Favorite Films of 2002

I’m creating my annual movie lists retroactively. See all of them.

Looking at the full list of 2002 releases brought up lots of random memories:

  • going to Changing Lanes and Signs in the theater with my dad
  • seeing the original teaser trailer for Spider-Man on TV in fall 2001 that featured the World Trade Center towers
  • watching The Hours in a high school English class twice as an exercise in close-reading a film
  • rewatching The Hot Chick enough times with my sisters to have the “boys are cheats and liars” chant memorized

Ah, to be young again. This year also saw me transition from middle school to high school. My friend Tim and I were deep into making stop-motion and live-action short films using the LEGO Studios Steven Spielberg MovieMaker Set camera and software. Titles included Doctor Dreadful, The Penington Estate, and Dino Dan—all esteemed Oscar-worthy pictures.

One day I’ll excavate the DVDs full of these heavily pixelated treasures. Until then, on to the list…

1. Minority Report

This was one film, in addition to the LOTR trilogy, that really hooked me into the power and possibilities of film.

2. Catch Me If You Can

Only five years after Titanic made Leonardo DiCaprio a global sensation, this and Gangs of New York (released the same week) confirmed him as a sensational actor as well.

3. Signs

Man, the jump-scares of the aliens on the roof and in the Brazilian street got me real good in the theater. Though The Sixth Sense is great and Unbreakable is his best, this is peak Shyamalan.

4. In America

I’m glad I saw this later on, in college, when I was able to appreciate just how marvelous it is.

5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Even the least of the LOTR trilogy has excellent moments, namely “Forth Eorlingas!” and “by rights we shouldn’t even be here”.

6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Thanks to the late Michael Constantine, aka Gus, for several iconic catchphrases from this movie that I still deploy occasionally, including “put some Windex on it” and “so there you go”.

7. The Ring

This movie is sort of Patient Zero for my dualistic relationship with horror films: I don’t like willingly subjecting myself to horrific content that will disturb my mind and sleep, but I also greatly appreciate supremely crafted suspense films.

8. The Count of Monte Cristo

I’ll admit to not having rewatched this in a while, but my enduring impression is that it is, as Roger Ebert wrote, “the kind of adventure picture the studios churned out in the Golden Age—so traditional it almost feels new.” I also had a crush on Dagmara Domińczyk as Mercédès.

9. Jackass: The Movie

This and subsequent Jackass movies are in my Mount Rushmore of making me cry-laugh.

10. The Bourne Identity

Sure, it inspired too many mediocre shaky-cam knockoffs, but there ain’t nothin’ like Matt Damon and Clive Owen facing off in the countryside.

Honorable mentions:

  • Gangs of New York
  • Punch-Drunk Love
  • Road to Perdition
  • Panic Room
  • We Were Soldiers
  • Spider-Man

3 responses to “Favorite Films of 2002”

  1. Natalie Pohorski Avatar

    I can’t believe Road to Perdition is only an honorable mention for you! But the rest of this list checks out 🙂

    1. That’s another one I haven’t seen in a long time, so perhaps a rewatch would bump it up.

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