Just as we could easily count numerous movies that performed modestly (or even poorly) at the box office among some of the best movies of the 2000s, not all of the movies that scored the biggest box office hauls during the 2000s were a hit with the critics. And that’s exactly what we’re here to explore. Up ahead, you’ll find some of the biggest box office winners of the first decade of the century, as well as whether or not the critics liked them.
For the box office totals, we’re focusing on the worldwide box office total for films released between 2000 and 2009 (based on Box Office Mojo‘s numbers), and the review scores included for each film, as listed by Rotten Tomatoes. Here are 30+ box office winners from the 2000s (in no particular order).
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
Following up on the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films, At World’s End was one of the biggest box office winners of the 2000s, grossing more than $960 million worldwide. Alas, the critics weren’t so fond of it. While the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes has managed to squeak past 70%, the review score for the film is a rotten 44%.
It should come as no surprise that Avatar was among the top grossing films of the 2000s. As the decade drew to a close, James Cameron’s sci-fi epic starring Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington arrived and has amassed a global box office close to $3 billion (BoM has its worldwide box office at just over $2.9 billion). And in this case, the critics seemed to be mostly on board with the film, with a Rotten Tomatoes review score of 81%.
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
As popular as the Harry Potter books were in 2001, the Wizarding World fandom was really only just starting to build steam when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (aka Philosopher’s Stone) arrived in theaters. The first movie in the 8-film franchise would go on to surpass a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Critics were, for the most part, happy with the adaptation as well, as the movie holds an 81% review score at Rotten Tomatoes.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Why so serious? Perhaps it’s because the worldwide box office total for The Dark Knight is no joke. The second movie in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has surpassed a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. This one was undoubtedly a hit with critics as well, as The Dark Knight earned itself a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter fans were still showing up for the film adaptations as the 2000s drew to a close, as evidenced by the sixth movie in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which brought in just over $934 million at the worldwide box office. As for whether or not the critics liked it, with a review score on Rotten Tomatoes of 84%, it’s safe to say that most of them did.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Following up on the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Gore Verbinksi’s sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, brought Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow back for another adventure with Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann. The payoff for the film was a worldwide box office total that surpassed a billion dollars. Critics weren’t quite so into it, however, as the RT review score has it at a rotten 52%.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Those who were among the movie-going public in the early ‘00s surely remember what a huge deal it was when a new installment of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy arrived in theaters. So it should come as no surprise that the second film, The Two Towers, earned over $948 million at the worldwide box office. And the majority of critics gave it a thumbs up, as Rotten Tomatoes has the review score set at a fresh 95%.
Shrek 2 (2004)
In 2004, Shrek returned and the audience showed up for it. The Mike Myers animated sequel from Dreamworks earned over $928 million at the global box office. 2004’s Shrek 2 was also popular among critics, as it holds a Rotten Tomato review rating of 89%.
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (2009)
While Michael Bay’s 2009 Transformers sequel, Revenge of the Fallen scored big at the box office, earning more than $836 million worldwide, the film wasn’t nearly as successful at winning over the critics. Rotten Tomatoes has the review score for the Shia LaBeouf movie at 20%. If it’s any consolation, movie-goers are a bit more fond of it than critics were, as the audience score is 57%.
The early 2000s were a fun time for superhero fans, thanks in large part to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man swinging into theaters and introducing us to a live-action Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire). Fans were there to watch the webslinger’s origin story, as the 2002 movie brought in over $825 million at theaters around the world. And critics were clearly on board as well, as the movie has a RT review score of 90%!
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005)
Mike Newell’s adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire arrived in theaters in 2005, and fans of the boy who lived headed to theaters to see Harry face the Triwizard Tournament during his fourth year at Hogwarts. This Wizarding World movie brought in just under $900 million worldwide, and earned mostly positive reviews, with a respectable 88% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The 2009 movie 2012 saw John Cusack’s character racing around the world in various vehicles averting a myriad of catastrophes while trying to secure safety for himself and his family during a world-ending event. 2012 is among the highest box office winners of the 2000s, thanks in large part to the international box office, which according to Box Office Mojo, accounts for 79% of its box office total. The Rolland Emmerich disaster film earned a total of more than $791 million worldwide. Alas, the review score on Rotten Tomatoes is rotten at 39%.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
While most probably wouldn’t call Spider-Man 3 the best Spider-Man movie of the Sam Raimi films, fans of Peter Parker did show up to see Tobey Maguire’s return to the franchise in 2007. Spider-Man 3 earned over $894 million at the worldwide box office. Based on its 63% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, it seems critics weren’t entirely in agreement about whether or not this one worked.
Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs (2009)
The Ice Age movies were still going strong at the box office by the end of the 2000s. The third movie – Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – arrived in theaters in 2009 and earned a worldwide box office total of $886 million. Based on the Rotten Tomatoes review score for the movie, however, critics weren’t all in love with this one, as it’s set at a rotten 46%.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
The first film in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy made a splash among fans and at the box office, with a worldwide gross of just under $900 million. It also started things off well in the reviews, as the 2001 movie holds a fresh 91% review score at Rotten Tomatoes.
Shrek The Third (2007)
While the third movie in the Shrek franchise can celebrate having brought in just over $813 million at the worldwide box office, critics weren’t quite as enthusiastic about it in the reviews. The 2007 Dreamworks movie holds a rotten review score of 42% at Rotten Tomatoes (and the audience score isn’t much higher).
Finding Nemo (2003)
Pixar’s Finding Nemo undoubtedly had cause to celebrate when it arrived in theaters in 2003. For one thing, the beloved movie earned over $941 million at the worldwide box office. What’s more, Finding Nemo was reviewed positively by almost all of the critics who rated it, at least based on its Rotten Tomatoes score, which is sitting at 99% fresh.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith (2005)
The third film among the Star Wars prequels arrived in theaters in 2005, and fans were there to see how Anakin Skywalker’s story left off. Revenge of the Sith took in more than $868 million at the worldwide box office. Its score on Rotten Tomatoes among reviewers is mostly positive, with a fresh rating of 79%.
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (2002)
In 2002, Harry Potter returned to Hogwarts for his second year, and fans of the Wizarding World showed up to watch. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets brought in over $926 million at the worldwide box office. Meanwhile the majority of critics were in agreement about the Chris Columbus movie working, as its Rotten Tomatoes score is a fresh 82%.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Given the popularity of Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, at the time, it’s no surprise that Ron Howard’s adaptation starring Tom Hanks would be among the decade’s box office winners. The 2006 movie earned more than $760 million worldwide. However, critics weren’t feeling especially positive about it, as it holds a rotten score of 25% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Michael Bay wowed audiences in 2007 when he brought the Transformers to the big screen with a live-action film. The Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox franchise-starter earned over $709 million worldwide. The critical reaction was a bit mixed on the film, however, as it holds a rotten score of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. (The audience score is much higher, at 85%).
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004)
In 2004, the third Harry Potter movie arrived in theaters, and unsurprisingly won big at the box office, bringing in more than $807 million worldwide. While many – myself included – consider Alfonso Cuarón’s film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to be the best of the Harry Potter adaptations, the critics were also mostly in agreement that the movie worked, as it holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90%.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
The tail end of the 2000s saw the rise of the Twilight movies, and while the first film in the vampire franchise performed well it didn’t earn enough worldwide to warrant a spot on this list. The feature adaptation of New Moon, however, earned more than $711 million worldwide at the box office. While that’s a big win for the Twilight Saga, the review score, however, is a rotten 29% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)
In 2008, Harrison Ford returned to the role of Indiana Jones for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Fans were eager to see the Steven Spielberg movie, and it showed in the worldwide box office, with a total of $790 million. Critics were also mostly positive on this one, with a Rotten Tomatoes review score of 77%. The audience score isn’t quite so high.
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (2007)
The fifth film in the Harry Potter franchise continued the trend of box office success, earning over $939 million worldwide. And while Order of the Phoenix doesn’t hold one of the highest review scores among the Harry Potter movies on Rotten Tomatoes – the top honor there goes to 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at 96% – the fifth movie did fairly well among critics, with a 78% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Keanu Reeves returned to the role of Neo in The Matrix Reloaded, the Wachowski’s sequel to the popular 1999 sci-fi action film, The Matrix. The action-packed followup brought in over $741 million at the worldwide box office, and earned a fresh review score of 74%.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones (2002)
In 2002, the second of the three Star Wars prequels arrived in theaters, earning more than $653 million at the worldwide box office. While critics weren’t in total agreement about Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the movie does hold a 65% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
It should come as no surprise to see Spider-Man 2 on this list. The second of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies was a hit at the worldwide box office, bringing in more than $788 million. And the critics were mostly in agreement about the movie wording, as it holds a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)
Andrew Adamson’s 2005 adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was one of the big releases in 2005. The Chronicles of Narnia took in over $745 million at the worldwide box office. The critics, for the most part, appreciated the fantasy movie, as it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 75%.
Will Smith took the lead in Peter Berg’s 2008 superhero drama Hancock, which brought in just over $629 million at the box office. Though the movie had potential, critics were mixed on whether or not it worked, which resulted in its rotten score of 42% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Toward the end of the decade, Pixar had us all in tears in those first few minutes of Up. The animated film earned more than $735 million at the worldwide box office when all was said and done. And critics were into it as well, as the movie holds an impressive 98% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
In 2007, Pixar’s Ratatouille arrived in theaters and charmed audiences with its story of a rat with a gift for the culinary arts and the aspiring chef he befriends. Not only did the film win big with a worldwide box office total that surpassed $623 million, it also satisfied the taste buds of most critics, as it holds a 96% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
As we said, not all box office winners are a hit with the critics, but these movies certainly left an impression, for better or worse. And by the numbers, there’s no denying that people showed up at the theaters in the U.S. and across the world to see them.