My top 10 films of 2008

1. There Will Be Blood

Brilliant performances, wonderful sprawling story, fantastic soundtrack, beautiful photography… what more can you ask for?

2. The Baader Meinhof Complex

One of two films based on non-fiction (and German) stories in my top 10 this year – a fascinating study of the terrorist group. Beautifully shot and acted, and totally absorbing despite being two and a half hours long.

3. Iron Man

The brilliant casting of Robert Downey Jr, and the fact that it didn’t take itself too seriously (see #5) made this the perfect summer popcorn movie. And from a director whose previous high point was the Will Ferrell vehicle Elf.

4. Speed Racer

Criminally underrated, in my opinion – the Wachowski brothers on top form again. OK, so the story may be simple (and if I was young I’d much rather watch this than the tedious The Golden Compass), but even so there are many lovely touches (John Goodman’s ninja/nonja joke still makes me laugh, though I accept that might be a personal thing). More importantly the visuals are like nothing else I have seen, or probably will see again for some time, thanks to the critical drubbing. Perhaps a film to be filed alongside other visually-innovative comic and graphic novel adaptations like 300, Ang Lee’s Hulk and Sin City.

5. The Dark Knight

Obviously the year’s biggest film, in terms of media and box-office success: one of those rare films that becomes a true event. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan and his reinvention of the Batman franchise, though I still prefer Memento to either of his Batman films. I loved The Dark Knight on the big screen, but thought it lost something watching it at home again on DVD, hence the #5 placing.

6. Burn After Reading

The Coen Brothers do it again. After the brilliant but dark drama No Country For Old Men, they come out with this idiosyncratic comedy, a very modern farce for our cynical and information heavy age. All the major players – George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt and Tilda Swinton – are great, but Malkovich stands out for his bilious CIA officer (“You’re part of a league of morons!” quickly become a personal favourite phrase).

7. Somers Town

Far too much was written about the funding source for this film (Eurostar), and this slightly eclipsed the fact that this is a lovely story and another fantastic film from one of Britain’s best young directors. The young Thomas Turgoose (who was in Shane Meadows previous This Is England) is again incredibly natural and believable in the main role.

8. The Counterfeiters

Karl Markovics is superb in the role as a criminal forced to work for the Nazis in a concentration camp. The film manages to be uplifting despite the bleak topic.

9. Elite Squad

A fascinating portrayal of Brazilian crime and corruption in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It wasn’t particularly well reviewed, perhaps as a result of the inevitable controversy around the film creating too many preconceptions.

10. The Orphanage

I’m not usually a horror film fan, but this is more at the ghost story rather than bloody end of the genre. Incredibly creepy and suspenseful. My only problem with it is the M. Night Shyamalan effect, where the great twist somewhat spoils repeat viewings.