ShowbizMonkeys.com staff has once again picked the year's best releases. Agree? Disagree? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know.
|1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl|
|It was the #2 money-maker of 2003, but it was the #1 film in our books. Who'd have thought a movie based on a Disneyland ride would turn out to be such a great, exciting movie? Most people say that Johnny Depp's pirate – played like a quirky Kieth Richards – pushed the movie over the edge, but whatever it was, this movie was probably the most surprising hit of 2003, both with critics and at the box office.
"Johnny Depp played the most entertaining pirate imaginable, and with a strong supporting cast of Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, and Kiera Knightley, and great directing from Gore Verbinski, this raucous tale had humour, action, adventure, great special effects, and a little bit of a love story to boot. Shiver me timbers!"
(Paul Little, Webmaster)
|2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King|
|While The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers topped our list in 2001 and 2002, The Return of the King only made #2 this year. However, it was considered by many to be the best of the trilogy, is on pace to make more money than either of the first two, and for a year in which just under 500 films got major North American releases, #2 isn't too shabby. Frodo and his pals managed to please millions of moviegoers along the way, with an over 10-hour epic story spanning 3 films, that will most certainly go down as one of the greatest achievements in filmmaking history.
"Peter Jackson's final tale in the epic struggle of a young hobbit combines the best elements of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers into a near masterpiece. 3 hours and 30 minutes have never felt so short."
(Mark McLeod, Reviewer)
|3. Love Actually|
|Though Love Actually was written by Richard Curtis, the same man who wrote other Hugh Grant-starring romantic comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones's Diary, things were a little different here. Curtis takes over the directing reigns as well, and aside from Hugh Grant, gives a lot of time to a marvelous ensemble cast including Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Kiera Knightley, Bill Nighy, and many more. You just can't lose with a cast that talented.
"This is more than just a fun, feel good, light-hearted love story. There are light moments and the overall feeling is positive, but this film acknowledges the foibles and pratfalls of love as well as celebrating its joy and happiness."
(Jeff Anseeuw, Website Division)
|4. Kill Bill: Volume I|
|Add one cup Spaghetti Western, one cup 70's cop film, a tablespoon of a Blaxploitation flick, and two cups Kung-Fu movie, and have director Quentin Tarantino press the "blend" button, and you'll end up with Kill Bill: Volume I, part one of his two-part ode to the movies he loved as a child. Though the initial cut was supposed to be one film, Miramax deemed it too long for a theatrical release, so instead moviegoers will get two quirky, off-beat, extremely unique pictures, with part two coming in 2004.
"Quentin Tarantino's first film in six years is a fun-filled, violent ode to "chop-socky" films. It's nice to see a film that doesn't pander to everyone's taste."
(Tom Milroy, Reviewer)
|5. Finding Nemo|
|The biggest movie of 2003 was the Disney/Pixar animated movie, Finding Nemo. The film grossed $340 million, and like past Pixar computer-animated movies, appealed to moviegoers both young and old. With endearing characters, great humour as always, a touching story, and remarkable animation, Finding Nemo played no small part to Disney becoming the #1 studio in 2003. The first day the DVD hit the shelves, it sold 8-million copies, smashing the previous record by Spider-Man! You can't argue with that kind of success.
"Finding Nemo is Pixar's most beautiful film to date. You believe you are in fact in the ocean or fish tank. The water and the environment around the characters are amazing. The whole film is utter eye-candy."
(Dean Kish, Reviewer)
|6. Whale Rider|
|Every so often, a film comes along that tells a great story in the most magical, realistic way possible. Whale Rider is that film. The heartwrenching story of a young girl in a small New Zealand coastal area wishing to gain acceptance from her Grandfather while embracing the traditions of her ancestors, despite his ongoing disapprovement because she is a girl. The actors in this film make you almost forget that you are watching a scripted movie, as everything seems so real and genuine. It's no wonder Whale Rider won awards at festivals around the world, including Toronto and Sundance.
"It renewed my faith in film as an art. Beautiful photography and sincere performances make Whale Rider stand out far above for my top movie of 2003."
(Jeremy Maron, Reviewer)
|7. Bend it Like Beckham|
|This little movie from Britain made for only roughly $6 million US, about a London teen from a traditional Indian family who tries to balance a love of football with her often narrow-minded parents' desires for her future, became a hit in both Britain and North America, pleasing critics and earning more than 5-times what it cost to make in North America alone. It also served as a breakout movie for young stars Parminder Nagra and Kiera Knightley – who managed to star in 3 films on our Top 10 list, marking a new record for this website previously held by Jude Law for 2001's A.I. and Enemy at the Gates.
"A wonderful movie with a refreshingly different kind of story."
(Aimee Boucher, Ottawa Promotions Rep.)
|8. The Pianist|
|Though this movie was released in a few markets in 2002, just in time to be able to be recognized come Oscar-time, it didn't get its full North American theatrical release until January 3, 2003, making it eligible for our list (which holds more weight than the Oscars, anyway... okay, maybe not). It was good they got the movie in for Oscar voting, since it ended up earning Academy Awards for both director Roman Polanski and actor Adrien Brody in this true story of holocaust survivor and renowned pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman.
"Fantastic film, of which many people are already aware. It's a story that seems to have been told many times in many different ways through Hollywood, yet this one kept me riveted throughout."
(Brad Hutchinson, Website Division)
|9. 21 Grams|
|Put together an Academy Award-winner and two Academy Award nominees, and you're bound to get a movie filled with top-calibre performances. The story of three very different people whose lives end up forever intertwined asks all the tough questions about life that most movies don't dare to go near. While the raw feel and off-tempo editing turned off some viewers, critics loved the powerful story and the unique way it was told. Some of our staff were no different, landing it on our list.
"A gripping and powerful tale of three seperate lives connected by a series of tragic events. Featuring three of the year's best performances from Naomi Watts, Bencio Del Toro, and Sean Penn, this is one film that will leave you wanting more. Every second is more powerful than the last."
(Mark McLeod, Reviewer)
|10. 28 Days Later|
|28 Days Later was hyped as one of the most frightening movies in recent memory. And while there are extremely terrifying moments, this "zombie movie" from Trainspotting director Danny Boyle also digs deeper, asking ethical questions of humanity through the unique plot. The shots of a completely empty, barren, and lifeless London almost make watching the movie worth it on their own, but the scary elements and intriguing plot are what really made it sqeak into 10th place on our Top Films of 2003.
"28 Days Later is a treat because even if it was JUST a zombie movie, I still would have liked it. However, director Danny Boyle goes above and beyond to bring about several ethical debates on the screen which makes his movie so much more than what, on first glance, it may appear to be."
(Jeremy Maron, Reviewer)
Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)