Best Movies of All Time + [Up in the Air]

Top 10 Films of 2009

The year is 2009, and a lot has happened in the movie world. To help take you back in time, here's a look back at some of the film-related events that took place:

The Academy announces that their Best Picture field will now hold ten nominees, marking the first time the category has had more than five nominees since 1943.

Avatar becomes the year's highest-grossing film, earning over $2.78 billion at the worldwide box office.
The Hurt Locker wins the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as five other awards, including Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow) and Best Original Screenplay.

The world loses the likes of Patrick McGoohan, Natasha Richardson, Bea Arthur, Dom DeLuise, David Carradine, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, John Hughes, Patrick Swayze and Brittany Murphy.

I've been able to see 130 films released in 2009, and from those, I've compiled my own top ten list. As one can imagine, some great films had to be left off the final list. Here's a look at some of the movies (listed alphabetically) that just missed the cut:

Away We Go
The Hurt Locker
Mary and Max
Paranormal Activity
Zombieland
But enough about the runners-up; here's the list you've been waiting to see! Counting down from number ten to number one, I've listed each film and have given the principal cast list as well as if and how fared at the Academy Awards. Also, I've listed the film's rank on my "Best Films of All-Time" list, if applicable. So without any further delay, here's my top ten movies of 2009!

10. The Secret of Kells

Rated: Not Rated
Directed by: Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore
Starring: Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney, Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally
Academy Awards: 1 nomination
***
It took me a while to see this little Irish gem, but I have to say that it completely blew me away. From the highly original story to the beautifully-crafted animation, there's quite a bit to like about this film. We also get a clear sense of right versus wrong and good versus evil, and although this film does manage to delve into the darkness from time to time, there's always that beacon of light shining at the end of the tunnel. It's as emotionally and spiritually pleasing as it is visually astounding, and it's definitely worth a watch if you have the time.

9. Up in the Air

Rated: R
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott, Danny McBride
Academy Awards: 6 nominations
***
While many people were citing the social issues that Up in the Air posed to its audiences, I was getting lost in the spellbinding performance by Mr. George Clooney. For the first time that I could remember, he was shedding that oh-so-famous Clooney bravado, instead offering a more sensitive and vulnerable character to whom we could actually relate. It started a trend that's carried over to his work since, and although he's complemented well by great turns from Farmiga and Kendrick - as well as spot-on cameos from Zach Galifianakis and J.K. Simmons - it's Clooney's performance that really makes this one worth watching.

8. Up

ated: PG
Directed by: Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
Starring: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, John Ratzenberger
Academy Awards: 5 nominations, 2 wins
All-Time Ranking: 84
***
You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that leaves this sentimental Pixar classic off any top ten list, but I'm sure that I'm leaving a bit lower than most might expect. While I do accept its merit as a fantastic film, I don't think it's quite as good as other Pixar fare as WALL-E or Finding Nemo. The montage of Carl and Ellie's married life together is utterly spectacular, though, and it will always manage to bring tears to my eyes. It's arguably one of the greatest sequences of cinema I've ever seen, and I don't know whether that will change any time soon.

7. Dark and Stormy Night

Rated: Larry Blamire
Directed by: Not Rated
Starring: Jim Beaver, Jennifer Blaire, Larry Blamire, Dan Conroy, Robert Deveau, Bruce French, Betty Garrett, Brian Howe, James Karen, Alison Martin, Fay Masterson, Susan McConnell, Kevin Quinn, Daniel Roebuck, Christine Romeo
All-Time Ranking: 72
***
From the people that brought us The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra comes a murder mystery in the same vein as 1985's Clue. Most of the cast from Cadavra is back, along with plenty of new faces to boot. Dark and Stormy Night offers a laugh a minute, and the pitch-perfect acting in this low-budget comedy only enhances the overall appeal. It's dorky in its own fantastic way, but it still manages to offer a decent, albeit rather predictable, twist.

6. Brothers

Rated: R
Directed by: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bailee Madison, Carey Mulligan
All-Time Ranking: 71
***
A few people may end up scratching their heads about the inclusion of this film, but let me explain. While it may not have been terribly well-received by the critic community as a whole, I personally found Brothers to be a very honest look at post-traumatic stress. Tobey Maguire gives the best performance of his career, and it's frightening how good he actually is. When his character finally cracks and he lets loose, it's a devastating sight to behold, and I have never felt emotions during a movie like the ones I felt while I watched Brothers. It's that good. Also be on the watch for the young Bailee Madison and her great supporting role.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Rated: PG
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson
Academy Awards: 2 nominations
All-Time Ranking: 63
***
Wes Anderson's first foray into the realm of animated cinema was a "fantastic" success. His stop-motion adaptation of the children's novel of the same name offers laugh after laugh while keeping that quirky tone and feel that all of Anderson's previous films have held. Aided by a stellar vocal cast, Fantastic Mr. Fox is definitely not a film anyone should miss. It was vastly underrated when it first hit theaters and was overshadowed by the computer-generated efforts released around it.

4. Moon

Rated: R
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey
All-Time Ranking: 41
***
I've been a fan of Sam Rockwell since I first saw him in 1999's Galaxy Quest, but he had never produced a performance that stood out as his best, or even one that could be considered career-defining. All that changed with Moon, a dramatic sci-fi flick that featured him and him alone. It tells the story of a man who works for a company that drills on the moon, but his solitary existence has finally gotten the best of him. We see the man delve into the depths of madness, and it's quite a sight to behold. Rockwell is utterly brilliant in the role, and he's aided by fantastic direction from first-time director Duncan Jones. Be on the watch for both of them in the future.

3. Inglourious Basterds

Rated: R
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl
Academy Awards: 8 nominations, 1 win
All-Time Ranking: 35
***
I had never been much a fan of Tarantino's work. I had seen Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs and the Kill Bill films, but none of them had ever truly moved me or stuck with me. And I don't want to say that all that changed with Inglourious Basterds, but this film was so damn good that it at least made me want to go back and re-watch Tarantino's previous efforts to see if I could earn a better understanding and respect for them. This screenplay is absolutely exceptional, and when you have actors like Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender bringing some of their finest work, you'll be hard-pressed not to find this one enjoyable.

2. The Cove

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Louie Psihoyos
Academy Awards: 1 nomination, 1 win
All-Time Ranking: 26
***
If there were ever a film that I think everyone should see, it would be The Cove. Easily one of the most brutal films I've ever seen, it's also one of the most honest and sincere stories about a group of people doing everything they can to stop something they find unjust and inhumane. The film talks about the dolphin slaughters that take place in Taiji, Japan, and the group of people involved are essentially working towards proving that these alleged slaughters are actually happening. Even though you know where you're headed, you're never really ready for what's going to take place on-screen, and if you're a lover of animals, it's going to destroy you. All that being said, however, I hold the fervent belief that everyone should see this film and be educated about the atrocities taking place. It may be a devastating experience to watch this film, but it's a necessary evil if it's going to call people to action.

1. (500) Days of Summer

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloë Grace Moretz, Clark Gregg
All-Time Ranking: 25
***
When I first heard about (500) Days of Summer, the main draw point for me was the reunion of Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel on-screen for the first time since they had appeared in 2003's Manic together. What I actually got was one of the best romantic comedies I had ever seen, and I feel like it was geared more towards men than women. Because we're getting most of our information from the male perspective, the film offers a storyline opposite that of most rom-coms, and I think that's what made it so appealing to me. I've talked to many an individual about this film, and the overarching idea I've gotten is that guys liked (500) Days of Summer a lot more than girls did, and I'm almost positive it's for the same reasons that girls will like your average romantic comedy more than a guy will. Still, this one's brilliant - and it offers an "Expectation vs. Reality" scene that's simply superb - from the writing to the acting to everything else as a whole.