From "Harry Potter" to "The Lord of the Rings," fan bases were thrust into new cinematic worlds and would follow the series through their conclusions and beyond.
As these and other major movie touchstones celebrate their 15th anniversary, we look back at 20 such memorable titles that will make you
really appreciate how quick the passage of time is.
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
Only four books in the "Harry Potter" series were out when the first film hit the big screen. Fifteen years later, the book and film series have concluded and a new saga has begun. The two-part London play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" will take place 19 years after the final novel.
"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's series, "The Fellowship of the Ring" was critically acclaimed and a box-office smash, and earned 13 Oscar nominations. It launched one of the most successful fantasy-film franchises of all time.
This cult film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled teen who is visited by a freaky rabbit figure named Frank. It also featured Jake's real-life sister Maggie, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, and Seth Rogen in his feature-film debut.
Reese Witherspoon was praised for her portrayal of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who applies to Harvard and proves that she belongs in its prestigious law school.
"Bridget Jones's Diary"
This British rom-com adapted from the novel of the same name features Renee Zellweger as a single woman looking for love. A sequel was released in 2004 and a third movie, "Bridget Jones's Baby," will be released on September 16.
"The Fast and the Furious"
Another franchise to launch in 2001 was the "Fast and Furious" series, which centers on street racing and heists. Six sequels and two short films have followed with another three films scheduled through 2021, the first of which is due in 2017.
"Black Hawk Down"
Ridley Scott's war film told the story of a 1983 US raid of Somalia's capital based on a series of articles published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and documented in a book by journalist Mark Bowden. The large cast included Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Dancy, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, and Tom Hardy in his feature film debut.
The movie about an ogre and a donkey that proved animation wasn't just for kids earned a huge haul and spawned three sequels.
Two sequels followed this first heist comedy, which features an A-list cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Julia Roberts, Carl Reiner, and Bernie Mac. An all-female reboot led by Sandra Bullock is in the works.
"Wet Hot American Summer"
"Wet Hot American Summer" was a box-office bomb, but it has since become a beloved cult comedy. It even spawned a Netflix prequel series with the same all-star cast — including Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Christopher Meloni, and Molly Shannon — as younger versions of themselves.
"The Royal Tenenbaums"
Wes Anderson's third feature film was a critical darling and earned him his first Oscar nomination for his original screenplay, cowritten with Owen Wilson. Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Luke Wilson play prodigal siblings whose lives are disappointing as they grow older.
"The Princess Diaries"
Before she became an Academy Award-winning actress, Anne Hathaway made her film debut as the awkward Mia Thermopolis in "The Princess Diaries," based on Meg Cabot's novel of the same name. Julie Andrews plays her queen grandmother, and the two reprised their roles in a 2004 sequel. A third movie is currently in talks.
Fifteen years later and Halle Berry is still the only black actress to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. She won for her portrayal of a poor widow who forms a relationship with a prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton) following her husband's execution. Rapper Sean Combs played her husband and Heath Ledger also starred.
This delightful Pixar film features John Goodman and Billy Crystal as two monsters whose lives are turned upside down when a human child leaves her world and attaches to them. The film spawned the 2013 prequel "Monsters University."
With a nonlinear narrative, Christopher Nolan weaves a psychological thriller of a man suffering from anterograde amnesia, the inability to create new memories, as he tries to find one of his wife's murderers.
"Not Another Teen Movie"
Before he was Captain America, Chris Evans was a popular jock in "Not Another Teen Movie." This spoof also featured Chyler Leigh, Jaime Pressly, Sam Huntington, and Lacey Chabert, as well as cameos by Molly Ringwald and Mr. T.
Denzel Washington won his second Oscar for his portrayal of a corrupt narcotics officer in this crime thriller. A TV adaptation is currently in the works for CBS with Antoine Fuqua, the film's director, serving as an executive producer.
"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"
Angelina Jolie starred as heroine Lara Croft in this adaptation of the highly successful "Tomb Raider" video-game series. Though the film was met with mostly negative reviews, it was the highest-grossing video-game adaptation until 2010's "Prince of Persia." Jolie reprised the character in a 2003 sequel.
"A.I. Artificial Intelligence"
Stanley Kubrick originally developed the project, an adaptation of the short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long," in 1970, and he brought Steven Spielberg on as a producer in 1985. But after numerous setbacks, Kubrick gave the project to Spielberg to direct in 1995. Spielberg convinced Kubrick to stay on as director, but took over the project following Kubrick's death in 1999. In 2001, this science-fiction film about a young android (Haley Joel Osment) who wants to be human and be loved was finally released.
Ben Stiller first brought his dimwitted model to the big screen 15 years ago and returned this year with a sequel released in February. It didn't receive nearly as much love, and critics tore it apart — proof that some things are better left in the past.