The 2008 film season brought us beauty in both traditional and unconventional ways. While there has been an argument that leading ladies are few and far between, I think there’s a strong case to be made against that. This list of ten female figures will hopefully offer proof of that. The criteria for making the list was based on a combination of beauty and how strong of an impression each performer left in my memory. So with all due respect to Angelina Jolie in Wanted or Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, these are the true leading ladies of 2008.
Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire
Not only is director Danny Boyle brilliant behind the lens, but he has the uncanny ability to choose leading females that stick with you once the credits have started rolling. Kelly McDonald still blows me away in Trainspotting. Pinto, who only had amateur theater experience before the film, is breathtaking as Latika in Slumdog Millionaire, a classic case of a talent seemingly coming from nowhere, at least to the average American film lover. She’s a natural talent, as well as a natural beauty. In my eyes, Pinto is arguably the actress who made the biggest mark in 2008.
Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace, RocknRolla
“Let me take you down because I’m going to Strawberry Fields,” wasn’t a line James Bond said in Quantum of Solace, but damn it if we all didn’t all want to write songs about Gemma Arterton anyway. Appearing in both Quantum of Solace and RockNRolla, Arterton got some publicity for having been born with six fingers on each hand. Even if she had hooves for hands, there isn’t a guy who’d turn her down. She’s a rising star, having already landed the lead opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. High five! Make that high six!
Elizabeth Banks, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, W, Role Models
Banks has been on my film radar ever since Wet Hot American Summer, the brilliant David Wain summer camp flick. She can pull off any look, whether she goes a little darker in stopping Peter Parker in his tracks in Spiderman or dulling herself down in Zack and Miri Make a Porno. 2008 was her coming out party and Banks has proven she has the skills to handle both over the top humor or a heavy drama. Oh, and she’s absolutely gorgeous. So she’s got that going for her, which is nice.
Anne Hathaway, Get Smart, Rachel Getting Married
We all have to start somewhere, and for Hathaway that initial jump on the launching pad came in The Princess Diaries. Sigh. She’s come a long way since then and is getting Oscar buzz for her performance as a drug addict headed home for her sister’s wedding in Rachel Getting Married. It’s not often an actress turns to the “Disney Side” and comes out on the other end. Hathaway is that rare gem. Plus, I will forever be grateful for her exposure in Brokeback Mountain, which afforded me the opportunity to say, “those are some Princess Diaries I wouldn’t mind reading!” Film watching is a shameless job, really.
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Sometimes all you want in life is someone who will put a smile on your face, and Sally Hawkins fits the bill as Poppy. Hell, even her character’s name makes me want to do a cartwheel. Quirky, cute and colorful, Hawkins is beautiful on the outside, but her never take no for an answer optimism makes her shine on-screen. Her performance will grow on you like Audrey Tatou did in Amelie.
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
She taught us that it’s hard out there for a pimp in Hustle & Flow. Now Henson is offering lessons on unconditional love in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Who wouldn’t want to date a woman named Queenie? Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are getting the majority of the press for Benjamin Button but Henson’s acting is the real achievement in the film. If she doesn’t get an Academy Award nomination I will grow my hair out and begin a rapping career like Terrence Howard. Hell, after his removal from Iron Man I may be able to get him to lay down some tracks with me.
Kate Winslet, The Reader, Revolutionary Road
Is it me or are the best dramatic actresses of the past decade almost all foreign? Cate Blanchett and Keira Knightley come to mind, and now Winslet is likely going to get two more Oscar nominations for her work as both a Nazi war criminal in The Reader, and wife trapped by the idea of a domestic lifestyle in Revolutionary Road. If it is possible for a 5 time Oscar nominee to be underrated then Winslet is that actress. Plus, I have the utmost respect for her fighting the trend of Hollywood supporting stick thin actresses. There’s nothing fake about Winslet and for that she is only more striking.
Clemence Poesy, In Bruges
Resident Reject Rob Hunter’s top pick on The Ten Best Foreign Films of 2008 list, In Bruges brought us more of this French talent. Most Hogwarts fans know her as Fleur DeLacour in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. If you haven’t seen In Bruges yet, allow me to go James Lipton on you. Go now to a movie rental store and buy it or rent it, Clemence Poesy is a scrumtralescent delight, ha ha ha! And if you are a fan of foreign films you will fall in love, or at lust, with her in Bienvenue chez les Rozes. And we Americans always joke that nothing good comes from France except food. Idiots.
Amy Adams, Doubt, Miss Petigrew Lives for a Day
She was adorable in Catch Me if You Can, made me actually like princesses in Enchanted and had an endearing plainness about her in Junebug. Is there anything Adams can’t do? Apparently not, considering she is getting great reviews in the period piece Doubt. She may only recently be getting leading lady status, but she’s also near to my heart for her work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Office and Smallville. She’s so cute I may be convinced to go see her in Night of the Museum 2. Now that is saying something. She also would be my choice for lead in nearly every script I write. I am sure Amy’s agent will be calling any day now. Cough.
Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you the wild card. Who knew that a robot in the vain of an Ipod would star in one of the most touching love stories of the year? She’s a lady of few words, but always gets her point across. She’s also strapped with a laser gun and sees past looks to the good inside. Can you say the same of Angelina Jolie in Wanted? Plus, she can store 3,000 MP3s in her memory, so you can have your own personal soundtrack to your relationship. Tell me that isn’t worthy of leading lady status.
Read More: 2008 Year in Review
Who were your favorite ladies of 2008?