The turn of the Millennium was an interesting time for pop culture, and that was Illustrated well in film. While it was certainly a Time known for its duds and oddities, more than a share of good or successful films released at the time. Here are seven movies from that era well worth watching.
American Psycho (2000)
Released right at the beginning of the decade, American Psycho has a number of features which would become increasingly popular throughout the decade. Christian Bale would go on to become one of the more popular actors of the decade. Director Mary Harron did not go on to the same level of household names status, sticking primarily to smaller pictures, although co-writer Genevieve Turner has been fairly frequently in the public eye for her professional work since. The story itself centers on Christian Bale, Patrick Bateman, an executive with the possible secret of being a murderous psychopath. Given the increasing backlash against Wall Street since the movie came out, the resonance of his character only grows greater for a modern viewer. While the novel by Bret Easton Ellis was somewhat celebrated in its own right, there has built a critical adoration for the film.
The noticeable gore and pop culture references may not be for everyone, however the execution of each is brilliant in both artful use and construction. Indeed they have proven so popular that, for fans of this film, bands like Huey Lewis and the News will never quite have the same meaning.
The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
With Amazon Prime set to release a new series based on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, there is every reason to go back to the original big-budget live-action adaptation of his iconic trilogy. While it was the final installment in the trilogy, The Return of the King, that garnered the majority of awards, it is the first in the series which holds onto the viewers attention. The set pieces of this film, such as the bridge scene or the Epic Death of Boromir, are the best remembered in the trilogy. The fact 9 characters are introduced to the reader in rapid succession and their distinctive personalities by end in large shine through is a testament to the director Peter Jackson. Featuring such long known luminaries as Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen, the acting in this film elevated what viewers expected from fantasy cinema. Indeed there is a marked credit too many involved that actors from a large part of the world appear in a quintessentially English tale and receive universal praise. For some, such as previously niche star Viggo Mortensen, the picture was a career defining work, putting their talents in front of viewers who might not see the smaller pictures and more esoteric roles previously mastered. Combined with groundbreaking effects, both practical and CGI, the influence of The Fellowship of the Ring on filmmaking cannot be denied.
Spirited Away (2001)
While the name Hayao Miyazaki gets bandied about a lot, this represented the first movie many took in by him on an international level and saw as an adult film going experience instead of simply an animated picture. Filled with strange and wondrous imagery, themes of traditionalism, consumerism, culture and family permeate the piece. As with most work from Miyazaki, environmentalism has a strong undercurrent, and part of the excellent construction of this picture is the fact that so many themes sandwich in so naturally. Spirited Away has only become more popular with time, moving steadily up the ranks and opinion polls to be seen as not only one of the great works of Miyazaki’s career but also one of the great films of the 21st century thus far. While the original Japanese voice acting is the most authentic way to watch this film, The English dub features very nice performances by the likes of Jason Marsden and Daveigh Chase.
Editorial Note: Miyazaki’s creative genius inspired a new type of animation that was new and unexplored at the time of release. With several hit movies such as Princess Kaguya and Howl’s Moving Castle, Miyazaki is an obvious cult favorite.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (2004)
In many ways the 2000s were a decade of film known more for adaptation than original work. This film represents something original that is well remembered from the time. With individuals like Kristen dunst, Elijah wood, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet starring, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is in many ways a snapshot of who was the star in the mid-2000s. Further the premise, a sort of indie sensibility science fiction examination of love and memory, is easy to explain and understand while maintaining an intriguing premise and startling questions about the self. While long pushing for a more dramatic career, as many comedians do, Jim Carrey managed a performance here that was both heartbreaking and capable of inducing laughter. While a minor hit upon release, and showered with critical praise, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has gained an even stronger following in the years since. Given the advent of ubiquitous social media, and the questions of consent and stalking related to it, it is more than understandable these would resonate more today than at release.
Casino Royale (2006)
James Bond was no stranger to cinema even when he premiered, however this picture represented a dramatic reinvention. When initially announced there was great skepticism about the casting of Daniel Craig, a man who did not fit the traditional pretty boy appearance or dark-haired looks expected for the character. Since that time Craig has gone on to be seen as one of the iconic versions of the character, as well as a massively popular actor in his own right outside of the series. And yet it is the first film featuring James Bond which is most fondly remembered. A tight strongly written story which attempted to bring James Bond into a more real interpretation of espionage, one that introduces James Bond while understanding audiences are very familiar with the concept and its age, the picture was both influential and well worth a rewatch.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Coen Brothers have become legendary names in directing, and,with a picture like this it’s not hard to see why. This disturbing yet heartfelt story comes from a Cormac Mcarthy novel, which means bleakness is the order of the day. No Country for Old Men very much exists on the thin line between crime film and western, and the trademark style of shooting and storytelling the Coen brothers are known for works surprisingly well with what would otherwise be a depressing dreary picture. Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin headline the piece, along with Javier Bardem. In the case of Jones, it is a seasoned actor giving one of the best performances of his career, and for Brolin it is a chance to prove his mettle by holding his own sharing the screen. The action-crime film starring middle aged actors has become commonplace, and it is hard to deny No Country For Old Men was the trendsetter. Filled with dark themes of trust and betrayal, a general malaise of near hopelessness seeps into this film to a degree not seen in other works by these directors, yet their fantastic style wins out. With dark and disturbing stories still being very much in vogue, this film is another must see.
The Dark Knight (2008)
With recent interpretations such as The Batman continuing to serve as both commercial or critical hits, this picture is still remembered as the smash of 2008. The untimely and unfortunate death of Heath Ledger brought the peace extra attention, indeed lending to the conversation about popular films not getting suitable attention from the academy. Well Christian Bale would go on to play the lead one more time in this franchise, The Dark Knight is definitely the well-received film. While Christopher Nolan became popular in film circles for smaller projects such as Memento, it was this second superhero project that projected him into the realm of universally known figures in directing. And it’s not hard to see why. While sticking to the crime related material he was familiar with, Nolan managed to create one of the better pictures of the decade using icons already familiar to everyone on the planet. It is true that jokes can be made about things like the voice of Batman while in the costume, and debates can be had about morality in messaging, there is absolutely no denying the influence of this film. The two thousands are not remembered for their depth of Storytelling, yet the variety of high-quality and future classic films released in that area are impressive. These seven mark an excellent starting point in enjoyability or influence, and there is likely to be something on this list for any viewer.