Best Movies of 2008

10. FROST/NIXON

145 LISTS | 7 TOP SPOTS
Ron Howard | 122 mins | Biography/Drama/History
Frank Langella | Michael Sheen | Kevin Bacon | Sam Rockwell

“The story of a duel between a crafty man and a persistent one. How many remember that the “lightweight” British interviewer David Frost was the one who finally persuaded Richard Nixon to say he had committed crimes in connection with Watergate and let his country down? With his own money riding on the interviews, Frost (Michael Sheen) is desperate after Nixon finesses him in the early sessions, but he pries away at Nixon’s need to confess. Frank Langella is uncanny as RMN. Ron Howard directs mercilessly.” – Roger Ebert

9. RACHEL GETTING MARRIED

146 LISTS | 14 TOP SPOTS
Jonathan Demme | 113 mins | Drama/Romance
Anne Hathaway | Rosemarie DeWitt | Debra Winger | Sebastian Stan

“Based on my anecdotal survey, I’d call Jonathan Demme’s roiling Altmanesque drama the supremely divisive love it/not that wild about it movie of the year. The scene that separates the fans from the skeptics is the one with all those rehearsal-dinner speeches. Endless? Indulgent? I felt not just that I was eavesdropping (always a good thing in a movie) but that the disparate reveling family members became, in some inexplicable way, my own. The fact that it’s an interracial marriage, and that no one makes even a tiny deal of it, is part of the texture: This may be the first Age of Obama movie, a spectacle of ”difference” melted away by the rich, teeming jumble of a family trying to make peace with itself.
And what a clan! Liberal and prosperous, the Buchmans have tried to do every­thing right, yet so much goes wrong — especially when Anne Hathaway, as the hot-wired recovering addict of a daughter, locks horns with her sister (the terrific Rosemarie DeWitt), her mother (the awesome Debra Winger), and herself. Hathaway, brain racing a mile a minute, her smile as wide-screen as Julia Roberts’, does a study of toxic narcissism that marks her as the most vibrant actress of her generation.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

8. MAN ON WIRE

147 LISTS | 5 TOP SPOTS
James Marsh | 94 mins | Documentary/Biography/History
Philippe Petit | Jean François Heckel | Jean-Louis Blondeau | Annie Allix

“Watching this highly entertaining documentary about one of the century’s great artistic crimes — Philippe Petit’s 1974 wire-walk between the twin towers — at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival was a genuinely magical experience. Partly because we were seeing those buildings resurrected in a context of wonder and adventure, and partly because Petit’s death-defying act (it’s unfair to call it a stunt) even at the time seemed like a paradoxical and marvelous achievement. Director James Marsh does a terrific job of distilling Petit as a contradictory, larger-than-life figure, and telling his story with a brio worthy of Truffaut.” – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

7. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

162 LISTS | 15 TOP SPOTS
Tomas Alfredson | 114 mins | Drama/Horror/Romance
Kåre Hedebrant | Lina Leandersson | Per Ragnar | Henrik Dahl

“This exceptional Swedish vampire film warms your heart as it chills your blood, and that’s the most disturbing thing about it. Heinous acts are justified as necessary measures taken by lonely and desperate people. You feel for these characters, especially the empathetic child leads played with astounding grace.” – Peter Howell, Toronto Star

6. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

164 LISTS | 15 TOP SPOTS
David Fincher | 166 mins | Drama/Fantasy/Romance
Brad Pitt | Cate Blanchett | Tilda Swinton | Julia Ormond

“A grand, old fashioned epic that takes mind-boggling advantage of the most modern filmmaking technology. Director David Fincher, always a virtuoso stylist, has outdone himself here. You’ll be in awe of the wildly ambitious yet intricately detailed way he tells the story of a man who ages in reverse. Brad Pitt melds his leading-man and character-actor abilities in an inspiring heartbreaking performance.” – Christy Lemire, Associated Press

5. THE WRESTLER

225 LISTS | 26 TOP SPOTS
Darren Aronofsky | 109 mins | Drama/Sport
Mickey Rourke | Marisa Tomei | Evan Rachel Wood | Mark Margolis

“It seems to have become de rigueur, when talking about Darren Aronofsky’s latest, to praise Mickey Rourke’s performance while expressing grave doubts about the movie as a whole. I intend to do nothing of the kind: I loved it all, from Marisa Tomei’s sad-eyed pole dances to the bit parts played by nonprofessional actors to the graceful handheld camerawork by Maryse Alberti. Go ahead and try to make me say something bad about The Wrestler. But be warned: I have a stapler, and I will use it.” – Dana Stevens, Slate

4. MILK

253 LISTS | 23 TOP SPOTS
Gus Van Sant | 128 mins | Biography/Drama
Sean Penn | Josh Brolin | Emile Hirsch | Diego Luna

“Directed by Gus Van Sant: Here’s just the firestarter we need to kick off the Obama years. Milk is that rarest of free birds: a true political film. It finds its bristling purpose in humanity, not ideology. Sean Penn tops even himself for transformative acting as Harvey Milk, the gay social activist who fought for civil rights in San Francisco until he was assassinated in 1978. The recent victory in California for Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, shows that Harvey’s fight is far from over. Is there a more artful, impassioned, shockingly pertinent movie around this year? I don’t think so. Thrillingly directed by the invaluable, underrated Gus Van Sant from an original, Oscar-worthy script by Dustin Lance Black, Milk raises the bar on what a film biography can do. You can feel Harvey’s spirit alive in it.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

3. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

267 LISTS | 55 TOP SPOTS
Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan | 120 mins | Drama/Romance
Dev Patel | Freida Pinto | Saurabh Shukla | Anil Kapoor

“Danny Boyle masterfully applies his “Trainspotting” dichotomy – the humorous and horrific sharing equal screen time, occasionally at the same moment – with this story of a Mumbai orphan who perseveres like a Dickens hero amid police torture, fraternal betrayal and child mutilation. The film has a wickedly joyous heartbeat as fate carries a lowly “slumdog” to fame, fortune and a reunion with the lost love he’s been seeking all his life.” – David Germain, Associated Press

2. THE DARK KNIGHT

297 LISTS | 78 TOP SPOTS
Christopher Nolan | 152 mins | Action/Crime/Drama
Christian Bale | Heath Ledger | Aaron Eckhart | Michael Caine

“When this magnificently despairing, anarchic follow-up to Batman Begins was first released last summer, the death of bright talent Heath Ledger was still so fresh that every minute of his indelible turn as the Joker pro­voked shocks of pain as well as of plea­sure. Watched again with the passage of time and the changing, too, of the American political landscape, Christo­pher Nolan’s triumph of comic-book relevance, starring Christian Bale as a superhero uneasy with his calling in a city anesthetized to matter-of-fact evil, takes on new and even more poignant shadings of relevance.” – Lisa, Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

1. WALL-E

WALL-E

339 LISTS | 47 TOP SPOTS
Andrew Stanton | 98 mins | Animation/Adventure/Family
Ben Burtt | Elissa Knight | Jeff Garlin | Fred Willard

“Most smart filmmakers want to parade their facility with all the tools in the modern movie box. Andrew Stanton, the director and cowriter of the Pixar animated feature WALL-E, experimented with what talking pictures could plausibly do without. Talking, for example: the first third of the movie has almost no dialogue. How about depriving the two main characters — the humble, lonely trash compacter WALL-E and his space princess EVE — of emotional signifiers like a mouth, eyebrows, shoulders, elbows? Yet with all the limitations he imposed on himself and his robot stars, Stanton still connected with a huge audience. Great science-fiction love stories (there aren’t many) will do that. So will futurist adventures that evoke the splendor of the movie past. A dirt-of-the-earth guy hooking up with the ultimate ethereal gal, WALL-E and EVE could be the 29th century version of Tracy and Hepburn, or Seth Rogen and any attractive woman. It hardly matters that the movie is not-quite-silent, when it blends art and heart as spectacularly as WALL-E does.” – Richard Corliss, TIME

Full Top 50:

RTITLEL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1WALL-E338473.9658%9%1672654%10%
2The Dark Knight296783.5751%15%1373044%11%
3Slumdog Millionaire267553.7346%11%1292742%10%
4Milk252234.5644%5%1181138%4%
5The Wrestler225264.4839%5%1071235%5%
6The Curious Case of Benjamin Button163154.1928%3%74524%2%
7Let the Right One In162155.1128%3%89929%3%
8Man on Wire14754.8725%1%84127%0%
9Rachel Getting Married146144.9725%3%80826%3%
10Frost/Nixon14374.7625%1%77325%1%
11Happy-Go-Lucky140124.6224%2%80526%2%
12The Visitor11595.7120%2%51417%2%
13A Christmas Tale108154.2319%3%69922%3%
14Synecdoche, New York108234.2719%5%641421%5%
15Iron Man10765.7718%1%45315%1%
16Wendy and Lucy9764.8117%1%57119%0%
17Waltz With Bashir88105.0215%2%49816%3%
18In Bruges8644.8915%1%42114%0%
19Doubt8625.3615%0%39013%0%
20Hunger81124.6714%2%46915%3%
21Paranoid Park7414.7113%0%42114%0%
22Gran Torino7125.5712%0%31110%0%
23Flight of the Red Balloon70114.4612%2%54918%3%
24Silent Light68113.7812%2%38612%2%
25Vicky Cristina Barcelona6745.9412%1%37212%1%
26Burn After Reading6705.7212%0%31010%0%
27Revolutionary Road6665.0211%1%37412%2%
28My Winnipeg6645.9211%1%45315%1%
29Still Life6254.3311%1%44414%2%
30The Class5835.0210%1%2819%0%
31Tropic Thunder5806.0610%0%2809%0%
32The Edge of Heaven58114.4910%2%38612%2%
33Frozen River5535.039%1%2909%0%
34Gomorrah5025.419%0%2307%0%
35Encounters at the End of the World4835.688%1%35211%1%
36Che4585.108%2%2779%3%
37I've Loved You So Long4405.318%0%2608%0%
38Tell No One4125.917%0%2207%0%
39The Reader4034.037%1%2026%1%
40Ballast3715.106%0%2217%0%
41Changeling3434.056%1%1324%1%
42In the City of Sylvia3244.566%1%1826%1%
43The Fall3144.615%1%1625%1%
44Reprise3015.715%0%2317%0%
45Pineapple Express2915.265%0%1114%0%
46The Duchess of Langeais2725.555%0%2026%1%
47Trouble the Water2705.675%0%1906%0%
48Forgetting Sarah Marshall2605.364%0%803%0%
49The Secret of the Grain2633.454%1%1104%0%
50Young at Heart2415.944%0%1415%0%

Lists Included 579 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 308

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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