9 Characters of the '00s Who Changed Movies Forever

While the '00s -- or the Aughts, or whatever you want to call the decade almost past -- end at midnight Thursday, they leave a spectrum of legacies for us to consider heading into the '10s. Not a lot of them were very good for movies, unfortunately, but filmgoers can still find some pretty significant influences in all the debris and disappointments. And love them or hate them, some of the most important influences came in convenient character form. Read on for an assortment of the essentials, and of course add your own after browsing.

[In order of appearance]

· Leticia Musgrove (Monster's Ball, 2001)

Prior to Halle Berry's death-row widow -- who seduced her husband's executioner between whipping her obese son's hide -- it wasn't quite so fashionable for mainstream glamour actresses to go in search of uglified indie roles that might help validate them through awards-season attention. After Letitia changed Berry's life (however briefly), a similar tack worked for Nicole Kidman (The Hours), Charlize Theron (Monster), Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) and Kate Winslet (The Reader). And those were just Oscar winners; Naomi Watts (21 Grams), Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) and who knows how many others carried their films to prominence on the strength of performance and Oscar-worthy self-degradation.

· Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, 2002)

Yes, fans, I know the mincing, much-hated Gungan prat was introduced and received the majority of his franchise screen time in 1999's The Phantom Menace. Which is exactly the point: Prior to 2002, despite George Lucas's reedting, souping up and indiscriminately plundering the Star Wars universe to within an inch of its life, fans had to mount a global repudiation of Jar Jar Binks before the aloof filmmaker ever took their considerations to heart. Clones's reduction of Jar Jar to a minor role -- plus its reinstatement of C3PO as comic relief -- proved that even if Lucas wasn't always listening, he could be gotten to.

· Joel Barish (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004)

It was some kind of miracle that Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman got to make another movie after their maligned 2001 collaboration Human Nature. But there it was: Eternal Sunshine, their classic experiment in love, memory, medicine and narrative that has endured to become many critics' favorite film of the decade. As its principals shared a screenplay Oscar, the film's semi-autobiographical lead character made the '00s safe for both Gondry (who'd revisit similar themes on his own, and not quite as successfully, in The Science of Sleep) and Kaufman, whose Synechdoche, New York emerged as one of the most confounding and underrated films of this or any decade. Moreover, Barish's downbeat romantic represented the last (the only?) memorable character Jim Carrey would play in the '00s -- and maybe even a career peak.

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  • WTF says:

    were the hell is the Joker from TDK???? Heath Ledger's performance changed the way of villains in cinema. the joker was chilling, ad funny at the same time, and i thought it was the bst performance of 2008, and it should b on the list

  • Vir says:

    1) Gollum (and Orcs, Ents,trolls, Nazgul flying beast, Wargs, all LORTR creatures..lol)
    2) Jack Sparrow
    3) The Dark Knight
    4) Harry Potter
    5) Spiderman
    6) Shrek
    7) Faun (Pan´s Labyrith)
    8) Wall-E
    9) King Leonidas
    ETC...it was a fantasy, Sci-Fi, epic, adventure, etc.... decade ...Hollywood helped us to forgot this terrible decade...XD.

  • tera says:

    Sure there are better characters I think. Sure there are better movies. I personally am so sick of SATC I could puke. However, I think you are all forgetting this is one persons opinion and he's entitled to it.
    Start a blog and make your own lists! 🙂

  • Harshad says:

    Well I was expecting Heath Ledger's Joker to be on the list. That was a perfect example of getting into the skin of the character. And you have included Speed Racer?

  • bb says:

    JACK SPARROW!! where is he on this "list"? that performance by johnny depp was quirky and fun and different and almost everyone loved it. it will definately be remembered for years.
    also, gollum, joker, harry potter. also, her performance as Jules shot keira knightley to fame so that may be worth mentioning, but not enough to get on the list.
    again, JACK SPARROW!!!

  • Cat says:

    I think there's quite a few characters missing but I sure agree with Ennis Del Mar. He, Brokeback Mountain and Heath Ledger will be remembered for a long time!

  • someone with time to spare says:

    This list is unavoidably the reflection of mister van Airsdale's conception of changes in filmmaking during the last decade. Why he would decide to give it form as a characters list instead of original writing or directing style, say, is anyone's guess. Maybe his intention was to name nine performances which he thought were worthy or the "changed movies forever" epithet. If that were the case, though, the inclusion of Binks as proof that a certain filmmaker can be influenced by a certain audience is sorely out of place. This is true even more so where the main character in "Eternal Sunshine" is cited to stand in place for that film's praise of its writing and directing. This, then, is a list flawed from its conception. That, in and of itself, would not be wrong or even bothersome if its author were to identify it as such: a very personal perception of the changes that took place within the English-speaking filmmaking industry, not a deterministic listing of inflection markers along the evolving curve of movies. This I find to be dangerous for, as Umberto Eco said, "the list is the origin of culture." I'm unable to imagine a culture whose origins are to be found in lists such as these and sleep soundly.
    For this reason, then, I'm comfortable in declaring clearly and unabashedly that I consider mister van Airsdale to indeed be an idiot.

  • Moviebuffy says:

    This is probably the worst movie list I have ever seen online wow! How did you get the editors post this article in here...?

  • SeaDuff says:

    The list is of characters that changed movies forever (in the writer's opinion) in terms of their impact on the industry or inspiring change in the way movies are made or distributed. The list is not of the best or most memorable performances of the decade. I don't agree with all the selections, but stop trying to argue the performances that were the most earth-shattering for you. That would be a different list.

  • TV/Movie Fan says:

    Two comments.
    One-To say that any fictional movie character in the '00s changed the movies forever is a huge over statement. Blu-ray, HDTV, the switch from film to digital and downloading films over the internet changed the movies forever, not fictional characters.
    Second-If there is one original fictional movie character from the decade just past who will be remembered whenever people look back at the '00s; it is Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp. He was featured in 3 of the most popular films of the decade, and will probably be in a fourth, or maybe more. Unlike Speed Racer, Carrie Bradshaw, or Jar Jar Blinks he was a totally original character from the '00s. Also unlike Speed Racer or Jar Jar Blinks, most people do like the character of Capt. Sparrow. That's one of the main reasons a movie inspired by an amusement park ride was the huge critical and commerical sucess it turned out to be.

  • md says:

    Yeah... though I appreciate the thought put into the list, I'm not sure it fits its title. Each of the characters you named are memorable, but few of them changed movies forever. Ennis, for example, created a lot of discussion, but I haven't noticed a sea change in the way gay characters are portrayed or an admirable increase in their inclusion.
    Berry's inclusion is a good one, but a number of the actresses you mentioned as following her had already starred in unflattering/disturbed roles (think Winslet in Heavenly Creatures or Watts in Mulholland Drive).
    Your inclusion of Carrey's role in Eternal Sunshne is undermined in your own praise, when you mention that Synecdoche, NY, which, by your theory, a film like Eternal Sunshine should have opened audience's up to, went relatively unnoticed.
    Personally, I think both Gollum and the Avatar girl belong on the list. As the former paved the way for the latter, but the latter is obviously setting another benchmark for future films.
    Anyway... a good list of memorable characters, some of whom defied conventions, but not necessarily a list of characters who changed movies forever.

  • Maven says:

    Calling "There Will Be Blood" the "best movie" of ANY time period, including the ten seconds when it was first released, is such an exercise in monumental stupidity that it pretty much invalidates anything else you have to say.

  • Phil E. Drifter says:

    The decade doesn't end until midnight on Dec. 31st 2010.
    There was no year zero, it went from 1BC->1AD/1CE.
    Decades don't start at 0 and end at 10, they start at 1 and end at 11.

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