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Best Movies of 2008 – Updated

Welcome to June.    We are about halfway through 2009, and I’m ready to post my definitive, inerrant, and final Top 10 Movies of 2008 list.   

I know that every critic and their wannabe critic little sister posts these lists in January, and I did my part, but really, it makes more sense in June.  I’ve seen many more 2008 movies, and more movies are available to you.   Everything on this list is available on DVD.  

1. The Dark Knight   – I know that a lot of people only see darkness and violence and men in costumes here, but I see much more: the elevation of the comic book action genre to a new level.   I think it works so well because the Joker is truly scary, and he’s truly scary because we’re afraid he might be right: perhaps humanity is chaos.  It’s satisfying that he’s defeated not so much by Batman, but by regular people who choose not to destroy each other.   Yeah, it’s still my number 1 pick. 

2. Synecdoche, New York – I’ve always been a fan of Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and his directorial debut doesn’t disappoint.   A densely layered, intricately structured rumination on dreams and death, you’ll either love it or hate it; I’ll be returning to it for years to come.   

3. Let the Right One InIf this were just a movie about two lonely adolescents bonding, share secrets, and taking care of each other, it would be a very good movie.  The fact that one of them is a vampire makes it pretty great.   If Ingmar Bergman had made a vampire film, it would look and feel a lot like “Let the Right One In.”  

4. WALL – EI’ve always loved the physical comedy, and the inherent grace, of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films, and my favorite thing about WALL-E was the way it paid loving homage to those old masters.    On first viewing, I thought the second half was depressing and mean-spirited; on second viewing, I see a ray of hope.  No matter how much we lose, redemption is still a possibility.  

5.  Rachel Getting Married – Beautiful, exhausting movie about family dysfunction on the Big Day.   Jonathan Demme’s direction – and Anne Hathaway’s performance – make this one stand apart.  

6.  The Visitor – One of my favorite directors (and character actors,)  Thomas McCarthy, returns with a powerful, warm, absolutely loving and movingrumination on unlikely friendship and immigration in America.   

7. Frozen River – Great little neo-noirish film about two women who live on (or near) the Mohawk reservation in New York and smuggle illegals across the Canadian border to pay their bills.   Every note of this feels real and unforced.  

8. Happy-Go-LuckyWe all know it’s possible to make good (at least decent) movies about chronically depressed people.   But is it possible to make a movie about a chronically, indefatigably happy person?   Mike Leigh’s film answers, emphatically, “Yes!”   Eddie Marsan should’ve got an Oscar for his supporting performance as an unbalanced Driver’s Ed teacher.   

9. Slumdog MillionaireSeemed like it was everyone’s favorite movie this year, including the Academy.   I thought it was a bit too confectionary for a story about homeless orphans in India, but its energy and romance — and clever structure were undeniably catchy, fun,and at times, brilliant.  

10. Frost/NixonGreat performances from Michael Sheen and Frank Langella cover over Ron Howard’s clunky direction in this story about the redemption(?) of one of America’s most reviled and controversial readers.   In the end, it’s a story about the need to confess and the desire to forgive, and I can respect that.  


Honorable Mention (the top 30:)

11. Tropic Thunder

12. The Wrestler

13. Iron Man

14. Bigger, Stronger, Faster

15. Paranoid Park

16. Man On Wire

17. Waltz With Bashir

18. The Band’s Visit

19. My Winnipeg

20. Transsiberian

21. Ghost Town

22. Tell No One

23. The Bank Job

24. Doubt

25. The Secret of the Grain

26. The Reader

27. I’ve Loved You So Long

28. Shotgun Stories

29. Boy A

30. Revolutionary Road


Happy viewing!

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Posted in All Reviews.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Let Me In | linked to this post on January 31, 2011

    […] the Right One In” hits all the right notes.   It doesn’t mangle  a great movie, a movie that was #3 on my top 10 list in 2008.  That’s not a slam; indeed, that’s about the highest praise I can give it.   It […]

  2. Top 10 Films of 2013 - linked to this post on October 19, 2014

    […] Top 10 Films of 2008 […]

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