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My 11 Favorite Movies of 2009

I mentioned on Twitter a while back that this was the worst year of movies in a long, long time. Today, I disagree with that statement. I don’t think there were many, if any, GREAT movies this year. To my mind, there were no all-time classics like Eternal Sunshines or Kung Fu Hustles or City of Gods. However, there were more very good films than I remember there being in a long, long time. I usually end up filling out my top ten of the year list with some movies I just kind of like. This year I like them all very much – and I even like a lot of movies that didn’t make the cut, like Observe & Report, District 9, and Drag Me to Hell. So I actually think it was a good year for films. I apologize to all of you I argued with on Twitter. You were right.

All that said, there are a few movies I wasn’t able to see this year, mostly of the foreign and difficult-to-get-on-DVD variety. I was shooting a movie for a few months, so missed out on some things. For instance, I haven’t seen Haneke’s The White Ribbon yet. Being that I’m a big fan of Funny Games, and an admirer of Cache, I’d really like to see it.  What I HAVE seen are almost all of the mainstream, critically-acclaimed films, American Oscar nominees, etc.

So, of that group, here are my favorite movies of 2009:

11. Star Trek

10. Zombieland

9. Anvil: The Story of Anvil

8. The Fantastic Mr. Fox

7. Adventureland

6. The Hangover

5. Avatar

4. The Hurt Locker

3. Up

2. Moon

1. In the Loop

Being that I know you all pretty well, there are a couple of questions I’m certain you’re going to ask, so let me just answer them now:

Why the Hell isn’t District 9 in your Top Ten?

I enjoyed District 9 and thought it was a well made film. But it did something that almost ruined the film for me – it set rules for the structure of the movie (it was a documentary), and then completely changed those rules part way through the film (that is, it was being shot as if it was a documentary, but suddenly had scenes where a documentary crew couldn’t possibly be, like the inside of the aliens’ home.) I haven’t talked to a filmmaker yet who wasn’t irritated by this cheat. It was a sloppy move that took me outside of the film. That said, it’d still be in my top 15.

Avatar? Really? That’s a gay choice.

Honestly, I fucking loved Avatar. All I heard before I saw it was how poor and simplistic the story was. Yes, it wasn’t the greatest script ever, but I found it simple more than simplistic, more in the manner of a Pixar film like Finding Nemo. Plus, I thought the ideas were exciting and smart, the filmmaking was incredible, and it was one of the most astoundingly beautiful films ever. All of that made up for any lack in the story or acting department – and, again, I didn’t think those things were as problematic as a lot of other people did.

Okay, let the hazing commence – here, on Facebook, Twitter, etc.


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  • Tonya J

    That IS a good list. There’s a couple on there I hadn’t heard of, which is nothing new since I never get around to seeing everything I want to so I’m glad I can add them to my list to try and find. There’s a film called Red Cliff directed by John Woo. A few people I know have been grousing it wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award for best film. I’m not up on Academy rules, but I looked it up and it’s Part 2. Part 1 came out in 2008. That said, thank you for defending Avatar. I’ve read a lot of the hate out there and today, someone I like and respect was ripping James Cameron a new one in a video posted on Facebook. Pretty appalling. You only have to look around to read what went into making it, and watch easily found videos of the performance capture technology and imagine what it took for the actors to perform on a semi-bare sound stage. I just saw James Cameron on Inside the Actor’s Studio and he even admits writing is difficult for him (in script form – he actually writes the movie in novel form first) and that he isn’t a strong writer. The arrogant monster James Cameron the media just loves to make us believe he is, would never admit to that. I found him pleasant and even humorous to listen to, though they cut the shit out of those interviews for television.

    So good on you, Jimmy.


  • I really need to see more movies! I hadn’t even heard of In the Loop.

  • CinemaJunkie

    Your list is cussing awesome!

  • May favourite of 2009 is without aa doubt “Drag Me To Hell”. I can’t remember when I had the last time so much fun in a movie theatre.

  • Fanboys is soooo 2008, but it is a blast.

  • Yaaaaa maaaaan! Zombieland!!! My favourite. Love that scene where Woody Harrelson is killing zombies while hanging on that carrousel! Or Bill Murray! Simply awesome!

  • Flounder

    The Hurt Locker was my favorite film of 2009, by far. Moon was second. Even though, like The Others, I figured out what was going about half an hour into the movie.

    But I will admit I haven’t seen In the Loop yet, it wasn’t shown at my local theater.

    How about Fanboys? I know it was officially released in 2008 but by the time it was fully released it was 2009.

  • bb6640

    Loved In the Loop too. So many memorable lines.
    “‘Climbing the mountain of conflict’? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!” Brilliant!

  • Yeah, motherfucker. I keep forgetting shit. A couple months ago I saw a totally great flick called Bronson. Actually, I think this rivals, The Hurt Locker as one of my favorite films of 2009. It’s already one of my favorite films of all-time.

    I don’t know how to post trailers here, but here’s both the link and an attempted embed.


  • Zombieland didn’t make my list. I enjoyed it for the most part, but there were a lot of things about it that started to grate on me as the movie went on. It just seemed like they drove around a lot more when I wanted to see more zombies. Then the girls kinda got dumber as the movie went on especially when they’ve proven themselves to be clever so many times prior. Hell, they drove a car full of weapons into the lake with a horde of zombies on their asses. This of course was a design to have the girls find themselves trapped in a situation where the dudes can finally prove themselves. I just kinda wish they played that out a little smarter.

  • John – 1.8 billion can still be stupid. I was not a Titanic fan, for instance. But I did like this film. I judge no one for disliking it, however.
    Mielena – Definitely check out Zombieland. It is a blast.
    Tymothil – I think the switch was more of the “hope they don’t notice variety” or an inability to make a real choice on the structure and rules of the film. It’s internal inconsistency, and it’s bothersome. It’d be like making Matt Damon’s character suddenly fly halfway through the Bourne Supremacy, with no explanation as to why. Why was Bourne running from all those cars earlier when he can fly? “Mumble mumble mumble.”
    Anyway, I don’t want to go off on D9 too hard, because I do like the movie. It didn’t ruin the movie entirely for me like, say, the third act of Signs did. Overall, I liked the movie. I just know that it’s a favorite of many folks who read this blog, and it needed to be addressed.

  • Motherfucker! I knew I would forget shit.

    Give ’em Hell, Malone.

    I’d put it right in the middle of my list.

  • Mielena

    I have seen Zombieland in a today’s TV-program) If this movie in your list James – I have to see this movie)

  • Actually, in District 9, I really liked the POV switch. I thought it was an intentional switch from a documentary that occurred in the world of the movie (and which was biased and inaccurate), to the “real” events that occurred.

  • I can’t make up my mind which I like more for number 11.

    11. Crank: High Voltage
    11.Lesbian Vampire Killers

    10. The Answer Man
    9. 9
    8. Bruno
    7. Up
    6. Nothing But the Truth
    5. The International
    4. Moon
    3. Anvil: The Story of Anvil
    2. Watchmen
    1. The Hurt Locker

  • Mielena

    I told you on Facebook, and i told you here: This is a great list!
    Avatar is that movie, which needs to be SEEN, despite hearings. This is a big movie, successful in box-office terms.All people is different, and they have different opinions. You always should have your opinion. I’m glad that you liked this movie) Because i love Avatar and my friends love Avatar too. As the saying is: seeing is believing.

  • I agree with most of that list except “Avatar” (I gave it two out of five stars). I had trouble believing that Marines would become vicious mercenaries for big corporations that can travel across the vastness of interstellar space. They can travel that far, but cannot do anything else that is super-advance and seemingly cannot make any technology that is any better than what we possess today.

    The worst part of the film, for me, dealt with how the primitive weapons and tactics so totally defeated the supposedly high-tech space faring Humans. The Na’vi are so impudent as a race that they needed a Human to teach them about their own world. It lacked real science-fiction creativity. It was the Smurfs only the Smurfs were 12-foot tall. I watched “Avatar” several times. The “WOW” factor wore off after the first viewing, then the weaknesses and the holes in the story stood out more. But hey, $1.8 billion (or more) cannot be all wrong, right? So, I’m likely in a minority with my opinion.

  • Bill Pardys Doppelganger

    Not a bad list at all. In the Loop and Moon are my top 2 films from last year too. In the Loop brought such wonderful phrases into my lexicon like F***Cunt and fuckity-bye, Peter Capaldi should have gotten an Oscar nomination.

    This is my top 11 more or less. I sadly didn’t get to see as many of the films that I wanted to last year.

    1. In the Loop
    2. Moon
    3. Drag Me to Hell
    4. World’s Greatest Dad
    5. Inglourious Basterds
    6. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
    7. Star Trek
    8. Zombieland
    9. Observe and Report
    10. Watchmen
    11. District 9

    I saw a couple other films, My Bloody Valentine 3D, Friday the 13th and Halloween II. Which I enjoyed on various levels.

  • I had the exact same reaction to “District 9”! I sat in the theater sort of blindsided by the reversal. It’s still a good movie but the flaw really brings it down to me. In the past couple years I’ve realized I admire good films judge bad films on the basis of their structure and point of view above all else. Several of my favorite films of the past decade are masterpieces of point of view and structure–“Before Sunset”, “United 93”, “There Will Be Blood”. I’m very much by films that the break the rules of their structure (“The Usual Suspects”) and it says a lot about the pluses of “District 9” where I can dig it even though it’s structural flaw is really annoying.

    I dug “Avatar” a lot, so no arguments there. The only film on the list I didn’t like was your number two pick. It was interesting to a point, but once it got around the last third of the movie I just wasn’t involved with it anymore. Though I have yet to see “Anvil” or “Fantastic Mr. Fox” yet.

    I think my top 11 is…

    11. “Funny People”
    10. “Avatar”
    9. “An Education”
    8. “Precious”
    7. “In the Loop”
    6. “A Serious Man”
    5. “The Hangover”
    4. “Up”
    3. “Inglourious Basterds”
    2. “The Hurt Locker”
    1. “Up in the Air”