As 2023 gets underway, moviegoers are eagerly awaiting the premieres of films like Scream VI, Barbie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Disney‘s live-action The Little Mermaid. But if you take a moment to rewind 20 years, you might remember plenty of beloved movies that made their debut in the year 2003.
From films that became breakout roles for future beloved actors to an iconic crossover in the world of slashers to two Christmastime films that have since turned into holiday traditions, 2003 was full of box office hits that have become cinematic classics.
‘School Of Rock’
School of Rock is a musical comedy starring Jack Black as an out-of-work guitarist who poses as a substitute music teacher and teaches his fourth-grade students about rock ‘n roll, finding redemption when he enters them into a Battle of the Bands competition.
Released onSeptember 24, 2003, School of Rock marked the highest-grossing musical comedy until it was beaten at the box office by Pitch Perfectin 2015, and launched the career of actor Miranda Cosgrove, who would star in Drake and Josh a year later, kicking off her long career with Nickelodeon.
Holes marked the first major motion picture for actor Shia LaBeouf after launching to fame on Disney Channel with Even Stevens and the inspirational DCOM Tru Confessions. The award-winning Walt Disney Pictures film hit theaters on April 18, 2003 to rave reviews.
Holes followed LaBeouf’s Stanely, who is wrongly sent to a camp in the desert where children are forced to dig holes for unknown reasons. Stanley teams up with a group of misfits to uncover the real reason behind their digging and what the Warden of the camp is hiding.
Despite being directed by Tim Burton and nominated for over two dozen awards, the fantasy dram-com Big Fish is a lesser-known Burton film that’s become solely known for being the acting debut of a future famous actor and singer.
Out on Christmas Day in 2003 and based on the novel by Daniel Wallace,Big Fish tells the story of a son who learns the kind of man his dying father truly was. Despite featuring major names like Danny DeVitto, Ewan McGregor and Steve Buscemi, most people remember this film as Miley Cyrus‘first role at the age of 8.
One of the most watched movies at Christmastime, Love Actually starred a slew of notable names when it premiered on November 6, 2003. Starring Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson, the film also helped launch the careers of Thomas Brodie-Sangster and future The Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln.
Love Actually follows nine separate but intertwined stories of couples of all ages who learn the true meaning of love during the holidays, and is best remembered for Lincoln’s Mark, who memorably holds up signs to confess his love to Keira Knightley‘s Juliet.
‘The Haunted Mansion’
On November 26, 2003, Disney debuted The Haunted Mansion, the film adaption of the famous theme park ride that brought elements of the ride to the big screen while putting a family twist on the haunted happenings of the mansion.
While the film was considered a failure at the box office, it would later spawn a remake, set for release 20 years later in 2023 and starring Jamie Lee Curtis in the beloved role of Madame Leota, first played by Jennnifer Tilly in the 2003 film and originated on the ride by the voice of Maleficient in Sleeping Beauty, Eleanor Audley.
‘Cheaper By The Dozen’
Cheaper By The Dozen was released on Christmas Day in 2003 as a modern-day remake of the 1950 film of the same name. Not starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as the parents of 12, the film also featured notable names like Hilary Duff, Alyson Stoner and Tom Welling as just a few of the many children.
The film put a new spin on the true story of a family consisting of 12 children, and followed The Bakers as they unexpectedly move to a new house in a new town, forcing the kids to adjust to a new life, and causing some chaos in the process.
‘Freddy Vs. Jason’
From the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the first sequel to Final Destination, 2003 was a big year in horror, and most memorably the year when two classic slashers came face to face for the first time in the summer blockbuster.
Freddy vs. Jason pit Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger against each other as two of the biggest villains in horror when a fragile Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street teams up with Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th and goes on an epic killing spree, ending in an all-out battle between the two iconic characters.
Finding Nemo was the fifth animated film by Pixar and marked the directorial debut of Andrew Stanton, who was also the brain behind the story. The film hit theaters on May 30, 2003 and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, a first for the animation studio.
Finding Nemo told the heartwarming story of a little fish who enters a big pond when he accidentally gets caught by humans and placed in a fish tank, sending his overprotective father on a journey through the ocean to find his son with the help of a forgetful royal blue tang.
‘Agent Cody Banks’
In the age of films starring young spies, Frankie Muniz took on the titular character in Agent Cody Banks alongside then-girlfriend Hilary Duff as undercover teen spies when the film premiered on March 14, 2003. Despite some minor controversy surrounding some of the film’s insensitive language regarding children with special education needs, it did spawn a sequel the following year.
When Cody Banks isn’t facing high school bullies and finishing all of his chores, he’s living life as an undercover spy for the CIA, who in return help Cody with his schoolwork, chores, and trains him on how to woo the ladies, specifically Duff’s Natalie.
2003 was a big year in holiday films, but the biggest Christmas classic to come from the year was Elf, released just in time for the holiday season on November 7, 2003. One of Will Ferrell‘s most memorable roles, Buddy the Elf became a Christmas icon after this stand-alone film.
Elf tells the festive tale of Santa’s most notable elf, Buddy, who learns that he’s actually human and goes on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and teach him the true meaning of the season.