2021 marks the twenty-year anniversary of an extremely influential year in culture and film. The films released in 2001 were unknowingly created on the precipice of a total cultural shift. The past two decades in film have been defined by advancements in technology that changed the way we make and consume movies. Our current cinematic landscape where we can stream nearly any movie – old or brand new – at home looks radically different than the days of either seeing a movie in the theater or awaiting the DVD release.
Looking back twenty years, which movies have sustained the test of time? These are some of the best films across different genres.
Best Franchise Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2001 was a huge year for the movie franchise. The first installments of “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings,” the “Ocean’s” series, “The Fast and the Furious” and “Shrek” all came out this year and are part of some of the most profitable film franchises ever produced. By now, many of these franchises have been milked to their last drop of creative worth, but it’s important to remember that “The Fellowship of the Ring” was a revelation in filmmaking, reigniting the fantasy genre and setting a gold standard for cinematography, visual effects and costuming.
Best Animated Film: Spirited Away
Though “Shrek” was extremely influential on the animated film industry, won the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and remains popular to this day, no other film can overshadow the beauty of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away.” It’s hard to sum up the experience of watching “Spirited Away” by only praising its lush animation and whimsical music or by dissecting its multilayered themes; it has proven to be a sensory and emotional experience that a person of almost any age or any culture can appreciate.
Best Comedy: Legally Blonde
What may have been once viewed as a chick-flick about a girl reaching her dreams has aged like fine wine in the public consciousness. With the rise of fourth-wave feminism, viewers recognize “Legally Blonde” as not just a film about girl power, but actual feminism. In the age of “Captain Marvel,” in which a strong female character basically holds all the same characteristics of a man but in a woman’s body, “Legally Blonde” still stands out as an example of how a woman can be smart and powerful while being unapologetically feminine. Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Elle Woods has undoubtedly inspired a generation of girls to find power in their femininity.
Best Drama: Mulholland Drive
Often considered to be one of the best films of all time, “Mulholland Drive” is hard to define in any sense; the characters shift identities, the story is nonlinear and the film contains elements of many genres. However, the dramatic tension and impending sense of terror qualify it to be most closely described as a drama. Through “Mulholland Drive,” David Lynch exposes the wretchedness behind beauty. The disjointed structure and lack of an ultimate explanation for the plot might turn some viewers off, but if you give in to “dream logic,” you will be rewarded with a heartbreaking but breathtaking film that will undoubtedly haunt you.