The middle portion of the first decade of the 21st century saw the blockbuster come out in a big way. While it wasn’t the first year CGI spectaculars dominated, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace had ushered in a new era of blockbusters with cutting edge effects, fantastical elements, and big name intellectual properties getting into the movie-making biz. In 2005, adaptations of novels and book series dominated the big screen and two major franchises released movies that wound down one trilogy and started another iconic trilogy. As far as blockbusters go, you couldn’t go wrong with any of these movies. Check out our full list and let us know what your favorite is.
5) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
I wasn’t a Christian growing up, so I didn’t have a C.S. Lewis loving father to read these stories to me. I had heard so much about these books as a child yet I never bothered to read them for myself. In the present, as a Christian father with four children, my kids have not been allowed to miss out on Lewis’ classic series. They are also old enough where even the youngest could sit through these films. The best of the three Disney produced movies was clearly the first, and when it debuted it was a huge blockbuster hit to the tune of $745 million worldwide. It came in second to Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
As a newer Christian when this movie came out, it captured the imagination and heart of the books I had only recently caught up on. The first scene where Lucy stumbles upon the lamppost in the forest is majestically breathtaking and vividly captures the wonderful fantasy Lewis conceived. Before the climactic battle scene between the armies of Aslan and the White Witch, Lewis vision gleams. The battle itself and the aftermath lose the luster of the previous two-thirds. I think Lewis would have groused at the scene looking like a brightened, cheerier version of any The Lord of the Rings battle.
One thing that was 100% spot on was the choice of Liam Neeson voicing the Christ-figure, Aslan. He has the right mix of gentleness, like a father, distinctness, because Irish, and toughness to inhabit the role of the lion that is neither safe nor dangerous. When I read the books I will never again hear any other voice except the placid, 300-grit musings of Qui-Gon Neeson.
4) War of the Worlds
H.G. Wells classic 1898 classic is one of the first great Sci-Fi novels and one of my favorites. It would inspire future generations of famous Sci-Fi writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, and also influences countless Sci-Fi filmmakers. In 1938, Orson Welles famously narrated a radio drama of the novel that allegedly led to widespread panic and national outcry when it was proven to be a dramatization and not an actual invasion.
Leave it to Steven Spielberg, one of our greatest modern-day filmmakers and storytellers, to take on this iconic staple of Sci-Fi and re-imagine it for 21st-century audiences. And then he goes and casts Tom Cruise, A-list actor, and action star, to play the lead role. Quite a bold choice by Spielberg and an equally risky one for someone like Cruise. And yet, both choices paid off and War of the Worlds was a critical and box office success. However, it was the rare blockbuster that critics were positive towards but audiences weren’t. It captured the narrative claustrophobia of being one person amongst a worldwide invasion, but the end of the movie falls off the rails with some emotionally manipulative beats, lots of clichés, and Tim Robbins.
3) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The fourth installment in the Harry Potter movies is the high-water mark until the very last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow: Part 2. Given the masterful, operatic ending novel author J.K. Rowling gave the series with Deathly Hallows—the book is incredible—this movie gets the nod for being the best purely cinematic achievement.
The series has aged and matured as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has grown older, and this is the first movie to move past the tamer, PG-ish aspects of the previous films. It goes much darker, much scarier, and more mature, yet, as a consequence results in a more magical, more spectacular, and deeper on-screen story. In fact, Goblet of Fire is the first time we also get to see Voldemort “in the flesh”; played by a sinister and magnificently cast Ralph Fiennes. Another great addition, for this movie only, however, is Robert Pattinson playing semi-rival to Harry, Cedric Diggory. Having not read the books at the time, *Spoiler* his surprise death at the end of the movie caught me completely off-guard as he and Harry were on-the-mends relationally. He was much better in this role than he ever was as Edward in the Twilight movies.
What I loved about this movie more than any of the others is the sense of being caught in that difficult time of adolescence that is often the subject of John Hughes 80’s movies or 90’s television. But the teens deal with those issues and magic and their possible annihilation at the hands of a megalomaniac dark wizard. The story is brilliant for being completely age appropriate but also fun, thrilling, and poignant for older audiences.
2) Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Do you know how hard it is to rank a movie above a Star Wars movie? Well, it’s not that hard with the prequels, but this is my favorite of the prequels and so it is hard.
Lucas went out with a CGI spectacle and it was quite the experience. Doing its best Return of the Jedi impression, Revenge of the Sith majors on action and minors on plot development. It’s one lightsaber battle after another and incredible CGI battles! My favorite scene in the whole movie is the opening scene where Obi-Wan and Anakin’s fighters zoom across the screen, around a Republic Cruiser, and into this insane battle over Corsucant. I remember in the theater being absolutely blown away by what I was seeing and every time the scene plays, even on my iPhone, I still get chills.
While I can’t stand Hayden Christensen, I submit he is actually a lot better in this movie than he was in Attack of the Clones. It is the inexplicably bad performance of Natalie Portman, Christensen and Portman’s chemistry, and the abysmal screenplay that are holding the movie back. Amidst dynamite action and fantastic acting from Ewan McGregor—the only guy not sleepwalking to a paycheck—is the cringe-inducing scenes between the star-crossed lovers. One can only imagine Portman knew it was bad so she phoned it in and set herself up as the Alec Guinness of the prequel trilogy and wanted nothing to do with Star Wars fandom once she went to the bank.
Of course, the script mess didn’t stop the movie from being pretty good and taking the number one spot in 2005 with a worldwide gross just under $1 billion.
1) Batman Begins
It didn’t take the box office, but the first Nolan Batman movie set up the instant classic, The Dark Knight, and change how superhero movies were made. Batman movies before this were slightly campy, never much for seriousness, and certainly not considered Oscar contenders. However, Nolan’s filmmaking prowess combined with a story based on some of the more popular and darker Batman arcs created a Batman the movie world didn’t need but the one it deserved.
To be completely honest, I could say much more, but it would behoove me to commend to you the fabulous podcast we did a couple months previous on the movie with Rick Lee James and JR Forasteros. By far the most popular of this year’s podcasts, Fizz, Rick, and JR go deep into the story and draw out some fabulous biblical parallels and insightful themes. If you haven’t seen this movie, welcome to Earth, and watch it on Netflix Instant RIGHT NOW!