With shows like Stranger Things bringing ’80s nostalgia to an all-time high, it is only a matter of time before the 2000s become the decade that everyone looks back fondly on. With its burgeoning tech culture and unique fashion sense, the first ten years of the new millennium have already spawned a few nostalgic flicks in the 2020s.
From Disney animated films like Turning Red to heart-wrenching dramas like Dear Zoe, it is already clear that the aughts are on the rise in popular culture. Though plenty of films have been set in that bygone decade, only a select few stir up the nostalgic feelings that audiences are looking for.
The Grudge (2020)
Horror isn’t usually associated with nostalgia, but the immense success of the original American version of The Grudge has firmly established its place in ’00s pop culture. The reboot of the franchise follows a detective who investigates a series of grizzly murders that all involve the same haunted house.
With the film set in the mid-’00s, the movie is not only nostalgic because of its association with an aughts classic, but the look of the film is very period appropriate. Though it failed to move the needle with critics, The Grudge is a worthy installment in the series that transports viewers back to the first time they were spooked by the franchise.
Dear Zoe (2022)
Movies like Dear Zoe are rare in today’s aughts-obsessed world because it uses the time period as a backdrop and doesn’t necessarily sugarcoat things in the way that most nostalgic movies do. The film follows a young girl who, in the wake of her sister’s untimely death, reconnects with her estranged father.
Sadie Sink carries the film with her strong performance, and the nods to early-’00s culture are much more subtle than the usual nostalgia-centric flicks. Dear Zoe could have been set in any time period, but the choice to place it in the aughts makes it the perfect film for anyone looking for a serious tale from the recent past.
Senior Year (2022)
The 2000s was a decade known for its silly teen comedies, and the Netflix original film Senior Year would have fit right in among movies like Mean Girls. After waking from a 20-year coma, a woman returns to high school in an attempt to recapture the youth that she missed out on.
Stuffed with vintage shoutouts to the ’90s and ’00s, it is clear that Senior Year was specifically designed to appeal to an audience of a certain age that also misses those bygone days. Rebel Wilson was the perfect fish-out-of-water character, and the humor is an excellent addition to the high school nostalgia.
If there is one production company that knows how to pull on the nostalgic heartstrings it’s Disney, and their long-awaited sequel to Enchanted was exactly what many fans were waiting for. Disenchanted catches up with the heroes of the first film as they move to a new kingdom which causes repercussions in the real world.
Most of the familiar faces from the first film returned to reprise their roles, and the sequel has all the same humorous energy but with the added layer of nostalgia as well. Much in the same way that Enchanted took advantage of the audience’s love of classic Disney, Disenchanted banked on the nostalgia for the 2007 hit.
Orphan: First Kill (2022)
Making waves upon its initial release, Orphan wasn’t necessarily a hit but left a big impact on viewers when it was released in 2009. Orphan: First Kill is the prequel and tells the story of Esther before she came to live with the family from the first film.
As years went by, Orphan garnered a bit of a reputation as a cult classic, and audiences were eager to get the wits scared out of them as they did in the ’00s. Presenting one of the most iconic killer kids in film history, Esther has become a nostalgic horror icon along the lines of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees.
Marry Me (2022)
Even though it is set in the modern day, the Jennifer Lopez vehicle Marry Me has the exact same vibe as many of the films she starred in during the aughts. A pop superstar learns that her fiancé has cheated on her and in a split-second decision she marries a random fan in the audience instead.
Hearkening back to the golden age of cheesy rom-coms, Marry Me features J-Lo and Owen Wilson in roles they definitely could have played in the ’00s. While it didn’t set the world on fire critically, the film has a comfortable feeling like many of the rom-coms that audiences have seen over and over again.
Drifting Home (2022)
One of the things that people are often nostalgic about from the past is the wonder of childhood, and the Japanese animated film Drifting Home took the idea of youthful fantasy quite literally. Two young friends reunite when their entire apartment building suddenly begins to drift on a massive ocean.
The colors are warm and inviting, and the low-stakes story allows the viewer to fully sink into the comfortable nostalgia that the movie exudes. Though it isn’t explicitly set in the aughts, it is clear from the clothing and technology that the film is reaching for days gone by.
Endless Rain (2021)
Modern technology has sapped a lot of the romance out of life, and Endless Rain used the 2000s as a way to get some of that romance back. An aimless college student adds spice to his life by writing a series of letters to an old classmate that he always had feelings for.
Endless Rain‘s greatest strength is its focus on old-school romance, and the nostalgia is just an added benefit. The Korean film’s nostalgia is a little different from the usual American throwbacks, but the tone is instantly recognizable no matter where the viewer comes from.
Turning Red (2022)
Filled to the brim with relatable moments, Turning Red found a clever way to mix nostalgia with a genuinely gripping coming-of-age story. A young girl living in Toronto comes to grips with the fact that she is no longer a child, and must also deal with turning into a giant red panda whenever she is too stressed out.
Making clever commentary about mental health and puberty, Turning Red is one of Disney’s most intelligent films and also one of its most eye-catching. The vibrant fashions of the early-’00s are on full display, and the art design of the film is like an exaggerated reflection of how the audience remembers their youth.
Totally slipping under the radar upon its initial release, Disney’s underrated animated flick Onward somehow managed to be a nostalgic experience despite being set in an entirely fantastical world. The film follows two young brothers who go on an epic quest to recover an artifact that will allow them to speak to their deceased father one last time.
The teenage energy of the film is strong, and viewers who miss the aughts will be able to relate to the growing pains of the two brothers. Not only is the world fascinating to learn about, but there is a fair amount of recognizable elements that hearken back to the seeming simplicity of the 2000s.