2009 wasn’t the greatest year for movies. Highly anticipated flicks didn’t match expectations, and the hype engine managed to overhype a ton of mediocre flicks (I’m looking at you, Drag Me to Hell and Laid to Rest). Still, if you looked hard enough, you would definitely find some diamonds in the rough, and it’s a true testament to the quality of Hollywood when you’ll notice that half of my top 10 films of the year…were either not released in theaters at all, or were given a very limited release.
Just to set the record straight before we start, films I haven’t seen as of this writing that probably would have made the list are:
Sherlock Holmes, Avatar, District 9, Moon, Fantastic Mr. Fox
Now, let’s get started!
25. Terminator Salvation
Though Terminator Salvation definitely wasn’t the film we were all hoping it was, which I thing influenced a lot of undue hatred for it, it’s actually still a good flick. McG didn’t ruin the franchise – if anything, he should be commended for trying something new. I mean, how do you follow up the apocalyptic ending of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? Terminator Salvation is a great looking film and, despite being flawed, which I think actually comes more from heavy tinkering in post-production than anything else, a darn good flick. Review here.
24. Blood Creek
What’s that, you say? Blood Creek? What the hell is that? Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Blood Creek. It was only released in a handful (quite literally) of second-run theaters throughout America. I was lucky enough to be in Orlando when it was released there, and it still took me an hour (and getting lost twice) to find it. But it was definitely worth it. The story about two brothers fighting off a zombie nazi demon on a farm is actually pretty intense. Sure, it lags a bit in the middle, but the fact that this film was given such a crappy release bums me out, as it sets up a really great mythology and story that deserves to be continued. Review here.
A remake that’s actually better than the original? Shocking! I actually thought A Tale of Two Sisters was an okay flick, but The Uninvited pretty much improves on it in every way. The story flows more smoothly, the characters are more likable, and the film doesn’t drag like the original. Plus, any movie with Elizabeth Banks and Arielle Kebbel deserves to be on a top 25 list, doesn’t it? Review here.
22. My Bloody Valentine 3D
After much internal debate, I’ve finally accepted that My Bloody Valentine 3D is actually better than Friday the 13th (both films starred someone from my favorite TV show Supernatural), but I’ve also accepted that that’s pretty much entirely because of the 3D. Without the 3D, MBV3D is essentially just another dumb slasher flick, but the use of 3D in this film is better than any other film I’ve seen this year. Eyeballs, jaws, and pickaxes fly straight at you, and the film really ends up being a bloody good time.
21. Alien Raiders
A movie with a name like Alien Raiders really kinds of need to be good to be taken seriously, doesn’t it? Well, thankfully, this one is. If you mix The Thing with The Mist, you get a pretty good idea of this “alien invasion in a supermarket” flick is like. And while it’s not as good as either of those films, it’s still a damn good film with enough twists and turns to keep you interested until the end credits roll. Review here.
20. Fast and Furious
I like the Fast and Furious movies – really, the second film, 2Fast 2 Furious, was probably the worst of the bunch, but all of them are better than they have any right to be, and it’s really because, despite a stupid concept, they take the story and acting seriously. Fast and Furious features the return of the original cast, including Paul Walker, who’s acting has improved exponentially since the original. Vin Diesel in a blockbuster movie is a welcome sight and, despite a little bit of a weak ending with too much CG, the rest of the film feels like a nice pair of slippers you find at the back of the closet, it feels all too comfy to step back in after all this time. Review here.
19. Phobia 2
At first I thought it may be too soon to add this to a best of list, but Phobia 2 really deserves to be on here. It’s scary, interesting, and well acted. And though the majority of the world hasn’t even seen the original Phobia, this sequel stands on its own and is definitely one of the best anthology films I’ve seen in years. Review here.
18. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Though I think we all would have preferred to see Kate Beckinsale back and kicking werewolf booty, this prequel to the Underworld franchise ended up being better than I even expected. Visually stunning, and with fantastic acting from lead Michael Sheen, this Romeo and Juliet of werewolves and vampires ends up being a must-see, even if you didn’t care for the original two films. And more than that, it actually does put an entirely new spin on them.
17. Angels and Demons
I haven’t liked a Tom Hanks film in years. And, hell, I didn’t even like The DaVinci Code. However, Angels and Demons is a riveting thriller that feels like an entire season of 24 set in Vatican City. The film doesn’t take much time to breathe, and as such, you get 2 hours of edge of your seat excitement, which is everything The DaVinci Code wasn’t. Review here.
This film really would have been listed higher, if I could actually sit through it again. Martyrs really is a masterpiece, and deserves to be seen by anybody that has the stomach for it. But I guarantee you’ll never want to see it again. It’s violent, brutal, and you feel like you’re really been through the ringer when all is said and done. But it truly is a unique film experience and is guaranteed to affect you, one way or another. Review here.
15. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
While not the best Harry Potter film (primarily because there are maybe five minutes of action in the entire film), The Half Blood Prince is the film I’ve been waiting for the Harry Potter franchise. The kids are growing up, and the dread is building. The world is a different place, and people are finally dying. Some great character stuff here. A great set up for the conclusion of the franchise, which hopefully delivers the action this one was lacking in. Review here.
Who would have thought an animated film about talking dogs and a house that flies using balloons would be so emotional? The first twenty minutes of this film set up a sad tale of a couple who have nothing but dreams, and the tragedy that takes those dreams away from them. And then you get this grand adventure where this old man finally decides to live out the dreams he had with his wife, and the little kid who joins him along the way. One of Pixar’s best films, and that’s saying something.
This film was released all over the world before coming to America, where it became a sleepr hit like no one expected. Liam Neeson’s daughter gets kidnapped, so he goes all over the place and, essentially, f*cks up everyone he meets. Who would have seen Liam Neeson as such a bad ass? Certainly not me, but man, he really does a great job in this film that’s non-stop action and excitement.
12. The Appeared
Scary, intense, and emotional, The Appeared comes by way of Spain and is a ghost story with the emotional weight that’s lacking from so many American horror movies. There’s not a lot of blood to be had, but there are some great scares, some fantastic acting, and a beautiful ending that is just perfect. A must see. Review here.
11. Dead Snow
Heh…not the best zombie movie on this list (that’s coming up next), but certainly one of the most fun horror comedies in recent years. Dead Snow is the spiritual successor to films like Evil Dead – heavy on the gore, and heavy on the laughs. Dead Snow is one of those films that horror fans are just going to love, but the rest of the world is going to think is stupid. Zombie Nazis (hell, the second zombie Nazi flick on this list), blood covered snow … a perfect combination! Review here.
And now…the top 10!
Man, I love this film. Woody Harrelson absolutely makes this film, but he’s just the icing on the cake – all of the actors are at the top of their game, and the directing style is a lot of fun. It’s got the visual quirks of Fight Club, which adds to the experience. And an absolutely hilarious cameo appearance that’s the highlight of the film? We need more zombie films like this!
9. Inglourious Basterds
A lot of people kind of hate this flick, but I loved it. Essentially a handful of scenes that combine to feel like an epic movie, Inglourious Basterds is definitely a talky movie, but never have I seen a movie where relatively calm conversation can be so intense. The underlying tension in all of these scenes is great build up, and no one can explode at the end of a conversation like Quentin Tarantino’s characters. Christoph Waltz deserves an award for his acting as the villain of this film. Amazing stuff, and the single best villain portrayal this year.
8. Donkey Punch
Damn this film is intense. After someone performs the titular sex act, resulting in a very shocking death, the sh*t hits the fan and people start killing each other. Strong violence, sex, and situations, this is an adult suspense film and one of the most tense films I’ve seen all year. Released in very limited release, this is the type of film that Hollywood is afraid to trust with a wide release, but it certainly deserves to be seen by more people.
7. The Hangover
The best comedy of the year. The Hangover is absolutely hilarious, no matter how many times you see it. You think it’s a guy film, but really, The Hangover is going to make anyone who sees it laugh out loud, regardless of their sex.
6. Yip Man
Donnie Yen is the greatest living martial artist on the silver screen right now. I say that without any doubt. See Yip Man and I’m sure you’ll agree. Though he didn’t do the fight choreography on the film (like he did on the also excellent Flashpoint), Sammo Hung (who actually studied under the real Yip Man) did, and the fight scenes in this film are absolutely amazing. The story is fantastic too – about a martial artist who has to fight the Japanese soldiers invading Japan during WWII. Though an official release in the States hasn’t happened, seek out an import. You must see this movie. Review here.
People can’t seem to get past the naked Dr. Manhattan in this film. And really, unless you understand the point of his nakedness, I can see how it would be distracting. Still, Watchmen is an amazing film, and though I can see how people don’t dig it, it really is an amazing comic book film. But you kind of need to be a comic reader to get it. And if you revere the original Moore novel, you’ll find plenty of fault in the film too. Really, the film is only going to please a select few people, but I was definitely one of them. Review here.
4. Star Trek
Goddamn, I’ve missed Star Trek. I hadn’t realized how much until this film came out. I mean, there’s been a Star Trek-sized hole in my life for quite some time now, and this film definitely fed that need. A Trek film that pleased both longtime fans and people who used to hate Trek, this movie had a huge obstacle to overcome in just that. But it managed to do it, and do it in spades. Star Trek isn’t just a great Trek flick, it’s a damn good flick. Review here.
3. Paranormal Activity
This movie scared the everloving crap out of me. To this day, I still jump more at the little noises my house makes than I used to. The way in which this film was released, based on the popularity of fan requests, is a testament to how good it is. This movie is terrifying, and will definitely lead to some sleepless nights. Review here.
2. The Children
This movie would have been number one, if not for the fact that I realized the number one film (which I saw last year) was released in the US this year, and I absolutely love that film. Of course, I also LOVE this movie. The Children is the most intense evil kid horror film of all time. It’s violent, and wholly satisfying when the adults finally fight back. Some truly disturbing imagery that’ll stick with you long after the movie is done. Trust me – you want to see this film. Review here.
1. Cold Prey
Cold Prey is the 2000’s version of Halloween, hands down. Especially with its sequel, which fits in perfectly with the first film like Halloween I and II do. Cold Prey is a classic slasher film, and doesn’t even break the conventions in a really unique way, but it doesn’t need to. The film is intense, violent, and fantastic. What makes it work even moreso is the fact that you actually like the characters – they aren’t unlikeable jerks you want to see die – you want them to make it, which makes their deaths all the more riveting.
And there you have it! What about you? What films did you love this year – talk back on our message boards!
And the bottom 5? The worst of the worst?
5. Drag Me to Hell
Man, this film sucked. I hated this film with every fiber in my being. I seriously don’t know why everyone loves this film so much – is it because Sam Raimi directed it? When was the last good Raimi film? Spider-Man 2? I mean, this film had an anvil drop on someone’s head, a talking goat…f*ck it was horrible! Check out my review here.
4. The Horsemen
I really wanted to like this film, but I can see why it was shuffled to a limited release and tossed aside to DVD. The film is boring, stupid, and the ending of the film is hilariously ludicrous. What happened, Dennis Quaid?
3. Halloween 2
I’ll let my review do the talking on this one.
The only film this year that was so bad I wanted to walk out. Thirst ended up on some best of lists, which blows my mind. It’s absolutely horrible. The sex scenes are laughably awkward – including an abysmal armpit licking. I hated everything about this film – which combines the talents of director Park Chan-Wook and the acting of Song Kang-ho, two tremendous talents that resulted in one horrendous piece of crap.
1. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
I hated Thirst more, but Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is the most laughably bad movie I saw all year. Horrendous acting all around, and I can wrap it up in one lovely sentence – “even milk has an expiration date.” F*ck me. My review here.