Top 20 Films of 2009

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1.
District 9 (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology. (112 mins.)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
“ District 9, in which aliens are illegal immigrants forced to live in the slums of the refreshingly unconventional setting of Johannesburg (think Alien Apartheid), has that wonderful feel of a completely unique cinema experience, something different, inspired and genuinely entertaining. The documentary-style in which it is shot for the first 35 minutes or so really sets up the gritty atmosphere of Johannesburg and the poverty-stricken alien slum , District Nine. It establishes the story effectively and makes the fantastical elements feel more realistic. The story is absorbing and has that emotional wallop often lacking in science-fiction films, both the aliens and humans are full-bodied characters who feel very real and as neither is really “the bad guy” we care about both sides. I sympathised most with Christopher, the leading alien character in the film. His journey to try and get his son away from the violence on Earth and to some kind of peaceful home is nothing short of moving. Props also to newcomer Sharlto Copley, who’s at first rather unlikable Wikus Van Der Merwe undergoes an earth-shattering transformation both physical and emotional (emphasis on the former), and ends up being a true action hero to root for. The action sequences themselves are nothing short of phenomenal – particularly in the finale of the film, where director Neil Blomkamp really pulls out all the stops. It’s an endlessly inventive, exciting, gory and totally unpredictable sequence that puts the typical explosions and gunfights in your average blockbuster to shame. And the special effects are something else, the aliens in particular look truly outstanding – surely some of the most photo-realistic effects put on film to date. ” - urbanlegend23
 
2.
Precious (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction. (110 mins.)
Director: Lee Daniels
“ It’s easy to see why heavyweights such as Oprah Winfrey leaped at the opportunity to make sure this brilliant film got seen. It’s a terribly sad, brutally honest, but ultimately uplifting story of a life spent in the poverty of 1987 Harlem. Sidibe is astonishing in the titular role, and Mo’Nique can only be described as utterly electrifying, particularly in the film’s final scene, where she really brings her three-dimensional performance full circle, showing the humanity so well-concealed behind this vicious, unforgettable character. ” - urbanlegend23
 
3.
Up (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Seventy-eight year old Carl Fredricksen travels to Paradise Falls in his home equipped with balloons, inadvertently taking a young stowaway. (96 mins.)
“ Featuring what is probably the most moving opening sequence to any film ever, Up should be truly cherished. The animation is beautifully detailed, and wondrous to behold in 3D. The film offers us several memorable characters, the highlights being “Kevin”, a large colourful bird, or the hysterical pup “Dug”, wearing a genius creation that allows him to speak his canine thoughts in human speech. The villain leaves a little to be desired, but it’s a small complaint in a memorable adventure that is one of the best animated films for several years. ” - urbanlegend23
 
4.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same. (153 mins.)
“ This film showcases Tarantino’s talents as a filmmaker beautifully. Every sequence in the film is perfectly executed, Tarantino particularly utilising cinematography and his pitch-perfect dialogue to ratchet up the tension to breaking point. Just witness that opening sequence, with the reveal of Shoshanna’s family hiding underneath Libatet’s house, and Waltz comparing the common Jew to rat. It’s pitch-perfect filmmaking. You’ve got to love how Tarantino incorporates his love of film into the storyline – Kruger, one of the titular “basterds”, plays a scheming actress, and the film’s concluding set piece is held at a movie premiere. Pretty much every chapter of this film is a classic sequence (Mike Myers’ cameo discluded), skilfully directed and performed by a to-die-for ensemble, all combined its one bloody brilliant masterpiece. ” - urbanlegend23
 
5.
Up in the Air (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
With a job traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham enjoys his life living out of a suitcase, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a new hire and a potential love interest. (109 mins.)
Director: Jason Reitman
“ A cleverly written, critically successful film with a storyline relevant in today’s economy, and featuring a superb cast – up-and-comer Kendrick is memorable and hilarious in her role, and Farmiga & Clooney strike up an undeniably hot chemistry. This movie has grown on me a lot with rewatches. ” - urbanlegend23
 
6.
Avatar (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. (162 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
“ Had I made this list at the end of 2009, I can say this film definitely would've been #1. However, it has lost a little something on its transfer from 3D cinema to home DVD, and the flaws are a little more apparent in this still-sweeping action/adventure from James Cameron. The visuals aren’t any less impressive, they are still awe-inspiring and painstakingly detailed. The world of Pandora is perfectly realised and still a wonder to behold for any set of eyes, with or without 3D glasses. The destruction of “Home Tree” is still an emotional, thrilling sequence and the final battle remains one of the most exciting action set-pieces of the decade. ” - urbanlegend23
 
7.
A Single Man (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An English professor, one year after the sudden death of his boyfriend, is unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles. (99 mins.)
Director: Tom Ford
“ Colin Firth’s incredible work here not only displays his own raw talent but also his great generosity as an actor, giving his co-stars so much to work off. Firth and Moore are perfect and utterly convincing as long-time best friends. Firth also brings out the best in the surprisingly great Nicholas Hoult, who's perfect as an out-casted student of Firth's. The movie is devastating, but it's beautifully subtle as well. No huge emotional scenes about prejudice against gays at the time is needed when instead we have the powerful telephone conversation scene in which Firth is told he can't attend his partner of 16 years' funeral because it's a "family only" affair. Truly heartbreaking. The use of colour is also hugely effective: the screen flooding or draining with colour depending on the situation or the beautiful black-and-white flashbacks. The will-he-or-won’t-he suicidal aspect of the film is less important than the character development overall, but is perfectly realised all the same, particularly in the movingly appropriate coda. All in all, a sublime and moving motion picture. ” - urbanlegend23
 
8.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her. (95 mins.)
Director: Marc Webb
“ (500) Days of Summer is a truly original and refreshing romantic comedy, that feels straight from the heart and relative to almost any audience. Every character, whether it be Gordon-Levitt’s embarrassing drunk workmate or the quirky, totally unpredictable Summer herself, feels utterly authentic and any viewer should be able to relate back to the people they know. As well as a stand-out performance from Gordon-Levitt, the movie also offers a number of the year’s most memorable and unique scenes. Expectation/Reality is a heartbreaking, perfectly edited split-screen sequence that dashes Gordon-Levitt’s hopes of regaining Deschanel’s love after they split. The film also perfectly captures that “first love” feeling of being on cloud nine with the hysterical dance sequence. Overall, the film is as unique and vibrant as the character of Summer herself, and for a film fitting the description of “romantic comedy” in this current cinematic climate, that’s some feat indeed. ” - urbanlegend23
 
9.
Brüno (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
Flamboyant and gay Austrian Brüno looks for new fame in America. (81 mins.)
Director: Larry Charles
“ With Bruno, Baron Cohen continues his cringe-inducing shock comedy tactics, and he’s once again hugely successful, creating a film that is easily the funniest of 2009, no contest. There are so many hysterical sequences throughout that it’s hard to even recall one favourite. It’s constant laughs for the entire 81 minutes. It can’t be said, however, that the film is as insightful as Borat. A couple of opportunities to really make a point about gay culture – take the “gay converter” for example, the scenes with him are hilarious, but could’ve been more insightful – feel glossed over. Baron Cohen’s antics on display is pretty much stereotypical, over-the-top gay behaviour which isn’t going to change any homophobe’s mind or make them reflect on their prejudice. Despite that - the film earns its place on this list with ease, because it's just so damn hilarious. ” - urbanlegend23
 
10.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work. (131 mins.)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
“ Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar ever for this harrowing Iraq war tale, and she sure deserved it. Bigelow catapults the audience straight into a nightmarishly realistic vision of the Iraq war and the result is a compelling story with some of the most suspenseful sequences of the year. Renner, in his breakout role, is outstanding as the film’s anchor - an adrenaline-seeking war-addicted anti-hero whose tale burns in the memory. ” - urbanlegend23
 
11.
Away We Go (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A couple who is expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way, they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover "home" on their own terms for the first time. (98 mins.)
Director: Sam Mendes
“ Sam Mendes takes a welcome break from his high-budget, A-list starring films to direct this neat little movie that has an indie-vibe about it. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph have wonderful chemistry, playing two mobile mid-thirties “*beep*-ups” who cris-cross across America in search of the perfect city to lay down roots and raise their impending family. Krasinski in particular is loveable and very funny in his role. As the couple travel to different cities in search of a new home, we are introduced to an array of supporting players who, despite limited screen time, make just as much of an impression as the two leads (who are basically in every frame of the film). Maggie Gyllenhaal is stand-out hilarious as NL, a “new age” mother, the segment at her home is easily the film’s funniest. Melanie Lynskey and David Messina break your heart as a big-hearted married couple unable to conceive their own children. Kudos to Lynskey for really making a pole-dancing scene suitably remorseful, and Messina’s monologue whilst he watches his wife is one of the film’s emotional highlights. From this lovely film it’s clear that Mendes directs an intimate, subtle and observant story just as brilliantly as he does the “big” movies he’s commanded since American Beauty. More ventures like this would be a welcome treat from him. ” - urbanlegend23
 
12.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers' retaliation. (87 mins.)
Director: Wes Anderson
“ If Up stands as the best animated film of the year, then Fantastic Mr. Fox surely deserves the title of the funniest. The film is filled with clever, mature humour and runs along at a lightning-bolt fast pace. Dahl’s tale translates beautifully to the big screen thanks to the quirky skills of Anderson and the unique stop-motion animation, which is stunning and truly sets this fantastic tale apart from the rest. ” - urbanlegend23
 
13.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence. (86 mins.)
Director: Oren Peli
“ Whether or not this is the scariest film of all-time may be up for discussion, but there’s no doubting it’s the scariest film of 2009. Peli creates an eerie and unsettled environment in the likable couple’s home, and uses simplistic but hugely effective images to frighten the audience. Everything feels absolutely realistic, which makes the movie even scarier. By the time the finale rolls around, the suspense built in the movie has become absolutely unbearable, and is horrifyingly paid off with that final shot. ” - urbanlegend23
 
14.
Orphan (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a nine year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be. (123 mins.)
“ Yes, this flick may feature a few very far-fetched sequences, but c’mon, it’s a horror flick! And in a year full of plenty of good ones, Orphan is right up the top of the list as one of the best. It’s a successfully scary tale with Fuhrman doing a bang-up job as villain “Esther”, and is lent genuine dramatic gravitas thanks to Vera Farmiga in her first brilliant performance of the year as a mother struggling to hold her family together amidst the chaos created by her newly adopted daughter. The film’s final thirty minutes are brutal and anything but predictable, featuring an unexpectedly clever twist which ties the story up perfectly. ” - urbanlegend23
 
15.
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point. (99 mins.)
Director: Sam Raimi
“ Raimi’s hugely successful, old-fashioned B movie perfectly mixes both elements of hysterical comedy and spine-tingling horror and the package is a wholly entertaining rollercoaster ride. A terrifying Raver is most memorable as the gypsy Mrs Ganush who punishes Lohman’s selfishness with a curse that will drag her to hell in a week. You may see that last twist coming a mile off (I sure did), but the movie is so much fun overall that complaint seems pointless. ” - urbanlegend23