The blockbuster is the defining narrative form of our time. Though TV has begun to give film a run for its money when it comes to cultural influence, for now, the international blockbuster still reigns supreme.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best blockbusters of the millennium. What is a blockbuster? Originally, the term was applied to any movie, play, or book that made a splash. The phrase came from wartime slang describing aerial bombs of the 1940s that would literally bust a whole block. It eventually evolved to refer to any film that made significantly more money than its budget.
Now, a movie blockbuster is something more specific. It implies certain narrative sensibilities and studio ambitions. A blockbuster is a big-budget film with a global release and a major marketing push both domestically and abroad. A blockbuster almost always has franchise aspirations and usually has major stars attached to make that happen. (Though, as films like The Mummy have begun to prove, the market is increasingly relying on brand or story recognition over star recognition.
Narratively, the blockbuster has a fair amount of limitations when it comes to telling a story and appeasing all of its many chiefs… which is why it’s kind of a miracle when it manages to rise above the ticking off of all of the blockbuster boxes to be a legitimately good film in its own right. This list of The 30 Best Hollywood Blockbusters of the 21st Century looks not necessarily at the most successful or even iconic films of this era, but rather those that excel in what blockbusters do best: pure popcorn entertainment.