50 best movies since 2000 – cleveland.com – cleveland.com

Chadwick Boseman in "Black Panther." (Marvel)
Troy L. Smith, cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Last year was a big one for movies both in terms of critical acclaim and money. This year's Oscar category for Best Picture features one of the highest box office totals over.
But where do movies like "Black Panther" or "Roma" rank among the best of this era? The 21st Century has been packed with mesmerizing films that have captivated audiences. So much so that the list of movies that didn't make our list would probably drive you mad.
Still, we'll stand behind our updated list of the 50 best movies since 2000 that we chose.

Merie M. Wallace
50. Mystic River (2003)
The performances of Sean Penn and Tim Robbins loom large over Clint Eastwood's powerful "Mystic River." They dig into the shattered souls of men who take different paths from childhood to adulthood. But regardless of who got in that car, their lives can't help but intersect.

(Photo: Columbia Pictures)
49. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
With "Black Panther" scoring big with critics and audiences, it reminds us of the movie that previously held the title of best film based on a Marvel character. The blueprint for the modern, mainstream superhero movie film lies with “Spider-Man 2,” from the strong female lead to the flawed superhero we see ourselves in. There may never be a better Spider-Man than Toby Maguire in terms of portraying a young man struggling with accepting the burden of greatness.

(Photo: Universal Pictures)
48. Bridesmaids (2011)
The past 10 years have featured an abundance of raunchy bro comedies. But Kristen Wiig topped them all in terms of showmanship with “Bridesmaids” by crafting an amazing script and assembling one of the best female-driven casts of all time.

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
47. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele's original ending for "Get Out" had the main character getting arrested for the murder of the white family that intended to steal his brain. The change gives humor to a film with several twist and turns that prove haunting. Could it really happen? Probably not. Probably.

(Photo: Newmarket Films)
46. Donnie Darko (2001)
“Donnie Darko” is a weird movie that’s hard to classify. But that’s why it continues to resonate. It’s a science fiction film filled with teenage troubles and battles with moralities. “Donnie Darko” accomplishes with an immense amount of tension driven by the first great performance of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career.

(Photo: DreamWorks)
45. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Will Ferrell created one of the most iconic film characters of the past two decades in Ron Burgundy. It’s an over the top, laugh out loud performance aided by several supporting turns, the best of which is Steve Carell’s Brick, who “loves lamp.”

(Photo: Universal PIctures)
44. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
During the mid-2000s, every studio wanted a “Bourne” style film. Most tried, but few succeeded in even coming close to measuring up to Matt Damon led franchise, whose peak comes with “The Bourne Ultimatum,” an absolute thrill ride that never stops.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)
43. Her (2013)
“Her” is a movie that may always be ahead of its time. Spike Jonze’s story redefines the concept of love, as a lovable man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his operating system. It sounds nuts. But Jonze, along with Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice, pieces together a perfect love story of the future.

(Photo: Fox Searchlight)
42. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Danny Boyle is been great at taking films focused on certain cultures and giving them a mainstream, international appeal. The best example of that is “Slumdog Millionaire,” an exciting and heartfelt film with a satisfying ending Oscar voters couldn’t help but embrace.

Andrew Cooper
41. Apocalypto (2006)
Even after the controversial release of "Passion of the Christ" and his own personal problems, there was no denying Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" as the epic piece of filmmaking that it was. With very few words uttered, he tells a story of survival and family that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Warner Bros.
40. The Artist (2011)
There's an understating beauty and brilliance that comes with Best Picture winner "The Artist." Thus is the case for a silent movie that serves as a lover letter for old-school Hollywood. But don't let the cheesiness fool you. This is pure art with performances worthy of the awards they received.

(Photo: Universal Pictures)
39. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
“40 Year-Old Virgin” takes what would become director Judd Apatow’s go-to premise – a down on his luck loser looking to land a hot girl – and rides it to perfection. Steve Carell is the most endearing of Apatow’s leading men, surrounded by the hilarious trio of Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen.

(Photo: Fox Searchlight)
38. 28 Days Later (2002)
The most riveting horror film of the past 15 years, “28 Days Later” defies the rules of the zombie apocalypse. The “infected” are fast and menacing. But it gives Danny Boyle’s picture bite (pun intended), while examining the social and political dismay that’s bound to come when the world falls apart.

(Photo: Universal Pictures)
37. Traffic (2000)
“Traffic” was a bit too dark and real for Academy voters in 2001, earning four awards, but somehow not Best Picture. Looking back, “Traffic” plays like the best ensemble piece of its era with precise editing that ties together harsh stories about the drug trade and mesmerizing performances from Benecio Del Toro, Don Cheadle and Catherine Zeta- Jones.

Universal Pictures
36. Munich (2005)
It was easy to gloss over Steven Spielberg's "Munich" when it was released for two reasons. 1) In some ways, it felt more like an action film than an examination of the 1972 Olympics tragedy. 2) That sex scene at the film's end is cringe-worthy. In retrospect this is a movie that moves you through intensity and thrilling scenes, only to realize that vengeance or even justice can't cloud the fact that violence brings about more violence.

(Photo: Open Road)
35. Spotlight (2015)
The 2016 Best Picture winner accomplishes a small movie miracle. Thanks to restraint and brilliant performances, “Spotlight” takes a subject few want to rehash – the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church – and makes a stunning, moving and watchable film out of it.

(Photo: Summit Entertainment)
34. The Hurt Locker (2008)
There’s more to making a war film than brutal action. “The Hurt Locker” has some of that, but focuses more on the psychology of an adrenaline junkie (the fantastic Jeremy Renner) who finds his only sense of purpose in what most would consider a death wish.

(Photo: Miramax)
33. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2 (2003-2004)
It’s hard to choose between Quentin Tarantino’s two-part martial arts epic. It’s also hard to separate them. “Kill Bill” is a revenge piece dressed up in style, creating a mesmerizing art piece with a high replay factor. It’s also the last time Tarantino’s vision seemed as precise as his 1990s classics.

Daniel McFadden
32. Whiplash (2014)
There's a fine line between genius and psychopath, something magnified in the student/teacher relationship showcased in "Whiplash." The performances of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are top-notch in a movie with one of the best end scenes you will ever see.

(Photo: Marvel)
31. Black Panther (2018)
You had a feeling "Black Panther" would be good. But not THIS good. The film rates as one of the best superhero movies of all time and one that served as a game-changer for Marvel. The amazing cast, story and larger worldview is one of the best winning combinations in cinema of the past few years.

(Photo: New Line Productions)
30. A History of Violence (2005)
Based on a graphic novel of the same name, David Cronenberg’s thrilling “A History of Violence” plays out like a coiled spring that explodes. It’s smart and powerful with performances that delight, from the mysterious Viggo Mortensen to the stunning wit of William Hurt.

(Photo: Pixar)
29. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Pixar’s greatest film brings not only a story to its proper evolution, but also showcases how far the studio has come. “Toy Story” is Pixar’s richest film in terms of storytelling and packs the biggest emotional punch, as the lovable toys realize, like their owner, that childhood and innocence can’t last forever.

(Photo: FilmDistrict)
28. Drive (2011)
Ryan Gosling’s character never gets an actual name in “Drive.” That’s on purpose, as he’s supposed to function like an unemotional vehicle. But that changes when he meets Carey Mulligan’s Irene and their chemistry radiates off the screen. “Drive” is a modish film that has a tremendous cool factor. You’ll want to watch it again and again.

(Photo: The Weinstein Co.)
27. The Master (2012)
You can’t watch “The Master” just once. That wouldn’t do Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic justice. Nor would it allow you to fully grasp this dark and cunning story of Scientology (though that word is never uttered). The performances of an overpowering Philip Seymour Hoffman and a completely vulnerable Joaquin Phoenix serve as a master class in acting.

(Photo: Universal Pictures)
26. Mulholland Drive (2001)
A film as unique as they come, David Lynch’s neo-noir masterpiece keeps you on the edge of your seat while it slowly ties together various storylines into one thrilling end game. “Mulholland Drive” is strange, sexual, stylish and engaging in the best ways possible.

(Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
25. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, 16 years later, we’re finally getting a sequel to Ang Lee’s gorgeous martial arts film. It’s a visual masterwork that easily stands the test of time, elevating its genre into something that equals cinematic art.

(Photo: Newmarket)
24. Memento (2000)
It wasn’t enough for Christopher Nolan to play with the way in which a film reveals its story. He had to give us the shocking ending as well. By the time “Memento,” one of the best psychological thrillers ever made, gets to its conclusion, you realize the unthinkable – you’ve been rooting for the wrong man all along.

(Photo: Picturehouse)
23. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
There’s a reason people get excited when they see Guillermo del Toro’s name attached to a project. He has a few stellar films to his credit, but “Pan’s Labyrinth” is the one that will leave you in awe. It’s a monster movie with immense beauty; a creepy version of “Alice in Wonderland;” a poetic masterpiece.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)
22. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
In a world of CGI and special effects, George Miller decided it was time to go old school. He spent months upon months building vehicles and choreographing stunts that would make “Mad Max: Fury Road” seem unlike any other film of today. Mission accomplished.

(Photo: Fox Searchlight)
21. The Wrestler (2008)
“The Wrestler” is the simplest move of stylish director Darren Aronofsky’s career. It’s also his most sincere. Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime, both physically and emotionally, as a professional wrestler who can only find happiness abusing his body in the ring. Your heart breaks for him.

(Photo: DreamWorks)
20. Almost Famous (2000)
Director Cameron Crowe puts his love of music on full display in “Almost Famous,” one of the easiest movies to fall for. Everyone brings his or her A-game, in an ensemble movie where the chemistry is through the roof. It’s a touching love letter to the joy of music that will hit you right in the heart.

(Photo: Pixar)
19. Wall-E (2008)
Pixar’s most visually impressive film operates, for the most part, without the need for words. The most impressive thing “Wall-E” accomplishes is making you fall in love with a trash compactor with a heart of gold. Perhaps no film showcases the magic of Pixar more.

(Photo: Focus Features)
18. Lost in Translation (2003)
Even with all his fantastic comedies, “Lost in Translation” is Bill Murray’s greatest performance. Sure, there’s humor. But Sofia Coppola’s film paints a portrait of loneliness in a crowded world. And Murray scores with it, bringing a worthy Scarlett Johansson up to his level of poignant acting.

(Photo: Focus Features)
17. Far from Heaven (2002)
Todd Haynes’ “Far from Heaven” is a period piece that carries a timeless vibe. The cinematography is fantastic and the performances are dead on. It’s a film that examines the societal restraints of race, gender, sex and classism in ways that they still resonate today.

(Photo: Fox Searchlight)
16. Sideways (2004)
Crafting a brilliantly written dramedy around the concept of wine, Alexander Payne scored a tasty result with “Sideways.” The film is as hilarious as it is touching, anchored by Paul Giamatti’s character, who brings an unprecedented level of humanity to his role.

(Photo: Miramax)
15. There Will Be Blood (2007)
The first part of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” functions, in a way, as a silent film. But the magnitude of what you’re watching never escapes you. The cinematography is out of this world, while Daniel Day Lewis gives an acting performance that’s beyond staggering. Altogether, “There Will Be Blood” functions like Anderson’s own modern day “Citizen Kane.”

(Photo: Artisan Entertainment)
14. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
The power of Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” makes itself known in so many different ways. There’s the acting (led by an Oscar-nominated Ellen Burstyn). There are the visuals, as Aronofsky puts his full mind-bending arsenal on display. There’s the haunting score and the overall ambition of a director to make a drug film that will scare the living daylights out of you.

Mary Cybulski
13. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Upon its release, Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" felt like a bloated body of work that could have been trimmed. Upon repeat viewings, you don't want to miss a second. It's a film about the American economy and greed that's as entertaining as it is eye-popping. And it's all anchored by Leonardo DiCaprio in what might be the greatest performance of his career.

(Photo: Fox Searchlight)
12. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
“12 Years a Slave” is an agonizing movie, whose pain can be felt even after its antagonist escapes captivity. The performances of Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o are of the highest caliber. But the true power of the film lies in Chiwetel Ejiofor’s unrelenting eyes. It’s a movie of hope and heartache coexisting in a cruel world.

(Photo: Focus Features)
11. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The backbone of “Brokeback Mountain” isn’t the stunning cinematography or its groundbreaking status as a romantic drama featuring two of Hollywood’s biggest male stars. It’s the performance of its cast, led by Heath Ledger, who holds his face like a tightly clenched fist, until its heartbreaking ending that stays with you.

(Photo: Columbia Pictures)
10. The Social Network (2010)
It’s probably the ultimate movie for Millennials – a sensationalized story about the creation of Facebook. David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” written by Aaron Sorkin, isn’t just about new technology. It’s about how struggles with loneliness and longing for friendship can drive people to the fine line that exists between genius and self-destruction.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)
9. Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” is one of the most intricate films you’ll see, centered on the idea that you can alter someone’s reality while inside their dreams. It comes with a mesmerizing score, solid performances and amazing visuals in a film that seems to never stop moving.

(Photo: Miramax)
8. City of God (2002)
If you’ve never “City of God,” brace yourself for a crime drama of epic proportions. The film takes on the journey of a group of young people trying to survive and, for some, thrive in the drug land of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a well-polished film that at times, feels almost too real to believe.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)
7. The Departed (2006)
Martin Scorsese finally earned his Academy Award for Best Picture with “The Departed,” an acting showcase where many of the actors deliver career best performances. “The Departed” is a remake of the Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs” (which could have easily be on this list), but gives the story a charismatic vibe that redefines the concept of good and bad.

(Photo: Focus Features)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Love is something that can’t be controlled. That’s the message writer Charlie Kaufman delivers with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” a mesmerizing love story for the ages. Director Michel Gondry’s surrounds Kaufman’s story with visuals to marvel at, while Jim Carrey (never better) and Kate Winslet make you feel every ounce of their angst. Love isn’t meant to be perfect and battling it is futile. I can’t think of anything about this film I don’t like about it.

(Photo: Universial Pictures)
5. Children of Men (2006)
Generally, films that touch on the end of the world tend to be sensationalized. But Alfonso Cuaron’s amazing “Children of Men” accomplished something far more daring. He crafted a movie and a scenario (where babies have become extinct) that could terrifyingly happen. It’s about the struggle for humanity to live on, a battle you find yourself swept up in.

(Photo: Miramax)
4. No Country for Old Men (2007)
Based on a great novel by Cormac McCarthy, “No Country for Old Men” is the Coen Brothers’ take on man’s desire to overcome his destiny. Set in 1980 Texas, the movie’s structural simplicities make way for thrilling performances, the best of which comes from Javier Bardem who basically plays the devil.

(Photo: New Line Cinema)
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
Take your pick as to which is the best “The Lord of the Rings” film. Separate, each film would make its way onto this list. But together, they make for one of the greatest film epics in history. The story was already timeless before Peter Jackson got his hands on it. But the ambition visual production added an oomph that would create an escape for millions of moviegoers.

(Photo: Warner Bros.)
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
The centerpiece of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” is more than just a superhero movie. In its most basic sense, “The Dark Knight” is about good versus evil. But it’s also about one man reaching his limits and being forced to trust in the people he’s chosen to protect. Mixed within that is arguably the best acting performance in two decades with Heath Ledger’s incomparable Joker.

A24 Films
1. Moonlight (2016)
Sometimes movies can catch you off guard and be so subtly powerful they leave you sitting there for minutes after trying to comprehend the emotions you're feeling. "Moonlight" is one of those movies. The performances are flawless. But what stands out most about the coming of age tale that examines sexual identity and cultural understanding is that it's a stunning piece of African American filmmaking where racism isn't the centerpiece. It's a all-time great and critically acclaimed movie that just so happens to be about black characters.
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