The 10 Best Films of the 00's

The 10 Best Films of the 00’s

The 2000s were an intriguing decade for film, marked by innovation, diversity, and the rise of new cinematic trends. It was a period where technology began to revolutionize the industry, with advancements in CGI and digital filmmaking transforming how stories were told and experienced. This decade also saw the emergence of blockbuster franchises, the rise of independent cinema, and the blending of genres, offering audiences a rich and varied tapestry of movies. From groundbreaking special effects to compelling narratives, the 2000s left an indelible mark on the history of cinema.

On the plus side was the success of several film series, including Bourne, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, Narnia, X-Men, Oceans 11, 12, 13, and Shrek; even 007 made a triumphant comeback. On the downside was the ridiculous trend of remaking mad slasher/horror films from the 70s and 80s. In the decade, we saw new versions of Black Christmas, Halloween, The Fog, House on Sorority Row, Prom Night, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Last House on the Left, Willard, The Omen, Dawn of the Dead, The Amityville Horror, When a Stranger Calls, The Hills Have Eyes, The Hitcher, My Bloody Valentine and The Stepfather.

To look at that list is enough to depress any film fan about the state of film today. As one who has always been a proponent of remaking bad movies, it was astounding that those on the list who were bad were remade into even worse films. For my money, only the Dawn of the Dead remake was recommendable, and Prom Night was the only film to top its predecessor simply because the original was so awful you couldn’t do any worse.

Let’s brighten things up and talk about some of the best films of the decade. In trying to create a decade’s ten best lists, you have to go with the present state of mind as opposed to the state of mind when the best list of each year was created. Some films have dimmed from my memory some, while others have improved with each viewing. Some films have come to mean more to me personally, while others have lost some of their meaning with the passage of time.

Someone suggested I simply take my picks of the best films of each year of the decade to create this list, but that’s truly impossible. One year may be such a good year that a film that could be lower in the top ten may actually be in the top three of a lesser year’s films. No, what I had to do was go back and look at my lists and find which films still linger in my mind for whatever reason. In some cases, I re-watched some of the films to see if they still held the magic I felt when I first viewed them. Doing this list proved much more difficult than I remembered, and I am thankful this is a once-in-a-decade duty to myself.

As always my goal to the reader is to find a film or two they may not know and seek them out. I treasure everyone’s opportunity to see any one of these films for the first time. Now because of the enormous amount of films released in a decade I don’t expect even one person to agree with, say, my pick for best film of the decade. I am sure 100 people making this list would come up with 100 different lists.

I truly hope you enjoy this article and discover what I discovered or re-discover, as the case may be.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times usually awards a Special Jury Prize to a film that doesn’t quite make his best list but is worth mentioning. With all due respect, I would like to borrow this from him to single out a major achievement of the decade. The prize goes to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I separated this from the pack because it truly deserves its own mention. It’s quite possible that two of the films could have made my best ten list, but I decided to keep it out and discuss it briefly simply for the grand achievement of this trilogy. Jackson truly accomplished something no one thought could ever have been done, and that was to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s books to the screen. Jackson filmed all three films at once and released them in successive years. What Jackson accomplished was nothing less than a miracle, and while there are many flaws and the films are still not totally faithful to the books, I can’t imagine a better job being done, and the films will become a grand part of cinematic history.

Before naming my top ten films in the 2000s, I thought I would briefly mention ten other films that didn’t quite make the list but are superb achievements in their own right. This list is made alphabetically, and each film should be included. I cannot recommend them enough.

So, without further adieu, I would like to recognize Sidney Lumet’s Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Paul Haggis Crash, Ray Lawrence’s Lantana, Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima, Todd Fields Little Children, Woody Allen’s Match Point; David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive; Alexander Payne’s Sideways; Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys. If you don’t know one or two of these movies, I urge you not to look them up but to find them and watch them completely fresh with no idea of what is to come.

Now I am pleased to present my choice of the ten best films of the 00s. If you haven’t seen the films, you may want to skim my descriptions as I do discuss the stories, and you deserve to see them with as little knowledge of them as possible. There are no spoilers, but if you don’t want to know the main story, then move on. I list these films in reverse order of preference simply because I have a flair for the dramatic and want to hold out on the best film until the end.


Frailty (2001)
Frailty (2001)

Actor Bill Paxton’s directorial debut is a tense and terrific thriller that tells two stories. The first features Paxton as the loving, hard-working father of two young boys who one-night claims to have talked to God and has been given the gift of seeing the evil deeds people have done simply by touching them. When he confirms these people are demons, he kills them to help rid the world of evil, much to the horror of his sons. Does he really have this power, or has he just gone crazy? That is just one of the many questions the film will eventually answer at the very end, but not until then. Meanwhile, one of his sons believes, while the other thinks his father has gone mad. The other story is told in the present day with Matthew McConaughey, playing Paxton’s oldest son, who has come to FBI agent Powers Boothe and begins confessing his father’s murders in hopes of putting it all to rest. This is an absolutely riveting thriller that is enthralling, as its story threads are slowly unveiled to reveal answers and twists that are totally believable while being totally unexpected. This is one of the best directorial debuts by an actor ever.


A History of Violence (2005)

Horror director David Cronenberg created this masterpiece starring Viggo Mortensen as an Indiana café owner who thwarts a robbery in his place of business, killing the two dangerous criminals in the process. Soon, a badly scarred Ed Harris comes to town, claiming that Mortensen is another person altogether, a cold-blooded killer for a mob in Pennsylvania. Soon, his family life begins to unravel (especially his son, who discovers some shocking things about himself) as the truth is searched for and, eventually, discovered. Cronenberg has always been a master creator of mood, and here, he creates situations that are so tense you may want to get up and walk around. His mastery as a director is revealed in the first scene of the film, an unbroken, un-edited shot of the two killers leaving a motel, going inside, and then committing a horrific act of violence that sets the film in motion. Cronenberg also gets a terrific performance out of William Hurt, who is onscreen for less than ten minutes but still managed a Best Supporting Actor nomination. As with most of Cronenberg’s films, this is not for the faint of heart, but it’s so well crafted you are shocked at the violence and then involved with where the story goes. And pay close attention to the final scene of the movie. You will notice that not one word is spoken, but the scene delivers its point.


Memento (2000)

Christopher Nolan’s directorial debut is a labyrinthine mystery starring Guy Pearce as a man who has no long-term memory and is trying to solve the mystery of who murdered his wife. His journey takes him to seedy locations, meeting seedy people, and with each bit of information he gathers, he must either write it down or have it tattooed on him before he forgets it. The genius of this film is that it is told backward so that the beginning of each scene is the last scene of the story arc before it. This is one of those films that is highly beneficial to watch more than once. I have seen it four times, and I am still discovering new things.


Michael Clayton (2007)

Tony Gilroy’s multi-layered thriller stars George Clooney in the title role as a “cleaner” for a law firm involved in a huge lawsuit involving environmental poisoning. Clooney’s Clayton is a loser who gambles too much and invests in losing business opportunities but is still the man to turn to for help when consequences become dire. Tom Wilkinson plays a lawyer infatuated with one of the victims in the lawsuit who also happens to be losing his mind. Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton plays a no-nonsense attorney who will stop at nothing to win her case. As the film unwinds in flashbacks and time shifts, everyone’s life is at stake until a final beautiful confrontation brings the story together. Much like Memento, this film benefits from repeated viewings. Its writing is smart and succinct, and the final result is one of the best thrillers I have ever seen.


City of God (2002)

Fernando Meirelles directed this epic drama from Spain about three decades in the lives of two boys growing up in the slums of Rio De Janeiro. These boys, best friends, grow up to take different paths in life. One dreams of getting out and becoming a famous photographer, while the other slowly falls into the hands of the crime lords and slowly works his way up in the ranks until he is the top boss. The film is told (and narrated) through the eyes of the hopeful photographer, who sees the world through his lens. The film covers the 60’s through the 80’s and introduces us to many characters that come and go. One brilliant touch is a scene on a bus. The narrator introduces us to a man who is sitting there and then tells the audience that he is not important right now but will be back later. This is a brilliant and emotionally powerful motion picture experience.


Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Guillermo Del Toro’s Adult Fantasy is one of the most magical films ever made, telling the story of a young girl and her pregnant mother moving into the home of the girl’s new stepfather in fascist Spain in 1944. The stepfather is a sadistic, ruthless captain in the Spanish army, and the young girl escapes the evils of the real world around her when she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He instructs her to complete three grueling and near-impossible tasks, and she will become a princess and be reunited with her real father, the king. From here, the film unfolds in sometimes frightening and sometimes breathtaking adventures as the young girl attempts to complete her tasks. This is an incredibly well-directed, well-edited adventure for adults and one that belongs among the greatest fantasies of all time.


In America (2002)

Jim Sheridan’s poignant story tells of a family that moves from Ireland to New York City. The father is a cab driver who aspires to be a stage actor, while the mother stays at home taking care of her two young daughters. The family is also still feeling the effects of the death of their young son Frankie and attempts to deal (and not deal) with his death. The family struggles to make ends meet but lives life as fully as they can. Soon, the mother becomes pregnant, and the two daughters befriend a reclusive neighbor. This is a joyful and emotional experience in which director Sheridan uses the movie E.T. as a metaphor in one of the most quietly emotional scenes I have ever seen in a movie. Writer Richard Roeper offered his readers a full refund to anyone who saw this movie and could honestly explain why they didn’t like the film. Six months later, Roeper refunded one ticket. Personally, I think that person was lying. I can’t imagine anyone not loving this, and I can’t imagine anyone not being moved by it.


House of Sand and Fog (2003)

Vadim Perelman made his directorial debut with this powerful, uncompromising drama starring Jennifer Connelly as an emotionally wounded woman who loses the house she inherited from her father when she is mistakenly charged for taxes she didn’t pay for. Thrown out, she befriends a police officer going through a difficult time in his marriage, and soon the two become lovers. The house is purchased by a former colonel in the Iranian army (Ben Kingsley) who, after spending his life’s savings on his daughter’s wedding, wants to refurbish the house and sell it at a higher price to help give his family a financially stable life in the United States. Soon, though, the cop and the woman make attempts to get the family out of the house, and that leads the film in unexpected, dramatic, and tragic directions. The film is an emotional tug of war as Perelman presents both sides of the situation, and you can honestly support both arguments, which only makes the last act more tense as you await the conclusion. The performances, especially by Oscar nominee Kingsley, are unforgettable, as is this remarkable motion picture.


No Country for Old Men (2007)

The Coen Brothers continue to reward filmgoers with one fascinating film after another, but with the release of this film, I could only shake my head in amazement that they had actually topped their previous masterpiece, Fargo. The film tells the story of three men (who, interestingly, share little to no screen time with one another), all brought in a violent situation from different angles. Josh Brolin plays a good ole boy who happens across the violent aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. He grabs the money and runs, not knowing that the bag has a tracer and a bounty hunter (Javier Bardem, in his Oscar-winning performance, creating one of the greatest villain films we have ever seen), is hot on the trail. Tommy Lee Jones plays the town sheriff trying to save Brolin, knowing what kind of man is hunting him. The film is uncompromising in its violence and offers no easy answers or outs for any of the characters. Many have criticized the film’s last scene, but I thought it was a necessary moment simply to let the audience breathe and get their bearings back before the credits rolled. I said it after Fargo, and I will say it again: I can’t imagine the Coen Brothers making a better movie. But I welcome every opportunity that they try to.


Almost Famous (2000)
Almost Famous (2000)

Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical look at his teenage years is my pick as the best movie of the decade. No other film made me smile from beginning to end and deliver such scenes of humor, poignancy, and drama with such subtle touches you hardly know you’re being fed such an emotional range. The film tells of a boy who lives in an unconventional home with an unconventional mother (Oscar nominee Frances McDormand). She celebrates Christmas in September to avoid the commercialism of it all; she doesn’t cook meat for her kids, and she thinks rock and roll is the work of the devil because those who sing it are all high on marijuana. The boy grows up watching his sister rebel and leaves home but soon begins writing about his favorite band. When he contacts Rolling Stone, pretending to be older than he is, he is soon off on the road (to the chagrin of his mother) with his favorite band, Stillwater, getting to know them and the ins and outs of life on the road. Soon, he becomes friends with, and later falls for, one Penny Lane (Oscar nominee Kate Hudson), who is one of the band’s band-aids (NEVER call them roadies). She, as much as anyone, teaches the young man about life, love, and the joys of music. In one classic moment, after Stillwater has welcomed him into their circle, he watches the band performing in concert from just offstage. He is taking notes, and Penny takes the pencil from him, silently imploring him to listen to the music. It’s a great moment in a film filled with many great moments. Crowe deservedly won an Oscar for his Screenplay, but the public, despite glowing reviews, somehow overlooked the film. It’s the one film on this list I love to watch over and over from the start. This is a film filled with a filmmaker’s joy of filmmaking, and it shows in every scene.

Author Gwen

Gwen is a freelance artist and writer for film, advertising, corporate projects, and web media. She feels his expertise in the entertainment industry provides a unique opportunity to engage the public through real-life stories and over a decade of experience and knowledge.