2003 saw the end of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy (and no competing Harry Potter), and for me personally will forever be known as the year of Colin Farrell, in which he was in a barrage of film releases.
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($377 mil)
There was such a groundswell of support for this final release of the trilogy that the Oscars actually granted it the unusual move of awarding it Best Picture. That doesn't happen in genre filmmaking. That's how much everyone loved these movies. Even though this one is best known for its thousand endings. Although Sam was pretty awesome, supporting Frodo even though Frodo by this point had turned into a huge douche.
2. Finding Nemo ($339 mil)
This is pretty much the source of Ellen Degeneres' modern career. Everyone knows what made her famous in the 1990s. Then she voiced Dory and is now beloved as a daytime talk show host. This is not a coincidence. Also, fish are our friends, not food. (Arguably Pixar's best overall film.)
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ($305 mil)
Everyone was surprised by the huge success of this film, not the least because it was based on a theme park ride and Johnny Depp had never been wildly popular before. But he also never been quite as unhinged as Jack Sparrow. Also, some people started to believe that Orlando Bloom, who was also a featured player in the Lord of the Rings films, was going to be a huge star. No, just a dependable franchise player. Someone find him a new franchise!
4. The Matrix Reloaded ($281 mil)
People can say what they like about why the 2003 version of The Matrix is not as popular as the 1999 version, but a lot of it is because the zeitgeist was stolen, much as The Matrix stole the zeitgeist from The Phantom Menace. Once that happens, and people glom onto something else, they will always be able to convince themselves that the thing that lost the zeitgeist somehow deserved to lose it. Well, no, but good try. And please feel to comment and confirm that you still don't understand this.
5. Bruce Almighty ($242 mil)
Being a big fan of Jim Carrey, I always like to see him succeed big. It's gooood.
6. X2: X-Men United ($214 mil)
This is the movies version of how Jean Grey dies (like or not, you have to watch The Last Stand to see the movies version of the resulting Phoenix saga). This is also as close to a good Wolverine movie as we've gotten, which is fortunate, because Wolverine remains the breakout star of the franchise.
7. Elf ($173 mil)
This was Will Ferrell's big breakout as a movie star. Previously he did a lot of really good work on Saturday Night Live and supporting star in other people's movies. This is also Zooey Deschanel's breakout film. Although she does not yet look like Zooey Deschanel. But she does sing!
8. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines ($150 mil)
The first in this series not to be directed by James Cameron, but still pretty awesome.
9. The Matrix Revolutions ($139 mil)
Another of the things that sabotaged the 2003 version of The Matrix was the decision to release both sequels in the same year. It somehow worked out really well for Peter Jackson to release his three Lord of the Rings films in three years (which is another reason they were so popular), but combined with Jackson having the zeitgeist and asking audiences to care about two Matrix movies in one year...just not good timing all around.
10. Cheaper by the Dozen ($138 mil)
Steve Martin plays another patriarch! Why doesn't he just do that in every movie?
11. Bad Boys II ($138 mil)
Michael Bay starts to perfect the formula he would later employ in the Transformers movies.
12. Anger Management ($135 mil)
Jack Nicholson was a hug star in 2003, costarring in this movie with Adam Sandler.
14. Hulk ($132 mil)
This was the movie that dominated the Super Bowl ads. I was pretty happy, because I was becoming a big fan of Eric Bana. But this was the first indication that Marvel could draw an audience but not guarantee success with its movies.
15. 2 Fast 2 Furious ($127 mil)
I saw this with a college audience, which is pretty ideal as far as this kind of movie goes. Paul Walker returns from the first one. Eva Mendes and other eventually returning new additions to the family debut.
16. Something's Gotta Give ($124 mil)
Jack also stars in this movie.
17. Seabiscuit ($120 mil)
Sure, people love horses. But this was also a success thanks to people not knowing how much they loved Tobey Maguire outside of his Spider-Man costume.
18. S.W.A.T. ($120 mil)
This is very close to being an ensemble movie (Samuel L. Jackson costars!), but it's also Colin Farrell's biggest hit as a movie star. You may or may not know that it's based on an old TV show, but you really don't need to know that, because really, that show has very little legacy behind it (although its theme song is presented by the cast in this movie). Fun fact! Jeremy Renner has one of his early notable roles as Farrell's one-time friend and rival.
19. Spy Kids 3D: Game Over ($111 mil)
Robert Rodriguez gets to the 3D craze early and that's chiefly why this one was a success.
20. The Last Samurai ($111 mil)
Tom Cruise found it increasingly difficult to find hit movies in the new millennium. This one is about a Civil War vet who gives Japan a hand.
21. Freaky Friday ($110 mil)
Part of the reason Lindsay Lohan is still someone whose life people are so concerned about.
25. American Wedding ($104 mil)
The third American Pie movie doesn't feature all the stars but it does feature the title event.
26. Daddy Day Care ($104 mil)
Eddie Murphy in a family movie. Like I said, a pretty reliable source for hits starring this guy.
27. Daredevil ($102 mil)
Colin Farrell costars in this movie, but it's also Ben Affleck's last hit as a star until he starts making his own movies, and part of the momentum that helped Jennifer Garner a star (along with Alias), but also another Marvel flop (basically). I love this one a lot more than most of the other movies based on Marvel superheroes. It is not just because of Colin Farrell.
28. The Cat in the Hat ($101 mil)
Yes, it made good money. But it also proved that Mike Myers could not always expect success. And that's why he doesn't make a lot of movies these days.
30. Cold Mountain ($95 mil)
Fun little movie about the personal miseries awaiting veterans of the Civil War. For some reason, this was a year featuring veterans of the Civil War.
31. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the Word ($93 mil)
Russell Crowe discovers that his prickly personality offscreen cannot sustain the critical approval his movies had been getting this millennium. This was basically the end of his big popularity.
33. Mystic River ($90 mil)
Critics really loved this movie. I think it was really overblown.
34. Brother Bear ($85 mil)
Yeah, it made pretty good movie. But I doubt Disney or fans of traditional animation care today.
35. Freddy vs. Jason ($82 mil)
1980s horror icons meet! And later get rebooted.
39. Old School ($75 mil)
Will Ferrell proved himself as a star by appearing in this movie.
40. Kill Bill Vol. 1 ($70 mil)
Presented by Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman, white ninjas, and movies being awesome.
43. Big Fish ($66 mil)
I like to call a lot of movies "the new Wizard of Oz," mostly because as I've gotten older, I've found it a lot harder to appreciate The Wizard of Oz. This is one of those movies that I wish could get a little of that Oz love. Maybe it needs more singing.
44. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ($66 mil)
Say goodbye to Sean Connery. Based on a comic book by Alan Moore. Not surprisingly, Alan Moore did not approve.
49. Love Actually ($59 mil)
People love Brits loving people.
51. Open Range ($58 mil)
Kevin Costner continues his efforts to get people loving him again. The critics like this one, anyway.
52. Once Upon a Time in Mexico ($56 mil)
Not only was this the conclusion of Robert Rodriguez's Mariachi trilogy, but it was also the first test to see if audiences would continue to love Johnny Depp as much when he wasn't Jack Sparrow. They didn't.
55. The Recruit ($52 mil)
More Colin Farrell! In this movie, he joins the CIA. Mind games ensue.
58. Underworld ($51 mil)
Kate Beckinsale, vampires, and lycanthropes, oh my!
60. Peter Pan ($48 mil)
No Harry Potter this year, but...Peter Pan? A worthy effort all the same.
63. The Rundown ($47 mil)
Dwayne Johnson has a bunch of really awesome costars in this movie, my favorite being Seann William Scott. Seann William Scott deserves more love!
65. Phone Booth ($46 mil)
At one point this movie was going to star Jim Carrey. But instead it stars Colin Farrell. And it is really awesome. My favorite of Colin's films from 2003.
67. Lost in Translation ($44 mil)
Features Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, and the direction of Sofia Coppola. Yet I have never been able to be as wild about it as critics were.
74. Head of State ($38 mil)
Loved this movie starring Chris Rock.
83. Monster ($34 mil)
Charlize Theron earned an Oscar for this one.
89. Bend It Like Beckham ($32 mil)
Parminder Nagra was supposed to be the breakout star of this one. But instead it was Keira Knightley. Who later also starred in Pirates of the Caribbean. Parminder got a stint on ER. Americans still don't love soccer.
96. The Missing ($27 mil)
Tommy Lee Jones becomes John Wayne in this movie.
97. Basic ($26 mil)
John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in their first movie together since Pulp Fiction.
110. Whale Rider (20 mil)
Great piece of coming of age from an international perspective.
127. House of Sand and Fog ($13 mil)
Made Hollywood love Shohreh Aghdashloo. Despite her name being Shohreh Aghdashloo.
128. Gods and Generals ($12 mil)
Movie I am watching right now.
143. The Order ($7 mil)
Hollywood still trying to figure out what to do with Heath Ledger.
151. Gigli ($6 mil)
Torpedoed the careers of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.
152. American Splendor ($6 mil)
Was supposed to be about Harvey Pekar. Instead made people fall in love with Paul Giamatti.
154. The Station Agent ($5 mil)
Features the breakout role of Peter Dinklage.
156. The Human Stain ($5 mil)
Among other things, features Wentworth Miller, who would later star in Prison Break.
165. The Gospel of John ($4 mil)
Features Henry Ian Cusick, who would later be featured in Lost as Desmond.
188. Shattered Glass ($2 mil)
The best movie to star Hayden Christensen.
199. Veronica Guerin ($1 mil)
Features Colin Farrell in a supporting role. But stars Cate Blanchett.
204. Bubba Ho-Tep ($1 mil)
The cult of Bruce Campbell continues!
229. Lost in La Mancha ($700 thou)
Documentary about Terry Gilliam's doomed efforts to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
268. Buffalo Soldiers ($300 thou)
I'm still meaning to see this Joaquin Phoenix movie.
Source: Box Office Mojo