To qualify for this list I had to either
a) See the movie in theaters
b) See the movie on DVD, but it was released in theaters in 2009
A disclaimer first. There are a lot of great movies from this year that I haven’t seen yet that weren’t factored into this list. I’m going to try to get to most of them before the Oscars, but some of the popular ones I haven’t seen yet include: Avatar, A Single Man, Crazy Heart, A Serious Man, Nine, The Messenger, Brothers, and many more I’m sure. It’s hard to get to that many movies in a year without press or industry access. Anyway, on to my list.
I’m not going to list them in any particular order. It’s hard enough to choose just ten.
Precious – One of the most powerful, heart-wrenching films I’ve watched. Amazing performances, great movie. The final scene is a stand-out, and should singlehandedly win Mo’Nique an Oscar.
An Education – Classically well executed British film. Alfred Molina is an overbearing father with depth, Peter Sarsgaard romances a teen yet somehow isn’t creepy, and Sally Sparrow was brilliant.
Up – If this movie doesn’t make you tear up at least a little, I don’t know what to say. Great, honest story that deserves to be nominated along with the live action films this year.
Up in the Air – Understated movie. It says exactly what it’s thinking, but you don’t even realize it because you’re enjoying the ride. Also, I love Anna Kendrick.
Sin Nombre – Brutally realistic portrayal of the plight of immigrants. I heard the actor spent years traveling on trains through Mexico like the characters in the movie. It shows in the authenticity.
Food Inc. – This, combined with reading Michael Pollan, has convinced me to be more mindful of my diet and the food I choose to purchase. This is a documentary done right – different perspective, clear message, more content than propaganda.
The Hurt Locker – Most intense film of the year. My heart was pounding through most of it and I couldn’t relax at all. I imagine it’s actually like that on a whole other level in Iraq in reality, but this film does a great job of conveying that feeling to the audience.
District 9 – Best sci-fi film of the year (until I see Avatar, at least). Awesome explosions, cool special effects, and strong story. You can’t ask for much more from a sci-fi and this one delivered.
(500) Days of Summer – Feel good movie of the year for me. Zoey Deschanel is the latest manic pixie dream girl and it’s a tough character to pull off successfully, but she does here. I think every nice guy could feel Joseph Gordon Levitt’s pain and roller coaster emotional ride.
Goodbye Solo – I’ve become a huge fan of Ramin Bahrani. I loved Man Push Cart and Chop Shop and this latest effort was just as strong. His movies are so quiet and tell so much with so little.