The noughties provided some crowd-pleasing classics, many of which shaped our writers’ childhoods. From animations to blockbusters via romance films, here are some of the quintessential films of that decade.
Flushed Away (2008)
It’s difficult to pick my favourite noughties anything. We have the iconic Shrek, who taught me appearances aren’t everything and I could still get the princess. We had Zooey Deschanel, who starred in classics like Elf and 500 Days of Summer, who I wouldn’t mind fighting a dragon for, especially if the dragon starts dating my bestie and makes me an auntie to fire breathing… humans?
The noughties films had meaning. Finding Nemo taught me I’ll never be truly lost; Ratatouille taught me to be myself; Wall-E guilt-tripped me into recycling, and Iron Man is the reason I stay up all night trying to program my Google Home to speak in Jarvis’ voice. For those who would assume it would be the Bee Movie, here I announce, in print, that I am not Vanessa; I do not want to date a bee.
Despite it all, Flushed Away has to be my ultimate favourite noughties film, though I will not be explaining why.
‘A film of nostalgia’, a ‘pillar of pop-culture’, ‘iconic’, and ‘generally brilliant’ are all valid descriptions for Dreamworks’ Shrek. It’s family-fun entertainment at its finest that recognises that families are both adults and children and makes the experience worthwhile for both, no matter their ages. There is irony, sarcasm, innuendo, uses of paratexts that make it a treasure trove of fairytales, and genuinely funny characters that make Shrek feel unlike any other family film. Plus, it holds a special part in my heart as my comfort film, one of the only films that can change my mood in an instant, and one I’ll never pass up watching. In fact, I’ve watched Shrek so much that now I sing all the songs, and repeat the words of the script back in unison with the characters. If it was possible, I’d make Shrek my only personality trait, because it’s upheld by lofty ambitions and never fails to make you laugh no matter how many times you watch. It takes a lot for a film to become so synonymous with the noughties, and it takes a lot for a film to be as relevant today as it was when it was first released.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Heartbreak is a painful part of the human experience that many of us wish we could magically skip, but Eternal Sunshine succeeded in showing us the importance of embracing this special form of grief by providing its characters with a solution – an ethically dubious medical procedure that removes the memories of those you loved.
As Joel battles to save his memories of Clementine from being erased, he re-experiences a tidal wave of tender, snapshot memories and bitter arguments. These moments movingly show the two in a tumultuous battle between loving and resenting each other’s faults, playfully toying with the 2000’s trope of ‘sensitive loner is saved by the love of a whimsical girl’ in a way that promises no assured happy ending. Their love’s journey and its obstacles to lasting happiness is shown surreally and beautifully; nestling together above a frozen lake, or mournfully reminiscing in homes that slowly collapse around them. They eat out of habit and wonder when they became boring; showing an uncomfortably relatable insight into relationships.
In showing the importance of embracing and reflecting on our memories, this film gently shows us that ‘love conquers all’ only becomes true by growing. Creatively excellent.
Bridget Jones’ Diary (2002)
By no means perfect over 20 years later, Bridget Jones’ Diary is the re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice for the ‘modern woman’. Contrasting with Elizabeth Bennet is Bridget Jones; a 32-year-old singleton who constantly winds up in somewhat larger-than-life scenarios yet is still scolded by her mother, plagued by media pressure, and susceptible to the looks and charm of Hugh Grant…I mean Daniel Cleaver who serves as the film’s Mr Wickham. Bridget’s imperfections make her a more relatable rom-com heroine even compared to other hits of the era such as Anna in Notting Hill. Throughout the film we see Bridget grow as she sets herself goals in the pages of her diary. Whilst goals involving weight loss and finding a boyfriend have not exactly aged gracefully, the central idea of the film is Bridget wanting to take control of her life and improve her own self-perception. Least changed from the Jane Austen roots is Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy, who likes Bridget very much just as she is – undeniably a timeless message in itself. The film for all its faults and quirks is a charming window into early-noughties Britain that we should enjoy for the romantic comedy that it is.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
The first film is superior, but the second Pirates film is a monumental blockbuster. It is the Infinity War of the noughties; a 150-minute, frantically paced, action-packed ensemble film with a stellar, cliffhanger ending. Jack Sparrow evades Davy Jones and the Kraken, forcing him to hunt down the titular chest and stab the heart of Davy Jones. The production values are ridiculously great: Bill Nighy’s CGI is immaculate and Hans Zimmer goes full bombast with the score. It is hilarious (“Elizabeth! *hide the rum*”) and brimming with invention: the cannibal island escape, the three-way swordfight on the wheel, the Flying Dutchman’s design, the Kraken, and it brought Perudo into the mainstream. As a kid it thrilled and moved, as a teen it was nostalgic and as an adult it makes me go: “how on earth did they pull that off?”