The 2000s somehow seem both forever ago and yet not all that far away. You remember the early aughts, right? It's when the first iPod came out, Britney Spears and her snake performed at the VMAs, and Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl halftime show (still really not cool, bro). It was truly the golden age of pop culture.
Unsurprisingly then, the movies released during that lauded period of time do not disappoint. 'Twas the era of clunky flip phones, pink Juicy tracksuits, and wearing a wide belt over a dress for no explicable reason. Given that we're all stuck inside way more than normal these days and dreaming of a less apocalyptic time, the circumstances are ideal to throw on an old(ish) movie and get lost in a simpler moment, when remembering to grab your skinny scarf before leaving the house was your biggest headache.
I really don't mean to be dramatic when I say that most of the movies on this list are downright iconic (I mean, hello, Mean Girls *and* Legally Blonde?!). For your viewing pleasure, behold: The very best movies from the 2000s.
Mean Girls (2004)
This movie is, like, the definition of fetch. Kinda hard to believe it came out 16 years ago considering it's still referenced every single day in my apartment.
Legally Blonde (2001)
When Elle Woods got into Harvard Law, it felt like we all got into Harvard Law. And who could forget the life-changing magic of bending and snapping?
Sacha Baron Cohen pretending to be a reporter from Kazakhstan who is making a documentary on why America is so great? Hilarious.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
All of the Harry Potter movies are perfect in their own special way, but The Sorcerer's Stone deserves some credit for launching the entire cinematic Potter universe and bringing Hogwarts to life on screen. Lil BB Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint are particularly cute, too.
The Notebook (2004)
The Notebook was the first movie that ever made me full-on ugly cry, and nearly two decades later, it STILL GETS ME. Watching Allie and Noah fall in love, get pulled apart, and find each other again is just too pure for my unstable heart to handle.
The first few minutes of Up alone could be one of the greatest short films of all time, but better yet, the rest of the movie is also *chefs kiss*.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Imagine if you could just delete an ex from your memory after you break up...could be kinda useful, no? Well, after Joel (Jim Carrey) learns his ex girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) is getting an experimental new procedure to have exactly that done, he decides he's going to try it, too.
Spirited Away (2001)
This is the highest-grossing movie in Japan's history (it made even more money than Titanic, brag) so of course Disney bought the English distribution rights. No matter your age, the story of a young girl trying to save her parents from a haunted resort for spirits is a supremely good watch.
Lost in Translation (2003)
If you haven't seen Bill Murray's performance as a washed-up actor who takes a job doing a commercial in Tokyo—during which, he unexpected falls in love with an ambivalently married woman played by the one and only Scarlett Johansson—you need to stream it as soon as humanly possible.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The first installment of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy came out almost 20 years ago (if you're feeling elderly as hell...same) and although our special effects have certainly improved since then, this movie is still a fun time.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shaun of the Dead proved that comedy + horror is a sweet combo. More importantly, this film possesses two very important qualities: a zombie apocalypse and British accents.
Iron Man (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. as the world-saving Iron Man and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Pots is really all you need to know. Moving on!
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
I don't know what's more beautiful: Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal's heart-wrenching love story, or the absolutely stunning Wyoming mountains. (Obvi it's the former but I love hyperboles.) This movie deserves annual screenings.
WALL-E is one of the greatest Disney movies of all time and yes, I will go to bat on that. Even without much dialogue, it somehow imparts an important message about taking care of our planet—with a sweet love story on the side! Genius.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
When police suspect 18-year-old Jamal Malik of cheating on India's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, he takes them through his life story, explaining exactly how he knew each of the answers. The soundtrack is superb, btw.
Juno is a super powerful coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who is forced to make some very adult decisions. And I don't think it gets said enough but Rainn Wilson as the convenience store clerk is the cherry on top of it all.
NGL, after seeing this Oscar-winning film, I think we all wished we could turn into Avatars. And who knows, maybe by the time the year 2154 rolls around (psst, yeah, that's when the movie is set), we'll be able to?
Almost Famous (2000)
If you don't question the fact that a 15-year-old kid lands a job for Rolling Stone and gets sent to tour with a band, then you can enjoy this cult-favorite movie about new experiences and finding yourself.
School of Rock (2003)
Watching Jack Black shred it with a bunch of kids in the early 2000s is the bee's knees. Also, can we all agree that we collectively had a huge crush on Freddy?
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
With Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman as co-stars, this movie could be anything but bad. Swanks plays a 31-year-old aspiring boxer, while Freeman is her reluctant coach who turns her into a kickass fighter.
Moulin Rouge (2001)
I'm probably biased because—full disclosure—this is my favorite movie ever, but I'm pretty sure this right here is Nicole Kidman's best performance to date. (Yeah, I'll say it—even better than Big Little Lies!) The musical numbers, opulent outfits, and tragic love story really put it over the top.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Go ahead and make yourself a dang quesadilla and then stream Napoleon Dynamite. It's a delightfully odd movie, indie-like with out-there humor, and super quotable.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
When 7-year-old Olive decides she wants to win the Little Miss Sunshine crown at an upcoming beauty pageant, her...shall we say...eclectic family heads out on a road trip to make her dreams come true.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
As with any Quentin Tarantino movie, you've gotta be ready for goriness galore, and this one certainly delivers. But if you can stomach the blood, it's well worth a watch to see Brad Pitt seeking revenge on Nazi soldiers.
Best in Show (2000)
Before Schitt's Creek, Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy worked together on this non-stop laugh factory. Turns out, the cut-throat world of competitive dog shows is filled with ruthless owners who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their pup wins the top prize.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, and Keira Knightley star in this jam-packed jolt of fantasy and fun. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, if the cast isn't enough to convince you.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Bridget Jones's Diary is absolutely excellent for many, many reasons (British humor is unparalleled, IMO), but the fact that it features the rom-com trifecta (Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant) makes it a must-watch.
The Hangover (2009)
There is no more quotable movie than The Hangover. If you haven't made a "one-man wolf pack" reference in a while, here's your official reminder to do so.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
George Clooney takes over for Frank Sinatra in this Steven Soderbergh-directed remake of the 1960 Rat Pack hit. The plot remains pretty much the same: rag-tag team of con artists try to pull off a $150 million heist, but of course, this time around, there's also Brad Pitt.
Oh, Elf. I could watch Will Ferrell prance around New York City in a ridiculous green outfit anytime of the year.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Speaking of Will Ferrell, he also delivers an epic performance as the legendary local TV news reporter Ron Burgundy. Never heard of him? He's kind of a big deal.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Based on the true story of Erin Brockovich, who took on the energy corporation PG&E after she figured out that they were poisoning the water in Hinkley, California, and giving people cancer. Julia Roberts won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this role, just sayin'.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Looking back on it, the fact that Steve Carrell agreed to get his chest fully waxed for this movie should have earned him an Oscar nom on the spot.
500 Days of Summer (2009)
After 500 days together, Tom, a greeting-card writer, gets kicked to the curb by his girlfriend Summer, so he takes a look back on their relationship to see where things went wrong.
Bend It Like Beckham (2003)
Eighteen-year-old Jess's parents still won't let her play soccer, but when Jules (aka Keira Knightley) witnesses her skills, she convinces Jess to play for her semi-pro team, which means Jess has to come up with many elaborate excuses to hide her soccer habit from her strict family.
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