Top 10 Films of 2008

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2008 was the year cinema aisles up and down the country were run riot by dancing middle aged women. Yes, it was the year smash hit Abba musical “Mamma Mia” made its cinematic debut. It was also the year Steven Spielberg returned to one of his most famous characters – Indiana Jones. Both films provided mixed results. “Mamma Mia” was novelty at best and pandered to a very select audience, while “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was convoluted trash made to cash-in on the franchise before Harrison Ford lost his marbles.

The start of the year wasn’t a good one for Hollywood with the Writer’s Guild strike forcing the Golden Globes to be cancelled. Things picked up in the summer with the releases of “Iron Man”, “Indiana Jones” and “The Dark Knight” with Hollywood exhibiting an ability to gain box office success without its writers. Or maybe not: “Meet The Spartans”, “Vantage Point”, “One Missed Call”, “Definitely, Maybe”, “Prom Night”, “The Love Guru”, “Meet Dave”, “Max Payne”, and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” were just a few of the misguided attempts at entertainment.

Of the year’s more enjoyable cinematic romps Adam Sandler put together the throwaway but amusing “Don’t Mess With The Zohan”, while an ensemble cast led by Ben Stiller went to war in “Tropic Thunder”. There was also the entertaining stoner-comedy “Pineapple Express”, and Ricky Gervais added comedy and the word ‘Town’ to “Ghost” for his film about a reserved dentist who sees dead people.

2008 wasn’t the strongest year for Hollywood which may be attributed to the writer’s strike. As you’ll see, some of the best films of the year came from other parts of the globe.

eden lake british horror film 2008

10. Eden Lake (James Watkins, UK)

James Watkins’ film isn’t the cultural commentary it wants to be. You could have made this film any time post-1960 and it would have appeared ‘relevant’. Its sadistic play on the ASBO society that has seen British troublemakers ‘rehabilitated’ through a ticking off and the ability to sleep in their own beds might be contemporary but it’s an easy target and hardly new news. “Eden Lake” stokes the fire of the worst case scenario. It’s violent and brutal but it’s also derivative and follows a tired formula that Wes Craven felt was so outdated in the mid-1990s he reinvented the whole genre for a new generation. So why should the film get a place on Top10Films.co.uk’s Top 10 of 2008? Well, Watkins does get one thing right: the atmosphere. Tension simmers throughout as if something is about to explode. When it does explode you can’t help but be affected by it. It all culminates in an ending which is the most shocking part of the film. Despite its flaws “Eden Lake” will affect the audience more than any other film in 2008.

9. Milk (Gus Van Sant, USA)

Strong story, strong performance by Sean Penn.

8. Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, USA)

Top performances, especially Michael Sheen.

7. Burn After Reading (Joel Coen/Ethan Coen, USA)

Not the Coen’s best but still an enjoyable romp with lots of great characters.

6. The Changeling (Clint Eastwood, USA)

Angelina Jolie delivers a fine performance as the distraught mother who sets out to find the son no one believes she actually has.

slumdog millionaire british film 2008

5. Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, UK)

Danny Boyle hardly flies under the radar – “Trainspotting”, “28 Days Later”, “The Beach” – but “Slumdog Millionaire”, his ‘little’ movie about the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, certainly did. The film’s rise to prominence mimics the story of the film’s character – it looked for so long to be a straight-to-DVD movie but it didn’t count on an audience warming to its colourful, uplifting story.

4. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, USA)

Pixar continue to lead the digital animation market. “Wall-E” is uplifting, optimistic and original.

3. Tell No One (Guillaume Canet, France)

Based on the Harlan Coben novel this French take on the twisty thriller is edge-of-the-seat stuff. It’s surprising, given the sheer quality of Coben’s novels, that Hollywood hasn’t made its own interpretations.

2. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, USA)

Christopher Nolan continues to show the rest of Hollywood how to make Superhero films.

gran torino clint eastwood best film 2008

1. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, USA)

What a great year it has been for Clint Eastwood. He gets older but seems to work more. “Gran Torino” is one of his finest films as director. He also gives one of his best performances as a Korean War veteran who is forced to question his own prejudice as he unwittingly becomes the hero of his Hmong neighbours. The friendship he discovers with Thao, his young neighbour, is considered and unique. This is an important film and one that will no doubt be talked about for years to come.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Jake Reply

    Excellent list. I think the top 2 could have been switched depending on the mood but both are excellent films – easily the best two of the year. Looking at this list it reminds me just how much better 2008 was over 2007, especially when it comes to Hollywood films. Wall-E was excellent but I did prefer Ratatouille. Good call on Tell No One.

  2. Avatar
    Beef Sandwich Reply

    Milk was the best film of 2008 for me.

  3. Avatar
    Greg South Reply

    …actually thought Gran Torino was one of the best films Eastwood has ever made either as director or actor. Just so well paced, acted, scripted, directed, photogaphed. Loved everything about it. An important film that will be remembered for years to come…much like his back catalogue.

  4. Avatar
    Sally Hepworth Reply

    You’re spot on about Eden Lake. It’s a powerful film but perhaps too derivative of other films -those of the 70s and 80s. Wes Craven was making a point back in the slasher horror hey day. I suppose Eden Lake tries to make a point too but I don’t feel ASBO culture and hoodie teens is quite the same as a fear of nuclear war/communism/breakdown of family values (and the American Dream) etc. James Watkins has therefore made a by-the-numbers exploitation flick and exploited only a trivial cultural anomaly.

  5. Avatar
    Greg South Reply

    I suppose one criticism of Eden Lake is that I wouldn’t want to go through that again. It’s a good horror film but it’s violent and upsetting. It seems to me that it would be easy to affect an audience with violence and torture – who wouldn’t be upset by it. To have a point is what makes the likes of Dawn of the Dead and The Hills Have Eyes different. And I think the work that Neil Marshall has been doing – derivative as it is as well – takes itself a lot less seriously. I’ll be returning to Dog Soliders and The Descent, I don’t want to see Eden Lake ever again.

  6. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Speaking of Eden Lake and its contemporary take on an out of control society – this appeared in the Independent today: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/teenagers-jailed-for-random-bus-attack-1976095.html

  7. Avatar
    James Ewing Reply

    Now this list, I don’t agree with. In fact, the only one of these that would reach my top 10 would be WALL-E.

    Yet I can’t even remember what my favorite film from 2008 was.

  8. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Not a fan of The Dark Knight, James?

  9. Avatar
    James Ewing Reply

    Yea, The Dark Knight is a solid film but I’ve got issues with the last act. I’ve watched it three times and I found more problems with the film.

    It’s maybe on the cusp of my top 10 of 2008.

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