Mike’s Top Ten of 2000

2000 is probably the height of my pre-teen movie-going years. I would say that I was probably at a movie theater with my friends almost every single week that year. I can go back and look at the release calendar and go, “Saw that, saw that, saw that, saw that.” And anything I didn’t see in a theater, I probably saw from my family’s wonderful “hot box” (which, for those young folks reading this, is slang term for illegal cable hookup that got you all the Pay Per View channels. Which… for you young folks reading this, is basically what would become On Demand on cable, only there were like five Pay Per View movie channels and they all played the same movie on a loop every single day for a few weeks until a new movie showed up).

I saw so many things from this year at age 11/12 that I probably shouldn’t have. But because of that, there’s a lot of stuff that has since stuck with me and become some of my favorite movies because of it. I can’t really gauge just how strong or weak a year this is for cinema, because there’s that whole “I was in middle school and almost all of it is now permanently engrained in my head as being a great time” thing.

But there is not a single movie in this Top Ten that I don’t love, and there’s a lot great stuff below too. So I think this is one of the stronger years of this decade.

Mike’s Top Ten of 2000

Almost Famous

Battle Royale

Cast Away

Gladiator

In the Mood for Love

Memento

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Patriot

The Replacements

Snatch

11-20: American Psycho, Best in Show, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Emperor’s New Groove, Erin Brockovich, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Keeping the Faith, Shadow of the Vampire, Traffic, Wonder Boys

Tier two: Boiler Room, Chocolat, Chopper, The Contender, Dancer in the Dark, Finding Forrester, Frequency, Gone in 60 Seconds, High Fidelity, Meet the Parents, Men of Honor, Mission: Impossible II, Next Friday, Pitch Black, Quills, Requiem for a Dream, Small Time Crooks, Vertical Limit, The Whole Nine Yards, X-Men

Tier three: The 6th Day, Bamboozled, The Beach, Billy Elliot, Bring It On, Dude Where’s My Car?, The Family Man, Me Myself & Irene, Miss Congeniality, Nurse Betty, The Original Kings of Comedy, Pay It Forward, The Perfect Storm, Pollock, Ready to Rumble, Remember the Titans, The Road to El Dorado, Scary Movie, Space Cowboys, The Way of the Gun

Tier four: Before Night Falls, Bring It On, Charlie’s Angels, Chicken Run, Dinosaur, Dracula 2000, George Washington, How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog, Red Planet, Road Trip, Rules of Engagement, Shaft, Shanghai Noon, State and Main, Thirteen Days, Titan A.E., Unbreakable, The Virgin Suicides, What Lies Beneath, What Women Want

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1. Almost Famous

“I’m glad you were home.”
“I’m always home. I’m uncool.”

This is Cameron Crowe’s masterpiece. This is just a masterpiece. Based on Crowe’s own life, covering journalists and going on tour with bands at 16, it’s one of those movies that hits you hard when you’re younger, immediately becomes one of your favorites and then acts like a warm blanket every time you go back to it from then on.

There’s a real honesty to this movie that just holds up over time. And it’s impeccably casted and acted. Frances McDormand is so great as the mother, and then there’s Kate Hudson and Billy Crudup, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs. I don’t even have things to say about this movie so much as I want to just gush about everything that I love about it.

This is one of those movies where, it’s unfathomable to me that anyone doesn’t love it. As awesome as some of the movies from 2000 were, this is the one that feels like it’s held up as the consensus favorite of everyone.

2. Snatch

“Eighty-six carats.”
“Where?”
“London.”
“London?”
London.”
“London?”

“Yes, London. You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins… LONDON.”

What a perfect movie this is.

Guy Ritchie burst onto the scene with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which is still very awesome and still might be preferable to some based on whether or not they saw it first or saw this first. This one is the one I saw first, so it’s still the one I love the most.

It’s just — it has everything. The cast is insane, with so many people who’d later become stars or who are stars. The writing is top notch, the directing is so vibrant and is even cooler to me every time I go back and watch it and catch some other camera angle or transition I didn’t notice the first time. There’s never a part of this movie I don’t like every time I watch it. And also, to me, a great movie is being able to randomly just quote it all the time years later. And I must quote a bunch of lines from this movie on a regular basis, or at least think about lines from this movie on a regular basis.

This is definitely one of those movies we all get into pretty early when we get into movies, and with good reason. It’s the best.

3. Cast Away

“Wilson!”

I must have seen this movie a hundred times. I love this movie so much. I’ve actually grown to appreciate the non-island stuff more as time goes on. Just as I’m further appreciating the nuances of every Tom Hanks performance I took for granted growing up just because he’s so automatically good you don’t even really pay that close attention to what he’s doing.

This is the kind of movie that I feel doesn’t get made nearly as well if you don’t have Tom Hanks as the guy and don’t have Robert Zemeckis as the director. Because it’s about a guy who gets stranded on an island for four years. That guy needs to be really interesting to maintain your interest during all that time. But man, do they pull it off.

You know a movie is good when it makes you give a shit about a volleyball. And also, hugely underrated — incredible score here as well. They don’t use much of it for obvious reasons, but it is a great score. And Zemeckis continues to add great films to his resume (though after this, he took that uncanny valley CGI detour for a while, and still hasn’t fully recovered, despite his best efforts).

4. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

“Damn! We’re in a tight spot!”

I feel like this is one of the Coen brothers movie that makes everyone smile that everyone just loves unabashedly. I feel like some of their comedies people just do not like and the dramas are too easy for people to make the argument of “It’s not as good as (these other ones).” But this one, everyone just loves it. And with good reason. It’s amazing.

It’s, as I’m sure we’ve all heard ad nauseam, loosely based on the Odyssey, but is about three escaped chain gang prisoners in the 30s who go off in search of treasure. It’s so good. The cinematography is now-iconic (and taught in film textbooks, as I’m sure is the case with a lot of Deakins’ stuff) and the music is so good it won the Grammy for Album of the Year.

5. Gladiator

“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”

It’s weird how simple this movie is, story-wise, and how awesome it still is despite that. There’s a lot that goes into what is basically a simple revenge story. It’s also basically Spartacus. But you know what? It works. Russell Crowe is awesome, Joaquin Phoenix gives an appropriately creepy performance, and you get Oliver Reed, who died during filming after — and I’m not even going to embellish this. This is actually what transpired prior to his death —

According to witnesses, he drank eight pints of German lager, a dozen shots of rum, half a bottle of whiskey and a few shots of Hennessy cognac in a drinking match against a group of sailors on shore leave from the H.M.S. Cumberland at a local pub. His bar bill totaled a little over 270 Maltese lira (almost 450 GBP; about 594.72 USD). After beating five much younger Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling, Reed suddenly collapsed, dying en route to a hospital in an ambulance.

I remember them saying afterward that they had to finish part of Reed’s performance using CGI. Which, speaking of that — the CGI in this movie is the thing that holds up the least. Some of those shots of Rome during the movie reek of the era of effects we were in at the time, and certainly do not hold up very well. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone around my age who didn’t grow up enjoying the hell out of this movie. Hell, that quote I put up there made “The Black Album.” What more can you say?

6. The Patriot

“Before this war is over, I’m going to kill you.”

I love this movie so much. Is it bloated? Yes. Is it historically inaccurate? You bet your ass. Does it basically take an entire war and boil it down to a personal grudge? Oh shit yeah. And that’s what makes this movie great.

It’s Roland Emmerich, straight off Godzilla, but tangentially off Independence Day, directing a script by the guy who wrote Saving Private Ryan. And honestly, that’s the movie we got. A movie that looks like it was created by those two people. Mel Gibson stars as a guy who’s seen some shit in his time who just wants to keep his family safe during this fight for Independence. Though when his son gets killed, he goes off and starts a band of renegades and fucks some shit up and, basically as the movie will tell you, wins the war practically single-handedly. But honestly, who gives a shit. This movie is awesome.

This is the movie that gave us Jason Isaacs as a villain. Some people will have first recognized him as Lucius Malfoy, which was only two years after this. But honestly, the minute he showed up as Malfoy, I went, “Oh shit, it’s Colonel Tavington,” and you immediately understood everything you needed to know about the character. His performance in this is one of the single most perfect villain performances ever. I’m not talking about pure acting. I mean, everything this dude does on screen — his mere presence, even — you fucking hate this guy. It’s perfect because he not only exudes evil, but the kind of evil you want to see get his comeuppance. There aren’t that many performances out there that work on such an immediately level as his does. The other two that immediately come to mind for me are Basil Rathbone in Adventures of Robin Hood and Billy Drago as Frank Nitti in The Untouchables. It’s just a look, you know?

This movie also has Heath Ledger in it, and Chris Cooper. And Tom Wilkinson as Cornwallis. This movie is playing on such obvious tropes, and is about the least subtle thing ever. But honestly, I’d expect nothing less. And it’s one of those movies where it just doesn’t matter because you just love it.

7. In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece. He’s made some great ones, but this is the one.

It’s a beautiful romance with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. They play married neighbors who begin a friendship after suspecting their spouses of having an affair together. But they themselves try not to act on similar feelings, despite palpable chemistry. It’s… so good.

This is one of those movies that you’ll constantly see on the list of best films of the new millennium, and even (I’m sure) on lists of the greatest films ever made. The amount of influence this film has had is deeper than you’d think. And for most people, it goes pretty deep.

It’s such a beautiful movie, even though it will (whether you realize it or not) rip your heart out and stomp on it while it’s on the floor. But still, it’s exquisite filmmaking.

8. Memento

“We all lie to ourselves to be happy.”

The movie that brought us Christopher Nolan. Technically he had his first film, Following, but this is the “first” one. This introduced us to the type of filmmaker he is, and he hasn’t looked back since. It’s rare for someone to have a first major film of this quality and have it continue to hold up over time the way this has.

The narrative conceit of this movie is that it’s told backwards. Guy Pearce is a man with a disorder that prevents him from keeping short-term memories. And he’s out to find the man who killed his wife. It’s a fantastic premise, and the storytelling is superb.

Nolan has yet to make a bad movie in his career, or even anything less than very good. This is also one of those movies that reminds you how great Guy Pearce is and how he’s always been very present but very fringe as a leading man throughout his career.

9. Battle Royale

“If I survive, can I go home?”
“Yes, but only if everyone else is dead.”

This was a huge movie for me. This is one of those where, when I started getting into movies proper, around 2003-2005, this is one of those first ones you sort of find out about and see, and there’s that one DVD someone has that gets passed around. I imagine this is the same for most people as they’re getting into movies.

It’s one of the greatest concepts of all time. To the point where, I don’t even know if this movie is particularly any good. I haven’t seen it in a while, but from what I remember, it’s all concept, and the first half or so is good, but then it starts to fray toward the end. But still, that concept. They’ve ripped this off so often that people who don’t know it think the concept of Hunger Games is original. This movie (and its source material) did it first. A group of students is put on an island and told that they have to kill one another, and the one person who is left will be allowed to live.

It’s such a great movie. You also don’t have something like Fortnite without this movie. So think about that one, teens.

10. The Replacements

This one is a very personal choice for me at #10. I love this movie so much.

I must have seen this movie a hundred times, between watching it in theaters and on cable and then watching it second-hand as my father would always have it on and I’d just be in the room as it was playing.

To keep with the sports theme of the movie, it’s kind of like that player that was never quite hall of fame material but was always just really good. That’s what this is on the pantheon of sports movies. It’s just so damn watchable and so damn fun. Plus, Keanu Reeves as a professional quarterback.

It’s also a great concept, one that plays on two of my favorite sports movies, Major League and Necessary Roughness. Though whereas one involves a team trying to tank and getting ‘bad’ players and the other involves a school on probation and unable to get star recruits, this one is about a lockout and scab players looking for their one chance to play professionally. And they have the right amount of insane characters on one team that just makes the whole thing so damn entertaining.

Like I said, this one isn’t for everyone, but just for me… this movie needed to go here.

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11-20:

American Psycho — Everyone sees this movie pretty early and everyone likes it. Because it’s just insane. It’s the darkest of dark comedies. This is Christian Bale’s shift into becoming an “actor.” Not that he wasn’t one before, but he was largely a child actor for much of the 90s, and this was kind of like when DiCaprio moved into Gangs and The Aviator. (Also, coincidentally, DiCaprio was attached to the film briefly at one point before it got made.) He wouldn’t be a “serious” actor until The Machinist, but this was definitely where people realized what he was truly capable of. It is one of those performances you remember. And this is one of those movies that was always destined to be a cult hit. It’s nuts. But the right kind of nuts.

Best in Show — This might be Christopher Guest’s best movie. If I had to give people the one movie that best represents him and his style, this would be the one I chose, all due respect to Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind. This is about the Westminster Dog Show and has a bunch of characters competing with their dogs to win it. And oh my god, is this amazing. If you don’t know Christopher Guest, know that he was in Spinal Tap (and spoke the immortal words “these ones go to eleven”) and all his movies are basically done in that style. This one is the most genius because of course the Dog Show. It’s so goddamn funny.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — This movie changed action cinema. It’s more subtle than something like The Matrix, but both The Matrix and this were choreographed by the same coordinator. It is, in a lot of people’s minds, Ang Lee’s best film, and remains one of the most beloved foreign films of the past half-century. The film involves a famous sword, stolen from safe-keeping, and the quest to get it back. And there’s murder, intrigue, and romance, and it’s just wonderful. It’s a visual feast and one of those movies that expands the bounds of cinema as you know it and gives you something you’ve never seen before. It’s glorious.

The Emperor’s New Groove — One of the single most underrated Disney movies of all time. This movie is incredible. The writing is so sharp and so funny. What’s interesting is that it’s totally original. Technically it’s based on an earlier version of the story developed several years prior. It was this big epic movie with Incan mythology and a far more serious villain and very much based on “The Prince and the Pauper.” But they retooled it to make it a comedy, and the film is so much better for it. This is one of the best films of the post-Disney Renaissance.

Erin Brockovich — This is one of those movies where it caught everyone and everything at the right time. It caught Julia Roberts at the height of her stardom and caught Steven Soderbergh at his most creative/mainstream (this and Ocean’s are his two most truly mainstream films) and the result is just pure lightning. This is one of those movies that’s just watchable. This movie always seems to be on TV and it’s always something I’d want to just watch all the way through. (Also, how great is Albert Finney in this?)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas — I thought about it and I realized… I do go back and watch this movi ea lot, even though the original is a perfect entity. But this one is also really fun too. Jim Carrey was the perfect person to play this role, and he goes all in on it, for better or for worse. And the movie is just a lot of fun. It’s almost like a sanitized version of a Tim Burton movie, the way they make it all look. It’s also the kind of movie I feel actually ages well. I saw it when I was 12, and it was fun. But now, as an adult… some of those jokes are meant for older people, and I appreciate that. Also, having Anthony Hopkins as narrator is awesome.

Keeping the Faith — This is Edward Norton’s directorial debut, and one of those movies I saw in theaters that I loved from the start. And I don’t think enough people even know this exists. It’s almost like it exists as a joke. It’s about a priest and a rabbi who are best friends and are in love with the same woman. That’s… really the entire film. And it’s wonderful. Norton plays the priest and Ben Stiller plays the rabbi. Jenna Elfman plays the woman they’re in love with. It’s really fantastic, and in my mind is one of the great hidden gems of the decade.

Shadow of the Vampire — I love this movie. It’s so weird and so specific a story that it completely appeals to everything I love about movies. It’s a fictional telling of the making of Nosferatu. The idea is that Murnau casts Max Schreck as Count Orloff and he starts displaying really weird behavior on set. The reason being… he’s an actual vampire. So it’s a movie about the rigors of making a film, and the chaos a director has to deal with, a joke about method actors and the lengths they’ll go to in order to ‘inhabit’ a role, and a straight up horror movie. I love this. Willem Dafoe as Schreck is so damn good.

Traffic — The movie that won Steven Soderbergh his Oscar. It’s a great ensemble film about the drug trade between the U.S. and Mexico and the reach it has on all the different lives affected by it. It’s mainly told through three separate storylines (each of which Soderbergh gives their own unique color palettes): one involving a judge who runs the war on drugs whose daughter becomes addicted, one involving a Mexican police officer caught between feuding cartels on the ground, and the third involving DEA officers trying to take down a drug lord and the drug lord’s wife, who decides to take matters into her own hands in order to keep her husband out of prison. The cast is amazing, Soderbergh directs the hell out of it, and it’s truly one of the best movies of this year.

Wonder Boys — This is one of those movies I’m always surprised is so good every time I go back and watch it, which is never nearly often enough. It’s basically Michael Douglas as a writer having a midlife crisis. But it’s so damned entertaining. It’s a story you’ve seen before — writer had a huge success with his first novel but can’t write the second one. Is a professor who lives off his reputation. Has students who are really great writers. You know the story. But this one is told with such aplomb that it totally works. Douglas is great, as are Frances McDormand, Rip Torn, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and especially Robert Downey Jr. This is one of the real gems of the decade, and it’s the movie that gave us Academy Award winner Bob Dylan. So there’s also that.

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Tier two:

  • Boiler Room
  • Chocolat
  • Chopper
  • The Contender
  • Dancer in the Dark
  • Finding Forrester
  • Frequency
  • Gone in 60 Seconds
  • High Fidelity
  • Meet the Parents
  • Men of Honor
  • Mission: Impossible II
  • Next Friday
  • Pitch Black
  • Quills
  • Requiem for a Dream
  • Small Time Crooks
  • Vertical Limit
  • The Whole Nine Yards
  • X-Men

Finding Forrester is a movie I’ve always loved. Now, yes, it’s basically a remake of Scent of a Woman with a black teenager instead of Chris O’Donnell and Sean Connery playing a reclusive J.D. Salinger-type instead of a blind colonel, but it’s almost the same exact movie. Underprivileged kid gets into a prestigious white academy on a basketball scholarship but also has writing ability, and he ends up meeting Connery, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning author living in reclusion in a Bronx apartment. And of course they become friends and Connery teaches him how to write better and find his voice… you know the drill. It’s Gus Van Sant following up his shot-for-shot remake of Psycho with something a little more Oscar bait-y. But also, it’s just an enjoyable movie. It’s got Busta Rhymes in it, F. Murray Abraham shows up, and it’s got one of the greatest lines in the history of cinema:

The Contender is a great drama about Joan Allen as the first female candidate for Vice President. Jeff Bridges plays the President, whose VP dies suddenly and must now nominate a replacement. He chooses Allen. The Republicans decide they don’t like that, so they’re planning to put her through the ringer at her confirmation hearing, and dig up a story from her college days where she supposedly had a drunken orgy. And she refuses to comment on the story or defend herself in any way during all this, basically saying that it doesn’t have any affect on whether or not she’s fit to assume the position as Vice President. And it’s a great look into politics and partisan politics and the inherent misogyny in the political (and even everyday) world. Joan Allen is tremendous, as are Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman. It’s the kind of movie that’s finding itself even more relevant as time goes on. High Fidelity is interesting, because if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was a Cameron Crowe movie. Instead, it’s a Nick Hornby movie directed by Stephen Frears. John Cusack stars as a record store owner telling us about his top five breakups, one of which is happening as the film takes place. It’s record store Annie Hall, in a way. But it’s fun. It gave us Jack Black, who gives a fantastic supporting performance that really put him on the map.

Small Time Crooks was, for a long time, my favorite Woody Allen movie. I saw this in theaters and absolutely loved it. This was before I knew anything about him or his other films. I saw this, loved it, then spent the next few years watching Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending, Anything Else and Melinda and Melinda, going, “What the hell is this shit?” But this… this is great. However, I must say, the best part of this movie is the first half, which is kind of a ripoff/homage to a great 1940 movie with Edward G. Robinson called Larceny, Inc. The plot of this one is about a bunch of thieves looking to rob a bank who use an empty storefront to cover their tracks. Only, to look legit, they put one of the guy’s wives up top to sell cookies, figuring it’ll keep anyone from snooping around. And of course, the bank job is a complete disaster the whole way through, but the cookies start selling like hotcakes. And pretty soon they all become millionaires off the cookies instead of the robbery. Which, admittedly, is a great idea. Only… the second half of the movie involves them being rich and not fitting in, because they’re from Brooklyn, and it takes a completely different turn. Not awful, just not as good as the first half of the movie is. Still, I do love this movie, which is rare for me to say about a Woody Allen movie.

Frequency is one of my favorite films of this era that no one remembers. I saw this in theaters and watched it a bunch. Toby Emmerich (current head of Warner Bros.) wrote the script for this movie, which stars Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel as father and son. Only, Quaid died 30 years earlier. But Caviezel suddenly finds out that the CB radio he put together allows him to somehow talk to his father in the past. And through the pair’s interactions, Caviezel finds a way into a decades old cold-case serial killer and also a possible way to stop Quaid from dying. It’s really solid. One of those high-concept thrillers that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Vertical Limit is so great. I’ve always loved this movie. It’s a mountain climbing movie, of which there are surprisingly few. But this one takes the inherent high stakes of mountain climbing and mixes it with the late 90s insane movie plot. Bill Paxton is a millionaire who wants to summit K2, and he enlists a team of experienced climbers to get him up there. Only disaster strikes and they get iced in near the top, which leads to a rescue team having to go up and get them out. Pure disaster movie stuff, and they do a great thing where it’s part Wages of Fear, because they’re carrying explosives and have to prevent them from blowing up along the way. It’s so much fun. Next Friday is the sequel to Friday, and is honestly the one I’ve seen the most. I love Friday, but this is the one I grew up on. I love it, even though most would say it’s a lesser sequel. Men of Honor is a biopic of the first African American master diver in Navy history. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars, and Robert De Niro plays the ‘white mentor’ character. It’s very by the numbers in a lot of ways, but I’ve always had an affinity for it and watched it a bunch while growing up.

Chopper is Andrew Dominik’s first film and the one that gave the world Eric Bana. It’s so good. I always have it in my head as part of a weird trilogy of star-making indie films. There’s this, then there’s Bronson with Tom Hardy, and Hunger with Michael Fassbender. They all introduced the world to these three actors, and all weirdly are around guys in prison. This one in particular is probably the most, I guess fun is the word, of the three. It’s about a legendary Australian criminal who is just the most charismatic guy you’ll ever meet. And it’s about his time in prison. And man, is it great. Eric Bana is one of those guys who’s had a rough go of it in mainstream American movies. People don’t necessarily get to see him for the great actor he really is. Munich is probably the closest we’ve gotten. But if you want to see a truly transformative performance, watch him in this. Chocolat is, as I always refer to it, a Weinstein special. A movie nominated for a bunch of Oscars where you go, “How the hell did that happen?” It’s a movie about a woman who starts a chocolate shop in a small French religious town and helps everyone in the place loosen up. That’s it, that’s the movie. It’s admittedly very good. It’s really entertaining, and it’s one of those movies that makes you feel good as you’re watching it. Juliette Binoche is great as the lead, and you’ve got Judi Dench in one of her trademark scene-stealing roles, plus Johnny Depp as a gypsy, which is kinda weird, and then Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Carrie-Anne Moss, Peter Stormare and Leslie Caron (!) show up throughout.

Boiler Room is the Wolf of Wall Street for my generation. (Wall Street was for the generation before me.) This is a movie about the guys who saw Wall Street and said, “I wanna be that guy.” You know the movie The Firm? With Tom Cruise? Hotshot lawyer gets a job out of college at this firm that makes a shit ton of money, but also is doing some really shady things on the side, he slowly finds out. This is that, but without the murder. Giovanni Ribisi is a stockbroker who joins a high-level firm and starts making all sorts of money, only to realize they’re doing some not great things behind the scenes. Now, what I’m about to say is a very late-90s thing, but in a post-Quentin world, you’re allowed to say it — this movie reeks of a young screenwriter trying to sound cool. But it does mostly work. It gives Vin Diesel one of his rare “acting” roles (not action hero roles) and is just a very fun movie. (Also, shoutout to the blatantly wannabe Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross speech they put in for Ben Affleck in the middle of the movie. It’s so obvious that it somehow manages to come out the other side and work.) Dancer in the Dark is Lars Von Trier. And man, is it an experience. It stars Bjork as a mother immigrating to America with her son, harboring dreams of what it’s going to be like. Only… it’s not that. It’s a really affecting movie, and it’s got great musical numbers, which seems weird but works in the context of the film, somehow. It’s definitely one of the best films of Von Trier’s career. Meet the Parents is one of the great comedies of the 2000s. They killed it with the sequels, but this one still holds up. It’s a simple premise that you’ve seen before, but it works here. A man gets engaged and has to meet his fiancée’s parents, specifically her father, a former CIA officer who does not want this man marrying his daughter. And it turns into a battle of wills. De Niro plays the father, and he’s hilarious here, continuing his deadpan/tough guy comedy shtick that he got into with Analyze This. Ben Stiller is great here as well, and this has some scenes that are still pretty iconic and immediately recognizable when referenced.

Pitch Black is the movie that gave us Vin Diesel as an action star. Riddick is one of the great action characters in recent years. The film itself is basically a play on Alien. A crew gets stuck on an abandoned planet, only to find out that it’s home to dangerous creatures that only come out at night. Which is manageable, only… the planet is about to hit an extended period of complete darkness. So it’s a creature feature. Diesel plays a prisoner on board the ship who becomes the only one who can really help the crew, as he had surgery done to allow his eyes to see in the dark. He’s a great character, to the point where he ended up getting his own spinoff films after this. Requiem for a Dream is Darren Aronofsky’s breakthrough film, an ensemble movie about the perils of drug addiction. Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans play the leads, and it’s one of the more harrowing films you’ll see. The score for the film has become iconic, and it’s got some moments that will stick with you long after you see it. Quills is one of those movies that could only really exist in this era. Geoffrey Rush plays the Marquis de Sade, locked up in an insane asylum and fighting against his caretakers with outrageous behavior. It’s almost like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but much more fun. Rush gets to ham it up and be really entertaining, and you’ve got Joaquin Phoenix and Kate Winslet there as well. It’s a really solid movie. I’ve always liked it even though it’s not for everyone.

Mission: Impossible II is the sequel, which surprisingly took four years. Usually they rush these things into production. What I like about this as a sequel is that they went from Brian De Palma to John Woo, each with their own very distinct style that is wildly different from the other. Which gives this film a different flavor from the original, which I think for many years was off-putting for those who really love the first one. I do really love the first one, and I’ll admit this is not as good as that one, but every film in this franchise is very solid. This one’s about Hunt trying to stop a virus from spreading, and there’s a whole thing in Australia… it’s pretty much more stunts, more masks, more gun stuff, and doves, because it’s John Woo. The Whole Nine Yards is one of the great comedy premises of the 2000s. It’s playing off the Analyze This formula… mild-mannered man and tough guy actor playing a criminal with a soft spot. Matthew Perry plays a dentist whose new next door neighbor is an infamous mob hitman in witness protection. And he struggles with knowing what his neighbor really does versus the notion of turning him into his former boss, which his domineering wife tells him he should do. It’s… funny. I’ve always really liked this movie.

X-Men is one of the movies that changed comic book filmmaking forever. Superman in ’78 was the first one, then Batman in ’89 was the second, and then this was the third. They were all chips at the foundation, and Iron Man and Dark Knight were the two that completely broke open those floodgates. It’s interesting, looking back on this one. Because it is a good movie still, but it feels very different from what we consider a comic book movie today. It’s much slower, and much more character and drama driven. (The opening scene of this movie is at Auschwitz!) It also gave us Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, one of the greatest pieces of superhero casting of all time. (Funnily enough, the original Wolverine was Dougray Scott, who had to drop out because of scheduling issues with Mission Impossible 2. Go figure.) And there’s Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto. This movie was cast really well, to the point where when they tried to reboot it, they still couldn’t overcome how much people liked the original cast, so they found a way to bring the cast back for one last go-round. But it’s a really fun movie. I’ve always loved X-Men, and for me, the movies remain entertaining even when they’re bad. And, I think, not counting spinoffs, we’ve had, as of this posting, seven X-Men movies. I’d say two of them are bad, one is bad-but-watchable, and there are four good ones. This is one of the good ones, though I do tend to view this the way I view the original Toy Story — it’s great, but it’s also different because it’s the first one, and came out before all the innovation happened that would far surpass everything they were able to do in it.

Gone in 60 Seconds is the remake of the 1974 film. That one is a pretty good movie with a great long car chase at the end. This one is more of a piece of entertainment. Retired car thief’s brother gets into trouble he can’t get himself out of, so car thief has to come out of retirement, get the band back together and steal 50 cars for a dangerous man. It’s so much fun, and gave us one of the most immortal moments in the history of cinema:

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Tier three:

  • The 6th Day
  • Bamboozled
  • The Beach
  • Billy Elliot
  • Dude, Where’s My Car?
  • The Family Man
  • Me Myself & Irene
  • Miss Congeniality
  • Nurse Betty
  • The Original Kings of Comedy
  • Pay It Forward
  • The Perfect Storm
  • Pollock
  • Ready to Rumble
  • Remember the Titans
  • The Road to El Dorado
  • Scary Movie
  • Space Cowboys
  • The Way of the Gun
  • The Yards

Bamboozled is perhaps the most underrated Spike Lee movie. It’s such a balls out statement that it’s amazing. Damon Wayans plays a fed-up TV executive whose pitches keep getting rejected and continues to be upset at the portrayal of African-Americans in shows. So, as a form of protest, he pitches a straight up Minstrel show, complete with blackface. The most offensive possible thing he could think of, in the hopes of getting fired. Of course, in typical Network fashion, the show becomes a huge hit. It’s complete satire, and goes to insane places. But one would argue that it needed to in order to make its point. I think of this movie as a sort of Network for the indie film generation. It’s quite good. Pollock is Ed Harris’s biopic of Jackson Pollock. Naturally, he stars. And he does a good job. Not the greatest movie in the world, but a solid indie with a good lead performance. Scary Movie is the Wayans brothers parody of Scream (and other late 90s horror movies). And honestly… still funny. The sequels are hit and miss, but this one is a pretty solid little parody.

I love The 6th Day. I saw this movie in theaters and enjoyed the shit out of it. I suspect everyone has their one random Schwarzenegger thriller that’s not overly well-remembered that they love. This is mine. It’s a futuristic thriller about a guy who comes home to discover a clone version of him with his family and a conspiracy to create human clones (which are illegal). I’ve always been a big fan of this movie. The only big mistake it makes for me is opening with the XFL, which it treats as part of its version of the future. And, well… that one didn’t pan out. Billy Elliot is a quintessentially British film about a boy whose dream is to become a professional dancer. His father wants him to be a manly man, but he wants to dance, and it’s about him training to achieve his dream. It’s very likable. The Road to El Dorado is basically a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road To… movie but animated. Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline play the pair, and it’s just a fun movie. One of the forgotten, but good, non-Disney/Pixar animated films.

Me Myself & Irene is right around the time the Jim Carrey comet started to turn. Possibly due to his behavior on the set of Man on the Moon, or… maybe just the style of comedy ran its course. That’s not to say he didn’t make worthwhile movies after this (Eternal Sunshine is still four years after this, and Bruce Almighty isn’t that bad either), but this is the last real time he had a big movie out there. It’s a Farrelly brothers movie about a put-upon police officer who eventually snaps and develops a much more abrasive and forward second personality, which gets him involved with Renée Zellweger, who is on the run from her shady boyfriend and his criminal associates. I’ve always liked this movie, but I’ll admit it’s a weird one to try to talk about 20+ years later. The Yards is James Gray’s second film, and his first to make a real impact. It’s Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix and Charlize Theron, and is one of those crime dramas about an ex-con whose plan to go straight starts falling apart when those around him start pulling him back into a life he doesn’t want. There’s a great fight scene near the end at a train yard.

The Perfect Storm is one of those disaster movies that makes a lot of waves (pun ridiculously intended) when it comes out but largely gets forgotten over time. It’s based on a true story of a real fishing boat that went out on the water, got caught in a gigantic storm, and then everyone on it ended up dead. Wolfgang Petersen directs and George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, John Hawkes, Diane Lane, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Bob Gunton, Karen Allen and Cherry Jones star. The late 90s, early 2000s were the last time you could get this kind of cast on a disaster movie like this, and it marks one of the last times they were able to do movies like this without major CG effects that just made the whole thing feel pointless. The Original Kings of Comedy is one of the great comedy specials of all time. Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac. ‘Nuff said. The Way of the Gun is Chris McQuarrie’s directorial debut. Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro are small time criminals who look for a big score. So they end up kidnapping the surrogate mother of a wealthy dude. And, naturally, things don’t go according to plan. It’s a really solid movie. A nice little gem that not enough people remember.

Nurse Betty is the other ‘Renée Zellweger on the run from people’ movie of 2000. This one’s much weirder. She’s married to a piece of shit car salesman and spends her days falling in love with Greg Kinnear, a soap opera star on TV. One day, some hitmen (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock) come and murder her husband, who owed them money, and she ends up, in her PTSD, thinking she’s meant to go to LA and marry Kinnear. Meanwhile the hitmen chase her to finish the job. It’s… an interesting one. Another one I randomly saw in theaters like twice. (This was the year I went to the movies every weekend and would just hop from theater to theater all day, so I’d see things in pieces multiple times. I saw the ending to this movie in particular at least four times in theaters.) Dude, Where’s My Car? is one of the great, dumb comedies of my era that I feel only appeals to people my age. I don’t know how this movie could translate today, if at all. Maybe you have a shot with Harold and Kumar, but this? No chance. This movie is basically if you combined Dumb and Dumber with Harold and Kumar. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and yet somehow came out when I was at an age where I appreciated that sort of thing. Cut me some slack, I was 12.

The Family Man is basically one of those 40s studio fantasy movies made in present day. Something like The Bishop’s Wife or It’s a Wonderful Life. Nicolas Cage plays a very successful businessman who has it all — lives in a penthouse, has all the money he could ever dream of. But what he doesn’t have is a family. And he thinks about what might have been with the high school sweetheart he left to go start his career. And after a chance encounter with a homeless dude, he wakes up on Christmas morning to find himself transported into that alternate life. He’s a working dad with kids and the family he always wanted. Which now brings about its own series of complications. It’s quite a likable movie. Cage is very good, as is Tea Leoni. It’s a really likable movie. One of those you don’t realize you like a lot until you find that you watch it on cable whenever it’s on. The Beach is a really solid little movie. Took me years to see it, but it’s solid. Danny Boyle directs and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a guy backpacking in Thailand who comes upon a map to a secluded island, which is a tropical paradise. And the movie is about him traveling there, encountering those who live there and becoming part of their way of life. It’s really solid.

Pay It Forward is Haley Joel Osment’s first big film after The Sixth Sense. And it’s got Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, both fresh off Oscar wins. Spacey plays a teacher who encourages his students to do something to make the world better. Osment develops the titular plan, which is basically to do something nice for three people (something more than just holding a door open) without expecting anything in return, with the hope that they then do that for three other people. It’s… it’s good, but it’s a bit emotionally manipulative, especially with its ending. But it’s mostly a good movie. Ready to Rumble is that great David Arquette and Scott Caan professional wrestling comedy. It’s a weird one, because the plot is predicated on the fact that these characters think professional wrestling is real, and also that the version in the movie is kinda real? It’s very weird. But yeah, the two are big wrestling fans and their favorite wrestler gets cheated out of his title, and they go on a road trip to help him get it back. It’s dumb as hell, but I watched it a bunch when I was 12 and will always appreciate it for that. Remember the Titans was always the favorite sports movie of everyone I went to high school with. It’s fun. Denzel as a football coach with the first integrated team in the school’s history. So it’s football and racism. It’s good. Very much by the numbers as far as something like this goes. But it’s definitely solid.

Space Cowboys is Clint Eastwood’s “old guys in space” movie. AKA “I’m too old for this ship.” Basically four old astronauts prove they’re still capable of doing the job. It’s fun. You get Clint, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner doing their thing together. Miss Congeniality helped make Sandra Bullock America’s Sweetheart. It’s a lovely comedy that really fits in the era it came out. She plays an FBI agent who is very dedicated to her job who has to go undercover at Miss America in order to stop a terrorist plot. Naturally she’s really good at her job but doesn’t know anything about being the kind of woman who would be in this kind of pageant, so they have to make her up and teach her how to do all the stuff, and comedy ensues, all that business. It’s very charming and one of those movies that still somehow gets referenced (generally on April 25th, which, as we all know, is the perfect date, because it’s not too hot, not too cold, and all you need is a light jacket).

– – – – – – – – – –

Tier four:

  • Before Night Falls
  • Bring It On
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Chicken Run
  • Dinosaur
  • Dracula 2000
  • George Washington
  • How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog
  • Red Planet
  • Road Trip
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Shaft
  • Shanghai Noon
  • State and Main
  • Thirteen Days
  • Titan A.E.
  • Unbreakable
  • The Virgin Suicides
  • What Lies Beneath
  • What Women Want

Dinosaur is Disney’s first fully CG-animated movie. And it shows. CG graphics were at a transitional period at this time, and this movie just looks awful today compared to what can now be done. But even without that, the story is just kind of okay. It’s a Land Before Time sort of deal. With this and The Good Dinosaur, I think Disney/Pixar learned not to bother making dinosaur stories because they just don’t seem to work. Road Trip is the movie that gave us Todd Phillips. It comes in the wake of American Pie, but features a plot you’ll be very familiar with: college friends all go on a (insert title here) together once one of them accidentally mails a sex tape to his long-distance girlfriend. So naturally hijinks ensue. This movie also gave us Tom Green. It’s… I remember it being very enjoyable when I was 12. Charlie’s Angels is a fun, but incredibly dated movie. Basically, if MTV rebooted the 60s show. So it’s all about how hot they are. Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore. This is the movie that gave us McG, for better or for worse. Also a movie that introduced a generation of kids to how creepy Crispin Glover is, before we ever saw him in Back to the Future.

Titan A.E. is a film directed by Don Bluth, who made such animated masterpieces as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven and Anastasia. It’s a big space epic that I think has had a bad reputation because it tanked at the box office. But honestly, it’s really fun. Shanghai Noon is Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan. Basically Rush Hour in the Old West. Not as good as Rush Hour, because Owen Wilson is no Chris Tucker. But it’s fun. Randomly I remember seeing this at a sneak preview like a week before it officially came out in theaters. George Washington is David Gordon Green’s first film about a group of kids in a small town, in particular the titular main boy. It’s better if you just go in knowing as little as possible. It’s a really strong first effort out of Green, which some people might say he’s never quite achieved since. Chicken Run is an Aardman movie that’s basically The Great Escape but from the slaughterhouse. It’s fun.

How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog is a dark comedy starring Kenneth Branagh as a playwright who is trying to finish his new play, which he hopes to be his first hit in years. It’s indie. So he’s got problems with his wife, a guy claiming to be him, and yes, his neighbor’s dog. He ends up befriending his neighbor’s daughter in the hopes of using her to find out how kid’s speak for his play. It’s… the writing is really good and this is one of those indies you discover while growing up that you just like that nobody knows about. There’s a bunch of these all through these years for me. I definitely recommend people check this one out. It’s a nice little hidden gem. What Lies Beneath I always appreciated because they got to have Harrison Ford play a villain, which almost never happens, and because they shot the whole movie while on a break from Cast Away. Zemeckis was shooting Cast Away and then they had to take a few months off because Hanks either had to gain or lose a bunch of weight to shoot the rest of the movie, and Zemeckis just retained the entire crew and they went off to shoot this instead. That’s one of those stories that always makes me romantic about moviemaking, the idea that they could pull that off in an era like today. But yeah, it’s a sort of Les Diaboliques story about Michelle Pfeiffer who starts to think her house is haunted by a ghost.

Red Planet is one of two Mars movies to come out around this time. The other is Mission to Mars, from Brian De Palma. And I guess there’s also Ghosts of Mars, the John Carpenter movie. Of all the three, I personally prefer this one. It’s your classic “people go to another planet in the hopes of saving Earth, and things go horribly wrong” plot. It’s not the greatest, but I grew up watching and enjoying it, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Before Night Falls is Javier Bardem as a gay Cuban poet who got thrown in prison for his sexual orientation. Julian Schnabel directs, and Bardem gives a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination. Unbreakable is M. Night Shyamalan making a superhero movie. At the time, people really liked it and thought it might be a better movie than Sixth Sense. I’m not sure I feel that way, especially after he diluted it with Glass. But it’s basically a superhero origin story, with Bruce Willis as a man who survives a train crash and realizes he is (insert title here).

Okay, so Dracula 2000… that’s only here because of the fond memories I have going to see it in theaters. It’s a terrible movie, but also fun in its terribleness. Gerard Butler is Dracula. It’s not good. But, I saw this movie over the holidays (because it came out at CHRISTMAS) with friends. And I just had so much fun seeing it in the theater with them that I’ve always remembered it. And also, this story goes back a few months before that, around the end of the summer. I was at the mall (as one often was when you were 12 and couldn’t drive yet) and we went into “The Wall,” which was a giant CD store (which then became a “For Your Entertainment” before CDs became defunct and stopped existing). And we all went in, because that was one of our usual stops, and we all went and got whatever we were getting. And as we’re checking out, the guy at the counter says, “Here, take these, they’re free.” And it was a sampler tape for a new band. A cassette tape, even. And I said, “Sure, thanks,” and tossed it in my bag. And I ended up listening to it at one point but I really didn’t think anything of it. And then, we’re in this movie, and it ends. And we stay throughout the entirety of the credits. Which is weird. We never did that. We must have been waiting to sneak into something else afterward. But we’re sitting there and as I’m listening to the credits, I go, “Wait, I recognize that song.” It was the song from the sampler tape. It was a band that was just starting to get radio exposure on the east coast. Linkin Park. So yeah, that’s why I have such memories of this movie and that’s why it’s on this list. Isn’t it great when you can just do shit like that?

Thirteen Days is a thriller about the Cuban Missile Crisis directed by Roger Donaldson. Kevin Costner stars, which usually is a good sign of a well-chose project that will be worth seeing. Bruce Greenwood plays JFK, and while the film does take heavy dramatic license, it’s a really solid movie. What Women Want was a fun movie at the time, even though it has not aged particularly well. They tried to twist the concept recently, and it just didn’t work. The premise is that Mel Gibson somehow gets the power to hear the thoughts of every woman around him. Naturally he ends up using this to his advantage but in the end it helps him learn to be a better person. From a current day perspective… I get how that sounds. But at the time, it was a fun enough little rom com. Shaft is Samuel L. Jackson taking over for Richard Roundtree. It’s a lot of fun. John Singleton directs, and it’s got Jeffrey Wright and Christian Bale to boot.

State and Main is David Mamet, and it’s about a film being shot in small town Vermont and the upheaval it causes among the cast, crew and town residents. It’s so much fun. The cast is nuts too: William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Julia Stiles, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Patti LuPone, Charles Durning and Ricky Jay. It’s awesome. Definitely recommend this one. Rules of Engagement is a William Friedkin movie with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones. Jones plays a former soldier turned lawyer who represents Jackson, who saved his life back in Vietnam. Jackson is on trial for a mission gone bad in which his men open fire during a protest, killing mostly unarmed civilians but saving his men and an American embassy. It’s a trial movie, so it’s always going to be slightly more interesting than most movies, and it’s got two great actors in it. What more could you want? The Virgin Suicides is Sofia Coppola’s first movie about five sisters who are mysteriously sheltered by their parents. Good performances by Kirsten Dunst and James Woods.

Bring It On is the Citizen Kane of cheerleading movies. That’s it. That’s the recommendation.

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