Another awards season has come and gone, and we have a whole new batch of Oscar winners to talk about. But as we all know, the Academy Awards only recognize so many films. Sometimes the movies in the mix for Best Picture and other major awards really are the most significant and impactful projects of their respective years. Other times the films that make the most lasting impressions aren’t so relevant at awards shows.
We are not quite there yet, but as we near the 20 year mark of the 21st century, we wanted to take a look back at some of the films that have defined the last two decades, whether or not they were major award contenders.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
This isn’t the biggest fan favorite on the list, but it’ss a fairly popular pick as the single greatest film of the 21st century so far. Directed by David Lynch, it’s a dizzying psychological journey presented in neo-noir fashion and following multiple curious characters through a dreamlike Los Angeles. According a post by The Independent, MULHOLLAND DRIVE was voted as the century’s top movie in a poll of 177 professional critics.
Love Actually (2003)
Love it or hate it, LOVE ACTUALLY might just be the most enduring work of the 2000s. Both a modern holiday classic and a feel-good romantic comedy overflowing with star power, it’s become a favorite for a lot of people. And as reported by Indiewire, the director and parts of the cast are actually reuniting for a sort of short film sequel all these years later. It sounds like a glorified epilogue, but it will doubtless be an online sensation.
Casino Royale (2006)
James Bond is continually reborn from generation to generation, but revamping the 007 saga in the wake of the immensely ridiculous DIE ANOTHER DAY was quite an achievement. Daniel Craig managed to reinvent the character as a grittier and more realistic version that managed to exist beyond the swaggering caricature set forth by Sean Connery. After four successful films Craig is now considered one of the best Bond’s ever and the CASINO ROYALE single-handedly managed to save the franchise from irrelevance.
While it might pale in comparison to the superhero blockbusters of today, when X-MEN hit at the turn of the century it was a revelation. Bryan Singer’s movie proved that comic books could be a viable source for successful pictures and helped to kick off the modern era of superhero cinema. And the movie was a big hit beyond the box office with a number of video games and other tie-ins based on the franchise. In fact, the film remains so successful today that there are still several games based on the original movie that are still available at the slot games portal at Gambling.com. Nearly 20 years after its release the original X-MEN has spawned a film franchise with 10 different movies and paved the way for the superhero domination of the theaters we see today.
The Dark Knight (2008)
It’s amazing how well this film still stands out in the overcrowded superhero genre. Many believe it’s the best movie in the genre. Others consider it to be the best project from one of Hollywood’s greatest directors in Christopher Nolan. Still others think that Heath Ledger’s Joker was among the greatest cinematic villains of all time. If X-MEN showed that superhero films could be successful then THE DARK KNIGHT showed that they could be great cinema. This movie changed the perception of comic book movies from pure popcorn fare to potential critical masterpieces and gave a new sense of legitimacy to the genre.
Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004)
We could simply point to the entire HARRY POTTER series as a remarkable cinematic achievement if the current century but it was really THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN that set the series in stone. Transitioning from the enjoyable but kid-friendly atmospheres of the first two films toward the darker and more dramatic style of the later movies, director Alfonso Cuaron did a remarkable job. Collider.com’s rankings of these movies tabbed it as the best of the bunch. It was also pointed out that this film helped to set the stage for future films based on much longer books, which was certainly no easy feat. In so many ways, THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN was a beautifully constructed bridge that allowed this extraordinary series to endure.
Django Unchained (2012)
The amount of talent associated with this project is simply staggering. For a lot of fans, it represented Quentin Tarantino’s greatest achievement. But it was also one of the boldest major films in decades. It was a refreshing change of pace to see a gory, pseudo-western tackling racism without pulling punches to secure a strong presence at the Oscars.
The Avengers (2012)
It’s the project that brought Marvel’s heroes together in an incredibly ambitious fashion, and worked. The movie gave equal time to a number of prominent heroes without losing sight of its core plot. It thrilled via star power, action sequences, humor, and, most surprising of all, cohesion. And like THE DARK KNIGHT, it still seems very present. THE AVENGERS established the idea of creating larger connected movie universes and it’s something that other studios are trying to copy whether it’s Warner Bros. and DC with their own superhero movies or Universal and it’s connected monster universe.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
It’s hard to overstate the long-term impact of reviving the STAR WARS saga. That goes not just for where the core series is concerned but with the budding potential for spinoffs as well. This may prove to be the most significant film of the century’s first 20 years.