Sometimes, a drama film has all the gravity of a serious work of art without earning the catharsis it’s trying to create. Instead of being moving, it comes off as hollow. When dramas don’t stir our emotions, we don’t remember them, and we certainly don’t re-watch them.
Let’s look at some of the drama films of the 2000s that we’ve already forgotten in 2017. These fifteen films aren’t here because they’re bad, necessarily, they’re here because, for one reason or another, they’ve been forgotten by audiences. Some of them are unbelievably cheesy, some just look like every other drama ever made. As you read about these ’00s throwbacks, the forgotten melodrama and soap opera-level plot twists will come rushing back to you. The movies on this list pack a one-two punch of nostalgia and shamelessly manipulative and emotional storytelling.
If you’re in the mood for a drama and want help separating the good Netflix original films from the bad, check out our ranking here.
15. The Soloist (2009)
The Soloist is one of those social issues dramas that’s a perfectly fine piece of filmmaking but is ultimately not one for the ages. It’s directed by Joe Wright, known for his compelling period drama collaborations with Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina), but it pales in comparison to these movies.
The movie is about the relationship between Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), a journalist, and Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless, Juilliard-trained musician. It’s based on the non-fiction book The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music that the real Steve Lopez wrote.
Ayers is immensely talented, but has schizophrenia and has been living on the street. Lopez is determined to help him find the performance opportunity he deserves. Catherine Keener and Tom Hollander round out the cast.
14. The Duchess (2008)
Keira Knightley is the best interpreter of period dramas working today. But The Duchess is merely okay, and has been lost amidst the long list of truly amazing period pieces she has headlined, including Pride & Prejudice and Anna Karenina.
The film is a biopic of the 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, played by Knightley. Georgiana was known for her dramatic sense of style, including big and lavish hats, and for having a scandalous extramarital affair. The problem with the latter is that Knightley has no chemistry with Dominic Cooper, who plays her lover, the nobleman Charles Grey.
13. Half Nelson (2006)
Half Nelson is basically Ryan Gosling being like “I’m not a regular teacher, I’m a cool teacher.” Gosling plays a hip, young guy teaching inner city high schoolers. But outside of class, he’s struggling with a crack habit.
Gosling showed great promise in this 2006 indie, garnering universal praise from critics. In fact, he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, although he lost to Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.
The film comes from indie film team Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who also made 2010’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The two worked with a different beloved Ryan: Ryan Reynolds, for Mississippi Grind.
2019 will be a big year for the pair: they’re directing Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson.
12. Keith (2008)
Keith is so bad that it’s truly fascinating. Singer and ’00s heartthrob Jesse McCartney stars in this weepy teen romantic drama that’s basically Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, but a romance. Keith (McCartney) is an unusual and quiet high school boy who comes into pretty, popular, and brainy Natalie’s life to disrupt her consciousness and get her to see the world anew.
Keith is a mystery to Natalie. He badgers her until she agrees to hang out with him. He tries to woo her while at the same time remaining aloof. The reason Keith acts is eventually revealed in a one-two punch so emotionally manipulative that it’s almost unbelievable: he’s depressed and possibly suicidal… because he’s dying of cancer.
The movie is so bad that it’s almost fun to watch for the sheer drama of it all. The acting is melodramatic, the direction is shockingly bad. The final kicker about this movie is that it has literary origins. Keith based on a short story of the same name by Ron Carlson, an award-winning contemporary novelist and short story writer.
11. Two Lovers (2008)
Two Lovers is a moody romantic drama that pairs off Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. The setting is oceanside neighborhood Brighton Beach, but during the bitter New York City winter. Phoenix plays Leonard Kraditor, a single man who has just recently attempted suicide.
He finds his way into a love triangle with a beautiful new neighbor Michelle (Paltrow) and the woman his parents want to set him up with, Sandra (Vinessa Shaw).
The film is not Joaquin Phoenix’s best acting, and there is a stark lack of chemistry between him and his two leading ladies. Two Lovers comes from writer/director James Gray, who went on to make The Immigrant, which also starred Phoenix, and The Lost City of Z, starring Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson.
10. The Majestic (2001)
Jim Carrey stars in this 1950s period piece as Peter Appleton, a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter who gets into a car accident after driving under the influence. The crash causes him to lose his memory and he must recuperate in a nearby small town, where he is mistaken for a local man’s lost son. Luke Trimble was believed to have been killed in World War II, so Peter assumes Luke’s life, and inherits a father and a girlfriend.
Of course, he’s not really Luke, and he ends up remembering who he really is when the town’s movie theater, The Majestic, screens one of his films.
9. Gracie (2007)
Gracie is an inspirational sports drama about a girl who breaks boundaries by playing on an all-boys soccer team. The film is set in 1978, when women’s soccer teams weren’t as widespread as they are now.
Gracie Bowen (Carly Schroeder) is a tomboy who loves soccer. However, her former soccer star father disapproves of her desires to play on a team because she is a girl. He coaches her three brothers, but excludes her. When her brother Johnny dies in a car crash, Gracie wants to honor him by taking his place on Columbia High School’s varsity soccer team, which is all-boys. She must overcome much sexism to get the opportunity to play.
You might not know that the movie is based on actress Elizabeth Shue and her family’s story. She grew up playing soccer with her three brothers and became the first girl to play on Columbia High School’s all-boys team. Her brother, William Shue, was the captain of the team before he died in a car accident. Elizabeth, her brothers Andrew (also an actor) and John, and her husband Davis Guggenheim developed the film.
8. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
In Mona Lisa Smile, Julia Roberts plays a radical art professor who causes a stir at the all-female Wellesley College in the 1950s by teaching her students to question society’s expectations for women.
When Katherine Ann Watson (Roberts) arrives to teach at Wellesley, she is shocked to find that although her students are smart, they view college as something they do in order to find a husband. After they get married, they become housewives. Katherine teaches them to reach for more. Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Ginnifer Goodwin play her art history students.
The film received mostly negative reviews, with critics praising the cast but finding the story boring and shallow. Variety‘s David Rooney writes: “An appealing female cast gives the hollowly formulaic Mona Lisa Smile more dignity than it perhaps deserves, yet it’s Julia Roberts in an ill-suited starring role that represents one of the film’s chief shortcomings.”
7. Flicka (2006)
Flicka is part of a funny little sub-genre known as the “horse movie.” It’s about a teen girl and her horse, because teen girls love horses and presumably also love movies about horses.
But first things first: why is the movie called Flicka? Flicka is the name of the main horse. It seems like some kind of slang version of the word “flicker”, but there’s a simple explanation: Flicka is the Swedish word for little girl.
Here’s the story: a girl named Katy (Alison Lohman) captures and domesticates a wild horse to prove to her father that she’s capable of taking over her family’s Wyoming ranch in the future. Country singer Tim McGraw plays her dad.
6. The Visitor (2007)
The Visitor is a standard Oscar aspiring social issue drama. Walter Vale, a white college professor (Richard Jenkins), is drifting aimlessly through life until he comes home to his rarely-utilized New York City apartment to find that a young couple, Palestinian-Syrian Tarek and Senegalese Zainab, have broken in and are living there. Both are illegal immigrants, and instead of sending them packing, he invites them to stay. They form an unlikely friendship. Tarek, a musician, teaches Walter how to play the djembe.
When Tarek is mistakenly arrested on a minor charge, the police find out he is an illegal immigrant and put him in a detention center. Walter comes to the aid of his friends, hiring a lawyer and doing everything he can to prevent Tarek’s deportation. The film is more than a little bit white savior-y.
5. Possession (2002)
Possession had the potential to be very good, but instead, it’s a train wreck.
Two rival literary scholars are on the road to uncovering a sexy history mystery: that two fictional Victorian poets were having a torrid affair. In the midst of pouring over literary documents for clues about what went on behind closed doors, they realize they’re falling for each other.
The sleuths are Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s playing a Brit. Jennifer Ehle, who gave an award-winning performance as Elizabeth in the acclaimed 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice opposite Colin Firth, plays the poet Christabel LaMotte. The role seems perfect for her, but neither the character nor her performance is compelling.
4. The Greatest (2009)
The Greatest is a saccharine tale of teen love and tragedy starring the very young Carey Mulligan and an even more impossibly young-seeming Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Rose and Bennett pass each other every day on the Quad without saying a word, until Bennett finally breaks the silence. They start a whirlwind relationship and spend the night together, only for Bennett to die in a car crash. But Rose is pregnant with his child, and has nowhere to go but to his grieving family. They’re reluctant to accept her but they eventually form a family.
The movie gets its title from a truly cheesy line of dialogue that we are treated to in the trailer, an exchange between Bennett and Rose. He says, “What would you say if someone asked you about this night?” and she replies “I would say that this was the greatest.” It’s supposed to be simple and romantic, like, “I love you so much I can’t put it into words,” but it comes off as clumsy and blah.
3. P.S. I Love You (2007)
Welcome to the weepy romance that is P.S. I Love You, starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank.
Before Gerry (Butler) dies of a brain tumor, he writes a series of letters to his wife Holly (Swank), to be sent after his death. In them are detailed instructions for what to do in order to move on and have a happy life. The instructions are fun and lively things like doing karaoke and going fishing. Also, Butler narrates the letters in an extremely pronounced Irish accent, because Irish accents are romantic. The film is based on the book of the same name by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern.
3. Bobby (2006)
Bobby recounts the events of the assassination of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (brother of John F. Kennedy), which happened on June 6, 1968.
Robert F. Kennedy, nicknamed Bobby, was running for president and was on the campaign trail at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when he was fatally shot by Sirhan Sirhan. The film tells the story indirectly, focusing on the lives of 20 people who were at the Ambassador Hotel on that fateful night.
The cast is absolutely stacked: Anthony Hopkins, Joshua Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Elijah Wood… and believe it or not, the list goes on. However, the huge cast and the many stories the movie tried to pack into two hours was its downfall according to critics.
1. The Lake House (2006)
The Lake House is an unusual time-travel romance: the two timelines are only two years apart.
Alex (Keanu Reeves) and Kate (Sandra Bullock) come into contact because Kate is the former resident of a house on a lake that Alex now occupies. But Alex lives in 2004 and Kate lives in 2006. They are introduced to each other through letters: Kate writes a letter to her old address to tell the new tenant about the house, which she loved, and once the letter is placed in the mail box at the house, it travels back in time.
Alex and Kate correspond, trying to figure out the mystery. When they fall in love, they are determined to somehow meet, with Kate giving Alex instructions on where to find her in 2004.
Do you remember any of these dramas from the 2000s? Share your favorite forgotten gems in the comments!
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