Editor’s Picks: The Ten Best Movies of 2009

Perhaps one of the greatest honors, yet most difficult tasks of my year is the creation of my annual top ten list. As this site’s editor in chief (or whatever title suits me this week), I get to kick-off our Year in Review every year with my picks for best of the year. And of the 200+ movies that I saw and reviewed in various forms this year, it was even more difficult this year to break it all the way down to ten.

Make no mistake, my friends: it was one hell of a year for movies.

In fact, the most difficult part of this year’s list wasn’t locking in my ten best films, or even my number one. Those seemed to reveal themselves quickly, with little debate. The tough part was narrowing the rest of the field down to a few honorable mentions. The best of the rest was a strong segment this year, one that has left me with ten honorable mentions. Yes, ten. That might be cheating, but it’s my list. So that is where we begin, with my ten honorable mentions — a group of movies that tied for 11th place on my year’s best list. All of the titles below are linked to our coverage, reviews and more information about the films.

Honorable Mentions:

Up in the Air // Jason Reitman’s tale of the corporate road warrior was more than just a character piece driven by an award-worthy performance from this generation’s last great movie star (George Clooney), it was perhaps the most honest and earnest tale about our economic situation yet. And it was entertaining, thoroughly. Go figure.

An Education // Everyone’s heard about the breakout performance of Carey Mulligan, but how about the work of director Lone Scherfig and the production team that vividly delivered 1960s Britain? Theirs is a great achievement, as is the wonderful story. Mulligan’s stardom will be the byproduct of their superb work.

Moon // Director Duncan Jones is here, take note. With miniatures, imagination and the true grit that it takes to make a truly inspired indie slice of sci-fi, Jones created one of the year’s great surprises and allowed Sam Rockwell to deliver one of his best performances. He also gave us a preview of what is to come from such a promising filmmaking career.

A Serious Man // There’s no denying that the Coen Bros. are (and have been) at the top of their game. And with this film, they told us a very personal story that fulfilled our needs as an audience. We laughed, we cried, and we (especially those of us who didn’t understand the inside-growing up Jewish jokes) were quite perplexed as the credits rolled. Typical Coen Brothers.

Antichrist // It was the most controversial pic of the year, being that it involved an assortment of mutilation, penetrating imagery and chaos. But if Lars von Trier’s story set inside grief was anything, it was a piece of art — an abstract work of emotion painted with visceral imagery. It dared us to look away, and we did nothing of the sort.

World’s Greatest Dad // You wouldn’t think that Bobcat Goldthwait’s tale of a man who loses his son to auto-erotic asphyxiation would be funny, but it is. It is the darkest comedy made in a long time, and one anchored by a masterful performance from Robin Williams. Twisted, inappropriate and oddly touching, this film was one of the first of ’09 to really knock me out of my seat.

Coraline // Sweet, dark and clever, Henry Selick’s latest is a beautiful visual achievement. It is also a great story, taken from the mind of Neil Gaiman. It’s an adult-level story told via a medium that has captivated me since childhood — stop motion ain’t an easy way to make a movie, and Henry Selick has done it better than so many others for a long, long time.

500 Days of Summer // Some say it is too quirky, others don’t like the hipster soundtrack, but no one can deny the uncanny charm of this debut from director Marc Webb. With a stellar screenplay and two enchanting leads (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel), this off-beat romantic comedy is the anthem of ’09, a year when the anti-romance took center stage.

Away We Go // Speaking of offbeat, charming movies, this showcase for the talent of John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph was also a return to the sweeter side of Sam Mendes. Gone is last year’s heartstopping story of relationships eradicated, and here we meet a couple, in-love, just trying to find their place among the crazies. It was a wonderful story, directed and acted to near perfection.

Zombieland // Sometimes a movie is just fun. Simple, restraint-less fun. And with Ruben Fleischer’s feature debut, the often overplayed zombie genre gets a refreshing, hilarious and energetic lift. Complete with a crazed performance from Woody Harrelson and the year’s best cameo. Which I’m still not spoiling, by the way.

And now, we move on to my ten best of the year, which can be found by clicking through to the next page.


Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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