Top Ten From Ten Ago: Top Ten Films of 2008

Believe it or not, 2008 was a decade ago. The year was ripe for history; one of the greatest films of all time was released, The New England Patriots lost their undefeated season in the Super Bowl, Michael Phelps took home eight Golds at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, Usain Bolt became the fastest Human Being of all time, the start of the worst financial crisis since the great depression began, and Barack Obama became the first black president.

Also, in the film world, a longstanding tradition was changed; after The Dark Knight failed to score a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, many voters and viewers were outraged. The Academy then changed the rules to allow for Ten nominees, instead of the usual five; now the rule is between five and ten. Let’s reminisce from a decade ago and rank the Top Ten Films of 2008: 

10. Tropic Thunder

Director: Ben Stiller

Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan, Tom Cruise

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Having just watched Tropic Thunder a few months ago, the humour holds up astoundingly. Hands down, the greatest film directed by Ben Stiller, the film poked fun at studio films, the war genre, method acting, and everyone it could find. The ensemble cast includes such comedic greats, including an unrecognizable Tom Cruise as a sleazy Hollywood agent. The script could not be funnier, and the fake trailers at the beginning were worth the price of admission. And by the way, in case you forgot, Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for an Oscar, for a character who spends most the film in black-face, “I’m a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude!”

9. Gran Torino

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Christopher Carley, Ahney her

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

I’m sad to say it, but Gran Torino was the last great film directed by the veteran director. American Sniper and J. Edgar were good, but don’t come close to some of his more prestigious efforts. His 2008 try, showed us a grizzled and hardened Korean vet who challenges his own racism to do what’s right. The annoyed and grouchy Walt played by Eastwood is more or less what every millennial thinks of every person over 80, and we just couldn’t stop watching him. In a world of gangsters and crime, Walt uses his wit to fight his foes. The film’s end, as tragic as it may be, is still considered one of the greatest of all time.

8. Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Director: Kevin Smith

Cast: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Justin Long

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%

Unpopular opinion; but Zack and Miri Make a Porno is Kevin Smith’s best and most complete film. Yes, it is easily the raunchiest from the director, but it may also be one of the smartest. The love story feels real and authentic, the jokes are witty and continuous, and the direction is surprisingly mature. When a filmmaker such as Smith has so many duds in his resume, it’s always nice to have a great flick to go back to and show your true ability.

7. WALL-E

Director: Andrew Stanton

Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

WALL-E may be the most underrated Pixar films, one of the few nominated for an Original Screenplay Oscar (though, after the rule change I discussed above, two films will soon be nominated for Best Picture) it wasn’t the cultural phenomenon that so many of the Disney offspring’s have. The only Science Fiction flick from the esteemed studio, the family film is an excellent experiment in visual storytelling.

6. Frost/Nixon

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

You know those boring Best Picture nominees you always see on the show that you’ve never heard of and are about something you don’t really care for, that’s Frost/Nixon, and it’s absolutely incredible.  The logline, “An English TV host gets an unprecedented interview with Richard Nixon immediately following the Watergate scandal,” may not be the catchiest of plots. Nevertheless, Its mockumentary style from Ron Howard and devastating script from political drama veteran Peter Morgan (whom also wrote the play the film is based on) come together to make a masterpiece in the genre of historical journalism.

5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunas, Russel Brand, Jonah Hill

Rotten Tomatoes Score:  84%

Though I’m sure many will scoff at this film critic who doesn’t find Step Brothers to be one of the funniest films in decades, as many of my friends have proclaimed, but I do love my R-rated comedies, and not too many are better than Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The script written by Jason Segel himself has the perfect amount of self-deprecation that Segel can play off perfectly. The timing, improvisation, and introduction to the larger than life character that is Aldous Snow makes for literal gut-busting laughs.

4. Cloverfield

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Mike Vogel, Michael Stahl-David, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

Yes, it may have given us a terrible sequel (if that’s what you’d call it) in 2018 with The Cloverfield Paradox, but a decade ago, Cloverfield was an original and successful entry into the genre of found-footage. Clocked in secrecy, and only being referred to as 1-18-08, the monster-flick may have made people prone to motion sickness stumble out of the theatre, but it gave fans theories for years. The introduction of Lizzy Caplan and T.J. Miller, giving the film some strong comedic relief when it became too intense. For those who haven’t seen it in years, I can’t recommend it more; it holds up.

3. Doubt

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Viola Davis

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

Doubt is a very underrated flick; having four of the greatest thespians of our time, and featuring one of the greatest Phillip Seymour Hoffman performances of all time. Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based off his own play, is a personal and intense thriller/drama about suspected pedophilia in a catholic church. One of the great ambiguous endings of all time. The films is a masterclass in storytelling, give it a chance, just don’t expect to feel to chipper afterwards.

2. Slumdog Millionaire

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan, Anil Kapoor

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

It’s become almost trendy to hate on Danny Boyle’s 2008 Best Picture winner, but the story of a young man on an Indian gameshow as he reminisces about his life in the slums is an incredible look at an underrepresented part of the world in film. The performances may not be stellar, but Boyle’s direction and the scope of the story makes it a classic. Boyle may have fallen out of type after the win, but we hope his new take on Bond 25 will bring him back.

1. The Dark Knight

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Other Top Ten Appearances: – Top Ten Sequels that are Better than Their Predecessor

How could it not be The Dark Knight? The film has stood the test of time and is still regarded by many as the best film of all time. Nolan’s choice of practicality over CGI that he has always adopted is still used, as seen in his 2017 war-flick Dunkirk. Films like Wonder Woman and Black Panther have become phenomenon’s, but not in the way TDK took the world by storm.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Run, Fatboy, Run
  • The Ruins
  • The Strangers
  • Wanted
  • Step Brothers
  • Burn After Reading
  • RocknRolla
  • W.
  • The Reader
  • The Wrestler
  • Quarantine
  • Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
  • Role Models
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Mark A. Silba

Mark is the founder and editor-in-chief at Cinema 35. He currently has his BA in Film and Media studies from Arizona State University. He currently lives in Gilbert, AZ where he spends most of his time seeing the latest theatrical releases.

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