If history is mostly written in books, what better than the arts to reflect life? Movies, TV shows, songs… witnesses of an era, soon to become memories of a way of life.
Can you believe it’s been 20 years since 2001? I know it sounds pretty obvious, but time went by too quickly. 2000 babies will be legal and have the right to drink in the United States and have been doing so in Europe for years. That’s a scary thought.
But instead of thinking about the passing of time, or about getting old, let’s talk about movies from 2001 that we still love and watch in 2021. I asked the internet which movies they think shaped the last 20 years the most, and here are the answers.
10 – Ocean’s Eleven
Ocean’s Eleven is the first opus of the Ocean’s franchise. We follow Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his friend Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) while they plan to rob a casino in Las Vegas. If this small pitch says it all without saying much, the movie is a true comedy masterpiece.
The casting is impressive, the movie is fun, dynamic and absorbing. We cannot predict the end, nor if they will succeed. A great way to spend 117 minutes.
Three other movies were made: Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen and, more recently, the all-female Ocean’s Eight. The last one received a lot of negative comments from the fans of the George Clooney trilogy while critics deemed it good enough for a summer comedy. The Clooney trilogy is actually a remake of the original movie from 1960 with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
9 – Legally Blonde
Who could have predicted that 20 years after it was released, Legally Blonde would still be often quoted online? Many fell for Elle Wood – that strong woman categorised as “shallow” and “not serious enough” because of how she looked like.
The power of the movie is to be light, fun, dumb at times, and yet tackling powerful issues while saying a thing or two about women’s position in society. It is more than many comedies have achieved. Sure, it relies on many a cliché, whether they are about women, social classes or Ivy League students, but it works. It is a movie not to be taken too seriously, and, sometimes, that is the best kind.
Reese Witherspoon offers us 96 minutes of stupid fun and unlikely twists. Perfect date night movie!
8 – Amélie
For the longest time, the movie Amélie was the only French representation in international media. As a French citizen, I have a lot to say about that. Even though I am grateful that the movie went to have a life outside of France, and opened some doors for the French cinema, I really wish I would never have to answer the question “is Paris like in Amélie?” ever again. Granted, it’s closer than it is in Ratatouille, but still.
Now that the rant is over, Amélie (played by Audrey Tautou) is a movie about a young woman with a lonely childhood, and a lonely adulthood. She works in a café that you can actually visit in real life. She starts meddling into other people’s lives when she finds an old box in her apartment. Soon, she realises she should take care of her own life too if she doesn’t want to stay alone.
The story is nice, hopeful, but what made the fame of the movie is how different it is from Hollywood production. There is an ageless charm to Amélie, a French je-ne-sais-quoi. The main character is quirky yet lovable, and reliable. The movie brings nostalgia for all things gone.
When you add the beautiful piano soundtrack by Yann Tiersen, it’s hard to resist. After all, who doesn’t like to dive one’s hand in a grain bag, or scatter weird photo portraits under photobooths?
7 – The Princess Diaries
I have to say, this one was a surprise. I did not expect this movie to stick. The Princess Diaries are young adults novels by Meg Cabot. The movie is a loose adaptation. We follow Mia, a teenage girl who learns she actually is a princess. Of course, these kinds of news tend to change a person’s life.
The movie uses every teenage movie cliché: a makeover, fights with parents who don’t understand her, a love she doesn’t go for, personal growth… but Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews took it to the next level.
A sequel was made in 2004, in which Mia is about to become queen, but must get married first… enemies turned lovers, crazy politics and an aborted coup are waiting for you.
6 – Bridget Jones’s Diary
This iconic rom-com is a product of its time. Adapted from the novel by Helen Fielding, and inspired by Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, the movie is the perfect depiction of life in 2001. Indeed, the language, the clothes, the expressions, smoking in public places… it feels out of date today, and yet we still watch poor Bridget making a fool of herself, no matter where she goes.
Who is Bridget Jones? A lot of things. But mostly a 30 year old looking for love. She doesn’t give up on herself, and doesn’t give in to people judging her. She is a mess, but she is working on it. Reliable.
Renée Zellweger perfectly embodies Bridget Jones, but I also want to mention Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. I don’t have anything to say about them, I am just grateful for their participation. Always a pleasure.
Two sequels were made, Ed Sheeran even participated in the last one. Time may pass, but Bridget will always be there for girls’ movie nights.
5 – Monsters, Inc
Monsters, Inc was produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and distributed by Disney. John Goodman plays Sully and Billy Crystal plays Mike Wazowski, two monsters working at Monsters, Inc, where they harvest children’s scream to power the city. Of course, something must go wrong: one child escapes its bedroom and enters the world of the monsters. Start a crazy adventure for the two characters to bring the kid back to her bedroom.
Like many animated movies it is a family movie, but some hidden jokes are for adults only. To me, it is one of the best Disney Pixar, as it changes from princesses singing, and it is actually funny.
Monster University, a prequel to the story, was released in 2013.
4 – Spirited Away
Spirited Away is an animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and animated by the famous Studio Ghibli. It tells the fantasy journey of Chihiro, voiced by Rumi Hiiragi.
Chihiro is a young girl moving to a new place with her parents. They take a shortcut on their way and find an abandoned village they decide to explore, where Chihiro meets Haku, a boy that tells her to leave with her parents, alas too late.
To save her parents, a quest begins for Chihiro. It will lead her, and us, to magical places and to strange characters.
Studio Ghibli also animated movies such as My Neighbor Totoro, Castle In The Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Grave of the Fireflies, and many more worth watching. They are all pieces of art, with subtle and poetic plots, and superb music. Those movies made many of us dream growing up. As I was waiting for my letter to Hogwards, I was looking at the sky, hoping to see a castle appear from the clouds.
A must-watch for the family, accessible to everyone.
3 – Shrek
Shrek is one of those movies that make almost everyone agree: it is a gem. From the quirky characters to the awesome soundtrack, there is little to change in Shrek. We follow Shrek, an ogre that lives in his swamp. He meets Donkey, a very talkative donkey. There starts a beautiful friendship, life-changing adventure, but also the end of Shrek’s quiet and lonely life.
Shrek is a twisted fairy tale, as well as a friendship movie. Sure, the hero marries the princess, but to me, the best parts of the movie are conversations between Shrek and Donkey.
Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz gave voices to the characters. Did you know that Mike Meyers (Shrek), tried many different accents before choosing the one in the movie, close to a Scottish accent? It is said that it cost a lot of money to the production to keep on changing the animation of his mouth to fit the accent. Worth it.
The soundtrack is part of the success of the movie. I cannot listen to All Star by Smash Mouth without picturing Shrek. The movie also includes I’m A Believer by Smash Mouth, Stay Home by Self, You Belong To Me performed by Jason Wade, Bad Reputation by Joan Jett, Hallelujah performed by Rufus Wainwright, and many others. The movie is worth watching, if only for the soundtrack.
There were three other movies made. If Shrek 2 is still lovable, many agree that Shrek 3 and 4 should have never been made and betrayed the characters’s arks. Christmas and Halloween specials also exist, as well as a spin-off movie called Puss In Boots.
If Shrek taught us one thing, it is that “ogres are like onions”.
Me? I am forever grateful for one of my favorite quotes of all time: “that’ll do Donkey, that’ll do”. What else needs to be said?
2 – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Did you know that the first book of the saga to be published was The Hobbit, in 1937? Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as a sequel to The Hobbit, because it was a success. The Fellowship of the Ring was published in 1954. Tolkien’s son released The Silmarillion after his father’s death. He created other small books about the Lord of the Rings universe by using some of his father’s notes.
The first movie, filmed in beautiful New Zealand, was released in 2001, starring Elijah Wood, Ian Mckellan, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, and many others. The audience discovers the Shire, and the hobbits, until Frodo and his friends leave to deliver a ring to Rivendell, on Elves territory. From there, a journey was started around Middle-Earth.
Gandalf holds some famous quotes. Here are a few of the best and most famous ones: “You shall not pass!”, “A wizard is never late”, “Fly you fools”, or “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you”.
We also discover the most lovable dwarf who does not like to be tossed, and the brave Sam, who made a promise. If you are not sure what I mean, it’s time to give Lord of the Rings another watch.
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1 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The first book of the saga was published in 1997. If, at first, the book received a few literary prices, it wasn’t only until the first Harry Potter movie was made that the world phenomena started.
The movie introduces us to three young wizards, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, starting at the magic school of the United Kingdom and Ireland. We discover Hogwarts, spells, Quidditch and magical history, as well as the dark history of magic.
Most people in their twenties grew up with Harry Potter: it was a part of our primary school conversations, we waited for the next books, the next films, mourned characters and hoped to receive the letter that would send us to Hogwarts.
Nowadays, the Harry Potter franchise is part of pop culture. We often see people wearing shirts of houses (guilty, I am a proud Hufflepuff), getting tattoos and having heated quizzes to prove they know the magical world better than the others.
But did you know that the first opus of the saga actually has a couple of different names. The original name is The Philosopher’s Stone. However, in the United States, it is known as The Sorcerer’s Stone. In France, we took it even further, as the name of the first book is Harry Potter at the Wizard’s School.
It has been 20 years, but most of us still hold dear a few characters, and great quotes. Who didn’t love to hate Hermione’s superior air when she was doing something right (LeviOOsa, not LeviosAAAR), or not having her priorities right. And if you ever look for her, she’ll be at the library.