TV & Movies

You Will Not Believe These 15 Films All Came Out In 2001

Bridget Jones, Amélie, Holiday In The Sun & more…

Amélie
Bruno Calvo/Ugc/Studio Canal+/Kobal/Shutterstock
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Cast your mind back to the year 2001. A python-clad Britney Spears was dominating the charts, Apple had unveiled the first-ever edition of the iPod, and some of the greatest films of the past two decades made their cinematic debut. Yes, believe it or not, the year 2001 was a triumphant era for the world of film. Right now there’s a lot of talk around Bridget Jones’ 20-year anniversary, but I’m here to jog your memory about what other modern classics made their debut during the same year. Because there were a lot.

The year’s impressive movie streak got off to a flying start when Ridley Scott’s critically acclaimed Gladiator took home the top awards at the 73rd annual Academy Awards and the 54th British Academy Film Awards. And, when it came to the 2001 talkies, things only got better from there.

In the months following, audiences were introduced to the pink-adoring Harvard law student Elle Woods, the first chapter of Dreamworks’ epic fairytale-inspired franchise, Jake Gyllenhaal’s mysterious break-out role, the big-screen adaptation of Helen Fielding’s best-selling novel, a Julian Fellowes-penned murder mystery, the highly-anticipated reimagining of one of the most successful children’s books of all time, and much, much more.

To honour what was a fantastic year for film, I’ve highlighted some of the greatest movie releases of 2001. Prepare to have your mind blown... and to feel very, very old.

Donnie Darko

Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, and Drew Barrymore lead the cast of this creepy psychological thriller. Written and directed by Richard Kelly, the film revolves around awkward teen Donnie Darko who befriends a demonic-looking rabbit named Frank, who continuously reminds Donnie that the world will end in precisely 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

The film made its debut at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and enjoyed critical acclaim upon its release, with Empire’s Alan Morrison describing the film as a “mini-masterpiece that marks the arrival of brave new talents.” Years after Darko’s 2001 release, Empire also listed the film as the second best independent film of all time, and one of the top 100 movies of all time.

Amélie

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this award-winning French rom-com follows the story of the shy Parisian waitress Amélie (Audrey Tautou), who decides to help those around her find happiness — a journey that leads her on a path to finding true love. Following the film’s 2001 release, Amélie enjoyed success during the subsequent year’s annual awards season, picking up the trophy for Best Original Screenplay at the 2002 BAFTAs and receiving an impressive five nominations at the 2002 Academy Awards.

Shallow Hal

Directed by the Farrelly brothers and starring Jack Black and Academy Award-winner Gwyneth Paltrow, this 2001 romantic comedy follows the story of Hal, who, after taking his late father’s advice, decides to only date women who conform to society’s idea of so-called female physical perfection. However, after being unknowingly hypnotised by a self-help guru, an extremely shallow Hal learns to appreciate inner beauty and begins dating his boss’ daughter, Rosemary.

Following the film’s November 2001 debut, Shallow Hal grossed a respectable $141.1 million at the worldwide box office. As for the critical response, the film received something of a lukewarm reaction. However, A.O. Scott from the New York Times did credit Shallow Hal’s blend of humour and emotion. “By the end you may find yourself, with some amazement, sniffing back tears,” Scott wrote at the time.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The big-screen adaptation of the hugely popular Harry Potter book series was arguably one of the biggest moments in modern cinematic history. The film tells the magical tale of a young boy who discovers he possesses unique powers, and is later summoned to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he meets new friends, perfects his craft, and encounters other-worldly danger.

Upon the film’s original 2001 release, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stoneearned a massive $974 million at the box office worldwide. In October 2020, the film’s box office numbers surpassed $1 billion worldwide, almost 20 years after first hitting the big-screen.

Moulin Rouge

Baz Luhrmann’s musical masterpiece follows the eccentric story of English writer Christian (Ewan McGregor), who travels to Paris and becomes infatuated with the Moulin Rouge nightclub’s star performer, Satine (Nicole Kidman). However, after making a promise to the club’s manager, the love birds are forced to keep their whirlwind romance a secret.

The film went on to storm the 73rd annual Academy Awards, picking up nominations in the Best Actress and Best Picture categories, and taking home trophies for Best Costume and Best Production Design.

Training Day

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, this 2001 action-thriller follows two LAPD officers — Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) and Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) — over a 24 hour period in some of the most dangerous gang-ruled neighbourhoods of Los Angeles.

The film received a largely positive response from critics and was deemed a commercial success at the box office, grossing more than $104 million worldwide. Training Day also enjoyed significant success throughout the 2002 awards season, with Washington picking up an Oscar for Best Actor at the 74th Annual Academy Awards.

Legally Blonde

Based on Amanda Brown's 2001 novel of the same name, Legally Blonde follows the journey of Elle Woods, who, with the seemingly perfect Bel Air lifestyle appears to have it all. However, when the man of her dreams dumps her for a supposedly smarter girl, Elle sets out on a mission to Harvard Law School to prove him wrong.

The film was well-received by critics upon initial release, with many noting Reese Witherspoon’s performance as a particular highlight. The success of the film led to a 2003 sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. Although the follow-up received a lukewarm response from critics, a third Elle Woods adventure is currently in the works, and Legally Blonde 3 is expected to be released in 2022.

A Knight's Tale

This medieval adventure stars the late Heath Ledger as peasant William Thatcher, who begins posing as a deceased knight in jousting tournaments. After an impressive winning streak, William becomes inspired to continue with his jousting talents. However, in doing so, he must work to keep his true identity a secret.

Despite lukewarm reviews from critics, A Knight’s Tale became a hit with audiences worldwide and enjoyed an impressive box office run in the summer of 2001.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Adapted from Helen Fielding’s best-selling novel of the same name, Bridget Jones’s Diary stars Renée Zellweger as a thirty-something aspiring journalist, who keeps a diary of the ups and downs of single life in London. However, Bridget’s world is turned upside down when two seemingly charming men (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) begin competing for her affection.

20 years after its 2001 release, the film, which later spawned two sequels, became one of the few romantic comedies to break into the drama-centric awards circuit, with lead star Renée Zellweger earning a nomination for Best Actress at the 2002 Academy Awards.

Zoolander

Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, this 2001 comedy follows the eccentric and narcissistic male model Derek Zoolander, best known for his iconic “Blue Steel” pose. Following an unexpected defeat in the Male Model of the Year award category, a down in the dumps Derek stumbles upon a scheming fashion designer known as Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who brainwashes Zoolander and convinces him to try and assassinate Malaysia's prime minister.

The film went on to earn just over $60 million at the box office worldwide, and was met with a warm response from critics. Fifteen years later, a 2016 sequel featuring the original Zoolander cast was released. However, the follow-up failed to resonate with both audiences and critics.

The Princess Diaries

Based on Meg Cabot's 2000 novel of the same name, this Walt Disney production follows the story of a painfully shy San Francisco teen, Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), whose world is flipped on its axis when she discovers she is actually the princess of the small European principality of Genovia. Soon after, Mia begins a hilarious journey to the Genoivan throne under the watchful eye of her strict and formidable grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews).

A Film Threat review at the time described Anne Hathaway’s breakout film as “one of the most delightful and touching comedies to grace the big screen in years,” and, 20 years later, this coming-of-age story is still held close to the hearts of many.

Holiday in the Sun

There was a time in the early noughties when you couldn’t switch on a TV without stumbling upon showbiz double-act Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. For many, the pièce de résistance of the Olsen twins’ filmography was the 2001 adventure flick Holiday in the Sun. The straight-to-video film (remember those?) follows twin sisters Madison and Alex, who travel to the sunny Bahamas during winter break. However, amid the island paradise, the siblings stumble upon a smuggling ring with stolen artefacts, and their vacation takes a dramatic turn.

Gosford Park

Directed by Robert Altman and penned by Julian Fellowes, this black-comedy murder mystery follows a group of rich and famous guests at the Gosford Park country estate as they enjoy a weekend of wining, dining and relaxation. However, when a murder occurs within the group, each of the esteemed guests becomes a suspect.

The film boasts an impressive ensemble cast, featuring the likes of Maggie Smith, Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, and Kelly Macdonald, among others. Following its 2001 debut, Gosford Park grossed over $87 million in cinemas worldwide and was highly-praised by critics.

Throughout the subsequent year’s awards season, the film was also recognised in some of the industry’s most prestigious categories, picking up seven nominations at the 2002 Academy Awards and a grand total of nine nominations at the 2002 BAFTAs.

Shrek

Based on William Steig’s 1990 book of the same name, this epic animated adventure takes a fun swipe at the traditional fairytale and follows the story of Shrek: a Scottish-speaking green ogre who, with his irritating donkey sidekick in tow, embarks on a mission to rescue Princess Fiona from a dragon-guarded tower.

Following an impressive box office run, the Dreamworks fantasy flick spawned a string of successful sequels and even scooped the award for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2002 Academy Awards.

Save the Last Dance

Directed by Thomas Carter and starring Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas, Save the Last Dance follows the story of a Midwestern teen Sara, who moves to the south side of Chicago with her father following the tragic passing of her mother. Whilst attending a new high school, Sara falls for and begins an interracial relationship with a fellow student named Derek, who shares her passion for all things dance.

Following the film’s release, the 2001 teen drama grossed a respectable $131.7 million at the box office worldwide. The critical response wasn’t quite so impressive, however, and Save the Last Dance received a less-than-enthusiastic reaction from many. Although, famed film critic Robert Ebert was impressed by the MTV-produced flick, writing at the time, “the development is intelligent, the characters are more complicated than we expect, and the ending doesn't tie everything up in a predictable way.”