What It’s About: A mysterious man appears in New York, claiming he’s an alien from the planet K-Pax.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It plays less like the expected feel-good drama and more as a smartly written, compelling mystery more than anyone would probably expect. It’s also anchored by Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges’ stellar performances.
“The New Guy” (2002)
What It’s About: It’s a male version of “She’s All That,” but way way sillier.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It’s the epitome of silly teen movies everywhere, and it’s chock full of quotable jokes and memes (like “crazy eyes”). It remains an underappreciated classic. Also, Eliza Dushku.
“Orange County” (2002)
What It’s About: A high school senior and his witless brother break into Stanford to add him to their acceptance list.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It was probably the funniest movie of the year when it came out, thanks largely to a hilarious supporting turn by Jack Black as the main character’s burnout brother.
“Matchstick Men” (2003)
What It’s About: Nicolas Cage discovers he has a teenage daughter during a midlife crisis. So, it’s awesome.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Nicolas Cage is in the unhinged, manic acting territory, where he thrives. It’s also bolstered by witty banter throughout and a solid twist ending.
“Big Fish” (2003)
What It’s About: This is an often forgotten Tim Burton picture about a man recounting the many tall tales his father told him on his deathbed.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: If you’ve ever had a family member who passes on stories, it’ll resonate heavily with you. It also has an ending as moving, cathartic, and tear-inducing as they come.
“I Heart Huckabees” (2004)
What It’s About: It’s a movie by David O. Russell about existentialism (sort of) with Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law, and numerous others.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It’s one of those movies that’s so batshit crazy, it’s hard to take your eyes off of it. It’s part existential crisis, part slapstick comedy, part meta-commentary, part human drama. “I Heart Huckabees” is one of those movies that you just have to see to believe (or understand, for that matter). It doesn’t disappoint.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
What It’s About: Thief-turned-actor Robert Downey, Jr., partners up with gay P.I. Val Kilmer to solve a murder mystery in modern-noir Los Angeles.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Pre-“Iron Man” RDJ and pre-bloat Val Kilmer give some of their best performances of all time with such effortless chemistry and charisma, you’ll kick yourself wondering how you had gone so long without seeing such an excellent movie.
“Kicking and Screaming” (2005)
What It’s About: Will Ferrell coaches a kid’s soccer team and gets way too into it.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It perfectly captures that “sports-team-dad-coach” vibe. The yelling. The ego. The extended Mike Ditka cameo. This movie has it all.
“Déjà Vu” (2006)
What It’s About: A Tony Scott-directed thriller that stars Denzel Washington, solves a terrorism case in New Orleans.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It takes advantage of the visually-destroyed, post-Katrina New Orleans to help make its detective/thriller story more meaningful. It also pulls off a successful time bending narrative, which digs into fate, faith, and consequences without ever feeling like a sci-fi movie. Psychologically dense and philosophically challenging, it takes what could’ve been a disposable movie and makes it something more.
“Stranger Than Fiction” (2006)
What It’s About: Will Ferrell’s Harold Crick discovers his entire life is being narrated by an acclaimed author, and that his death is imminent.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Though it was presented as a comedy at the fever pitch of the mid-2000s Will Ferrell comedies, it’s actually a deeply poetic drama and elegant commentary on how we view our own mortality.
“Observe and Report” (2009)
What It’s About: It’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” but R-rated with Seth Rogen, bipolar disorder, and full-frontal male nudity.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It has a definite mean-spiritedness, but if you get on board, it’s not only a depraved and hilarious movie, but it’s also a strangely sad, dark look at the delusional lives of people who never can quite get ahead. This is probably Seth Rogen’s best career performance so far.