Favorite Films of 2001

I’m creating my movie best-of lists retroactively. See all of them.

We’re now over 20 years away from the films in question. This means my impressions of the ones I haven’t rewatched somewhat recently are encased in metaphorical amber, for better or worse. It also means I wouldn’t have seen a good number of them until years after they came out, which will grow only truer the farther I go back.

Regardless, this year’s crop is quite top-heavy, with some all-time keepers landing in my top 4. Contrast those with some all-time stinkers (hello Corky Romano and Pearl Harbor) and it adds up to a notable year at the movies.

On to the list…

1. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Had to go with my heart on this one, my favorite and the best of the trilogy. (The #1 Trilly.) I’d only vaguely heard of the original books before seeing the trailer on TV. Once I did see the movie in theaters (probably more than once) I was hooked, reading the whole trilogy before Two Towers came out the following year. Because of that familiarity I had with the subsequent films, I especially treasure this one (and its Mt. Rushmore-worthy original score) for the pure cinematic experience it bestowed upon me like a gift from Galadriel. (See more LOTR posts.)

2. Memento

Making this #2 was an agonizing decision. Really, Fellowship of the Ring is 1a and Memento is 1b—a dynamic head-and-heart cinematic dyad with vastly different styles yet equally excellent stories and execution. It was my first encounter with Christopher Nolan, Guy Pearce, and the unique thrill of getting my mind blown by a film. (Note: this is listed as a 2000 film on the internet, but that’s when it premiered at a film festival and I only consider a film’s wide release date to be its official one.)

3. Ocean’s Eleven

One of the most rewatchable movies ever.

4. Zoolander

One of the most quotable movies ever.

5. Enemy at the Gates

This was one of a handful of war movies released around this time—along with Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot, and We Were Soldiers to name a few—that helped to define that genre for me, for better or worse. And this is definitely one of the better ones thanks to the performances by Jude Law, Ed Harris, and Rachel Weisz.

6. The Royal Tenenbaums

Peak Wes Anderson in the best way.

7. Escanaba in Da Moonlight

Written and directed by Jeff Daniels, a Michigan native, this small and delightful indie focuses on the peculiarities of hunting culture in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Read my review.

8. Black Hawk Down

Add this one to my aforementioned “war movie canon” as well.

9. Monsters, Inc.

Even second-tier Pixar like this is still first-rate compared to animated movies in general.

10. The Mummy Returns

What a year for Rachel Weisz! If Dagmara Dominczyk in The Count of Monte Cristo was my 2002 cinematic crush, Weisz in this swashbuckling (if kinda silly) sequel was my 2001 one—and not just because she’s a librarian.

Honorable mentions:

  • Bandits
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Shrek
  • Legally Blonde
  • Amélie
  • America’s Sweethearts
  • Rat Race