The Decade in Film: A Timeline



1/10: America’s top Internet-service provider announces plans to acquire the world’s largest media conglomerate. At $182 billion in stock and debt, AOL + Time Warner = the largest deal in history.

8/01: Time Warner announces that three million Matrix DVDs have been sold, solidifying its position as the bestselling DVD of all time.


1/01: 2001 arrives, 22 months after Stanley Kubrick dies.

6/15: Paramount opens Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which becomes the top-grossing movie based on a video game.

9/03: Pauline Kael dies at age 82.

9/12: Warner Bros. acknowledges the fall of the WTC with the postponement of Collateral Damage.

11/16: Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone opens, the first installment of a franchise on track to gross $2 billion by 2010.


1: Two Boots Pioneer Theater begins weekend midnight screenings of Donnie Darko that continue for 26 months, through March 2004.

3/24: For her performance in Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry becomes the first African-American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar.

12/31: Four out of five top worldwide grossing films are sequels, in what will be Hollywood’s top-grossing year of the decade: LOTR: The Two Towers, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Men in Black II. The fifth is Spider-Man, which will spin off sequels in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007).


3/09: Avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage dies. A year later, he appears in the Oscar necrology.

5/30: Disney presents Finding Nemo, Pixar’s greatest hit and the highest-grossing G-rated movie of all time.

8/01: Gigli tanks, Bennifer crashes and burns, paving the way for Brangelina.

8/27: Five months into the Iraq War, the Pentagon holds an informational screening of The Battle of Algiers.

9/08: Nazi pin-up girl and documentarian Leni Riefenstahl dies at 101 in Berlin.

10/07: Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected governor of California.

10/19: Forty-seven years after he began shooting, Ken Jacobs premieres his epic Star Spangled to Death at the New York Film Festival.


2/27: With more pre-sales than any movie in history, The Passion of the Christ opens for Lent and becomes the highest-grossing independent film of all time.

5/24: Fahrenheit 9/11 snags the Palme d’or at Cannes, sets the record for documentary grosses, and wins John Kerry the 2004 election.

6/05: Ronald Reagan, star of Bedtime for Bonzo, dies in Bel-Air at 93.

8/08: The last living adult star of silent movies, Fay Wray, dies at age 96.

10/29: Saw opens, the first of six installments—with a seventh slated for 2010.


2/02: Pierce Brosnan resigns as James Bond; six months later, Daniel Craig is named as his replacement.

2/25: Diary of a Mad Black Woman introduces Tyler Perry, high school dropout and one-man media conglomerate, to moviegoers. Perry makes lots of money, introduces a confused film industry to the idea of a middle-class black audience.

4/23: First YouTube Video uploaded.

6/17: IFC Center opens with Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know.

8/19: The 40-Year-Old Virgin opens. The Judd Apatow era begins.

9/30: The Weinstein brothers leave Miramax (which remains with Disney).

12/12: Paramount buys DreamWorks for $1.6 billion.


1/24: Disney announces acquisition of Pixar for approximately $7.4 billion.

3/05: Brokeback Mountain loses Best Picture Oscar to Crash.

3/14: A History of Violence is the last major Hollywood film to be released on VHS.

7/06: After 20 years, Roger Ebert makes his final appearance on At the Movies.

11/20: Robert Altman dies.

12/09: The ultimate cult film, Jacques Rivette’s 14-hour Out 1, has its New York premiere at the Museum of the Moving Image, 35 years after it was shown in Paris.

12/15: The first Hollywood film to depict the war in Iraq, Irwin Winkler’s Home of the Brave, opens for the holidays and flops.


2/25: Al Gore wins an Oscar for his documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

2/25: Netflix announces the billionth DVD delivery. Two years later, the company announces its two billionth.

3/30: Twenty-eight years after it played the Whitney Museum, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep opens at the IFC Center and is acclaimed as a modern American classic.

4: Premiere publishes its last issue—with Will Ferrell (promoting Blades of Glory) on the cover.

5/27: 4 Months, 3 Week and 2 Days (a/k/a The Romanian Abortion Film) wins the Palme d’or at Cannes.

7/30: Art-house maestros Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni die on the same day.

11/05: Hollywood writers go on strike, through 2/12/08.


1/22: Heath Ledger, 28, is found dead of an overdose in his Soho apartment.

7/18: The Dark Knight sets opening weekend record, grossing $158,411,483, en route to worldwide grosses in excess of $1 billion.

10/06: Paramount sells DreamWorks.

10/13: A week after the Dow suffers a five-day 1,874-point decline, 20th Century Fox announces Wall Street sequel.  

11/07: Two Boots Pioneer Theater closes.

12/11: Manoel de Oliveira turns 100, and starts working on Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl, his 15th feature of the 21st century.


1/17: Kim’s Video, in the East Village, closes.

2/21: Heath Ledger wins posthumous Oscar for Dark Knight, which has supplanted Return of the King as the decade’s top-grossing movie in North America.

6/10: Andrew Sarris, the dean of American film critics, is laid off by The New York Observer.

8/31: Disney spends $4 billion to buy Marvel Entertainment.

9/26: After 31 years on the lam, Roman Polanski is arrested in Switzerland.

11/09: The New York Times estimates Avatar‘s price tag at nearly a half-billion dollars.

11/20: The Twilight Saga: New Moon has the biggest opening day of all time.

12/09: The Merger of the Century ends: Time Warner and AOL split.

Research: Anna Bak-Kvapil