The Ten Best Movies of 2008

Everybody loves Top Ten Lists, right? You can never get enough of them, correct? If you read one to the end, you want nothing more than start looking at the next one, or am I wrong? In any case, I like Top Ten (or basically any other number) Lists. I know they are silly and arbitrary and highly subjective, but they are still fun – even if one just reads them to poke fun at the author(s). So to start my own habitual list-making off, I hereby offer you the TEN BEST MOVIES OF 2008!

But before we start, the usual disclaimers: Only movies with a theatrical release in Germany in 2008 are eligible for entry (hence last year’s Oscar bait instead of this year’s). I have seen all films mentioned. I know that is kind of obvious, but I just wanted to mention it for those that do not understand that “best movies” really means “best movies I have seen” (there are 36 of those). I’m sure I have managed to miss some real masterpieces once more, but we will all just have to live with that. And now, without further ado, the list:

10. The Darjeeling Limited

There is no way that “The Darjeeling Limited” actually was one of the best ten movies of 2008, so why is it on the list? One simple reason: Wes Anderson. I didn’t like the film all that much, despite some nice scenes and decent performances, but since it is the latest of my favourite director, I had to include it. I hope it encourages him to work better in the future, since I am sure that he is reading this. The film portrays the spiritual journey of three brothers through India and towards each other.

9. Die Welle

The only German film on the list, “Die Welle” (“The Wave”) is a fictionalization of the Third Wave experiment, which showed students at an American High School how easy it is to establish a fascist regime. The film takes events to present day Germany and greatly dramatizes the ending, but the message still remains intact. And it is certainly better than the German prestige film of the year, The “Baader Meinhof Komplex”, detailing the events of the RAF period.

8. Be Kind Rewind

“Be Kind Rewind”  is a comedy about a video game clerk and his crazy best friend who set out to remake movies when they accidentally erase all the VHS tapes. What is a brilliant idea loses much of it’s charm in the execution, since filmmaker Michael Gondry never seems sure whether he is making a “simple” comedy or a drama about the death of neighbourhood stores. Still, the remade movie sequences are hilarious and the movie has some touching moments.

7. Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis

The most successful French film ever, “Welcome to the Sticks” (or “Welcome to the Land of Shtis”, depending which English title you prefer), is a light comedy about cultural differences. There’s nothing spectacular about this movie, except that it is funny throughout. It tells the story of a postal service employee that is forcefully transferred to the dreaded North – and of course grows to love it.

6. Låt den rätte komma in

In the US, “Let the Right One In” is currently winning Best Foreign Language Film awards right and left. The reason is quite simple: It’s a good movie. It tells the story of a 12-year old boy falling in love with a vampire. It’s a poetic horror movie that is more arthouse than horror (white snow, red blood and all that), which sadly has a rather disappointing ending, or it would actually be ranked higher despite my aversion to horror movies.

5. Into the Wild

The problem with lists like this is that I saw some of the movies 11 months ago and am happy to remember that I liked them, but have no idea anymore, why I liked them. This is the case with “Into the Wild”, the true story of a teenager who wants to experience life to the fullest and decides to walk alone into the Alaska wilderness after walking through all of the continental US hasn’t given him what he hoped for. It’s a touching story, beautifully told. I hope that is enough of a recommendation.

4. Lars and the Real Girl

Lars is a loner in his home town, living in his brother’s garage and interacting very little with other people. That is, until he meets Bianca and she opens many doors for him. Thing is, Bianca is a real doll, a life-size sex doll. What sounds like the premise of the silliest movie ever is actually the start of a great story about life and love when the town doctor advises everyone to believe Bianca is real – just like Lars does. And before the end, the viewer will also care about Bianca just as Lars does.

3. In Bruges

After a slighly botched contract killing, Ray, a young hitman and his older mentor Ken are send to Bruges to wait for things to calm down. Ray is pissed because he didn’t even know where Bruges is (“It’s in Belgium.”), while Ken enjoys the beautiful city. Without revealing to much of the plot, before the end there is a lot of swearing, a racist dwarf and a lot of shooting as well as a beautiful girl. Director Martin McDonagh manages to make a movie that obviously pays hommage to both Quention Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, yet surpasses both of them in quality. Easily the most fun I had at the movies in years.

2. No Country For Old Men

For about 90% of the movie-going public, this is a 2007 movie, but not in good old Germany, where releases are unnecessary delayed. The Coen Brothers’ latest masterpiece (yes, I am aware that they made another movie after this called “Burn After Reading”) is one of those rare movies where everyone comes together. A good story, extremely well told, beautifully shot and decently acted – what more could one want? Oh wait, you want to know something about the story? Well, okay: It involves an average joe finding two million dollars and making off with it, getting chased by the scary killer Anton Chigurh. “Call it, friendo.”

1. The Dark Knight

Yes, the best movie of 2008 is a comic book movie. Not just because it is quite simply the best comic book movie ever made (and I have some expertise in that area), but because it is an all-around great movie. It’s a dark morality tale that dares to raise serious questions about right and wrong, carried by good performances by all lead actors and a superb Heath Ledger in his last role as the main antagonist (villain is much too narrow a term to describe him) to Batman. Sure, there are some plot holes, but it is a two and a half hour thrill ride that you won’t soon forget.

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And now, you can have your say:

Which of Christoph's Top Ten Movies of 2008 did you like best?

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