Movies turning 20 in 2024: The Incredibles, The Aviator, Saw and more

A big year for sequels and blockbusters, 2004 does not look too different from Hollywood two decades later

Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. Photo:  Forward Pass
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Back in 2004, cinemagoers were treated to a stellar year for mid-oughts blockbuster filmmaking, with a rich panoply of marquee titles debuting, many of which still resonate strongly today.

In many ways, the year is a precursor for the Hollywood of the present, a time still dominated by sequels, often from the same franchises, with some of the same filmmakers at the helm.

The year featured major releases by some of the most decorated directors in Hollywood, including Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh.

And yes, those same three names are still dominating the conversation here in 2024, with Scorsese a key name in Oscars season, and Soderbergh getting huge buzz for his latest horror film at Sundance.

The highest-grossing film of the year was Shrek 2, which brought home more than $900 million in box-office ticket sales, lifting the franchise to the peak of its cultural powers.

The year was packed with significant sequels, which included Spider-Man 2, Kill Bill: Vol 2, Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Ocean’s Twelve.

But it was an underdog favourite that ended up taking home the top prize for the year at the 2005 Academy Awards the following winter, with the Best Picture Oscar going to Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, starring Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman.

And yes, Eastwood at 93 is readying his next directorial effort, which perhaps could win Best Picture at the 2025 awards to keep things feeling even more eerily familiar.

Here are 24 films that turn 20 years old in 2024.

1. Troy

The historical epic from German director Wolfgang Petersen was a sensation that re-ignited global interest in the stories in Homer’s Iliad.

The film stars Brad Pitt as Achilles in an unforgettable performance filled with charisma and vulnerability. Other stars include Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger and Brian Cox.

Troy features well-choreographed duels and spectacular battle scenes that are sure to thrill.

2. The Day After Tomorrow

Director Roland Emmerich crowned himself something of a disaster film auteur by 2004. Having already directed Independence Day, Stargate and Godzilla, the director’s next film had to be an even bigger disaster than any of his previous films.

In The Day After Tomorrow, the threat is global warming. Perhaps quaint to see that in 2004, global warming was nothing more than a fictional disaster film scare rather than the very real threat it is today.

The film makes the most of its computer-generated capabilities, presenting a world overrun by harsh blizzards engulfing large metropolitan cities. Years later, Emmerich would outstay his welcome with films such as

Independence Day: Resurgence and Midway.

3. The Incredibles

There aren’t many directors in Hollywood who have near-perfect filmographies, but a good argument can be made for Brad Bird.

Bird’s first film, The Iron Giant, was an instant classic, but he became a phenomenon with his next three films in a run that included The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

The Incredibles is one of Pixar’s most energetic and action-filled films, presenting a superhero experience with more substance than one would expect, or have found in recent years from the superhero boom in the 2010s.

4. The Terminal

Tom Hanks has given us many memorable performances over the years. In The Terminal, he portrays a character hit with adversity who is determined to face it with pride and good faith.

The Terminal does not show up when mentioning some of director Steven Spielberg’s best films, but that’s mostly a result of the strength of Spielberg’s back catalogue than the weakness of the film.

For a cosy and fun experience in a setting that does not usually inspire either, the film is easy to revisit whenever it happens to be available.

5. Spider-Man 2

In 2024, we’ve gone through a whole story arc and, after more than 20 Marvel films, the fatigue has started to set in. In 2004 though, the Spider-Man sequel was the most anticipated film of the summer.

The film’s villain is Doctor Octopus played brilliantly by Alfred Molina, who delivers a very touching and emotional portrayal.

Spider-Man 2’s large set pieces are grand in scale and nail-biting in their action. Even after two decades of superhero films, it is in its own class alongside films such as Blade and The Dark Knight.

6. Fahrenheit 9/11

America experienced something of a trance after the events of September 11.

The country was grieving and trying to make sense of things, but the powers that be were scheming, deciding where and when they should exploit the situation for their own gain.

These are the themes and feelings explored in Michael Moore’s controversial, Palm D’or-winning documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

The film does not present everything as fact and can be viewed as something out of a conspiracy theorist’s fever dream, but there’s enough real-world experiences and testimonies to make it an interesting watch.

7. The Aviator

The working relationship between Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese started two years earlier in Gangs of New York, but it really blossomed with The Aviator.

The film chronicles the life of engineer, film producer and investor Howard Hughes.

In The Aviator, DiCaprio portrays Hughes from his early days all the way to his seclusion period, and everything in between. The film is a gorgeous cinematic experience and a spotlight on the life of a very complicated man.

8. Hellboy

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy character was brought to life for the first time in Guillermo Del Toro’s film adaptation of the graphic novels.

The man behind the red makeup is Ron Perlman, who manages to still emote through the paint, presenting a monster with a tough exterior and a caring heart.

The film received a sequel that performed even better than the first, but unfortunately not well enough to give Del Toro a third film.

9. I, Robot

Will Smith’s stock was still very high in 2004. While it was waning in the glory days of the late 1990s when his name meant assured box office success, he was still enough of a draw for cinemagoers to carry a huge budget with aplomb.

I, Robot is a science fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas and adapted from Isaac Asimov’s genre-defining story.

The film divided audiences upon release and, while profitable, was not the huge box-office success its producers hoped it would be, but watched today it presents a very enjoyable sci-fi experience.

10. Alien vs. Predator

Ever since a Xenomorph skull appeared in Predator 2, fans had speculated on whether the two would meet. Several comic-book adaptations and failed attempts later, the film arrived from Resident Evil and Event Horizon director Paul W S Anderson.

The film was highly anticipated and did enough to earn a second film, but the less said about the sequel the better.

While this film is nowhere near the quality of any of the Alien or Predator films, it can be enjoyed as a one-off adventure that doesn’t affect either franchise.

11. The Manchurian Candidate

Remakes are not usually as good as, let alone better than, the original film. Jonathan Demme’s remake of the Sinatra-fronted The Manchurian Candidate is better than the original film.

The first term of US President George W Bush was fraught from the start, and America endured a horrible and traumatic terrorist attack in 2001 and subsequently entered wars in several fronts.

While a documentary could inform on the facts, no film informs on the feelings of the day more than The Manchurian Candidate remake. Denzel Washington presents an underrated portrayal that will stay with you.

12. Kung Fu Hustle

Hong Kong cinema has always seen huge jumps in innovation and storytelling when it comes to action and martial arts films. Stars such as Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Bruce Lee before them are legends of the genre.

One name that does not get enough recognition is Stephen Chow. The director and star of Shaolin Soccer made his magnum opus in Kung Fu Hustle, a surreal and funny martial arts extravaganza.

The film’s large-action set pieces utilise wire work and CGI to achieve a balanced yet enthralling result.

13. The Village

M Night Shyamalan is a master of horror and trickery. After the incredible success of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, fans were waiting with bated breath to see what the filmmaker would direct next.

The Village is a unique horror film with a twist that rivals the one in The Sixth Sense in its gravity.

The promotional material ramped up the excitement for the release, and the film didn’t disappoint, making more than $250 million at the box office against its $60 million budget.

14. National Treasure

Nicolas Cage could be described as overthe top with his action roles, and while that might be true, his role in National Treasure fits the energy of the film perfectly.

The Disney production offers a grand adventure that mixes actual American history with a fantastical plot.

Directed expertly by Jon Turteltaub, the film thrilled audiences and a sequel was released in 2007.

15. Saw

Horror films can involve any manner of scary elements, from zombies to ghosts there’re a plethora of ways to terrify the audience. Gory cinema had been relegated to B-movies but with Saw’s release, the subgenre experienced a huge rise in popularity.

The film was made on a small budget, estimated at $1.2 million and made more than $103 million in returns.

The success of the film birthed a long-running franchise, with a 10th film in the series released in 2023 that ended up becoming the best-reviewed entry in the series.

16. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Wes Anderson took his love for French deep sea explorer Jacques Cousteau and turned it into an eccentric and fun film experience in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

The film has a huge cast of recognisable names as is to be expected with a Wes Anderson film. Brazilian troubadour Seu Jorge provides a beautiful soundtrack with Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs.

17. Shark Tale

While 2004 featured several animated films that would become firm favourites, one underrated and underappreciated choice is Shark Tale.

The fun underwater adventure featured the voices of Will Smith, Robert DeNiro and Angelina Jolie. Filmmaker Martin Scorsese even lends his voice in a small role.

Shark Tale was a success at the box office, making $374 million on its $75 million budget.

18. Ocean’s Twelve

Steven Soderbergh brought back the magic of heist films with his remake of Ocean’s Eleven in 2001. The raucous film that featured a stream of Hollywood heavy hitters did incredibly well, pushing the studio and the filmmaker to a sequel.

In Ocean’s Twelve, the heist goes international, setting the gang on a caper across Europe.

The film’s conclusion is a frantic unravelling that leaves heads spinning.

19. Walking Tall

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a household name today, but in 2004 he was dipping his toes into acting work away from his professional wrestling career.

Having appeared in The Scorpion King and The Rundown, The Rock fronted this remake of a 1973 film with the same name.

The film helped grow The Rock’s recognition and was a major step in making him the action star he is today.

20. Dawn of the Dead

Before Zack Snyder took on directing Superman and Batman films for DC, the director remade a zombie classic in Dawn of the Dead.

The film is about a ragtag group of people who become stuck in a mall during a zombie outbreak and must get along or get fed to the undead.

There’s a unique early 2000’s feel to the horror film which gets the adrenalin pumping with its frenetic editing and rock soundtrack.

21. Layer Cake

British gangster films have become extremely popular since the release of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch in 2000. A string of action-packed experiences followed.

One of these gangster films introduced the world to the actor who would become the next James Bond. Daniel Craig’s performance in the Matthew Vaughn film convinced 007 producers that he’s the man for the job.

22. Downfall

This German film about the last days of Nazi Berlin before their defeat and the end of the Second World War is most well known today for its memes, but it is a gritty and unrelenting portrayal of the harshness of the circumstances.

The film does not shy away from showing how full of fear and ignorance the Nazi command were in their final days, with an incredible performance from Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler.

23. Shrek 2

The highest grossing film of the year, Shrek 2 took everything that was great about the first film and multiplied it a hundredfold.

The quality of the animation is substantiality better and the story is more exciting. Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy are funnier than ever as Shrek and Donkey, delivering lines that are quoted on the internet to this day.

The film expands the world and throws in a cast of hilarious characters like Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother, both of whom are great foils to our heroes.

24. Collateral

Michael Mann directs this adrenalin-pumping thriller starring Jamie Foxx as a hapless taxi driver who encounters the villainous force played menacingly by Tom Cruise.

Cruise is known for his action starring roles as the hero, but in Collateral he embodies a malevolent presence, meticulously going after what he wants.

The film also features a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Jada Pinkett Smith and Javier Bardem.

Updated: February 08, 2024, 8:09 AM