The early aughts were a wild time for cinemagoers who really experienced the agony and ecstacy of movies throughout the decade. There were some truly deplorable movies to come out but for every flop like Glitter and Norbit, there were gems like Little Miss Sunshine and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. We’ve been feeling nostalgic lately so we decided to think of the best movies of the 2000s that transport audiences back to some excellent movie moments that they experienced nearly 20 years ago.
We compiled a list of the best movies of the 2000s that includes a variety of films, mostly from the US, but with a couple of foreign imports that you might have missed. These films are emblematic of the times as many were made by independent filmmakers and smaller studios as Hollywood’s biggest players truly floundered in the decade. We have musicals, comedies, dramas, horror movies, and much more for you to explore! Take a look at some of our favorite movies from the aughts!
Make Movie Night Extra Special with the Best Movies of the 2000s!
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Road movies often feel like a slog but 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine was a breath of fresh air that captured some of the best performances from Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette along with breakout star Abigail Breslin. The family embarks on a trip in a VW bus to California to support their youngest member Olive (Breslin) to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine competition. Remarkably funny and heartfelt, it’s one of the most endearing and best movies of the 2000s.
The Pianist (2002)
As beautiful and poetic as it is horrifying, The Pianist tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman a concert pianist who tries to survive life in a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. It’s one of the best movies of the 2000s based on a true story. Actor Adrien Brody has never been better in this riveting WWII drama.
Donnie Darko (2001)
A mysterious and arty movie that plays like a horror film in most regards, Donnie Darko follows the title character, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who narrowly escapes death only to be haunted by visions of a man in a creepy rabbit suit. The visions of the man grow increasingly captivating for the teen and they drive him to commit a series of crimes. It’s one of the most enigmatic and best movies of the 2000s that truly holds up.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Erin Brokovich tells the real-life story of a woman who is down on her luck and pleads with her attorney to employ her at his law firm. He does. While looking through real estate files, she discovers a medical file in the mix and realizes that something is not right. She uncovers a cover-up of contaminated water that is causing illness in the community. Julia Roberts really fires on all cylinders in one of the best movies of the 2000s.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Mulholland Drive is one of the movies to watch if you want to understand how dream logic can inform the structure of a narrative film. To try and describe the plot of this film would be a disservice as no two people will see it the same way. Beautiful, disarming, puzzling, and chilling, Mulholland Drive is a movie that defies convention while playing into it.
Billy Elliot (2000)
We’re not certain how this coming-of-age dance drama manages to lodge itself so deeply in your heart but it has stuck with audiences for decades. The film follows a young boy from a working-class family in Northern England who discovers a passion for dance. As he grows up and gets serious about the art, he is torn between pursuing dance or appealing to his disintegrating family. It’s one of the best movies of the 2000s to watch that reminds you to always follow your dreams.
Oceans Eleven (2001)
Director Steven Soderbergh dominated in the early 2000s, directing some 16 films that premiered over those ten years. Not one but two of his movies make our list of the best movies of the 2000s! Oceans Eleven was a huge commercial and critical success. The film tells the story of 11 criminals who plot an ambitious heist that includes robbing three Las Vegas Casinos. There are so many A-list stars in the movie that it iridescently glows. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, and many more all star in this caper!
One of the most endlessly quotable and best movies of the 2000s was delivered in 2002 with Barbershop. The day-in-the-life movie finds lovable characters like Calvin (Ice Cube), Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), and Terri (Eve) in a barbershop on the South Side of Chicago. While the movie is ridiculously fun it is also told with plenty of heart and soul. If you’ve never had the pleasure, give this winner a try.
One of the best-known directors hailing from South Korea, Park Chan-Wook served audiences some masterful revenge films throughout his career. One of the most beloved, Oldboy, premiered in 2003 to warm reviews in the US. The movie follows a man who is kidnapped and held captive for 15 years. After his release, he has five days to find his captor and exact his revenge. It’s a gory, tense, and genuinely funny movie that takes audiences on one wild ride.
Happy Feet (2006)
Happy Feet is an animated feature that was met with universal acclaim when it premiered in 2006. It’s one of the few movies to win Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards that was not made by Disney! Singing and dancing penguins, lovable characters, and catchy tunes make it one of the best movies of the 2000s that you can share with your kids today!
The Ring (2002)
There have been several American remakes of Japanese horror movies but none have been as popular or as successful as The Ring. The opening sequence of this film is so terrifying that you might need to sleep with the lights on for a few nights after! The film tells the story of a journalist who investigates a mysterious VHS tape (with some very freaky visuals). Seven days after the tape is watched, the viewer(s) die. It’s one of the few horror movies to rank among the best movies of the 2000s.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Another one of the best movies of the 2000s to watch for tons of fun is My Big Fat Greek Wedding which was a sleeper hit following its premiere and it became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time! It’s full of laughs and plenty of heart. Nia Vardalos is absolutely on fire in the movie, which she also wrote. It’s one that will never let you down!
Dancer In the Dark (2000)
One of the most haunting and original movie musicals you will ever see comes from Lars von Trier who wrote and directed Dancer in the Dark. The film stars Bjork who gives one of the most heartbreaking performances ever put to film.
She plays Selma, a single mother, who travels to the US from Eastern Europe for work and to support her son. She works in a factory but that opportunity begins to fade as her failing eyesight makes it impossible for her to perform her duties. What will she do to survive? It’s unlike any musical you have ever seen as it is not all happy songs and chorus numbers (although there are some to be enjoyed). It’s one of the most original and best movies of the 2000s.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
We can admit that we have not seen a ton of Romanian cinema but 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days has stuck with us for decades now. The film won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for its minimalist style that feels almost like a documentary. The film follows two college roommates as they try and secure an illegal abortion in 1987. They meet a man called Mr. Bebe who performs the operations illegally only to find themselves in a messy, tense, and uncomfortable situation. The tension is so thick in this movie that you will be hard-pressed to find a horror film that can hold you as captive as this drama does.
It’s one of the best movies of the 2000s, but you don’t need to take our word for it! The BBC ranked 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days at 14 among its list of the 100 best movies of the 21st century.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Bend… and snap! We’ve shared some prestige dramas with you on this list but one of our very favorite movies of all time bowed in 2001. Legally Blonde stars Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a young woman who seems to have it all. After her relationship falls apart, she decides that a degree from Harvard Law School will help win back her Mr. Right. This movie is so stupid-fun that it’s now considered a classic and one of the best movies of the 2000s.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
The unexpected hit of the 2000s, The Devil Wears Prada finds Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, and Mery Streep all in the same film. The performances, especially that of Streep and Blunt (the film launched her career in America), are remarkable and made the movie a must-see when it premiered in 2006.
Hathaway plays a recent college graduate who takes a job in the fashion industry as an assistant to the domineering and cold Miranda Priestly (Streep) who she struggles to please. It’s an exhilarating character study and commentary on the world of high fashion. It’s one of the best movies of the 2000s that you can watch a thousand times and never tire of!
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Two rugged cowboys fall in love while tending to a herd of sheep and embark on, what will become, a lifetime of wanting to return to the same mountain they fell in love on. In this challenging movie of queer love in a time of hate, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are at the top of their games. It felt revolutionary to see the two Hollywood leads portray gay characters in one of the best movies of the 2000s.
Audrey Tautou dazzled audiences as the titular character in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie. The film follows a young woman with an active imagination who creates fantastical worlds and scenarios for the people around her to live out. Inventive and wholly original this movie is unlike any you have ever seen. It’s one of the best movies of the 2000s told with romance at its core.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
One of the Coen Brothers’ finest, No Country for Old Men tells the story of three different men whose paths intersect after a hunter, Llewelyn (Josh Brolin), finds over a million dollars in the desert following a drug deal gone wrong. The hunter soon becomes the hunted as a man named Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is tasked with recovering the fortune. Brutal, tense, and insightful this slick film is one of the best movies of the 2000s and will be remembered as one of the finest of the 21st century.
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There Will Be Blood (2007)
Filmed in the desert at the exact same time as No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood feels like a cosmic cousin to No Country for Old Men as both tell the stories of aging men confronting a changing world. In There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day Lewis gives a fascinating and chilling performance as Daniel Plainview, who plays a greedy oil man who will stop at nothing to suck the California land he prospects dry of oil. It’s a masterpiece of cinema that mines the darkest aspects of those persuing the “American dream.”
There you go! What did you think of our picks for the best movies of the 2000s? The decade was marked by a ton of mediocre films which makes them really special ones truly stand out. From auteur cinema like Mulholland Drive and No Country for Old Men to campy delights like Legally Blonde, there was no shortage of movies from the early aughts to suit every taste. If you somehow missed the movies on this list or want to revisit them, you absolutely should as it will be very much worthwhile!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 Make Movie Night Extra Special with the Best Movies of the 2000s!
- 1.1 Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
- 1.2 The Pianist (2002)
- 1.3 Donnie Darko (2001)
- 1.4 Erin Brockovich (2000)
- 1.5 Mulholland Drive (2001)
- 1.6 Billy Elliot (2000)
- 1.7 Oceans Eleven (2001)
- 1.8 Barbershop (2002)
- 1.9 Oldboy (2003)
- 1.10 Happy Feet (2006)
- 1.11 The Ring (2002)
- 1.12 My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
- 1.13 Dancer In the Dark (2000)
- 1.14 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
- 1.15 Legally Blonde (2001)
- 1.16 The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
- 1.17 Brokeback Mountain (2005)
- 1.18 Amélie (2001)
- 1.19 No Country for Old Men (2007)
- 1.20 There Will Be Blood (2007)
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