Somewhere among the endless superhero blockbusters, franchise reboots, and sequels, some really great movies came out in the last 15 years. So in honor of the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards for 2015, I figured I’d rank the best of the lot. Of course, this is all subjective.
For this list, I chose my favorite 5 movies from each year, 2000 to 2015, ranked them, then narrowed those entries down to 50. I’ll be posting lists by 10 a week. Here we go…
50. THE HARRY POTTER SERIES (2001-2011) Director: Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell & David Yates Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes The Plot: A boy wizard grows up over 8 movies, joining forces with a dopey ginger and a hot brainiac to save the world from Noseless Ralph Fiennes. Why it’s great: Unprecedented 10 year franchise kept most of its cast throughout, showed us the aging and maturation of the kids, and never lost its integrity all the way through 8 films. Rotten Tomatoes Average Score: 84% Academy Awards: 12 nominations, 0 wins
49. INCEPTION (2010) Director: Christopher Nolan Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy The Plot: Leonardo DiCaprio and company drug Cillian Murphy and go inside his head to make him do things he otherwise would not do, while Hans Zimmer plays loud music. Why it’s great: While it’s not the mind-fuck Nolan might want it to be, it’s a tour de force execution of a brainy concept resulting in a thrillingly-exciting surrealist heist. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86% Academy Awards: 8 nominations, 4 wins (Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)
48. KILL BILL: VOLUMES I & II (2003-2004) Director: Quentin Tarantino Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu The Plot: Uma Thurman is a bad bitch. David Carradine is a creep. There is blood and anime. Why it’s great: Probably Tarantino’s most masterful inhabitance of a genre; even through the buckets of blood, you can see his radiant love for martial arts films as he spoofs, twists, and ultimately transcends them. Rotten Tomatoes Average Score: 85% Academy Awards: 0 nominations, 0 wins
47. MOULIN ROUGE! (2001) Director: Baz Luhrmann Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor The Plot: A prostitute falls in love with the handsomest writer in the world, stars in a musical extravaganza, then dies of tuberculosis, all the while belting top 40 hits. Why it’s great: Aside from revitalizing the movie musical, Luhrmann audaciously echoed the style of Bollywood, swinging from low comedy to high tragedy effortlessly and producing one of the most fun, emotional entertainments of the last 15 years. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75% Academy Awards: 8 nominations, 2 wins (Costume Design, Art Direction)
46. ALMOST FAMOUS (2000) Director: Cameron Crowe Starring: Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson The Plot: A 15 year-old uses Billy Crudup and Kate Hudson to get published in Rolling Stone, but gets high, rocks out, and gives us all the feels as well. Why it’s great: Crowe captures an infectious spirit of movies like A Hard Days’ Night. Nearly everything feels wonderfully unexpected, from the offbeat humor to the palpable emotional beats. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85% Academy Awards: 4 nominations, 1 win (Screenplay)
45. LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) Director: Sofia Coppola Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson The Plot: Bill Murray and Scar-Jo party it up in Tokyo. Why it’s great: Bill Murray’s performance is heartbreakingly perfect, and the subtle love story Coppola conjures strikes that sweet spot of hysterically funny and devastatingly sad. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95% Academy Awards: 4 nominations, 1 win (Screenplay)
44. SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003) Director: Richard Linklater Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White The Plot: Jack Black makes a fat stoner who manipulates children for personal gain one of the most endearing film characters of the last 15 years. Why it’s great: Richard Linklater’s deft handling of a tired formula and Jack Black’s top-form and on-fire performance elevate this film to the heavens with infectiously feel-good badass-ery. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93% Academy Awards: 0 nominations, 0 wins
43. BIG FISH (2003) Director: Tim Burton Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange The Plot: A son comes to terms with his father on his deathbed and calls him out for lying about how he used to be Ewan McGregor. Why it’s great: Tim Burton transcended his usual weirdness by tapping into something more personal here, creating a celebration of storytelling and the child within every adult which alternates between enchanting set-pieces and truthful, touching observations on the relationship between a father and son. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77% Academy Awards: 1 nomination, 0 wins
42. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000) Director: Joel Coen Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson The Plot: “The Odyssey: The Musical” Why it’s great: One of the most all-out fun Coen Brothers entries is a fantastically surreal romp grounded with some of Roger Deakins’ best cinematography and one of the best film soundtrack albums of all time. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77% Academy Awards: 2 nominations, 0 wins
41. SHREK (2001) Director: Victoria Jenson, Andrew Adamson Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow The Plot: An ogre teams up with Eddie Murphy as a donkey and rescues a ginger princess in order to get Disney characters off his lawn. Why it’s great: Pretty much an instant classic, it managed to make fun of Disney and Hollywood conventions without betraying the truth and charm that made it a wonderful fairy tale in and of itself, anchored by endearing and now-iconic characters. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88% Academy Awards: 1 nomination, 1 win (Animated Feature)
1461. Muggleborn fans of Kill Bill carrying around some old music boxes that are charmed to play the theme song (the one that sounds like a siren going off) so they can bust it out whenever someone starts dueling.