Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The 100 Project: The Top 25 Movies of 2008

    In my post for 2007, I told you that it was the beginning of a time of transition. 2008 was the year much of that change actually took place. This is the year I finally left Blockbuster. That means somewhere in the middle of the year I no longer got those free rentals. Blockbuster was my part-time job. The company I worked for full-time during the day was bought by and merged with a competitor. I had gone fairly far to that point, and well, I kept a job, it just felt like a step back. By the end of that year, I no longer had that job and things were "flipped, turned upside down" to paraphrase the great Will Smith. I had to move my family, and thanks to my father-in-law, barely avoided homelessness. Through it all, I still had movies. Trips to the theater were way down, understandably, but hey, I still had a Blockbuster card, and rigged up cable. Shhh, don't tell anyone that last part. Just kidding, you can tell. I don't do that anymore. Anyhoo, let's talk about my faves.

My Top 25 Movies of 2008

  • According to my Letterboxd account, I've watched 141 movies released during 2008.
  • I saw 4 movies in theaters, my lowest total since 1988. Of the 4, 2 are in my top 3. The other two are terrible.
  • I've seen all 5 Best Picture nominees. For the first time, they all make my top 25, though only 1 cracks my top 10.
  • Another first: 2 documentaries make my top 10 while 2 more are honorable mentions.
  • 2 completely non-English films make my top 10, while 2 more are American productions, but largely in a different language. 3 more non-English films make my top 25.
  • Robert Downey Jr. and Kate Winslet each have 2 films in my top 25.
  • 3 martial arts flicks make my top 25. Oddly, 1 of my honorable mentions is led by a martial arts star, but is not a martial arts flick.

25. Revolutionary Road

24. Tropic Thunder

23. The Reader

22. Gran Torino

21. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

20. Frost/Nixon

19. Chocolate

18. Rachel Getting Married

17. Bronson

16. Tony Manero

15. Martyrs

14. Milk

13. Kung Fu Panda

12. The Hurt Locker

11. WALL-E

10. Ip Man

It poses as a biopic, but is far more fiction than fact. That said, Donnie Yen is fantastic at portraying Ip Man the person. We really got a feel for his sense of honor and obligation. We also get a feel for what it was like in China during their war with Japan. Regardless of any of that, this movie wouldn't be here if it didn't have some great martial arts action. Donnie Yen more than stepped up in this area.

9. Slumdog Millionaire

By the time I saw this movie, it had been so hyped I just knew there was no way I was going to like it.  By the time I finished it, I realized there was no way I wasn't going to like it. Sure, it's a cheesy love story framed by some dude playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It's also funny, engaging, and charming as hell.

8. Waltz with Bashir

I haven't seen many animated documentaries. Has anybody? If this movie is any indication of their potential. I want to see more of them. In lieu of a bunch of talking heads and grainy footage, we get superb animations of what the subject recalls of his time as a soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War. Some of it is horrific, some ventures into fantasy territory, and all of it is haunting.

7. In Bruges

I had no idea what to expect when I popped this one in. What I got was darkly humorous with memorable characters, and a fantastic finale. Colin Farrell does some of his very best work. Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. Jordan Prentice might outshine them all. The storytelling pulls you in and the reveal is gut-wrenching.

6. Sugar

I ate, drank, and slept baseball throughout my childhood. In fact, baseball is the reason I like math. Naturally, I've always had a soft spot for baseball movies. I love <i>Bull Durham, Major League,</i> and most of the usual suspects. However, it's this little bitty movie about a Dominican born pitching prospect, that most people have never heard of, that's my all-time favorite baseball flick. While the others might be grounded in reality, this one is as you can get to it without it being a documentary.

5. Man on Wire

Speaking of documentaries, here we are. This one tells the story of Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker who was so inspired by the building of the World Trade Center back in 1976 that he decided to go to New York and try to rig up a rope between the two towers, and walk between them thousands of feet in the air with no net. Of course, this was highly illegal, and the buildings weren't even open to the public, yet. It has the flavor of a heist movie and the man at its center is one of the most endearing people on the planet, even if you think he's plum crazy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Petit in 2015's <i>The Walk</i>. It's a good movie, but aside from the special fx employed during the climactic moments, this is better.

4. The Wrestler

Every now and again Mickey Rourke pops up to remind us that he is a supremely talented actor. He also seems to be a mess of a human being. That's a huge plus for this film in which he plays the titular wrestler, also a mess. We meet him at the end of his rope, barely hanging on, grasping at strands of hope that may not be there. Rourke shows us this man at his most vulnerable, self-destructive, and frankly, pitiful. 

3. Iron Man

One of my few trips to the theater was to see this. I'm a superhero guy. What can I say? I'd always thought of Iron Man as Marvel's version of Batman, a billionaire with lots of toys and desperately in need of therapy. As the years have gone on, Batman has grown increasingly dark, and in some cases, morose. Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Iron Man was, comparatively, a ray of sunshine, albeit a very arrogant ray. He was beyond perfect here, and the movie around him worked in concert with his virtuoso effort and gave us the foundation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

2. Let the Right One In

I didn't set off on this road of movie buffdom thinking I would be completely enthralled with a Swedish vampire flick about a pair of twelve year olds. Well, one of them is twelve. This movie takes the iconic monster down a new avenue and fares far better than sparkly emo kids in Washington. Here, we actually like our main characters and our empathy for them grows as the film progresses. When it ends, we hope they're okay as frightening as that may be.

1. The Dark Knight

You cannot imagine the struggles I had getting my family of five, plus one of my son's friends out the door to arrive at the theater an hour before start time. I wouldn't normally do this, but the hype was crazy leading up to this one, and this was before the days of purchasing tickets and picking your seats online. We were first in line. We settled in and I got what was what I consider the best comic book movie ever made. The fact that I have it as my number one movie of this year may cause some to question my judgment, and that's okay. Like I said, I'm a superhero guy.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical): Be Kind Rewind, Burn After Reading, Changeling, Che, Cloverfield, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Incredible Hulk, JCVD, More Than a Game, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation, Rambo, RocknRolla, Step Brothers, Tyson


  1. We share 16 films based on our lists with 6 honorable mentions. Not bad as that was a great year. I was one of those people that went to see Iron Man opening weekend as I remember liking it a lot more than I thought it would be but I never expected it to lead us into something much bigger and man, it was worth it.

    1. Iron Man was a surprise for a lot of us. I was hoping to enjoy it, but it exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. Glad to see Sugar on your list. Most people haven't even heard of it.

  2. Another great list and man, I want to see Man on Wire! I saw the movie but not the documentary. I love Benjamin Burton which is a strange film but I also would pick Slumdog, Gran Torino,Tropic Thunder, Iron Man, the Dark great and the best Joker. I hated the one with Phoenix. Burn After Reading is great and In Bruges is so excellent. I also love Rock N Rolla which is such fun. I would add Mamma Mia because I love ABBA even though Pierce can’t sing and that Voulez=Vous piece is downright weird. Quantum of Solace, Body Of Lies, Appaloosa, Doubt for Viola Davis’s performance, Cadillac Records is a gem. I am one for war films so Valkyrie is excellent and so is the under-rated Defiance. Those 2 are based on true stories and are so good. Oh and love Let The Right One In which is a horror story but also one based on friendship in a strange way. My brother is like you regarding baseball and even though he will be turning 60 he is still playing baseball..when COVID19 lifts.

    1. I'vw seen all the movies you've mentioned except Appaloosa, and I do like most of them. Some even made my honorable mentions. A few are just on the outside for me. The only ones I didn't really care for are Quantum of Solace and Mamma Mia. QoS is bad and Mamma Mia is unbearable. I found it so bad I refuse to watch the sequel. Not sure if you missed it, but Let the Right One In is my #2. Cool to hear about your brother. I hope he can get back out there this summer.

  3. There's a lot here I haven't seen but I adore In Bruges! Really loved The Dark Knight too, I wish I was into comic book movies at the time because I can only imagine how exciting the atmosphere in the cinema would have been!

    1. It was pretty fun seeing TDK with a packed house. The whole audience ebbed and flowed with the movie in a way you could only feel in an auditorium full of people.

  4. Hi Dell,

    Well, it looks as if we’ll agree on three we both love every year. This time out it’s Frost/Nixon (just a brilliant study of brinkmanship) Milk and In Bruges.

    Then there is a group that I liked to varying degrees without that full-on embrace-Revolutionary Road (great acting but sssooo depressing), Bronson (the picture itself is scattershot but Tom Hardy’s performance is fearless and flawless), Man on Wire, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder

    With Slumdog Millionaire I fail to see how it won Best Picture. I didn’t hate it nor love it. Outside of the setting it was very ordinary.

    I respected the message and story The Hurt Locker presented but it was an agony watch.

    I did not like The Reader and of all the performance Kate Winslet could have won for I am sorry it was this one, particularly since it was almost supporting.

    I hated Rachel Getting Married with the power of a thousand suns.

    I think this might be my worst year for films unseen! Three-Gran Torino, Sugar and Tony Manero are on my to see list, I just haven’t gotten to them yet. So many films, not enough time!

    With the rest-Chocolate, Martyrs, Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, Ip Man (I must admit I’ve never heard of this one), Waltz with Bashir, The Wrestler (I detest Mickey Rourke so I don’t care how great it is, just no), Let the Right One In (so many people seem to love it but I just don’t think it’s a film for me), The Dark Knight (I know, I know but just about the time this came out I developed major superhero (and villain) burnout)-I think the chances of me ever catching up with them is minimal.

    I did a lot of independent film watching this year and several of them ended up in my Top 10.

    1 Frost/Nixon
    2 Quantum of Solace
    3 Milk
    4 I’ve Loved You So Long
    5 Ice Blues
    6 In Bruges
    7 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
    8 Man on a Wire
    9 On the Other Hand, Death
    10 Mulligans

    I saw a great many films this year but just not enough that stayed with me to be able to make it to 25! Only 19….geesh!


    Bottle Shock, Bronson, Ciao, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eagle Eye, Last Chance Harvey, Me & Orson Welles, RocknRolla and Stop-Loss

    1. That's a good trio to agree on.

      I fully get your feelings on Revolutionary Road. It can be tough sledding. Same for The Hurt Locker. Consider this a warning for Tony Manero, as well. Hardy is amazing in Bronson, that's what gets it that high.

      Don't hold back. Tell me how you really feel about Rachel Getting Married, lol.

      Surprised you haven't at least heard of Ip Man. I know martial arts flicks aren't your typical fare, but it is a highly successful quadrilogy at this point, with Donnie Yen in the starring role.

      I totally respect your opinion on Mickey Rourke. I did say he's a mess, after all.

      Interesting you were getting burned out on superhero flicks by the time Iron Man came out. They were just getting cranking, lol.

      Of the others you haven't seen I'd be most curious about your opinion on Let the Right One In. It is a vampire flick and a love story, but not a 30 Days of Night gore fest and much more mature than Twilight.

      The surprise from your top 10, for me, is you have a Bond movie that I really don't like rated quite high. Of the others, there are a bunch here I didn't see. It's an even split, 5 and 5. Some of them I haven't even heard of.

      There are a few of your runner-ups, I've not seen any of the ones not mentioned in my post. Stop-Loss has been on my radar for a while, but I still haven't gotten around to it.

  5. You have so many great picks on your list that would also be on mine. I'd match exactly on your #1 and #2. Gran Torino has not aged well for me personally. Strangly enough, I've really been wanting to re-watch The Reader.

    1. Yeah, Gran Torino is one that's been steadily dropping for me. When I did this years ago on another site, it was in my top 10. Now, it's hanging on at the end of my top 25.