I've had two great booms in my time appreciating movies. One was while working for the video chain Movie Gallery, the other while working for the theater chain AMC. 2005 saw the start of the latter (although the following year was the greatest of the three I spent there), and as such is another defining year.
1. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith ($380 mil)
George Lucas completes his second Star Wars trilogy by finally depicting one of the most famous elements of franchise lore, the duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker on a lava planet. Of course, there's much more that happens besides this, and the highlight of the film ends up being Palpatine, especially the moment he explains to Anakin how the Sith can manipulate life itself, surely the ominous moment in which Darth Vader is born not just in theory but as the journey toward the Dark Side of the Force begins. I really appreciate creators who understand their own mythology, and the essential moments that define the stories that make the mythology worth knowing. Basically this is the prequel everyone was waiting for, and they proved it by making it the fifth top box office draw in the six film saga.
2. The Chronicles of Narna: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ($291 mil)
The obvious box office appeal of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings helped resurface Tolkien friend C.S. Lewis's memorable journey to one of fantasy's most famous places. Although obviously widely popular at the start of this latest incarnation, subsequent entries met with muted appreciation.
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($290 mil)
This one remains my favorite in the Harry Potter film series, the perfect mix of adventure and mythology, featuring Ralph Fiennes' debut as Voldemort in the chilling climax, as well as the secret origin of Robert Pattinson, who would later get his own franchise (the Twilight Saga).
4. War of the Worlds ($234 mil)
Tom Cruise further postpones his career backlash by appearing in this Steven Spielberg adaptation of H.G. Wells' famous tale of Martian invasion.
5. King Kong ($218 mil)
Peter Jackson's followup to his Lord of the Rings trilogy is another passion project, but perhaps a tad too indulgent. Modern audiences are not reliably wild about the old movie monsters.
6. Wedding Crashers ($209 mil)
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson achieve their greatest success.
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($206 mil)
Tim Burton commences his modern goth phase, hitching himself once more to the career of Johnny Depp, once more painting himself into a nutty character.
8. Batman Begins ($205 mil)
Even I've been guilty of taking this initial Christopher Nolan into the world of the Dark Knight for granted.
9. Madagascar ($193 mil)
Another wildly successful computer animated franchise that has nothing to do with Pixar, and subsequently has a hard time finding respect.
10. Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($186 mil)
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie achieve a mutual smash hit, and realize their chemistry doesn't belong only on the big screen.
11. Hitch ($179 mil)
Will Smith in a rare movie that's contemporary and featuring him in a more-or-less ordinary person role, his lone romantic comedy to date. Somehow also launched the movie career of Kevin James.
13. Fantastic Four ($154 mil)
Marvel fans were initially fairly happy with this new franchise. But then the Avengers cycle began, and now we'll be getting a reboot. Still, this is the secret origin of Chris Evans.
15. Robots ($128 mil)
It became increasingly normal for animation studios other than Pixar to achieve regular success at the box office around this point. This one features Robin Williams in another of his voiceover performances, though not one of his famous ones.
16. Walk the Line ($119 mil)
Reese Witherspoon is charming in this movie, and was given an Oscar, though it stars Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash.
17. The Pacifier ($113 mil)
Vin Diesel goes the full Schwarzenegger in this family comedy, scoring a big hit playing against type.
18. Fun with Dick and Jane ($110 mil)
This hilarious and timely Jim Carrey comedy helped point out the financial mess that was soon going to lead the US into the Great Recession. Apparently anyone who's supposed to learn from public satire does anything but pay attention to public satire.
19. The 40-Year-Old Virgin ($109 mil)
The movie careers of Steve Carell and Judd Apatow begin.
21. Saw II ($87 mil)
The draw for me with this sequel was Boomtown vet Donnie Wahlberg returning to the badge, years before Blue Bloods.
22. Brokeback Mountain ($83 mil)
Everyone who appeared in this movie benefited, from Anne Hathaway to Michelle Williams to Jake Gyllenhaal, but especially Heath Ledger, who finally found a role that everyone could respect.
24. Are We There Yet? ($82 mil)
Ice Cube. Yeah, he was a star for quite a while. Whatever happened to him?
26. The Dukes of Hazzard ($80 mil)
An unofficial entry in the Broken Lizards canon, this film updates the classic TV show with obnoxious stars Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott, but I suspect the cult of Jessica Simpson obscured everything about it at the time.
27. March of the Penguins ($77 mil)
This documentary helped usher a new obsessions with penguins. No singing or dancing here, though.
29. Constantine ($75 mil)
Keanu Reeves is pretty much the opposite of the Vertigo/DC character he plays in this movie.
30. The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($75 mil)
Modern horror movies begin their obsession with exorcisms, previously featured in the classic movie The Exorcist. Somehow that doesn't stop many other movies from including the term in their titles.
32. Sin City ($74 mil)
There are a number of standout performances in this Robert Rodriguez adaptation of Frank Miller comics, including Bruce Willis, Clive Owen and Benicio del Toro, but somehow Mickey Rourke's big comeback is later ignored when he stars in The Wrestler. Jessica Alba famously does not get naked in this movie.
35. Sahara ($68 mil)
Surprisingly, popular fiction doesn't always translate to popular movies. This one's based on bestselling author Clive Cussler's material, though it doesn't do much for Matthew McConaughey or Penelope Cruz's careers, either.
37. Herbie: Fully Loaded ($66 mil)
Starring in one last Disney movie actually lost Lindsay Lohan the support of critics, and that's another reason her career went down the toilet.
39. Sky High ($63 mil)
Kurt Russell certainly looks like a stereotypical superhero. But this one is about a family of superheroes. And it's live action.
40. Bewitched ($63 mil)
Nicole Kidman's second "sin" in a row was starring in this movie. At the very least, Will Ferrell is typically hilarious in it.
41. Jarhead ($62 mil)
Jake Gyllenhaal scores again in this modern war movie.
42. Cinderella Man ($61 mil)
Russell Crowe realizes that the critics are definitely no longer supporting him after this one, which even the presence of Paul Giamatti can't salvage for those finicky creatures.
44. Red Eye ($57 mil)
This movie was supposed to be about Wes Craven, Cillian Murphy or Rachel McAdams, but it's instead stolen by Jayma Mays, who's later appears in Heroes and Glee.
45. Memoirs of a Geisha ($57 mil)
This was supposed to be such a more significant release, a spotlight for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Zhang Ziyi, and featuring Ken Watanabe second notable role, after The Last Samurai. It was also supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg.
47. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ($56 mil)
Classic British humor in stop-motion animation form. Somehow there has still not been another feature length adventure starring these two.
48. Be Cool ($56 mil)
This followup to Get Shorty reunites Pulp Fiction stars John Travolta and Uma Thurman. Also features a number of notable supporting stars, including Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson completely shattering his image.
49. Crash ($54 mil)
The movie that briefly made Paul Haggis a sensation.
51. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride ($53 mil)
Burton in full goth mode, returning to stop-motion animation for the first time since The Nightmare Before Christmas. Featuring, of course, Johnny Depp, as well as Burton companion Helena Bonham Carter.
53. Hoodwinked ($51 mil)
I adore this computer animated flick (crudely animated though it is), as the title suggests a twist on Little Red Riding Hood. Featuring among many other pleasures Patrick Warburton and a singing goat (he's cursed).
55. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ($51 mil)
I'm still baffled that this was not and still is not more popular. "Purists" talked themselves out of enjoying it, and everyone else stayed away, too. Still, features a terrific cast, including Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel, plus the voice of Alan Rickman.
56. Syriana ($50 mil)
George Clooney alters his movie career toward movies that are not guaranteed to be big hits with one of the early attempts to depict our modern political quagmire defined by 9/11.
57. Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman ($50 mil)
Thus begins the popular career of Tyler Perry.
62. Munich ($47 mil)
Spielberg made this movie, about the fallout of the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes, featuring Eric Bana and Daniel Craig. Long one of my favorite movies, and featuring a haunting John Williams score.
63. Kingdom of Heaven ($47 mil)
Ridley Scott returns to the historical epic with this study of the Crusades featuring a bevy of stars supporting Orlando Bloom. Another favorite. Together with Syriana helped launch Alexander Siddig to new prominence in film.
65. The Legend of Zorro ($46 mil)
Considering how much I still love The Mask of Zorro, this late-in-coming followup probably could never live up to my expectations. Featuring Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) in a supporting role.
69. Fever Pitch ($42 mil)
Suddenly it was very, very good to be a Red Sox fan. This movie was filming when the team won its first World Series in eighty-six years, and that completely changed the ending. Now Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore could end happily ever after!
70. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D ($39 mil)
Robert Rodriguez tries his Spy Kids formula in a different guise. Not as successful. Featuring the secret origin of Taylor Lautner (making this a very good year for Twilight fans well ahead of the curve).
73. The Brothers Grimm ($37 mil)
Terry Gilliam directs Heath Ledger and Matt Damon. It's better than its lack of reputation suggests.
76. The Island ($35 mil)
Fairly familiar story made enjoyable by stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johnasson.
80. The Constant Gardener ($33 mil)
Thrilling drama featuring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz.
89. Good Night, and Good Luck. ($31 mil)
Together with Syrniana, this is the reason critics started to like George Clooney, and is also the the comeback of David Strathairn.
90. A History of Violence ($31 mil)
Viggo Mortensen in another movie he hoped people would really love. I have a conflicted relationship with it, so for once I'm glad everyone else seems to, too.
93. Zathura ($29 mil)
Features Kristen Stewart. I swear, 2005 was warning us about Twilight.
94. Rent ($29 mil)
One of my favorite musicals, either on the stage or screen. Rosario Dawson officially and completely wins me over.
95. Capote ($28 mil)
Philip Seymour Hoffman finally succeeds in getting critics to love him. I have no idea why it took so long.
96. Doom ($28 mil)
Dwayne Johnson makes a movie based on a video game. Bad move. Someone formerly known as a professional wrestler should not give audiences another reason to handicap him.
97. XXX: State of the Union ($26 mil)
Vin Diesel is replaced by Ice Cube. Somehow this makes sense?
98. Elizabethtown ($26 mil)
Cameron Crowe makes another standout film starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst (the movie that makes me fall in love with her).
100. Serenity ($25 mil)
Joss Whedon brings Firefly to the big screen!
103. Elektra ($24 mil)
Jennifer Garner (and the Daredevil franchise) learn the people don't exactly love her.
106. Match Point ($23 mil)
Woody Allen scores big (for him) switching his muse to London, plus Scarlett Johansson. This played for a really long time at my theater.
110. Hustle and Flow ($22 mil)
Terrence Howard temporarily becomes a critical darling.
116. The Producers ($19 mil)
Mel Brooks scored a big Broadway hit adapting his own film after 9/11, but it flopped being brought back to the screen. Still, Will Ferrell is a predictable standout.
118. Into the Blue ($18 mil)
Paul Walker and Jessica Alba make a movie the way they used to make Baywatch. Features one of Josh Brolin's notable performances before his big breakthrough in 2007.
136. The New World ($12 mil)
Terrence Malick comes back to movies (and finally pretty much doesn't go away again) with this Colin Farrell film about Pocahontas. Brilliant supporting cast includes Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale.
139. Casanova ($11 mil)
Heath Ledger in yet another movie Hollywood expected from him.
140. Lords of Dogtown ($11 mil)
Although 2005 being his breakthrough year, Ledger also got to do some terrific character work. This is him in a supporting role basically playing Val Kilmer.
145. Domino ($10 mil)
Tony Scott makes a badass out of Keira Knightley.
159. The Aristocrats ($6 mil)
Comics telling the filthiest joke ever.
170. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang ($4 mil)
Speaking of Val Kilmer, here he is alongside Robert Downey, Jr., making his way toward the comeback.
174. Melinda and Melinda ($3 mil)
Woody Allen scored again this year with a movie about the two sides of Rhada Mitchell. Will Ferrell is again predictably a standout.
185. Layer Cake ($2 mil)
Daniel Craig in the role that finally got him noticed. And people noticed Sienna Miller, too.
223. MirrorMask ($800 thou)
Still meaning to catch this movie based on Neil Gaiman material.
413. Jiminy Glick in La La Wood ($30 thou)
Martin Short stages his comeback.
Source: Box Office Mojo