9. Agent Cody Banks
Original Release Date: Agent Cody Banks premiered in theaters on March 14, 2003.
Box Office Earnings: The filmed opened at No. 2 on its opening weekend, bringing in a modest total of $14 million behind the second week of Bringing Down the House. By the end of its worldwide theatrical run, Agent Cody Banks earned a gross of $58.8 million against its $28 million budget. Still, the small but mighty figure was enough to spawn the 2004 sequel Agent Cody Banks: Destination London, which didn’t co-star Duff.
Critical Acclaim: As Hilary Duff’s first starring role in a major motion picture to hit the big screen, Agent Cody Banks was as well-received as you could hope for a children’s action comedy. The film holds a middling 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s not all bad news as reviews trended toward positive feedback with minor knocks for the predictable narrative format. Oddly enough, the movie didn’t net Duff any nominations at the Kids or Teen Choice Awards she frequented in the early aughts.
About the Role: Duff plays Natalie Connors, the daughter of the scientist that juvenile CIA agent Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) has been assigned to investigate. Cody begins attending Natalie’s prep school and grows closer to her as he looks into her father’s invention of nanobots that have the potential threaten the future of society. Although it would have been more exciting to watch Duff play the titular spy, she sure made a splash in her first big-screen appearance and first dip outside the world of Disney.
Simply the Best: At this point in her career, Duff had spent most of her time on Lizzie McGuire, starring in the film spin-off, appearing elsewhere on the Disney Channel, and guest starring on other television shows. But as the original Disney teen queen, she started to write the blueprint for a career beyond the House of Mouse, with leading roles in movies while also releasing one of the biggest albums of the year. Agent Cody Banks was just the beginning of a hot-streak reign for Hilary Duff in Hollywood, a pivot that would be replicated by Disney stars for years to come.