anderson has made a career out of using colorful props and costumes, so it should come as no surprise that’s exactly what he does with The Royal Tenenbaums.
When I think of The Royal Tenenbaums, I think of Ben Stiller in his red Adidas tracksuit, Gwyneth Paltrow in her fur-coat, and Luke Wilson rocking his sunglasses-and-headband combo. That’s a testament to Anderson’s signature production design.
Oldboy marked the emergence of the immensely talented filmmaker Park Chan-wook. That’s not to say that Oldboy was Chan-wook’s first film -- quite the contrary, he had actually directed a handful of films before it. But with Oldboy, Chan-wook grew in popularity, especially with Western audiences.
To this day, the Oldboy “corridor” fight scene is regarded as one of the best fight scenes of all-time.
2000s Zombie Classic
25. 28 Days Later (2002)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 28 Days Later is so good considering it was directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. Is it a perfect movie? No, absolutely not. All it takes is one look to see that the visuals are a little… dull.
But despite its visual shortcomings, 28 Days Later is still tons of fun. Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, and Brendan Gleeson are fantastic in the film; and each makes us feel insanely on edge.
Best Films from the 2000s
24. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Brokeback Mountain was a landmark film for the representation of sexuality in Hollywood. It’s no secret that some of Hollywood’s biggest stars flirted with same-sex relationships, but for a long time, they weren’t made public.With Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, it seemed like the industry was ready to embrace something new. Moreso, the film received a lot of praise for its depiction of two men’s love for one another
Classic 2000s Films
23. Anchorman (2004)
Will Ferrell was perhaps the biggest star in the world in the 2000s -- starring in wildly popular comedies like Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, as well as acclaimed dramas like Stranger Than Fiction. But his most famous film from this era was Anchorman.
Ferrell not only starred in the title role of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, but he co-wrote its script as well.
Best Movies Made in the 2000s
22. No Country for Old Men (2007)
No Country for Old Men is a beautifully, beautifully shot film. Perhaps that’s a given -- it was shot by the great Roger Deakins after all. But still, everything from sweeping shots of the desert to intimate shots of interiors, is aesthetically astounding.
Can the same praise be given to its story? Well, it depends who you ask. Most critics would say yes -- citing complex themes and captivating characters as its greatest strengths. Personally, I find the narrative a bit hollow -- but there’s no denying the film’s visual splendor.
2000s Gangster Epic
21. City of God (2002)
City of God is such a rich movie in terms of visuals, themes, and character. Directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund did an amazing job of connecting us to the “Cidade de Deus” favela in Brazil.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of City of God is how it incorporates “the camera” in a meta sense. The film’s main character Rocket is a documentarian and the lens of his camera serves as the ethical crux of the story.
It’s impossible to talk about 2000s movies without bringing up Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Sacha Baron Cohen stars in Borat as a Kazakh journalist who goes to the U.S. to make a documentary about life in America.
Borat was a huge box-office success, grossing over $260 million against an $18 million budget. Baron Cohen’s comedic style in Borat has been cited as a major influence on 21st century comedy.
Classic Best Movies of the 2000s
19. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
There are those who would say that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best movie of the 2000s -- and then there are those who would vehemently disagree. Eternal Sunshine is a film that I’m personally torn by. On one hand, it’s original, well-written, and engaging. On the other, it’s just really weird.
Weird isn’t a bad thing -- Eternal Sunshine screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has made a career out of writing weird stuff. But when the weirdness, wackiness, absurdness, whatever you call it, takes precedence over the story, it detracts from the overall message.
Must See Movies of the 2000s
18. Meet the Parents (2000)
Jay Roach’s all-star comedy Meet the Parents is one of the best comedies of the 21st century. Not just because of its cast, which includes Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner, but because its script is excellent as well.
The Meet the Parents screenplay is a masterclass in comedy writing. The structure is pretty standard, but the execution is flawless. It’s proof that formulaic doesn’t have to feel formulaic.
Detective Thriller Movie
17. Memories of Murder (2003)
Fifteen years before Bong Joon-ho was winning Academy Awards left and right for his work on Parasite, he was making great movies like The Host and Memories of Murder. You’d be hard-pressed to find many film programs that don’t study Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder.Prior to Parasite, general consensus was that Memories of Murder was Joon-ho’s best film. That’s saying something too -- Joon-ho’s 2013 film Snowpiercer was a huge hit with international critics as well.
The Best Movies From the 2000s
16. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Is there any film more quintessentially 2000s than Ocean’s Eleven? Just think about the cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia. All five of those actors scream early 2000s. Oh, and of course 2000s cinema legend Steven Soderbergh served as the film’s director.
It’s a bit ironic that Ocean’s Eleven has become so synonymous with the 2000s, because it’s based on a 1960’s Rat Pack movie of the same name. But alas, that’s what happens when the remake outdoes the original.
Must See Movies of the 2000s
15. Half Nelson (2006)
Shoutout to Ryan Gosling for his performance in Half Nelson. He received an Academy Award nomination for his work, but that sells it short. I’d go so far as to say that Gosling’s performance in the Half Nelson is the very best performance of the 2000s.
Half Nelson is perhaps most well known for its original soundtrack, performed by Broken Social Scene -- but the story of the film is immensely powerful as well.
2000s Music and Movies
14. Almost Famous (2000)
Almost Famous started the 2000s off with a bang -- winning Cameron Crowe his first and only Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The story in Almost Famous is great, but it pales in comparison to how great the soundtrack is.
Without a doubt, Almost Famous has one of the best movie soundtracks of all-time, featuring music from The Who, Elton John, and The Beach Boys,
Best 2000s Mockumentary
13. Best in Show (2000)
In 1984, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and director Rob Reiner popularized the term “mockumentary” with This is Spinal Tap. After Spinal Tap, Guest took over directing duties from Reiner making other mockumentaries like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.
Guest co-penned the Best in Show screenplay with fellow comedy legend Eugene Levy. If you’ve ever watched a dog show and thought “this is kind of ridiculous,” then you should definitely watch Best in Show.
Best Movies of the 2000s Ranked
12. American Psycho (2000)
At first glance, American Psycho may seem like a story about America today. That’s a testament to the prescience of the themes outlined in Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same, which is set in the 1980’s. Every year, the wealth gap in the United States grows wider, and the stranglehold that Wall Street has on our society constricts tighter.
American Psycho is a brilliant example of how to use satire in film -- it satirizes the moral and systemic corruption that pervades Wall Street. Be warned though, American Psycho doesn’t hold anything back in its attack on America’s financial system.
Period Piece Thriller
11. Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher's careful direction in Zodiac is simply awe-inspiring. I know, I know, awe-inspiring may be a bit dramatic to say about somebody’s direction, but in this case it’s true. Fincher is widely known for his perfectionist style of directing. It’s the reason why many consider him to be one of the greatest living film directors.
With Zodiac, Fincher proved that he could make period-pieces that are just as good as his modernist works.
Memento is like a cinematic onion that’s peeled layer by layer until the core is exposed. There aren’t many movies that I’d say you have to watch twice, but Memento is definitely a movie you have to watch twice.
Christopher Nolan became a critical-darling for his work on Memento, which he released at the age of 30. In the years since, Nolan has continued to expound on many of the ideas and themes from Memento in films like The Prestige and Inception.
Intimate Sci-Fi Classic
9. Moon (2009)
Duncan Jones gets too much hate from critics. There I said it. Over the past ten+ years, Jones has gone from a young auteur to a middling director -- or so they say. Perhaps it’s true that Jones has struggled to recapture the magic that made his feature debut Moon so special, but that doesn’t mean he lacks the talent.
Moon is a movie that’s still being dissected to this day. It’s also a great demonstration of how to make a movie with limited actors and sets.
Best Movies of the 2000s Ranked
8. Spirited Away (2001)
Spirited Away is widely regarded as one of the best animated movies of all-time and the best work of renowned Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. It’s easy to get swept away in Miyazaki’s works because of their visual splendor, but the stories are often exceptional as well.
Miyazaki finds a rare balance between fantastical imagery and humanistic storytelling with Spirited Away.
Best Films of the 2000s
7. The Pianist (2002)
The Pianist, a film about Polish composer Władysław Szpilman’s survival through the Holocaust, is absolutely gut-wrenching. There aren’t many films more gut-wrenching than The Pianist; save for Schindler’s List and The Deer Hunter.
For his work in The Pianist, Adrien Brody received the Academy Award for Best Actor -- to this day he remains the youngest actor to ever win the award.
Epic Franchise Starter
Ask any ten Lord of the Rings fans which movie is their favorite and you’re likely to get a 33% split. The Two Towers loyalists will say, “nothing beats The Battle of Helm’s Deep.” Return of the King fans will say, “the resolution at the end is the best part of the trilogy.” But for my money’s worth, I’m taking The Fellowship of the Ring.
Fellowship has the best story and most gratifying arc of the three Lord of the Rings movies.
Endearing Adventure Film
5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Catch Me If You Can is proof that big-budget cinema can be as emotionally touching as it is thrilling. Start to finish, everything about Catch Me If You Can is masterclass -- in my list of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best movies, I gave it the top honor.
It’s weird to say that Catch Me If You Can is underrated -- the film has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is widely considered one of Steven Spielberg’s best movies -- but for whatever reason, it tends to get lost in the shuffle of the best 2000s movies.
Most Iconic Movies of the 2000s
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight is the film that changed everything for superhero movies. That’s not to say that there weren’t good superhero movies before The Dark Knight -- there absolutely were, like Christopher Reeves’ first two Superman’s, Michael Keaton’s 1989 Batman -- heck I’d even say Adam West’s 1966 Batman was a great movie.
But every superhero movie prior to The Dark Knight struggled to separate itself from the comics they were inspired by. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight proved that superhero movies had mass appeal, and could succeed in spite of their comic inspirations.
Romantic Best Movies of the 2000s
3. Before Sunset (2004)
A serious case could be made that Before Sunset is the best movie-sequel ever made (sorry The Godfather: Part II and Empire Strikes Back). If you haven’t seen Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, I implore you go watch it. The Before trilogy follows two characters named Jesse and Celine, who over the course of twenty years deal with an explosive, yet endearing relationship with one another.
Before Sunset picks up with the story of Jesse and Celine nine years after they first met, and follows them as they take an afternoon stroll through Paris.
Children of Men is a near two-hour masterclass in immersive filmmaking. Director Alfonso Cuarón is known for making films that transport us into sensational settings, like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Gravity, but none are as captivating as the world of Children of Men.
The story of Children of Men is brilliant as well -- layered in allegory, biblical allusions and complex themes. In my mind, there’s no doubt that Children of Men is Cuaron’s greatest work to date and one of the best movies of the 2000s.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s undisputed masterpiece There Will Be Blood has been climbing on lists of the best movies of all-time in recent years -- so it should come as no surprise that it takes the top honor here.
Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano deliver powerhouse performances in There Will Be Blood, captivating us throughout its near three-hour runtime. It’s fair to say that There Will Be Blood is PT Anderson’s best movie.
Best Movies of the Decade (2010-2019)
Now that we’ve ranked some of the best movies from 2000-2009, let’s continue on with the best movies from 2010-2019. Next up, you’ll find some consensus choices, like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse and Get Out, and some surprising picks that you’ll have to read on to find out!