Top Sleeper Flicks of the 00s

The decade has been filled many memorable films however, there are some that many mainstream filmgoers may have missed. Some of these films are small indie flicks that saw limited theatrical releases, some are imports that didn’t make onto the US filmgoing radar and some are box office bombs, that despite their lack of commercial success were still absolute gems.

I have listed these films in alphabetical order except for two films which I believe are the best “sleepers” or hidden gem film released in the last decade.

If you’re on Netflix or want to head out to your local video store, these are some sleeper picks that I highly recommend that you rent…stat.
-Bill Bodkin

Released: Early 2008
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Martin McDonagh

I remember when I bought this film, I actually reserved a copy of it. I asked the clerk if anyone else had reserved it and he blankly looked at me and said “you’re the only one.”

That’s quite sad- this is an awesome film.

The film is part ridiculous comedy, part caper flick, part serious drama. The plot revolves around a hit man (Colin Farrell in his best performance) who after accidentally killing a child during a hit is sent to the dream-like town of Bruges in Belgium along with his cranky co-hitman (Brendan Gleeson). While there they imbibe in the local culture, crash a movie set which features a drug addled midget and ultimately learn about life, redemption and all things Bruges.

Along with Farrell and Gleeson’s dynamite chemistry, a supporting spot by Ralph Fiennes, as the duo’s profanity spewing boss makes this film not only extremely funny but also raw, gritty and emotional.

Released: 2005
Starring: Nathan Fillon, Adam Baldwin, Chitewel Ejiofor
Director: Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Serenity is based on the cult series Firefly, and picks off where the misfit crew left off- bombing around the galaxy in search of trouble. The result is an extremely fun, clever and underrated science fiction action flick.

The film, in true Joss Whedon form, starts out as a fun and funny flick but ultimately grows a bit dark, bloody and in the end- emotional. The plot revolves around a group of space misfits led by Captain Mal (Fillon). Aboard his ship is the warrior River, who has been engineered by the government to be the perfect weapon. She just happens to be the sister of the crew’s doctor and now is in their reluctant protection. This is of course leads to major trouble.

So hot on the team’s trail is the government lead by devout badass hitman (Ejiofor) as well as a mysterious hoard of cannibal humanoids, who may just be the key to uncovering a massive government conspiracy.

The film is the perfect blend of sarcastic humor with shoot-the-works science fiction action.
Adventureland (2009)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
Director: Greg Mottola (Superbad)
Originally perceived as “Superbad 2,” this is actually an engaging dramedy about the life and love of a broke recent college grad (Eisenberg) who is forced to take a job at a local amusement park.

Away We Go (2009)
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janey, Jim Gaffigan
Director: Sam Mendes (American Beauty)
After a series of super heavy films, director Sam Mendes brings this under-the-radar quirky hipster comedy about an indie couple who deal with being pregnant. Krasinski’s against character performance is absolutely tremendous.

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney
Director: Sidney Lumet (Serpico)
A throwback to the film noirs of the 40s, this is an intense thriller about consequences and repercussions and is anchored by one of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s most intense and sweaty performance to date.

Black Book (2006)

Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch
Director: Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall)
A World War II epic about an on-the-run Jewish woman (van Houten) and her tumultuous life during the conflict. The film’s main plot revolves around her role as a spy within the German intelligence community and how she falls the SS’s chief office (Koch). Tremendously taught and features an extremely strong female lead.

Brothers Bloom (2009)

Starring: Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachael Weisz
Director: Rian Johnson (Brick)
It’s a caper flick with the cinematic flare of a Wes Anderson film. Quirky, complex and funny, the film will keep you engaged from the first con on.

Children of Men (2006)
Starring: Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore
Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban)
A “bleak future” drama that is features one of the most impressive extended action sequences of the decade filmed in a war documentary style. One of Clive Owen’s best films.

Cinderella Man (2005)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellwegger, Paul Giamatti
Director: Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind)
The film was overlooked due to the alpha male antics of Crowe and it’s quite sad, as this is one the best movies about boxing ever created. It delivers a heart-warming knock out punch and it’s sad most people missed it.

City of God (2002)

Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Alice Braga
Director: Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund
A brutal depiction of the drug and slum wars of Rio de Janiero through the eyes of Rocket, an aspiring photographer and possibly the most innocent person in the situation.

Frozen River (2008)
Starring: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott
Director: Courtney Hunt
A story of two desperate women (Leo and Upham) who resort to anything to provide for their family- even the dangerous job of smuggling illegal aliens in across a massive frozen river which is always on the verge of cracking.

Hard Candy (2005)
Starring: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh
Director: David Slade (Twilight 3, 30 Days of Night)
A brutally intense revenge flick about a young girl (Page) who lures a potential child predator (Wilson). Moral issues arise throughout and an almost overwhelming sense of tension is built throughout til the unexpected climactic end.

Hunting Party (2007)
Starring: Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Jesse Eisenberg
Director: Richard Shepherd (The Matador)
A former hotshot journalist (Gere), his former cameraman (Howard) and an aspiring reporter (Eisenberg) decide to go after a famous terrorist that the world has been hunting for years. What starts out as a clever journalists in action film turns dark and potentially deadly film.

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Director: Mabrouk el Mechri
One of the most unique film concepts ever. Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as himself, a washed up megastar whose world is falling apart- and to boot, he gets caught in the middle of a robbery. Due to mistaken identity, the police believe JCVD himself is pulling the heist and an insane media circus ensues. Look for an amazing soliloquy by Van Damme towards the film’s end.

Just Friends (2005)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Chris Klein
Director: Roger Kumble (The Sweetest Thing)
Often dismissed as silly romantic comedy, this is actually a hilarious, highly quotable and ultimately sweet comedy about a former fat kid (Reynolds) who comes home to NJ for the holidays with a pop star (Faris) in tow and tries to win back the girl of his dreams (Smart) in hilarious fashion.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Shane Black (writer- Predator, Lethal Weapon)
A petty thief (Downey Jr.) gets involved with a gay detective (Kilmer) and a convoluted Hollywood murder plot. The interaction between Downey and Kilmer is absolute dynamite.

Layer Cake (2004)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Michael Gambon, Sienna Miller, Colm Meaney
Director: Matthew Vaughn (producer- Snatch)
Think Snatch set in a more sophisticated setting. Daniel Craig, in pre-Bond form, proves why he was chosen as 007 with this stoic and confident performance, while the usual cast of unique Guy Ritchie characters and break-neck plot twists fill out the film.

Red Eye (2005)
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Muprhy, Brian Cox
Director: Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street)
An oft-forgotten, but very intense little thriller about a woman (McAdams) caught in an assassin’s (Murphy) web of deceit while on an airplane. McAdams’ performance of the meek victim turned kick ass hero is great and Murphy is eerily creepy.

Renaissance (2006)
Starring (Voice): Daniel Craig, Ian Holm, Jonathan Pryce, Catherine McCormack
Director: Christian Volckman
Mind-blowing visuals! A rotoscoped film noir set in 2050 is definitely that needs to be seen to believed!

Replacements (2000)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Jon Favreau, Orlando Jones
Director: Howard Deutch (Grumpy Old Men)
My personal guilty pleasure. Your basic “Bad News Bears” rag tag team overcomes adversity to win the big game. The football action is great and Jon Favreau’s linebacker steals the film.

Road to Perdition (2002)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Jude Law
Director: Sam Mendes (American Beauty)
How people did not see this one blows my mind. One of the best crime dramas, revolving around the Irish mafia (or any mafia for that matter) features Tom Hanks as a badass hitman who is on the road with his son. Part gangster flick, part father/son drama, all excellence.

Salton Sea
Starring: Val Kilmer, Vincent D’onfrio, Luis Guzman, Anthony LaPaglia
Director: DJ Caruso (Eagle Eye)
Val Kilmer’s best performance (outside of Ice Man) ever. Mystery arises with his identity is he a speed freak or a wounded jazz musician seeking revenge? Who’s on his side? Wonderfully written and shot, look for an early performance by Peter Sarsgaard.

Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)
Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci
Director: Michael Davis
Not for everyone. A tongue-in-cheek action pic that is one huge shoot out. Watch this through an ironic lens and you’ll enjoy it.

Son of Rambow (2007)
Starring: Neil Dudgeon, Bill Milner, Jessica Hynes
Director: Garth Jennings (Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Think Be Kind, Rewind set in grade school. Two outcast (Dudgeon and Milner) create their own film “The Son of Rambow” and become the most popular kids in school when they involve their classmates in the film. Will the popularity be good for their status or will it ruin their friendship? Extremely funny and extremely sweet.

Speed Racer (2008)
Starring: Emlie Hirsch, Matthew Fox, John Goodman
Director: The Wachowskis
A box office disaster, that a lot of people didn’t get. Serious and comic at the same time, this film was made for high definition television. It’s colorful, big and exciting.

Stranger than Fiction (2006)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gylenhaal
Director: Marc Forster (Finding Neverland)
Will Ferrell’s best performance. A great mix of comedy, drama and suspense, this film is a real cinematic treat if you’re willing to give it time as it starts a bit slow.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites


  1. Some really good films here! Have to agree about the two Val Kilmer films you list. Salton Sea is the best film he has made to date, for a serious film, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang the best comedic detective story out there.
    Layer Cake and Children of God are a great watch too. In fact with the weather as it is, think I might just go and get the dvd player cranked up! Hot chocolate and a good film is definitely the call of the day!

  2. I saw 3 out of your whole list and couldn’t agree more. I will explore some of the others not all because I’m not looking for a movies with a moral.

  3. Val Kiler’s BEST? Hands-down it was as “Doc” in the movie Tombstone. I’m your Huckleberry!

    However – I’m with you all the way with Daniel Craig and Layer Cake…and might add The Golden Compass in there too, for his great non-Bond roles.

    You also nailed it with Hanks/Newman and others in Road to perdition.

Comments are closed.