Best of 1988

1988 marked one of the closest years in Mark Rowland and Patrick McGilligan’s film poll, as only two votes separated the top ranked film (The Thin Blue Line) and the third place film (Who Framed Roger Rabbit).  1988 also is the only year in which a documentary topped the countdown.  100 lists were polled by McGilligan and Rowland for their 1988 poll.

20. Salaam Bombay (15 lists)


“Salaam Bombay! deserves a broad audience, not just to open American eyes to plights of hunger and homelessness abroad, but to open American minds to the vitality of a cinema without rim shots and happy endings.” – Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

19. Eight Men Out (16 lists)


“Given the inevitably knotty plotting, the message is oddly unrevealing, although the film features more than enough intelligently, wittily scripted moments to remain a fascinating insight into a crucial episode in the souring of that old American Dream.” – Geoff Andrew, Time Out

17. A Cry in the Dark (19 lists)


“Streep — yes, with another perfect accent — brings her customary skillfulness to the part. It’s not a showy performance, but the heroine’s internal struggle seems to come from the actress’ pores.” – Rita Kempley, Washington Post

17. Married to the Mob (19 lists)


“Miss Pfeiffer, who looks utterly ravishing in outfits that set the teeth on edge, turns Angela’s plight into something funny, but she seems eminently sane even when the movie does not.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

16. Au Revoir Les Enfants (22 lists)


“It’s a work that has the kind of simplicity, ease and density of detail that only a film maker in total command of his craft can bring off, and then only rarely.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

13. Dead Ringers (24 lists)


“An intense psychological drama which confronts [Cronenberg’s] familiar preoccupations — fear of physical and mental disintegration, mortality, the power struggle between the sexes — without the paradoxical protection of visceral disgust.” – Nigel Floyd, Time Out

13. Tucker: A Man and His Dreams (24 lists)


“The true story of a great American visionary who was thwarted, if not destroyed, by the established order, Tucker represents the sunniest imaginable telling of an at least partly tragic episode in recent history.” – Variety

13. Working Girl (24 lists)


“Working Girl, always fun even when at its most frivolous, has the benefit of the cinematographer Michael Ballhaus’s sharp visual sense of board room chic, and of supporting characters who help carry its class distinctions beyond simple caricature.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

11. A Fish Called Wanda (25 lists)


“Perhaps the most unusual aspect of what is surely the year’s most original and daring comedy is that John Cleese is not the funniest performer in it. Believe it or not, that honor goes to none other than the usually somber Kevin Kline.” – Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer

11. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (25 lists)


“In Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Mr. Almodovar sets out to charm rather than shock. That he succeeds should not come as a surprise.” – Vincent Canby

10. Big (26 lists)


“What’s great about it is that it shows how wonderfully full of toys the world of adults can be. And though this may fall under the heading of tiny, perhaps even fatuous, revelations, it does send you out of the theater with a lighter step.” – Hal Hinson, Washington Post

9. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (28 lists)


“Engaging, well-acted, often lyrical rendition of Milan Kundera’s famous novel, Philip Kaufman’s film contains some of the most erotic scenes to be in seen in an American picture” – Emanuel Levy,

8. Babette’s Feast (29 lists)


“Despite the austerity of the characters and local, this quiet gentle Danish film, the surprise winner of the 1987 Best Foreign Oscar, won over audiences with its subject of food, and the preparartion of a feast to end all feasts– by Stephane Audran!” – Emanuel Levy,

6. The Last Temptation of Christ (34 lists)


“What emerges most memorably is its sense of absolute conviction, never more palpable than in the final fantasy sequence that removes Jesus from the cross and creates for him the life of an ordinary man.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

6. Wings of Desire (34 lists)


“Underneath its melancholia and mind-boggling, even bothersome metaphysics, it’s the simplest (well, almost) story ever told — angel meets girl, angel gets girl.” – Rita Kempley, Washington Post

5. Rain Man (39 lists)


“Valeria Golino is appealing as Cruise’s girlfriend; Hoffman makes his character pretty believable without milking the part for pathos and tears, and it’s nice to see Cruise working for a change in a context that isn’t determined by hard sell and hype.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

4. A World Apart (40 lists)


“There is a strong social consciousness and political content, but [Chris] Menges also brings a subdued dramatic atmosphere and rich visual sensibility to the film…” – Sean Axmaker, Turner Classic Movies

3. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (43 lists)


“For audiences who grew up with cartoons as a natural part of their moviegoing, the shock may not be the mix of live and animated folk–it may come from the truly revolutionary sight of great icons of rival studios cheerfully rubbing shoulders.” – Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

2. Bull Durham (44 lists)


“Shelton locates the tension and the humor between pitches, between ball games, between the sheets. It helps too that he has written the wittiest, busiest screenplay since Moonstruck, and that his three stars do their very best screen work.” – Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

1. The Thin Blue Line (45 lists)


“Arguably no other film of the 1980s, fiction or non-fiction, was as significant in blurring the boundaries between what’s reel and real and in demonstrating the remarkable impact a movie could have.” – Emanuel Levy,