Spirited Away (2001): Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki's Western breakthrough weaves strands of Shinto belief with universal coming-of-age themes. An Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature, this tale about a girl transported to a world occupied by spirits is endlessly inventive (with an ample supply of bilious monsters and shape-shifting creatures) and luminously animated.
The Triplets Of Belleville (2003): French director Sylvain Chomet's idiosyncratic tale of a champion cyclist kidnapped by square-shouldered gangsters for an underground gambling ring was nominated for two Oscars. The titular sisters—crones with a club act—perform memorable song-and-dance numbers that supply the movie with its hot jazz soundtrack.
Waking Life (2001): Don't be put off by the references to neuroscience and Nietzsche: Director Richard Linklater's dialogue-driven dreamscape is mesmerizing. In his quest to discern the difference between asleep and awake, the hero hears from academics, scientists, even cartoon versions of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, in a scene reminiscent of Linklater's Before Sunrise.