RANKED! Our 20 Favorite Movies of the Last 20 Years
When you think of classic movies, the list typically includes titles that feel like ancient black-and-white films produced in a faraway time and place. But since the late ’90s, filmmaking has ushered in a new and improved era of movies, bringing indie, character-based, richly plotted stories to the forefront while also raising the bar for action blockbusters with massively advanced technology and talent. The last 20 years have been good to moviegoers, so we thought we’d compile a list of the best 20 movies released since 1999. Enjoy!
Cover Photo: DreamWorks
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20. 'The Shawshank Redemption'
Is there anything better than Morgan Freeman's voice leading you through an incredible fable of prison crimes, murder, and a crawl to freedom through 500 hundred yards of shit-scented foulness? The Shawshank Redemption is the ultimate remote-stopper; if you stumble upon it, you're watching it.
19. 'The Silence Of The Lambs'
Who doesn't love a great villain? Hannibal Lecter is possible the creepiest of creeps; he stares past you with piercing eyes dipped in darkness, says cryptic things about fava beans (whatever those are), and has an acute sense of smell rivaling search-and-rescue dogs. There's never been a scarier intellectual dinner host, although he's a killer chef.
18. 'The Dark Knight'
Heath Ledger (RIP) redefined the Joker with his unforgettable performance in The Dark Knight, fueling the widely assumed misconception that he was the most insane actor on set during filming. The method to his madness left us with several intensely sinister scenes proving his elite acting was a level above most with a horrifically unique ability to make a terrifying villain almost seem likable.
The Coen brothers ran through the last 20-plus years dropping classics into theaters all over the country. Their unforgettable character-driven, plot-heavy storylines are truly a thing of beauty to behold. Fargo is among the very best of the Coens' masterpieces, proving once again that some of the best film comes from true stories (wink, wink).
Guy Ritchie was a bit of an anomaly, a bright shooting comet of creativity we hadn't seen previous to the release of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998. Then he followed it up with another intense, fun, in-your-face, magnum opus with the release of Snatch in 2000. The cast was incredible, the directing was magnificent and Brad Pitt's character literally invented a new language that inspired guys under 25 everywhere to speak gibberish Pikey 24 hours a day.
15. 'Good Will Hunting'
Is there a more quotable Boston-accented film ever made? Arguably, Good Will Hunting is responsible for the resurgence and flip of the actual neighborhood (South Boston) that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's characters resided in. Before this film, no one outside of Southie was aware of the understated elegance the neighborhood had to offer -- batting cages, dive bars, elite-level little league baseball games, and UFC-style cage fighting on every playground corner. How you like them apples?
14. 'The Matrix'
Only the greatness of Keanu Reeves' monotone-voiced character, Neo, could've explained the intricacies of what is real and what is a computer generated alternate reality in a way that made sense to the average non-hacker. Throw in next-level kung fu and a little bullet-dodging dance-fighting, and you've got a hit on your hands.
13. 'Jurassic Park'
Jeff Goldblum as a chaos scientist/mathematician running from dinosaurs is what made this, as they say in the industry, a "go-picture." That element of Shakespearean character development alone makes Jurassic Park a classic. For all you wannabe film makers out there, if you want to see suspense and action at its apex, rewatch this film and pay close attention to the raptor scene when the kids are hiding in the kitchen. It's perfect.
12. 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day'
Schwarzenegger stepped on the scene with the power of a thousand Austrians in Conan The Barbarian and Conan The Destroyer. But it was the Terminator franchise that put him on the map. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was easily the best in the expanding and seemingly never-ending series. What's better than Schwarzenegger as an android assassin sent from the future to kill a teenager? How about Schwarzenegger coming back in the sequel as the good guy assassin to hunt down a liquid metal T-1000 assassin while delivering the finest action movie one-liners ever written?
11. 'Ocean's Eleven'
A remake of a classic rat-pack flick meets the walking, talking shine and coiffure of '90s haircuts and multi-button suits. Steven Soderbergh's version of Ocean's Eleven struck gold with a ridiculous cast and a perfect heist. This movie also introduced us to Matt Damon as something other than just a Bostonian math-genius janitor. Thanks, Brad Pitt and George Clooney, for making Matt Damon cool.
10. 'The Usual Suspects'
Kevin Spacey may be the creepiest villain in the history of film. Keyser Soze was indescribably evil and a damn mystery the entire movie. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people that Kevin Spacey was not creepy in real life.
9. 'The Life Aquatic Of Steve Zissou'
Wes Anderson is an incredible filmmaker and Zissou is a perfect blend of tongue-in-cheek comedy wrapped around a mythical, whimsical journey through the ocean's depths chasing a jaguar shark. Once again, Jeff Goldblum played a major role as an adversary battling wits with Bill Murray in a straight-faced, dry-humored death match.
8. 'Fight Club'
This film made Brad Pitt an immortal, it made Edward Norton a mega star, and Robert Paulson a name to remember. But since we're already breaking the first rule of Fight Club, then we've probably said too much.
Is it a coincidence that both Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey are in several of these classic '90s movies? One could make the argument that those two actors completely owned the '90s and early 2000s -- and one would be right. Se7en gave everyone nightmares, while also educating viewers about Catholicism and the seven most deadly sins.
6. 'The Royal Tenenbaums'
Let's say it again: Wes Anderson is a genius. The Royal Tenenbaums has the look of a walking Broadway production, strolling through scenes and landscapes as if you're flipping through a scrapbook from Martha Stewart's coffee table. The Tenenbaum family includes people we'd all love to be friends with but secretly probably hate.
"The arsonist had oddly shaped feet," "The human torch was denied a bank loan," and "I love lamp." Never have more meaningless phrases carried more weight, courtesy of Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and Steve Carell. Can you remember where you were when you watched Will Ferrell walk off his pleated-pants boner? There are a few special events in everyone's life that are unforgettable, and the first time they watched Anchorman is one of them.
4. 'Saving Private Ryan'
There's no way we could have made it through this list without a Tom Hanks movie. Saving Private Ryan humanized a horrific war with an incredible tale of honor, courage, and sadness. Tom Hanks is the only man who could lead men into certain death and still somehow make everyone smile in the process.
Scorsese is a god.
2. 'Pulp Fiction'
Quentin Tarantino made John Travolta relevant again with Pulp Fiction. He also made heroin cooler than cocaine, invented the $5 milk shake, taught us about French McDonald's, and introduced us to the beginning of the best Samuel L. Jackson run of films in his career. There shouldn't be any "best of" film list that doesn't include Pulp Fiction.
De Niro and Pacino faced off in this classic cops-and-robbers heist film, directed and written by Michael Mann. It gave fans exactly what they'd been craving for so many years: Pacino versus De Niro, a coked-out, down-and-out detective chasing down a meticulous, criminal super thief. It really doesn't get much better than that. In addition, there's only one scene where the two actually speak to each other during the film's entirety. The most exciting scene in the film is when the collective badasses figuratively lay all their cards on the table, showing their hands. It gives that diner scene moment an air of perfect suspenseful bliss.