Monday, July 16, 2018

Another Best Summer Ever: 2003

by Adam Riske
My pick for the best movie summer of the 2000s.

Last year, I wrote an article about 1995, my favorite movie summer of all time. I had a great time reminiscing so I’m continuing to explore that topic, but this time narrowing it to only 21st century summers at the movies. Choosing 2003 was easy. Nearly every week had a movie I could easily stop and watch on cable in 2018. It didn’t have highs like in 2002 (Spider-Man) or 2008 (The Dark Knight), but the quantity of quality entertainment in 2003 make it my favorite. Below I’ll share my top 10 list, as well as memories from that summer. But first, some honorable mentions:

Runners Up (in alphabetical order): American Splendor, Bad Boys II, Bruce Almighty, Cinemania, Down with Love, The Italian Job, The Matrix Reloaded, Whale Rider

My 10 Favorite Movies from Summer 2003:

10. Hollywood Homicide – Great uncomfortable “I hate you” Harrison Ford/Josh Hartnett chemistry, funny buddy cop movie, Master P and Martin Landau together on screen.

9. Seabiscuit – Moving sports drama, terrific acting, outstanding production design.

8. X2: X-Men United – One of the best films in this long series, major upgrade in scope from the original, solid villain.

7. 28 Days Later – Scary, kicked off the fast zombie phenomenon, awesome score.
6. S.W.A.T. – Colin Farrell rules, fun group of villains (top-tier Renner), all-timer cable remote drop.

5. Freaky Friday – Good soundtrack, Lohan peak period, one of the greatest remakes ever.

4. 2 Fast 2 Furious – Fantastic use of location (Miami), irresistible Paul Walker-Tyrese chemistry, Cole Hauser bad guy.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – Very entertaining start to a series I mostly enjoy, kick-ass score, fun performances (Depp, Knightley, Bloom).

2. Finding Nemo – One of my five favorite Pixar films, terrific characters, moving story, beautiful animation
1. Open Range – Beautifully shot, awesome buddy relationship between Duvall and Costner (!), epic western.

Movie Memories from Summer 2003:

1. The girl I was dating at the time and I were big fans of Disney Channel original programming (despite being way too old for it) and The Lizzie McGuire Movie was an emotional powerhouse. Lizzie ended up with Gordo!!!!
2. I will defend The Matrix Reloaded to my dying day. It’s not as good as the original, but I’ll contest it still has great action and a good kind of expensive summer movie vibe. This is the time in Zion when we dance!

3. I once had the option of hooking up or seeing Bruce Almighty. I chose the former and then said, “You know, we can still make Bruce Almighty…”

4. Cinemania keeps me honest and helps prevent me from ever getting too into movies.

5. I saw Finding Nemo the night before I started my internship at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and I was really stressed out. In hindsight, I was right to be stressed. That job sucked.
6. The night I saw The Italian Job I also went to a bar that blasted techno music and had Blade II playing muted on every television set. It’s no longer in business.

7. Dumb and Dumberer is better than Dumb and Dumber To. The scene with Bob Saget and the bathroom is hilarious.

8. I was pumped for Hulk. About an hour in, the entire opening night crowd turned on the movie and eventually booed it at the end. It was like watching a film die in real time. I went afterward to Barnes & Noble to pick up the new Harry Potter book at midnight. It was a memorable evening.

9. I once had the option of hooking up or seeing Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. I chose the former and then said, “You know, we can still make Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle…”

10. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde remains one of the worst comedy sequels I have ever seen and that’s really saying something.

11. Adding insult to injury, LB2 came out the same weekend as another awful sequel (one that I had higher hopes for) – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The friend I saw it with took me to IHOP afterwards so I could remember the world wasn’t only a terrible place.
12. I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl four times that summer because no one wanted to see it unless they were seeing it with me. At least that’s how it felt.

13. I snuck into The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (after Pirates of the Caribbean) and still felt like asking for a refund.

14. My girlfriend at the time didn’t like violent movies (and didn’t really want me watching them) so I went on a Boys Night Out and saw Bad Boys II, a movie I hate myself for sorta liking (the action sequences are all-timers). On the way to the theater we blasted Linkin Park’s Meteora album because we were awesome.

15. I’ve never seen How to Deal (starring Mandy Moore) but I see the paperback novelization every time I go to the library because it’s been one of the recommended books by the staff.

16. I had to go back to see Seabiscuit three times because I fell asleep the first two times. Eventually I went with my mom because my friends wouldn’t go back with me again.

17. American Wedding made me feel like a failure because I wasn’t getting married at the same time Jason Biggs was. Like, we were both in high school and college at the same time as the events of American Pie and American Pie 2 and then he pulled ahead in our life achievement race. Also, why is Stifler mentally not-there in this movie?
18. I don’t love Freddy Vs. Jason, but seeing it at 10am on opening day is one of my all-time favorite moviegoing memories. What a fun crowd! We were all amped.

19. I knew from watching Project Greenlight that The Battle of Shaker Heights wasn’t going to be good but I wasn’t ready for how truly shitty that film was.

20. Jeepers Creepers 2 was playing on two screens the night I saw it with my college roommate and we were collectively the only two people watching it. I know because I checked the other theater.

Your turn! What are some of your favorite movies from Summer 2003?


  1. I remember watching FvJ at the thursday night midnight showing, opening week. It was awesome. The crowd was lime yours, in it, laughing and cheering at the right places. A big part of why i still like the movie today

  2. Kill Bill V1, top three movie going experiences for me. Everyone in the theater was having a blast.

    1. That would be my no.1 if it was for the full 2003.

    2. Ay, overlooked the "Summer" aspect. My bad.

    3. No need to apologize. Just like Jordan Belfort

  3. Fun article! My favorite Summer 2003 movie would pretty easily be Down With Love. However, I do really want to see Open Range.

    I was 10 back in 2003, but I still have two movie theater memories that stick out in my head. First, when I saw X2 there was a kid younger than me sitting behind who loudly asked his Dad questions about literally everything that happened on screen. In hindsight, I don't know why my Dad or anyone else didn't try to do anything about that. Second, when I saw Finding Nemo I laughed so hard at the whale speaking scene that I literally fell out of my chair.

  4. Replies
    1. Do you think they ended up getting married?

    2. I think they make it to junior year of college.

    3. Lizzie broke up with Gordo - she did a semester in Australia and they couldn't make the distance work. Lizzie decided to stay in Australia. Gordo is fine though. He moved to NYC and became real hipstery. He now owns a coffee shop.

    4. I bet she met someone there named Myke Perth and she ended up marrying him. Gordo hit weed really hard and has never recovered romantically.

  5. IDENTITY!!! Is it just me that adores Mangolds hotel mystery romp?!

    I saw Freddy Vs Jason at 10am too. I was so excited. Enjoyed it for what it was.

    I caught Jeepers Creepers 2 and Dumb and Dumberer as well... I was 14. Gimme a break!

    1. I'm going to give Identity another shot in October. I didn't like the twist the first time but that was 15 years ago. Only didn't mention it because it was a late April release.

    2. I just revisited Identity a few days ago. I had the exact same feelings about it. I havent watched it since i saw it theatrically and hated the twist. This time I kinda dug it.

  6. I really enjoyed Matrix Reloaded (despite the fact that a person had a two or three minute phone conversation during the movie on opening weekend... should I still be upset by that?). By the end of that film, the Wachowskis had me so eager for part three. I honestly can't think of another movie that had me anticipating a sequel more until Infinity War.

    But Revolutions... that one disappointed me.

    1. Yes! I totally agree on the anticipation between Reloaded and Revolutions.

      I remember when Revolutions ended I was really baffled how a series that started with Neo-Morpheus-Trinity ended with Oracle-Architect-Girl from the Train station.

      I think the franchise works best as like a blockbuster experiment. How would it go if it ended in a truce instead of one side winning? What would it be like if we kill off more than half of the heroes of the series? In the end, I think it shows that just because it's edgier it doesn't necessarily satisfy.

    2. After the dramatically uncertain but visually mind-boggling Reloaded, I remember me and my pals imagining what kind of eyeball-melting craziness Revolutions would have. A massive kung-fu battle with the Architect, who would be using his powers to instantly rewrite the Matrix reality to neutralize weapons, throw up random obstacles, and multiply his limbs/mess with his size seemed like a total given. What we didn't expect was... well, Revolutions.

      I think the key to understanding the sequels is that, in the first movie, the Wachowskis genuinely believed the Matrix was a bad thing and Zion a great place, but then the movie made them superstars, and they started dreaming up all kinds of Matrix video games (which would involve sucking people into fake digital worlds... sound familiar?) and other products, and thus by the end of Revolutions, the only real greenery seen in the whole trilogy is the Matrix park of the last scene, which perfectly illustrates the degree to which the pair switched sides (no trans pun intended) on us. But Reloaded itself didn't tip their hand in that regard.

    3. It's funny you say that because my disappoint in the third movie runs so deep, I have nearly no recollection of the plot.

      When you put it that way, though, what my 21 year old gut said was "they just couldn't stick the landing" but maybe they wanted to challenge expectations and you hit it on the head.

    4. Well, Revolutions doesn't really have a story, does it? Smith was a free, rogue agent in Reloaded, but suddenly he's the digital Satan. Meanwhile, all those mythological and out-for-themselves programs we spent the middle section of Reloaded with? Well, never mind them, they don't end up doing much, and aren't even mentioned when the Matrix is reset at the end. Would you like to know more? Jack into the MMO computer game, where the real story will continue as long as the subscriptions pay the bills!

  7. One of my favorite theater experiences was seeing X2. When the phoenix silhouette crosses over the water at the end, I actually stood up and cheered. I was so excited for what would come next.

    1. and then, they kicked you in the nuts. it's Matrix 3 all over again

  8. I didn't see any movies in the theaters that summer. I was working in the far North of Quebec. The town we'd go to for days off every few weeks had a small theater, but they were dubbed in French, and I was just beginning to learn French at that point. So I didn't go.
    Watched a lot of Simpsons every evening. In French. It was ok, even though I didn't understand everything. It was actually good, because the Simpsons were dubbed using the Quebec dialect of French (which is how my co-workers talked), rather than the France dialect. It was useful for learning.

    1. The Simpsons Quebecois Dub is way better than the French dub (i'm Quebecois, so of course i prefer it). But once in a while, i listened to the French one because it was so ridiculous and funny. When the DVDs came out, the first season was with the French dub. To say that people were pissed is an understatement. I believe Fox ended up re-releasing season 1 with the proper dub.

  9. To throw in some more Open Range love: Open Range is incredibly underrated. Maybe the best Western showdown/shootout ever? And so much great and subtle character work (Costner's knuckles are too swollen to fit through the handle of the tea cup).

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