Critics Pick the Best and Worst Films of 2008

Tomatometer critics chime in on which films they loved (and hated) this year!

by | December 29, 2008 | Comments

With 2008 coming to a close, Rotten Tomatoes polled a selection of Tomatometer critics to find out which of the hundreds of films they were paid to watch this year they loved the most — and which films were the absolute worst. Read on to see if your favorites matched up with the critics, see who loved The Dark Knight and who hated Speed Racer, and find out which film of 2008 earned Roger Ebert’s honor as the worst film of the year.

The Dark Knight (94% Tomatometer)

The Dark Knight
Just when you thought comic book movies had ruined Hollywood forever, this brilliant parable of corruption, social collapse and fighting back against fear proved classic storytelling could still stir and astound, even with people running around in capes. Plus, those IMAX sequences! And there was Heath.

Bob Strauss, L.A. Daily News

Frost/Nixon (90% Tomatometer)

No one work of art or history will ever contain Richard Nixon, a man of extraordinary contradictions, but writer Peter Morgan, director Ron Howard, and actors Frank Langella and Michael Sheen take a pivotal moment in Nixon’s life and make it into a gripping story of the craving of two very different men for power and acceptance and how it plays into a contest of wit and will that becomes a larger story of accountability and meaning. Epic in scope, meticulous in detail, and brilliantly acted, this is a rare film that leaves its main characters no wiser at the end. But the audience is.

Nell Minow, (Read Nell’s full Top Ten List here)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (73% Tomatometer)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Everything a film should be. Entertaining and engrossing. Visual and poetic. Takes you to a world you’ve never been to, yet remains identifiable and universal to all. If, as Lord Buckley once said, people are like flowers, Benjamin Button is filled with some of the most beautiful flora captured on screen, and it has been a privilege to have walked> through David Fincher’s garden.

Edward Havens, Film Jerk

Revolutionary Road (67% Tomatometer)

Revolutionary Road
Richard Yates’ 1961 novel about a young couple staring into the abyss of the American Dream myth provides director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) with plenty of emotional ammunition to fuel this gorgeous but devastating drama that barely allows the viewer to catch their breath. Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet give stunning performances that resonate long after the movie is over. There will be tears.

Cole Smithey, (Read Cole’s full Top Ten List here)

Slumdog Millionaire (94% Tomatometer)

Slumdog Millionaire
Unabashedly romantic, visually intoxicating and narratively audacious, this extraordinary 21st century masterpiece from director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has soared past a full season’s worth of star-driven, big-budget disappointments to become an unlikely Oscar favorite. Why? Because it’s honest and cuts right to the heart, all without a single Caucasian (much less movie stars) anywhere in the cast. Incredibly, original financier Warner Bros. didn’t get it, opening the door for the savvier Fox Searchlight to snatch up one of the new millennium’s most original triumphs.

Wade Major, Box Office Magazine

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (73% Tomatometer)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is my pick for the best movie of 2008. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett’s performances are larger than life, yet feel incredibly personal and intimate. The film is technically flawless, a benchmark in special effects. This is what going to the movies is all about, and why there is nothing better than the experience of seeing a great one on the big screen.

Ben Lyons, At the Movies

The Wrestler (98% Tomatometer)

The Wrestler
My pick for the best movie of 2008 is The Wrestler. Darren Aronofsky manages to relate in every scene a sense of Mickey Rourke’s clinging to his past while somehow simultaneously hoping for the future. It’s a depressing world, but enriched by Randy The Ram’s infectious spirit. It’s the role of Rourke’s career, with a big assist coming from Marisa Tomei.

Ben Mankiewicz, At the Movies

Trick ‘R Treat (N/A)

Trick 'R Treat
A vivid intersection of tradition, the supernatural, smart storytelling and amusing twists, Trick ‘r Treat isn’t just a love letter to those who love Halloween and horror, it’s a full-blown carnival of devilish delights. Ringleader Michael Dougherty, here making one of the most impressive directorial debuts of his generation, rolls out the pumpkins, zombies, werewolves, vampires and even a deadly lollipop-wielding masked imp. He puts a fresh spin on this cavalcade of ghouls and reinvigorates the dying form of horror anthology storytelling.

Ryan Rotten, (Read Ryan’s full Best and Worst Horror Films of 2008 List here)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (73% Tomatometer)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
While Repo! The Genetic Opera is a sentimental favorite of mine, and a movie I admire for its “little engine that could” chutzpah, I realize it’s not for everyone and not many people saw it. Some fantastic movies of 2008 that are more palatable beyond the cult are The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Each of those movies could not be more different from the other, which is why it was so difficult to pick…The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as the #1 best movie of the year. I felt it was the most emotional, relatable, and humanistic drama of them all, wrapped in a gift-box of beautiful and dazzling visuals. I am looking forward to see it again on the big screen… I’ll even pay.

Staci Layne Wilson, Fi Weekly

But wait, it gets better! Think critics are tough on movies throughout the year? There’s always a little more sizzle when it comes to the worst films of the year…

Critics hate bad movies just as much as you do. The difference is, they can tell the world why. (And there’s always a little more sizzle when one deeply, truly, reviles a film.) See who hated Speed Racer, who had to sit through The Hottie & The Nottie, and how Ben Stein captured the wrong kind of attention from one of America’s favorite critics!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (63% Tomatometer)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Being so British that the Nazis danced to English music hall tunes and called each other “leftenant” just made it tone deaf kitsch. Turning the Holocaust into an SS family tragedy made it moral imbecility of the lowest order.

Bob Strauss, L.A. Daily News

College (6% Tomatometer)

There were more inept films in 2008 — Strange Wilderness and Nobel Son leap to mind — but no film seemed more contemptuous of humanity as a whole, and young people and women specifically, than this grimy “comedy” about three high school seniors who spend a weekend getting hazed by fraternity brothers. That a woman directed this disgusting mess is disappointing; that a movie this wretched could get a nationwide release is depressing.

Alonso Duralde, (Read Alonso’s full list here)

Postal (8% Tomatometer)

Director Uwe Boll actually revels in being reviled, so it’s somewhat anticlimactic to dub his latest video game adaptation the year’s worst. But Postal is bad even by Boll standards — it’s barely based on the video game of the same name, instead aiming to be some kind of grab bag satire of current events, pop culture and everything else that floats through Boll’s twisted, overeducated imagination (he allegedly holds a doctorate in literature). If it weren’t so boring and amateurish…it would be inconceivably offensive. Sign the petition:

Wade Major, Box Office Magazine

The Hottie & The Nottie (5% Tomatometer)

Hottie and the Nottie
Choices for the worst movie of the year are a cinematic cesspool of flotsam and jetsam including instant IQ-reducers like Over Her Dead Body, Seed, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan and The Hottie & The Nottie. Funny how one of my favorite movies has Paris Hilton in it, as does (predictably) the worst. The Hottie & The Nottie is a awfully-acted, stupidly-scripted, direly directed splash of swill that only makes me appreciate the good ones that much more. I’d rather splash pure bleach in my eyes than see it again.

Staci Layne Wilson, Fi Weekly

Repo! The Genetic Opera (30% Tomatometer)

Repo! The Genetic Opera
The worst movie of 2008 is the Paris Hilton starring cult, rock, horror film, Repo: The Genetic Opera, which is violent, disgusting and downright vile. The best part of this movie was the credits which meant I got to go home and pretend the whole thing never happened…

Ben Lyons, At the Movies

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (76% Tomatometer)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull earns the #1 spot because it ranks as the most disappointing movie in years. How could Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford wait 20 years for the right script to make Indy 4 and end up with this? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is predictable, unimaginative, derivative of its predecessors – not celebratory – and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – incomprehensible.

Ben Mankiewicz, At the Movies

Baghead (77% Tomatometer)

Being one’s own editor allows a person to be very selective about what they see. Baghead is the worst of the films I saw this year, not just because did not see as many films in 2008 as I normally would, but because of how much better it could have been but wasn’t. Even at a mere 84 minutes, it was still an hour too long, with some of the worst acting from allegedly professional thespians, lazy camerawork and an all-around lack of enthusiasm from everyone involved.

Edward Havens, Film Jerk

The Love Guru (14% Tomatometer)

The Love Guru
It was probably around the time that Oscar-winning, classically-trained actor Sir Ben Kingsley, playing a guru with a name that is a crude joke about solitary sex, dunks a mop in a bucket of urine for his acolytes to use in a sort of pee-soaked dodge ball game, that I began to feel confident I was watching the worst film of the year. To be truly, epically bad a movie must waste the talents and severely tarnish the reputations of highly respected and previously reliable performers. Add in constant but never funny body-part and bodily-function jokes, an uninteresting story, and a character whose only job seems to be to do what the audience doesn’t and laugh at the star and you can actually feel brain cells melt as you watch.

Nell Minow, (See Nell’s Top 10 list here)

Towelhead (47% Tomatometer)

As its openly racist title implies Towelhead is an exploitation movie that wears its shock value on its guilty sleeve. It is the most disgusting, ethically reprehensible, and irresponsible film to come out of the 21st century’s first decade. As Roger Ebert said of the film Dirty Love, this movie “wasn’t written and directed; it was committed.”

Cole Smithey, (Read Cole’s full list here)

Speed Racer (36% Tomatometer)

Speed Racer
Because we all expected so much more and they spitefully let us all down. Even the children! It’s an ugly cartoon with squandered money and talent by the once highly-respected Wachowski Brothers. Was the true purpose to make a movie no one would see? The cast is crucified by cruel camera work. And I hated the fat kid brother and especially the chimp, who the mom liked more than her children.

Victoria Alexander,

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (10% Tomatometer)

A defense of “intelligent design” and an attack on Darwinians that could be used as a case study of irrational reasoning. But such a doc would be fair enough, just like some of Michael Moore’s stretchers, if it didn’t try to link modern evolution scientists with Hitler and the Holocaust. Hosted by Ben Stein, who should be ashamed of himself. I wrote a blog about it, which so far has attracted 940 comments, some of them longer than the entry, very few giving a good impression of the defenders of ID.

Roger Ebert, (Read Roger’s Best of 2008 list here)

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