Best Movies of 2009

10. AN EDUCATION

120 LISTS | 7 TOP SPOTS
Lone Scherfig | 100 mins | Drama
Carey Mulligan | Peter Sarsgaard | Alfred Molina | Olivia Williams

“Carey Mulligan is exquisite as a whipsmart 1960s British teen who jeopardizes her Oxford college future by taking up with a slick-talking older man (Peter Sarsgaard). Working from a sparkling script by Nick Hornby, director Lone Scherfig creates a rich portrait of free-spiritedness in stuffy Britain before the sexual revolution. Buoyed by Sarsgaard’s slippery charm and an impeccable supporting cast led by Alfred Molina, Mulligan graduates to the big time with a star-making performance.” – David Germain, Associated Press

9. PRECIOUS

124 LISTS | 9 TOP SPOTS
Lee Daniels | 110 mins | Drama
Gabourey Sidibe | Mo'Nique | Paula Patton | Mariah Carey

“No movie this year hit me harder than this powerhouse, named for an obese Harlem teen (glorious newcomer Gabourey Sidibe) knocked up by her daddy, battered by her mother (an Oscar-ready Mo’Nique) and laughed at by a world that looks right through her. Director Lee Daniels makes sure you look this time. And he does it with a command of filmmaking that breaks new ground. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is one of a kind.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

8. AVATAR

135 LISTS | 19 TOP SPOTS
James Cameron | 162 mins | Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Sam Worthington | Zoe Saldana | Sigourney Weaver | Michelle Rodriguez

“The computer revolution in movie effects seemed to permanently remove the sense of wonder filmgoers enjoyed when seeing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or “The Empire Strikes Back.” Thanks to James Cameron’s demands for technical revolution, that sense of wonder is restored. “Avatar” envelops viewers in a fully realized world while telling the story of a paraplegic marine (Sam Worthington) fighting in a battle between humans and the indigenous population of a lush, faraway moon. Not only is “Avatar” visually astounding, its story and execution succeed in making viewers occasionally forget about the effects.” – George Lang, The Oklahoman

7. DISTRICT 9

140 LISTS | 5 TOP SPOTS
Neill Blomkamp | 112 mins | Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Sharlto Copley | David James | Jason Cope | Nathalie Boltt

“An intense, intelligent, well-crafted action movie — one that dazzles the eye with seamless special effects but also makes you think without preaching. Like “Moon,” it has the aesthetic trappings of science fiction, but first feature from commercial and music-video director Neill Blomkamp is really more of a character drama. Aliens who arrived in their spaceship more than 20 years ago have now been quarantined in cramped and dangerous South African slums; the nerdy bureaucrat charged with moving them to new quarters (the tremendous Sharlto Copley) is transformed in the process.” – Christy Lemire, Associated Press

6. FANTASTIC MR. FOX

204 LISTS | 11 TOP SPOTS
Wes Anderson | 87 mins | Animation/Adventure/Comedy
George Clooney | Meryl Streep | Bill Murray | Jason Schwartzman

“No movie gave me more pleasure this year than Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s marvelously disreputable children’s novel, a picture made with so much care and love that it practically glows. And this is the Clooney performance of the year: His elegance and charm find a natural home in the body of a handsome, wily fox puppet.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Salon

5. A SERIOUS MAN

206 LISTS | 21 TOP SPOTS
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen | 106 mins | Comedy/Drama
Michael Stuhlbarg | Richard Kind | Sari Lennick | Fred Melamed

“A Serious Man is a sharply sable exercise in humor-of-the-pathetic, but there’s no mistaking the fierce humanity in the cosmic plight of Larry Gopnik. The Coen brothers view the meekly Jewish math professor with the same detachment as the hilariously cryptic rabbis that usher him to his bibilical doom, but their late-‘60s suburban milieu is brimming with sympathetic sublimity—in a gingerly juxtaposed dyad of dramatic car crashes, or an allusion to the unpronounceability of Jorma Kaukonen’s surname. Capturing domestic despair with the enigmatic cadence of an arcane Koan, Serious Man is one of the most urgently, and most emotionally, agnostic films ever made.” – Joseph Jon Lanthier, Slant Magazine

4. UP IN THE AIR

238 LISTS | 59 TOP SPOTS
Jason Reitman | 109 mins | Comedy/Drama/Romance
George Clooney | Vera Farmiga | Anna Kendrick | Jason Bateman

“What do you call a movie that’s at once a lighter-than-air screwball comedy; a timely-as-today snapshot of an America torn and frayed by economic terror; and a fly-the-friendly-skies portrait of a lonely-rogue charmer who believes that his roving corporate lifestyle is the new secret of life? I call it the most originally enchanting movie of the year — and, just maybe, a new classic.
As Ryan Bingham, a carefree professional downsizer who leaps from airport to airport, carving out his own cookie-cutter pleasure zone, George Clooney gives the most finely honed, deeply etched performance of his life, mingling the effortless old-school-movie-star charisma of an idol like Clark Gable with a quietly contemporary, self-questioning melancholy that grows richer and more haunting as the film goes on. Vera Farmiga, as his sexy fellow traveler, and Anna Kendrick, as a perky bottom-line office chipmunk, bring an up-to-the-minute feminine vivacity to the screen, and director Jason Reitman, far more than he did in either Thank You for Smoking or Juno, proves a master of tone, blithely juggling romance and comedy, hope and despair. In Up in the Air, Reitman catches the mood of a new America, a place where everything, from travel to romance to firing people, is mediated through the seductive detachment of technology.
The movie is finally a portrait of loss: of careers in free fall, of a man who comes to see that his ”happy” existence, as he soars over the heaviness of life, is really a mirage. But the loss stings only because the film’s embrace of what really matters is so moving and true.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

3. UP

254 LISTS | 31 TOP SPOTS
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson | 96 mins | Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Edward Asner | Jordan Nagai | John Ratzenberger | Christopher Plummer

“After a lifetime lived cautiously on the ground, a grouchy old widower ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away on an adventure that delivers a new view of his familiar world. The unusual approach to air travel provides Up with its succinct title — not to mention a thrilling image of what it means to have a home in the sky. But this marvelous, moving, funny, and all-in-all beautiful modern animated classic from the remarkable House of Pixar lives up to its name on a deeper level, too: Every aspect of director Pete Docter’s creation is devised to lift the spirits of young and old viewers alike, elevating the art of movie storytelling along the way through the inspired use of sophisticated animation.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

2. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

270 LISTS | 36 TOP SPOTS
Quentin Tarantino | 153 mins | Adventure/Drama/War
Brad Pitt | Diane Kruger | Eli Roth | Mélanie Laurent

“Quentin Tarantino is a natural and joyous filmmaker who feeds off his own tory story that fearlessly rewrites history. It finally comes down to a conflict between a fatuous Nazi monster (Chrisophe Waltz) and a fearless French Jewish heroine (Mélanie Laurent), with Brad Pitt as a knife wielding American commando leader. You have to hand him this: it’s one World War Two movie where we don’t know the ending. Waltz won best actor at Cannes 2009, has swept the critic’s awards, is a shoo-in as best supporting actor.” – Roger Ebert

1. THE HURT LOCKER

349 LISTS | 71 TOP SPOTS
Kathryn Bigelow | 131 mins | Drama/Thriller/War
Jeremy Renner | Anthony Mackie | Brian Geraghty | Guy Pearce

“Kathryn Bigelow’s nail-bitingly intense Iraq War movie works on multiple levels: it’s at once a smashing action film, an astute study of warrior psychology, a tribute to the courage of the men who risk their lives working on bomb-detonation squads, and a cautionary tale about a man’s addiction to danger. War, for Jeremy Renner’s adrenaline-hooked hero, is the ultimate drug. Bigelow has always been a superb director of action; here she surpasses herself.” – David Ansen, Newsweek

Full Top 50:

RTITLEL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1The Hurt Locker349713.8565%15%1784162%15%
2Inglourious Basterds270363.9550%8%1311746%6%
3Up254314.3647%6%1191541%6%
4Up in the Air238594.3644%12%1153140%12%
5A Serious Man206214.0539%4%1231343%5%
6Fantastic Mr. Fox204114.7438%2%116640%2%
7District 914055.2926%1%55219%1%
8Avatar135194.7725%4%51418%2%
9Precious12494.4023%2%53518%2%
10An Education12075.1922%1%56420%2%
11Summer Hours119164.7022%3%771227%5%
12Star Trek11844.9322%1%48117%0%
13(500) Days of Summer11384.2821%2%40214%1%
14In the Loop9875.3218%1%59521%2%
15Where the Wild Things Are97125.0118%3%44615%2%
1635 Shots of Rum85124.1916%3%56720%3%
17Coraline7025.2713%0%41114%0%
18The White Ribbon7094.3613%2%47616%2%
19Bright Star6585.0012%2%41414%2%
20The Headless Woman62124.1512%3%461116%4%
21A Single Man6255.2811%1%32311%1%
22The Messenger5915.3111%0%34112%0%
23Two Lovers5565.0010%1%36513%2%
24Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans5435.8610%1%32211%1%
25Adventureland5325.8710%0%31111%0%
26The Hangover5216.2710%0%2208%0%
27Police, Adjective5254.7010%1%40514%2%
28Moon4724.859%0%2218%0%
29The Road4714.959%0%2719%0%
30The Cove4415.468%0%2719%0%
31The Beaches of Agnes4244.388%1%28210%1%
32Anvil! The Story of Anvil4215.688%0%28010%0%
33Public Enemies4124.928%0%2318%0%
34Still Walking4124.328%0%2729%1%
35Antichrist4044.617%1%2137%1%
36The Informant!3605.887%0%1806%0%
37Drag Me To Hell3305.906%0%1907%0%
38Sugar3105.846%0%2107%0%
39Lorna's Silence2925.575%0%1826%1%
40Watchmen2826.115%0%1104%0%
41Zombieland2806.265%0%803%0%
42Revanche2805.565%0%1806%0%
43Funny People2716.555%0%1515%0%
43Sin Nombre2716.405%0%1716%0%
45Julia (2009)2704.525%0%1405%0%
46The Sun2724.655%0%1806%0%
47Broken Embraces2625.585%0%1104%0%
48The Limits of Control2524.795%0%2027%1%
49Duplicity2505.635%0%1305%0%
50Of Time and the City2504.565%0%2308%0%

Lists Included 535 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 287

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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