The 20 Best Films of the 2000s

17. Up (2009)

One of Pixar’s most sober and grownup films, this story of adventure among the aged takes a fantasy setup (an old man dreams of attaching enough balloons to his house that he can sail away and realize a childhood dream by visiting South America) and applies to it a sense that aging should be a process of unceasing exploration. The film’s wordless summary of married life is one of the finest four minutes the Walt Disney Co ever put on film.

16. Ratatouille (2007)

A movie about a rat who becomes a chef, this Pixar entry typified how nutty ideas seemingly pitched at children can be developed into richly engaging grownup entertainment. Patton Oswalt plays the rat, Remy, who stands for ordinary aspirational humans, a character who embodies Oscar Wilde’s famous quip that “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Remy, rising above his lowly station, sneaks into a Paris restaurant where he becomes the brains of an incompetent kitchen boy and creates art in the guise of food. As the fusty critic who is won over by Remy’s genius, Peter O’Toole gives one of his final great performances. The movie peaks at the scene in which the snooty food writer is swept away by Remy’s brilliant meal and the memories it unlocks.

15. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Cinematic excursions into Third World poverty tend to be heavy on the condescension: For the benefit of wealthy white audiences they pretend that there is something magical and even triumphant about destitution, and even go so far as to suggest that poor minorities have a more direct connection to authentic experience than do the well-off. Slumdog Millionaire, colorful and exuberant as it is, doesn’t pretend (like, say, Beasts of the Southern Wild) that poverty has its own pungent delights but that it is a villain from whose clutches our hero must escape. Consequently, Dev Patel’s resourceful scamp Jamal is anything but an object of pity in Danny Boyle’s kaleidoscopic adventure.