We all watch movies, and which is the “best” is a matter of opinion really. Here are the top 10 historical movies from 2000-2010. Don’t forget to check out other lists throughout Thought for Your Penny.
10. The Last Samurai (2003) 66% at Rotten Tomatoes
This epic from Cruise is set in beautiful scenery. It’s unfortunately all that landscape is soon to be covered in blood. Watch as the Samurai battle to preserve their culture after the modernization of Japan.
Director: Edward Zwick
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Koyuki
9. Gladiator (2000) 76% at Rotten Tomatoes
Relive the carnage and brutality of the Roman coliseum through the eyes of Maximus, a betrayed Roman General whose family was murdered in a play for the crown. Now he’s looking to get revenge against the evil Caesar who has to be Joffrey’s real dad.
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Connie Nielsen, Joaquin Phoenix
8. Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007) 87% at Rotten Tomatoes
Genghis Khan is known as the greatest leader in human history. He grew up a slave and conquered half the world back in 1206. Relive his epic journey from obscurity to greatness in this Russian epic film.
Director: Sergei Bodrov
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Amadu Mamdakov, Khulan Chuluun
7. 300 (2006) 60% at Rotten Tomatoes
It’s a bit exaggerated, though not more than any other historical epic. The 300 Spartans who laid their lives on the line fighting thousands of invading Persians in 480 B.C. will have you screaming “This is Sparta!”
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham
6. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) 91% at Rotten Tomatoes
World War II was one of the most brutal in history, and Letters from Iwo Jima relives it through the eyes of Japanese soldiers. It’s a much different look than American propaganda would have you believe. Watanabe shines in this companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara
5. The New World (2005) 62% at Rotten Tomatoes
Not exactly beloved by critics, Farrell’s take on Captain Smith and Pocahontas is actually a great movie. It’s still watchable today and much better than Farrell’s other historical epics like Alexander. It’s even as good as the Disney cartoon version.
Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer
4. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) 35% at Rotten Tomatoes
The story of Nitta Sayuri is told in this scenic movie about leaving a small fishing village to become one of the most respected geisha of the era. While it’s generally panned by critics, it’s a beautiful movie that leaves you wanting to travel back to feudal Japan.
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh
3. Asoka (2001) 100% at Rotten Tomatoes
Perhaps one of the most accurate historical epics, King Ashoka’s life is told quite well in this critically acclaimed movie. Although modern hindi is spoken, it’s been regarded by academics to be mostly free of the errors that plague most movies based on true stories.
Director: Santosh Sivan
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Danny Densongpa
2. Gangs of New York (2002) 75% at Rotten Tomatoes
If you thought the west was wild, you have no idea how bad the east coast is in 1863. When Amsterdam Vallon returns to the Five Points to kill Bill the Butcher (his father’s murderer), all hell breaks loose. See the beginning of America’s crime problems in New York.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis
1. Apocalypto (2006) 65% at Rotten Tomatoes
Mel Gibson figured out the historical epic with Passion of the Christ, but he really perfected it in Apocalypto. The story of the Mayan kingdom in its heyday, you become fully invested in the small villages trying to stay safe. Until the end when you realize the European invaders will be a much worse plague on the kingdom.
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Max Trujillo, Dalia Hernandez