Modern movies tend to ruffle my feathers. Even critically well-received films don't do it for me. And I'm aware that my cynicism trumps most people, but I find most movies to be bloated and poorly paced. Part of the reason is that films spoiled me at a young age. I became an avid movie-goer somewhere around 2005-2006, but the first year I remember movies mattering was 2008. And 2008 was a great year.
That is an insane list. Obviously, as always, film is subjective, and maybe there are a few movies that I put on that list that you might not like, but all of them are at least memorable, even the poorly received movies from that year ("Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of the Crystal Skull," "The Love Guru," "The Happening") all have a weird following just because they're fascinating with how bad they are. Half the movies I see nowadays I forget existed a week after watching them. 2008 was a year where even films that weren't great were interesting. But when they were great, they were incredible. And while the Oscar season was pretty special, what made this year so sweet was how good the Summer was. Every week there was a film worth talking about. 2008 will probably be remembered as the Summer in which Hollywood Studios realized, "Holy shit, we should never stop making comic book movies," The list of excellent comedies that came out like two months apart from each other is bananas.
I'm not a believer that "comedy is dead." Saying "comedy is dead" is kind of like saying "fashion is dead" or "sports are dead." You can believe that something has fallen off, but comedy will never cease to exist. At the same time, "Step Brothers," "Pineapple Express," and the still brilliant "Tropic Thunder" are all viewed by people from my generation as comedy classics, and they came out within 20 days of each other. There have probably been better Summers, and there have probably been better Oscar seasons, but front to back, starting with "Cloverfield" in January (ironically directed by Matt Reeves, who just recently gave us one of the best versions of Batman we've ever seen) I can't think of many years that were as complete as 2008.
2008 is a weird case study. You have certain movies that couldn't exist anymore (good luck making "Tropic Thunder" in 2022), but you also have a lot of movies that paved the for modern films. "Iron Man" kicked off the MCU with a bang, and it's still going strong to this day. And my favorite movie of all time, "The Dark Knight," proved to critics what many fans already knew, and that's that comic book movies can be true art. But I think 2008 was a year in film that was weirdly more progressive than people let on. There's been a push for diversity in modern movies, and it's a movement that I agree with, but I think sometimes people act like movies have never been diverse. People forget that the film that won eight Oscars this year, including Best Picture, was a movie that featured minority actors exclusively. And guess what? No one noticed, because great movies are timeless, regardless of who is attached to them.
For someone who's all of 26 years old, I feel like I have such an "It was just better back in the day" mentality about many things. Still, when I think about what 2008 was for movies, everything felt way simpler. There was a time when people made movies without any agenda. They just existed. Maybe you liked them, maybe you hated them, but now everything has to be a movement. People do two-hour reviews talking about how "The Batman" is an anti-capitalist left-wing propaganda piece. There was a time when films were meant to be escapism, and 2008 was the prime example.