Pay It Forward (2000)
> IMDb rating: 7.2 / 10
> Tomatometer score: 39%
> RT audience score: 77%
> Directed by: Mimi Leder
> Starring: Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, Jay Mohr
A young boy (Haley Joel Osment) takes a social studies assignment to heart in this saccharine melodrama. His idea of “paying it forward” (i.e. passing self-less favors onto others) kicks off a national wave of human kindness. Audiences were more receptive to the film than critics, many of whom found it a bit too self-righteous and sentimental.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
> IMDb rating: 8.3 / 10
> Tomatometer score: 79%
> RT audience score: 93%
> Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
> Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans
Darren Aronofsky’s sophomore feature delivers a brutal examination on the nature of addiction. Based on Hubert Selby Jr.’s similarly gritty novel, it depicts four Coney Island residents as they sink into various states of despair.
One Hour Photo (2002)
> IMDb rating: 6.8 / 10
> Tomatometer score: 82%
> RT audience score: 65%
> Directed by: Mark Romanek
> Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith
A lonely photo technician (Robin Williams) develops a twisted obsession with a family of loyal customers in this psychological thriller. As he plunges himself into their lives, dark secrets bubble to the surface.
The Pianist (2002)
> IMDb rating: 8.5 / 10
> Tomatometer score: 95%
> RT audience score: 96%
> Directed by: Roman Polanski
> Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox
Based on the life of Polish-Jewish pianist and Holocaust survivor Władysław Szpilman, this saga follows the man’s experiences during the Nazi occupation of his native country. After his family is shipped off to the death camp, he helps smuggle arms to Resistance fighters, witnesses the unsuccessful Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, is taken in by a sympathetic Nazi officer, and survives the war.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
> IMDb rating: 8.3 / 10
> Tomatometer score: 92%
> RT audience score: 94%
> Directed by: Michel Gondry
> Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Gerry Robert Byrne
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” stands out from other films thanks to its relentless creativity, driven by the film’s director Michel Gondry and co-writer Charlie Kaufman. The clever direction and original screenwriting help highlight a story of heartbreak, in which two former lovers attempt to remove all memories of their failed relationship.
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