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Top 15 Best Films of 2008: 5-1

WE pick out our 15 favourite films of 2008. Find out what made 5 to 1….

There Will Be Blood

No.5: There Will Be Blood (15)

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds.

What’s the story? Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) is a turn of the century American prospector who exists for no other reason than to make his fortune from oil. Together with his adopted son HW (Dillon Freasier) he eventually finds the possibility of building an empire in a small Texas frontier town overflowing with the black stuff. But once there, he crosses paths with a Bible-bashing preacher, Eli Sunday (Dano), who threatens to undermine his progress both spiritually and physically. It’s only a matter of time before their rivalry spills over into blood….

Why so good?: Critics positively salivated over Paul Thomas Anderson’s oil epic, which won two Oscars from eight nominations and featured another all-consuming central performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s seldom an easy watch, and could well leave you feeling emotionally cold afterwards, but there’s no denying the impressive scope of Anderson’s vision, whether it’s the near-wordless 20-minute opening sequence that sets the scene perfectly, or the jaw-dropping finale that truly does send a shiver down the spine. Day-Lewis, too, is mesmerising as the cold-hearted businessman at the centre of proceedings… and fully deserved the numerous accolades showered upon him as thickly as the oil that flowed throughout the film.

Trivia: The fictional character of Daniel Plainview bears some resemblance to a real, early 20th Century California oil tycoon named Edward L Doheny. Both were from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; both were employed by Geological Survey and worked in Kansas; both tried a hand at mining before going into the oil business, and both worked with a fellow prospector named “H. B. Ailman.

Read the review l Photos l Buy it


Juno

No.4: Juno (15)

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman.

What’s the story? Juno MacGuff (Page) is a whip-smart teenager who finds herself pregnant after deciding to relieve her boredom by seducing her boyfriend Bleeker (Cera) one afternoon. Rather than have an abortion, she resolves to have the baby and put the child up for adoption and, with the help of her supportive parents (JK Simmons and Allison Janney), finds a suitable couple in wealthy husband and wife Mark and Vanessa (Bateman and Garner).

Why so good?: Juno was, hands down, the smartest feel-good comedy of the year. Penned by former stripper and phone sex operator Diablo Cody, it offered a fresh take on the coming-of-age theme and a set of characters that were genuinely worth spending time with. Page was excellent as the feisty Juno, who finds herself having to grow up faster than she’d anticipated, and she positively thrived on the fantastic observations and cute one-liners offered by Cody’s imperious script. Few films manage to pull off the trick of satisfying from start to finish, but Juno got the mix of laughter and tears just right. It really shouldn’t be missed.

Trivia: Ellen Page suggested that her character Juno would be a fan of the music by Kimya Dawson and The Moldy Peaches.

Read our review l Ellen Page interview l Diablo Cody interview l Buy it


Wall-E

No. 3: Wall-E (U)

Starring: (The voices of) Sigourney Weaver, Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight.

What’s the story? After hundreds of lonely years of doing what he was built for, Wall-E (or Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class) discovers a new purpose in life when he meets a sleek search robot named Eve. But when Eve departs into space after completing her mission, Wall-E follows in hot pursuit and inadvertently contributes to the survival of mankind.

What we said: Another year, another Pixar classic – the company simply doesn’t make bad films. In many ways, however, Wall-E is one of the saddest feel-good movies you’re ever likely to see, taking a robot’s need for companionship as its central theme and wrapping an epic tale of Earth’s survival around it. The visuals are amazing, the numerous references spot-on and, in Wall-E, audiences got to enjoy one of the greatest animated characters of all-time. We’ve almost run out of superlatives for Pixar’s particular brand of genius… but they just seem to be going from strength to strength at the moment.

Trivia: Sound wizard Ben Burtt recorded many of the sounds for this film in a junkyard. The sound of insect clicks was the actual sound of locking handcuffs, while the cockroach chirps were created by speeding up the sounds of a raccoon.

Read our review l Andrew Stanton interview l View photos l Buy it


No Country For Old Men

No.2 No Country For Old Men (15)

Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones.

What’s the story? It’s Texas, 1980, and hunter Llewellyn Moss (Brolin) happens across the aftermath of a drug deal gone sour and a suitcase full of cash. Taking it, Moss fails to count on the presence of unstoppable hitman Anton Chigurh (Bardem), who sets off in pursuit of the money in a relentless fashion. It’s left to veteran sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) to make sense of the carnage.

Why so good?: The Coen brothers enjoyed a welcome return to form with this breathtaking thriller adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy. Dark, violent and pretty darn bleak, this was an intelligent, yet frequently exciting exploration of violence and greed that boasted top-notch performances from an outstanding cast. Primary among them, however, was Javier Bardem as hit-man Chigurh, whose ruthless dedication and efficiency to the task at hand were enough to land the actor numerous awards as best supporting actor. Chigurh is – and remains – another of modern cinema’s greatest creations. The ending may have baffled some, but for the majority No Country For Old Men was an instant masterpiece.

Trivia: Heath Ledger had been in talks to play Llewelyn Moss, but withdrew to take “some time off” instead.

Read our review l Coen brothers interview l Javier Bardem interview l Photo gallery l Buy it


The Dark Knight

No.1: The Dark Knight (12A)

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Sir Michael Caine.

What’s the story? Following Batman’s emergence as Gotham’s unlikely saviour, the city finds itself on the brink of a new era. Organised crime is on the back foot, thanks to the dedicated triumvirate of Batman (Bale), Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and committed new DA Harvey Dent (Eckhart), and there is a renewed sense of hope about the future. But just when they’re on the brink of a major breakthrough a new threat arises in the form of criminal mastermind The Joker (Ledger).

Why so good?: Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins was unquestionably THE event movie of 2008 (stick it, Mamma Mia!). It was a blockbuster with intelligence and spectacle that boasted powerhouse performances from just about everyone involved. The late Heath Ledger stole the show as The Joker, but Nolan’s film worked on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to begin. The British filmmaker didn’t so much redefine the comic book genre, as reinterpret it as a sweeping crime saga to rival the likes of Heat and The Godfather. In doing so, he didn’t forget to throw in some sensational set pieces and a climax that lived up to the ingenious nature of the plotting that came before it. Can he possibly go on to surpass the achievement with a third movie? It’s the million-dollar question.

Trivia: In preparation for his role as The Joker, Heath Ledger hid away in a motel room for about six weeks. During this extended stay of seclusion, Ledger delved deep into the psychology of the character. He devoted himself to developing The Joker’s every tic, namely the voice and that sadistic-sounding laugh.

Read our review l Christian Bale interview l Heath Ledger: An Appreciation l View photos

Back to the beginning

  1. Good list… although Iron Man should be higher, as should Wall-E… and There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men are both over-rated as classics. No Country doesn’t end well; Blood is purely a showcase for Day-Lewis and has no soul. I’d also venture that Wanted was a great summer blockbuster because it treated its viewers as adults.

    James    Dec 23    #