When people are asked about their favorite classic Hollywood movies, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Casablanca often come to mind. But there are plenty of relatively recent movies that also belong on that list. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at some of the best modern movies that deserve to be talked about for years to come. As a rule, we chose movies from the past 20 years, although you’ll have to forgive us for adding Saving Private Ryan (made 21 years ago).
1. No Country For Old Men (2007)
This is modern Western about a hunter (Josh Brolin) who stumbles across a suitcase full of cash and is pursued by a merciless killer (Javier Bardem) who is constantly on the verge of tracking him down. It’s an intense movie from start to finish with a perfect cast. Being a fan of the Coen brothers (Fargo is one of my favorite movies ever), I had high expectations going in and was not disappointed.
2. Saving Private Ryan (1997)
Opening scene of the D-Day Normandy Beach invasion is perhaps of the most realistic depiction of war in cinematic history. Add to this a compelling partially-based-on-a-true-story about US Army captain (Tom Hanks) who takes his men behind enemy lines in occupied France in search of a soldier (Matt Damon) whose three brothers were killed in battle.
3. Wall-E (2007)
One of my favorite WALL-E (which stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) is the last robot on Earth who spends 700 years in isolation until he is visited by EVE, a probe sent on a scanning mission. He falls in love and follows her around the galaxy. Remarkably, the first half of the movie contains almost no dialogue and yet it is still very compelling.
4. Inception (2010)
This Christopher Nolan-directed movie features a thief (Leonard DiCaprio) who has the ability to enter people’s dreams and steal their thoughts from their subconscious. Nearly a decade later, there is still a lot of controversy about how to interpret the movie’s end. At Brainberries we don’t believe in spoiling the movie for friends like you, so you’ll just have to watch it for yourself!
5. The Dark Knight (2009)
I’m not generally a fan of superhero movies, but Heath Ledger was so good as the Joker and the non-stop action made this one so much fun. In hindsight it’s a bit ridiculous to think about everything that had to work out perfectly in order for the Joker to carry out his plot, but this is definitely one movie where I’m willing to suspend my belief.
6. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
This is simply one of the most delightfully goofy movies ever made. It stars Gene Hackman as a father who schemes to re-enter the lives of his ex-wife and four children, all of whom felt betrayed by him growing up. It is full of all sorts of quirky subplots that are genuinely funny.
7. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
This movie has changed the way fantasy movies are perceived, especially as the third installment Return of the King became the first (and still only) movie of this genre to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s nearly impossible to imagine that movies 3 ½ hours in length would feel short, but these definitely do. Unfortunately, the prequel Hobbit movies were a greedy mistake.
8. The Departed (2006)
This is one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies, and that’s saying a lot considering he’s one of the greatest directors of all time. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as an undercover cop who gains the trust of the Boston mob and Matt Damon as a career criminal who infiltrates the Boston police department.
9. The Pianist (2003)
Adrien Brody sort of fell off the map after this one, but he definitely put on one of the best performances of the 2000s as a Polish-Jewish pianist struggling to stay alive during World War II as Nazi Germany lays waste to Warsaw.
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
I personally found this fantasy/drama to be a dreary movie, but I also believe it is one of the best of today. It tells the life of the titular character (played by Brad Pitt) who ages in reverse, with strange consequences.
11. Shrek (2001)
Shrek is a perfect movie because it manages to entertain children and adults alike. Perhaps the sneakiest thing of all is the rumor that the main antagonist of the film, Lord Farquaad, was meant to be a parody of Disney’s then-CEO Michael Eisner.
12. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
This is yet another film that keeps the person on the edge of their seat from beginning to end as Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) recalls specific moments from his life growing up in the slums in order to correctly answer questions on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”
13. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
This movie stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as ex-lovers who reconnect after they had deliberately erased the memories of their relationship. The reason it deserves to be a classic is because it’s unique, sweet, funny and entirely unpredictable.
14. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a ruthless silver miner turned oil prospector who uses his charm to con landowners into selling their property for virtually nothing. While slightly formulaic, it’s an exciting movie that the vast majority of audiences loved.
15. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
This makes the list because it was a true effort by the entire ensemble cast, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Julia Roberts. There isn’t a single unnecessary or redundant scene, and there’s so much going on with the plot that you can watch this one again and again and still enjoy it as if it were the first time.