Best Movies of 2009 – Top 10 Films of 2009

Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 3:02 pm

This list of the best movies of 2009 features both blockbusters and under-the-radar indie films. You can’t go wrong with either, and a number of films discussed below found themselves on critical lists for the top 10 movies of 2009. From the highest-grossing motion picture of all time to a movie shot on a budget of $15,000, there’s something here for everyone.

Netflix subscribers should easily be able to find these titles, which is why I suggest you become a Netflix member as soon as possible. With Blockbuster sinking deeper and deeper into debt, Netflix will soon be one of the only options available for online movie rentals.

Where the Wild Things Are – Adapted from the classic children’s book, this Spike Jonze film tells the fantastical story of Max (Max Records), a lonely kid who journeys to an island and becomes the leader of the Wild Things. Hailed by critics, it ended up on a number of lists as one of the top 10 movies of 2009.

Ponyo – Released in Japan in 2008, this tale of a goldfish named Ponyo who yearns to be human didn’t make it to the U.S. until the following year. Roger Ebert ranked it as one of the best movies of 2009, giving it his highest rating and calling it “magical.”

Drag Me to Hell – Sam Raimi helmed this horror flick about a sweet bank employee (Alison Lohman) who gets on the bad side of an old gypsy woman and receives a terrible curse. Fans of Raimi’s Evil Dead films can expect the same winning mixture of scares and laughs.

The Cove – A powerful documentary about the thousands of dolphins killed each year by the Japanese whaling industry. Hard to watch, especially if you’re an animal lover.

Whip It – Ellen Page stars as Bliss Cavendar, an aimless small-town Texas girl who finds her purpose in the form of roller derby. An empowering film co-starring Drew Barrymore (in her directorial debut), Alia Shawkat, Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, and Jimmy Fallon.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans – Nicolas Cage and director Werner Herzog combine forces for this look at a cop on the verge of a complete breakdown. Addicted to painkillers and various other substances, he must try to solve a murder case while paying off his steep gambling debt and protecting his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes). Features a number of bizarre POV shots from the perspective of reptiles, which is always a plus. Critical reviews were all over the map, although many did list it as one of the best movies of 2009.

Paranormal Activity – Made on a shoestring budget, this supernatural thriller about a young couple tormented by an invisible demon made a killing at the box office, much like The Blair Witch Project before it. While it failed to make many lists for the top 10 movies of 2009, audiences were still more than satisfied.

The Messenger – Ben Foster plays Will Montgomery, a soldier injured in combat who’s shipped stateside and paired up with Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson in an Oscar-nominated role) to perform casualty notification duties. The entire film is a moving experience about pain and regret, but the scenes where next of kin are notified of their loved one’s death are almost unbearable.

Avatar - Not only considered one of the best movies of 2009, Avatar also broke the all-time box office record (previously held by director James Cameron’s Titanic). Set on the distant planet of Pandora, a wheelchair-bound soldier (Sam Worthington) is able to enter an artificially-grown alien body and interact with the local inhabitants. As he learns their ways and falls in love, he begins to sympathize with their struggle against human encroachment.

(500) Days of Summer – Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom Hansen, a trained architect who works as a greeting card writer. When he meets Summer Finn at the workplace (Zooey Deschanel), he’s immediately smitten. But love doesn’t always have a happy ending, as evidenced in this combination of romance, drama, and comedy. Easily one of the top movies of 2009, thanks in large part to the smart script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.

Precious – Adapted from the novel Push by Sapphire, this gut-wrenching drama focuses on Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), an illiterate teen trapped in a life of poverty and abuse. While the ending does offer a glimmer of hope, Precious is one of the most disturbing films you’ll ever see. Nominated for six Academy Awards, it was almost universally recognized as one of the best movies of 2009.

The September Issue – This documentary goes behind the scenes for a look at the life of Anna Wintour, the steely editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. As she works–and battles–with creative director Grace Codington, Wintour prepares the September 2007 issue of the fashion magazine (which would eventually clock in at 840 pages and weigh almost five pounds).

Up in the Air – George Clooney is Ryan Bingham, a frequent flyer who travels the country conducting layoffs for companies. When a co-worker proposes that this be done via the Internet, Ryan must take her one the road to school her in the benefits of face-to-face interaction. In the meantime, the perpetual bachelor must also contend with a growing romantic interest in a fellow frequent flyer (Vera Farmiga). Directed by Jason Reitman, the film received six Oscar nominations.

Earth – Released internationally as early as 2007, Earth made its American debut on Earth Day of 2009. The second -highest grossing nature documentary ever produced, Earth begins in the Arctic during January and concludes in Antarctica 11 months later. Along the way, viewers will be exposed to the flora and fauna of the planet, and witness the challenges posed by increasing environmental change.

Up – Another winner from Pixar, Up centers around a grumpy widower and a young Wilderness Explorer who travel to South America in a house tied to thousands of helium balloons. Equal parts hilarious and touching, it’s the rare film that can truly be enjoyed by the entire family.

World’s Greatest Dad – Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed this bold black comedy about a failed writer (Robin Williams) who enjoys sudden success by penning a false suicide note for his son who died in an autoerotic asphyxiation accident. Despite positive reviews from critics, this perverse little gem went largely undiscovered at the box office. Better late than never.

Moon – Sam Rockwell turns in a strong performance as a lunar contractor who’s preparing to leave the Moon and return to his family on Earth. But when an accident occurs, he comes face to face with a duplicate of himself. Kevin Spacey provides the voice of his robotic helper.

The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow became the first female to win the Best Director Oscar for this gripping tale of a bomb disposal unit serving in the Iraq War. After years spent turning in excellent performances, star Jeremy Renner finally received some recognition. Winner of six Oscars, including Best Picture.

Adventureland – Set in the 1980s, this somewhat dark comedy-drama is about James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), a recent college graduate forced to work at a local amusement park to help afford graduate school. There here meets a bizarre cast of characters, including Kristen Stewart as a potential love interest and Ryan Reynolds as a philandering repairman. You’ll be pleased if you love music from the ‘80s, as the film includes 41 tunes, including “Modern Love,” “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” and “Dance Hall Days.”

Invictus - After being released from prison and elected President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) must discover a way to unite his country. He finds his chance in the Springboks, the country’s rugby union team led by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon). Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film is just as inspirational as you might expect.

That concludes our list of the best movies of 2009. If you’d like to see one or more of these films, just click on the link and become a subscriber to Netflix. We did a small commission if you sign up, but it adds nothing to your final price.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 3:02 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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