The Top 25 Movies of 2009

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Today I join the extremely rare air of millions of internet folk. Today I do something that everyone from Roger Ebert to CindyCinema.com to your Aunt Rebecca does. Today I will list my favorite movies from 2009, to the excessively high amount of 25. Why 25? Because I go to the theater almost every weekend, I’ve seen about 60 movies from this year, so listing only 10 would inhibit my urge to talk about what movies I’ve seen. Plus everybody loves a list!

So let’s get right into it. I’ll be SPOILER-FREE. Here are picks for my favorite movies from the Year 1 A.D…K. (After Dark Knight)…

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*** It should be noted that at the time of writing this post I have NOT yet seen Avatar, Crazy Heart, The Lovely Bones, A Simple Man, Sherlock Holmes, or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. All of those may or may not have had potential to make this list…

25. Paranormal Activity

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After first seeing the trailer several months before its release, this was on my radar as one of my most anticipated movies for the year. After seeing the movie itself, I was slightly underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was good, but I was hoping that maybe, especially with the ending, that it would be 10x crazier. But in between countless (sometimes funny, sometimes pointless) dialog scenes, there are some actual genuinely creepy moments. My advice is that if you’ve never heard of this movie, rent it when it comes out on DVD this month, and watch it without knowing anything about it, and you’ll have an incredibly fun time. Whatever you do, DO NOT watch the trailer for this movie, they mind-blowingly ruin the final scene of the movie in it! I’m not joking!

24. Watchmen

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I consider Watchmen to be one of my favorite books of all time, so I was definitely excited for the movie, as opposed to being skeptical from the beginning that there’s no way they could pull it off. In the end, this satisfied me. And for the most part (I think) it satisfied fans of the graphic novel. From what I read from reviews, the main problem was that people who didn’t know the source material wouldn’t know what the hell is going on. I can’t certify this claim, but I can understand that happening. Plus it’s very long. That being said, I finally plan on checking out the 3 and 1/2 hour Ultimate Cut over the holidays.

23. The Road

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This might beat out Precious as the “feel-bad” movie of the year. While Precious had glimmers of hope scattered throughout, this movie is just one long depressing journey down a road to nowhere. And at no point did Precious ever have the threat of being cannibalized by rednecks. This film about a father and son trudging along a road in a post-apocalyptic wasteland did get draggy at times, but it stuck with me for a while after I left the theater. Let me just say that despite its flaws, the good parts are great, and the tense parts are intense.

22. Drag Me to Hell

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Ah, this movie brings us all back to when Sam Raimi made awesome, hilarious, and fun horror movies. Not to take anything away from the Spiderman movies, but I’ll take a chainsaw on an arm over web slinging any day of the week. And his return to horror with Drag Me to Hell proved to be almost as fun as his old stuff (almost). The only things that may have potentially hurt this movie are the lack of Bruce Campbell, and the PG-13 rating. Regardless, it’s a horror movie that doesn’t try and be scary so much (except for a dozen or so “jump scares”) as it does to be funny, gross, and entertaining.

21. Bruno

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You either like what Sasha Baron Cohen does, or you don’t. That is probably what determines who will like this movie as well. I happen to find him hilarious. Bruno isn’t as funny as Borat, and neither of them are as funny as Da Ali G Show. While I hate to be in awkward situations and confrontations myself, I love watching it happen to other people. Because that’s basically what this movie is, just an 80-minute awkward confrontation. And as how it was with Borat, the deleted/extended scenes on the Blu-ray are often as good or better than what actually made the movie.

20. Extract

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Mike Judge is 3-for-3 with his live-action films in my opinion. Office Space is a classic, and Idiocracy is a vastly underseen comedic masterpiece. Now with Extract, he returns closer to Office Space, while at the same time staying original. It’s about a guy who owns an extract company that employs about a dozen very stupid people. Mike Judge might very well be the best writer of “stupid people dialog” out there nowadays. Plus I enjoyed seeing Jason Bateman and Kristen Wiig get high profile roles, even if it’s in a movie that (like Idiocracy) was not seen by enough people.

19. The House of the Devil

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If you knew nothing about this movie, and I showed it to you and told you it was released in 1982, you would have no choice but to believe me. That’s how great of an homage to late 70s/ early 80s horror movies this is. And that’s exactly who this will appeal to, fans of that era of horror films. It’s pretty cool. Hell, they even shot it on 16mm!

18. District 9

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This movie was a nice little surprise this year, no one really knew what to expect of it. It played out as both a great sci-fi movie and an intriguing social commentary. For what it cost to make, the special effects were phenomenal and the aliens blended in seamlessly into the South African slums. I’m sure Invictus will get all the awards buzz and this will receive none, but to be honest I’ve seen Invictus, and the best movie about South Africa this year was District 9. And it won people over without a likable main character!

17. I Love You, Man

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Despite coining the regrettable term “bromance”, this movie was consistently funny, and continued the trend of R-rated comedies being significantly better than PG-13 ones. If you’ve ever looked at Paul Rudd’s imdb page, you’ll notice that he is in a large amount of crappy romantic comedies and other garbage that no one really sees, and then he’s also in a small handful of good movies. This happens to be one of the good ones.

16. Moon

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With shades of Kubrickian (if that’s a word) isolation and style, Sam Rockwell lives alone in a mining farm on the moon, just doing his job until his contract runs out. He’s been up there by himself for several years, his only friend is a robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. What I thought was going to be a movie about the descent into madness turned into one of the surprisingly cooler plots of the year. Like 2007’s Sunshine though, this movie may lose a little of it’s magic your TV as opposed to the big theater screen.

15. Trick ‘r Treat

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I’m telling you, this movie is this generation’s Creepshow, if that means anything to you. I (like many other people who saw it) will be blown away at the fact this never got theatrical release (while garbage like Saw VI gets wide release). This mishmash of well made short stories blended into a moderately intertwined whole is probably the greatest straight-to-DVD movie I’ve ever seen. (also, some might consider this a 2008 release, but it didn’t get put out to the public until well into 2009, so it makes the list!)

14. 500 Days of Summer

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I’m not a big fan of romantic-type movies all that much, but occasionally every few years one comes along that is actually a meaningful, well-intentioned, well-made film. This movie about heartache and the recovery process relates to me on many levels. And it’s easily the most cleverly constructed and edited movie about relationships since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

13. The Hurt Locker

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I liked this film a lot, I wanted to like it more, but it seemed like it should have been even better for some reason. It’s almost like Generation Kill: The Movie. I could have assumed a movie about a bomb squad in the Iraq war would be an extremely tense movie, but damn! This movie got me cold-sweating a little bit in the movie theater. This is the definition of an “edge of your seat thriller”.

12. Where the Wild Things Are

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I normally go to the movies on Saturday afternoons, because I don’t like crowded movie theaters, but I knew if I did that for this movie there would be a bunch of annoying kids in the theater, as I see them wandering about in droves when I go in the afternoon (but I see non-children’s movies so I don’t care). So I went at night to see this hoping that maybe the amount of children would be greatly reduced, and it was, but ironically the theater was crowded and I ended up sitting three seats away from some annoying kid. And this kid, I swear to god, fell asleep during the last 20 minutes of the movie and started snoring…! The parent didn’t wake the kid up! How rude! That kid must have been dumb anyway, because he was missing a fantastic movie. But seriously, theater etiquette people!

11. The Hangover

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It’s surprising that the most universally accepted comedy of the year was also really good, it normally doesn’t work out that way. And it’s nice to see Mike Tyson getting work again.

10. Observe and Report

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I can’t stress how much I love this movie. It was probably 2009’s most “love it or hate it” film, but I was blown away by how much I ended up loving it. I read a review that called it a comedic version of Taxi Driver, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve made pretty much all of my friends watch it since it’s come out on Blu-ray. It’s easily the darkest comedy of the year, probably Seth Rogan’s best role ever, and it saddens me that the most widely recognized movie about mall cops is still Paul Blart.

9. Adventureland

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I can’t tell if this is actually a good movie, or I just love it for some odd reason. I personally don’t know anyone else who has seen it, so I can’t ask them. But I just clicked with this movie to an insane degree. Maybe I just related to it because it was similar to my life right after college. Regardless, it’s the best place to enjoy Kristen Stewart without having to endure Twilight.

8. UP

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For some reason I never expect much out of these computer animated movies, then I watch them, and they blow me away 100% of the time (I just saw Kung Fu Panda the other day and the same thing happened as well…). In comparison to Where the Wild Things Are, this movie had adult themes but was more adaptable to children, while Wild Things apparently makes children fall asleep. My only regret here was that I didn’t see it in 3D when I had the chance.

7. Funny People

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Judd Apatow will probably forever have a free pass from me to do whatever he wants for making Freaks and Geeks, but this is my favorite of his three movies. I don’t know why people are claiming it wasn’t actually funny, it was very funny, and it was also very serious as well, I think that’s the genius of it. All of the actors fit in perfectly with the roles they were given, and it’s disappointing that people didn’t like this movie more. I’d say give it another chance. I would also like to note that the special features on the Blu-ray collector’s edition are as amazing as they are plentiful. Hours of good extra stuff, especially the Raaaaaaaandy documentary.

6. Zombieland

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Is it surprising that a zombie movie is likely the most fun movie of the year? It shouldn’t be, zombie movies rule! Woody Harrelson is in top comedic form, and I’ll need to see it again before I make a statement as bold as it’s better than Shaun of the Dead, but it’s pretty close. And I won’t ruin it, but there is a big surprise cameo that does not disappoint. I’m hoping for some sequels.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Wes Anderson hasn’t let me down yet. I was pretty excited when I heard he was going to be making this movie, because I knew he would do great things with it. It’s probably his most accessible film to date, I could see just about anyone enjoying it, but at the same time it’s still vintage Anderson and fits right in with his auteur style. It’s still in theaters right now, so get the cuss out there and cussing see it!

4. Star Trek

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This might be the perfect blend of nerdiness and coolness. This is a Star Trek movie! Should it be this cool??? This JJ Abrams character might actually know what he’s doing. I’m not a fan of the Star Trek series, and I was able to jump right in and understand what’s going on. This looked great in theaters, and the Blu-ray looks pretty spectacular as well.

3. Up in the Air

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I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to the theater to see this other than it was super ultra mega critically acclaimed. What I ended up seeing was an incredibly simple movie, that was equal parts powerful. This is perhaps the most moving film of the year, and it does it without ever being hokey. In fact, the whole thing seems very realistic. This goes to show that you don’t always need a big spectacle of a story to make an amazing movie. I’m sure this will end up winning every award known to man come awards time.

2. Inglourious Basterds

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This has everything you’d expect from a Tarantino movie; witty dialog, extreme violence, stolen ideas turned original somehow. I’m sorry, I’m something of a Tarantino fanboy, I can’t help it, I eat this stuff up! I even love his segment in Four Rooms! As he himself has recently stated, this may be his masterpiece. I may agree. Wait, Pulp Fiction is probably still better, but Basterds is quite amazing. I just watched it again this week on Blu-ray, it just reinforced my love of it. I really wanted to make this my #1, but I had to go with my gut…

1. Black Dynamite

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No movie this year made me laugh as much as this did. I was laughing out loud in the theater from the first scene all the way to the absolutely insane ending. I saw the trailer for it earlier this year, and was excited to see it, hoping it would be kinda funny. It ended up being ridiculously funny. I drove 45 minutes away to see it during it’s one week theatrical run, and I almost feel special for being one of the undoubtedly few people who have seen it. All eight of us in the theater sort of bonded that day, we all walked out the theater looking at each other and chuckling with stupid smiles on our faces, eight strangers. Did we then go out for drinks afterwards and regale in hilarious banter? No, of course not, I don’t talk to strangers. But in all honesty, this is the definition of a cult classic (if you can call it that this soon, I’m doing it anyway), and when it comes out on Blu-ray in February I suggest you check it out, though, it may not be for all tastes. If you find the trailer funny, then you will probably agree that this is one of the greatest things you’ll ever see. Maybe I’m just crazy, who knows?

For your possible enjoyment, here’s two other quick mini-lists:

JUST MISSED THE CUT:

35. Orphan
34. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
33. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
32. Coraline
31. 2012
30. The Informant!
29. A Serious Man
28. Invictus
27. Precious
26. The Blind Side

The WORST films of 2009 (that I saw, I mean Old Dogs and Twilight New Moon are probably worse, but I didn’t bother subjecting myself to that torture):

10. The Final Destination
9. Whatever Works
8. My Bloody Valentine 3D
7. X-Men Origins Wolverine
6. Surrogates
5. The Men Who Stare at Goats
4. Friday the 13th
3. Year One
2. Ninja Assassin
1. Jennifer’s Body (not worth it even for Megan Fox or the lesbian kiss)

2009 was a good year overall for movies, and here’s hoping for a great 2010!

Happy holidays!


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