Best of 2009: The Nominees Are…

On Sunday, while live-blogging the Oscars, I wrote the following sentence (at 9:16, in case you’re interested): “Confession: I liked The Hurt Locker, but I didn’t think, ‘Wow, that was the best movie of the past year!'”

Logically, that made me wonder – what was the best movie of last year (in my humble opinion, of course)? I figured that once I saw The Hurt Locker, that would be it. It wasn’t. I probably didn’t help matters by watching the film at 1pm on Oscar day; it felt somewhat like a homework assignment.

So I decided to sit down, give it some thought, and figure out, once and for all, what my favorite film of 2009 really was. I had a few gut reactions, but no clear-cut favorite, unlike 2008, when WALL-E ruled all. (Don’t even think about arguing.)

Thanks to the wizardry of, I was able to figure out that I saw 41 films that were released in 2009, either in theaters, on DVD or on television (“WOW, that’s a lot of…” – I know, I know.) I decided to rank the best, descending, from #20 to #1 – just like my favorite TV show list, but exactly the opposite. I like to be unpredictable.

I arrived at the rankings by answering the following questions: How much did this film make me laugh/cry/react? How much did I think about this movie after I watched it? Do I want to watch it repeatedly?

I will make this an O’Reilly-esque “No Spin Zone” – Good God, did I just type those words? – and be entirely honest. I’ll rank the movies based on how much I liked them, not on how many critics’ choice lists they made.

Also: There are many, many films from 2009 that I didn’t get to see, shocking though it may seem, and some of them (Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Blind Side, The Messenger, The Last Station, Bright Star) would probably be on this list if I’d gotten to them in time. So keep that in mind.

I’ll take the weekend to ponder my opinions/your suggestions, and will post #20-#11 on Monday, #10-#2 on Wednesday, and my #1 choice on Friday. How’s that for spreading the joy?

So, in no particular order – okay, alphabetical order – here are all of the films that I saw from 2009, with a note saying whether I watched the film in a theater, at a film festival, on DVD, or on TV; those are all vastly different ways to experience a film, and could conceivably affect my rankings. Let me know which ones have your vote, which should or shouldn’t be on my list, which films I should be ashamed of seeing, and which films you can’t believe I missed in 2009.

(500) Days of Summer (DVD)
Adam (Theater)
Adventureland (DVD)
Angels & Demons (DVD)
Avatar (Theater – 3D)
Away We Go (Theater)
Confessions of a Shopaholic (Theater)
The Cove (Theater – SILVERDOCS Film Festival)
Duplicity (Theater)
Earth (Theater)
An Education (Theater)
Every F—ing Day of My Life (TV – HBO)
Every Little Step (Theater)
Food, Inc. (Theater – New Hampshire Film Festival)
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Theater)
The Hangover (Theater)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Theater)
The Hurt Locker (DVD)
In the Loop (Theater)
The Informant! (Theater)
Inglourious Basterds (DVD)
Invictus (Theater)
It’s Complicated (Theater)
Julie & Julia (Theater)
Pop Star on Ice (Theater – SILVERDOCS Film Festival)
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire (Theater)
The Proposal (DVD)
Public Enemies (Theater)
The September Issue (Theater)
Sherlock Holmes (Theater)
A Single Man (Theater)
Star Trek (Theater)
State of Play (Theater)
Sunshine Cleaning (DVD)
Taken (DVD)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Um, Theater. I don’t really want to talk about it.)
Up (Theater – 3D)
Up in the Air (Theater)
A Walk to Beautiful (Theater – New Hampshire Film Festival)
The Way We Get By (TV – PBS)
We Live In Public (Theater – SILVERDOCS Film Festival)


  1. You’ve seen a lot more than I, so I’ll defer to your opinions in this. I do have a question. How does one determine between a documentary, a drama, a comedy, and a short which is best? I know what I like, but I’ve never been sure how to compare them. I look forward to you doing so.
    BTW linked your blog to mine, so you may have a handful of baseball fans wandering over here and wondering “What the heck is this all about?”.

    1. Excellent question! I saw a lot of great docs this year, and many will end up on my list, some of them near the top. I think you do experience docs differently – they reach you in a more tangible way, but you lack the “suspension of disbelief” that makes fiction so entertaining. I’ll go into more detail next week, but it is an interesting distinction.

      And thank you for linking! I’ll add you to my blog roll as well, so hopefully you’ll get some movie fans out of it 🙂

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