The Weekend Warrior’s Top 10 for 2003

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What an amazing year for movies! Although there were certainly a number of dogs, never have I felt that there were so many worthy movies to choose from, making the choosing that much harder. This year, I ended up with a decent mix of independent and major studio films, everything from historic epics to quieter character dramas, but at the center of all of them were great stories and impeccable acting performances. (Movies with a * include my full review.)

10 Monster*

Charlize Theron’s breakout performance as serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, was the centerpiece of Patty Jenkins’ amazing drama about a tragic, yet deadly, character. It’s impossible to take your eyes off this screen due to the physical and emotional range Theron brings to the role, and it was a movie that few will quickly forget.

9 Lost in Translation*

Who would have thought that this year’s critical darling would be a fairly simple travelogue of Tokyo, starring two actors from different generations. The humor of Bill Murray and the dramatic chops of Scarlett Johansson combined to create some of the most amazing chemistries seen on screen in many years.

8 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Sometimes, you just have to be able to sit back and have fun watching a movie and that was exactly Jerry Bruckheimer provided when he got The Ring’s Gore Verbinski to direct Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the movie version of the Disney theme park ride of the same name. Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow quickly became one of the most memorable characters of the 21st Century, making this a blockbuster crowd favorite.

7 Cold Mountain

An astounding masterpiece by director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) that plays out like a modern-day Gone With the Wind. An amazing romance between Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, who rarely appear on screen together, is set against the backdrop of North Carolina during the bloody, Civil War. The powerful message is punctuated by amazing performances from an astounding cast including Renee Zellweger, Brendan Gleeson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

6 City of God

Fernando Meirelles’ Brazilian crime drama came from out of nowhere, using a no-name cast to create a vivid look at street gangs in Rio during the 70’s and 80’s as seen through the eyes of a young photographer named Ze. Another fine example of Brazil’s amazing progress in the world of cinema.

5 The Last Samurai

Tom Cruise plays Mifune to Edward Zwick’s Kurosawa in this amazing samurai epic set at the end of the 19th Century, as the classic samurai warrior was being replaced by modern-day warfare and weaponry. A stunning visual masterpiece with an amazing performance by Japanese actor, Ken Watanabe.

4 Dirty Pretty Things*

Steven Frears’ stirring thriller about an organ donor ring preying on England’s immigrants was driven by an amazing performance by first-time actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, as well as the first English-speaking role for French cutie, Audrey Tautou (Amelie). The movie took a uniquely original approach to a tried-and-true cinema genre.

3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Peter Jackson proved that he saved the best for last as everything that was great about the first two movies was taken to the Nth degree with one of the most amazing battle scenes ever put on screen. But it wasn’t all action and effects, as at the center of it all was a poignant tale of two friends trying to overcome the odds while maintaining their friendship.

2 Whale Rider

Niki Caro’s amazing story about a young girl destined to be the chief of her New Zealand tribe, much to the consternation of her grandfather, produced one of the most tear-jerking performances ever put on screen by a young Keisha Castle-Hughes. A real crowd-pleaser for people of all ages about as well as creating an amazing role model for young girls everywhere.

1 21 Grams*

The second movie from Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, told an amazing tale of love, murder, death and revenge in a non-linear fashion that forced the viewer to put the pieces together themselves. The performances by Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro made every scene powerful and moving. Rarely has a movie ever been as complex and original, while displaying the entire spectrum of the human life cycle.

Honorable Mentions:

Elephant* – Gus Van Sant’s memorable recreation of the events leading up to the Columbine killings starring a cast of young unknowns.

The Cooler – A refreshing tale starring William H. Macy as a loser, whose job is to bring bad luck to those having a winning streak at a Vegas casino, whose luck suddenly changes when he finds true love with a waitress.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Peter Weir, Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany brought series of books to life in this amazing high-seas adventure.

Matchstick Men – Nic Cage plays a quirky con man, who rediscovers the daughter he left behind, in Ridley Scott’s character driven crime drama,

The Magdalene Sisters* – Peter Mullan’s unflinching drama about a boarding school for wayward girls run by tyrannical nuns featured strong performances from a cast of young female newcomers.