Well, if Shroomy's going to do that ... (This list is mostly recapitulated from the NY Times site, so apologies to those who have to sit through this twice. I'm adding some commentary, though)
Here's a very tentative list of my top 10 films of 2003. I'm not including any films I considered last year, and I generally don't come up with a final list until we vote on the Blanches, and I've had a chance to see more late and limited releases. The likeliest candidates that are missing are The Station Agent and Hero. I saw very few foreign films last year, and missed a number of films which disappeared from theatres before I could get to see them. The top film and the #2 film are both obvious to me; there is as much distance between #2 and #3 as there is between #3 and #10
1) Whale Rider. A beautifully told story, wonderfully acted and moving. This was already easily my best film before I caught it again on DVD; I like it even better now. Keisha Castle-Hughes gives the performance of the year, and there are a lot of great supporting performances as well.
2) In America. The best acted film of the year, period. All of the five major characters are well-acted. Sarah Bolger is getting the most attention, and has several scenes that are startling great, but Samantha Morton gives an equally fine performance. At first it seems there isn't much of a story, but that's because the film is gradually building its power.
3) School of Rock. Jack Black is one of my favorite actors, and he was born to play this part. The kids are excellent, and it has Joan Cusack. And when the kids rock, it's the real thing.
4) Holes. Deliberately off-beat, but it works amazingly well.
5) Lost in Translation. I wasn't expecting it to finish this high when I saw it, but there are images and situations in it that stick in my mind.
6) The Man Without A Past. Another off-beat film, sneakily funny, with a well-done love story.
7) Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Segments 1 and 2 are my #5 and #3 films of their years, so this is a bit of a comedown, actually. But it's still a very good film.)
8) Bend It Like Beckham. Possibly a 2002 film. This is the film that introduced me to Keira Knightly, who is becoming one of my favorite actresses.
9) Pirates of the Caribbean. Keira Knightly again, and a delightful and unique performance by Johnny Depp.
10) Looney Tunes: Back in Action; the funniest film of the year, and often inspired.
11) Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (In case Bend It Like Beckham is a 2002 film; Whale Rider and The Man Without A Past weren't widely released in the US until 2003, but I'm not sure about Beckham)
Honorable mentions: 12) Nowhere in Africa; 13) Kill Bill, Part 1; 14) Finding Nemo; 15) Seabiscuit 16) The Italian Job; 17) X2: X-Men United; 18) Cold Mountain 19) Freaky Friday 20) Matchstick Men; 21) The Rundown 22) Down With Love 23) Spellbound 24) Terminator 3 25) Elf
Best actor: Jack Black, I guess, but on another day I might say Bill Murray. Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean was delightful. Best actress: Keisha Castle-Hughes. Honorable mentions are Samantha Morton and Sarah Bolger, Keira Knightly had a nice triple threat.
Worst film (that I bothered to see):
1) Zus and Zo. This film inexplicably got a nomination for best Foreign film at the 2002 Oscars, and I dispise it. It's smarmy, coy, and obnoxious. I wanted all the characters to die violent, painful deaths after half an hour.
2) How to Lose a Man in 10 Days. You know you're in trouble in a romantic comedy when you wish the two leads would shoot each other. This is a classic incidence of what Ebert calls the Idiot Plot.
3) Bubba Ho-Tep. Some of my friends like this. Go figure. I can see how a film like this could be a guilty pleasure, but life is too short to watch trash like this.
4) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The opening scene is great. The rest is a turgid mess, with stupid and lazy special effects, inept character development, and a dramatic climax which is confused and boasts the worst of CGI.
5) What a Girl Wants. I loved Amanda Bynes in "Big Fat Liar." She is pretty, funny, and can act. So why is she reduced to doing pratfalls for laughs in this film? And, for God's sake, didn't anybody think out the consequences of this girl's existence? An incredibly stupid film and a waste of Bynes' and Colin Firth's talents.