Sunday, August 16, 2020

The 100 Project: Top 25 Movies of 2004

During 2005 I began working at Blockbuster. This meant I had the opportunity to see tons of releases from 2004 that normally would’ve passed me by. As a result, The 100 Project moves beyond top 10 lists to top 25s where it will stay for its remainder. With that in mind, we’ll skip all the long-winded pleasantries and get right to it.

My Top 25 Movies of 2004

  • According to my Letterboxd account, I have watched 126 movies released in 2004; over 100.
  • I saw 6 movies in theaters; my lowest total since 1988. 2 make the top 25. 
  • For the first time, I've seen all 5 of the nominees for Best Picture. 3 of them make the top 25.
  • Only 4 movies in the top 25 have a female protagonist, but 3 of them make the top 10.
  • Along with protagonists of various human shades, the top 25 also includes one who is red, another who is green, and one made of plastic.

25. Hotel Rwanda
Genocide is a tough topic, so it’s not one you’ll likely watch more than once or twice. However, it’s one you should most definitely see. It made Don Cheadle a star before the MCU got their hands on him. It’s deserving because he carries a film that might otherwise be overwhelmed by its subject.

24. Man on Fire
Director Tony Scott and star Denzel Washington get together for one of the more somber movies in either of their filmographies. The final act is an amazing depiction of a man on a murderous mission. The overall result is a revenge flick with brutality borne out of tenderness.

23. Team America: World Police
Sure, it’s juvenile in every sense of the word. I mean, the most memorable part is an over-the-top raunchy sex scene. That might not sound too silly until you realize that we’re talking about a movie entirely populated by puppets with clearly and purposely visible strings. I’m supposed to be better than this, but I’m not.

22. Hellboy
I wasn’t a huge fan of this the first time I saw it. I’ve seen it a few more times since and my appreciation and admiration of it keeps growing. Ron Perlman is amazing and the creature effects are still great. Give me a few more years, this might climb a few more spots.

21. The Machinist
This is another of those movies that just sticks with me. I’ve only seen it once, years ago, but it’s memory feels fresh. An emaciated Christian Bale, worn beyond usefulness by a lack of sleep, is usually the first image I get when his name is mentioned. And that’s coming from a huge Batman fan.

20. Super Size Me
Speaking of movies that stick with me, here’s this doc about a guy who decides to eat nothing but McDonald’s three times a day for a month. As frightening as it sounds, the results are at least as scary. Even though some things changed with regard to menu options, I dare say things have actually gotten worse. Just the other day I was watching a video comparing portion sizes at KFC in the US and the UK. Yup, we Americans are pigs.

19. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
That it’s on this list tells you that I really like it. What tells me that is the amount of times I’ve been tempted to throw a wrench at some jackass’s head with all my might. In these flights of fancy, the person invariably asks why I would do such a thing. My reply is always the same. “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.”

18. Collateral
The difference between Jamie Foxx’s character in this film and his character in a film coming up later on this list is long journey. Yet, he pulls it off with ease. Let’s give the man his props for his range. That said, the real revelation is Tom Cruise as a villain. Wow. At some point, he won’t be physically able to go on impossible missions. At that point, please get him more bad guy roles.

17. Saw
While the traps were memorable, the original movie in this now long-running franchise is not about them, as the sequels seem to be. The same goes for the twist ending. This is slow-build situational horror as opposed to the flat out torture porn of its successors. Those movies are fun in a sadistic way. This has some of those elements, but more importantly, it’s just good.

16. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Sometimes, a movie is just funny. This is one of those. Sure, it recognizes some differences between the 1970s, when it’s set, and 2004, when it was released, but it’s not really about that. It’s about a never-ending stream of jokes. And almost all of them hit. This is arguably the most quotable movie on this list, too. Who hasn’t said to someone, “I’m kind of a big deal.”

15. Mean Girls
I’ve always thought that the power structure in high school, particularly among girls, was overly militarized for cinematic purposes. This movie does the same. It just does it better than most others. It’s funny, smart, and timeless. Sadly, for star Lindsay Lohan, this is where she peaked.

14. Friday Night Lights
There have been several movies made telling us that, in Texas, football is life. This is the best of the bunch. It gives us the best characters which adds to the emotion of the football at its core. It helps that the football itself is often gut-wrenching, allowing us to forgive any liberties taken with the true story its based on. FYI, if you didn’t know, there is a companion piece to this movie. 2015’s Carter High is about the opponent in this film’s penultimate game.

13. Sideways
This is another I only saw because of the 5 movie a week allowance at Blockbuster. Nothing about it seemed interesting from the blurb on the back of the box. When I watched it, I was pulled in and overwhelmed with empathy. The writing is superb, and Paul Giamatti is so good in the lead role my heart breaks for this guy, over and over.

12. Mysterious Skin
Speaking of my heart breaking, it happened several more times during my viewing of this movie. It deals with child molestation and never lets us off the hook. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives arguably his career-best performance in service of a devastating piece of work. And in case you were wondering, this is another ending that just sticks with you no matter how hard you try to shake it.

11. Shrek 2
As much as I love the original Shrek, this one is not far behind it. It takes what the first movie and builds on it, becoming even more relentless in its deconstruction of the fairy tale. The jokes are just as sharp, if not sharper. To top it all off, the story of Shrek and Fiona is advanced in an organic and heartwarming manner.

10. Spider-Man 2
I really like Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie. I LOVE this one. It captures the struggle to be Spidey better than any live-action movie we’ve gotten. It also gives us the best, most sympathetic villain of the lot, as well (no disrespect to Michael Keaton’s vulture). I’m not arguing with anyone who has this among the best superhero movies ever made.

9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I was already a fan of Jim Carrey before seeing this. Kate Winslet, on the other hand, was just the chick from Titanic. At least, that’s what she was to me. The two of them, along with the writing and directing, weave a labyrinthine and absorbing romance. When the credits started rolling, I had gained a greater respect for Carrey, and Winslet had become THE Kate Winslet.

8. Ray
I’ve already raved about Jamie Foxx in my entry for Collateral. However, this is his crowning achievement as an actor. He channeled the legendary Ray Charles and never faltered, not even for one frame. He disappears into the character, and the character rewards us by pulling us along through myriad emotions, both in song and between them.

7. Maria Full of Grace
I feel like a broken record when I say this is a devastating movie, but that’s precisely what it is. It’s also the most obscure film on this list. It’s about a young woman in Colombia who becomes a drug mule tasked with smuggling product into America. Let’s just say that nothing about her mission is safe. The payoff is that there is so much more to her than that.

6. Million Dollar Baby
I don’t watch as much boxing as I once did, but when I do, I’m very analytical about it. I tend to break fights down as I watch them. This is true when I’m watching boxing movies, too. I say this to demonstrate how good this film is. I love it and the emotional ride it takes me on despite having some of the worst boxing scenes ever filmed.

5. Shaun of the Dead
Before sitting down to watch this, I had no clue that zombies could be funny. In this case, they’re really funny. Better than that, the people who are not zombies are downright hilarious. If you can’t tell, I have a blast watching this film. It’s not as much of a deconstruction as it is the zombie concept taken to absurdist extremes. And I laugh, absurdly.

4. Kill Bill, Vol. 2
Kill Bill, Vol. 1 appeals, in a sense, to my loins. I don’t mean that in a sexual way, but that it’s all visceral thrills. The Bride gains our empathy through her conviction in her actions. This volume appeals to my intellect. We learn about her and what drives her. Just as important, we learn about Bill. In the first volume, the fighting is the point. This time, it’s about what fighting may gain or lose her.

3. The Incredibles
What if there was actually a good Fantastic Four movie? What if their powers were related to their personalities in natural ways? What if their relationships to each other were real and relatable? What if the villain had a justifiable position even though his means are unacceptable? The Incredibles is that movie.

2. Kung-Fu Hustle
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour 2 cups of all-purpose flour into a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of kung-fu, 1 tablespoon of chosen one, 1 teaspoon Looney Tunes, ½ teaspoon Mel Brooks musical, ¼ teaspoon irreverence extract, 1 ½ cups milk, 1 egg. Stir until batter is smooth. Pour mixture into a cakepan. Bake in oven until laughter is uncontrollable.

1. Napoleon Dynamite
I enjoy putting this movie on for people who have never seen it. Sometimes, they stare at the screen blankly and politely suffer through it. In truth, most start off that way. About halfway through, some express their displeasure. The phrase WTF usually makes its way into their line of questioning. Occasionally, someone will chuckle right with me, all the way through. My point is, either you LOVE this movie, or you HATE this movie. And if you’ve never seen it, I have to find out which. That’s how much I adore Napoleon Dynamite.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically): Bad Education, Birth, The Bourne Supremacy, Dumplings, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, House of Flying Daggers, Ocean's Twelve, Saved!, The Wooden Camera, The Woodsman


  1. With 25 movies on the list, I'll have a lot fewer to add as potentials. I do, incidentally, enjoy Napoleon Dynamate. Also happy to see Collateral as high as it is--I'm a sucker for people playing against type, and this is one of Cruise's better roles as well as a solid turn for Foxx.

    A few other possibilities:
    Head-On--A German film about a sort of doomed love. The first non-porn appearance of Sibel Kekilli, who eventually appeared as Shae on Game of Thrones. Say what you will about her past career, she's great in this.
    Dawn of the Dead--This remake essentially gives up on characters almost entirely, but delivers on the gore.
    The Manchurian Candidate--Not as good as the original, but a very servicable and updated remake.
    Moolaade--Hard to find West African film about genital mutilation and a woman who stands up to it.
    Downfall--Remember that "Angry Hitler" meme from a few years ago? It's from this.
    Layer Cake--A very good example of a British gangster movie.
    3-Iron--A truly beautiful Korean romance where the two main characters say roughly three sentences total between them.
    The Aviator--One of Leo's best roles.
    Howl's Moving Castle--My kids love it more than I do, but if I don't mention it, they'll yell at me.

    1. Honestly, Collateral is an underseen movie. And Cruise is great in it.

      Of your other movies, I've only seen The Manchurian Candidate (serviceable is the right word), Layer Cake (very good, but I need a rewatch), and The Aviator (I love Scorsese, but this one left me cold even though Leo is very good).

      Downfall, 3-Iron, and Howl's Moving Castle have been on my radar for years, I just haven't gotten around to them, yet.

      Sidenote: Having not seen one minute of Game of Thrones I have no idea who that woman is.

  2. From our respective top 10s, we share 5 films in our lists. Of course, my list is all over the place as I've only seen some of Kung Fu Hustle while I had never heard of The Wooden Camera. I never liked Napoleon Dynamite and it still doesn't work for me. I blame my sister and her friends for quoting that film to death as it added to my dislike for it. I saw a lot of films that year and I don't remember how many that I saw. It was insane. I miss going to the movie theaters.

    1. 5 is a lot to share. Cool! The Wooden Camera is an African film. I forget which country, but I believe its South African. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Juice. It's also hard to find.

  3. Napoleon Dynamite is absolutely brilliant. It's my husband's all time favourite and I put off watching it until last year. It!


  4. I've actually seen all 25! 2003-2004 is when I started watching a lot more movies because I had started working at a movie theater. Reading this, I really need to re-watch Collateral. I've only seen it once. Same with Sideways.

    I'm happy to see Dodgeball here, that's one of my favorite comedies and Team America is truly a masterpiece of "wtf"

    JGL deserved an Oscar nom for Mysterious Skin, I'll forever be mad about that and the MPAA slapping it with an NC-17 rating when it should've had an R.

    Kung Fu Hustle was the first movie my now husband and I watched together (it didn't hit theaters for us until 2005) and I hated it at first but now look on it very fondly lol.

    I'd have a lot of these movies on my list too. Another that stands out that I really enjoyed was Mean Creek.

    1. All 25. Cool!

      "A masterpiece of "wtf"" is a great way to describe Team America.

      Amen to JGL for that Oscar.

      Kung Fu Hustle is risky for a first movie. I could see someone thinking their date was too weird for liking it.

      You've got one up on me because I haven't seen Mean Creek.

  5. You have some great films here with one of my favourite, Hotel Rwanda on your list. Don Cheadle deserved the Oscar. I love The Incredibles and really love Collateral which not too many people have seen. I also love Dodgeball and laugh every time they come out with their “uniforms”...that movie is dumb and I love it. Ray is another film which was so good and shows Jamie Foxx as a really good actor. I would add Supersize Me which makes me squeamish just thinking about it. The Aviator which is a good bio on nutty Howard Hughes. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is quite a good Potter film introducing Gary Oldman as his Uncle. I really like De-Lovely because of Kevin Kline’s performance as Cole Porter and the music is wonderful. I really love Hidalgo because it is a fun adventure film that could have been made in the 1930s with a great performance from Viggo Mortensen who bought the horse for himself afterwards

    1. It can be tough to watch Super Size Me. Not only is it because we're watching a guy gorge himself on crap, but the implications on our society as a whole are hard to swallow. Yes, the pun is intended. I like The Aviator, but I don't love it. I've seen the first four Harry Potter flicks, which includes Prisoner of Azkaban. So far, they're not doing much for me. Haven't seen Hidalgo or De-Lovely. Cool story about Viggo, though.

  6. That’s quite the list Dell. I use to manager a Blockbuster and while I watched a lot of VCR tapes I tended to go to the movies more often when I was there and conversely when I managed a movie theatre I was more likely to watch at home. The whole Busman’s Holiday syndrome I suppose.

    Off your list I liked Mean Girls and Spider-Man 2 both of which made my runner-ups. Also Man on Fire, Maria Full of Grace and Anchorman despite Will Ferrell was more pleasant than I expected. I thought Mysterious Skin was brilliantly acted and a shattering experience but the word like would never be one I’d use for it. Appreciated it yes but you’d have to pull me kicking and screaming to ever watch it again. I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut when it was over.

    Dodgeball and Ray were okay but that’s all. I thought Million Dollar Baby trite and Sideways dull.

    So many people love Eternal Sunshine but I hated it and just have never seen what others do in it.

    Many that I haven’t seen, some I’ve been meaning to and some I never will. Those on my too see list-Hotel Rwanda (love Don Cheadle but the film looks so grim), Super Size Me, Collateral (I’m not a fan of either of the leads which has kept me from it), Friday Night Lights and Napoleon Dynamite. Shaun of the Dead doesn’t really seem like my thing but I’ve heard it praised so many times I figure I’ll get to it one day. I use to watch an occasional episode of the series Friday Night Lights so I should really track down the movie, I’ve always meant to.

    Now for the ones I haven’t seen and won’t-Team America: World Police, Hellboy, The Machinist (actors who endanger their health just to prove how committed they are to their craft disturb me and I refuse to participate in their foolish decisions), Saw (just no…to me that’s not entertainment), Kill Bill 2, the Incredibles and Kung Fu Hustle.

    As far as your honorables I haven’t seen a few but Bourne made my main list and Saved!, my runner-ups. I know you like it but I think Oceans 12 is the worse of the Ocean films by far.

    1. Funny that you went to the theater more often while working there. It was a second job for me, severely cutting into my theater time. Also funny you mention VHS. As I was coming in so was DVD. We spent many hours converting the store to fit the then-new format. We had no idea we were in the midst of the last days of the empire.

      Mysterious Skin is surely a kick in the gut. No arguments there.

      After our recent conversation, I'm mildly shocked you haven't seen Friday Night Lights. Hope you get to see it soon.

      I'm just happy you've seen Saved! It's underrated and way underseen.

  7. I couldn’t up with 25 films between my main and runner-ups that I felt that great an affection for, just 19.

    1. A Home at the End of the World-Young Bobby (Colin Farrell as an adult) slowly loses, one by one, his older brother, mother, and father then is taken in by his best friend, Jonathan's family where he is welcomed almost like a second son by Jonathan's parents (Sissy Spacek and Matt Frewer). So begins a hard to describe odyssey for the two young men as they navigate through different phases of their relationship with each other in search of what a family can be. Both Sissy and Robin Wright as the woman in both men’s lives are wonderful but towering above everyone is Farrell in the best performance of his career, at least so far.

    2. The Aviator-Director Martin Scorsese’s biopic of the early years of Howard Hughes though his rise to the beginning of the splintering of his psyche. Leonardo DiCaprio is exceptional as Hughes and Cate Blanchett memorable as Katharine Hepburn (Kate Beckinsale however is completely wrong as Ava Gardner)

    3. Finding Neverland-Author J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) is trapped in a difficult marriage to a social climbing grabber and coming off a flop play. As a refuge he takes walks in the nearby park where he becomes acquainted with the widowed Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons. Over time the boys, especially the oldest Peter, serve as the inspiration for Peter Pan much to the displeasure of Sylvia’s wealthy mother (Julie Christie).

    4. The Bourne Supremacy-Action packed sequel to the first film finds Jason Bourne on the run once again, kicking butt against many colorful locales.

    5. Connie and Carla-After accidentally witnessing a mob hit lounge singers Connie (Nia Vardalos) and Carla (Toni Collette) take it on the lam to L.A. and needing to hide out end up being women pretending to be men pretending to be women headlining at a drag bar. Crazy comedy has a fine message about real friendship and the value of being who you are….and lots of show tunes.

    1. Haven't seen your 1 and 5. It seems we're again on opposing sides of Scorsese. This one's just not one of my faves. I actively hate Finding Neverland. It bored the hell out of me.

  8. 6. Shall We Dance-Attorney John Clark (Richard Gere) though successful and happily married to Beverly (Susan Sarandon) feels a gnawing sense of ennui. On a whim he enrolls in a ballroom dancing class when he notices the instructor (Jennifer Lopez) through a window. Feeling guilty that all the things he has aren’t enough he keeps his new passion secret from his wife who begins to question the change in him.

    7. Miracle-The story of how college coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) formed a bunch of temperamental college athletes into the 1980 U.S. men's Olympic hockey team and lead them to gold with his uniquely brash style.

    8. Walk on Water-An Israeli Mossad agent is given the mission to track down and kill an ex-Nazi officer who might still be alive. Pretending to be a tourist guide, he befriends the Nazi's grandson, in Israel. The two men set out on a tour of the country during which the boy challenges the agent's values.

    9. Troy-They’re all here-Achilles, Helen of Troy, Paris, the Trojan Horse and a (computer generated) cast of thousands. All wrapped up in a huge epic anchored by Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Peter O’Toole, Orlando Bloom and many others.

    10. The Day After Tomorrow-Deliciously awful catastrophe movie that despite it’s absurdities, silliest part Dennis Quaid (how many bigger stars said no for him to end up headlining this?) outruns the Ice Age, is very entertaining. Sure to rank lower for anyone who isn’t a disaster movie junkie.

    Freshman Orientation, Goodnight…We Love You, Mean Girls, Saved!, The Sea Inside, Spider-Man 2, Straight-Jacket, A Touch of Pink, Vera Drake

    1. Of your main list, I've only seen the bottom two. I like Troy well enough, but hate every single frame of The Day After Tomorrow. I just can't with that movie. Good call with The Sea Inside.

  9. I saw 10 of your picks! Plus maybe two where I just can't remember whether I saw them or not.