The 2003 Best Picture Oscar race was one of the few times the Academy voters, the critics, and moviegoers were all in sync. No one was surprised or disappointed when The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King won Best Picture. (In fact, it won all 11 awards it was nominated for.) If anything, the award seemed like recognition for all three films in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, as they were all part of one massive project, filmed at the same time but released over three consecutive Decembers. Given the enormous scope of Jackson’s accomplishment at turning the seemingly unfilmable Tolkien saga into movies that were critical successes, fanbase pleasers, and colossal worldwide hits, the award seemed well-deserved, but even judging Return of the King on its own merits — the thrilling battles, the heartbreaking intimacies of Sam and Frodo’s friendship, and the long and poignant farewells — it was still the most cathartic moviegoing experience of the year.
That’s no slight on the other Best Picture contenders. Lost in Translation remains a dreamy gem of a film. Mystic River turned the crime drama into an emotionally wrenching Greek tragedy. Seabiscuit transformed a typical underdog sports story into a national epic. And Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World remains one of the decade’s most woefully underrated movies, a thoroughly satisfying banquet.
Looking back from today’s perspective, which of these films doyou think is the best? Vote in our poll, and list your comments below.(For a refresher, watch the clips embedded after the jump, whichmay contain some NSFW language.) Remember, we’ll be running the Recall the Gold surveys every Tuesdayand Thursday until January, so you may go back at any time and vote inthe other polls (click hereto see them all), reexamining the Oscar races of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25years ago. On Thursday, Nov. 20, we’ll look at the 1988 Best Supporting Actresscompetition. Watch also for commentary and context throughout EW.com,including on Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King trailer
Lost in Translation trailer
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World trailer
Mystic River trailer