The best-reviewed films of each year since 2000 on Rotten Tomatoes include superheroes, hobbits and a whopping six animated features. The review-aggregation website has become one of the prime sources of film criticism in the 21st Century, and while its simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down collection method has led some to doubt about the Tomatometer’s accuracy – especially since several movies out there show great discrepancies between critic ratings and user ratings (including recent films such as Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi) – it usually allows the cream to rise to the top.
With that in mind, here are the biggest hitters on the site since the turn of the century: the movies with the highest score for each calendar year.
Rotten Tomatoes’ Best Films (2000-2005)
2000 – Chicken Run
The highest-rated movie of the first year of the millennium was Peter Lord and Nick Park’s 2000 stop-motion animated film, Chicken Run, starring Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, and more. Chicken Run was enormously successful, not only becoming the top-rated movie of the year but also the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film ever to release (a record it still holds), grossing $224.8 million at the worldwide box office.
While the film wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, critics praised its acting and animation, as well as immense quotability.
2001 – Monsters, Inc.
Pete Docter’s Monsters, Inc. took audiences by surprise when it released in 2001 and truly established Pixar Animation as a force to be reckoned with. The movie featured voice work from Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi, and it had been in various stages of development since 1996 – one year after Pixar launched their first animated movie. Monsters, Inc. was well-received by general audiences across the board (even the parents loved the movie), and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated feature (but lost out to Shrek).
While Pixar routinely makes sequels for their animated films, they decided to take a different step with the Monsters series and made a prequel instead. Monsters University released in 2013 to critical and commercial success, proving that these characters are as everlasting as their movies.
2002 – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
As the second installment in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers became one of the most anticipated films of its year due to the incredible success of The Fellowship of the Ring the year prior. And it delivered, being a great movie by itself as well as within the wide franchise.
In addition to its reviews, The Two Towers became the highest-grossing film of the year, beating, Spider-Man, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the worldwide box office. The movie was also nominated for six Academy Awards (the fewest in the trilogy) including for Best Picture.
2003 – Finding Nemo
Andrew Stanton’s Finding Nemo, which tells the story of a father and his newfound but forgetful friend searching for his lost son across the Pacific Ocean, released in 2003 and quickly became a fan-favorite even in the lauded pantheon of Pixar, with nearly unanimous rave reviews.
In fact, Finding Nemo was so successful that it surpassed 1994’s The Lion King to become the highest-grossing animated film of all-time – with $867.9 million under its belt – a record it held until Shrek 2 toppled it the following year. A highly-successful sequel, Finding Dory, released in 2016 to overwhelming critical acclaim.
2004 – The Incredibles
Brad Bird followed-up on his beloved but commercially unsuccessful animated film, The Iron Giant with his first Pixar movie: The Incredibles. The film follows a family of superheroes, the Parr family, and features voice acting from Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and more. It garnered Bird his first two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Animated Feature, of which he won for the latter.
The Incredibles is not only one of the most-favorited animated movies out there but also one of the most beloved superhero movies overall. We’ll just have to wait and see if Bird can capture lightning twice when Incredibles 2 hits theaters later this year.
2005 – Murderball
Unlike most movies that achieve critical acclaim and earn the right to be labeled the highest-rated film of the year, Murderball differentiates itself from the crowd by being a documentary, one that centers on the rivalry between the American and Canadian wheelchair rugby teams leading up to the 2004 Paralympic Games.
Coming from directing duo Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes said the film is “an entertaining and gripping documentary that shows being confined to a wheelchair doesn’t mean the fun has to end.” It’s no surprise that Murderball went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
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