10 critically acclaimed movies you didn’t realize by age 20 in 2021

You might not think about it that much, but 2001 was a pretty stellar year for movies. Some of the most beloved films in recent memory came out that year, from blockbuster fantasy epics and brutal crime dramas to foreign classics and some of the most iconic moving images ever made.

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It’s hard to believe that 2001 was actually 20 years ago already, which makes it hard to understand that these films have been around for two decades. Some are easy to remember at this age, like Harry potter, since the audience still sees them often and has seen the actors grow up. Others surprise as 20-year-old movies.

ten Ghost World – Stream on Amazon Prime

Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson walking in Ghost World.

For a good look at Scarlett Johansson before she becomes a household name, look no further than Ghost world. She wowed audiences everywhere alongside Thora Birch as they directed this movie about two teenage best friends trying to figure out what to do after graduation from high school.

They find themselves entangled with an older man (Steve Buscemi), with whom Birch’s Enid befriends, causing a rift between her and Rebecca (Johansson). While he didn’t do much at the box office, he was a critical darling. It went on to become a cult hit, helped launch a major career in Hollywood, and was even nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

9 Donnie Darko – Stream On Tubi

It’s rare that a movie can go missing at the box office while becoming something iconic in pop culture. Donnie Darko did exactly that and has become a staple, especially for the famous creepy bunny costume and lines like “Why are you wearing that stupid man costume?” As Ghost world, it’s also a cult classic.

Even though seeing Jake Gyllenhaal at that age might make you realize he’s 20, it’s still hard to believe. The film got an instant buzz after Sundance and has an impressive cast which also includes Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone and more. It’s a trippy movie that people still talk about today.

8 Hedwig And The Angry Inch – Stream on Criterion Channel

The stage version of Hedwig and the angry thumb was quite a hit in the late 90s and continued into the 2010s. Actors like Michael C. Hall, Neil Patrick Harris, Taye Diggs and many more all performed the title Hedwig on stage. In 2001, a film adaptation arrived that did the big job of living up to the source material.

The plot follows a genderqueer rock singer who is betrayed by someone he loves when his songs are stolen. Again, it wasn’t a commercial success, but critics appreciated the emotional story at the center as well as the big musical numbers, which meant it was successful in a number of ways. He was also mentioned in shows like Riverdale and Sex education.

7 Y Tu Mamá También – Stream on AMC +

As stated, 2001 was a great year for non-English dialogue films and one of them was Y tu mamá también, which translates to And your mother too. It marked a sort of escape for Diego Luna, who has since starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and will soon be directing his own Disney + series in Andor.

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The film focuses on a pair of teenagers who embark on a coming-of-age road trip with a woman in their twenties. It was praised for how it mixed a simple road trip story with more serious topics and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars. It was also a huge breakthrough for Alfonso Cuarón, who became a great director.

6 Mulholland Drive – Stream on Showtime

If David Lynch is making a movie, you can almost surely bet he’ll leave you thinking about it for days after you’ve finished it. This is certainly the case for Mulholland Drive, which has more twists and turns than almost any other mystery film, constantly leaving viewers confused but engaged.

Among the many plot points is the story of a Hollywood star with amnesia who works with an aspiring actress to learn more about her identity. There is nothing to see in this acclaimed film which still has articles written about it today, making it feel like less than 20 years have passed since its premiere.

5 Monsters Inc. – Stream on Disney +

Sully and Mike with Boo in Monsters Inc.

These days, it seems Pixar can’t do anything wrong. The animation studio consistently produces great movies with only one or two that haven’t been universally praised since they started making feature films in 1995. However, when 2001 started, they had only done that. Toy story, its sequel and The life of an insect.

It was Monsters Inc. it really helped cement Pixar’s place among the greats. The film was a box office success, but also received numerous accolades, including a nomination for Best Animated Feature and a win for Best Original Song at the Oscars. It has remained relevant enough to spawn a sequel and spinoff series, both coming more than a decade after the original.

4 Am̩lie РStream On Paramount +

There are people who consider this to be the healthiest movie ever made. Amelie, also known as The fabulous destiny of Amelie Poulain (translated by the fabulous destiny of Amelie Poulain), focuses on a shy waitress who struggles with isolation while managing to help the lives of those around her.

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Amelie was a huge success, grossing over 17 times its original budget and winning several major awards. You’d be hard pressed to find a movie with more heart than this and that sort of thing holds up well even more than two decades later.

3 The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – Stream on HBO Max

It doesn’t even seem possible to think that the epic of Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings The trilogy started 20 years ago. It all started with The Fellowship of the Ring and as soon as people left the theater, they knew they were going to experience something special with the franchise as a whole.

For three hours, the audience was hooked as they watched Frodo join a wizard, elf, dwarf, other hobbits, and more to get to where the One Ring could be destroyed. At the Oscars, he appeared in 13 categories and won four of them. Either way, the sequels would get even more praise as well.

2 Training Day – Stream on Netflix


Denzel Washington was always one of those actors everyone knew was great, but he didn’t have a Best Actor Oscar under his belt. That all changed in 2001 when he rightly won material for his role as Alonzo Harris in Training day, a film that has become one of the best detective films in history.

It tells a heart-wrenching story about the shady things Narcotics Officer Harris does and how it affects Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) who spends the day with him as an assessment for a promotion. The gritty image is filled with memorable lines and powerful scenes that are still important and relevant today.

1 Spirited Away – Stream on HBO Max

Chihiro and faceless

The Oscar for Best Animated Feature has been around since 2001 and to date only one non-English film has won. This honor goes to Abducted as if by magic, arguably the best entry in Hayao Miyazaki’s impressive filmography. The Studio Ghibli movie remains a beloved classic all these years later.

The animation style holds up extremely well, making it harder to believe that it came out in 2001. The film features some of the most imaginative creatures, characters and storylines and is timeless enough to be a hit with kids. who initially liked this even as adults.

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