The Best Films of 2008
By Bert Ehrmann
January 16, 2009
On and off over the last decade, I’ve taken time at the end of each winter to compile my list of the best movies of the year. It’s a trip to look back at the first list I came up with at the end of 1999 that had The Matrix as the best movie of the year but somehow failed to include films like The Iron Giant or Fight Club. Regardless, in all the time since that first list I’ve never had as many problems coming up with what I felt were the best movies of the year as I’ve had here in writing this at the end of 2008.
Usually, I derive my “best of list” based on the movies that I walked out of dying to see again. And although I left a lot of movies in 2008 wanting to see certain parts of them again – be it the amazing Batpod chase sequence in The Dark Knight or of the inspiring first act of WALL•E – there weren’t any movies I’ve found myself counting down the days until it was released on DVD.
So I guess this list is really a list of movies that I dug in 2008 rather than a traditional “best of” list. Sorry to disappoint.
The Dark Knight/ Iron Man/ Incredible Hulk: I’m going to lump these all into one group here, but not because I had anything against any one of them, I just liked them all equally well. I believe that these films as a whole essentially reshaped the entire superhero movie genera. If the first Superman (1978) film marked the first generation of superhero movies, Batman (1989) the second and X-Men (2000) the start of the third then surly surely these three 2008 movies mark the beginning of the fourth generation of superhero movies. I’d categorize this new generation as featuring gritty realism, are set in a modern world that also features well-written scripts and superb acting.
Justice League: New Frontier: This direct-to-DVD animated film has been overlooked since it was released, but I really liked this little gem. Based on the comic series DC: The New Frontier, this film presented incarnations of many of DC comics most well known characters, some of which are nearly a century old, in a fresh manner. Set in the late 1950s/early 1960s, the characters of New Frontier want to do good for their fellow man, not just themselves. Plus we finally learn what was really going on over at Dinosaur Island all those years!
Redbelt: Anytime I get a chance to plug a movie created by David Mamet I’m gonna to take it! Redbelt might not be the perfect movie, but the ending of this film was the most satisfying of any of the movies I’d seen in 2008. Redbelt is a movie about man who has spent his entire life living by his word but finds himself in the situation of having to break that word in order to earn a living.
The Signal: This creepy little independently produced film about the world being slowly driven into chaos by people driven mad by a mysterious broadcast has really stuck in my head ever since I saw it, and not just because one of the three segments in the film is a comedy. In most of these types of movies, the story is told by the POV of the main characters who are unaffected by whatever is happening to the rest of mankind. However, in The Signal everyone, including the main characters, are infected and how can they trust anyone, even themselves, when EVERYONE’S “got the crazy?”
WALL•E: Pixar has proven again and again over the last 13 years that it’s incapable of producing a bland film, and there is some argument to be made that WALL•E might be the best of their 11 films to date. WALL•E is an interesting blend of “hard” sci-fi elements (an abandoned, decimated Earth) with the usual Pixar penchant for great story elements and top-notch animation elements.
All of the films on my list are available on DVD and Blu-Ray. Many of them are also available for digital download as well.