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: 52233%
Critics Consensus: National Treasure is no treasure, but it's a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot.
Synopsis: Historian and code-breaker Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) has been searching his whole life for a rumored treasure dating back to... [More]
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub


Saw (2004)

Adjusted Score: 57647%
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: Photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and oncologist Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) regain consciousness while chained to pipes at either end... [More]
Directed By: James Wan

Adjusted Score: 56633%
Critics Consensus: This teen romance flick feels like a predictable rehashing of other movies.
Synopsis: Sara (Julia Stiles) is moved from a small Midwestern town to the south side of Chicago when her mother dies... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Carter


Twilight (2008)

Adjusted Score: 57504%
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: High-school student Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), always a bit of a misfit, doesn't expect life to change much when she... [More]
Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke


The Notebook (2004)

Adjusted Score: 60233%
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: In 1940s South Carolina, mill worker Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and rich girl Allie (Rachel McAdams) are desperately in love.... [More]
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes

Adjusted Score: 59019%
Critics Consensus: Sleek and shiny on the surface, The Fast and the Furious recalls those cheesy teenage exploitation flicks of the 1950s.
Synopsis: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) enjoys the adrenaline of street car racing and his fans treat him like a rock star.... [More]
Directed By: Rob Cohen


Mamma Mia! (2008)

Adjusted Score: 61714%
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: Donna (Meryl Streep), an independent hotelier in the Greek islands, is preparing for her daughter's wedding with the help of... [More]
Directed By: Phyllida Lloyd


Taken (2008)

Adjusted Score: 65404%
Critics Consensus: Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.
Synopsis: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former government operative, is trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Then his... [More]
Directed By: Pierre Morel


Transformers (2007)

Adjusted Score: 67291%
Critics Consensus: While believable characters are hard to come by in Transformers, the effects are staggering and the action is exhilarating.
Synopsis: The fate of humanity is at stake when two races of robots, the good Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, bring... [More]
Directed By: Michael Bay


Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Adjusted Score: 68277%
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 (Brad Pitt) and Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie), a couple in a stagnating marriage, live a deceptively mundane existence. However,... [More]
Directed By: Doug Liman


300 (2006)

Adjusted Score: 70689%
Critics Consensus: A simple-minded but visually exciting experience, full of blood, violence, and ready-made movie quotes.
Synopsis: In 480 B.C. a state of war exists between Persia, led by King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Greece. At the... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder


Zoolander (2001)

Adjusted Score: 69468%
Critics Consensus: A wacky satire on the fashion industry, Zoolander is one of those deliberately dumb comedies that can deliver genuine laughs.
Synopsis: Propelled to the top of the fashion world by a photogenic gaze he calls "Blue Steel," dimwitted male model Derek... [More]
Directed By: Ben Stiller


Spy Kids (2001)

Adjusted Score: 96872%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic and fun movie that's sure to thrill children of all ages.
Synopsis: Two young kids become spies in attempt to save their parents, who are ex-spies, from an evil mastermind. Armed with... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez


Love Actually (2003)

Adjusted Score: 71410%
Critics Consensus: A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms.
Synopsis: Nine intertwined stories examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Among the characters explored are... [More]
Directed By: Richard Curtis

Adjusted Score: 73189%
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: Selma is a Czech immigrant, a single mother working in a factory in rural America. Her salvation is passion for... [More]
Directed By: Lars von Trier


American Psycho (2000)

Adjusted Score: 74432%
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: In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as... [More]
Directed By: Mary Harron


Legally Blonde (2001)

Adjusted Score: 75881%
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 (Reese Witherspoon) has it all. She wants nothing more than to be Mrs. Warner Huntington III. But there... [More]
Directed By: Robert Luketic


Unbreakable (2000)

Adjusted Score: 75418%
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: David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is the sole survivor of a devastating train wreck. Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) is a... [More]
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Adjusted Score: 77227%
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: When aging womanizer Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) and his young girlfriend, Marin (Amanda Peet), arrive at her family's beach house... [More]
Directed By: Nancy Meyers


Idiocracy (2006)

Adjusted Score: 73494%
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: 77090%
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: It sounds like just another urban legend -- a videotape filled with nightmarish images leads to a phone call foretelling... [More]
Directed By: Gore Verbinski


Training Day (2001)

Adjusted Score: 79428%
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: Police drama about a veteran officer who escorts a rookie on his first day with the LAPD's tough inner-city narcotics... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

Adjusted Score: 76789%
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: In Virginia, high school football is a way of life, an institution revered, each game celebrated more lavishly than Christmas,... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

Adjusted Score: 78853%
Critics Consensus: The likable leads and subversion of racial stereotypes elevate Harold and Kumar above the typical stoner comedy.
Synopsis: Nerdy accountant Harold (John Cho) and his irrepressible friend, Kumar (Kal Penn), get stoned watching television and find themselves utterly... [More]
Directed By: Danny Leiner

Adjusted Score: 79091%
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: Everyone in the Portokalos family worries about Toula (Nia Vardalos). Still unmarried at 30 years old, she works at Dancing... [More]
Directed By: Joel Zwick

Adjusted Score: 81466%
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: Bridget (Blake Lively), Carmen (America Ferrera), Lena (Alexis Bledel) and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) are best friends living in Maryland. After... [More]
Directed By: Ken Kwapis


V for Vendetta (2006)

Adjusted Score: 83469%
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: Following world war, London is a police state occupied by a fascist government, and a vigilante known only as V... [More]
Directed By: James McTeigue


Happy Feet (2006)

Adjusted Score: 82264%
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: Mumble (Elijah Wood), a young emperor penguin, lives in Antarctica. Like others of his kind, he needs to be able... [More]
Directed By: George Miller


Black Hawk Down (2001)

Adjusted Score: 82932%
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: The film takes place in 1993 when the U.S. sent special forces into Somalia to destabilize the government and bring... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott


Wedding Crashers (2005)

Adjusted Score: 82976%
Critics Consensus: Wedding Crashers is both raunchy and sweet, and features top-notch comic performances from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
Synopsis: Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) and John (Owen Wilson) are divorce mediators who spend their free time crashing wedding receptions. For the... [More]
Directed By: David Dobkin

Adjusted Score: 82536%
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: Andy (Anne Hathaway) is a recent college graduate with big dreams. Upon landing a job at prestigious Runway magazine, she... [More]
Directed By: David Frankel

Adjusted Score: 84014%
Critics Consensus: Team America will either offend you or leave you in stitches. It'll probably do both.
Synopsis: When North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il (Trey Parker) orchestrates a global terrorist plot, it's up to the heavily armed marionettes... [More]
Directed By: Trey Parker, Matt Stone


The Prestige (2006)

Adjusted Score: 83878%
Critics Consensus: Full of twists and turns, The Prestige is a dazzling period piece that never stops challenging the audience.
Synopsis: An illusion gone horribly wrong pits two 19th-century magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman), against each... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Adjusted Score: 84538%
Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.
Synopsis: An accomplished high school student, Ben (Parry Shen) seems to excel at almost everything except winning over his dream girl,... [More]
Directed By: Justin Lin


Gladiator (2000)

Adjusted Score: 84789%
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: Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) takes power and strips rank from Maximus (Russell Crowe), one of the favored generals of his predecessor... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

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