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The 20 Best Films of the 2000s

20. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

A glorious union of Eastern martial arts and Hollywood production values, Ang Lee’s timeless 18th-century story is magical, exciting, romantic and sweeping, one of the most beautiful and bewitching action films ever made.

19. Finding Nemo (2003)

Pixar’s classic revisited the standard Disney theme of parental loss combined with children suddenly gaining their independence but added the crucial twist of telling the story almost entirely from the point of view of a bereft parent. Perhaps no movie was a more effective signal to children that parents care and have their reasons for being cautious in the face of potential dangers. Albert Brooks’s clownfish Marlin is one of the screen’s most fiercely dedicated dads, one who learns both the lesson that overprotectiveness can backfire and that  courage can save the day in the face of calamity. Ellen DeGeneres and Willem Dafoe provide lots of laughs in support.

18. Bad Santa (2003)

Along with Team America (see below), this Terry Zwigoff film was the decade’s most irreverent, political correctness-murdering comedy. A priceless Billy Bob Thornton provides a contemporary update on the Grinch as an alcoholic department-store Santa dedicated to ripping off his employers. Grudgingly he befriends a chubby and clueless little boy who thinks the thief is the real Kris Kringle, and the black-comic script by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa gradually morphs from savagely nasty to big-hearted in a cleverly twisted way.