The 10 Best Films Of 2008With 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 20002001, 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.

The Wrestler10. “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.

null9. “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.

null8. “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.

  • Lmao

    The fact that you left The Dark Knight out of this leaves me to believe youre a 77 year old virgin.

  • skiff

    I guess you don\’t publish negative comments.. what a pussy!

  • Skiff

    I\’m sorry. I can\’t resist, but how can it be Bergmanesque and distinctly its own? Do you even read your own shit?!

  • skiff

    On third thoughts, its not really worth it. I just read the piece… It is so insufferably pretentious that I guess its a stretch to expect something better of you. You say that calling Reprise "Kaufman-esque" is reductive and yet almost in the same sentence go ahead and call it "Bergman-esque"

  • Skiff

    I know what you\’re going to say.. Supporting someone like Tolstoy generally entails going with the critical tide… Then I\’d say.. \’you\’re an idiot who has twisted my example out of context\’.. Charlie Kaufman\’s last film got such scant investment from viewers (not just critics) that he has not been able to finance a film ever since… He\’s your country\’s greatest writer. I feel ashamed as a foreign viewer that you guys always ignore your greatest talent…

  • Skiff

    Hey pretentious f@#kface.. Che, Silent Light over Synecdoche, New York?! If you were in 19th century Russia, I\’m pretty sure you would have placed Ostrosky and Goncharov over Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.. Stop going with the critical tide and say things for youself for a change. DO we really need another list with Che, Silent Light and all that shit?!

  • pop can

    I was surprised to see so many films that received little-to-no love in 2008 (ballast, silent light, I\’ve loved you so long). One film I thought should\’ve at least had an honorable mention is Frozen River if only for Melissa Leo\’s performance and proof that she could compete with Hollywood\’s top actresses. Also, Chop Shop from Ramin Bahrani, who imo is sorely missing from these lists with great films like Man Push Cart. Shotgun Stories should\’ve been listed as well. Other than that, well done.


    "…enjoyable entertainment like Wall-E or The Dark Knight" that hurt my feelings 🙁

  • MishuPishu

    Man On Wire

  • europe

    In Bruges is my absolute favourite film from 2008

  • MishuPishu

    Ahhh, there\’s "Silent Light". Also "4 Month…" is incredible. Where can we find more of Mungiu\’s films? But the surprise for me this year was "The Visitor", which knocked the wind out of me with its unerring humanism.

  • Darryl

    YesYesYes to Reprise and A Christmas Tale. Love these two films. Reprise is a great film, one of my favorites of all time. Interesting list.

  • Ron

    Still Walking. Such a great film. Ozu\’s spirit lives on.

  • Wes

    Still haven\’t seen: Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman)
    24 City (Jia Zhang-ke)
    Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)

  • Wes

    1. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
    2. Hunger (Steve McQueen)
    3. Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)
    4. Two Lovers (James Gray)
    5. Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
    6. Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
    7. Burn After Reading (Coen Bros)
    8. Still Walking (Hirokazu Koreeda)
    9. Vicky Christina Barcelona (Woody Allen)
    10. Ballast (Lance Hammer)

  • Michael

    Crazy how good 2008 was for film. There\’s a few movies that I would have loved to see in the top 10 (mainly Hunger and Synecdoche, New York) but this year was so stacked you would inevitably have to leave stuff off, so it\’s hard to complain.

  • Jonathan

    Yeah, and "Rachel Getting Married" has gotta get in there.

  • Jonathan

    "Wendy and Lucy" suffers from zero plot? Are you kidding?

  • Ron

    So glad to see Reprise on the list. Just watched it the other day and was absolutely blown away. Joachim Trier is definitely one to watch as Oslo, August 31 is amazing as well.

  • Nathan Duke

    Also, glad to see \’Hunger\’ in there. By the way, did you mean Clint Eastwood\’s \’Gran Torino\’ or \’Changeling,\’ which were in 2008. \’Hereafter\’ wasn\’t until two years later.

  • E.

    An absolutely ridicilous list. I\’m not even bothering to tell what\’s wrong here, but the actual best films are in the Honorable mentions. You\’re

  • moviestar

    Ballast won the Oscar for best cut and imho it really shows why.

  • DG

    Really have to disagree about the Wendy and Lucy suffering from zero plot comment. Also I feel like Let The Right One In and In Bruges should\’ve made the list

  • k

    Ballast takes place in the Mississippi Delta.

  • Nathan Duke

    Strongly agree with several choices: Happy Go Lucky, The Edge of Heaven, Silent Light, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Wrestler. But I\’d substitute Milk, Wall-E and Rachel Getting Married for I\’ve Loved You So Long, Reprise and A Christmas Tale.

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