The first year of the 21st century (and the first year of the new millennium) had a good deal to live up to when it came to movie releases. The 1990s had been a strong time for blockbusters and an even better time for interesting, groundbreaking indie and mid-budget films, with 1999 being particularly notable year-wise for being one of the best. It’s fair to say that the year 2000 had some mighty big shoes to fill.
Thankfully, filmmakers that year were up to the task, perhaps rejuvenated with a skip in their step, seeing as Y2K had not in fact caused a complete societal breakdown. The following movies aim to show how good the year 2000 was for feature film releases, with the titles below ranked in order from great to greatest.
10 ‘Amores Perros’
The film that put famed director Alejandro González Iñárritu on the map, Amores Perros is a complex, ambitious, though always engrossing movie that strings together a series of stories with ease. It revolves around a horrific car crash that multiple people were involved in, with three connected people – a teenager, a model, and a hitman – having screen time devoted to them both before and after the crash.
It’s a very intense movie that doesn’t shy away from some very upsetting subject matter, ensuring it’s not an easy watch, and possibly not going to appeal to everyone. Viewers who don’t mind a long, sometimes disturbing, and structurally ambitious movie owe it to themselves to give Amores Perros a shot, though, because it does ultimately make for a powerful viewing experience.
Christopher Nolan’s first feature film was 1998’s Following, though Memento was the one that proved to be his breakout hit. It’s an excellently done psychological thriller/mystery movie, uniquely presenting some scenes in reverse order, and some in chronological order, all the while building to the point where they inevitably meet.
Though Nolan’s become known for frequently bending time and space in his movies, few are quite as thrillingly dizzying as Memento. It’s all done with a purpose, too, given the main character here suffers from a form of short-term memory loss that has him forgetting everything that happened more than 15 minutes ago. As such, the structure of the movie presents an interesting way for viewers to get into the head of the film’s perpetually disoriented protagonist.
8 ‘Almost Famous’
Almost Famous is a charming and entertaining coming-of-age movie that’s set in the 1970s and revolves around the rock music scene of the time. Though it aims to accurately capture the time during which it was set, the band featured throughout – Stillwater – is fictional, with the story revolving around a young journalist being tasked with following them on tour while writing about them.
It’s notable for being a critically acclaimed movie that didn’t manage to find an audience upon release, and as such was considered a box office bomb. It might have simply been buried under all the other great movies released in 2000, and, thankfully, it’s now been recognized for the great movie it is.
Impressively, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh got nominated for the Best Director Oscar twice in one year: for Traffic (which he won the Oscar for) and Erin Brockovich, which were each released in 2000. Both films are impressive achievements (and each got a Best Picture nomination, too), but Traffic is probably the slightly stronger and more impactful movie overall.
It’s a film that has a huge cast and a runtime of almost 2.5 hours, aiming to be a detailed and exhaustive look at the war on drugs in the U.S., seen from multiple perspectives. Its ambitious nature still never makes things confusing or convoluted, with Traffic emerging as an effective and very well-acted epic (of sorts) that sheds light on a very weighty topic.
6 ‘American Psycho’
American Psycho fittingly chronicles the life of one of the most terrifying crime movie characters in the history of American cinema. That man is Patrick Bateman, who seems to get paid a lot of money for doing very little in the day, and then spends his nights eating/drinking at high-end restaurants, usually before murdering – or imagining the act of murdering – various people.
For as unnerving and violent as American Psycho can be, it’s also very funny in places, and serves as a great work of satire surrounding Wall Street culture and the sociopathy inherent within such a realm. It’s also legendary for its excellent lead performance from Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, giving viewers a screen villain for the ages in the process.
5 Requiem for a Dream’
Movies about addiction don’t get much more in-your-face than Requiem for a Dream, which follows four different characters who each have a unique dependency on various drugs. It takes a blunt and unsubtle approach to showing the terrors of addiction, presenting a worst-case scenario for these characters to tragically – and harrowingly – spiral into.
It goes without saying that Requiem for a Dream is therefore not a fun film, and potentially, it also might not also be the most realistic film about addiction out there (even if it’s the best-known/most infamous). The intensity being pushed to 11 and then some may render certain things as feeling far-fetched, but when approached as a heightened film that shows the very worst things that could happen to people in these situations, it is also an admittedly effective nightmare put on screen.
4 ‘Dancer in the Dark’
Lars von Trier has made plenty of films throughout his long and controversial career, and Dancer in the Dark stands as his greatest. It’s one of the 21st century’s best musicals, showcasing a single mother struggling with life, and sacrificing a great deal for her only son, all the while gradually going blind and escaping into fantastical musical sequences to avoid the tragedies of everyday life.
The filmography of Lars von Trier is known for its tendency to upset, disturb, and provoke, with Dancer in the Dark being an undeniably heavy and heartbreaking film. Those who feel up to the challenge of watching it will be rewarded by its passionate story, excellent lead performance by Björk, and the fantastic music heard throughout.
The protagonist of Gladiator may at one point ask a bloodthirsty crowd, “Are you not entertained?” Director Ridley Scott probably never found himself asking that question to anyone, though, given Gladiator is absolutely entertaining, emotional, and very easy to get swept up in, being a successful throwback to/update of the sorts of epic movies that were most popular during the 1950s and 60s.
It’s a great revenge story, and is filled with impressive action sequences, beautiful visuals, and commanding performances from the likes of Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. Funnily enough, there is also a sequel in development, slated to come out in 2024. Hopefully, that one manages to entertain viewers too.
2 ‘Yi Yi’
Yi Yi might not be quite as long as director Edward Yang’s other highly acclaimed film – 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day, which clocks in at almost four hours – yet it’s not far off. Yi Yi runs for just under three hours, and tells the story of a family who are simply shown to deal with everyday things like love, work, and death, as well as all the ups and downs that come from simply living life.
Anyone who thinks that sounds unexciting is ultimately going to be proven wrong should they sit down and experience the film, because Yi Yi is unlike anything else. It taps into something very relatable, bittersweet, and sometimes heartbreaking. It’s perfectly acted, wonderful to look at, and features a deliberate pace that never feels boring. It was one of the 21st century’s very first films, and it’s likely to remain one of its very best, even once the century is over.
1 ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’
Considering the high quality of Ang Lee’s filmography, calling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon his best film is a weighty remark. Yet it earns such a title, being an epic and also surprisingly romantic martial arts movie about various people who are all trying to obtain a legendary stolen sword, all for their own reasons.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s proven to be one of the most successful movies of the century so far, at least on a global scale and for a film not in the English language. It’s aged excellently in the more than 20 years since release, and excels at belonging to so many different genres all at once. It’s a massive accomplishment that it all comes together so well and still feels so fresh, qualifying it to be the best movie of 2000.
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