My Favorite Movies I Watched in 2008

As is my way, my list of the top movies of 2008 includes any movies that I saw this past year, even if they came out in 1942. One thing I noticed about a lot of the movies I saw this year is that they transcended the categories I’ve blocked them into here—Iron Man isn’t just an action movie, it’s very much a comedy too. The Dark Knight is a crime movie just as much as it’s a comic book movie. Let the Right One In is a drama, romance, thriller, and
action film. I’m not even sure where Wall-E fits in, but I made it an family film. I put those movies in the best possible matching category, but it is their versatility and refusal to be pigeonholed that makes them so good.
By the way, this list is very long. It includes all 55 movies I watched this year, up from 44 last year. I kept track of my movies watched pretty well this year, jotting down a quick sentence or two about them right as I digested the film—hence the short explanations. I also rated them on a scale of 1 to 10, and I included a note as to whether or not I’d watch the movie again. I added the latter part because there are some movies that have a certain level of watchablility and entertainment value that others don’t, even if they’re not the best movies on the list (see Jamon,
Jamon).
Drama/Romance

1. Let the Right One In (9/yes): One of the most moving films I’ve seen in a long time. Extremely well written and acted, it’s one of those movies that shows that the real world is sometimes scarier than the supernatural one.
2. Definitely, Maybe (9/yes): Ryan Reynolds stars is this rom com almost completely free of cliches and coincidences–love isn’t a scarce commodity in this poorly titled movie, and that’s a good thing.
3. All About Eve (9/no): This is a fascinating, complex character study of a woman in the days when most things were seen as black and white. Ironically, those were the colors of the filmstock. Black and white movies don’t really “do it” for my generation, but I can recognize a good moving picture when I see one.
4. Breach (9/yes): A fantastic, fascinating film about a high-level FBI breach hindered only by its slow pace. Ryan Phillipe does great work, Laura Linney looks great as an older woman in a pantsuit, and Chris Cooper looks, as always, like he’s wearing lipstick.
5. Casablanca (8/yes): Why only 8 points to one of the best movies ever made? Because it feels dated. It can’t help it. This really is a fantastic movie–extremely well plotted, resonating deeply in history, and includes some of the best-developed characters in any motion picture. But it can’t overcome its age.
6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (8/maybe): A wonderful fable that could have been rated higher were it not for huge scenes that could have been omitted to tighten it as a whole.
7. Finding Neverland (8/yes): A very solid movie about friendship and recapturing the magic of youth. Johnny Depp actually seems normal for a change, which is nice.
8. Milk (8/no): The only real flaw in this film is the opera scene. Beyond that, it’s well acted, well paced, and is an excellent educational tool for somehow who doesn’t know much about the beginnings of the gay rights movement.
9. Capturing the Friedmans (8/yes): A good documentary that left me wanting definite answers. I think that was the point.
10. Six Degrees of Separation (8/no): The only misstep in this fascinating tale about a con man and his victims is that the main focus is too often placed on the two primary victims instead of Will Smith’s character.
11. The Pursuit of Happyness (8/no): Will Smith doesn’t make bad movies. Period. You know from the beginning that his character is going to overcome the odds and succeed, but you’re still interested in seeing how it happens.
12. Synecdoche, New York (7/yes): Possibly one of the most brilliant movies I’ve seen this year, even though I barely understood it. It’s basically about a guy with no sense of time who stages a play of his life. And then a play within the play. I’m sure Kaufmann intended everything to mean something, but I’ll need a rubric to fully comprehend it.
13. The Bank Job (7/no): A solid heist film with heart.
14. There Will Be Blood (7/only DDL speaking parts): There are several great movies in here, but together they make for a decent distraction that is often just a showcase for DDL’s acting.
15. Before Sunset (7/yes): There is more dialogue in this movie than almost any other. The two main characters tell a great love story literally by telling it to one another. The last scene is one of the greatest last scenes ever.
16. Young at Heart (7/no): A fantastic documentary about an old people’s a capella group. The movie sets up some sad scenes almost on purpose–it feels a little staged. But it’s good if you don’t think too hard about that.
17. Disturbia (7/no): Better than many other ‘tween flicks, but still not all great.  The characters don’t make all that much sense, but the mystery is handled well.
18. Human Nature (6/no): I was disappointed in a movie that didn’t show off Charlie Kaufmann’s writing abilities as well as it could have, but I will say it’s one of the sexiest movies I’ve seen in a long time.
19. In the Company of Men (6/no): A fascinating film about men and power that feels a little more like a play than a movie due to the length of each scene (and the lack thereof). The most memorable scene, which has nothing to do with the main plot of two men seducing a the same woman with the intention of dropping her like a bad habit, involves one of the titular men asking an employee if he has the “balls” to do his job.
20. The Notebook (6/yes): I went into this movie expecting it to be
horribly sappy and overwritten and in the end, unromantic, but I was wrong. Although it’s not the greatest movie, it may be the greatest date movie.
21. The Lake House (6/yes): Interesting ideas about a mailbox that lets letters travel through time in aid of fate, but there are several subplots that are just plain boring. Could have been better.
22. Choke (5/no): I came into this movie expecting Fight Club, but it’s just a disjointed mess. Slightly humorous at times, but even the sex isn’t sexy.
Action/Adventure

1. Iron Man (9/yes): Everything I could ask from a superhero movie and more. I was thoroughly entertained throughout, and I laughed with the movie, not at it. I wanted to climb into the Iron Man suit by the end of the movie—heck, by the end of the first scene.
2. The Dark Knight (9/yes): This movie has haunted me more than any other this year. It’s a all-around superb film, not just a comic-book movie. Many people placed this above Iron Man on their year-end lists; both are fantastic films, markedly different in tone
, but Iron Man had an unquantifiable levity that lifted my soul.
3. Spy Game (8/yes): This movie oozes in coolness. Told mostly through flashbacks, Spy Game keeps the cameras focused on the relationship between Redford and Pitt (where it mostly succeeds, but also ends up lacking a little bit, as Pitt makes his own risky decisions against Redford’s orders time after time) while globetrotting around the world.
4. Hancock (7/maybe): Right after seeing Hancock, I almost rated it a too-high 8 because of how emotional I get when I see a man do everything within his power for a woman in a movie. In truth, Hancock is an uneven movie, but an entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny one at that. It was refreshing to see an original super-hero movie (one not based on a comic book).
5. Incredible Hulk (7/maybe): Taking place in the same universe as Iron Man, this was a surprising good version of the Hulk. Ed Norton and a plot that makes sense really helped. The trailers could have been cut better, though–they gave everything away.
6. Hellboy 2 (7/yes): An all-out fantasy special-effects fest, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this film for 2 hours. The only thing preventing it from being a 9 was the kid sitting behind me who whined about how bad the movie was for most of the running time. Shut up or leave the theater, I say (I didn’t say it, but came very close).
7. Cloverfield (7/no): Due to the first-person camera capturing the action in this New York City monster movie, I walked out of this movie a little dizzy and fully believing that a monster might be stomping through Forest Park as I drove home.
8. National Treasure 2 (7/no): Highly entertaining, if not highly contrived, the biggest misstep in National Treasure is the producer’s concern with bringing back every single character from the first movie (except for the bad guys). People didn’t see the original for Jon Voight or Nick Cage’s buddy sidekick or the blonde or even Nick Cage himself, really. People saw it for the treasure hunt.
9. Quantum of Solace (6/no): A decent action film that tries to deepen Bond’s character. However, in the end, I stopped thinking about it as soon as the credits rolled. It’s about time that those Bond girls actually get naked.
10. The Ruins (6/yes): Very, very scary–the villainous vines literally get under your skin in this above-average horror movie. Read the book first so it’s not so scary.
11. Wanted (6/no): I was disappointed. The trailers made it look immensely cool, and it is very, very cool at parts (in the action and training scenes). The “powers” of the assassins are made almost believable, and there are some fun twists and turns, but it wasn’t as wholly original as I would have liked.
12. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (6/no): This movie was better than I thought. The major missteps were bringing back Dr. Doom for no good reason and applying too much makeup to all of the characters. Everyone ended up looking fake.
13. The Crow (6/no): I know, this came out years ago, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it. The Crow is a poor man’s Wolverine. Plus, the directing is way too stylized for my tastes.
14. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (5/hell no): It tried to capture the look and feel of the previous films, and at that it succeeded for the most part. But the plot devices, Ox, and the UFO (?!) did it in for Indy.
Comedy/Family

1. Kung Fu Panda (8/yes): Possibly the biggest surprise for me so far this year. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s laugh-out-loud funny at parts, and the action scenes are incredible. You’ll never again see a chopstick joust like the one in this movie. Jack Black is the Kung Fu Panda.
2. Wall-E (8/yes): Pixar does it again. This film is remarkably original, considering that very little is in this day and age. Why not a higher rating for one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year? I thought a few scenes were slow, and the inclusion of a “bad guy” as the source of conflict seemed unnecessary.
3. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (8/yes): The comedy is fresh and raunchy, the characters make decisions that resonate with real life, and the girls are hot. The only problem with this movie is the awkward editing that ruins some jokes; otherwise, it’s a romantic comedy
for the ages (or at least for this day and age). No comedy reached the echelon that last year’s Superbad did, but this one came close.
4. Step Brothers (7/yes): Hilarity comes and goes, but it’s there. It ends strong, which really helps in a comedy.
5. Role Models (7/yes): This movie includes several different types of humor to good effect: Paul Rudd’s quick snips, Stifler’s crude comments, kid-saying-stuff-that-kids-shouldn’t-say, and dorky humor. Worth seeing.
6. Baby Mama (7/maybe): This was better than I thought it would be. It’s a little more squeaky-clean than Mean Girls, but not far off. Steve Martin is the best part of the movie.
7. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (7/yes): Full of hilarity, bottom-half nudity, and social commentary. This movie makes it seem like George Bush would be cool to hang out with.
8. The Pineapple Express (7/maybe): Not as funny as I thought it would be, mainly due to an extended action sequence that seemed way too long. James Franco is awesome, and completely believable.
9. Tropic Thunder (7/maybe): I enjoyed the humor and the not-so-subtle winks at the way Hollywood is set up. The action was actually pretty decent too.
10. Get Smart (7/no): Steve Carrell plays his normal role. He’s the basic bumbling secret agent, but with a nice added touch: His skills from his pre-promotion position as an analyst (mostly excellent listening skills) play an important role into his secret agent position. Anne Hathaway is hot but super pale, and The Rock is cool as always. The movie is mainly just missing better pacing.
11. Miracle (7/no): Decent sports movie, does a great job at showing real hockey at the end.
12. Jamon, Jamon (6/yes): Both of Penelope Cruz’s acting talents are on display in this movie about ham, passion, and lots of sex. Javier Bardem, quite strapping at a young age, ushers several women into his bed.
13. Sweet Home Alabama (6/yes): Better than many rom coms, especially since both of the guys are quite endearing, but there are too many clichés (evil mother-in-law-to be, several lies, last minute decisions, etc).
14. Along Came Polly (6/no): Although it’s a little odd, and a lot of the humor is hit or miss, a fair amount of the comedy in this feels original. Worth seeing once.
15. Sex in the City (6/no): Full of glitter and lights and giggles, this movie is about a half hour too long. I’m really not sure what the point of it was, other than to make money. It’s still fun, though.
16. Bridge to Terebithia (6/no): Billed as a Narnia-type movie but actually more of a children’s drama, this movie moved me, but it could have had the same effect if it were a 15-minute short film.
17. My Super Ex-Girlfriend (5/no): A somewhat amusing concept just doesn’t add up to very much. The special effects are horrible.
18. The Opposite of Sex (5/no): The only redeeming factor in this movie about a manipulative girl and the lives she ruins is the tongue-in-cheek, self-aware narration.
19. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (4/no): The trailers made it look so cool, and all the reviews said that this is representative of real high schoolers…ah, no. Even in New York, 18-year-olds can’t drink in bars. This movie uses every teen rom com cliché to the fullest.
If you’re looking for other Top 10 lists, go here for a bunch of them.