Best movies of the 2000s: 30 best films of the 2000s
New millennium, new classic films with these best movies from the 2000s.
Welcome to our guide of the best movies of the 2000s. The 2000s were an interesting time for movies. Coming off the back of the '90s, which has a tonne of cool classics, the naughties decided to up the ante when it came to epic filmmaking.
UPDATE:We have added three more brilliant movies from the early Noughties to our best movies of the 2000s list. Avatar is one of the biggest movies of all time, while we have added the much smaller but just as powerful Before Sunset. And we had to add Bond classic Casino Royale to the mix, too.
And why not? The 2000s an era of trying new things like fancy flip phones, nu metal and DVDs - that's right, it was the decade where home movie watching increased massively in quality and, thanks to advancements in CGI, truly epic movie series like Lord of the Rings.
There was more to the decade than you might remember, including a festival's worth of classic films, many of which are also the best movies on Netflix right now.
You'll find the best 30 movies of the 2000s below, according to the ShortList team. Upvote your favourite.
Best movies of the 2000s
1. The Dark KnightView at Amazon
While this tour de force was one of the all-time great Batman films and a demonstration of Christopher Nolan’s talents for producing a dense, claustrophobic, but epic movie, The Dark Knight will always be remembered for Heath Ledger’s astonishing performance as The Joker. It would turn out to be his final film.
In his own words, he played the character as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy” and in doing so created one of the most iconic performances of all-time, recognised with his posthumous Oscar award.
2. GladiatorView at Amazon
Director Ridley Scott used the 1960s Hollywood classic Spartacus as the starting point for Gladiator, and created a cinematic epic which stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the epic historical films of yesteryear.
Gladiator features a suitably dynamic performance by Russell Crowe as the wronged Gladiator Maximus Decimus Meridius.The film was a box office smash, grossing $500m and bagging five Oscars. A bona fide old-school blockbuster, in every sense of the word.
3. The DepartedView at Amazon
The third of Scorsese’s gangster films, The Departed was to the ‘00s what Goodfellas was for the ‘90s. Based on a Hong Kong movie with the endlessly pleasing title Infernal Affairs, it’s a classic tale of organised crime, undercover work and fluid identities.
The Departed was thrilling, keeping you guessing the whole way. Critics agreed. The movie won four Oscars, further establishing Scorsese’s legendary status.
4. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The KingView at Amazon
Nothing less than a towering triumph of a movie, Return Of The King was a modern epic, and a fitting conclusion to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Moviegoers flocked to see it. The film grossed over $1bn, and awards from the critics and fellow filmmakers rained down. Return of the King won all 11 Oscar it was nominated for, putting it level with Ben Hur and Titanic.
Giant battles, spellbinding storylines and heroic figures - Return Of The King had it all. Plus, the word “the” is in the title an impressive four times. Quite an achievement.
5. No Country For Old MenView at Amazon
The Coens had one hell of a time in the ‘90s. They made Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The ‘00s were a tad slower (Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers were misfires), but things picked up when they won Best Picture at the Oscars for their blistering adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s classic thriller.
No Country For Old Men also brought Javier Bardem to our attention with his Oscar-winning turn as iconic villain Anton Chigurh.
6. MementoView at Amazon
Memento is a smart film in every way. It has a groundbreaking nonlinear structure, incorporating a forwards and a backwards version of the same story. Guy Pearce holds the whole show together with a critically-acclaimed performance - not bad for someone who started out playing Mike in Neighbours.
The movie was a Nolan family affair, based on a short story written by the younger Jonathan, with the film written and directed by the older Christopher. With a relatively small budget, the film attained box office success to accompany its originality. Its place on this list is well-deserved.
7. Inglourious BasterdsView at Amazon
Another showing for Tarantino in the list after Kill Bill (Volume One), this defiantly misspelled revisionist telling of the end of World War II saw him at his absolute best.
Not only did we get the classic mix of violence and one-liners, he also infused the story with depth and a real heart, making it a hit commercially and at the Oscars where it bagged a bunch of nominations. It also saw a win for Christoph Waltz who delivered a standout turn as the evil ‘Jew Hunter’.
8. UpView at Amazon
Any film from Pixar would have made a suitable entrant on this list but their final film of the decade proved to be their finest. Initially, we were all a bit unsure about an animated film based around a 78-year-old protagonist but this funny, exciting and profoundly moving adventure surprised us all.
UP also became the second animated film ever to score a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. The opening 10 minutes makes a strong case for best sequence of the decade.
9. Kill Bill: Volume OneView at Amazon
After a stellar decade where he broke out into the mainstream, Tarantino’s first of two mentions in this list sees him at his most ambitious. Re-teaming with his Pulp Fiction star Uma Thurman, his gory two-part action epic started out strong with the first, and more impressive, volume.
It was Tarantino at his most confident with homages, visual tricks and quotable lines aplenty. Plus, in Beatrix Kiddo, features an instantly iconic character and stunning action-packed performance from Thurman.
10. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless MindView at Amazon
Up until The Truman Show, Jim Carrey was known for his rubber-faced comedy. While Peter Weir’s television satire saw him mix it up a bit, it was Michel Gondry’s unusual romantic fantasy that really changed things.
Carrey was admirably restrained while the traditionally demure Kate Winslet was blue-haired and wild. It was an utterly unique film, simultaneously surreal and heartbreaking real, bursting with ideas, and it deservedly picked up an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
11. American PsychoView at Amazon
Many doubted if a movie of Bret Easton Ellis’s ultra-violent novel could ever be made, Director Mary Harron took on the challenge with spectacular results. American Psycho divided fans and critics alike upon release, but it certainly made an impact.
Christian Bale puts in a star turn as the narcissistic and bloodthirsty Patrick Bateman, whose reign of terror costs the lives of the innocent victims who come into his path. Its gore was too much for some, but for many it is viewed as a true cult classic.
12. Donnie DarkoView at Amazon
Dark, mysterious, haunting, eerie and menacing: all of these adjectives and more describe Donnie Darko. It's a sinister tale of prophecies and altered reality.
Hampered by featuring a plane crash in the year of the terrorist attacks on New York, it suffered a slow start at the box office, before gradually receiving acclaim and becoming a cult hit. In addition, it has a memorable soundtrack, including a version of Tears For Fears’ Mad World, which was a huge Christmas No.1 hit in the UK.
13. 28 Days LaterView at Amazon
Danny Boyle made a decade-defining film in the 1990s with the iconic Trainspotting, but offered the ‘00s an equally-deserved entry with 28 Days Later.
It takes a familiar genre (the zombie film) and infuses it with a stark sense of realism and genuine terror. 28 Days Later one of the most affecting and thrilling horror films of the decade. Boyle’s position as the most exciting British director of his generation remained untouched.
14. Pan's LabyrinthView at Amazon
Guillermo Del Toro’s breathtaking Oscar nominee (predating his winning The Shape Of Water by eleven years) managed to combine inspired fantasy with harrowing wartime drama. Not an easy feat.
His tale of a young girl torn between fascist ‘40s Spain and a magical yet dangerous fantasy world delivered on so many levels that it catapulted Del Toro to the A-List and was the best-reviewed film of the entire decade. Oh, and Pan's Labyrinth made everyone who saw it cry like a baby.
15. There Will Be BloodView at Amazon
A critically-acclaimed masterpiece set in California, but filmed in Texas, There Will Be Blood is an epic tale of oil, wealth, domination and betrayal. It was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
It features a towering performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as oil prospector Daniel Plainview. And the soundtrack is superb, courtesy of Radiohead’s mercurial guitarist Johnny Greenwood.
16. ZodiacView at Amazon
A fascinating adaptation of a real-life story, David Fincher’s Zodiac explores the story of the mysterious Zodiac killer of the early 1970s. As detectives draw a blank, it’s left to a newspaper cartoonist to dig deeper into the secrets of a serial killer on the loose in San Francisco, gradually getting caught deeper and deeper into solving the case.
The film was not a box office success, but was critically-acclaimed. A subtle classic of a movie.
17. Children Of MenView at Amazon
While the decade might have been full of showy sci-fi films that acted as mere excuses to waste money on special effects, Children Of Men stood out as a rare example of using the genre for good, not evil.
A bleak look at what would happen to the world if people became infertile, it was horribly convincing, choosing realism over sensationalism. Children of Men also features one of the most shocking deaths ever seen on film, one that remains slightly unbelievable to this day.
18. AnchormanView at Amazon
Arguably joint-holder of the ‘most quoted movie ever’ award with The Big Lebowski, Anchorman is an utter riot of a film. Anchored (sorry) by a tour de force of a performance from Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, the hapless news lead at KVWN-TV, with strong performances from a host of supporting actors, the film is rightly classed as one of the funniest of all time.
Remember: “You stay classy, San Diego!”.
19. City Of GodView at Amazon
City of God arrived with more confidence and vibrancy than 50 Hollywood action movies combined.
It's an electrifying tale of Brazilian street gangs, and made one hell of an impression.
It was a huge hit in its home country, and broke out on a mass scale, scoring four Oscar nominations, including one for director Fernando Meirelles (who went on to direct The Constant Gardener). One of the most vital foreign films of the decade.
20. District 9View at Amazon
Peter Jackson teamed up with first-time director Neill Blomkamp to create this surprise hit. Distrcit 9 is a thought-provoking exploration of prejudice and xenophobia, through the medium of alien discrimination.
It has a partially documentary-style approach and brilliant special effects. Digging deeper, the film is a powerful statement on humanity, taking obvious parallels from South African apartheid and transposing them into the future. A box-office smash, It took seven times its budget and a round of deserved critical acclaim.
21. Almost FamousView at Amazon
A semi-autobiographical tale of writer-director Cameron Crowe’s teenage experiences writing for Rolling Stone magazine, Almost Famous overcame a poor box office performance to receive four Oscar nominations, and a deserved place in this list.
Almost Famous is the story of a young journalist on tour with up-and-coming ‘70s rock group Stillwater. His journey takes in romance, riots and rock and roll, whilst retaining humour and charm. An overlooked classic.
22. Casino Royale
Casino Royale was the first Daniel Craig as Bond movie and perhaps still his finest outing as the spy. It's a great transition from the rather ridiculous Pierce Brosnan era to a more gritty realisation of the character. A supporting cast of Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen add real emotion to the movie.
23. Mulholland Drive (2002)
Okay, here we go: Naomi Watts is after the Hollywood dream. She's an aspiring actress that meets someone with acute memory loss and then things start to become very twisted indeed. To try and explain the rest of the movie would be moot. What David Lynch has created is surreal nightmare fodder that twists and turns and convolutes but, oh boy, is it fantastic.
24. Million Dollar BabyView at Amazon
Clint Eastwood’s devastating drama did what every film about boxing should: it delivered a total knockout. For the most part, it plays like a female Rocky, showing a tough boxer train up and move her way up the ranks. But then there’s that ending.
A shocking turn of events results in a harrowing conclusion that helped a) the Academy award the film a whole bunch of Oscars and b) embarrass everyone in the cinema due to over-weeping. Powerful stuff.
25. High FidelityView at Amazon
High Fidelity is an adaptation of the book by Nick Hornby. It's a gift to music nerds everywhere.
Our lead is a record-collecting obsessive, brilliantly played by John Cusack. Jack Black, a new face at the time, is ultimate record store geek Barry. The film has heart and, quite literally, soul. People everywhere would forever be discussing their top fives after watching this.
26. MoonView at Amazon
Moon, from director Douglas Jones, has been added to our list for a whole range of reasons. It was 10 years since Moon first premiered last year, which meant there were a lot of anniversary screenings at cinemas, opinion pieces about the film and a big resurgence for love of the movie on social media. This science-fiction masterpiece is about Sam, the only person working at a lunar station with his robot, GERTY. He's coming to the end of his three-year work contract, but things start to go wrong just before he's meant to head home.
One of the biggest movies of all time (until Avengers Endgame came along), Avatar was a CGI revelation when it was first released. It wasn't for everyone, but there was enough Aliens-style action in the real-life segments and stunning effects in the other parts to please many.
28. This Is EnglandView at Amazon
A powerful film exploring the rise of the far-right National Front in England in the early ‘80s, This is England is an uncompromising, but effective piece of storytelling.
It features a 13-year-old Thomas Turgoose. He had never acted before, but emerged a fully-formed talent. The film was an unexpected success, spawning a spin-off TV series following the characters through a decade.
This is England explores a period of social history that England would rather forget, and is a defining film of its era.
29. Before Sunset
Before Sunset was the first part of a wonderful trilogy by director Richard Linklater. It's a semi improvised movie that focuses on Jesse and Seline who meet on a train and have an intense day together. They promise to meet up six months' later but it's actually nine years until they meet again. Its two sequels are equally profound - and it's all thanks to the two leads, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.
30. A.I.: Artificial IntelligenceView at Amazon
Effectively a joint effort between two powerhouses of the silver screen, Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick, A.I. more than lived up to expectations.
Kubrick developed the idea for almost 30 years until his death, before Spielberg took over, to finally bring the movie to fruition in 2001. A simultaneously touching and dark tale, it features a stunning performance by Haley Joel Osment as David, a robot with human emotions caught between two worlds.