Best Movies of 2008

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm
By Shane Rivers

When discussing the best movies of 2008, moviegoers have a lot to talk about. 2008 was a great year for the feature film, and we were treated to everything from wrestlers seeking redemption to nuns seeking justice.

In addition to movies nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, there were also many entertaining films released in genres not usually recognized for awards. I’m talking about the best horror movies of 2008, the best westerns of 2008 and the best foreign films of 2008.

In the following article, we’ll take a look at the best movies of 2008. To assist us, I’ve cobbled together a number of Top 10 lists from respected critics. We’ll also look at the box office totals and even all the films to hit #1 at the U.S. box office.

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Top-Grossing Films of 2008

It should come as no surprise that the best movies of 2008 aren’t usually the highest-grossing films of 2008. Keep that in mind whilst you peruse.

    1. The Dark Knight $533,197,779
    2. Iron Man $318,412,108
    3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull $317,101,113
    4. Hancock $227,946,276
    5. WALL-E $223,808,162
    6. Kung Fu Panda $215,434,594
    7. Twilight $189,533,005
    8. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa $179,995,910
    9. Quantum of Solace $168,368,427
    10. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! $154,529,439

Twilight sitting at #7 should tell you all you need to know. While I’m sure 14-year-olds loved it, it was nowhere close to being one of the best movies of 2008. The same goes for Hancock at #4 and the latest (and most boring) entry from Indiana Jones and company.

The two films most lauded by critics which actually made huge bucks were WALL-E and The Dark Knight. While I was glad to see The Dark Knight do so well (I’m a comic book nut), I didn’t quite share in the overall mania for the film.

Number One at the Box Office for 2008

This list contains the names of every film to hit the #1 U.S. box office spot during 2008. Most only held it for a week or two (yes, even The Dark Knight), which gives you an idea of the level of competition.

While many of these films were predictably successful at the box office, there were some which just made me shudder. Movies such as Vantage Point and 10,000 BC making it to the top of the heap only serve to shake my confidence in humanity. Of course, I almost forgot about Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert (the writer excuses himself to go fashion a noose).

Top 10 Reviews Best of 2008

The site Top 10 Reviews loves to make lists of 10 for every occasion. In this case, it’s all about the best movies of 2008.

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. WALL-E
  3. Man on Wire
  4. The Wrestler
  5. Milk
  6. Slumdog Millionaire
  7. The Counterfeiters
  8. Iron Man
  9. Shine a Light
  10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The only real surprise was Shine a Light, a Rolling Stones concert film directed by Martin Scorsese. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thoroughly tired of seeing anything to do with Mick “Where’s Furlong?” Jagger.

Stephen King’s 10 Best Movies of 2008

Stephen King writes an occasional column for Entertainment Weekly. This time around, the master of horror lists his picks for the best movies of 2008.

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Slumdog Millionaire
  3. WALL-E
  4. Tropic Thunder
  5. Funny Games
  6. The Bank Job
  7. Lakeview Terrace
  8. The Ruins
  9. Redbelt
  10. Death Race

King provides a much different list than many other critics, but I’m always happy to see someone thinking outside the box. Funny Games was a spot-on remake of an excellent German film, and Redbelt was far more engrossing than I originally imagined.

I have to disagree with The Ruins at #8, however. That movie was boring on every conceivable level. And I’m not even going to comment on Death Race at #10 (any more than I already have).

MetaCritic’s Best Movies of 2008

MetaCritic takes the vast number of movie reviews floating around and compiles them to achieve an average ranking for each. As 2008 drew to a close, these were the films with the highest overall ratings.

  1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
  2. The Class
  3. WALL-E
  4. Waltz with Bashir
  5. Man on Wire
  6. Slumdog Millionaire
  7. The Flight of the Red Balloon
  8. The Edge of Heaven
  9. Alexandra
  10. A Christmas Tale

Christian Science Monitor – Best of 2008

This “best of” list was put together by Peter Rainer of the Christian Science Monitor. The films are arranged in alphabetical order.

Nice to see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas make the list. This was a wonderful film that manages to navigate the narrow ledge between being sweet and absolutely horrifying.

Entertainment Weekly – Top 10 of 2008

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly weighs in on his best movies of 2008.

  1. The Wrestler
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. Rachel Getting Married
  4. WALL-E
  5. Momma’s Man
  6. The Edge of Heaven
  7. Burn After Reading
  8. The Class
  9. Milk
  10. Tell No One

Best Foreign Films of 2008

This list of the best foreign films of 2008 was put together by Rob Hunter of Film School Rejects. Looks like I’ve got some new ideas for my Netflix queue.

  1. In Bruges
  2. Let the Right One In
  3. The Good The Bad The Weird
  4. Tell No One
  5. Tokyo Gore Police
  6. The Chaser
  7. Boy A
  8. The Fall
  9. JCVD
  10. Son of Rambow

I’ve seen a few of these, but I can’t wait to see the rest. God bless foreign films, as they provided us with everything from creepy Swedish children (Let the Right One In) to men with a penis transformed into a cannon (Tokyo Gore Police).

ReelViews – Best Films of 2008

James Berardinelli is my personal favorite when it comes to movie critics. He gets to the point and tells you what’s important instead of trying to be cute or clever. This is his list of the best films of 2008.

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Doubt
  3. Slumdog Millionaire
  4. WALL-E
  5. The Wrestler
  6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  7. Iron Man
  8. Revolutionary Road
  9. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
  10. Frost/Nixon

I believe that’s the first appearance of Doubt on any of these lists. That’s a little surprising, considering that it snagged Oscar nominations for supporting actor, actor, actress and supporting actress.

Newsweek’s Best of 2008

David Ansen of Newsweek put together this list of the top movies of 2008. It’s by far the most erotic list, but what else would you expect from Mr. Ansen? That’s a joke, by the way.

  1. Let the Right One In
  2. Encounters at the End of the World
  3. Wendy and Lucy
  4. Frost/Nixon
  5. Man on Wire
  6. Silent Light
  7. The Wrestler
  8. Tropic Thunder
  9. WALL-E (tie)
  10. Waltz With Bashir

Ansen says “What the hell” and selects Let the Right One In as his top movie of 2008. I admire that decision, I really do. Just because everyone else picked The Dark Knight, that’s no reason to go along with the herd. He gets extra points for choosing a Swedish vampire movie as his way of going against the grain. Kudos!

Best Movies of 2008 from IMDB

Here are the highest-rated 2008 films from the folks at the Internet Movie Database. Remember, these movies are voted on by the actual members of the site, so it’s a fairly good litmus test for what hardcore movie fans are into.

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Slumdog Millionaire
  3. WALL-E
  4. The Wrestler
  5. Gran Torino
  6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  7. Waltz with Bashir
  8. Let the Right One In
  9. Frost/Nixon
  10. In Bruges

Roger Ebert’s Best Movies of 2008

The grand old man of movie reviewers couldn’t just pick 10 films for his list, so he doubled the goodness with 20. Here they are in all their glory (and in no particular order).

  1. Ballast
  2. The Band’s Visit
  3. Che
  4. The Dark Knight
  5. Doubt
  6. The Fall
  7. Frost/Nixon
  8. Frozen River
  9. Happy-Go-Lucky
  10. Iron Man
  11. Milk
  12. Rachel Getting Married
  13. The Reader
  14. Revolutionary Road
  15. Shotgun Stories
  16. Slumdog Millionaire
  17. Synecdoche, New York
  18. W.
  19. WALL-E

A solid and interesting list. Of course, I would expect no less from a guy who’s been doing this longer than most of us have been alive. I especially applaud his choice of Shotgun Stories. That little gem was overlooked by all the other critics.

The 10 Best Horror Films of 2008

I’m a big fan of horror films, so I thought I’d throw this one in for no extra charge. The list was complied by Robert Fure over at Film School Rejects.

  1. Splinter
  2. Midnight Meat Train
  3. Cloverfield
  4. Let the Right One In
  5. Seed
  6. Quarantine
  7. The Strangers
  8. Inside
  9. The Orphanage
  10. Jack Brooks Monster Slayer

I wish The Cottage would have been included on the list, but at least they had the good sense to leave off the awful-on-every-level Diary of the Dead.

My List of the Best Movies of 2008

Before we end this article, it’s time for my Top 10 best films of 2008. You’ll probably agree with some, and others may make you nauseous, but at least take the time to read it.

  1. Gran Torino – Clint Eastwood plays a loveable racist who “finishes things.” In this instance, he’s taking on a group of local gang members. Guess who wins? It can be a little clichéd in places, and Eastwood chews plenty of scenery, but I’m still a sucker for anything starring this ancient screen icon.
  2. Slumdog Millionaire – Danny Boyle does it again with this riveting tale of true love and overcoming adversity. We even get to see the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and what could be better than that? I can’t wait to see which genre Boyle tackles next.
  3. In Bruges – Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes all shine in this unusual comedy/drama. I was particularly happy to see Farrell get a chance to demonstrate his excellent comedic timing, and it doesn’t get any better than Gleeson and Fiennes. If you ever wanted to see a hitman bored out of his skull in a sleepy tourist town, In Bruges is the film for you.
  4. The Wrestler – Mickey Rourke completes his career comeback as an aging wrestler who can’t stop thinking about his glory days. Marisa Tomei is also excellent as an aging stripper who inadvertently captures his heart.
  5. Let the Right One In – There’s a killer on the loose in Sweden, but that doesn’t stop a lonely boy from befriending the strange young girl who recently moved in next door. As you might expect, things get really weird from that point on.
  6. Milk – Sean Penn flexes his acting muscles as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the state of California. Josh Brolin also delivers a standout performance as Milk’s political opponent and eventual assassin.
  7. Cloverfield – J.J. Abrams manages to create a slick monster film which gets right to the damn point. I hope you saw this one at the theater, as it’s just not the same on the small screen. Pray for a sequel.
  8. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – It’s a story about the friendship between two young boys at a concentration camp (each on opposite sides of the fence), but it’s also a tale about how men can commit the most horrible of acts upon one another. This is one film that’s not to be missed.
  9. The Machine Girl – It doesn’t get any more over-the-top than this Japanese horror/revenge flick. Still, like the most grotesque of car wrecks, you just can’t shift your gaze.
  10. JCVD – What would happen if Jean-Claude Van Damme was caught in the middle of a real-life hostage situation? Watch this interesting French film to find out!