The 2000s had their ups and downs, and while many people began the tireless bitching about Hollywood being out of ideas, it seemed to me that people just didn’t know where to look, because a whole lot of grey films were released between 2000 and 2009. Here are twenty of my favorite dramas from 2000-2009 that may have slipped past you…
20. The Princess and the Warrior (2000)
Tom Twyker found success with Run, Lola, Run and would later transition into the Americas, but for me this his finest, most affecting work. It follows a nurse at a psychiatric hospital as she tries to forge a relationship with the criminal who saved her life. It holds great emotional weight and is just an awesome film that I never hear anyone talk about.
19. Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Charlie Kaufman made his directorial debut with a story about stories. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a theater director who wants his next show to be more than a show. He wants it to imitate life itself, on the grandest scale possible. Kind of the opposite end of the Being John Malkovich crazy spectrum, in the best way.
18. The Wackness (2008)
A nice twist on the coming of age tale, here we find a troubled teenager trading weed for therapy in New York City. Ah, entrepreneurship! (Editor’s Note: Not only a great flick, but a wonderful post Drake & Josh performance from Josh Peck)
17. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)
Capturing the turmoil of fighting against others’ perceptions in favor of being your own person, this gritty French drama really affected me when I caught it at an indie film festival in Chicago. The main character must choose to follow his father’s less than reputable footsteps or pursue his dream of being a concert musician. It’s quite powerful.
16. Open Range (2003)
After The Postman, it was hard to get anyone interested in Costner again, so this gen of a western went largely unnoticed, which is a real shame. My late grandfather, an avid lover of the genre, remarked late in life that it may have been his favorite western of all time.
15. The Rules of Attraction (2002)
With the main character being the brother of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, you know you’re in for something dark. It’s a surrealistic portryal of college indulgence and a wicked love triangle. It drips with black humor that gets quite…sticky. Pass the towel .
14. Broken Flowers (2005)
Has there ever been a more perfect casting choice? Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch is a match made in Heaven, and this film shines from the pairing. When a man receives a letter from one of many old lovers informing him that a 19 year old son he didn’t know he has is searching for him, his neighbor (an excellent Jeffrey Wright) sets him up with plane tickets and addresses so he can seek out these old flames. Offbeat, funny, odd and heartfelt, this is a gem of a film.
13. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
This was the film that sold me 100% on Ryan Gosling. Centered around a man who believes his life size sex doll is a real person. The whole town, sensitive to his mental instability, plays along and treats the doll as his girlfriend. It’s touching and surprisingly humanistic, given the plot. Emily Mortimer is great here as well.
12. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
It’s the Coen Brothers film you don’t know you’ve never seen! Coming off the heels of the wildly raucous O Brother, Where Art Thou, they did a 180 here, giving us a straight-laced throwback noir. A barber hatches a get rich quick scheme, and the plan goes horribly awry in the best ways. Seek this film out!
11. The Visitor (2008)
Richard Jenkins is outstanding here, in a story about immigration, deportation and therapy through music. This film was so good, I asked for a djembe for Christmas. It was that inspiring. I mean, I never learned to play it, but that’s MY fault…
10. Away We Go (2009)
A great little film about a pregnant cpuple on a road trip to find the perfect place to take up roots as a family, this Sam Mendes film made me think A LOT about growing up, which I really needed to do at the time. Searching for home helps them truly find themselves, and it may help us, too.
9. Punch Drunk Love (2002)
This Paul Thomas Anderson film, which features an incredible dramatic turn from Adam Sandler, had all the makings of a cult classic, but never got its just due. Explosive, awkward, romantic and funny, this is one you need to see.
8. The Way of the Gun (2000)
Critics be damned, I love this movie! Featuring a pair of low level criminals kidnapping a surrogate mother, an epic shootout and James Caan killing it, this was really good to me. Christopher McQuarrie (writer of The Usual Suspects) wrote and directed this hidden treasure. You need to see this. “Until that day, then…”
7. In Bruges (2008)
Martin McDonagh is is an incredible filmmaker. Long before he wowed large audiences with Three Billboards, he rocked the indie crowds with this brutal, darkly comic masterpiece morality tale about two hitmen in Europe, one ordered to show the other a good time before killing him for botching a job in a big way. The writing, acting, direction, cinematography…everything here is in lockstep and comes together amazingly. You will not be disappointed, this was easily one of 2008’s best films!
6. The Proposition (2005)
A tale of brotherly love and a family torn apart and pitted against itself, this is a remarkable western in the Australian outback, where lawlessness will be reined in by any means, even those most brutal and immoral. Some of it is truly hard to watch, but it’s very rewarding. The score work from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis would foreshadow their many great film collaborations to come.
5. The 25th Hour (2002)
Quite possibly the best, and most slept on, film of Spike Lee’s career. Ed Norton has one last day before he turns himself in for an extended prison sentence. He hangs with his closest friends, tries to prepare himself, and set his girlfriend up for a life without him. The scene where he asks his best friend to rough him up so he’s not too pretty on his first day is really powerful stuff.
4. A History of Violence (2005)
It turns quiet and introspective as well as explosive and violent, David Cronenberg constructed a modern masterpiece here. The story is tightly wound and reveals itself at the perfext moment in the film. Everything about this film is damn near perfect, and if you are one of many who have never seen it, correct this immediately!
Taken from American legend, the story of the beloved outlaw Jesse James plays out over the course of a brilliant film, as Robert Ford goes from partner and confidant to jealous and bitter. True, the title gives the ending away, but the story remains true. And it’s breathtaking to look at and listen to .
2. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
When people ask me for a recommendation, I always say this one. Sydney Lumet made one fierce, sad and incredible film that features two amazing lead actors. Two brothers hatch a scheme to rob a small jewelry store owned by their own parents, and the results are as disastrous as you imagine. This is an amazing piece of work.
1. The Fall (2006)
This almost feels like cheating, as many of the film’s most striking moments are part of a fantasy. The Fall was made gradually over the course of two decades, across 25 different countries, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Trapped in a hospital after an accident, a stuntman in the early 1900s becomes bedridden and is visited by a girl with a broken arm. He promises to tell her an epic tale if she returns to him the next day, and the story he spins captivates her imagination (and ours as well). But he may have ulterior motives, and the story begins to take dark turns. This is one of the most visually amazing films I’ve ever seen, and Lee Pace does a fantastic job in the lead role. See. This. Film!
Well, that does it for my Top 20 Under the Radar Dramas from the 2000s! What did I miss? Sound off and give me some of yours that you feel don’t get the love they deserve! Thanks for reading!