In 2000 I was 25 years old, and in 2004 I was 29. I spent the first three of these years in Taiwan, and the last two in the USA. I also got married and became a father.
I suppose the defining moments of these years were the bursting of the dot-com bubble and 9/11. Post-WWII America, previously an unchallenged economic superpower, went into a serious depression that the George Bush presidency did little to alleviate. Many trade barriers between the US and China were lifted, with the result that China became what it is today: the center of world manufacturing. The paranoia following 9/11 didn't help matters any, nor did the subsequent Iraq War/Invasion. While allowing the economy to coast downhill, the Bush administration all but repealed many individual freedoms and rights to privacy in the name of security. Our enemies, it seemed, were everywhere, and the price of our vigilance was our own freedom.
Biggest Movies of 2000: Mission: Impossible II, Gladiator, Cast Away, What Women Want, Dinosaur, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Meet the Parents, The Perfect Storm, X-men, What Lies Beneath
Gladiator, Cast Away, and Meet the Parents were good movies. Cast Away is probably my favorite among the hits of that year.
The second Mission: Impossible was a terrible movie. I really wanted to like that one, since it shared the same director with Face/Off, but it was a disaster from beginning to end.
The first X-men film wasn't very good, but it was nice to see them finally make a movie out of that comic book. This was perhaps the beginning of the superhero movie fad, which would really pick up steam with 2008's Iron Man. Two years later Sam Raimi's Spider-Man would appear, and after that Ang Lee's Hulk, and after that the floodgates were truly open.
Honorable Mentions: Traffic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Billy Elliot, Girlfight, The Beach, Pitch Black, The Ninth Gate, American Psycho, The Cell, Remember the Titans, Men of Honor, Unbreakable, Chocolat, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Family Man
Traffic was an excellent movie about the drug trade. The Ninth Gate and American Psycho were two other classics from this year. Of the three films, The Ninth Gate is probably the most overlooked. It offers a moody, atmospheric story of a man searching for a lost book.
The Cell and Unbreakable were not in the same league as the other movies listed above, but I thought they explored some interesting ideas.
Biggest Movies of 2001: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Monsters, Inc., Shrek, Ocean's Eleven, Pearl Harbor, The Mummy Returns, Jurassic Park III, Planet of the Apes, Hannibal
Harry Potter! I still hate those movies. I probably always will.
The first Lord of the Rings film was good, and relatively faithful to the book. I take issue with subsequent installments in the series. Those subsequent installments bear little resemblance to Tolkein's creation, and are quite boring besides.
Kind of a depressing year if one were to judge it by the blockbusters. The forgettable Ocean's Eleven was probably the best of the bunch, and even that wasn't very good.
Honorable Mentions: A Beautiful Mind, Training Day, Monster's Ball, Memento, The Pledge, Blow, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, America's Sweethearts, Zoolander, From Hell, K-Pax, Shallow Hal
Training Day is a great cop movie. Both Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington are amazing in it. This movie spawned a slew of imitators.
Monster's Ball offers yet another reason to hate Billy Bob Thornton - he spends a large part of it having sex with the super hot Halle Berry. I don't know if that sex was simulated or not, but it sure looked real enough to me.
Memento is an excellent movie, and one of Christopher Nolan's first. Guy Pierce stars as a man with some serious memory issues.
A.I. is one of my favorite science fiction movies. I know people who can't stand it, but I think it offers the best of both Kubrick and Spielberg.
I have seen Zoolander so many times.
Biggest Movies of 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Spider-Man, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Men in Black II, Die Another Day, Signs, Ice Age, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Minority Report
The best movie here is Minority Report. A good combination of Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, utilizing a story idea from the great Philip K. Dick. Certainly one of the best movie adaptations of a PKD story.
I can remember being very disappointed by Spider-Man. I thought Tobey Maguire was good as Spider-Man, but the Green Goblin looked ridiculous and the movie seemed too long. The sequel was a vast improvement.
Honorable Mentions: The Hours, The Pianist, Catch Me if You Can, Gangs of New York, About Schmidt, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Frida, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, John Q, The Time Machine, Resident Evil, Blade II, Ali G Indahouse, The Bourne Identity, Road to Perdition, One Hour Photo, 8 Mile, Solaris
Which is the best movie about the Holocaust? The Pianist or Schindler's List? It's a tough call, but I'd have to go with Schindler's List. The Pianist is excellent however.
This year marks the point at which Leonardo DiCaprio's career really started to pick up steam. He stars in both Catch Me if You Can and Gangs of New York. Both good films.
Adaptation is one of Nicholas Cage's best movies. It is the kind of movie he should do more often. At his age, and with his level of talent, he should do more serious movies.
Blade II is still one of the best superhero movies ever.
One Hour Photo is a less-remembered movie from that year, but Robin Williams is good in it. This would make an excellent double feature with another of his films, The Final Cut, or even the film he did later with Christopher Nolan, Insomnia.
Biggest Movies of 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Finding Nemo, The Matrix Reloaded, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Bruce Almighty, The Last Samurai, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, The Matrix Revolutions, X2, Bad Boys II
The Matrix Reloaded was a disappointment. They should have left the Matrix alone. It didn't need a sequel. The Matrix Revolutions was slightly better, but it also appropriated elements from Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah, and never gave him credit.
The Last Samurai, another Tom Cruise picture, was probably the best of the hits from this year.
Honorable Mentions: Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Monster, Dark Blue, Old School, Hulk, Bend it Like Beckham, Cabin Fever, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, The Rundown, Intolerable Cruelty, Kill Bill Vol. 1, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Elf, Bad Santa,
Mystic River and Monster are both excellent movies. I believe Charlize Theron won the Oscar for Monster, and she certainly deserved it. Clint Eastwood directed Sean Penn in Mystic River.
Dark Blue is an overlooked entry from that year. Kurt Russell shines in that movie.
Both Old School and Elf mark the rise of Will Ferrell. He's a household name now, but at the time he was just "that guy from SNL."
Intolerable Cruelty is a good movie on its own merits, but I could turn the sound off and just stare at Catherine Zeta-Jones. My God she is beautiful.
If you haven't seen Bad Santa you should.
Biggest Movies of 2004: Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Spider-Man 2, The Incredibles, The Passion of the Christ, The Day After Tomorrow, Meet the Fockers, Troy, Shark Tale, Ocean's Twelve
Spider-Man 2 is hands down the best movie of 2004. It is also one of the best superhero movies ever.
There was a great deal of controversy over The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's film about Christ's final days. I saw it in the theater, and audience reactions were interesting. I thought it was a good film, but not as good as The Last Temptation of Christ.
Honorable Mentions: The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Butterfly Effect, Dawn of the Dead, Hellboy, Kill Bill Vol. 2, 13 Going On 30, Napoleon Dynamite, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, The Terminal, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Garden State, The Manchurian Candidate, Collateral, Saw, Kung Fu (Hustle), Hotel Rwanda, In Good Company
I have seen Million Dollar Baby so many times.
Napoleon Dynamite and Dodgeball were both hilarious movies. Anchorman, however, trumps them both. I have large sections of Anchorman committed to memory.
The Manchurian Candidate should have done better at the box office. Perhaps it was too dark for most people. Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber are great in that movie.
I parenthesize the "Hustle" in Kung Fu Hustle because that movie was known simply as Kung Fu in Asia. I'm not sure why they added the "Hustle" for American audiences.
Hotel Rwanda is an excellent film featuring Don Cheadle.