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Mania's Top 10 Films of 2009

Movies, Movie Maven & Mania

By Rob Vaux     December 16, 2009


Mania's Top 10 Films of 2009
© Mania/Bob Trate

 

 
Year-end lists are always contentious--three Mania interns were killed in the debates to determine this one and with the generally poor quality of cinema in 2009, the choices of great genre films became even tougher to resolve. But somewhere along the line, somebody produced 10 pretty damn good genre movies with which to constitute a list. You may disagree with the choices and placement--Lord knows we did--but as always, this is intended to spur debate rather than deliver the final word. Let's get to it.
 

Watch the Movie Maven Talk the Top 10 Films of 2009 or Read Below

 

10. Avatar

 

James Cameron's $500 million return to science fiction appears to have matched the pre-release hype with the next great breakthrough in visual effects, a burgeoning star in Sam Worthington, and a storyline which marries genre action with more serious social messages. While it doesn't make for a masterpiece--its storyline is fairly pedestrian, and is themes are too obvious--it certainly can't be left off a list like this.
 

9. Ponyo

A remarkably strong year for animation gained a quiet boost with the latest effort of Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki. A gentle, almost plotless story--patterned loosely after The Little Mermaid--charts the growing friendship between a transformed goldfish and a little boy. The gorgeous color palate remains fittingly simple, and while it caters primarily to younger children, it leaves an impression that anyone who loves good animation can appreciate. Ponyo Movie Review
 

8. Drag Me to Hell

Audiences ignored Sam Raimi's return to full-bore horror when it was released last spring. Too bad for them; it was as if the rollicking madcap energy of the Evil Dead films never left. Freed from the constraints of ginormous studio blockbusters, Raimi found his grindhouse soul right where he left it, and reminded us all that you don't need a lot of money to create a fearsomely funny roller coaster. Drag Me to Hell Movie Review
 

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Speaking of films audiences have ignored, Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic continues to struggle for traction at the holiday box office. There is no justice in this world. Fox's deliberately old fashioned technique stands alone among animated features this year, augmented by Anderson's sly dialogue and a resolutely entertaining approach to so-called children's stories. Owen Wilson's description of whackbat is worth the price of admission alone. The Fantastic Mr. Fox Movie Review
 

6. The Road

Post-apocalyptic fables don't come any bleaker than the slate gray expanse of The Road, in which a father and son search desperately for safe haven as the planet enters its death throes. The unremitting intensity of director John Hillcoat disguises a surprising streak of optimism: the belief that we can retain our moral compass, even in the worst possible circumstances. The Road Movie Review
 

5. Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino provides what Roger Ebert called "a much-needed alternate ending" to World War II in this strange and marvelous ode to good old-fashioned Nazi bashing. Christoph Waltz deserves an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the most jovial SS Colonel ever, while Brad Pitt adds another notch to his belt as a U.S. lieutenant who really, really loves German scalps. Inglourious Basterds Movie Review
 

4. Paranormal Activity

In many ways, Paranormal Activity isn't really a movie. It's a glorified haunted house, exercising the same techniques that carnival barkers employ with papier mache skeletons. But director Oren Peli is so skillful in his presentation than the boo-gotcha spook show rises to a level of near-perfection. The bloodless scares would be almost quaint were they not so relentless, putting the goriest torture porn to shame with their simple, straightforward effectiveness. Paranormal Activity Movie Review
 

3. Up

This writer's choice for the best film of any sort this year comes courtesy of Pixar. So routinely does that studio knock our socks off--so perfectly do their CG masterpieces encapsulate impeccable storytelling techniques--that we only notice on those rare occasions when they don't produce a movie for the ages. Up continues their grand tradition with the story of a bitter old man who escapes the travails of the world in a house floating on balloons. The heartfelt emotions arrive with just enough cynicism and satire to blunt their schmaltzier overtones without detracting from an ultimately touching finale. Up Movie Review
 

2. District 9

This is what science fiction is all about: a thinly disguised treatise on social responsibility and humanity's inability to accept those who are different, dressed up in a chillingly plausible mockumentary and punctuated by some of the wildest action scenes all year. Director Neil Blomkamp announces himself as a director to watch, godfathered by Peter Jackson whose early low-budget efforts only aspired to the imaginative mayhem on display here. District 9 Movie Review
 

1. Star Trek

While the original series had some important things to say, and The Next Generation showed a few flashes of greatness, the rigors of acting as a tent pole for Paramount doomed much of the Star Trek franchise to homogenized filler… until J.J. Abrams kicked the whole thing into overdrive with his magnificent, game-changing reset button. Every aspect of Star Trek feels different--the sets, the effects, the character mannerisms, even the dialogue--and yet not only does it perfectly embody the original characters, but it encapsulates everything the franchise is supposed to be about--wrapped in irresistible visual effects and launched straight at us at warp speed. Watch The Movie Maven Talk Star Trek READ Star Trek Movie Review

 

Just to give you a sense for the opinions involved in the formation of this list, my personal 10 best genre films are as follows:
 
1: Up
2: The Road
3: Moon
4: Watchmen
5: Coraline
6: District 9
7: Red Cliff
8: Paranormal Activity
9: Fantastic Mr. Fox
10: Star Trek

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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 63
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karas1 12/16/2009 4:18:03 AM

Well, I liked Cool World.  Who wouldn't like an animated Kim Bassinger wandering around in langiree?

No Watchmen on the list huh?  It wasn't a perfect film, but it was a pretty good one.

Kara S

 

marcd30319 12/16/2009 4:18:04 AM

STINO!

hanso 12/16/2009 4:27:29 AM

Up's sequence showcasing Carl & Ellie's romance had more soul than 99% of the crap that was released this summer.  That movie deserves to be in everyone's top 10 this year.

Oh and Ms. Perry, don't worry bout District 9, the film releases 12.22.09 just in time for Christmas.

Darkknight2280 12/16/2009 4:40:24 AM

Yeah i think watchmen should have been on this list over the Anime crap! Watchmen was the apitimy of the sci-fi/fantasy genre! Glad it was on your own personal list though Rob! :)

AVATAR RULES!!!

Wiseguy 12/16/2009 4:45:24 AM

Such a weak year in general

1 through 5 AVATAR, sure I haven't seen it but it's Cameron, looks great and the word is that it mostly lives up to the hype

6- Watchmen, I'm not a big fan of this work but it was still better than most of the genre stuff out there

7- Star Trek, finally got the infusion of energy it needed

8-UP

9- Wolverine, yeah I know, it's still better than most stuff this year

10- Harry Potter...11- Transformers...12- 2012...13-Terminator...14- 9...15- GI Joe, yeah I have no shame

jppintar326 12/16/2009 4:54:46 AM

Star Trek would make the top...of my worst films of the year list.  JJ Abrams butchered Star Trek and I am amazed how many people went along with it.  As a long time Trekker, I don't think I have been let down by a movie before.  I don't care if I stand alone, I hated, hated, hated, hated, hated, hated, hated, JJ Abrams's version of Star Trek. 

Watchmen would be second in my worst films of the year list.  Long, boring, and full of characters and situations I didn't care for or found interesting.  There is such a thing as being too faithful to the source material, which had dated social satire and not much else.

Transformers:  Revenge of the Fallen is third worst.  More transforming robots and annoying human characters.  Hey Jon Turturro, if you are going to cash paychecks, at least give an effort in acting.

Why is my list the worst insted of the best.  Because 2009 was just not a good year for movies and I didn't see really great movies this year except for UP.

spiderhero 12/16/2009 4:56:00 AM

Star Trek was not better than District 9. D9 had original special effects, not just flashy ones. D9 had a compelling story & character development. ST had a bunch of pretty 20-something people with angst. I could go on. I liked Star Trek well enough, but District 9 blew it out of the water in every way I can imagine.

kwsupes 12/16/2009 5:33:27 AM

 Watchmen probably deserves to be on the list even if I don't think I will ever watch it again. It wasn't a bad film, I just didn't care for it that much. However Snyder did a good job adapting a comic to film that no one thought was possible. At the very least he deserves to be on the list for his efforts. Oh yeah and it seemed pretty faithful to the source material, I am sure it is not line by line faithful, but more so than most comic films.  So yeah it ought to be on the list.

As far as Star Trek goes, I loved it and thought Abrams did a great job of bringing the series back to life and sure the movie has its flaws, but it was still pretty awesome. And let's be honest the last time we had a good Star Trek film was 1996 when First Contact came out. So I am glad to see that the stage has been set for good stories to be told again and hope they will put the same amount of effort and more into the next film.

I don't know if Wolverine needs to be on the list, but probably more so than Ponyo. I didn't hate Wolverine like I thought I would, it was actually ok.

I have yet to see D-9, but have heard great things. 

Like some others have said though on the whole it has been a pretty crappy year for movies with a few stand outs here and there.

ripum853 12/16/2009 5:46:53 AM

I really liked this list.  I'd personally put Up and District 9 ahead of Star Trek, but after that the top 5 would be the same!  As many bad films came out this year, these films really helped make it a decent year overall.  Add Hurt Locker to that for me (not genre, I know), and this year was actually quite excellent!

jedibanner 12/16/2009 5:47:22 AM

See, for me, I like this list but, Inglorious Basterd would be # 1 and Star Trek is # 2. I would've put Transformer instead of that animated movie because, it was fun and loud.

GI Joe should never be mentionned in the same phrase with the words: top 10, good, , fun or movie.

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