You might have thought of movies like Ocean’s Eleven and No Country for Old Men, or perhaps titles like Training Day and The Departed—a ton of the decade’s best films are centered directly on the element of crime (even The Dark Knight, which I would call “Crime” almost more than a “Superhero” film). These ten, however, are a bit underappreciated these days.
And of course, this is wholly subjective, but also: just because number ten is the lowest on the list, doesn’t mean I think that it’s the worst movie of the ten… Just the least underrated among the most underrated, if that makes sense.
Anyway, here are the Top Ten Underrated Crime Movies of the 2000s:
10. Zodiac (2007)
Well-loved by film fans these days and well received by critics upon release, it didn’t even make its money back at the box office, nor did it garner a single Oscar nomination.
That’s a true snub in hindsight, even with how killer of a year 2007 was for films—it’s hard to compete with the likes of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Still, it still should’ve been up there for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor over freaking Michael Clayton.
It’s a bit more popular than the rest of the list, just not quite as popular as it should be— especially when you consider what both David Fincher and Jake Gyllenhaal have done outside of this film. Little do people realize or remember that it’s amongst their respective bests.
9. The Lookout (2007)
The plot was a trifle jumbled (structurally, more than anything) which resulted in questionable pacing, but the fun moments were highlighted by excellent performances to the extent that I hardly considered the issues until it had time to resonate.
I really clicked with Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character in this one, so if you’re a fan of his but haven’t seen this movie, give it a go. Aside from that, it’s not hard to see why The Lookout didn’t garner the same amount of money and accolades as its contemporaries—released in 2007, the same year as Zodiac, No Country, etc. It’s a super-underrated title, but the pacing held it back from a higher spot on this list.
8. 25th Hour (2002)
The late 90s were basically Edward Norton’s stomping grounds—he received an Oscar nomination for his on-screen debut in 1996’s Primal Fear, and a nomination for Best Actor in American History X (1998). He’s since seen a career resurgence thanks to directors like Wes Anderson and Alexandro Gonzales Iñárritu, but the 2000s were a rough decade for the accomplished thespian.
Directed by Spike Lee and written by David Benioff (yes, the Game of Thrones guy, based off a book by him of the same name), 25th Hour follows a man in his remaining day before serving a fifteen-year sentence in prison. As the soon-to-be convict, Norton managed to outshine not just both of those guys who worked behind the camera, but also Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who obviously worked in front.
7. Traffic (2000)
Most people my age haven’t even heard of a movie called Traffic, let alone seen it or know anything about it (like the facts that it was made by Steven Soderbergh a year before the first Ocean’s movie—which might play into the lack of current day… traffic—made great money at the box office, and garnered critical acclaim with four Oscar wins of five nominations).
Those are killer numbers, yet it’s here on this list. It’s Benicio Del Toro’s greatest performance, the plot was perfectly woven, and the theme really resonated: even if the outcome isn’t always bad for someone, the result is never good when it comes to hard drugs.
6. Insomnia (2002)
With great reviews and decent numbers at the box office, I think it’s been overshadowed these days by director Christopher Nolan’s other four films of the decade: Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight.
How impressive is that, by the way? Five acclaimed films in under ten years. Unfortunately for Insomnia in 2002, it was sandwiched between the first two of those four films listed, and has since fallen off the contemporary viewer’s radar.
To further sell anyone who hasn’t seen it: not only is it a neat crime thriller by Christopher Nolan, but it stars the likes of Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hillary Swank—and they all nail it in the most underrated performances of their respective careers.
5. Collateral (2004)
A crime film co-starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx with a great supporting performance by Jada Pinkett-Smith—what’s not to love? It was nominated for Best Film Editing at the Oscars and Foxx was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but aside from that, it didn’t garner much acclaim.
And that’s a shame, because the plot is super unique, it was directed wonderfully by Michael Mann, and like I said: the performances will stick with you. Cruise stars as a hitman who pays an indiscriminate taxi driver in Foxx to drive him to five disparate spots in a single night—little does Jamie’s character know though, that Tom is knocking people off at each stop.
Collateral should be right up the goon-infested alleys of crime fans everywhere.
4. Snatch (2000)
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Snatch is one where I tried to clear my mind of any bias before sitting down to review—Brad Pitt’s my favorite actor, it’s hardly even close (albeit shoutout to Denzel), and for my money, this performance is up there with Fight Club, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, etc. It’s not Twelve Monkeys good, but I mean, what is?
Of course, there were plenty of entertaining elements outside of Brad’s character (an Irish prizefighter), and the rest of the cast does a fine job—the likes of Jason Statham, Alan Ford and Benicio Del Toro all play part in an illegal boxing promotion.
But really, the ride is particularly special by virtue of Brad’s performance and Guy Ritchie’s directorial trademarks… 9/10, would recommend.
3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Before becoming Iron Man in 2008, he was Chaplin in 1991, but in between, Robert Downey Jr. lent his chops to dozens of popular Hollywood movies, from biographical dramas to romantic comedies. The best performance of the lot came in 2005 by way of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, an ironic, almost meta take on the hardboiled literary genre.
Like I said, it’s probably RDJ’s best performance outside of Charlie Chaplin and the MCU, and while no one else particularly stood out from this particular flick, the plot certainly did. Entertaining through and through, and wholly underrated.
2. In Bruges (2008)
Made by the same guy that went on to make both Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in the subsequent decade, In Bruges was Martin McDonough’s directorial debut back in 2008, and it may still be his best.
Three Billboards gives it a close run for its money in my book, but either way: it has awesome dialogue, a palpable plot and an outstanding cast—Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star as two hitmen in hiding, and Ralph Fiennes costars as their boss. If you missed this amongst your backlog of movies, it needs to be added immediately.
1. Memories of Murder (2003)
It’s a foreign film, so of course less people are going to have seen it here in America than they would have in, well, Korea, but still—it’s my number one pick, it’s one of my favorite films of all time, and everyone should go watch it. That’s all I have to say.
Really though: I think it was a bit overshadowed by both Oldboy (2003) and The Host (2006)—the latter being directed by Bong Joon-Ho, the same guy that made Memories of Murder and recently garnered international fame with his breakout film Parasite.
Both The Host and Parasite are phenomenal films that everyone should check out if they haven’t, but for my money, Memories is the best movie he’s made, and the most underrated crime film of the 2000s.
Thanks for reading!
Have you seen any movies on this list? What’s the most underrated crime film of the 2000s? Let us know in the comments and stay off the streets at night!