The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry, Concorde had its last flight, Ronaldo made his debut for Manchester United and Scribe topped the New Zealand singles’ charts for the year with his double-sided hit Stand Up and Not Many.
2003 was also a year when a Kiwi-shot movie ruled the global box-office – Sir Peter Jackson’s trilogy-ending The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – and other sequels dominated the top 10 (one of the few to buck the trend was another New Zealand-shot film, the Tom Cruise-starring The Last Samurai).
To coincide with the arrival of The Last of Us on Neon and SoHo this coming week (it debuts on January 16), which is partly set in 2003, Stuff to Watch has wound the clock back and picked out seven superb flicks that are turning 20 this year – and where you can watch them in New Zealand.
* Six superb Hilary Swank performances (and where you can watch them right now)
* Aladdin, Unforgiven among eight great movies that are turning 30 this year
* Twenty 21st century movies that will leave a mark (and where you can watch them)
* We need to talk about ‘Bruno’: The greatest Bruce Willis movies of all time
* The greatest Pixar movies of all-time
Bad Santa (Netflix)
For all his star dramatic turns and acclaimed work with the likes of the Coen Brothers, it’s this acerbic, very adult black comedy that Billy Bob Thornton is most associated with.
He plays misanthropic and alcoholic conman Willie T. Stokes, who uses his position as a mall Santa to help him stage an audacious heist.
However, it might only take one young believer to make him reconsider his life choices. Lauren Graham, John Ritter and Bernie Mac vie for the title of best scene-stealer.
Finding Nemo (Disney+)
Visually striking, what really stands out about the big-selling DVD of all-time is the challenging adult themes in the story and the clever, offbeat vocal casting (Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres and Willem Dafoe).
Despite lots of entertaining physical humour, the best understated fart gag ever committed to celluloid and lashings of all things cute and cuddly, this is the story of a family struck by tragedy, an overprotective solo father, rebellion and a desperate search with the aid of a sidekick stricken by a neurological disorder.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Disney+)
A Beautiful Mind duo Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany re-teamed for this compelling sea-fearing drama. Crowe plays Captain Jack Aubrey the hero of Patrick O’Brien’s vast series of nautical novels.
Producers hoped it would be the start of an adult-oriented franchise, sadly it wasn’t to be despite the best efforts of Aussie director Peter Weir.
“Old-fashioned entertainment crafted with considerable care,” wrote Empire magazine’s Colin Kennedy.
Mystic River (Prime Video)
Clint Eastwood directs this star-studded adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s 2001 novel about three former childhood friends whose lives are shattered when one of them endures a family tragedy.
The cast includes Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Emmy Rossum, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney.
“Eastwood tells the story simply, barely moving the camera. The only special effect in this film is genius,” wrote Good Morning America’s Joe Siegel.
The Pianist (Netflix)
Remarkable efforts from director Roman Polanski and actor Adrien Brody bring to life the terrifyingly true tale of Polish piano player Wladyslaw Szpilman, who against the odds managed to survive World War II.
“The fact that the director never once caves into easy sentiment or cheap hectoring is almost as amazing as the story itself,” wrote Empire magazine’s Ian Freer.
Not long after Phar Lap set hearts and wallets aflutter in Australasia, a small knobble-kneed bay colt took America by storm.
Seabiscuit, foaled in 1933, earned almost half a million US dollars for his owner, Charles S. Howard, between 1935 and 1940. His rise coincided with the beginning of racing radio broadcasts and a population desperate for any means of escape from the effects of the Great Depression.
Starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Tobey Maguire this 2003 tale focuses on the three men who shared in the glory that was “the biggest sensation on four legs since Hope and Crosby”. Part history lesson, part boys’ own adventure, Seabiscuit is superb human and equine drama.
Touching the Void (DocPlay)
Compelling and chilling docudrama which recounts the true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.
“Leaves you emotionally and physically spent, and grateful it was only a movie, not a mountain, you had to endure,” wrote Newsweek’s David Ansen.