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: 50562%
Critics Consensus: National Treasure is no treasure, but it's a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot.
Synopsis: An adventurer (Nicolas Cage) must steal the Declaration of Independence and use its hidden map to find a legendary fortune.... [More]
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub


Saw (2004)

Adjusted Score: 55892%
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: A serial murderer will slaughter a captive doctor's (Cary Elwes) wife and daughter unless the man kills a fellow prisoner.... [More]
Directed By: James Wan

Adjusted Score: 56498%
Critics Consensus: This teen romance flick feels like a predictable rehashing of other movies.
Synopsis: A white teenager (Julia Stiles) moves to Chicago after her mother's death and falls for a black student (Sean Patrick... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Carter


Twilight (2008)

Adjusted Score: 57656%
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: A high-school student (Kristen Stewart) is caught up in a romance with a vampire (Robert Pattinson), whose family has renounced... [More]
Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke


The Notebook (2004)

Adjusted Score: 58574%
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: A man (James Garner) tells a story to a woman about two young people (Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams) who become... [More]
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes

Adjusted Score: 58919%
Critics Consensus: Sleek and shiny on the surface, The Fast and the Furious recalls those cheesy teenage exploitation flicks of the 1950s.
Synopsis: An undercover police officer (Paul Walker) investigates a gang leader (Vin Diesel) suspected of stealing electronic equipment.... [More]
Directed By: Rob Cohen


Mamma Mia! (2008)

Adjusted Score: 61840%
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: Hoping to meet her real father and have him walk her down the aisle, a bride secretly invites three men... [More]
Directed By: Phyllida Lloyd


Taken (2008)

Adjusted Score: 64235%
Critics Consensus: Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.
Synopsis: A former spy (Liam Neeson) puts his extensive training to the test when he must rescue his kidnapped daughter from... [More]
Directed By: Pierre Morel


Transformers (2007)

Adjusted Score: 65766%
Critics Consensus: While believable characters are hard to come by in Transformers, the effects are staggering and the action is exhilarating.
Synopsis: Humanity's fate rests in the hands of a youth (Shia LaBeouf) when two races of warring robots make Earth their... [More]
Directed By: Michael Bay


Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Adjusted Score: 67059%
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: A husband (Brad Pitt) and wife (Angelina Jolie) are unaware that each is an international assassin who has just been... [More]
Directed By: Doug Liman


300 (2006)

Adjusted Score: 70109%
Critics Consensus: A simple-minded but visually exciting experience, full of blood, violence, and ready-made movie quotes.
Synopsis: Sparta's King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his badly outnumbered warriors fight to the death against King Xerxes' massive Persian army... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder


Zoolander (2001)

Adjusted Score: 68240%
Critics Consensus: A wacky satire on the fashion industry, Zoolander is one of those deliberately dumb comedies that can deliver genuine laughs.
Synopsis: A supermodel (Ben Stiller) befriends a rival (Owen Wilson) while becoming mixed-up in a brainwashing and assassination plot.... [More]
Directed By: Ben Stiller


Spy Kids (2001)

Adjusted Score: 97796%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic and fun movie that's sure to thrill children of all ages.
Synopsis: When a technical genius kidnaps retired spies (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino), only their children can save them.... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez


Love Actually (2003)

Adjusted Score: 70616%
Critics Consensus: A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms.
Synopsis: A prime minister, an office worker (Hugh Grant), a pop star (Laura Linney), a jilted writer (Colin Firth), married couples... [More]
Directed By: Richard Curtis

Adjusted Score: 73950%
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: A young mother (Björk) hides her diminishing sight from her co-workers and the director of the musical in which she... [More]
Directed By: Lars von Trier


American Psycho (2000)

Adjusted Score: 75379%
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: A mentally unhinged yuppie (Christian Bale) in 1980s New York submits to an uncontrollable bloodlust.... [More]
Directed By: Mary Harron


Legally Blonde (2001)

Adjusted Score: 75615%
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: A sorority queen (Reese Witherspoon) enrolls in Harvard to prove to her former boyfriend that she has more than good... [More]
Directed By: Robert Luketic


Unbreakable (2000)

Adjusted Score: 77561%
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: The sole survivor (Bruce Willis) of a horrific train crash, questioning his existence, finds counsel in a mysterious stranger (Samuel... [More]
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Adjusted Score: 76665%
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: A music executive (Jack Nicholson) falls for the mother (Diane Keaton) of his young girlfriend after having a heart attack... [More]
Directed By: Nancy Meyers


Idiocracy (2006)

Adjusted Score: 75197%
Critics Consensus: Frustratingly uneven yet enjoyable overall, Idiocracy skewers society's devolution with an amiably goofy yet deceptively barbed wit.
Synopsis: Selected for a human hibernation project, an average soldier (Luke Wilson) awakens 500 years in the future, where society is... [More]
Directed By: Mike Judge


The Ring (2002)

Adjusted Score: 77196%
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 journalist (Naomi Watts) investigates the mystery behind a bizarre videotape that brings death after seven days to all who... [More]
Directed By: Gore Verbinski


Training Day (2001)

Adjusted Score: 78241%
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: A rookie cop (Ethan Hawke) meets a corrupt Los Angeles narcotics officer (Denzel Washington) who wants to include him in... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

Adjusted Score: 77639%
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: A Virginia high school hires a black football coach (Denzel Washington) after undergoing integration in 1971.... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

Adjusted Score: 77472%
Critics Consensus: The likable leads and subversion of racial stereotypes elevate Harold and Kumar above the typical stoner comedy.
Synopsis: After smoking marijuana, two roommates (John Cho, Kal Penn) scour New Jersey to satisfy their hunger for hamburgers.... [More]
Directed By: Danny Leiner

Adjusted Score: 79025%
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: Family tensions arise after a woman (Nia Vardalos) falls in love with a man (John Corbett) who is not Greek.... [More]
Directed By: Joel Zwick

Adjusted Score: 81687%
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: Four teenage friends (Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera) keep in touch during their summer apart by passing along a... [More]
Directed By: Ken Kwapis


V for Vendetta (2006)

Adjusted Score: 83247%
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: After world war leads to a fascist government, a vigilante known as V (Hugo Weaving) uses terrorist tactics to fight... [More]
Directed By: James McTeigue


Happy Feet (2006)

Adjusted Score: 82381%
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: Born without the ability to sing, a young emperor penguin (Elijah Wood) expresses himself and hopes to attract a mate... [More]
Directed By: George Miller


Black Hawk Down (2001)

Adjusted Score: 82826%
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: U.S. soldiers (Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore) take heavy fire while trying to capture a warlord's associates in Mogadishu,... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott


Wedding Crashers (2005)

Adjusted Score: 81922%
Critics Consensus: Wedding Crashers is both raunchy and sweet, and features top-notch comic performances from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
Synopsis: Two divorce mediators (Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn) spend a wild weekend partying with a politician (Christopher Walken) and his eccentric... [More]
Directed By: David Dobkin

Adjusted Score: 82611%
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: A recent college graduate (Anne Hathaway) lands a job working for a famous and diabolical editor (Meryl Streep) of a... [More]
Directed By: David Frankel

Adjusted Score: 82261%
Critics Consensus: Team America will either offend you or leave you in stitches. It'll probably do both.
Synopsis: Puppet commandos protect the planet from fiendish terrorists and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il (Trey Parker).... [More]
Directed By: Trey Parker, Matt Stone


The Prestige (2006)

Adjusted Score: 82909%
Critics Consensus: Full of twists and turns, The Prestige is a dazzling period piece that never stops challenging the audience.
Synopsis: After an illusion goes tragically wrong, two 19th-century magicians (Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale) engage in a bitter and potentially deadly... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Adjusted Score: 84237%
Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.
Synopsis: A 16-year-old Asian student (Parry Shen) commits crimes with his goofy friend (Jason Tobin) and a gang in Southern California.... [More]
Directed By: Justin Lin


Gladiator (2000)

Adjusted Score: 85907%
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: When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by the emperor, he comes to Rome as a gladiator... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

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