Lists of the Top 10 Movies in 2003 from Daily
Arts staffers

Todd Weiser

to see the complete 2003 Movies Friday Focus page.


Todd Weiser, Daily Arts

 #1 The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King —
The rare case of a triumphant
cinematic vision, complete with inimitable WETA computer magic and
affectionate storytelling execution, eradicating a few, trivial
blemishes. Can the cinematic experience of a lifetime really be

 #2 Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola’s second feature has the feel of a
timeless album that you throw on whenever the right mood hits you.
No plot tricks are at play here, simply the understated emotion of
moments shared between two lives lost in transition.

 #3 Kill Bill: Volume 1
A bloody good visual feast topped off with an
infectious love for the electrifying natural ecstasy of two hours
of cinema.

 # 4 Capturing the
Friedmans —
How could a small Jewish family from Long
Island elicit so much conversation from audiences? A documentary
unlike any other with brutally intimate visuals and testimonials
continually graying whatever truth exists.

 #5 In America —
Perfectly personal in every way as tears stream from joy and grief
in tandem. Heartwarming is not always such a dirty word.

 #6 Irreversible
In reverse, “Memento”-like fashion, French
director Gaspar Noe tests the limits of the art form and the limits
of an audience’s ability to handle ugliness; very difficult
and ultimately brilliant.

 #7 Finding Nemo
The most touching “I love you” of 2003
curiously found itself between familial seafood in Sydney Harbor.
Going underwater, Pixar continues to hold the Castle Disney

 #8 Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World —
Crowe continues fighting
‘round the world, while Peter Weir captivatingly fills in the
deafening details of 1805 seafaring. Still, Paul Bettany’s
Darwinian ways and self-mutilation steal the thunder.

 #9 X2 — In a
year when comic book movies revealed their sometimes Hulk-sized
holes, “X2” gave fans hope that only the strong would
survive. I challenge you to find another action film that addresses
the issues of post-Sept. 11 America and homosexuality.

 #10 Winged Migration
No complexity in this documentary —
“Friedmans” provided enough of that — just a
wonderfully visual intimacy with a globe’s worth of soaring


Joel Hoard, Daily Arts

 #1 American Splendor
“Splendor” takes the story of bitter and
cynical Cleveland file clerk-turned comic book writer Harvey Pekar,
blurs the line between fiction and documentary and oddly turns into
the most life-affirming film of the year.

 #2 A Mighty Wind
When will America at large wake up and see Christopher
Guest et al. as the comedic geniuses they are? Oh, right, when they
acquire good taste (I’m just playin’, America. You know
I love you).

 #3 Capturing the Friedmans
The scariest movie since “The Exorcist”
— made even scarier by the fact that it all really

#4 In America — Young
actresses Sarah and Emma Bolger show once again that foreign
children are better than American children at

 #5 Finding Nemo
For some reason I cared more about little Nemo than I
do about most other films’ human characters. Is that

 #6 Better Luck Tomorrow
And to think that all that time I spent not studying in
high school I could have been committing fraud, dealing drugs and
killing people.

 #7 Kill Bill: Volume 1
The first installment of “Kill Bill”
provides proof positive that arrogance and neuroticism aren’t
bad qualities for a director to have. Is it April yet?

 #8 Big Fish —
The second best fish-themed film of the year. Well, actually the
fish doesn’t really have that much to do with it. It’s
mostly about giants, Siamese twins and daffodils.

 #9 Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World —
Easily the year’s best
epic adventure film. What the hell is a hobbit, anyway?

 #10 Open Range —
It’s no “Field of Dreams,” but it’s good
enough to make all the Costner hatas shut up — at least until
his next movie.


 Zach Mabee, Daily Arts

 #1 The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King —
The bittersweet culmination of
Peter Jackson’s faithful and glorious adaptation of
Tolkien’s timeless trilogy, “King” brings to an
end a grand adaptation of fantasy’s foundational

 #2 In America —
Director Jim Sheridan’s emotive examination of the immigrant
experience in the United States. Told through the eyes of two
precocious sisters, the story’s ultimate triumph results in a
beautifully memorable film.

#3 Mystic River — A
gritty, bleak drama containing all the essentials of Clint
Eastwood’s greatest and most sublime westerns — not to
mention some of the year’s best performances by an amazingly
skilled ensemble cast.

#4 Big Fish — This is
the film that Tim Burton’s imaginative hands were destined to
fashion. Part magical realism and fantasy, part sad reality,
“Fish” reminds even the most acidly cynical critics why
people  cherish storytelling.

 #5 Lost in Translation
Bill Murray’s most subtle and endearing role yet.
It’s even better because the ever-mysterious Scarlett
Johansson joins him for a delightful romp through the Far

 #6 Finding Nemo —
Fun-filled animation at its finest: adventuresome and
entertaining for children and emotionally significant and even more
enjoyable for adults. Pixar wins again.

 #7 Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World —
An epic tale of life on the
high seas. It showcases maritime warfare as good as any and delves
far deeper than most into the charged relations of

 #8 Whale Rider —
A challenging take on the paternalism and simplistic tradition of a
tribal New Zealand town. It features a breakout debut performance
from phenomenal young actress Keisha Castle Hughes.

 #9 Kill Bill: Volume 1
“Kill Bill” is Quentin Tarantino’s
sickly twisted dreamworld realized. He pays his dues to gaudy
kung-fu action with the finest exhibition of his violently
artistic, trademark style.

 #10 The Last Samurai
It captures with spirit the remarkably heroic way of
the samurai in traditional epic fashion. Ken Wantanabe also gives
Top Gun a run for his money in a strong supporting role.


Ryan Lewis, Daily Film

 #1 The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King —
Peter Jackson’s exquisite
adaptation of Tolkien’s masterpiece is without a doubt the
most fantastic, inspiring and gorgeous movie of the year. The
cinematography alone will move you to tears.

 #2 Big Fish — A
wonderful, whimsical not-so-tall tale from the imagination of Tim
Burton pits the year’s most capable cast (eat it “Cold
Mountain”) in a touching character study of that one
storyteller that maintains the child in all of us.

#3 In America — Jim
Sheridan’s simple, self-inspired story of a family’s
loss and redemption with a touch of magic makes you want to reach
into the screen and embrace the family as you cry with

 #4 Kill Bill: Volume 1
With style and grace, glorious colors and splattering
blood, Quentin Tarantino’s latest tribute to ideas already
filmed has better martial arts than “The Matrix” 
and the finest representation of film as pure spectacle.

 #5 Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World —
Behold, an action movie in
the modern age that develops its characters to a level of true
empathy. Oh what can happen with the skill of Peter Weir and actors
like Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany.

 #6 City of God —
The best foreign film of the year is amazing in premise,
cinematography and acting, not to mention the impeccably interwoven
storylines, but the most unbelievable quality is the reality that
this dreadful place actually exists.

 #7 21 Grams —
Powerhouse performances, especially from Benicio Del Toro, make the
American debut of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu an
incredibly worthwhile bout of depression, infinitely more so than
Sean Penn’s other acting showcase of the year.

 #8 The Station Agent
Plainly stated, Peter Dinklage’s subtle anguish
is 2003’s most unheralded performance, and his relationships
with two equally isolated characters in the nation’s most
densely populated state are both tragic and beautiful.

 #9 The Cooler —
In a year so filled with fantasy and fancy, this slick fable has
all the style and class you would expect from a nostalgic look at
Las Vegas and all the nuances without the over-the-topness of the
usual gambling flick.

 #10 Bubba Ho-tep
Easily the funniest film with the most unique premise,
Bruce Campbell finally plays the role of a lifetime that contains
all the absurdity and hilarious one-liners of “Evil
Dead,” and the world is a better place as a


 Mary Hillemeier, Daily
Arts Writer

 #1 Lost in Translation
Utterly an actor’s movie that gives Bill Murray
free reign. With Sofia Coppola’s unique vision and Scarlett
Johansson radiating pure talent, “Translation” is a
dream of a movie.

#2 21 Grams — Benicio
Del Toro’s haunting presence alone is the stuff of greatness.
When teamed with Inarritu’s suspenseful story-telling and a
scene stealing performance from Sean Penn, the results are
undeniably powerful.

 #3 The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King —
Peter Jackson’s
undisputable genius and fierce dedication to Tolkien have yielded a
culminating film and trilogy unrivaled in ingenuity and

 #4 Mystic River
Eastwood’s cinematic meditation on violence,
sorrow and healing milks revealingly honest performances from his
stellar cast.

#5 Capturing the Friedmans
Simultaneously terrifying and gripping, Andrew
Jarecki’s fearless documentary uses intense, realistic
cinematography to investigate a father and son’s

 #6 American Splendor
This meandering story of the unlikely and reluctant
comic book hero Harvey Pekar is inventively told and features
stellar yet understated performances by Paul Giamatti and Hope

 #7 Spellbound —
At times hilarious, heartbreaking and nail-bitingly suspenseful, an
always-loving peek into the kooky world of spelling

 #8 Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World —
No one can deny Russell
Crowe’s commanding presence, and his solid supporting cast
and tightly constructed vessel of a film make it effortless to
revel in his magisterial captainship.

 #9 Finding Nemo
All ages rightly fell in love with Ellen
DeGeneres’s goofy Dory and Disney’s first-rate,
universally comedic animation wonders. 

” font-family: Times; font-size: 12.0pt;”>10 Thirteen —

” font-family: Times; font-size: 12.0pt;”>Terrifyingly honest and
bravely unapologetic, Catherine Hardwicke provides a harsh look at
her teenage co-writer’s real life fall from


Hussain Rahim, Daily Arts

#1 Barbarian Invasions –
With its incredible dialogue and gripping story, Denys Arcand’s
powerhouse of a film was a touching glimpse of dignity and
redemption before death.

#2 Angels in America – It’s
not TV. It’s HBO. With that in mind this adaptation was as wildly
imaginative and daring as anything released in a theater. A better
ensemble cast than this will be hard to recreate.

#3 Kill Bill: Volume 1 –
Only a truncated version of Tarantino’s eventual vision, but it
still was the most pure B fun in a theater this year. I’m still
wiggling my big toe.

#4 American Splendor –
Serving as the 2003 dose of misanthropic meta, Harvey Pekar’s story
was the closest thing to a Charlie Kaufman script this year. This
is how you make a comic book movie.

#5 The Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King –
Anything makes American film audiences sit
in a theater for over three hours wins my acclaim. Spectacle at its
finest, it’s hard to turn your head for a moment.

#6 The Fog of War – It’s
rare to see someone with such power reflect so honestly and openly
on camera. Immediately relevant and filled with McNamara’s
surprising humor, this is the portrait of how the past repeats

#7 Triplets of Belleville –
Sylvain Chomet’s animated feature was a surrealist trip through the
most eerie faux city in some time. Quite possibly the last stand of
hand-drawn animation.

#8 Capturing the Friedmans
Fascinating and uncompromising, this film leads the path of the new
rise of documentaries. Mindless self-destruction has never been so

#9 Whale Rider – Deeply
emotional, well acted and engaging, this film captures
intergenerational conflict, cultural change in the face of
eradication as well pure perseverance and will. Keisha
Castle-Hughes is the treasure of the film.

#10 Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl –
Yes, the source material was a
Disney ride, but Johnny Depp was ridiculously good as Jack Sparrow
and open-ended potential franchises don’t start much better than
this. Savvy?


Jennie Adler, Daily Arts

#1 Master and Commander: The Far
Side of the World –
For once, here’s a movie that rightly
honors the platonic beauty of a friendship. With yet another heroic
role, Russell Crowe proves he’s the man of the sea, while underdog
Paul Bettany compliments and inspires Capt. Jack Aubrey. The
mournful creaks of the ship make you glad surround sound was

#2 House of Sand and Fog –
Ben Kingsley’s core-shaking portrayal of an Iranian general is
superbly matched by that of his wife, played subtly by Shohreh
Aghdashloo’s. As a symbolic territorial fight proceeds, director
Vadim Perelman utilizes meaningful themes of racism, tradition, and
depression to create a powerful yet emotionally grave

#3 Lost In Translation –
Said to be based on director Sofia Coppola’s life, it’s no wonder
why she announced her divorce from former husband Spike Jonze. With
facial expressions that convey a thousand emotions, Bill Murray
delivers easily his best comedic performance. The bustling
background of Tokyo adds to the inescapable fears and inner beauty
of Scarlett Johansson’s mature performance.

#4 21 Grams – Essentially an
English version of “Amores Perros,” all three leads, played by
Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, go balls out for a raw
emotional performance. The story and characters are smartly woven
together through director Alejandro Innaritu’s manipulation of
time. This film is deeply rich in metaphors, and its complexity is

#5 In America – The story’s
simplicity embellishes the emotional depth of all the characters.
Moving monologues and touching symbolic representation are well
presented between subjective and objective viewpoints. Talented
child actors are hard to come by, and Jim Sheridan cast two for
this one.

#6 Capturing the Friedmans –
This honest documentary dares to show the grittiness of a real
American family at its worst. Using humor and drama, the film’s
inconclusiveness of blame stays true to the genre.

#7 Kill Bill: Volume 1 –
Quentin Tarantino succeeds in creating a mainstream, modern cult
film-much like every other film he’s made. Using a slew of
cinematic techniques ranging from animation to black and white
footage, Tarantino, primarily through Uma’s vengeful character,
keeps the audience on edge. Kill Bill Vol. II has big shoes to
fill, but with anticipation of a gruesome ending, it shouldn’t be a

#8 Big Fish – A heartwarming
tale of a severed father-son relationship. Director Tim Burton’s
imagination is limitless, and it shines through in his magical
sets. This film captures the curiosity and adventurous zeal within
and takes you happily back to childhood.

# 9 The Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King –
Although the 3rd installment has an ending
that hogs the 3 1/2 hour long movie, the King’s long-awaited return
leaves you wishing J.R.R. Tolkien had written just one more
endearing hobbit book.

#10 Owning Mahowney – It’s
always hard for one actor to carry an entire movie, but Phillip
Seymour Hoffman, playing a embezzling gambling addict, bears the
weight on his shoulders and impels this low-action film into


Raquel Laneri, Daily Arts

# 1 Lost in Translation –
Alienation has never been so hip. Coppola eloquently captures
loneliness and its power to link two strangers together as the
rather existential heroes bond while exploring the eccentricities
of Tokyo. And Bill Murray rocks.

# 2 The Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King –
The most visually breathtaking and
emotionally engaging of the three LOTR films. Jackson never allows
the spectacular special effects to bombard the story, and he brings
back the old-fashioned epic adventure.

#3 Kill Bill: Volume 1 –
Sure, Tarantino’s latest may be all style and no substance, but
what style! Its stunning choreography, sumptuous colors, and
icy-cool butt-kicking females make even disembowelment look

#4 American Splendor – Part
documentary, part narrative, part cartoon- Berman’s ode to
avant-garde cartoonist Harvey Pekar that beautifully conveys the
complexities of every-day life.

#5 Spellbound – Who would
have thought that one of the most compelling, suspenseful, and
entertaining dramas of the year would be a documentary on the
national spelling bee?

#6 The Man Without a Past –
Undoubtedly one of the quirkiest romantic comedies since the
glory days of Woody Allen, Kaurismaki’s film beautifully
articulates the awkwardness and absurdity of love.

#7 Thirteen – Could easily
have fallen into overdramatic kitsch, but the gritty film quality,
erratic camera movements, natural dialogue and raw performances
keep it brutal and honest.

#8 City of God – The
intricately woven narratives and poetically raw images bring to
mind the brutal “Amores Perros,” but the colorful cast of
characters and captivating story allow “City” to hold its

#9 Shattered Glass – The
most riveting film about journalism since “All the President’s
Men,” “Glass” provides thrilling entertainment while exploring
issues of morality and ethics without reverting to

# 10 A Mighty Wind – So
contagiously uplifting it will make even the most sinister filmgoer


Vanessa Miller, Daily Arts

#1 The Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King –
Nothing else can outdo this epic,
climactic end to the trilogy that offers all viewers could ever
want: chain mail, hobbits, beautiful cinematography, killer ghosts
and breathtaking battle scenes.

#2 Lost in Translation –
Brilliance and comedy and woven together skillfully and
strengthened with great chemistry between Scarlett Johansson and
Bill Murray; a fabulous soundtrack completes this perfectly
allusive picture.

#3 Big Fish – Perfection in
the blending fiction and reality, along with wit and great lines
allowing everyone to understand their family history and the art of
storytelling a little better.

#4 Cold Mountain – This
adaptation of Charles Frazier’s novel comes alive with heartache
and gorgeous scenery and emphasizes the power of humane desires and
fears through perfect performances by the entire cast.

#5 Mystic River – Clint
Eastwood creates a moving, passionate film depicting real human
struggle and tragedy, with great acting by Sean Penn.

#6 American Splendor – A
truly funny autobiographical film that takes relationships and
ordinary lives to a new level.

#7 Pirates of the Caribbean: The
Curse of the Black Pearl –
Endorses rum, scallywag and the
superb talent of Johnny Depp. And it’s astonishingly inventive and
entertaining for a live action film from the folks at

#8 Finding Nemo – Hard to
avoid, yet lovable, it allows computer animation to be taken into a
magical, humorous and beautiful world.

#9 Dirty Pretty Things –
This dark mystery truly hearkens back to Hitchcock by showing
raw and muted moments as well as the temptation within the
struggles of illegal immigrants in London.

#10 Spellbound  A
quirky documentary that makes the rigors and wordy drama of
spellings bees interesting and thrilling to watch.



By Justin Weiner, Daily Arts

#10 Phone Booth – Colin
Farrell is remarkably awful in this film, especially when you
consider how similar his character is to his real life persona.
Director Joel Schumacher also fails to create any sense of tension
or drama. However, “Phone Booth’s” ultimate failure must be
ascribed to his marketing team. If the surprise ending in your film
is that the shooter is Kiefer Sutherland and not a fat guy, you
don’t put Kiefer Sutherland in the poster!

#9 The Haunted Mansion –
It’s exactly like the ride. Actually, I should rephrase that
statement: it’s exactly like the ride, but for the fact that it
lacks any trace of charm and it will make little children cry with
boredom. Michael Eisner must have had some truly scandalous photos
of Eddie Murphy to blackmail him into acting in this

#8 The Matrix Revolutions –
If “Revolutions” was a normal film, it would not belong among the
rest of this tripe. “Revolutions,” however, concluded one of the
greatest action sagas ever. It should have been this generation’s
“Return of the Jedi.” Instead, it was the second coming of “The
Phantom Menace.”

#7 From Justin to Kelly –
Did someone in Hollywood actually think this was a good idea? Two
“Idols” singing and dancing at the beach is not my idea of a good
time. Judging from the film’s dismal five million dollar revenue, a
lot of people agreed with me. But, if they make “From Rubin to
Clay”…I will forgive them.

#6 The Cat in the Hat – Dr.
Seuss wrote children’s books that were witty and humorous. Oddly,
this film has neither of these qualities. I suppose that’s what
happens when your entire budget is dedicated to creating an
outrageous set and a costume for Michael Myers. One positive note
— this may deter Universal from making a film version of “One
Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

#5 Honey – At the movie
theater, I saw a poster advertising “Honey.” It was basically a
close-up of Jessica Alba’s stomach. This got me to thinking that a
movie about Jessica Alba’s stomach would have been a lot more
interesting than “Honey.” On the other hand, Mekhi Phifer is making
quite a career out of chick-flick, dancing movies.

#4 The League of Extraordinary
Gentlemen –
“LXG” is yet another example of a comic book movie
gone horribly wrong. The special effects are over the top and
cartoonish. I also have a theory that the scriptwriters threw in
some of Darrel Hammond’s lines from “Saturday Night Live’s”
Celebrity Jeopardy just to see if Sean Connery would notice. “Then
the game is on…Trebek.”

#3 Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life
In an odd coincidence, the “Tomb Raider” films mimic the
pattern of the “Tomb Raider” video games. The first version is
boring and unremarkable save for one feature of its well-endowed
heroine. The sequel is exactly the same.

#2 Gigli – I can’t write
much about “Gigli,” because there’s nothing I can say about it that
has not already been said. Plus, the movie speaks for itself —
“gobble, gobble!”

#1 The Real Cancun – This
“film” (here I use the term loosely) is a case of art imitating
life. In this case, some Hollywood executives did a few shots of
151 and decided it would be an awesome idea to make a movie about
Spring Break. At first I thought they were crazy. Then I did some
jell-o shots and threw on some beads and a thong, and suddenly I
realized how brilliant this movie is.

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