Intro: In Case You Missed Them
So we tried to put together a list of must-watch movies of the 2000s. But time and again it seemed to become just another list of our favorite movies.
And while the finalists here are certainly all movies that we love, they also edged out plenty of others because we expect each of them to become classics decades from now, if they haven’t gained that status already.
They’re the kind of movies you should watch if you want to be able to participate in popular culture. These movies will be referenced over and over as sources of excellence.
And that’s about it. These aren’t our all-time picks for favorite movies of the 2000s. Instead, they comprise a list of prerequisites for anyone looking to dip into the world of obsessive movie-watching.
Or, if you happen to be a youngin, for example, and you’re just getting into movies and you weren’t exactly conscious when these were released, it’s now your list of catch-up movies.
Go forth and spectate.
The Hurt Locker – 2008
Well, this movie just does a lot of work, on about a million different levels. For one thing, it ended up being the first Best Picture winner to have a female director, by way of Kathryn Bigelow.
The performances are impressive, and on the whole, the movie gave American audiences an insightful and harsh look into the realities of the so-called War on Terror.
In fact, by 2008, anyone in the U.S. who wasn’t directly affected by the conflict might have already forgotten that we were technically still at war, that there were still people dying in the midst of this conflict.
And ‘the troops’ had become an untouchable abstract class who lacked humanity, who were incapable of making mistakes or harboring prejudices.
And The Hurt Locker certainly isn’t just trying to label the War on Terror as bad. It’s much more complex than that.
But I think that as the movie ages, it will remain an interesting time capsule, reminding us of the Bush years and their long-lasting effects.
Idiocracy – 2006
Ok, so we can’t honestly say that Idiocracy is one of the most well-crafted movies of the 2000s, but it is one of the most quirky, and in many ways, it may have even been prescient.
Notably, this was one of the last major Hollywood movies that Luke Wilson starred in. He’s mostly switched to TV or not-so-great movies nowadays.
Anyway, this is a movie from Mike Judge, the Beavis and Butthead guy, the Silicon Valley guy, the Office Space guy.
Satire is his whole shtick, and he’s actually a very smart guy.
Idiocracy imagines a distant future where a brain-dead celebrity is president and healthcare is dispensed via robots.
Well, I guess the only thing he got wrong was the timeline. Here’s the real-life healthcare robot story. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether we wound up with a brain dead president.
[Feel free to pause here and have a drink. I’ll join you.]
Just to give a very brief review of the movie, I think that satire looks a lot easier than it is. It’s not easy to create a satire that holds up for longer than a couple months.
It’s even more difficult to make a satire that’s actually funny, even to people who disagree with the main premise.
Idiocracy does all of that, all with a budget of just $4 million. In fact, the visual cheapness is the only real downside of the movie.
Other than that, it’s an obvious must-watch for 2000s cinema.
Children of Men – 2006
I’ve you’ve already seen Children of Men, then you know why the movie made the list. If you’ve read our review of ROMA, then you know why this movie made the list.
Children of Men is so many different things at once. It’s one of the most tense cinematic experiences you could ever have. That would be reason enough to make it a modern classic.
But on top of that, you have unbelievable performances, beautifully subtle social commentary, and some of the most mind-splittingly impressive camerawork that we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.
We’re not gonna say much else about the story because that would be a disservice to the movie. It’s not exactly a feel-good movie. We will say that. Let’s move on.
Pan’s Labyrinth – 2006
And now we arrive at possibly the greatest work of another one of the leading filmmakers of our time: Pan’s Labyrinth from writer/director Guillermo del Toro.
The protagonist is a young girl growing up in Spain during World War II. Things in real-life are very bad, so she finds a literal escape to a fantasy land.
A typical Hollywood movie with this plot would have made that fantasy land fun, visually engaging, and a reprieve from the intensity of the real world, both ours and the one seen in the movie.
But del Toro makes this magical realm one of the most terrifying places you could imagine. As with many of his movies, the monsters almost upstage the protagonist and the main story.
Is this just a coping mechanism for this young girl or are these monsters real? Are the human characters somehow more monstrous than the literal monsters?
Well, we really shouldn’t say, but yes.
Lost in Translation – 2003
From Sofia Coppola comes a slow-moving drama and maybe a little bit of a comedy. It’s basically just a chance for Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson to show off what natural actors they can be.
They’re great. They’re both great, at least in this movie. It’s a movie about being alone, together.
The movie doesn’t offer all that much in the way of story, so if you’re looking for plot, look elsewhere.
But if you’re looking for an easy way to get into artsy movies that will leave you with a lasting emotional impression, then Lost in Translation is your new favorite.
The Royal Tenenbaums – 2001
There was no way we were going to get through this list without mentioning at least one Wes Anderson movie.
And yes, this is probably the first movie that forced the world to take Anderson seriously. But this was also during that magical point in time where his unique style was still novel and fresh.
There was a time when we weren’t all making stupid jokes about how weird-in-a-nice-way his movies are.
And even within the realm of Wes Anderson fare, The Royal Tenenbaums is just fantastic. It handles multiple storylines with ease. You never feel tired or confused while watching.
And oh look, it’s Luke Wilson again. It’s actually just a coincidence, but hey, good job, Luke.