From The Dark Knight to Slumdog Millionaire take a look back at 12 movies that turn a decade old in 2018.
In movies, like life, a decade can make a big difference. The movies that were popular when they were released can easily get forgotten, while others often find new life a decade or more after their release. In 2008, The Dark Knight was the highest grossing movie of the year. Meanwhile, Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture, the film adaptation of Mamma Mia! was released, and the Twilight franchise began its run.
Ten years later, we take a look back at some of the biggest and smallest movies of 2008, seeing how well they’ve aged and if they’re still relevant today. Check out the full list below!
‘The Dark Knight’
The Dark Knight is arguably one of the highest achievements in the canon of superhero films. The second entry in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy successfully balanced intimate storytelling set on a grand scale. By telling a story with real dramatic stakes, a terrifying and complex villain, and compelling conflict, both between and within characters, Nolan set a high bar for the what superhero movies could be.
Ten years later, we’ve yet to see another superhero movie clear the bar set by The Dark Knight. Some may have come close, but there’s an undeniable uniqueness with which The Dark Knight has cemented itself within the cultural zeitgeist. It exists outside of the DCEU heading, made Christopher Nolan a household name, and remains as popular and beloved now than it was in 2008.
Iron Man premiered in 2008, marking the official start to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it today. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the film made a splash at the box office and garnered impressive critical acclaim. It gave Marvel the success it needed to launch itself into the decade to come.
Black Panther, only days away from its official release, marks the MCU’s 18th installment. By the end of the year, with the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, that total will rise to 20. That the MCU has thrived at the box office for a decade is evidence of both a successful method for creating and distributing these movies and audiences’ insatiable desire for more. Whether Marvel will continue to reap the same rewards in the next decade remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Iron Man gave them the start they needed to meet with success.
The inception of Pixar’s WALL-E dates back to 1994 when the heads at Pixar were discussing the future of the company. 14 years later, WALL-E finally made it to the screen. The rather humble story of the last trash-collecting robot on earth, WALL-E remains one of Pixar’s most ambitious works.
Since the robots in movie do not communicate verbally, the film lacks much dialogue whatsoever. Instead, it’s a pure distillation of the power of visual storytelling. The choice to eschew dialogue from the film is rare, especially in an animated film geared towards kids, but it pays off; WALL-E is a profoundly moving film that is a testament to the power of imagination.
Gus Van Sant’s Milk starring Sean Penn tells the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. The film’s release was heavily politicized at the time, only four years after Brokeback Mountain and right in the midst of an anti-gay-marriage campaign in California.
Despite being nominated for eight Oscars and winning two, Milk‘s popularity has faded. Although it remains a compelling historical portrait of Harvey Milk’s life, the film is not often discussed in the context of the gay film canon. However, it’s success in 2008 helped further normalize movies about and for LGBTQ people.
Twilight premiered in November 2008 at a moment when film adaptations of teen fantasy book series were all the rage. The story of a teenage girl that falls in love with a vampire launched actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson to international stardom. While the film was met with middling reviews, an insatiable fan base crept up and welcomed it with open arms.
Ten years later, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have managed to make careers for themselves outside of the franchise. They have both starred in films that received impressive critical acclaim, winning awards and recognition for their unique talents. This is in stark contrast to actors from other franchises. Despite the success of the franchise, Stewart and Pattinson became the subjects of plenty of public ridicule for their performances. Last year, I took a look back at Twilight and wrote about how the film showcases their strengths and weaknesses as actors.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film Still Walking turns ten years old this year and it remains one of the greatest achievements from one of Japan’s best working directors. The film follows one family over the course of a single day as they remember the death of their eldest son.
Kore-eda is known for his contemplative and understated style of storytelling that manages to be emotionally penetrating without being overly melodramatic. Still Walking is perhaps the best of Kore-eda’s work and is just longing to be discovered and rediscovered today.
Martin McDonagh’s film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may have been nominated for Best Picture this year, but it cannot hold a candle to his 2008 film In Bruges. Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, the film follows two Irish hit men hiding from their boss in Bruges. McDonagh’s proclivity for the vulgar and violent is particularly well suited to this story, one that manages to be both comedic and poignant.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri attempts to strike a similar balance, but gets weighed down by some rather one-dimensional characterizations of complex issues. In Bruges represents the peak of McDonagh’s style, making Three Billboards seem like a step backwards for this auteur.
After 10 Cloverfield Lane made a splash in theaters in 2016 and in light of Netflix’s release stunt for The Cloverfield Paradox, it’s worth taking a look back at the film that started it all a decade ago. Titled simply Cloverfield, the film continued the trend of found-footage, following a small band of friends on a rescue mission during an apocalyptic monster attack in New York City.
The film, directed by Matt Reeves and produced by J.J. Abrams, grossed $80 million domestically and another $90 million at the foreign box office. On only a $25 million production budget, this was considered a success. The franchise lay dormant for close to a decade. The latest installments in this franchise have both been original scripts repackaged to fit the Cloverfield universe…and it shows. While 10 Cloverfield Lane managed to be rather clever and tense, The Cloverfield Paradox is rather dull, making us question what the point of extending this franchise really is if the results are going to be so mediocre.
‘Burn After Reading’
There’s no doubting the immense talent of Joel and Ethan Coen, the directing duo behind gems like Inside Llewyn Davis, Fargo, and Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men. One of their less popular movies, Burn After Reading, turns ten years old and it remains as entertaining as ever.
Starring Frances McDormand, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt, Burn After Reading is the kind of black comedy that only the Coens could make. The intersecting lives of a CIA agents, personal trainers, and Russian ambassadors. The film remains an underrated installment in the Coen’s filmography.
Sally Hawkins is one of the years Best Actress nominees for her performance in The Shape of Water. She was nominated previously in the Best Supporting Actress category in 2014 for her performance in Blue Jasmine along side winner Cate Blanchett. While Hawkins is certainly worthy of both nominations, her performance in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky remains her best.
Like so many of Leigh’s films, Happy-Go-Lucky is a sublime depiction of the poeticism and drama within every day life. Hawkins plays a schoolteacher whose unwavering optimism tends to grate on those around her. Her performance is a joy to watch, filled with the kind of vulnerability that makes Hawkins such a strong performer. Happy-Go-Lucky is a gem that deserves to be discovered in the years to come.
‘Wendy and Lucy’
Kelly Reichardt’s 2008 film Wendy and Lucy is one of the strongest works of American indie filmmaking released in the last decade. Starring Michelle Williams, the film tells the story of a woman struggling to care for herself and her dog amidst her financial struggles.
Wendy and Lucy remains an essential portrait of the modern American experience, capturing the economic realities that many face every day. Reichardt crafts a subtle yet compelling drama that deserves to be discovered today.
Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire won eight of the ten Oscars it was nominated for, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, and Editing. In 2008, it was a certified hit, garnering over $350 million at the box office on a $15 million budget. The film helped launch Dev Patel’s Hollywood career and marked one of Danny Boyle’s biggest successes yet.
The film told the story of a Mumbai teen accused of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” The film tapped into the kind of rags-to-riches, against-all-odds story that audiences love. Unfortunately, the shelf life of the film has appeared to be rather small. Ten years later and Slumdog Millionaire has faded a bit from the popular film canon. Perhaps this can be attributed to Danny Boyle’s own lack of success following the film. In the decade since, Boyle has been unable to duplicate the success or critical acclaim he generated with Slumdog Millionaire.
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