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Winter rewatch list: Eleven iconic films that turned 20 this year

Huddle up under the blanket on winter weekends and revisit some iconic films that turned 20 in 2021

Aatreyee Mohanta | Published 14.12.21, 03:56 PM

Many films become superhits, but some take the next step and become iconic, whether it is because of the concept, the storytelling, the acting, the relevance or relatability, they retain their appeal even 20 years later. We have picked 11 such films, from comedy to drama, animation to fantasy, blockbusters to indie, from 2001 for you to revisit on your winter weekends. Some will make you nostalgic, some will make you feel really old, but all of them will be time well spent.

‘Memento’, released March 23, 2001

The ‘backwards’ film about a guy with anterograde amnesia looking for the people who killed his wife, which became a sleeper hit and put the spotlight on Christopher Nolan, was not just one of the best films of that year, it still remains one of the best films of the last two decades. The film’s innovative, non-linear structure sets it apart, yes, but so do the performances by the actors and the tight, edge-of-the-seat tension that permeates the film. Not the easiest films to grasp, and many needed more than one viewing to grasp the plot better, but no one can deny that Memento was one of the most significant films of our times.

‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’, released April 13, 2001


From “absolutely enormous panties” fiascos and unintended flashings to drunken face-plantings and blue soup, Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones was all of us not-so-put-together single women who were desperately looking for Mr. Right. From being clumsy and inappropriate to confident and absolutely adorable, this character is relatable at every step of the way, whether you were 30 or close to it in 2001 or 30 or close to it in 2021. It helps that the film was also Raining Men like the deliciously bad Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and the perfectly proper and extremely intense Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). There is a reason ‘he’s such a Daniel Cleaver’ and ‘Oh my god you found your Mark Darcy’ became how girlfriends classified the men in their lives. And despite the fact that Bridget is a “verbally incontinent spinster who drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney, and dresses like her mother,” we love her, “just as she is” even today.

Watch it on Netflix.

‘Shrek’, released on May 18, 2001

It was a fairy tale like no other led by the unlikeliest of heroes — an angry, reclusive, unhygienic, green ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers) and his cute and funny, but annoying sidekick, Donkey (Eddie Murphy). And then the heroine, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), actually chooses to remain an ogre for life for true love. It was so different from the usual fairytale tropes that it was a refreshing surprise. No surprise that it became the first to win the Academy Award for best animated film. Add to it the funny dialogues and potty humour, and Shrek is an absolute riot. Not to forget the soundtrack, which has become as iconic as the movie itself. The Dreamworks Animation Studio film about the ‘mean, green, fighting machine’ has layers like “an onion” addressing issues like friendships, looking beyond appearances, self-acceptance and more. We still love this adventure to the kingdom of ‘Far Far Away’. 

Watch it on Netflix.

'Lagaan’, released on June 15, 2001

Who would have thought a period film, based on a real life struggle, with a dhoti-clad hero who speaks a strange dialect would not only become a huge hit with the Indian audience, but also become India’s third official entry to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category? The Aamir Khan-Ashutosh Gowarikar film came without a clue of what it entailed and turned entire movie halls into cricket stadiums with fans on their feet cheering for Kachra’s spin and Lakha’s redeeming diving catch as the villagers of Champaner gave their all in a cricket match against the English to do away with taxes. The film had it all — romance, gorgeous songs by A.R. Rahman, nail-biting tension and patriotism — and cemented its position in Bollywood history.

Watch it on Netflix. 

‘Legally Blonde’, released July 13, 2021

A whole lot of pink, a confident law graduate, snappy dialogues and a Chihuahua? We’re all for it. Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods is one of the most standout pop culture icons even today, and for good reason. From being a “Gemini vegetarian” to the classic “Bend-and-Snap” trick, this film tickles your funny bone and gives you an arsenal of quotable lines, all while making you feel more confident in your own skin. Not only does Elle get into Harvard Law School (“What? Like it’s hard?”), she also solves a complicated case convicting a killer based on a perming schedule! It is hard to beat that combination.

Watch it on Apple TV.

‘Dil Chahta Hai’, released August 10, 2001

There are very few films that celebrate friendship the way Farhan Akhtar’s debut film starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna did. It caused a paradigm shift in Bollywood where chic and witty were in and melodrama and over-the-top dialogues were out. While Bollywood had its fair share of films with friendship at its core, few were as charming, real and wholesome. From casual banter to transgressions in friendships, from growing up to not fitting in, this film defined friendship for an entire generation. Not to forget the mandatory Goa trip that became the keystone of all friendships (before Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara changed the destination to Spain)! With songs that are still to become old, this epic tale of friendship will always pass muster no matter how many years later you watch it.

Watch it on Netflix.

‘Amélie’, released November 2, 2001

One of the most stylish films of our times, Amelie was a celebration of the little pleasures of life from cracking the top of a creme brulee to putting a hand in a sack of grain and skipping stones. Living in Paris, Amélie (Audrey Tautou) is a young woman who is quite lonely but goes the extra mile to make strangers smile! Soon enough she finds herself falling in love with a mystery man who is just as strange as her and embarks on a mission to find him! This unique tale shows an unusual side of life that we don’t embrace often enough, and feels more poignant today when living in the moment and finding joy in little things seems even more important. 

‘Monsters, Inc.’, released November 2, 2001

Who would have thought that the monsters in your closet had a life and scaring you was part of their job description, whether they wanted to or not? Well Pixar certainly did and gave us the delightful film about “scarer” James P. Sullivan “Sully” and his best friend and partner Mike Wasowski who have to deal with an escaped child Boo, who, wait for it, the monsters are scared of! Like all Pixar films, this movie creates a world unlike any other with hilarious dialogues, unique characters and a story that is most lovable. The whole plot revolves around sending the child back to the human world, or as Mike would say, “Put that thing back to where it came from, or so help me!” But it is also about joy triumphing over fear, because guess what generates more energy than the screams of the children to power Monstropolis? Why, it’s their laughter!

Watch it on Disney+Hotstar. 

‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, released on November 16, 2001

Every time you hear the words “Welcome to Hogwarts!” is like the first time you’re hearing it and it gets better every time! This film was like our entrance from platform Nine and Three Quarters into the living world of witchcraft and wizardry that J.K. Rowling had made us fall in love with on page. The first time we meet the tiny tots with broken glasses, dirt on their nose and bushy hair will always be the most memorable, even as we get ready to meet them again 20 years later in the Hogwarts Reunion on New Year. From the iconic theme to the wide-eyed innocence, from “It's leviOsa, not levioSA!” to “She needs to sort out her priorities”, from the Forbidden Forest to the Mirror of Erised, this was the film that captivated children and adults alike and kept them hooked through seven more films. And 20 years later, we are still as excited to meet Harry, Ron and Hermione Potterheads or not! 

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

‘Ocean’s Eleven’, released December 7, 2001

One of the greatest heist films of all time (maybe the greatest), Ocean’s Eleven is slick, cool, sophisticated and oh-so-fun even 20 years on. Put together a cast with the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia and give Steven Soderbergh the reign and you have a film that makes crime look like art. From recreating the Bellagio Vault to pretending to get beaten up by a thug, trust Danny Ocean to come up with the most whiplash inducing scenarios and do it all with style. With twists and turns in the plot at every step Ocean’s Eleven keeps you on the edge of your seat and even though you’ve seen it all (many times) you can’t quite press next if you come across it while surfing channels.

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

‘Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’, released December 19, 2001

It was with trepidation that fans went to watch their beloved high-fantasy tale brought to life. But it was unwarranted. Director Peter Jackson created a masterpiece when he set out to adapt Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the trilogy, written by J. R. R. Tolkien. An epic adventure tale about a courageous Hobbit called Frodo and his eight companions who go on a quest to destroy an evil ring, this is cinema at its grandest. With the picturesque backdrop of New Zealand, superior acting by some of the best actors of our times and incredibly tight storytelling, LOTR will always be the benchmark of what epic fantasy films should be.

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Last updated on 14.12.21, 06:07 PM

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