10. In Bruges
This film was fantastic for two reasons. First off, it showed me that Colin Farrell was a legitimate actor with good comic timing (no, Miami Vice didn't accomplish that). Secondly, it came out in February, which is usually a vast wasteland of cinema.
9. Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle's look at the slums of Mumbai feels like the most authentic film of the year. It simply has a lot of truth to tell, and it's set against the backdrop of the best soundtrack of the year. This is what happens when you let a master do his thing without studio interference: you get a classic. Hopefully, everyone will see this, it will win a lot of awards, and we can see more films with Indian content in the very near future.
8. The Wrestler
One gnarly film. I'm not sure whether it's uplifting, or completely depressing -- and that's what makes it special. At no point does Mickey Rourke's work feel like "acting" and at no point is the movie not interesting.
It shouldn't have been very good. But the conflicts and acting elevate it to the stratosphere. Streep and Hoffman are phenomenal in this movie. It's a more solid version of a film that tried a little too hard called Mystic River.
6. Tropic Thunder
I loved this movie. The genius is it looked and sounded like a real war film at times. The one criticism I can offer is that it seems like it had a ton of "in" jokes meant for avid movie-watchers. But I loved it, and Downey gives one of the better performances of the year in it.
5. Quantum of Solace
I've been hearing grumblings lately about how it needed to have "gadgets" and was missing that "James Bond comedy element." People! C'mon. This movie flew by, had tremendous action, and had a realistic villain.
4. Synecdoche, NY
Can I explain it to you? No. It's an impossible film to describe. Completely and utterly inscrutable, this is classic Charlie Kaufman. I advise everyone to see it ... and then explain it to me, step by step.
2. Revolutionary Road
An absolutely scathing look at relationships, it makes American Beauty look soft by comparison. Mendes has made four great films now, earning his slot in the Laremy Hall of Goodness. I don't think this one will win many awards, but it wins my admiration for going to the emotional well.
1. The Dark Knight
People are still calling this a comic-book movie. Wrong. The vibe of it was incredible, the IMAX stuff was innovative, and the message was interesting. Yes, Bale's voice was annoying. So what? You gonna point out a dust fleck on da Vinci's Mona Lisa? This movie was built to entertain across generations, and it asked pressing questions about our freedom and the process of becoming a monster. Ledger's Joker won't ever be topped.