My senior year of high school and freshman year of college. 2003 is a loaded year for me. Trying to isolate my feelings about the year from the films should be harder. Thankfully there are some great and not so great films to make it easier.
The bottom 25 grossers of 2003.
#76. Uptown Girls. Brittany Murphy deserved so much better it kinda enrages me. She was a genuine star with a unique presence. This was ok but it didn’t play to her offbeat strengths.
#77. Matchstick Men. Nicolas Cage. Sam Rockwell. The all too underused Alison Lohman. Ridley Scott. An adaptation of a book by the should be legendary Eric Garcia. This was a modest performer but it should’ve been more. It’s one of the most charming, likable films of the year. Highly recommended.
#78. National Security. I never understood Martin Lawrence as a star. He’s so abrasive and unlikable. There’s an air of darkness about him. This was a generic action comedy. It’s long been forgotten. Like most of his films.
#79. What A Girl Wants. There is something indescribably sad about seeing an Amanda Bynes vehicle in 2018. What we know for certain is limited but what’s likely true is sad. My sympathy for her is epic. One thing about this film: Colin Firth played her father. I’m still figuring that out.
#80. Jeepers Creepers 2. This movie’s existence is unforgivable. Victor Salva’s career is unforgivable. I feel like I need an explanation as to how POC and women can struggle to find work but a literal sex criminal had a film funded by a major studio.
#81. Intolerable Cruelty. I chose this over Kill Bill vol. 1. On paper Coens vs Tarantino was a genuine coin flip in 2003. In reality it was an epic mistake. This is so bad I’m in awe of it. It’s like a bad Coen Brothers pastiche except they made it. This feels so utterly loud and cloying next to the genuine charm coming just a few months later with The Ladykillers.
#82. Cradle 2 the Grave. This is so very 2003. Jet Li. DMX. I didn’t see this because weirdly even at 19 I felt too old for this. Like it was someone’s idea of cool and even then I didn’t feel that.
#83. Monster. The winner for Best Actress and the only film for Patty Jenkins before Wonder Woman. It’s actually kind of cool how well this did on a very low budget. There are big titles still to come. This found viewers.
#84. Malibu’s Most Wanted. Jamie Kennedy should’ve been a supporting comic presence for his full career. He was so good in the first two Screams. Putting him in the lead was a giant mistake. I’ve only seen bits of this and it’s pretty bad.
#85. The Hunted. William Friedkin. Tommy Lee Jones. Benicio Del Toro. Kinda weird this evaporated so fast. Then again I barely know anything about this one even now.
#86. Stuck on You. The Farrelly Brothers had three comic classics fresh out of the gate. Then they stumbled and haven’t recovered yet. This is well liked by some but it’s far from that early greatness.
#87. Dreamcatcher. Yikes. This was an unreadable Stephen King book that just got worse and worse as Lawrence Kasdan and William Goldman, two geniuses themselves, mucked with it. This one is legendarily bad for a reason.
#88. Darkness Falls. What could’ve been. This was intended as a cool monster movie that was warped into a generic Freddy Krueger knockoff. As is, it’s unbearable. I hate that I even know how great the monster designs were.
#89. Bend it Like Beckham. This one had an impact far larger than its initial release. It’s still mentioned among sports films. The omnipresent–and blindingly sexist–ads of Ain’t it Cool News were a running joke. It’s endured.
#90. The Core. It’s not nice to point and laugh at such a transparent bomb but wow this never got close to being what it wanted to be. A huge flop that chased the disaster movie trend too late. Or a year early as The Day After Tomorrow cleaned up.
#91. Calendar Girls. I’m passing on this one. Obviously I wasn’t the target audience and won’t ever be. Sure it’s lovely. Next.
#92. Hollywood Homicide. Josh Hartnett’s days as a star didn’t last long. This was within two years of his debut as a leading man and it crushed that into fine powder. By contrast Harrison Ford’s days as a star did last a good long time. And this still crushed his “star” days for good.
#93. Honey. Oof. Definitely not my thing. I hate being mean to Jessica Alba. She seems nice. But she’s not an actress. Also there’s some weird race bending here. I just shouldn’t touch this one.
#94. The Fighting Temptations. The canon of Jonathan Lynn is fascinating to me. He’s not untalented as Clue and My Cousin Vinny show. He is, however, kind of reliably safe. This fits perfectly into that. A nice, safe star vehicle for Cuba Gooding Jr. and the surprisingly mythic Beyonce.
#95. Johnny English. This tanked in the US but we’re about to get part 3. We’re a bonus market to British cinema. Though Love Actually did great here the same year. Not covering it but I love that film.
#96. The Missing. Reminder: Solo is nowhere near Ron Howard’s biggest letdown at the B.O. This was how he followed up the Oscar winning smash A Beautiful Mind. This one really didn’t work with critics or audiences. It’s not that westerns were dead in 2003 with Open Range doing stellar. Just not this.
#97. Basic. God I hate this movie. This is so bad the ending kicks you in the gut and screams with laughter. It’s a shell game that spends the entire film trying to convince you something is happening then it turns out all of it was a lie. It’s not even well made.
#98. A Man Apart. Look the whole solo star thing for Vin Diesel…it wasn’t ever going to happen. Definitely not him Acting. Nope. No. It’s funny how this was a bomb but as we’ll see in a bit the franchise he opted out of returning to did just fine.
#99. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. I take no joy in this. The death of DreamWorks cel animation studio. (CG…well remember last column.) Start to finish four films in 4.5 years. Pretty sad. The sad truth is with the exception of The Prince of Egypt, the films never matched the talent.
#100. Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Weird that nobody wanted to watch a soulless prequel which just retold the first film. When I saw The Matrix Reloaded this was on the Thursday of week one. Nobody was there. The actual sequel went so far as to make this non-canon.
The top 25 grossers of 2003
#25. American Wedding. I have no shame in saying I love these films. We’ll double back to the first two in time. They’re well made, surprisingly sweet films. This one closes up the arc started in 1999 rather nicely. Only downside is some sluggish direction.
#24. How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Bring back the romantic comedy. Viewers still love them. This one is still beloved. Bring the genre back! That said this film sets me on edge. I really kinda hate it. It’s loud. But I’m hoping the genre is resurgent.
#23. The Italian Job. I feel like this one has found a nice nook in the cultural memory. Not talked about much but when it is everyone gets happy. Just a solid midrange film. Some very talented people got paid. F. Gary Gray works nonstop likely based on this.
#22. Scary Movie 3. I don’t even know what to say about this one. It’s atrocious. But it’s harmless. It’s utterly useless. But the third act Matrix humor, especially in the hands of the great George Carlin, kind of worked. It’s bad. But fun.
#21. Freaky Friday, a rare remake that seems as beloved to the current generation as the first was to its. Not one I saw but one people liked. A precursor to the next year’s Mean Girls also from director Mark Waters and star Lindsay Lohan.
#20. The Last Samurai. An it’s fine movie. Nothing memorable. Nothing special. But nothing too bad. Annoying it’s told through a white lens but Ken Watanabe rules in this. Failed Oscar bait definitely. Good John Logan script though. Logan, Star Trek Nemesis aside, is a beast of a writer.
#19. Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. I despise this overly noisy, annoying film that buries the charm of the first under an eye bleeding glaze of the ugliest 3D I’ve ever seen. Oh I hate this thing so much. I’m mad that I paid to see it still.
#18. S.W.A.T. The big Colin Farrell year peaked here. Since I have nothing to say abo
#17. Seabiscuit. Meh. This movie kind of makes me angry because of how weirdly awful it is. It’s so saccharine and kind of obsessive about making you feel that sweetness. Gary Ross was a one hit wonder as a director in my book.
#16. Something’s Gotta Give. Look, I really didn’t like this movie but you know what? I’ll acknowledge it’s phenomenally made. It looks great. It’s very well acted. It wasn’t for me but I was way too hard on it in 2003. The ending is bad though. Diane Keaton deserved Keanu.
#15. 2 Fast 2 Furious. It’s kinda weird how this franchise blew up later. This was an eh performer in 2003 but it would become massive later. For now it bides its time, a giant doing ok but soon to roar.
#14. Hulk. Y’all have decided in retrospect that this is an underrated film. A good film. And I am going to be blunt: no. This is not a lost gem. It’s absurdly silly. It’s not fun. It’s way too brightly lit. This is a bad movie. A very bad movie.
#13. Bringing Down The House. And Hulk is a masterpiece next to this long study of everything one could possibly get wrong in one film.
#12. Anger Management. Technically speaking I paid to see this. The print broke during the trailers. My mom and I took our free passes and saw Holes (not on the list but a joy) instead. I don’t care to ever go back. It’s a thing.
#11. Bad Boys 2. It’s weird this one intimidates me. I’m not sure if I hate this film or enjoy it. It’s so very intense and what it’s intense about is awful…but I kinda like it anyway? It’s just not one I’ve cracked. I wasn’t bored. That’s what I’ll say.
#10. Cheaper by the Dozen. If we hated Steve Martin in 2003, we couldn’t have been meaner to him than by making these films hits. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t the audience.
#9. The Matrix Revolutions. This may be the only time I can see a 50% dropoff between a film and its sequel in one list. This…this is not a good film. Only Wachowski film I dislike. Kinda hate that. I get that it’s ambitious. I don’t like it at all.
#8. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: I just trashed an ambitious film and I’m about to say I like this useless sequel but yeah I do like it. It’s a brain off action movie but a fun one. That said we didn’t need it, we don’t need anything since, and we didn’t even need T2.
#7. Elf. Yay! This has become a Christmas classic. Damn right it has. This is a joyous, funny film that just makes me happy. Why do I think it landed like it did? Ferrell. This was his Old School follow up. That crowd was going to see whatever he did next. Then they had kids. Add that to an already big family audience and this was huge.
#6. X2. I feel like every time I see an X-Men movie, I find it the best in the series. And really with time they all become one blur. A good blur that I really like but a blur. This is one of the less faint parts of the blur but still a giant, pleasant blur.
#5. Bruce Almighty. I’ve never had any interest in going near this film and I have less now after Jim Carrey’s anti-vaccine stance. This one was huge though. Weirdly huge when you look at what surrounds it.
#4. The Matrix Reloaded. See this I dig. Like a lot. It’s weird as all get out but that’s why those genius sisters rule. They took a heavily anticipated sequel and made a mind screw that makes you question the value of a sequel. There is so much greatness in every frame. I JUST BARELY saw it theatrically but it was money well spent.
#3. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse if the Black Pearl. The first three films are straight ripping yarns. I have nothing negative to say about any of them. Sure they’re ungainly but that’s what a sea myth is. Just so much love for these.
#2. Finding Nemo. Confession: I like this movie. I don’t love it and even like is an upgrade from my initial, very negative views. It’s just so loose in its plot structure. Even worse: I really love Finding Dory which just moved me more due to its powerful treatment of mental disability. Nemo is just good. Sorry.
#1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The Best Picture of the year and I can’t begin to disagree. The Lord of the Rings trilogy felt in the moment like something classic you just happened to be watching the day of release (as I did all 3 films.) Epic defined with some of the absolute greatest visuals in film history. And what a finale we got. The reason these films endure is they stuck the landing. And the middle. And the beginning.
Next time: The Superhero age begins in 2002.