The Whatever: The Best Movies of 2008

And here … we … go …


What are the 10 best movies you saw this year?

(Last year’s are here.)

10. Get Smart. Seriously. Original review here.

9. Rambo. If you listen closely, this movie is saying, “Hello, My Audience. Sylvester Stallone here. I know exactly what you want, and I’m going to give it to you, only I’m going to give it to you even better than you’re expecting, with one of the most appropriate and surprisingly beautiful endings you’ll see all year, especially for a movie as lean and as mean as this one.” As my buddy Mike said, “There’s a lot of bad in this movie … but it’s really good!”

8. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Say what you will about this movie. I loved it. I had a ton of fun with it. Harrison Ford was 100% reporting for duty, and the first half of this movie — Indy in the Atomic Age! McCarthyism! UFO mumbo jumbo! — is as exciting and as wonderful as anything in Raiders or The Last Crusade. Original review here.

7. The Incredible Hulk. Original review here.

6. Iron Man. Original review here.

5. Appaloosa. Ed Harris co-writes and directs this adaptation of Robert Parker’s well-regarded Western novel, with an invaluable co-starring assist by Viggo Mortensen. Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Mortensen) are peacekeepers hired by the small town of Appaloosa, which is being held in the unforgiving grasp of evil rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his gang of vile bastards. Things get complicated by a girl (played pitch-perfectly by the ever-adorable Renee Zellweger) who can’t stand to be alone and a landscape that’s changing faster than the black-and-white days of good guys and bad guys can keep up with. The film has lots of slower moments, but they’re filled with so many delightful and effortlessly acted character moments that you won’t mind at all. Can’t wait to enjoy this again on Blu-ray on January 13.

4. Quantum of Solace. I read lots of complaints that this movie doesn’t have a story. Of course it has a story. It’s called Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace is particularly effective if you watch its predecessor immediately before viewing it. Daniel Craig immediately became my all-time favorite Bond upon his debut in 2006, and he proves again here that if you try to kill Bond, Bond will a) kill you first and b) kill you the worst. This is a lean, mean revenge movie, and yet when Bond tells M (Judi Dench) that he’s still driven by his duty, you know he’s telling the truth. Many critics trashed this for not having any romance, but Bond and Camille (Olga Kurlyenko) were every bit the “damaged goods” the villainous Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) observed them to be. They were two broken souls who wanted bloody, righteous revenge, and a romance wouldn’t have been believable, particularly given the hole in Bond’s heart left by Vesper. And then there’s the final scene, that says everything I’ve ever needed to know about James Bond and sets 007 free to become even more formidable in the next installment. I can’t wait to see where they take it.

3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Bigger, funnier, and infinitely more magical and action-packed than the first one. And if not for Heath Ledger’s Joker, Luke Goss’s dangerous, nuanced Prince Nuada would take the gold as the year’s most formidable villain. Original review here.

2. The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Beautiful, moving, and everything I needed it to be — and more. Original review here.

1. The Dark Knight. I still haven’t written a review of this because I still don’t know how to approach it in a way that can do it justice. It’s one year after the events of Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego Batman (Christian Bale), Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) have got the scum of Gotham City on the run. Bruce sees in Dent the kind of hero (and a symbol of hope) he thinks he can never be — a man who stands against crime and corruption without having to wear a mask. He also sees his last chance for a normal life with lifelong best friend and lovely legal eagle Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), whose own relationship with Dent is more than just business. But The Joker (Heath Ledger), an agent of chaos who unleashes his heinous plans with great and terrible glee, has other ideas. And in the end, the only thing Bruce and his friends can give to stop this monster’s march toward anarchy … is everything. My sincerest thanks go out to my friend Kareem (and his family and friends) for hosting me this summer in Los Angeles and sharing this once-in-a-lifetime movie experience.

And now … it’s your turn.


  1. Kareem Dimashkie says:

    Just wait until the third Batman movie comes out, my friend. The In&Out will taste all the more delicious when we’re moments away from sitting in that IMAX theater once again.

  2. Kerstin says:

    I agree with many of yours, but will replace a couple…because you know, I’m a girl, and that’s my prerogative. :)

    10. Get Smart – I can’t express how much this movie rocked! I’m just sad I waited until the DVD came out and didn’t see it on the big screen. My loss for sure.

    9. Twilight – I know, I know. The movie itself could have been MUCH, MUCH better. Special effects were seriously lacking, but given that it was a low budget movie, it could have been worse. But I love the story, and there were parts I just adored. Vampire Baseball anyone?

    8. Indiana Jones & The Kingdome of the Crystal Skull – I think you know how I feel about this one. :)

    7. Quantum of Solace – Sigh. James. Great film. Lacked a story line, but still KICK ASS. And that’s what counts when you’re Bond…right?

    6. Iron Man – I was more than pleasantly surprised at this one. What a great treat it truly was. I can’t wait for the next one.

    5. Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – Say what you will, but I loved this movie. The adventure was well worth it for me. I love this series and hope the next one gets picked up.

    4. In Bruges – If you haven’t seen it…Do so immediately! Immediately! Talk about unexpected treats. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell were brilliant. (And Ralph Fienes!) Laughter and tears…and blood…it can’t get any better. Oh, and Clemence Poesy was brilliant. Totally shed her wholesome Fleur Delaour image from Harry Potter.

    3. Revolutionary Road – Kate and Leo. Leo and Kate. And a fabulous story. What more could you ask for?

    2. Wall-E – What a fabulous film for Pixar. Truly brought animation to new heights. And the story was just incredible. I have never seen an animated film that inspired me the way this one did.

    1. The Dark Knight – I think this requires no explanation.

    Special mentions: Pineapple Express, 27 Dresses, Tropic Thunder and Kung Fu Panda.

  3. CharmCityMovieDude says:

    Thank you for giving Quantum praise it deserves, and for pointing out the fact that it is a direct sequel to Casino Royale. Sadly most of the print media types failed to realize …or understand that. A Bond film with a multi-movie story arch and with no gizmos is just a too novel concept for them.

  4. John says:

    Kareem: I can’t wait for the next one. I’ll be there for Batman and burgers, brother. And thanks for the link … I think some of those stories actually sound better than some of “Batman: R.I.P.”

    Kerstin: Happy New Year! Excellent list. Glad you liked Get Smart. I have high hopes for Steve Carell’s cinematic future. Have you seen Dan in Real Life? Also very good. Didn’t see Twilight and for some reason I’ve not seen either Narnia; those kind of just slipped through the cracks, and I need to get caught up. I’m very interested in In Bruges and Revolutionary Road. DiCaprio used to annoy me, but he’s really proven himself to be one of the finest actors we’ve got. Thanks so much for sharing your list!

    CharmCityMovieDude: I’m glad to hear from another Quantum fan. I ended up seeing this three times in theaters, and everyone I saw it with loved it. I think it really set things up for Craig’s Bond to take things to a new level in the next one, and I’d love to see Martin Campbell return to the director’s chair. We shall see.

  5. Aaron says:

    1. The Wrestler
    2. Let the Right One In
    3. Zack & Miri
    4. RockNRolla
    5. Doomsday
    6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
    7. Iron Man
    8. Benjamin Button
    9. Gran Torino
    10. Frost/Nixon
    11. Dark Knight
    12. Quantum of Solace
    13. Burn After Reading
    14. Repo! The Genetic Opera
    15. Hellboy II
    16. Hulk
    17. In Bruges
    18. JCVD
    19. Appaloosa
    20. Doubt

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