Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The 100 Project: Top 10 Movies of 2003

Cinema in 2003 had some very serious things going on as 9/11 became a wider spread theme. Truth told, I skipped most of it. Escapism was the name of my game. I saw some movies with heavy topics, but by and large, I was all about getting away from reality, and it shows.

My Top 10 Movies of 2003

  • According to my Letterboxd account I've seen 87 movies released during 2003.
  • I saw 8 movies in theaters. 4 make the top 10. 
  • I've seen 3 of the 5 nominees for Best Picture. None make the top 10. 1 is an honorable mention.
  • 2 foreign language movies and 2 Christmas movies make the top 10.
  • 4 movies in the top 10 have a female protagonist.

10. X2: X-Men United
After watching the first X-Men I thought some of the other members of the team needed to shine. In particular, I was thinking of Nightcrawler. Just my son and I went to see X2 and were in heaven when the opening scene played out and it was Nightcrawler in all his glory. I was giddy. Then the rest of the movie happened and it was great, too. This, I thought, is how an X-Men movie should be done.

9. Bad Boys II
I don’t like Michael Bay. However, by this time, I hadn’t developed that feeling yet. And honestly, aside from the dreadful Armageddon, I hadn’t disliked anything he had done. I was a pretty big fan of the first Bad Boys, mostly because the chemistry between stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is insane. For the sequel, Bay cranked everything up to a thousand and it worked. I had a complete blast the first time I saw this and with every one of at least a dozen more viewings.

8. Underworld
Imagine if, instead of hackers battling a massive computer program, the Matrix was home for a war between vampires and werewolves. That’s pretty much what Underworld gave me, and I loved all of it. I haven’t thought much of Kate Beckinsale, one way or the other, in anything else she’s done. But in this movie, and even in the crappy sequels, she oozes cool. Combining her with the aesthetics of the film put a hold on me I can’t shake.

7. Elf
It took me a few years to see this one, but when I did, it became an instant Christmas classic in my household. Funny story, I watched it alone the first time around Thanksgiving of either ’07 or ’08. I loved it so much I showed it to the rest of my family, including my sister-in-law and her kids a few weeks later during our Christmas gathering. They were all skeptical, at first. Soon enough, we were all giggling our little hearts out.

6. Monster
I was vaguely familiar with the story of Aileen Wuornos before seeing this film. By that, I mean I knew she was considered a female serial killer, but that was about it. I knew there was a documentary about her, but I never got around to it. All I knew is that from the picture on the box of that doc and the poster for this movie, Charlize Theron was made to look remarkably like her. Then I watched it. Theron’s performance is so much more than a similar appearance. It’s frightening how she makes Wuornos somewhat sympathetic. She’s so good, she overshadows co-star Christine Ricci, who is nearly as excellent.

5. Finding Nemo
So yeah, I have a soft spot for movies about fathers and their sons. This one grabbed me by the throat right at the beginning and never let me go. I was pensive throughout Marlin’s journey to find Nemo and was exhausted in all the best ways when it ended. To this day, I enjoy it more than my kids, and I rank it among Pixar’s best. To me, that’s saying something.

4. A Tale of Two Sisters
I did this backwards. I saw the crappy American remake, The Uninvited, first. I was so pissed off by that movie I sought this one out to see what it was supposed to be. What it was supposed to be was an inventive, creepy, and disturbing ghost story dealing with themes of separation, loss, and mental illness. The American version just has Elizabeth Banks glaring at the camera for an hour and a half trying to make up for a useless cast and neutered script.

3. Bad Santa
This is an odd year for me in that it gave me two pieces of cinema that are among my all-time favorite Christmas movies. It manages to pull off the difficult trick of being irreverent, crass, darkly funny, and filled with heart all at once. It’s Christmas spirit filled with f-bombs. The result is I laugh at all the crudeness on display while still getting the warm and fuzzies. If you don’t agree, then @#!$%^*(#!!!

2. Kill Bill, Vol. 1
I can’t say that I had more fun watching any movie from 2003 than this one. It’s pedal-to-the-metal right from the start, never lets up, and rips off pays homage to a genre I love with undying affection. Uma Thurman is beyond fantastic as The Bride and the cast around her is hitting on all cylinders, especially Lucy Liu. Her battle with Thurman is one for the ages. Then again, so are all the battles in this movie.

1. Oldboy
I was working at Blockbuster in ’05 when I decided to give this one a shot without having ever heard of it. It came into the store during a slow week for new releases. Since we got five free rentals every week I figured why not? As it went on, I realized it was becoming one of the most unique revenge flicks ever made. Each plot twist threw me for a loop. The performance of Min Sik-choi was devastating me. Then that ending happened. Yeah, that ending. Let’s just say Oldboy sucked me in, swished me around, spit me out, and left me in a corner covered in its slime and quivering. I’ll be forever disturbed and forever grateful for it.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically): American Splendor, Baadasssss!, Big Fish, Final Destination 2, High Tension, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mystic River, Old School, Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Willard


  1. Wow I only saw four of your picks and four of the honorable mentions. I feel like I have seen less and less with every post 🙈

  2. Yessss Kill Bill vol 1! That would be at the very top of my list. I think this is the first time in all your 100 lists that I've seen every single film mentioned in your top 10. I like them all. Underworld shocked me, I never expected to actually enjoy that.

    1. Cool! I often feel alone in my adoration of Underworld.

  3. We share 2 films in our top 10 list but you probably already know what is my #1 film of that year in my list. The only film in your top 10 I haven't seen is A Tale of Two Sisters but I unfortunately saw the remake which I don't remember what it was called. As for Bad Boys 2 and anything Michael Bay did since Armageddon and I haven't seen anything else he did after the third Transformers film. I'd rather dive into a giant blender into my death than watch a second of his bullshit.

    1. The movie from your list I desperately need to see is Memories of Murder. Hope you get to see A Tale of Two Sisters. The remake is The Uninvited, and it's better that you've forgotten about it. Point taken about Bay.

  4. Nice list, as usual. Once again, we see that the early 2000s are great.

    Here's a few worth tracking down if you haven't seen them:

    The Station Agent--A beautiful little movie, and a great star-making vehicle for Peter Dinklage.
    The Best of Youth--A 6 1/2-hour Italian epic that feels a lot shorter.
    The Triplets of Belleville--One of the weirdest animated films of the last two decades.
    The Barbarian Invasions--This sequel to "The Decline of the American Empire" is superior in every possible way.
    Goodbye, Lenin!--A woman who has been in a coma since before the fall of the Berlin Wall wakes up. Her son attempts to keep her unaware that she no longer lives in East Germany because East Germany doesn't exist anymore.
    Lost in Translation--Controversial, perhaps, but such a beautiful and tragic film.
    The House of Sand and Fog--126 minutes of being punched in the gut, but it's fantastic.
    Tokyo Godfathers--Three homeless people rescue a baby.
    Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World--Vastly underrated in general, this is a textbook for how to film action sequences.

    1. Thanks.

      And once again, you're showing me how much I missed. The only one of those I've seen is Lost in Translation. It's fine, but it's status as all-time great eludes me. Tokyo Godfathers is the one I want to see most.

  5. Well we did better this year we have one match! X2, and almost in the same position! The series has become emptily repetitive but the first two installments were super.

    I was indifferent to the first Kill Bill, though Uma did kick butt, so I never bothered with part 2. I never got the allure of Underworld and while I’ve never sat down and watched it from beginning to end I know I’ve seen Finding Nemo in its entirety from when the various nieces and nephews were watching it.

    I saw Monster specifically because it was clear from its release that Charlize Theron was going to win the Oscar and I wanted to know why. She deserved it but the film is something I endured not enjoyed. Won’t ever watch it again.

    I haven’t seen half of your picks.

    The first Bad Boys was okay but I wasn’t so fond of it that I felt I needed to seek out the follow up.

    I loved the stage show of Elf but my dislike of Will Ferrell has kept me from the movie. I’m too much of a Christmas traditionalist for Bad Santa. I like my holiday films bright and shiny.

    A Tale of Two Sisters and Oldboy are both films I’ve heard of but never felt any pull to see, though Oldboy gets talk about so much I really should catch up with it sometime.

    1. The second Kill Bill is definitely the more cerebral of the two, if that helps.

      Fair assessment of Monster. Nothing fun about it.

      A Tale of Two Sisters is straight up horror. Oldboy isn't, but is horrifying, if that makes sense. If/when you do watch it, I can see that being the only time.

  6. Again the early aughts were kicking it out providing plenty for everyone’s tastes. My top 10 run this way.

    1. Latter Days-Naïve young Mormon Aaron Davis (Steve Sandvoss) in L.A. on his mission with three fellow missionaries (including Joseph Gordon Levitt & Rob McElhenny) meets gay party boy, Christian (Wes Ramsey) in his complex. Christian, who works at an upscale restaurant owned by former movie star Lila Montagne (Jacqueline Bissett), has heard stories about Mormons and bets his coworkers that he can seduce Aaron, who he senses is vulnerable. But as he attempts to win the bet a real connection develops causing major conflict leading to life changes for both. I have a special affection for this film. When it played the festival circuit I was lucky enough to be at the world premiere showing with almost the whole cast in attendance (sadly no Mary Kay Place) and got to meet Jacqueline Bissett in passing!!! So elegant, she just exuded class!

    2. Love Actually-Nine separate, and in some cases interweaving vignettes about the many aspects of love loaded to the brim with talent-Emma Thompson, Liam Neesom, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Colin Firth and on and on.

    3. The Italian Job-Sleek revenge/heist film with another amazing cast-Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Donald Sutherland etc. Tight, breezy and slick.

    4. Under the Tuscan Sun-When she is told her husband is cheating by a vindictive author writer and critic Frances Mayes’s (Diane Lane) life is thrown into turmoil and she can’t move on. Her best friend, Patti (Sandra Oh), gifts Frances with a tour of Italy hoping it will get her out of her funk. During the trip Frances impulsively buys a rural Tuscan villa and sets out to start her life anew amid colorful local characters. Gorgeously shot, you’ll want to hop a plane to Italy as soon as it ends.

    5. Calendar Girls-When her best friend Annie’s (Julie Walters) husband is stricken with cancer Chris Harper (Helen Mirren) is inspired to raise funds for the local hospital by creating a calendar with the ladies of their small town posing discreetly nude. Meeting with resistance many times the calendar finally comes out and is a smash making celebrities of the women. Some conflicts ensue but all ends happily. Based on a true story.

    1. I remember liking Love Actually, but I don't remember much about it. The Italian Job is loads of fun. Just missed my honorables. I found Under the Tuscan Sun to be pleasant, and yes, beautifully shot, but nothing really stuck for me. It's something I don't mind watching, but I'm not going to go back to on my own. I need to see Calendar Girls. Never heard of Latter Days. Sounds like one to seek out.

  7. 6. Swimming Pool-Tightly wound author Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is suffering writer’s block in dreary London so her publisher John Bosload (Charles Dance) sends her to his French country home to unwind. As Sarah starts to relax in the placid beauty of her new surroundings Bosload's daughter, hell-raiser Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) swoops in and shatters her calm. Though the two clash they eventually form an unlikely bond, one that is strained when things take a dramatic turn. Director François Ozon and his muse Charlotte Rampling score another bullseye with this strange moody film.

    7. Seabiscuit-Story of how a temperamental, undersized horse is taken in hand by a grieving businessman (Jeff Bridges), a hard luck jockey (Tobey Maguire) and a supposedly washed up trainer (Chris Cooper) and becomes a legendary thoroughbred. Great acting and a sense of tension in the races.

    8. Bringing Down the House-Newly divorce lawyer Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) is having a hard time meeting someone new so he tries online dating and meets a fellow lawyer. But when they meet in person she turns out to be an escaped convict named Charlene (Queen Latifah). Though he’s reluctant Charlene convinces Peter to take her case and prove her innocent. Along the way she loosens him up and they slowly become friends.

    9. X2-Wolverine, Professor Xavier, Magneto and the entire crew are back for round two.

    10. Girl with a Pearl Earring-In 17th century Holland Griet (Scarlett Johansson) works as a maid in the household of painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). When wealthy patron Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson) begins to lust after Griet and commissions a painting of her Vermeer and Griet are obliged to spend long hours alone together and strike up a close friendship.


    Big Fish, I Am David, Just Married, Master & Commander, Out of Time, Peter Pan, Soldier’s Girl, The Station Agent

    Sorry if this one is a repeat. The original one vanished in the middle of my posting it!

    1. I need to see Swimming Pool and The Girl with a Pearl Earring. I should also see Seabiscuit. Without having watched it, it seems like it does nothing new so I haven't felt like I NEED to see it. I love Queen Latifah, and to a lesser extent, Steve Martin, Bringing Down the House is a no from me. It's mired in cliche, stereotypes, and stale jokes.

      Of your runner-ups, we have Big Fish in common. Out of Time is also fun. I haven't seen the rest.

  8. It's weird to think of these all movies belonging to the same exact era.
    I have a copy of Monster but didn't realize at the time that I would literally never ever rewatch that movie.

    1. That's happened to me with a few movies, too.

  9. I love it that you chose Bad Santa because that is such a hilarious film and I am a lover of Christmas. It even has the ending that, although so dark, it is showing some redemption. Monster is an excellent film but a disturbing one, obviously and Charlize Theron looked eerily similar to that serial killer. What’s amazing is in the same year, she plays in another film that I really love, The Italian Job and fun romp with a great cast. My other choices would be Lord of the Rings:Return Of the King which is just a great ending to a fabulous trilogy. Under the Tuscan Sun is such a beautiful film that I love and wish I could be her. Seabiscuit is a great film that shows how each man is crippled in some way and rebuild themselves through this amazing horse. Love, Actually is a good movie with all these stars somehow all connected. Bill Nighy is great in this. A Mighty Wind is so great showcasing the people who were part of folk music back in the 60s and are having one last hurrah. It is a brilliant satire. Open Range is a really good western that went unnoticed but is so beautifully filmed. I also need to mentioned Master and Commander which is an excellent film about the seafarersand what they must deal with. I also love Calendar Girls based on a true story about women who create a calendar even though they don’t seem to be the typical calendar girls.

    1. Happy to see some more love for Bad Santa. Hilarious is certainly the right word for it. The one here that I've been meaning to see the most is Master and Commander. Not sure why I haven't but I hope to correct that soon.