The past year has been strange in Hollywood. There was a lengthy writer's strike and another horrid Eddie Murphy sci-fi comedy, but 2008 also featured a series of tremendously fun movies. Bolstered by such sure-fire crowd-pleasers as comic book heroism and shock male nudity, this year's films shoved pretention and nuance aside and said, quite forcefully, "Movies are supposed to be fun, damn it."
10. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Last year, Juno charmed audiences with indietasticness, wacky dialogue and Michael Cera. Nick and Norah's appeal was that it kept what worked in Juno-- cute girls falling for Michael Cera-- but didn't over-do it with pointless verbiage or teen pregnancy.
Critically-acclaimed Scottish actor James McAvoy smashed a keyboard in another man's face-- with the scattered keys and teeth spelling out "fuck you"-- while being inducted into a secret guild of assassins in this film based on a comic book. Add in Morgan Freeman shouting profanities and half-naked Angelina Jolie and you have one of the most fun films of the year.
8. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Anchored by likable leads Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks and a surprisingly deft script by cult director Kevin Smith, Zack and Miri managed to combine random male nudity and poop jokes with a convincing love story.
7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Best known for his role on CBS' How I Met Your Mother, actor Jason Segal delved into writing for this film, which not only was a great showcase for Segal's talent, but also brought back That '70s Show star Mila Kunis to movies people actually watch. It also featured a vampire puppet rock opera as a major plot device, which is never a bad thing.
6. Be Kind Rewind
Written and directed by auteur Michel Gondry, who also helmed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind impressed on the festival circuit with its high concept: a pair of video store clerks accidentally erase VHS tapes and scramble to shoot replacements. A lesser director or cast could've made the movie silly, but Gondry and stars Jack Black and Mos Def were more than up to the challenge.
5. Quantum of Solace
Back in 2006, the James Bond series rebooted with Daniel Craig killing people and falling in love in Casino Royale. In the follow-up, director Marc Forester eschews plot for pure, mindless action. Quantum of Solace features car chases, boat chases, plane chases and gunfights inside a burning building.
4. Tropic Thunder
One of two amazing performances by Robert Downey Jr. in 2008, Tropic Thunder stands as Ben Stiller's most triumphant film and a testament to his comedic timing as a writer, director and actor, as well as a searing indictment of the Hollywood system. The film also features some of the most inspired casting in recent memory, including Steve Coogan as a director and an unrecognizable Tom Cruise as a slimy entertainment industry executive.
3. Iron Man
In perhaps the most ambitious comic book adaptation in history, Iron Man featured likely the best casting choice in history, recovering drug addict Robert Downey Jr. as drunken technocrat Tony Stark, who wears a robotic suit of armour to fight crime. Not only did the film make an ungodly amount of money-- immediately prompting Marvel Studios to announce a sequel-- but it managed to capture the spirit of the source material while eliminating aspects that wouldn't work on film.
Every year, Pixar releases a film that melts the hearts of audiences and makes a bunch of money. Following in the footsteps of Finding Nemo, Cars and Ratatouille, Wall-E was no exception to the Pixar excellence rule. The injection of subtle political commentary into a story about two robots falling in love in a dystopian future elevated Wall-E from "just another good Pixar movie" into something truly special. Audiences will never look at robots the same way again.
1. The Dark Knight
Once upon a time, Batman movies were a joke-- filled with corny one-liners and skin-tight costumes adorned with decorative nipples. Director Christopher Nolan and new caped crusader Christian Bale stepped in for Batman Begins and created an acclaimed, nuanced origin story. Expectations were sky-high for the follow-up, featuring the much-hyped final completed performance for the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. Somehow, The Dark Knight actually exceeded expectations and delivered an affecting, triumphant film that not only captured the spirit of the Batman comic books, but also improved upon many aspects of the mythos.