15 Great Movies Turning 20 in 2024


Incredible as it may sound, numerous iconic classics are hitting the two-decade mark this year. Yes, 2004 was two decades ago, and the films that graced the screens back then reflect a mix of aging gracefully and the challenges of staying relevant in an ever-evolving film industry landscape. Two decades back, these movies made their debut, receiving various receptions. Some were instant hits, garnering the acclaim they deserved right from the start. Others, however, may not have enjoyed the recognition they merited initially but evolved into cult classics, standing the test of time and earning a special place in the hearts of movie enthusiasts.

From compelling coming-of-age tales to gripping dramas and comedies, 2004 marked a stellar year for cinema. It delivered captivating storylines, great performances, and even some unforgettable sequels, ensuring that the films of that era remain etched in the collective memory of audiences and critics.

15 ‘Million Dollar Baby’

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Million Dollar Baby, a sports drama, directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Paul Haggis (who also wrote and directed Crash),

is based on three short stories by Jerry Boyd, a fight manager. In this film, Hilary Swank steps into the role of Maggie, an amateur boxer under the training of Frankie (Eastwood), an initially gruff and reluctant coach. Frankie, impressed by Maggie’s talent and determination, eventually agrees to coach her. As they work together, a deep bond forms between them, transforming both their lives. The movie delves into the intricate and challenging relationship between athlete and trainer.

Million Dollar Baby swiftly became a box-office sensation, earning acclaim from both critics and audiences alike, often regarded as one of Clint Eastwood’s masterpieces. Swank’s performance emerged as the standout element of the film. To portray Maggie convincingly, Swank underwent a remarkable transformation, gaining 19 pounds through extensive training in both the boxing ring and the weight room, showcasing her dedication to the role. At the 77th Academy Awards, Million Dollar Baby emerged as the big winner, securing seven nominations and taking home four awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Swank, and Best Supporting Actor for Morgan Freeman. The film’s success is a testament to its compelling narrative and the powerful performances that brought its characters to life.

Million Dollar Baby
Release Date
December 15, 2004
Rating
PG-13
Runtime
132

Rent on Amazon

14 ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 2’

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Image via Miramax Films

Kill Bill: Volume 2, a martial arts film crafted by Quentin Tarantino, features Uma Thurman in the leading role as The Bride. Serving as the sequel to Kill Bill: Volume 1, released six months earlier, Volume 2 was initially intended as a single release but was divided into two parts due to its extensive runtime. Following the narrative of Volume 1, the Bride pursues her quest for revenge, aiming to eliminate the Deadly Viper Squad and their leader, Bill, who had attempted to kill her during her wedding.

Packed with incredible fighting sequences and Tarantino’s signature dialogue, Kill Bill stands out as one of the director’s greatest cinematic achievements. Thurman’s portrayal of The Bride earned widespread acclaim, earning her a Best Actress nomination at the Golden Globes, while David Carradine received a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Just like its predecessor, Volume 2 garnered positive reviews, further solidifying the film’s status as a noteworthy addition to Tarantino’s impressive filmography.

Kill Bill Vol. 2
Release Date
April 16, 2004
Rating
R
Runtime
136

Rent on Apple TV

13 ‘The Notebook’

Directed by Nick Cassavetes

Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in the
Image via New Line Cinema

Adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, The Notebook weaves a tale of love between Allie and Noah, a couple whose summer romance faces complications due to parental disapproval and Allie’s engagement. The story unfolds as an elderly man recounts his love story to a fellow nursing home resident by reading from a notebook. With Rachel McAdams as Allie and Ryan Gosling as Noah, the film initially received mixed reviews from critics. However, it soared to success, primarily attributed to the brilliant performances and undeniable on-screen chemistry between McAdams and Gosling.

The Notebook has secured its place as one of the most romantic movies of all time, earning numerous nominations in categories such as Best Romance, Best Movie Chemistry, Best Kiss, and Most Romantic Movie Moments of All Time. As the 15th highest-grossing romantic drama film in history, it has become a go-to choice for many seeking a heartfelt cinematic experience, particularly on occasions like Valentine’s Day.

The Notebook (2004)
Release Date
June 25, 2004
Rating
PG-13
Runtime
123m

Watch on Hulu

12 ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’

Directed by Adam McKay

will-ferrel-ron-burgandy-christina-applegate-anchorman-2004

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy marked Adam McKay‘s directorial debut and was produced by Judd Apatow. Will Ferrell and McKay collaborated on the screenplay. The movie follows the narrative of Ron Burgundy, a top-rated anchor and esteemed journalist, whose world is upended when Veronica (Christina Applegate), a talented female anchor, joins Channel 4 and steadily rises through the ranks.

Initially, DreamWorks expressed skepticism about the film’s potential, questioning whether Ferrell and McKay could sustain a full-length feature centered around news anchors. The screenplay was so extensive that McKay had enough material to create a second film. Despite initial doubts, Anchorman not only performed well at the box office but also received favorable reviews, attributed to its absurd plot and Ferrell’s comedic brilliance. Over time, it has earned a reputation as one of the best comedies of the 2000s. The success led to the release of a sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in 2013, with McKay returning as director and Ferrell reprising his role as Ron.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Release Date
July 9, 2004
Director
Adam McKay
Rating
PG-13
Runtime
94 minutes

Watch on Paramount+

11 ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Image via Warner Bros

The third movie in the Harry Potter film series, based on J.K. Rowling’s books, saw Alfonso Cuarón in the director’s chair, with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson reprising their roles as Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban introduced new additions to the cast, such as Gary Oldman, who portrayed Sirius Black, the infamous Azkaban prisoner, and Emma Thompson as Professor Sybill Trelawney, the Divination teacher. Notably, it marked Michael Gambon‘s debut as Albus Dumbledore, following the passing of Richard Harris in 2002.

Regarded by many as the best in the Harry Potter film series, the movie was a box office hit, ranking as one of the highest-grossing films of 2004. Alfonso Cuarón infused the franchise with a more mature and dark tone, making notable changes. The film received widespread acclaim, earning two Academy Award nominations and four BAFTA nominations, solidifying its place as a critical and commercial success.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Release Date
May 31, 2004
Director
Alfonso Cuarón
Rating
PG
Runtime
141

Watch on Max

10 ‘The Incredibles’

Directed by Brad Bird

The Parr family in their superhero costumes in The Incredibles
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Incredibles marked Brad Bird’s second collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios, following The Iron Giant. The film revolves around the Parr family—Bob as Mr. Incredible, Helen as Elastigirl, Violet, Dash, and baby Jack-Jack—all of whom possess superhuman abilities. Notably, this movie presented a unique challenge for the animation team as it involved animating an entire human cast, requiring the development of new technology.

The film’s success can be attributed to its superb animation, an outstanding score by Michael Giacchino, thrilling action sequences, and stellar voice acting. The Incredibles received widespread acclaim from both critics and audiences alike, becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2004. It garnered numerous accolades, including two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing, solidifying its place as a cinematic triumph.

Watch on Disney+

9 ‘Spider-Man 2’

Directed by Sam Raimi

May-Jane-Kirsten-Dunst-Spider-Man-2 (1)
Image via Sony Pictures

In the highly successful superhero movie of 2004, Tobey Maguire reprises his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, tasked with preventing Dr. Otto Octavius, portrayed by Alfred Molina, from causing chaos in New York. Directed by Sam Raimi, Spider-Man 2 secured its place as the third-highest-grossing film of the year and is widely recognized as one of the greatest superhero films of all time, attributed to Raimi’s skillful direction and the compelling performances of Maguire and Molina.

Beyond being a stellar sequel, Spider-Man 2 stands out as one of the genre’s finest offerings, featuring an engaging villain and a superhero struggling with the challenges of a dual identity. The film garnered several accolades, including three Oscar nominations, winning in the category for Best Visual Effects. The American Film Institute Awards further honored Spider-Man 2 by naming it the Movie of the Year in 2005, solidifying its legacy in the superhero film genre.

Spider-Man 2
Release Date
June 25, 2004
Rating
PG-13
Runtime
127

Watch on Disney+

8 Shrek 2

Directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Absury and Conrad Vernon

Shrek and Fiona meeting the King and Queen of Far Far Away
Image via DreamWorks Pictures

Still talking about noteworthy sequels from 2004, Shrek 2 takes the stage. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz reprise their roles as Shrek, Donkey, and Princess Fiona, bringing audiences a tale where Shrek and Donkey navigate meeting Fiona’s parents while attempting to stop the Fairy Godmother’s plot to disrupt Shrek and Fiona’s marriage. Building on the success of the original, Shrek 2 maintains its popularity as one of the most beloved animated movies, thanks to its entertaining plot, exceptional voice acting, and delightful score.

Not only did Shrek 2 become the highest-grossing film of 2004, but it also held the distinction of being DreamWorks Pictures’ highest-grossing animated film of all time until Toy Story 3 surpassed it in 2010. The film received two Oscar nominations, one for Best Animated Feature and another for Best Original Song. Its undeniable success paved the way for two additional sequels and even spin-off movies centered around the beloved character Puss in Boots. The enduring popularity of the Shrek franchise attests to the lasting impact of this animated gem.

Shrek 2
Release Date
May 19, 2004
Rating
PG
Runtime
93

Watch on Peacock

7 Collateral

Directed by Michael Mann

Tom Cruise as Vincent on the Train in Collateral
Image via Dreamworks Pictures

In the action thriller Collateral, Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx take center stage under the direction of Michael Mann. The film unfolds as a Los Angeles cab driver (Foxx) becomes entangled with his customer (Cruise), a hitman on a contract killing spree. Interestingly, the film was initially pitched to HBO but faced rejection until DreamWorks acquired it, leading to a three-year stint in development. Initially considered for the main duo were Russell Crowe and Adam Sandler, but they eventually dropped out, paving the way for Cruise and Foxx to step into the roles.

Collateral earned acclaim, attributed to the brilliant performances of Cruise and Foxx, combined with Mann’s skillful direction and editing in this noir thriller teeming with tense scenes. The film received two Oscar nominations, including Best Supporting Actor for Foxx, who ultimately didn’t win; the award went to Morgan Freeman. However, Foxx’s exceptional performance in Ray as Ray Charles in the same year earned him the Oscar for Best Actor.

Collateral
Release Date
August 4, 2004
Director
Michael Mann
Rating
R
Runtime
119

Watch on Paramount+

6 ‘Mean Girls’

Directed by Mark Waters

Lindsay Lohan as Cady, Rachel McAdams as Regina, Lacey Chabert as Gretchen, and Amanda Seyfried as Karen in Mean Girls (2004)
Image via Paramount Pictures

Tina Fey lends her comedic genius to the screenplay of one of the funniest teen movies ever made. Starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, and Amanda Seyfried, Mean Girls follows the journey of Cady Heron (Lohan), a teenage girl navigating the tumultuous landscape of high school after being homeschooled in Africa her entire life. The film achieved immediate worldwide success and has since solidified its status as an enduring classic, largely credited to Fey’s witty screenplay, the humor it packs, and the exceptional performances of Lohan and McAdams.

Regarded as a fresh take on the American high school experience, Mean Girls has transcended cinema to become a pop culture phenomenon. From iconic quotes to the tradition of wearing pink on Wednesdays, the film remains relevant and impactful even two decades later. It received multiple award nominations, including a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Writers Guild American Awards. Mean Girls has inspired various adaptations, including a stage musical, and a new film adaptation set to be released in January.

Mean Girls (2004)
Release Date
April 30, 2004
Rating
PG-13
Runtime
97 minutes

Watch on Paramount+

5 ‘Sideways’

Directed by Alexander Payne

Sideways ft Paul Giamatti as Miles Raymond and Thomas Haden Church as Jack Cole

Before treating audiences with The Holdovers, Alexander Payne directed Sideways, a film adaptation of Rex Pickett’s novel of the same name. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church portrayed Miles and Jack, two men in their forties embarking on a road trip to Santa Barbara County to celebrate Jack’s impending wedding. The film achieved success, recognized for its charm, humor, and emotional depth, featuring excellent performances and a captivating score.

Sideways left a lasting impact on the wine industry, contributing to increased tourism in wine-growing regions and a surge in sales of Pinot Noir wines. Beyond its influence on the wine world, the film inspired adaptations into a stage musical and a play. Nominated for five Oscars, it clinched a win in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, cementing its place as a critically acclaimed and culturally significant work.

Sideways
Release Date
October 22, 2004
Director
Alexander Payne
Rating
R
Runtime
124

Watch on Peacock

4 ‘Shaun of the Dead’

Directed by Edgar Wright

Nick Frost as Ed and Simon Pegg as Shaun in Shaun of the Dead
Image via Universal Pictures

Directed by the talented Edgar Wright, one of the best modern comedy directors, Shaun of the Dead is a zombie comedy film co-written by Wright and Simon Pegg. Pegg takes on the role of Shaun, a sales representative who is caught in a zombie apocalypse and desperately trying to survive and rescue his friends and loved ones.

The film was an immediate success, earning acclaim for its clever balance between the horror of a zombie apocalypse and sharp societal satire, resulting in a movie that is both silly and smart. Shaun of the Dead holds a special place in many hearts as one of the best horror comedies ever crafted. Regarded as a cult classic, the film received numerous accolades, including recognition for Best Screenplay and Best British Independent Film, further solidifying its status as a standout in the genre.

Shaun of the Dead
Release Date
April 9, 2004
Director
Edgar Wright
Rating
R
Runtime
99

Rent on Apple TV

3 ‘The Aviator’

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes giving a press conference in The Aviator
Image via Miramax Films

The Aviator marks the reunion of Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio in a compelling biopic drama that also features Cate Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale. The film delves into the life of Howard Hughes, the multifaceted aerospace engineer, business magnate, and film producer.

The Aviator garnered praise for Scorsese’s direction and DiCaprio’s nuanced portrayal of Hughes, capturing both his brilliance and descent into madness. Blanchett’s outstanding performance, portraying Katharine Hepburn, earned her critical acclaim and the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Regarded as a fitting tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood, The Aviator emerged as a prominent contender at the 2005 Oscars. With eleven nominations, the film secured five wins, including the prestigious Best Cinematography award, solidifying its status as a cinematic triumph.

The Aviator
Release Date
December 17, 2004
Rating
PG-13
Runtime
169

Watch on Fubo

2 ‘Before Sunset’

Directed by Richard Linklater

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in 'Before Sunset'
Image via Warner Independent Pictures

In 2004, the Before trilogy gifted audiences with Before Sunset, a remarkable film starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine. Renowned as one of the most romantic movies of all time, this film is filled with engaging dialogue, earning critical acclaim primarily due to the exceptional chemistry between Hawke and Delpy. Directed and written by Richard Linklater, the screenplay was a collaborative effort with Hawke and Delpy contributing, crafting the dialogue themselves. Delpy further enriched the movie with her musical talents, providing three songs for the soundtrack, which she both performed and wrote.

While Before Sunset didn’t achieve blockbuster success at the box office, its brilliance was universally praised by critics and audiences alike, earning its place among the greatest films of the 21st century about love. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, solidifying its recognition as a cinematic gem.

Before Sunset
Release Date
February 10, 2004
Director
Richard Linklater
Rating
R
Runtime
80

Rent on Amazon

1 ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’

Directed by Michael Gondry

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Image via Focus Features

Delightfully peculiar, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stands out as one of the best romantic sci-fi films in cinematic history. Under the direction of Michel Gondry and based on Charlie Kaufman‘s screenplay, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet take center stage as Joel and Clementine in a reality where memories can be erased through a medical procedure.

The film swiftly attained cult classic status, celebrated for its original plot, non-linear narrative, and profound exploration of the human mind and love. Carrey and Winslet received widespread acclaim for their performances, garnering numerous accolades, including a Best Actress Oscar for Winslet. The film secured the honor of Best Original Screenplay, with the Writers Guild of America ranking the screenplay as the 24th greatest in their list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Release Date
March 19, 2004
Rating
R
Runtime
108

Rent on Amazon

Next: From ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to ‘The Matrix’: Every Big Movie Anniversary In 2024



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