The 140 Essential 2000s Movies

New millennium, new technology. Film cameras were the standard way to shoot a movie for over a century, and now they to had to make space for upstart digital. Without digital cameras, zombies would’ve stayed dead; 28 Days Later was only possible with how quick and easy it is to set up with them. Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) certainly benefited from the new technology.

Movies were also used to absorb our collective trauma. We escaped into magic and wonder in the months after 9/11 with Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, while we celebrated the end of the Great Recession by getting the hell off this planet with Avatar. And speaking of those series, we didn’t want their installments taking up all the spots on this list, so one movie representing the whole franchise was chosen for those worthy.

And your vast comic-book trivia knowledge became a social asset, not a bullseye for beatings. Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Spider-Man 2 opened up new ways of connected storytelling (and money making). And it wasn’t just superheroes making the leap to the mainstream. Fanboy culture, the internet, and sites like the one you’re reading now helped bring “genre” movies to the cultural forefront: zombies (28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead), sci-fi (Avatar, Serenity), horror (The Descent, Saw), and fantasy (Pan’s Labyrinth).

Meanwhile, under-served voices started to make some noise in the mainstream with films led by females (Mean Girls, Whale Rider, Bend It Like Beckham, Twilight), made African-American filmmakers (Love & Basketball, Barbershop), and featuring Asian-American stars (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Better Luck Tomorrow). And that’s not including the increasingly easy access to international material like City of God and Let the Right One In.

And we still haven’t touched upon Pixar’s golden age (WALL-E, Finding Nemo), Hollywood finding the formula for comedies perfectly balanced between smart and dumb (The Hangover, The 40-Year Old Virgin), or that the Fast & Furious series got its humble beginnings here. A lot happened in this decade: Discover it all with the 140 Essential Movies of the 2000s!

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Adjusted Score: 50.932%
Critics Consensus: National Treasure is no treasure, but it's a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot.
Synopsis: Benjamin Franklin Gates is a third generation treasure hunter. All his life, Gates has been searching for a treasure no... [More]
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub


Saw (2004)

Adjusted Score: 54.097%
Critics Consensus: Saw ensnares audiences with a deceptively clever plot and a myriad of memorable, nasty set pieces, but its lofty ambitions are undercut by a nihilistic streak that feels more mean than profound.
Synopsis: The directorial debut from filmmaker James Wan, this psychological thriller comes from the first screenplay by actor Leigh Whannell, who... [More]
Directed By: James Wan

Adjusted Score: 55.86%
Critics Consensus: This teen romance flick feels like a predictable rehashing of other movies.
Synopsis: A 17-year-old high-school student sets her sights on being a professional ballerina, but she has to put her plans on... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Carter


Twilight (2008)

Adjusted Score: 57.482%
Critics Consensus: Having lost much of its bite transitioning to the big screen, Twilight will please its devoted fans, but do little for the uninitiated.
Synopsis: When Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) reluctantly moved to the perpetually overcast town of Forks, WA, and set out to carve... [More]
Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke


The Notebook (2004)

Adjusted Score: 57.932%
Critics Consensus: It's hard not to admire its unabashed sentimentality, but The Notebook is too clumsily manipulative to rise above its melodramatic clichés.
Synopsis: Directed by Nick Cassavetes, this adaptation of author Nicholas Sparks' bestselling novel revolves around Noah Calhoun's (James Garner) regular visits... [More]
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes

Adjusted Score: 57.789%
Critics Consensus: Sleek and shiny on the surface, The Fast and the Furious recalls those cheesy teenage exploitation flicks of the 1950s.
Synopsis: A magazine article about real-life car racing gangs for Vibe becomes this fast-paced automotive thriller from director Rob Cohen. Paul... [More]
Directed By: Rob Cohen


Mamma Mia! (2008)

Adjusted Score: 61.902%
Critics Consensus: This jukebox musical is full of fluffy fun but rough singing voices and a campy tone might not make you feel like "You Can Dance" the whole 90 minutes.
Synopsis: Longing to discover the identity of her true father before she exchanges her wedding vows, the daughter of a once-rebellious... [More]
Directed By: Phyllida Lloyd


Taken (2009)

Adjusted Score: 64.529%
Critics Consensus: Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.
Synopsis: An ex-soldier (Liam Neeson) traveling through Europe embarks on a frantic quest to rescue his daughter (Maggie Grace) after the... [More]
Directed By: Pierre Morel


Transformers (2007)

Adjusted Score: 65.736%
Critics Consensus: While believable characters are hard to come by in Transformers, the effects are staggering and the action is exhilarating.
Synopsis: The interstellar battle between the Autobots and Decepticons rains destruction down on planet Earth as director Michael Bay adapts Hasbro... [More]
Directed By: Michael Bay


Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Adjusted Score: 67.295%
Critics Consensus: Although this action-romance suffers from weak writing and one too many explosions, the chemistry generated by onscreen couple Pitt and Jolie is palpable enough to make this a thoroughly enjoyable summer action flick.
Synopsis: John and Jane Smith are an ordinary suburban couple with an ordinary, lifeless suburban marriage. But each of them has... [More]
Directed By: Doug Liman


300 (2007)

Adjusted Score: 69.043%
Critics Consensus: A simple-minded but visually exciting experience, full of blood, violence, and ready-made movie quotes.
Synopsis: Sin City author Frank Miller's sweeping take on the historic Battle of Thermopylae comes to the screen courtesy of Dawn... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder


Zoolander (2001)

Adjusted Score: 67.365%
Critics Consensus: A wacky satire on the fashion industry, Zoolander is one of those deliberately dumb comedies that can deliver genuine laughs.
Synopsis: Comic actor Ben Stiller co-wrote, directed, and stars in this spoof of the fashion industry that began as a short... [More]
Directed By: Ben Stiller


Spy Kids (2001)

Adjusted Score: 96.94%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic and fun movie that's sure to thrill children of all ages.
Synopsis: Gregorio and Ingrid are the two greatest secret agents the world has ever known: masters of disguise, mavens of invention,... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez


Love Actually (2003)

Adjusted Score: 70.531%
Critics Consensus: A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms.
Synopsis: All of London is in love -- or longing to be -- in Four Weddings and a Funeral writer Richard... [More]
Directed By: Richard Curtis

Adjusted Score: 73.03%
Critics Consensus: Dancer in Dark can be grim, dull, and difficult to watch, but even so, it has a powerful and moving performance from Bjork and is something quite new and visionary.
Synopsis: Set in rural America in 1964, an immigrant and single mother who works at a factory takes refuge from her... [More]
Directed By: Lars von Trier


American Psycho (2000)

Adjusted Score: 75.278%
Critics Consensus: If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.
Synopsis: Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a Wall Street yuppie, obsessed with success, status and style, with a stunning fiancée (Reese... [More]
Directed By: Mary Harron


Legally Blonde (2001)

Adjusted Score: 74.673%
Critics Consensus: Though the material is predictable and formulaic, Reese Witherspoon's funny, nuanced performance makes this movie better than it would have been otherwise.
Synopsis: Elle Woods has it all. She's the president of her sorority, a Hawaiian Tropic girl, Miss June in her campus... [More]
Directed By: Robert Luketic


Unbreakable (2000)

Adjusted Score: 76.151%
Critics Consensus: With a weaker ending, Unbreakable is not as a good as The Sixth Sense. However, it is a quietly suspenseful film that intrigues and engages, taking the audience through unpredictable twists and turns along the way.
Synopsis: Unbreakable is a riveting story shared by two men. David Dunn, a man from a blue-collar neighborhood in Philadelphia emerges... [More]
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Adjusted Score: 76.782%
Critics Consensus: Though it occasionally stumbles into sitcom territory, Something's Gotta Give is mostly a smart, funny romantic comedy, with sharp performances from Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and Keanu Reeves.
Synopsis: Harry Sanborn is a perennial bachelor who only dates women under the age of thirty. On what was to have... [More]
Directed By: Nancy Meyers


Idiocracy (2006)

Adjusted Score: 74.954%
Critics Consensus: Frustratingly uneven yet enjoyable overall, Idiocracy skewers society's devolution with an amiably goofy yet deceptively barbed wit.
Synopsis: In 2005, average in every way private Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) is selected to take part in a secret military... [More]
Directed By: Mike Judge


The Ring (2002)

Adjusted Score: 76.928%
Critics Consensus: With little gore and a lot of creepy visuals, The Ring gets under your skin, thanks to director Gore Verbinski's haunting sense of atmosphere and an impassioned performance from Naomi Watts.
Synopsis: A disturbing videotape appears to hold the power of life and death over those who view it in this offbeat... [More]
Directed By: Gore Verbinski


Training Day (2001)

Adjusted Score: 78.214%
Critics Consensus: The ending may be less than satisfying, but Denzel Washington reminds us why he's such a great actor in this taut and brutal police drama.
Synopsis: The Fast and the Furious (2001) screenwriter David Ayer follows up that fast-paced action hit with this gritty cop drama... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

Adjusted Score: 77.612%
Critics Consensus: An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it's also well-crafted and features terrific performances.
Synopsis: Based on actual events that took place in 1971, a white southern high school is integrated with black students from... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

Adjusted Score: 77.904%
Critics Consensus: The likable leads and subversion of racial stereotypes elevate Harold and Kumar above the typical stoner comedy.
Synopsis: Directed by Danny Leiner, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle follows the life-changing (and mind-altering) journey of Korean-American investment... [More]
Directed By: Danny Leiner

Adjusted Score: 79.317%
Critics Consensus: Though it sometimes feels like a television sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is good-hearted, lovable, and delightfully eccentric, with a sharp script and lead performance from Nia Vardalos.
Synopsis: One woman's rocky road to the altar gets played for laughs in this comedy, adapted from the one-woman off-Broadway show... [More]
Directed By: Joel Zwick

Adjusted Score: 81.17%
Critics Consensus: This adaptation of a beloved novel charms with its heartwarming tale of friendship and young adulthood; realistic portrayals of the lives of teenage girls lend the comedy-drama sincerity, and may capture hearts outside the female-centric demographic.
Synopsis: When they turn 16, four lifelong friends are upset over the prospect of spending their first summer apart. As they... [More]
Directed By: Ken Kwapis


V for Vendetta (2006)

Adjusted Score: 82.007%
Critics Consensus: Visually stunning and thought-provoking, V For Vendetta's political pronouncements may rile some, but its story and impressive set pieces will nevertheless entertain.
Synopsis: Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, V for Vendetta takes place in an alternate vision of Britain in... [More]
Directed By: James McTeigue


Happy Feet (2006)

Adjusted Score: 81.567%
Critics Consensus: Visually dazzling, with a thoughtful storyline and catchy musical numbers, Happy Feet marks a successful animated debut from the makers of Babe.
Synopsis: In the world of the emperor penguin, a simple song can mean the difference between a lifetime of happiness and... [More]


Black Hawk Down (2001)

Adjusted Score: 81.677%
Critics Consensus: Though it's light on character development and cultural empathy, Black Hawk Down is a visceral, pulse-pounding portrait of war, elevated by Ridley Scott's superb technical skill.
Synopsis: A quickly forgotten chapter in United States military history is relived in this harrowing war drama from director Ridley Scott,... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott


Wedding Crashers (2005)

Adjusted Score: 82.253%
Critics Consensus: Wedding Crashers is both raunchy and sweet, and features top-notch comic performances from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
Synopsis: Two guys find out the hard way that sneaking into the wrong party can cause serious problems in this comedy.... [More]
Directed By: David Dobkin

Adjusted Score: 81.622%
Critics Consensus: A rare film that surpasses the quality of its source novel, this Devil is a witty expose of New York's fashion scene, with Meryl Streep in top form and Anne Hathaway more than holding her own.
Synopsis: Andrea is a small-town girl in her first job out of college, who tries to navigate the waters of the... [More]
Directed By: David Frankel

Adjusted Score: 82.561%
Critics Consensus: Team America will either offend you or leave you in stitches. It'll probably do both.
Synopsis: Team America, an international police force dedicated to maintaining global stability, learns that a power hungry dictator is brokering weapons... [More]
Directed By: Trey Parker


The Prestige (2006)

Adjusted Score: 82.896%
Critics Consensus: Full of twists and turns, The Prestige is a dazzling period piece that never stops challenging the audience.
Synopsis: In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in a darkened salon during the course of a fraudulent seance. From this... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Adjusted Score: 83.547%
Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.
Synopsis: A group of unlikely high school students take up crime as an extracurricular activity in this independent drama. Ben (Parry... [More]
Directed By: Justin Lin


Gladiator (2000)

Adjusted Score: 84.315%
Critics Consensus: Ridley Scott and an excellent cast successfully convey the intensity of Roman gladitorial combat as well as the political intrigue brewing beneath.
Synopsis: A man robbed of his name and his dignity strives to win them back, and gain the freedom of his... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

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