Best January movie releases since 2000, ranked

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January, the worst month of the year for movie releases, is upon us. It’s the post-holiday season, usually when movies that studios don’t have much confidence in are dumped on the public. From horror movies to action movies, no genre is safe from the wrath of the studios. As moviegoers weather another lackluster first month of the year, let’s take a look at a few movies that were actually quite good despite being released at that time. Here are the eight best January releases since 2000.

RELATED: The 10 Best Movies Releasing In January

8. Hostel (January 6, 2006)


Jay Hernandez in the hostel
Image via Lionsgate

The gratuitous nudity and gratuitous gore make for a film so shocking it’s unbelievable it was ever made. It’s a film that started out as a pitch for Quentin Tarantino before becoming one of the iconic films of the subgenre. Eli Rothit is (cabin fever) iconic pornographic torture film has made many Americans too terrified to stay in a hostel again. The story follows two American friends played by Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson backpack through Europe with an Icelandic man played by Eythor Gudjudsson they pick up. They are on the hunt for drugs and girls when they come across a Slovak man who knows exactly where they can find the two. However, they end up where they least expect it.

While many would say the film indulges in shock for shock’s sake, Nathan Barrit is (The hunt) score manages to navigate the film’s shifting tones and adds to the sheer horror of the torture scenes. Although this film is not for everyone, for fans of the subgenre, Hostel is a must.

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seven. The small things (January 29, 2021)


Even with top-notch talent, a January release made this movie feel like it was dead in the water. When the first trailers appeared, it looked entertaining enough, but releasing right after Oscar season let audiences know exactly what to expect. Sure enough, the story is pretty meh, and the dialogue is straight out of the worst crime drama of the 90s, however, the acting in this movie is awesome.

Oscar winners Jared Leto (The Dallas Buyers Club), Denzel Washington (training day), and Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) give everything to make what should be rather boring as entertaining as possible. In the end, they are mostly successful. While the plot twists don’t leave audiences very surprised, it’s still an entertaining movie with enough to keep moviegoers interested until the end.


6. The last complete measurement (January 24, 2020)


the-last-complete-measure-sebastian-stan
Image via Road Attractions

The last complete measurement is a who’s who, featuring some of the finest actors in Hollywood history. The characteristics of the cast Christopher Plumer (Beginners) and Pierre Fonda (Easy Rider), each in its final role, as well as Samuel L. Jackson (pulp Fiction), Ed Harris (The Truman Show), Guillaume Blessé (A history of violence), Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Amy Madigan (field of dreams), Bradley Whitford (get out), and Diane Ladd (Chinese district). What’s more impressive than the cast is how few people have actually seen this movie. It grossed just under $3 million at the domestic box office, and while by no means groundbreaking, the story of war hero Frank Pitsenbarger, who never got the credit he won, deserves a public gaze.

Although it was advertised as a Patriotic War movie, there are only a few scenes set in Vietnam. The majority of the film follows Stan’s Scott Huffman as he talks to those who were friends or saved by “Pits”. It’s a dark look at the effects of war and PTSD, and while the film can get a little cheesy at times, it manages to ask the important questions without offering any simple solutions.

5. The child who wanted to be king (January 25, 2019)


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Image via 20th Century Fox

Eight years after realizing Attack the block, Joe Cornish released his second feature film, The child who wanted to be king. The film follows the story of Alex played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis, who discovers he’s heir to King Arthur’s throne in this highly entertaining family film. Not popular at school, Alex tries to do the right thing and defend his classmates from bullies, but normally to the point of getting hurt. However, one night while on the run from these bullies, he comes across Excalibur and manages to pull it out of a stone at a construction site. From there, he and his friends must defend their world against the evil witch Morgana played by Rebecca Ferguson (Dunes), the information they find of Merlin, played by patrick stuart (Logan) disguising himself as a youth.

The child who wanted to be king is a pretty standard family fantasy, but its plot doesn’t take shortcuts, and neither does its budget. It makes for a satisfying third act featuring elementary school students battling CGI demons as they try to save not just their school, but the world.

4. Taken (January 30, 2009)


Liam Neeson in

And just like that, the man who played Oskar Schindler is an action star. It’s weird to think that a little over a decade ago, Liam Neeson (Grey) was best known for his dramatic roles. Now, in 2022, it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than an actor who appears on screen to beat people up and save the day.

It all started with Taken, a film with a very simple premise, very well executed. Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a retired CIA agent who must rescue his daughter after she is kidnapped in Paris. The scenario of Luc Besson (Leon: the professional) and Robert Marc Kamen (The fifth Element) is what you’d expect from a movie of the genre, and yet it features some of the most iconic dialogue of the past 15 years. In an epic phone call, Neeson says calmly and simply, “I’ll get you, I’ll find you, and I’ll kill you.” The line sets in motion one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable action movies of the past 20 years.


3. Orange County (January 11, 2002)


Colin Hank (Fargo) had his breakout performance in this movie about a rich kid living in one of the most beautiful parts of America who can’t wait to get away from all the dead beats around him. As an aspiring writer, he applies to Stanford University, but when there is a mix-up with his transcripts, he is turned down and a student with a similar name played by Francois Kranz (The cabin in the woods) Between. Determined to enter the school of his dreams, he leans on his stoner brother played by Jack Black (Thunder in the tropics) to bring him to Stanford and convince the Dean to let him in.

Written by Mike White (The White Lotus), the film takes an unexpected turn as Hanks proves he’s willing to do anything to get out of Orange County. The film also features Schuyler Fisk (The best of me) and small roles of Chevy-Chase, (Caddyshack), John Lithgow (The world according to Garp), and Lily Tomlin (9 to 5). The film flies by with a running time of only 82 minutes, another of the many advantages of this murderous comedy.


2. Cloverfield (January 16, 2008)


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Picture via Paramount

One of two true masterpieces of the found footage genre, Matt Reeves’ (Let me enter) Cloverfield takes the viewer on a wild ride through New York City as a monster terrorizes the locals one night. While the film fits firmly into the sci-fi genre, there is also a very serious sense of realism in the film. Coming out just over seven years after 9/11, Reeves and his team created chaos and images that were very reminiscent of that horrific day in American history. Forcing people to hide in convenience stores as clouds of dust and debris explode across the street, the film’s claustrophobic nature is unrelenting.

The scenario of Drew Godard (The Martian) doesn’t make the mistake of forcing the camera hand-held like so many others of its kind. Plus, strong performances, especially a hilarious almost vocal-only performance from T. J. Miller (Silicon Valley) keep the characters and relationships interesting as we watch their quest for survival. After The Blair Witch Project, everyone wanted to do the next hit they found. Reeves and Goddard were able to do that with this great movie.


1. Paddington 2 (January 12, 2018)


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Image via StudioCanal

Who would have thought that a family film about a marmalade-loving talking bear would be good? Who would have thought that his sequel would be even better? What so many failed family films lack is inspiration, but Paddington 2 has more than enough to offset most of the drivel that comes out throughout the year.

The performances are excellent, the script is hilarious, and this film conveys its family message with a lot of heart. Brendan Gleeson (In Brugge) as “Knuckles” McGinty, a prison boss who doesn’t like having his food questioned, is a perfect cast. Hugh Grant (love in fact) gives his all as run-down actor Phoenix Buchanan who robs everyone. Paddington’s quest to deliver a present to his 100-year-old Aunt Lucy will have you laughing with joy, and in the end, it might even make you cry with happiness. It’s one of the best family movies ever made, and easily the best January release since 2000.


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