Top Ten Movies of 2008

Top 10 Movies of 2008

Trying to figure out my personal list of favorite, top ten, exceptional, “best” movies of 2008 was not an easy task. 2008 was an odd year for film. So many have gone on record saying it was a down year, but I don’t entirely agree with that. While 2008 didn’t have very many “great” films it had A LOT of good films. Of course, this is where making a top ten list gets difficult. So often you have one clear cut favorite and anywhere from 10-15 movies behind it that you simply need to figure out where they fall in the grand scheme of things. This year, my top five films are almost interchangeable and the bottom five and my Honorable Mentions could all compete for the final five spots, this just so happens to be where they all fell when I typed this list up.

This year I saw more films than I ever have before and reviewed 139 theatrical releases (so far) and one can only guess how many DVD and Blu-ray releases. Suffice to say, my opinion is rather well documented, yet I think I have a few surprises for you on the coming list and hopefully some placements that will get you talking.

When I create a list of top ten films I want that list to consist of films that I will continue to return to over the years to come, films that will continue to challenge me in some way. When I say “challenge” I am not speaking solely in cerebral terms as a film can challenge a viewer on a multitude of levels. Cerebral, of course, being the most engaging and long lasting, but emotionally challenging movies involve everything from action to comedy to romance. I want my favorite comedies to continue to make me laugh, my favorite action films to keep my blood pumping and my favorite romance and drama features to keep my emotions on edge.

Of course, I feel I must remind everyone reading this list that this is my list of ten favorite films. This is not the Oscars. This list is made up of films I expect will continue to entertain me for years to come. After checking out my personal list be sure to comment and include your own lists and comment on mine. That said, let’s get underway beginning with my seven Honorable Mentions followed by my Top Ten films of 2008.

(in alphabetical order)

Ballast (Alluvial Film Co.)

Ballast is as good for its story as it is for how director Lance Hammer tells it. For as simple as this story of three lives affected by the death of one person is, the storytelling elevates it above its own simplicity. Using actors with little to no acting experience you won’t find an amateur performance among them. Most impressive is the editing as Hammer wastes not a single frame of film on needless character exposition or plot threads that have nothing to do with the story. It’s a wonder how the film can be pieced together so tightly yet flow with such ease.

The Edge of Heaven (Strand Releasing)

I never posted a formal review of The Edge of Heaven, but it is a film I can’t forget after seeing it prior to the Seattle International Film Festival. I had recently watched the trailer online and couldn’t quite figure out what it was about, but knew I was intrigued. Suffice to say, the film was light years ahead of its trailer and never failed to disappoint. The film tells the story of a collection of individuals as they all seem to be closing in on one another’s story. Some of them make it, some of them don’t and it is a journey you won’t regret taking.

The Fall (Roadside Attractions)

I am surprised to see Tarsem Singh’s The Fall is only at a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as I don’t look at this film all that much differently than I do Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. I see them both as fairy tales of sorts, only one is dark and the other is light. Singh has a distinctive visual style as does Del Toro and the acting on the part of Lee Pace and little Catinca Untaru was a lot of fun to watch and makes for one of the more original films of 2008.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (IFC Films)

I don’t have much more to say about this film than I have already said in the past. I consider 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days to be one of (if not the) best made films I have ever seen. I think director Cristian Mungiu tapped directly into human instincts with this picture allowing the camera to be the eyes of the audience almost literally in some scenes that shock as much as they awe in their inspired vision. That said, I never want to see this film again as it makes my insides turn due to its content and is the reason it finds itself here in the Honorable Mention as opposed to inside my top ten.

The Incredible Hulk (Universal Pictures)

The Incredible Hulk has bounced in and out of my top ten over the past couple of weeks so the night before putting the list together I decided to watch it again along with a few other films I wasn’t quite sure where they should fall. Obviously it didn’t fare as well and was edged out of the top ten, but it remains – in my opinion – the second best superhero/comic book movie of 2008. While Iron Man has the more appealing performance given by Robert Downey Jr. I felt Hulk holds together much better as a film. Both Iron Man and Hulk have story issues, with Iron Man having that awful ending following a stellar first half, Hulk comes with a similar “battle of the CGI beasts” at the end, but it fits more inside the overall film, far more than it did in Iron Man. On top of that, the sound design in this feature is truly amazing, on Blu-ray with the DTS audio track playing it is damn near as powerful as it was in the theater.

Milk (Focus Features)

I think Milk moved me as much as it did solely because I was not familiar with the majority of Harvey Milk’s story. I did not know how it all would come to an end, even though it wasn’t that hard to figure out, so much to the point that as it was happening on film I still could not believe it. However, I have a feeling this film will slowly lose my favor over repeated viewings as it will serve as a first time emotional ride and lose its impact as time goes by. Thus its placement in the Honorable Mention category and I almost considered leaving it out altogether.

Quantum of Solace (Columbia Pictures / MGM)

I know many people did not like Quantum of Solace, but as I have already pointed out I don’t agree with the majority of the criticisms. I saw Quantum twice in theaters and enjoyed it both times. In terms of these seven films listed in the Honorable Mention, this one best represents the eleventh spot on the overall list. It was action packed and established Daniel Craig as his very own Bond. It was far better than Casino Royale, which does not hold up to repeat viewings, and fully establishes a new world for Bond and MI6 as we now begin to move into an era where we will see the likes of Q Branch as well as a new Miss Moneypenny. I have a feeling the best is still yet to come.

With that, we now move into the top ten… Get ready for a wild ride…


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