best film:The Dark Knight from Christopher Nolan
- The film begins with a trademark Nolan gorgeous establishing shot of the city
- terrorism post-9/11 element in the Joker character and film- the hostage videos and cell phone surveillance and certainly a blurry line of good and evil
- two wonderful 360 degree shots- unlike De Palma though, Nolan chooses to do one revelation and pause at a choice time
- Absolutely has a gripping narrative and performances led by Heath Ledger
- Leger’s walk is studied, as are his facial tics
- There are multiple jaw-dropping sequences and set pieces. The tunnel chase scene is a jaw-dropper.
- Unlike the Bond films where it always feels like Bond is one step ahead- here it always feels like Joker is- and that works wondrously on the viewer
- The Hans Zimmer score is superb
most underrated: There are a plethora of good choices here in 2008. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from David Fincher, Il divo from Paolo Sorrentino, and Revolutionary Road from Sam Mendes all currently stand outside of the top forty (40) from 2008 on the TSPDT consensus list for the 21st century– wrong, wrong and wrong. Speed Racer from The Wachowskis has outwardly bad reviews (negative on Rotten Tomatoes and a 37 on metacritic) and it lands solidly in the archives. Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married sits at #32 on the TSPDT list for 2008 as well. Rachel Getting Married would make for a good pairing with Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration or Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (on second thought, yikes- what a depressing night that would be) as they all capture excruciatingly awkward wedding receptions.
most overrated: Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman lands as high as #4 of 2008 on the TSPDT consensus list. There seems to be at least a dozen or more films from 2008 that deserved to be mentioned first when talking about the strongest work of the year.
gems I want to spotlight: There are some very enjoyable films like Slumdog Millionaire (aided by Danny Boyle’s energetic direction) or Tropic Thunder in 2008 that everyone should see. Enjoyment is not what you’ll get from Steve McQueen’s sobering debut film Hunger- but if there is one film from 2008 after The Dark Knight every cinephile has to see – this is it. Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson is essential viewing for those of us that appreciate the work of Tom Hardy (who really gets to flex in Bronson– both his muscles and acting chops). And lastly, Burn After Reading is a film I revisit as often as any from 2008. The Coen Brothers seem to follow up their big, widely recognized masterpieces (Fargo, No Country For Old Men) with some of the easiest watches of all-time (Burn After Reading and The Big Lebowski).
trends and notables:
- The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan and even Heath Ledger dominate 2008. It is very rare (1967 with The Graduate and 1972 with The Godfather come to mind) when the best film of the year is also the biggest box office hit of the year. And though I care much more about the former- it is fun to see this sort of eclipse happen.
- Health Ledger passed away in January of 2008. With this (posthumous) performance and his work in Brokeback Mountain just a few years before, this tragic death put an end to a talent that on the fast track to being one of the greats.
- 2008 is a down year for cinema as an artform- and it stands in stark contrast to 2007 (where there may be a half dozen films or more that could give The Dark Knight a run for its money for the top slot). Here in 2008, it is only Steve McQueen’s Hunger that threatens The Dark Knight at all.
- 2008 is also the start of the Marvel Universe as we now know it with Iron Man
- With WALL·E, 2008 marks the single artistic peak for Pixar (though if you combine the Toy Story films together that may trump it).
- 2008 marks the first archiveable films for both director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender with Hunger (Fassbender is in Eden Lake from 2008 as well). These two have made three films to date in (2011’s Shame and 2013’s 12 Years a Slave).
- Paolo Sorrentino and Tony Servillo get going as well in 2008 with Il divo. Servillo gets his start in the archives (at the age of 49) with both Il divo and Gomorrah. Sorrentino and Servillo have made three archiveable films to date including (The Great Beauty- 2013) and Loro (2018)
- Charlie Kaufman had been the hottest screenwriter in cinema since 1999’s Being John Malkovich, but 2008 marks his first archiveable film (and debut) as director with Synecdoche, New York.
best performance male: Heath Ledger is the choice here. He stands on his head in the best film of the year. Much like Daniel Day-Lewis the year prior in There Will Be Blood—the virtuoso performance here by Heath Ledger carries this film beyond films that would otherwise be formally or stylistically superior work. It may actually hurt the film in some respects because, by (awesome) comparison, the scenes without Ledger tend to suffer. Michael Fassbender’s work in Hunger is next. Fassbender plays Bobby Sands and lost the weight required for the role. The achievement is much more than a method gimmick- it has impact on the film. Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves a slot for Synecdoche, New York followed by his future The Master costar Joaquin Phoenix for Two Lovers. This is the strongest performance from Phoenix in his four collaborations (to date) with the great James Gray. The last mention in this category in 2008 is for Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker.
best performance female: The two that walk away with this category in 2008 are the two actors that did superior work earlier in the decade alongside Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain: Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway. Williams is in Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy and Hathaway does the best work for her career in Rachel Getting Married.
- The Dark Knight
- Two Lovers
- Wendy and Lucy
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Hurt Locker
- Synecdoche, New York
- Rachel Getting Married
- Let the Right One In
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|35 Shots of Rum- Denis||R|
|A Christmas Tale- Desplechin||HR|
|Ballast – Hammer||R|
|Burn After Reading- Coen||HR|
|Eden Lake- Watkins||R|
|Frost/Nixon – Howard||R|
|Frozen River- Hunt||R|
|Gran Torino – Eastwood||R|
|Happy Go Lucky – Leigh||R|
|Hellboy 2: The Golden Army- del Toro||R/HR|
|Il divo- Sorrentino||R/HR|
|In Bruges- Martin McDonagh||R|
|Iron Man- Favreau||R|
|John Adams- Hooper||R|
|Let the Right One In – Alfredson||HR|
|Lorna’s Silence- Dardenne||R|
|Me and Orson Welles- Linklater||R|
|Milk- Van Sant||R|
|Rachel Getting Married- Demme||HR|
|Red Cliff I- Woo, Leung||R|
|Revanche – Spielmann||R|
|Revolutionary Road- Mendes||HR|
|Slumdog Millionaire – Boyle,Tandan||R/HR|
|Speed Racer – Wachowski||R|
|Step Brothers – McKay||R|
|Summer Hours- Assayas||HR|
|Synecdoche, New York – C. Kaufman||HR/MS|
|Terribly Happy – Genz||R|
|The Bank Job – Donaldson||R|
|The Class- Cantet||R|
|The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- Fincher||HR/MS|
|The Dark Knight – Nolan||MP|
|The Headless Woman- Martel||R|
|The Hurt Locker- Bigelow||HR/MS|
|The Reader- Daldry||R|
|The Wrestler – Aronofsky||R/HR|
|Tropic Thunder- Stiller||R|
|Two Lovers- Gray||HR/MS|
|Vicky Christina Barcelona- W. Allen||R|
|WALL·E – Stanton||HR/MS|
|Wendy and Lucy – Reichardt||HR/MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Can you add a section for best director,each year
@Bobby– Thanks for visiting the site and the comment. I thought about doing best director by year but, to me, as a believer in the auteur theory, the best director of the year is basically the same as the top 10 films. The director is in charge of the end result for the most part. There are certain films where the screenplay/acting are so strong that it isn’t the director who carries that achievement (say “LA Confidential” or something) but in most years, the best directors are the men/women who directed the best films.
I would suggest “I’ve Loved You So Long” with Kristin Scott Thomas. It is a film that doesn’t stand out from an artistic point of view, but it handles its subject (which is a little controversial) very sensitively and in a rather focused manner. The performances are great too. By your form of assessment, I think it would probably be an “R”.
Do you have a page for WALL-E (2008)?
Have you seen Love Exposure by Sion Sono? I haven’t seen it yet but my mate raves about it and it has very good reviews. Also have you seen any movies by Sion Sono for that matter as I’m thinking of diving into his filmography.
Take what I’m saying with a grain of salt as it could be total BS (12 Angry Men at #7, Shawshank at #13, I hate to say it but Nights of Cabiria at #89 and #1 from Fellini overall is overrated, also literally any extremely obscure Brazilian film that only Brazilians have seen getting a billion 5-star ratings – for being Brazilian – and then getting on the list because of that)…
…BUT Love Exposure is #94 on the Letterboxd All-Time List.
When I watched In Bruges I thought that needs to be a least MS, now I`m seeing that is just R. I think you should rewatch it because is beautifly shot, Gleeson and Farrell do lifetime performances and the screenplay is magnifiecent. It`s easily in my top 10 of the year.
No image from Wall-E(2008) and Synecdoche, New York(2008)?
“Rachel Getting Married would make for a good pairing with Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration or Lars von Trier’s (on second thought, yikes- what a depressing night that would be) as they all capture excruciatingly awkward wedding receptions.”
Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, maybe?
@Pedro Also the wedding in Breaking the Waves was a bit awkward with that Scotsman intentionally breaking his hand on the glass.
@Pedro- good catch- thanks – Melancholia is what I omitted- quite right.
Agree that the Dark Knight stole the show in 2008. It is hard to overstate just how incredible Heath Ledger’s performance as Joker was. Even Joaquin Phoenix’s 2nd best performance of his career (after The Master of course) does not quite touch it in my opinion although it is an amazing performance in its own right. I have never been huge on superhero films but this was one of the few exceptions. It is also super rewatchable even at 2.5 hours. Overall this was kind of a down year though, probably the weakest of the decade.
@James Trapp- I agree on everything you said about The Dark Knight, but I will also use your mention about superhero movies to talk about ” a strange case of superhero movies”.
I think there is no genre so hard to decide if you love it or hate it then superhero movies. They are a mixed bag of artistically masterful efforts like: The Dark Knight Trilogy (HR, MP, HR), Spider Man Into the Spider Verse (HR), Black Panther (HR), The Incredibles (HR), Batman (MS), Joker (HR), V for Vendetta (R/HR) and you can also count in Birdman (MP). After this great additions to cinema’s history you get entertaining movies that appeal to masses of audiences and are certainly an enjoyable experience for more or less everybody (to a critic or a fan), movies like this are: Iron Man (R), THE Suicide Squad (R), Superman: The Movie (R), Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies (R, R), Batman Returns (R), Guardians of the Galaxy (R), Logan (R) and movies from 4 The Avengers movies (R, nothing special, R, R). And now we come to the sewers of cinema, with movies like: Suicide Squad, Batman and Robin, Ant Man and the Wasp, The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2, Thor 2, Captain Marvel, Iron Man 2, The Man of Steel, Justice League and Batman v Superman that are a disgrace to movies above and wouldn’t even need to exist.
This was a representation of my love-hate relationship with superhero movies.
@RujK – these are all matter of taste but I have to disagree on your opinion about the Avengers series. All of those 4 films bored me to death. I wasn’t entertained even for a minute (sorry if this seems exagerrated or somewhat an attacking opinion :D).
@RK- of course there is a matter of taste, and there is probably no better example than The Avengers films. I was (personally) entertained by all 3 movies (I am not counting in the second one, because is garbage) and I also thought that the scripts are alright even if they are mostly vehicles for the actors. I will also add, that the most subjective category is the second one.
@RujK – it may be the formulaic nature of franchises that are the real problem today more than anything else. I do not think any particular genre or even content is what matters in accessing a films overall quality. I do not have empirical data to back up this claim but it is seem like studios are pumping out super hero movies more and more each year. From a business standpoint it makes sense, these types of films come with a built in fan base and if they succeed then studios can make serious money from sequels.
Fortunately there is still enough auteur cinema each year to satisfy fans like the people who use this site myself included. I try to be positive though, if people enjoy superhero films that is fine with me, they just are not really for me (with occasional exceptions).
@James Trapp- I also think that bigger problem are franchises. But I was just talking about how diverse the genre is in quality and how that affects the perception audiences have when watching these movies.
I will also say that I am happy that more auteurs try to redeem these perception, most notable is probably Nolan with The Dark Knight Trilogy, with movies like Joker (and hopefully the new Batman movie) also helping.
I don’t know why people hate Iron Man 2 at all. It may not be great. But it had some cool and memorable scenes. Captain Marvel wasn’t terrible either. Meanwhile Avengers: Age of Ultron(2015) was one of the worst pieces of garbage I have ever seen. Nothing in that film made sense. And all the repetitive action to end the film gave me a headache. I don’t know if this counts as a superhero film. But I found Alita:Battle Angle(2019) to be surprisingly bad for some reason. Not just me half the people in the theater walked out before the film even finished.
@Malith- I am sorry, but I really was entertained by Iron Man 2, but I am happy that at least somebody was. Also, using word ‘memorable’ you can also describe almost every scene from The Room.
For Captain Marvel I enjoyed it the first time, but not the second time. Maybe I was a little too harsh on it, it is easily the best movie from the third category.
And for Avengers 2 we agree. I also think is really really bad, I just didn’t have time to name all the movies with there long names so I counted them all in one category and the second one rated as ‘nothing special’ even if is bad.
For Alita, I don’t have anything to say, because I didn’t see it. The movie just looked like a very standard blockbuster not worthy of my time. But I will probably watch when I will go through Christoph Waltz’s filmography.
Yeah I was disappointed in Alita especially because James Cameron had a hand in it and it was directed by Tarentino’s buddy Robert Rodriguez(director of Sin City). I expected something on the level of Avatar(2009) or maybe I was expecting too much.
Not sure if this is intentional or not but comments are not enabled on the 2009 page.
@Harry- totally unintentional- thanks for the heads up- should be fixed now
Let the Right One In is a hidden gem. It is for me anyways as I can count the number of contemporarily Swedish (non Bergman) films that I’ve watched on one hand.
I’ve come to realize the best Horror films are generally those in which the supernatural elements are more hidden/in background. For example, in Rosemary’s Baby the tension builds in a subtle fashion and while you have an idea on where it may be going you don’t actually see the supernatural element until the last 10/15 min. In Black Christmas the killer is always lurking in the background but never seen clearly. In Repulsion (1965) there are only a small handful of supernatural scenes and they rarely last more than a second or two, the anticipation and suspense that builds within the film makes those scenes all the more terrifying.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Its a recent 2022 film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, I posted on this page since it could be seen as a loose “follow up” to In Bruges just in the sense that its a sort of (dark) buddy comedy just as In Bruges was. I loved In Bruges and both these actors but am yet to watch it.
Has anyone seen? Opinions?
@James Trapp- I was able to catch this one a week or two ago- I do not know what your plan is to tackle the 2022 films but this has to be on the short list of films to see. I am not ready to do my own 2022 page or rankings yet- but this one is near the top for the critical consensus
@James Trapp – plenty of beautiful longshots and great acting, worth seeing for sure.
@Drake@Harry – thanks for the responses, yeah I am behind on 2022 films but putting this at the top of my list
Watched The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) and it is very impressive. The best film I have seen this year along with Decision to Leave (2022). I will need another viewing of each but so far these are the 2 best although I admittingly have some catching up to do. The performances are great but I think Colin Farrell rises to the top as great as Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon are. I have always thought highly of Farrell and even though The New World (2005) is the best film he is in and he is one of the main characters I think this most recent performance in Banshees is a career best. But this is much more than just great performances and a great screenplay, it has breathtaking visuals. One of the most gorgeous films I have seen in the last couple of years.
@James – I caught The New World for a second time a few days ago – so brilliant. Farell is having a good year with his work in Banshees and also his unrecognizable transformation for The Batman (both films should land in my top 10 of 2022). I think he’s best in The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
@Harry – only saw Sacred Deer once, not really sure what you make of it, will need another viewing. What would your tenative top 10 be for 2022?
There are a fair few films I haven’t seen yet (Banshees, Tar, Babylon etc) but at the moment Bardo is sitting at my #1. After that EEAAO, Avatar, The Batman, and Blonde are a bit lower, and then The Northman, Decision to Leave, Elvis, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Pinocchio. I haven’t gotten around to a proper ranking yet though, and no doubt there will be some that won’t make my top 10 once I get around to seeing more.
@James – pretty much the same films Declan mentioned above (minus EEAAO of course), neither of us had a chance to see Tar or Babylon yet though. There are many more beyond those two I’m also waiting to see but Declan’s nailed the key best films so far.
While still doing my Robert Siodmak Study I want to see the following 2022 films in the next month or so
1. The Fabelmans – Spielberg
2. Bardo – Alejandro González Iñárritu
3. Tár – Todd Field –
4. Pinocchio – Guillermo del Toro
5. All Quiet on Western Front – Edward Berger
6. Everything Everywhere All at Once – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
7. The Batman – Matt Reeves
Have u seen The Chaser 2008, A Bittersweet life 2005, or I Saw the Devil 2010? Just curious if you saw them and they weren’t good in your opinion or if you never saw them (korean cinema)
@Dylan- Just the once for I Saw the Devil – and have not been able to catch the other two as of yet
Not good enough? The director of A Bittersweet + I saw the devil is in the top 3 korean directors imo (with Park and Bong ofc)
@Dylan- No notes on it specifically here. Interesting- that would put him ahead of Lee Chang-dong…