With 2015 upon us, we figured it was a good time to look back on the movies the millennium has brought us. We’ve dug into the archives and are re-running our Best of the 2000s pieces, from way back in 2009 when the Playlist was a little Blogspot site held together with tape and string. Each list runs down the top 10 films of each year (it’s possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the movies, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible). Check out 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 if you missed them, and today we continue with 2008. The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.
As the decade came to a close, we have little to complain about. The second-half of the aughts were fantastic, yielding many of the best films of the aughts.
In the first place, it was nice to see a film dominate the box office that wasn’t part 4 of a McFranchise. Well, technically it was part two, but while also being a piece of smart, thrilling entertainment, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” took the #1 spot worldwide, grossing over more than $1 billion dollars. Even if your opinions of that film are negative, one has to admit this was a step in the right direction. But looking at the rest of the international box-office, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Hancock” dominated.
Still, there was much reason to be optimistic. At the Oscars, Fox Searchlight‘s persistent, mini-major campaign —which brought two small indie-major films to the awards previously (“Juno” and “Little Miss Sunshine“)— finally paid off, as Danny Boyle‘s vibrant, immensely enjoyable fairytale “Slumdog Millionaire” deservedly took the Best Picture award. Sean Penn was rewarded for his turn in Gus Van Sant‘s “Milk,” and Kate Winslet finally won a Best Actress Oscar for “The Reader.” And Heath Ledger won the second ever posthumous acting award in Academy history for his riveting turn as the Joker in “The Dark Knight” (perhaps the film wouldn’t have been half of what it was without him).
A stellar year for film, 2008 —and the last half of the decade, really— gave us tons of unforgettable classics.
10. “The Wrestler”
The mere act of describing “The Wrestler” sounds like a clumsy jumble of clichés. Tt’s got a down-on-his luck, drug-addled former athlete (a hypnotic Mickey Rourke) who wants to reconnect with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and marry the stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold he covets (Marisa Tomei) while vying for a return to his former glory. But Darren Aronofsky takes a documentary approach that wouldn’t be out of place on ESPN and captures all the emotion, unexpected comedy and character that lies in between the banalities, signalling a new and brave direction in his filmmaking that brings the story to life. At the center is Rourke, giving a tour de force performance that seemed to parallel his own career. Raw, modest and austere, his soulful, naked turn blurs reality and fiction in entirely riveting and uncomfortable ways.
9. “The Edge Of Heaven”
A profoundly entrancing meditation on kismet and the capacity for human forgiveness, three seemingly disparate Turkish and German families (Nurgül Yeşilçay, Baki Davrak, and noted Fassbinder actress Hanna Schygulla among them) are touched by death and intercede through fate in this Kieslowski-esque- drama by noted director German/Turkish director Fatih Akin. Travel and migration being a major theme in all of Akin’s work, these characters journey back and forth between the two countries, but any of the-universe-is-all-interconnected conceits are subdued and told in three elliptic vignettes that overlap softly like a dissolve. It’s a resonantly compassionate and intricate quilt handcrafted by a thought-provoking filmmaker.
8. “A Christmas Tale”
Arnaud Desplechin‘s “A Christmas Tale” runs down the most rote Christmas movie formulas: a family is brought together for the holidays; the matriarch is terminally ill; there’s a whole bunch of skeletons in the closet (unrequited love, implacable, long-standing feuds, etc). In lesser hands, this could have been a French “Family Stone.” Instead, Desplechin —influenced by “The Royal Tenenbaums” but exceeding it by miles— has woven a novelistic, oddly moving little gem of a movie, filled with prickly and vindictive characters giving us a raw and honest view of family life. Stacking the deck with almost all of France’s renowned stars (among them Catherine Deneuve as the matriarch and Mathieu Amalric as the asshole son) and subtle stylistic flourishes, the movie is acidic, yet eventually warm and rewarding and a future classic for discerning film lovers who enjoy some bite in their holiday cheer.