Which films of the 2000s will be remembered?

28 Nov

Which films of the last eleven years or so are the ones people will still talk about 20-30 years from now? I don’t just mean hardcore film buffs, because hardcore film buffs will take any excuse to talk about any movie. No, I mean the public at large. Which movies will be remembered and pop up in conversations even in the 2030s? Which films will be referenced? Which films will be the ones people know of even when they haven’t seen them?

This question is trickier than what it might seem at first glance. Any of us can rattle of a bunch of great films that have received critical approval and made good money at the box office. But consider movies of the 70s and 80s. How many are still talked about or remembered today? Not just by you and your circle of friends and acquintances, but the films that you could mention the title of to any random person on the street and they’d be able to tell you something about them. It’s probably not that many. I can think of a few. Jaws. Star Wars. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Karate Kid. Carrie. The Godfather. Back to the Future. The Terminator. The Exorcist. Nightmare on Elm Street. Rocky, though more the sequels than the original, probably. These are movies that have in one way or another entered the public consciousness.

Everyone knows what this is.

This question occurred to me during the last awards season, when I was looking up nominees for the acting Oscars through the years. What struck me was that while the name of the actors and actresses were familiar, the films they were nominated for didn’t ring any bells. And this wasn’t movies from ancient times or anything; just looking through the Best Actress nominations of the 1990s was enough to leave me confused. The End of the Affair? One True Thing? Afterglow? Marvin’s Room? Lorenzo’s Oil? What were all these films I’ve never heard of? In their respective years, there must have been lots of talk about and critical acclaim for them. But they haven’t stuck in people’s minds to any real degree. This caused me to realize that a similar fate would befall lots of the movies everyone was buzzing about at the time. As great as they are, who’s going to remember Winter’s Bone, 127 Hours or The Fighter 20 years from now?

So the question I ask is this: What films from 2000 to today do you think people at large will still mention or know of 25 years from now?

To me, the most obvious pick would be The Lord of the Rings. A massive undertaking that gave use three epic movies that will live on for a long time in people’s memories. Being based on well-known novels doesn’t hurt either as the films are far removed from them and doesn’t fall under their shadow. Compare this to Harry Potter. The films will live on, yes, but they arrived so close to the books that they won’t be standing on their own. The fact that the films haven’t had universal acclaim hurts their chances too.

But scoring big at the box office always helps. If the film made tons of money, it means lots of people went to see it. Avatar won’t be soon forgotten. It bested Titanic‘s money record (even if that’s likely to be toppled again as inflation continues) and also brought on the latest trend of 3D movies. We’re still feeling the effect that movie has had on the cinematic landscape. The Dark Knight is another big success story, though I think the love for it will morph into more of general adoration for Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy as a whole once The Dark Knight Rises arrives. And probably Pirates of the Caribbean too, largely thanks to Johnny Depp‘s memorable Captain Jack Sparrow. Characters like that don’t come around too often.

Pixar’s animated films will of course all be remembered. The kids who see them today will keep them with them and probably show them to their own kids in the future. Which ones will be the stand-outs? Hard to say, but I think Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 will be the big ones. Will any animated films from other studios stick with us? I can’t see any that really will. Maybe How to Train Your Dragon or Kung Fu Panda, but even those seem iffy. How many non-Disney animated films from the 70s and 80s do people talk about today?

Comedies can have an easier time then other genres. As long as they manage one or two gags that become really memetic, they can be set for eternity. More than any other from this past decade, Borat will probably live on for a long time. Everyone was quoting it for a long time, it’s an unforgettable character and the film’s semi-documentary approach also helps to make it stand out. The films Judd Apatow has been involved in have dominated mainstream comedy during the brunt of the past years, and of these, I see Superbad being the one to stand the test of time. If mostly for McLovin.

Love it or hate it, the Saw franchise will live on too. A high concentration of movies (seven in as many years) that kicked off the whole “torture porn” genre, and yet they still have managed to remain uneclipsed and even unequalled by any of its followers in terms of mass appeal. And just because there wasn’t a new movie this year doesn’t mean there won’t be any attempted revivals somewhere down the line. Teens of the 00s will hold on to Saw the way teens of years past did to Friday the 13th and other slasher films.

What about Best Picture winners at the Oscars? They all enter the history books, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be remembered for anything other than their victories. Mention some of the 80s winners like Ordinary People or Out of Africa to someone today and you might well be met with a blank stare. Of the winners during the aughts, it’s slim pickings. Gladiator seems the most likely one since it was such a big box office hit and spawned a short-lived resurgence of historical epics (Alexander, Troy et all). Apart from that and the aforementioned Return of the King, none of the others seem like they will really stick. Maybe The Departed? One non-winning nominee definitely will, though: Brokeback Mountain. People will always remember “that gay cowboy movie”.

Now it’s your turn. Which films from the 2000s (so far) do you think will be remembered?


Posted by on 28 November, 2011 in Discussions


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11 responses to “Which films of the 2000s will be remembered?

  1. Jeyna Grace

    28 November, 2011 at 15:20

    I love the saw franchise… and no doubt, it will live on.

    • Emil

      28 November, 2011 at 15:57

      The Saw series has had some parts that were pretty bad, but none bad enough to make me not watch all of them. And the first two movies in particular are really good, if in different ways. Overall, I like the franchise.

  2. Pete

    28 November, 2011 at 17:03

    Firstly… GREAT post! Really enjoyed it and agree with you most of the way. I hope 127 Hours might be remembered more than you think but it probably won’t. LOTR, Saw, Titanic certainly, not so sure about Avatar and Borat (though I loved them both). I think a film like United 93 will be talked about as 9/11 probably always will be. I hope that 28 Days Later will always be remembered for giving the world running zombies! I also wonder if Cloverfield will live on especially if the found footage trend keeps going the way it has been and if they do sequels/prequels. Tough call but it will be interesting to find out the answer in the future!

    • Emil

      28 November, 2011 at 17:32

      Thank you very much, Pete, both for the praise and for sharing your thoughts!

      You raise a good point about 9/11, but I’m not sure if United 93 has enough widespread recognition to stick with people. I almost fear that Fahrenheit 9/11 will have stuck with people more, which would be unfortunate.

      28 Days Later is another good pick. I could actually see that one happening to an extent, probably more than any of Boyle’s other films from the decade. It also leads me to another possibility: Shaun of the Dead. People love that film.

      Cloverfilm will need more installments to establish the setting and monster, as you said. I don’t see it happening on the first film’s merits alone (I personally really enjoyed the movie, I should add). Blair Witch Project is the one that brought the found footage genre to the mainstream. The rest are followers so far. But if Cloverfield spawns a successful franchise, things could change.

      • Pete

        29 November, 2011 at 09:24

        Shaun of the Dead’s a very good shout, I can see that being passed down the generations!

  3. Movies - Noir

    28 November, 2011 at 23:27

    Another interesting and good post, this time on a topic I haven’t really thought about myself.

    Looking at the movies from 2000 and on, I’ve selected three movies that I like and hope/think will be remembered in 25 years. Not always because a wide audience will remember/recognize them, but because they’re really good.

    Memento (2000) – Such a great movie will live on, even if it might be seen more of a gem in 25 years.
    Lost in Translation (2003) – When I first saw it I called it a “modern classic”. Who knows how people will feel about it in the future, but I’d love for it to be the modern “Casablanca” that everyone knows about and wants to see because of it’s reputation.
    No Country for Old Men (2007) – Not because it’s a blockbuster, but because it’s a timeless modern classic that you don’t forget once you’ve seen it.

    Then of course we have the mainstream-money-makers, many of which you’ve already mentioned and most I agree with.

    • Emil

      29 November, 2011 at 00:59

      Interesting picks there, MN.

      Memento is a superb film that, while not totally mainstream (I keep being surprised by the people I find who haven’t seen it), then at least one that most movie-fans have seen, and most of them really liked. Certainly a unique experience, and the most likely one of the three you mentioned, I think.

      I’d love to live in a world where Lost in Translation was a modern day Casablanca. I adore the film myself, but I don’t see it as one that really has widespread mainstream familiarity. But it certainly deserves to be remembered.

      No Country for Old Men… I dunno. Yeah, it made good business at the box office and won Best Picture, and Javier Bardem’s character is quite memorable (certainly for the haircut if nothing else!). But I still think this is a film that will really only be recalled by the movie buffs.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. movieguyjon

    29 November, 2011 at 07:47

    I feel like Toy Story (the first) will remain in the public consciousness more so than Toy Story 3, just in terms of technical achievement alone and how it kind of kickstarted the whole Pixar “thing.” And then there’s the music, which sticks with me to this day. Can’t say that for the sequels, really.

    Definitely agree on Saw as well as the first Pirates film. I guess you could say the same for the franchises, but it’s those first films that stick with me and probably will for a long time.

    I think Harry Potter might be able to stand on it’s own a bit more given enough time. It’s probably tough to differentiate it from LOTR in this case since they came out so close together, but both have their own fans and both series resonate a little differently with the public at large.

    • Emil

      29 November, 2011 at 10:11

      For Pixar, it will most likely be more of a “general appreciation” thing any partcular one or two films. I singled out Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 as being probably the most beloved of the decade, but they will all be fondly remembered (except the Cars films, which people seem a bit down on, and A Bug’s Life, which nobody really talks about today). Toy Story 1 might be moreremarkable than 3, but since all movies in the series are high quality, it will be more Toy Story trilogy than anything.

      The first film in a franchise is generally the one that gets most attention, true. I should probably have singled out Curse of the Black Pearl as the rest of the film have been met with mixed response despite making loads of money. Saw is interesting though in that the first one really isn’t very emblematic of the series. Hardly any focus on traps and gore and with a more Seven-ish atmosphere (and also the best of the series). It wasn’t until 2 and 3 that the series really entered torture porn territory, which is what people remember the movies for. So it’s a weird case.

      I can’t help but think that the Harry Potter movies will be overshadowed by the books regularly. I could be wrong, and I haven’t really read or seen any of the franchise yet.

  5. Earl

    2 July, 2013 at 02:22

    Inception – People will be fascinated by it and will be trying to figure out all its nuances for a long time to come, Books and websites are devoted to it The ending will be among the cinema’s most iconic.

    • Emil

      2 July, 2013 at 09:54

      Possibly, yeah. It keeps popping up in conversations even now 3 years later. Great film, regardless.


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