The 10 Best Films Of 2001With 2015 upon us, we figured it was a good time to look back on the movies the millennium has brought us. And so we’ve dug into the archives and are re-running our Best of the 2000s pieces, from way back in 2009 when the Playlist was a little Blogspot site held together with tape and string. Each list runs down the top 10 films of each year (it’s also very possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the list, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible).Check out 2000 right here, and today we continue with 2001. The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.

What was the state of cinema in 2001? Oscar-wise, the Academy Awards made some bold nominations, but of course awarded the safer “Gladiator” in favor of Steven Soderbergh‘s far superior “Traffic.” Still, Soderbergh did pull off the feat of being nominated twice in the same directorial category for his drug trade drama and “Erin Brockovich” (he would win for “Traffic” and Julia Roberts would take Best Actress for ‘Brockovich’). At Cannes, Michael Haneke‘s devastating “The Piano Teacher” would dominate (Best Actress, Actor and the runner-up prize), but the Palme d’Or would elude him (Nanni Moretti’s “The Son’s Room” took the top award that year). Globally, George W. Bush took office at the start of the year, followed not long after by 9/11 and the beginning of the war on terror, but those affects on cinema would obviously not be felt immediately. Perhaps the coolest cultural moment all year? In January, a black monolith measuring approximately 9 feet tall appeared in Seattle, Washington’s Magnuson Park, placed by an anonymous artist in reference to Stanley Kubrick‘s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

null10. “The Devil’s Backbone”
While Guillermo del Toro won over the hearts and minds of audiences and critics with his similarly themed and styled “Pan’s Labyrinth” (both fantastical films with political overtones), it was this Pedro Almodovar-produced Spanish-language ghost story that cemented him as a filmmaker of unbridled imagination and thoughtfulness. Set at a boys’ halfway house during the Spanish Civil War and with an unexploded bomb in the courtyard serving as a reminder of the peril they all face, del Toro crafts a tender melodrama about the ghosts (literal, historical, and emotional) that torment us all. Though some of the visual effects lack sophistication in retrospect, the sentiment is just as clear and rich as ever.

null9. “No Man’s Land”
This 2001 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film is a pitch-black ironic tragicomedy set during the 1993 Bosnian war regarding opposing wounded soldiers (Serbian and Bosnian) stuck in a trench between enemy lines, immobilized on a spring loaded bouncing mine. Serious stuff, but director Danis Tanovic uses the dilemma to scathingly illustrate the utter absurdities of war (bureaucratic or otherwise) and the squabbling among different players descending on the scene, among them journalists who attempt to exploit the situation for their own gain, which in turn draws the U.N., which begets its own kind of red tape. While the soldiers find common ground, the film concludes with stark bleakness (though there’s nothing ambiguous about the outcome), leaving the viewer despairing, despite the demonstration of brotherhood among enemies.

null8. “Memento”
Credit goes to Christopher Nolan‘s second film (which premiered at Venice and was released in the UK and elsewhere in 2000 but didn’t reach U.S. shores until 2001) for keeping us interested even once its mystery has been unraveled. Guy Pearce’s everyman panic grounds his haunted and afflicted vigilantism in a reality that Wally Pfister’s sun-soaked cinematography helps illuminate, one of shoddy, paint-worn backroom dealings, dank hotel rooms and hopeless dead-end diners. Using the plot device of anterograde amnesia, Shelby (Pearce) is forced to constantly re-imagine the events around him every fifteen minutes when his memory vanishes. The film uses an ingenious backwards narrative that carefully places clues at the right spots to allow for the viewer to participate in solving what we know is essentially an unsolvable mystery: a man out for revenge against the person who killed his wife, leaving him dazed, confused, and… well, he’s got this condition, see?

  • Igor Sousa

    I might say that Mulholland Drive is the greatest film of the decade. Could it be of the century yet?

  • joe

    Interesting, Donnie Darko and The Royal Tenenbaums are my top two favorite films to date, yet both missed the cut. I\’m not sure I agree with your (the playlist\’s) view of the Royal Tenenbaums. It sounds like the real reason for keeping it off was merely because most others would not have. Glad to see films like The Piano Teacher make the cut, even though it is nearly unwatchable. Still terrific cinema. Amelie seems to be the most well placed film on this list. And as much as it pains me to say, it really is hard to believe that LOTR wouldn\’t make the cut for best of 2001. I know it doesn\’t match the mold here… but still.

  • MishuPishu

    In The Bedroom beats all of these films, though it is an impressive list. I have to go back and watch The Man Who Wasn\’t There again because I never related to it when I saw it in the theater. Also, your analysis of The Piano Teacher is spot on. Absolutely terrifying! I don\’t think I could watch it again.

  • Thunder

    completely agree with Mulholland Drive being number one, even for the entire decade. Donnie Darko should have been in that list as well.

  • Renee

    Man you missed the boat on omitting Miike\’s "Ichi the Killer".

  • Greg

    Great list (including The Man Who Wasn\’t There!). Nathan Duke mentioned In the Mood For Love, which I think is one of the greatest films I\’ve ever seen in any year; but it seems that the film opened first in 2000…

  • Jonathan

    A lot would disagree, but I\’d try to get "Black Hawk Down" in there somewhere. One of the best modern war films.

  • Naes

    Agree with Nathan, Vanilla Sky underrated. Mine would be 1. Mulholland Drive 2.Donnie Darko 3. The Royal Tenenbaums 4. The Man Who Wasn\’t There 5. Y Tu Mama Tambien 6. Werckmeister Harmonies 7. Lantana 8. The Pledge 9. Vanilla Sky 10. Musa/Blow

  • Perfecto

    Perfect list, keep it up.

  • Serena

    It\’s bad enough that ROYAL TENENBAUMS got dissed, but no GHOST WORLD? Over AMELIE??!! This list is so bad it\’s gone past good and back to bad again.

  • Dom

    Striking AND unforgettable *

  • Dom

    I think Donnie Darko would be my top 10, simply because it is so striking unforgettable. Although yours is a strong list.

  • Matthew Lucas

    Robert Altman\’s "Gosford Park."

  • Dan

    Nathan, "In the mood for Love" is in the best films of 2000 list….

  • efbrackett

    Ghost World was my favorite after Mullholland Dr.

  • Davey

    Tenenbaums would probably be my number one. My favorite from Anderson for sure, and a contender for my favorite film period.

  • Rob

    Moulin Rouge all the way!!!

  • Bryan

    "In the Bedroom" is my personal #1. Such raw, shocking, genuine emotion… Definitely should\’ve made the top 10

  • Wes

    1. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)
    2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
    3. Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson)
    4. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly)
    5. Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
    6. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
    7. Y tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron)
    8. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
    9. Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao Hsien)
    10. In the Bedroom (Todd Field)

    Still haven\’t seen:
    A.I. (Steven Spielberg),
    Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk),
    Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul),
    Mysterious Objects at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul),
    Blow (Ted Demme), and
    Sexy Beast (Johnathan Glazer)

  • Steve Mesa

    1) LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring 2) Memento 3) Black Hawk Down 4) Ameile 5) Amores Perros 6) The Devil\’s Backbone 7) Donnie Darko 8) Monsters Inc 9)The Royal Tenenbaums 10) The Man Who Wasn\’t There

  • cirkusfolk

    My list: Royal Tenebaums, Moulin Rouge, Memento, Sexy Beast, Black Hawk Down, Life as a House, Vanilla Sky, Training Day, Monsters Inc, I Am Sam

  • DG

    Right movies but wrong order. As has been said Mulholland Drive at number 1 for sure

  • David

    Hedwig, not the owl

  • Nathan Duke

    Mulholland Drive number one by a long shot. Also: In the Mood for Love, Werckmeister Harmonies, Memento, The Royal Tenenbaums, Amelie, The Man Who Wasn\’t There, Waking Life, Donnie Darko, Black Hawk Down, Fat Girl, In the Bedroom, Ghost World. And I do think "Vanilla Sky" is a little underrated.

  • Jedisunscreen

    The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Sergei

    Considering they’ve praised it all over this site, it’s crazy to see Spirited Away’s exclusion here. Also, Fat Girl over Memento is just too hilarious.

  • Joey Lee

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch