Y2K was the brief period of time between 1999 and 2001 when it was widely thought that the world’s computers would not adapt to the turn of the century, causing a global technological shutdown. Like many conspiracy theories, the Y2K event turned out not to be true, yet for a moment the fear of a fictional computer bug gripped the world.
Movies from around this time had one foot in the fading ’90s culture and the futuristic possibilities of the new Millenium. Many new cultural phenomena entered popular culture during this time that was an amalgam of the old and the new. It was an exciting time and period of much change that still leaves traces on the culture today.
10 Bridget Jones’ Diary
London has always been a fashion powerhouse, and 2001’s Bridget Jones’ Diary is a glimpse at the lifestyle and trends of the city in the 21st century. Looking at London through the eyes of a fledgling 30-year-old Bridget, she spends many evenings daydreaming in comfy pajama suits, topping her glass of red wine, and lighting another cigarette from her pack.
The characters also dawn scarves and turtlenecks to stay warm from the bitter English winter. Hugh Grant also stars as an eligible bachelor, dapperly dressed in jacket and shirt, but not afraid to loosen his collar when the occasion calls for it.
9 Coyote Ugly
Starring Tyra Banks, which is enough to seal the movie as a Y2K classic, Coyote Ugly also came out at the turn of the century. Set in New York, it draws its art style from the lingering grunge of the ’90s Big Apple but also envisions what a no-holds-barred dive bar would look like in the year 2000.
Women run the show in this movie, so the crop top and leopard print reign supreme. The early 2000s was a time of seeing increased sexuality on television and in movies, and Coyote Ugly embraces but also grapples with this shift in the culture and the generational friction it caused.
8 Donnie Darko
Although 2001’s Donnie Darko follows grim adolescents who are either dressed in black or in school uniforms and are hardly dripping with style, Donnie’s skeleton suit Halloween costume is too iconic not to mention. For those coming of age during Y2K and the years afterward, the skeleton suit came to represent their search for authenticity, which is best demonstrated in the movie’s famous line “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?”
For the lazy Halloween partier, Donnie’s outfit is a low effort classic that will earn silent nods of recognition from those who remember the reference.
7 Fight Club
On the eve of the Y2K event, Fight Club hit theaters, and its fatalistic vision of the state of masculinity at the end of the century matched the apocalyptic mood at the turn of the century. Nothing says the early 2000s more than a shirtless Brad Pitt with spiked tips, smoking a cigarette, in tight red leathers, essentially looking like Jim Morrison but fashioned for the new Millenium.
The movie’s art design, with nauseating green lighting of the New York subway and characters who occupy the underground scene, has one foot in the ’90s, but then Tyler Durden’s neon new world attire dives headlong into the future, setting men’s fashion trends in the new year.
6 Ghost World
A major theme of 2001’s Ghost World is how the main characters Enid and Rebecca feel removed from their surroundings because they find contemporary American culture repulsive. Rebecca eventually becomes complacent as she moves on from her angsty late-teenage years, but Enid is unshakeable in her nostalgia for the past.
As a result, she dyes her hair green, wears punkish leather jackets although punk is dead, prefers black-framed Buddy Holly glasses, and still wears the classic ’90s bucket hat. The oddball characters and Enid’s alternative throwback style is representative of the emo kid that entered popular culture during the Y2K era.
Cult hero Jawbreaker uses the emblematic Y2K candy with its many colorful layers to evoke the comparable vibrant palettes taking over teen fashion in 1999 when the movie was released. It’s is about a high school clique that plays a birthday prank against one of their members, using the fashionable yet deadly candy as a gag device. incidentally chokes their friend to death.
Following a plotline that Mean Girls would take inspiration from a few years later, the clique fractures and condemn each other, revealing the nastiness hiding beneath their glossy lip balm.
4 Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
Released in 2001, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is the ultimate Y2K parody movie. The titular characters are two unambitious convenience store loafers who are yet to catch up to the internet age, which results in a bunch of revelations and misunderstandings that are hilarious.
The movie makes fun of Y2K’s popular culture, whether it be the absurdity of the emerging meme culture on the internet to Charlie’s Angels, and everything in-between. Jay and Silent Bob also contrast with their surroundings, as they still dress in grungy vagabond ’90s garb that stands out against the flashy futuristic attire of the movie’s supporting cast.
3 Legally Blonde
This iconic Y2K film that came out in 2001 still enjoys similar popularity as it did upon its release. It still resonates with law students who relate to Elle Wood’s blissful ignorance, tenacious determination to overcome her colleagues’ low expectations of her, and sense of style.
She drapes herself in fluffy feathered colorful scarves, carries her chihuahua in her purse, and doesn’t let the seriousness of law school silence her pleasure of enjoying a spa day at the salon. The movie’s iconic “bend and snap” scene would influence viewers for years after, becoming a common sight on dancefloors over the course of the 2000s.
2 Save The Last Dance
Bridging the formal dance world with the underground Chicago club scene, Save the Last Dance filled a void when it came out in 2001. The movie provided a platform to bring African American dance and hip hop culture, which was prevalent on MTV, to the movie world.
Hoop earrings, classic yellow Timberlands, braids, bandanas, and more are a part of the movie’s vogue costume design.
The bizarre aesthetic of 2001’s Zoolander also matches the equally ridiculous plot. This film deals specifically with the fashion industry, and for the sake of laugh out loud dumb fun, it caricatures fashion models and the type of over the top fashion that grace couture runways.
Ben Stiller, who plays the main character Derek Zoolander, dresses in sparkling silver suits that look like he’s attending a new year’s celebration, leopard print, and over-the-top glam occur in every other scene. The film owes its enduring legacy to Stiller’s parody of the infamous duck face, which actually continues to be in fashion today.
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