Punctuating its trip from the slush pile at Warner Independent to a splashy release by Fox Searchlight, “Slumdog Millionaire” was named best film of the year Thursday by the National Board of Review.

Other major prizes went to David Fincher, who took the director nod for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Clint Eastwood, actor for “Gran Torino”; and Anne Hathaway, actress for “Rachel Getting Married.”

Supporting thesp laurels went to Josh Brolin for “Milk” and Penelope Cruz for “Vicki Cristina Barcelona.”

The cast of “Doubt” won for ensemble cast. Foreign-language film nod went to “Mongol” and documentary to “Man on Wire.”

The board’s best pic choice and subsequent list of top 10 films, coming as early in the season as it does, is often touted in kudos campaigns. The top 10 list is comprised of “Burn After Reading,” “Changeling,” “Button,” “The Dark Knight,” “Defiance,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Gran Torino,” “Milk,” “Wall-E” and “The Wrestler.”

“Slumdog Millionaire,” released Nov. 12, was acquired by Searchlight midyear after it was orphaned through Time Warner’s shuttering of Warner Independent. (Warner Bros. remains a partner in the pic.) After its boffo preem in Telluride and a good showing in Toronto, the Danny Boyle-helmed tale of a Mumbai-raised boy competing for 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” was on its way. The domestic cume is $3.8 million and counting.

“Several of the films from our top 10 list, along with (‘Slumdog’), share the universal message about the resilience and the strength of the human spirit,” noted NBR prexy Annie Schulhof.

Along with a best films list, the NBR lists top foreign pics, indies and docs. Foreign titles included “Edge of Heaven,” “Let the Right One In,” “Roman de guerre,” “A Secret” and “Waltz With Bashir.” The docs are “American Teen,” “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon),” “Dear Zachary,” “Encounters at the End of the World” and “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.”

The top 10 indie pics are “Frozen River,” “In Bruges,” “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” “Mr. Foe,” “Rachel,” “Snow Angels,” “Son of Rambow,” “Wendy and Lucy,” “Vicki” and “The Visitor.”

The doc “Trumbo” received the Bulgari Award for NBR Freedom of Expression, and the William K. Everson Film History Award went to Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris.

Marking its 100th year of existence, the NBR will hand out the awards Jan. 14 at its annual gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. Whoopi Goldberg will host.

The 122 members of the org are described variously as “knowledgeable film buffs,” academics, historians and industryites, including the 41 “young voices” of students or filmmakers. Members typically view about 300 titles a year before voting on their picks; this year the number reached 330.

And the winners are:

Film: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Director: David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Actor: Clint Eastwood, “Gran Torino”
Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Foreign Language Film: “Mongol”
Documentary: “Man On Wire”
Animated Feature: “Wall-E”
Ensemble Cast: “Doubt”
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: Dev Patel, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Directorial Debut: Courtney Hunt, “Frozen River”
Original Screenplay: Nick Schenk, “Gran Torino”
Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Eric Roth, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Spotlight Award: Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”
The BVLGARI Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: “Trumbo”


  • “Burn After Reading”
  • “Changeling”
  • “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button”
  • “The Dark Knight”
  • “Defiance”
  • “Frost/Nixon”
  • “Gran Torino”
  • “Milk”
  • “Wall-E”
  • “The Wrestler”


  • Edge Of Heaven
  • Let The Right One In
  • Roman De Guerre
  • A Secret
  • Waltz With Bashir


  • American Teen
  • The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
  • Dear Zachary
  • Encounters At The End Of The World
  • Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired

Molly Haskell And Andrew Sarris