A Great Year in Cinema:

The Top 10 English-Language Movies of 2003

Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:13 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:13 a.m.
2003 marked the beginning of another Golden Age in cinema. Many of the following films have reached an apex of acclaim by holding a coveted Top 250 spot at www.imdb.com.
Top Ten
  • #1 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
    There's not much to say about Lord of the Rings: Return of the King that hasn't been said. Director Peter Jackson's excruciatingly meticulous attention to detail, killer effects, a highly talented and lauded cast and the J.R.R. Tolkien's story all combine to deliver one of the most spectacular motion pictures this generation has ever seen. A movie like Return of the King does not come along every year. Or even five years. We have witnessed filmmaking at its very best.
    While Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is sure to find an Oscar nomination for the epic finale, the Academy has not looked favorably upon fantasy films to win the Best Picture award. Some film fans would feel dismayed at such a strict pigeon-holing of this diverse masterpiece. Return of the King is one of those rare films that has something for everyone: massive battle scenes, a love story, the tried bonds of friendship, a quest with a relic, humor, et al. But don't shed tears if Return of the King loses to another movie - this movie will win enough awards to fill all the shelves at Minas Tirith.
    The Return of the King is currently playing in Gainesville.

  • #2 Mystic River
    The Clint Eastwood-directed drama is one of the most talked about films of 2003. Sean Penn and cast deliver spectacular, stirring performances.
    The story of three friends (Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins) reunion after a daughter's death initially sounded like pages from a Stephen King novella, but this is not the tone of Mystic River. Further, what I like most about Mystic River is how everyone's pasts affects others in the future, in a tangled web of interwoven fate.
    Mystic River is estimated for a DVD release in February.

  • #3 Lost in Translation
    This Sofia Coppola penned and directed movie doesn't get lost in translation. Two fine performances (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) find solace with one another while staying in a lush Tokyo hotel. Lost in Translation has spunk, but never fails to focus on the characters who bring this story to life.
    Lost in Translation is out on DVD February 3.
  • #4 The Last Samurai
    The extensive, intricately decorated production sets are one of this film's many attributes. The movie's title changes meaning twice during the movie, but I cannot explain it any further without risking throwing big spoilers your way.
    Tom Cruise, with the performance of his career, transforms into Nathan Algren, and this portrayal may earn him an Oscar. Cruise was previously nominated for Born on the Fourth of July and Magnolia.
    The battle scenes, while not overly bloody, are hard to watch after connecting emotional bonds with these characters, and the needless slaughter of these gentle sword masters will haunt you for days.
    The Last Samurai is currently playing in Gainesville.
  • #5 Finding Nemo
    Finding Nemo has swam into our hearts - judging by the ludicrous amounts of DVDs sold, and is a sure win for the Best Animated Film Academy Award, and should be lauded for raising the bar for CGI and hand-drawn animated films.
    After a Bambi-like melancholy opening, the film dives into the plot head first. You can of course expect the usual Disney "feelin' good" quality in the film, but this movie is hysterical. I have seen this movie four times now, and the scene with Dory (voiced by Ellen Degeneres) talking to the whale gets funnier every time. Also, catch what Dory says when she and Marlin, Nemo's father (voiced by Albert Brooks) are asleep in the mask hanging from the submarine.
    The main question on everyone's minds seems to be: how is a fish in the ocean going to rescue his scaly son from a tank on dry land? If you haven't seen Finding Nemo, grab the DVD - it's been out since November 4.
  • #6 Big Fish
    Big Fish is truly Tim Burton's masterpiece of epic proportions. This dazzlement of color, light and sound is sure to leave you breathless, and is as entertaining as it is heart-warming. As the lead character evolves to appreciate his father's life and tall tales, the audience leaves the theater changed. The film is stylish, yet quirky in a way that best exemplifies the grandeur and art of finely delivered cinematography.
    If you want a film that touches your heart and interests you starting from the first frame, don't miss this seven-course feast for your eyes.
    Big Fish opened to limited release in December, and opens in Gainesville today (January 9).
  • #7 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
    Russell Crowe delivers a sweeping performance in this film, which is based on the book of the same title.
    Paul Bettany is one to watch, and the special effects aren't bad either. This is a great movie if you favor action or adventure movies or period dramas. A positive side effect of viewing this movie is educating yourself at the same time. It's like watching a PBS special, but flipping to Fear Factor during the commercial breaks.
    Master and Commander is currently playing in Gainesville.
  • #8 In America
    In America is an autobiographical account of an Irish immigrant family's new life in the United States. Fresh with grief over losing a younger brother, the two sisters (who are also sisters in real life) bond with each other as well as with fellow tenants.
    Initially, I thought this indie sounded sleepy, but the story is quite captivating. I recommend it heartily to all.
    In America is currently playing in Gainesville.
  • #9 American Splendor
    This is the story of comic artist Harvey Pekar, and how his mentor Robert Crumb, inspires the bored Pekar to throw off the shackles of his humdrum existence. After learning to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of comic book art, Pekar enjoys cult status and his bizarre adventures, courtesy from his autobiographical comics. I enjoyed this film, and you are likely to as well, especially if you enjoyed Ghost World and Crumb. American Splendor gets mad props for innovative storytelling. It's scary how effective the use of animation is in relation to emphasizing events or moments in Harvey's career.
    Look for American Splendor on DVD February 3.
  • #10 Cold Mountain
    Cold Mountain is a beautiful film, but I must warn the unwary. This period piece takes place during the Civil War, so there is gore galore. Some of it is stomach-churning, but unless you are super squeamish, I hope that will not deter you from seeing one of the most gorgeous films of the year.
    As the women begin to rely upon one another (the men are fighting), their souls shine through the actresses portraying them. I am forced to recall Nicole Kidman's versatility. She shines in period pieces (The Others, The Hours, Far and Away et al.) and this movie is no exception.
    Cold Mountain is currently playing in Gainesville.
  • Honorable Mentions: These Films Nearly Made the Cut
    Seabiscuit - www.imdb.com/title/tt0329575 - is currently available on DVD.

    The Station Agent - www.imdb.com/title/tt0340377 - is estimated for a March DVD release.

    21 Grams - www.imdb.com/title/tt0315733 - is currently playing in Gainesville.

    Whale Rider - www.imdb.com/title/tt0298228 - is currently available on DVD.

    The House of Sand and Fog - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0315983 - is currently playing in Gainesville.

    Trailers of Aformentioned Films

    Return of the King trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0167260/trailers

    Mystic River trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0327056/trailers

    Lost in Translation trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0335266/trailers

    The Last Samurai trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0325710/trailers

    Finding Nemo trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0266543/trailers

    Big Fish trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0319061/trailers

    Master and Commander trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0311113/trailers

    In America trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0298845/trailers

    American Splendor trailer- www.imdb.com/title/tt0305206/trailers

    Cold Mountain trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0159365/trailers

    Seabiscuit trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0329575/trailers

    the Station Agent trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0340377/trailers

    21 Grams trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0315733/trailers

    The House of Sand and Fog trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0315983/trailers

    Whale Rider trailer - www.imdb.com/title/tt0298228/trailers

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