With the incredible success of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, many members of The Lord of the Rings cast have sensibly used their appearances in Peter Jackson’s epic as a springboard for their movie careers. This year will see the actors and actresses we know and love so well as characters of Middle-earth appear in places such as Australia and Mexico as many of the LotR cast dabble in various genres, from action to drama to comedy. For movie buffs and casual fans alike, I’ve compiled a list of my ten personal highlights from all the movie projects involving the likes of Mortensen, McKellen and Wood, and over the space of today and tomorrow will list them off in alphabetical order – hopefully your appetites for the upcoming movie year will be suitably whetted as a result.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
TBC 2003 – No Official Site – IMDb – Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood

The latest story from Charlie Kauffman, arguably the finest screenwriter in Hollywood at the moment after his most recent efforts Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Being John Malkovich, the film focuses on a man who after discovering his ex-girlfriend had all memory of him wiped from her mind, decides to undergo the same procedure. With a steller cast which includes Elijah Wood as the scientist who administers the memory-wiping, an accomplished director and an absoloutely fabulous script, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could be THE sleeper hit of 2003.

October 3rd – No Official Site – IMDbViggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Frank Collison, Saïd Taghmaoui

From the director of Jumanji and Jurassic Park III, Viggo Mortensen once again finds himself on horseback in this true story detailing the life of Frank T. Hopkins, a courier who in 1890 travelled from the US to Saudi Arabia on his horse Hidalgo and competed in the internationally reknowned, 3000 mile-long “Ocean of Fire” race across the African desert. Disney executives believe that after The Lord of the Rings‘s success, the name ‘Viggo Mortensen’ alone should be enough to recoup the film’s $80m budget and secure a rare success for the lately shakey Mouse House: we think so too.

Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
June 6th – TheFarSideoftheWorld.comIMDb – Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D’Arcy

Based on Patrick O’ Brian’s best-selling novels concerning the Napoleonic wars and directed by Peter Weir in his first project since The Truman Show, Master & Commander details the journey of the H.M.S Suprise under the guidance of Crowe’s Royal Navy Captain in a chase across the world after an armed and ruthless French privateer. Billy Boyd features as one of Crowe’s trusted ship-mates on the Suprise and should reap the benefits of starring alongside the Oscar winner in what should prove to be an exciting and profitable period piece.

The Matrix: Reloaded & Revolutions
May 15th & November 7th – WhatIsTheMatrix.comIMDb – Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

It’s typical…you wait four years for a sequel to The Matrix, and two come along at once. Eagerly-awaited ever since the first movie came out of nowhere and took the world by storm in 1999, ‘Reloaded and ‘Revolutions are undertaking one of the most ambitious story arcs ever; one giant story set over the space of 24 hours depicting Neo’s attempt to prevent Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith and his superiors destroying humankind once and for all, split across two films. Though for LotR fans 2003 belongs to The Return of the King, for the rest this year belongs to the Wachowski Brothers magnum opus.

Ned Kelly
25th April – NedKellyTheMovie.comIMDb – Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush

Before starring in The Lord of the Rings, Orlando Bloom featured often on British TV but hardly had a movie career, a fleeting role in Wilde his only credit; my how things have changed. Based on the novel Our Sunshine detailing the life of legendary Australian bushranger Ned Kelly played by Heath Ledger, Bloom takes second billing as one of the members in Kelly’s gang, Irishman Joe Byrne. With its release on the not so distant horizon, look for Bloom to impress in what could be the first great heist movie of the 21st Century.

Check back tomorrow (Wednesday) to see the second half of the must-see list, including Sean Astin and Christopher Lee’s sequel to The Wicker Man, Riding the Laddie, and Sir Ian McKellen’s X-Men 2.