Have the Oscars ever gotten it more wrong than they did in March of 2002, when Tom Hanks handed Best Picture to the treacly, forgettable biopic A Beautiful Mind? Okay, surely they have—the Academy has been making boneheaded calls for just shy of a century. But it’s still difficult to think of many Oscar-night moments as deflating as Ron Howard’s victory over not just four worthier opponents but every superior film his wasn’t competing against. Because 2001 was more than a great year for movies. It was an all-timer, perhaps even filthier with masterpieces than the fabled 1999.
2001 gave us powerhouse studio movies—a pageant of hobbits, monsters, sad robots, and all-star heists, all classing up the multiplex. Musicals got thrillingly, eccentrically modern. Horror experienced a miniature renaissance. Major works arrived from Mexico, Japan, France, Hong Kong, and so many other points on the world-cinema map. The triumphs came in all shapes and sizes, genres and languages. One even came from (gasp) TV.
We considered going to 50 this year. That’s how deep the pool of superlative films released two decades ago runs. What, no Donnie Darko? No Black Hawk Down? No Zoolander? Consider them honorable mentions; each would have made a better Best Picture, too. As usual, we stuck to movies released in America during the calendar year in question, which is why you won’t find Spirited Away or Y Tu Mamá También on the list (look for them next year, when we cite our favorites of 2002), and also why you will find Memento and In The Mood For Love there, despite earlier festival debuts.
Keep reading for The A.V. Club’s list of the 25 best movies of 2001, as chosen by a dozen of our regular contributors. Don’t agree with our picks? Hey, that’s okay, it was a treasure trove of riches in 2001—there were so many good movies that you could make a very solid list of the ones that didn’t make the cut. Happy with how we voted? Beautiful minds think alike.