20 Best Movies of 2002

2002 was an unusually good year for movies. It saw a healthy mix of populist and artsy movies. When you have releases from Peter Jackson and Pedro Almodóvar in the same year, you know that it is going to be a good year. In terms of genre you will find everything from horror to thriller to romance. Take a yourself. Here is the list of top movies of 2002.

20. Red Dragon

Directed by Brett Ratner, and based on Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name, this film reintroduces one of the most iconic character that the world of cinema has ever seen. Doctor Hannibal Lecter played to a chilling degree of accuracy by Sir Anthony Hopkins first made his appearance in The Silence of the Lambs. The events of this movie is set before that. The film explores Agent Will Graham who had initially managed to capture the notorious Hannibal Lecter being brought in to capture another serial killer – the tooth fairy. Graham played by Edward Norton has some memorable exchanges with Hannibal, true to the books and the film itself is a tightly made thriller. Ralph Fiennes as the tooth fairy gives an equally wonderful performance letting his humanity shine through at just the right moments so much so that we begin to empathize with him to some degree. The references to Blake’s poetry is sublimely captured in the film and the supporting cast which includes the likes of Harvey Keitel and Philip Seymour Hoffman make this film a visual and narrative treat.

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19. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Directed by Chris Columbus this is the second film of the Harry Potter franchise based on the works of J.K. Rowling and follows the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione in their second year at Hogwarts as they try to fight a mysterious monster that petrifies the students. This franchise is an emotional ride for an entire generation that grew up with the boy who lived, so it automatically becomes a film to watch. However, all bias aside it also became the second highest grossing film of 2002 which goes to show that it is a finely made film as well.

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18. 8 Mile

Based on the life of reputed rapper Eminem, this biographical film directed by Curtis Hanson is one of the great films about rap music and the kind of sociological causes that drive people to such music. It shows the story of Eminem’s life before he rose to fame and how he broke into an industry that was predominantly controlled by African-Americans. This film is a brilliant commentary on the rap community and the socio economic conditions of such communities. Furthermore it gives us an insight into one of the most famous rappers in the world and definitely is a film to watch not just for movie enthusiasts but for those drawn to music as well.

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17. A Walk To Remember

Based on the famous book by Nicholas Sparks, this Adam Shankman directed films is one of the finest romantic movies that have been made in Hollywood. Starring Shane West and Mandy Moore this coming of age romance has all the correct ingredients – young love, the pain of loss, and redemption and viewers will definitely be left with tears in their eyes, a smile on their faces and warmth in their hearts by the time they are through with watching this film.

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16. The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers

Beating Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to become the highest grossing film in a year is no mean feat. But leave it to the Peter Jackson directed epic fantasy adventure, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels to stand up to the task. The story continues following the adventure of Frodo and Sam as they attempt to destroy the ring in the fiery pits of Mordor. This film is the second installation in the trilogy and is an excellent adaptation of Tolkien’s books. Shot wonderfully with panoramic landscapes, fight sequences and themes of friendship, love and betrayal this film is well-loved by fans of the fantasy genre and fans of cinema alike.

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15. The Ring

A Hollywood horror classic directed by Gore Verbinski, this film is actually a remake of the Japanese film Ringu. Furthermore this film paved the way for a barrage of Japanese horror movies being remade in Hollywood. The film, which inspired two sequels, has a gripping premise where anyone who watches a videotape dies within seven days. Naomi Watts plays an investigative reporter who picks up the trail of this videotape and ultimately manages to escape certain death and uncovers the truth about this cursed tape. The pervasive atmosphere of dread is what makes Ring a film that horror movie buffs still swear by.

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14. Spider Man

Spider Man fans were introduced to the first part of this trilogy directed by Sam Raimi in 2002. Tobey Maguire played an unassuming Peter Parker and our hearts went out to this beautiful performance of a friendly neighborhood superhero. The ease with which Maguire could play an easygoing and confident Spiderman and just as soon transition into the shy Peter Parker as he courts Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst will forever be etched into the memories of Spider Man fans. With a strong supporting role played by James Franco (Harry Osborne) and the maniacal antagonist Green Goblin brought to life by a very skillful Willem Dafoe, Spider Man became one of the most viewed films of 2002 and an instant hit with its intended audience.

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13. Insomnia

Christopher Nolan certainly needs no introduction for he is one of the finest directors working in Hollywood today. This psychological thriller which is a remake of the Norwegian film (1997) sharing the same name, stars Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hillary Swank. The extremely well crafted crime thriller and the portrayal of Al Pacino as a detective teetering on the edge of sanity as the killer plays mind games with him, makes the film a sublime experience. The location of the story in Alaska where the sun doesn’t set adds an almost surreal quality to the film and justifies the insomnia of Detective Dormer played by Pacino. It is one of Nolan’s finest films and definitely one of the great films of 2002.

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12. Minority Report

Another Tom Cruise flick on the list. The movie is known for its technology and gadgets. And the most significant part is that the portrayed tech has actually translated into daily life. It inspired a world of tablets with instant content push and update. The touch and motion based UI. Also, the tech localisation of stores and mega marts. And the most famous sensor LED touch screen. The movie is still seen as the Nostradamus of the tech world and it remains to be seen if the transport world becomes exactly like the movie depicted.

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11. Irreversible

Gaspar Noe is a controversial and an avant grade director. His 2002 film starring Monica Bellucci is testament to this statement. The story follows two men on the streets of Paris attempting to avenge the rape of a girlfriend. What sets this film apart is the non linear narrative technique, confrontational material including gore, violence and rape and the fantastic acting from all of the cast. It is not a mainstream movie but film lovers should definitely watch this film and acquaint themselves with other works of Gaspar Noe as well for they are a visual treat of the finest quality.

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10. Gangs of New York

Directed by Martin Scorsese, this epic period drama captures the street gang culture of New York and all the bloodshed and violence that accompanies it. It shows a society where the poor have to resort to unsavory means to survive while the rich have no qualms about exploiting the poor. Augmented with stellar performances from Daniel Day Lewis as Bill the Butcher and Leonardo DiCaprio as the deceased Priest Vallon’s son, it is not really surprising that this film was nominated for the Best Picture category in the Oscars. Cinema buffs with an interest for trivia will know that although the film was released sometime after the Twin Towers went down tragically, Scorsese refused to edit the final shot and wipe out the Towers from the skyline as an homage to the events on 9/11.

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9. Chicago

This film based on the Broadway musical of the same name is directed by Rob Marshall and is only second on the list because of a personal bias towards Scorsese. However, the Academy Award winner for the best film automatically becomes the best film of 2002. Starring Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones and Richard Gere, this musical crime comedy is a riveting tale of love for stardom and the pitfalls along the way. A well-directed film, it became the first musical to win Best Picture award since Oliver!

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8. Punch Drunk Love

Arguably, the most underrated film of Paul Thomas Anderson. Inarguably, Adam Sandler’s best performance till date. ‘Punch Drunk Love’ tells us about the uneventful life of Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), how he is continuously rebuked by his sister gang and how his tedious lifestyle is stirred up by events, including falling for Lena (Emily Watson). Paul Anderson uses the comic persona of Sandler and gives us a touching and unique romantic-comedy. It is a shame that the film flopped at the box-office. Critics were kind to the film when it released, but not many remember it now.

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7. Adaptation

So the story of ‘Adaptation’ goes like this; it was 1999 and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman had been signed to make a cinematic adaptation of ‘The Orchid Thief’, but he was frustrated with a writer’s block as he didn’t know what to think of the book. Finally, in a stroke of genius, he instead wrote a screenplay based on his own experiences of adapting the book, topping actual facts with a dollop of fiction. Though the film is billed as an adaptation of “The Orchid Thief”, its primary narrative focus is Kaufman’s struggle to adapt the book into a film, while dramatising the events of the book in parallel. This ingenius self-referential and metacinematic plotline alone would be enough to grant a film a spot here, but Director Spike Jonze’s original and funny rendition as well great performances all around make it soar right at the penultimate position.

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6. Catch Me If You Can

Directed by Steven Spielberg, this film stars Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. It is a biographical film based on the life of a professional conman Frank Abagnale. With a stellar performance from Hanks as tough but compassionate FBI agent and DiCaprio who effortlessly embodies the youthful carefree nature of a teenage conman but at the same time portrays the loneliness the character feels at the estrangement from his family, this film was always headed towards success. The supporting cast which included Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen only serves to better an already excellent film on crime.

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5. The Bourne Identity

Matt Damon back as Jason Bourne

‘Bourne Identity’ centers around the character of Jason Bourne a man who suffers from memory loss and needs to discover his true identity. He eventually discovers that he is a CIA assassin who failed to complete his recent mission and with the help of a woman he learns about his past actions, memory loss and gets a complete picture of the story. The A film with high voltage action and energy and while there have been numerous sequels that have come out over the years, nothing beats the raw energy and intensity of the original flick. ‘The Bourne Identity’ is just high class action and a complete entertainment package.

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4. City of God

City of God used the perfect tool to garner a mass following – a quiet and honest boy dreaming to be a photographer and a sociopathic drug lord with the soul of the devil. Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s 2004 crime film depicts the birth and growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro spanning from end of the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s. The film garnered immense praise and earned 90% favourable views on Rotten Tomatoes. Additionally, to add to its merits, City of God was inducted as the 177th best film of all time in 2008 by Empire. Although it did receive to criticism due to its gun infused violence, the films growing popularity was unhindered.

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3. The Pianist

Directed by Roman Polanski this film is easily one of the best films of 2002. It certainly has the accolades to back it up having won the best director and best actor awards at the Oscar that year and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Adrian Brody delivers a superb performance as Wladyslaw Szpilman whose memoir is the main material for the film. It portrays the Polish invasion by both German and Soviet forces and the suffering in the Polish ghettos and the subsequent uprising. Szpilman’s life of pain and suffering and finally deliverance is a captivating tale brought to screen most skillfully by Polanski and is definitely a must watch for any film lover.

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2. 25th Hour

Spike Lee’s best film since ‘Do the Right Thing’, ’25th Hour’ is more than just a tribute to New York City — Lee’s home — post 9/11 attacks. Smart, restrained and atmospheric, it is a film about how “fear” is an integral part of everyone’s life and how it also drives and influences the decision-making of a person. The open-ended climax takes the film to even a higher level of artistry. I am aware of the fact that it has featured in a few “best of the 21st century” lists, but still ’25th Hour’ deserves much more praise than it has received.

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1. Talk to Her

‘Talk to Her’ is one of the most unusual films you will ever see — not surprising, considering Pedro Almodóvar is at the helm — but at the same time, it is also one of the most intellectually stimulating. The film combines spirituality and sensuality in ways that only Almodóvar can imagine and yet, leaves us undeniably moved. Not to mention, the film has an incredible ending that you won’t be able to forget easily.

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