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Poll: What Is the Best Movie of 2009?

It's been a good year here at The Big Picture, so much so that we'll be back in 2010. So, a sincere thanks goes out to our growing number of return readers. I think we're starting to get some really good interaction here, and I'm positive we have some very intelligent, passionate movie fans who swing by here from time to time.

For that reason, and because my own opinion of what the best films of the year are have very little consequence to anyone other than me, we're giving you a chance to sound off on the year in movies. Obviously, we can't list every possible candidate, so we've put our top ten here with a few that didn't make our list but that might generate a few more votes than, say, Saw VI. So please vote and feel free to add a comment below or submit your own top five, top ten, or whatever.

Here's democracy in action:

Thanks for joining the discussion, and we'll have more of them next year.

Reader Comments (28)

I saw the majority of the movies on the list and for me it came down to Hurt Locker, Star Trek and the Hangover. I went with Star Trek because that was the most fun blockbuster movie in a long time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrnkln0385

While I'm not surprised that Avatar is leading this poll, its timeliness is the only reason it's at the top. It was a great cinematic achievement that transcends the technology for film-making, but it's far from the best film of the year. It's also to no surprise that a lot of the summer blockbusters like Star Trek and Inglourious Basterds are among the favorites. But they were more appealing in an entertaining way rather than being the best film of the year. In my opinion, from all the films I've seen this year, I think Up in the Air is the best. The film, from script to complete product, was a masterpiece led by Jason Reitman and leading actor George Clooney. It was smart, funny, moving, and avoided a conventional Hollywood ending. It's a rare act to achieve such intelligence in a mainstream film and Reitman has it down.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I think "avoiding the Hollywood ending" is overrated. When I go to see a movie (or read a story) I want a happy ending--cheesy as this may be. When you think through the greatest stories of all-time, the endings were not unexpected, but expected. To get your audience rooting for an ending and then to deviate from that ending, though perhaps more 'real to life,' is not more desirable.

I voted for Avatar. Not necessarily because the movie had the best story (though I was thought the story was very good and a bit too criticized), but because of all of the elements of film-making. Ten years from now, the average person will likely not remember most of the movies on this list. Newer, better movies will come and these ones will be mostly forgotten. However, Avatar will not be forgotten because of what it did for film-making. It was visually the most stunning movie I have ever seen in a movie theater and I think it will open the door to a new world of film-making.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCary

I voted for Avatar, but it was between Avatar and District 9. I think they are the best movie because they tell a story or issue relating to our real world. Of course i cant argue about the acting but this is a vote for the movie as a whole.

I enjoyed Star Trek too. And The Hurt Locker is definitely better than Inglorious Basterds.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMr.K

I don't know about the "ten years from now" thing, Carv. I'm still trying to see the lasting imprint of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on the art form itself.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterGet The Big Picture

Zombieland was the best imo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I voted District 9, and I think the main reason alot of people are voting for Avatar and movies closer to the end of the year, is because they can't really remember all the movies they saw this year wholey. District 9 was a momentous acheivement, in all aspects.

Not only was it one of the most original films of the year, the graphics were seemless, the writing was on point, and the social commentary was well worked into the film. Also, the acting was substantially better than most films I've seen this year.

Sharlto Copely was flawless as Wikus, and you could really emapthize with him. The character developement of the film was on his shoulders alone, and he dragged you into a story that was unexpected, enveloping and very well thought out.

Don't get me wrong though, I believe this year was a great year for film, and as such I understand why alot of people chose what they did. My top 5 stand as follows;

1. District 9
2. Up
3. Avatar
4. Inglorious Basterds
5. Precious

I haven't seen Up in the Air, but I do like the trailers, I'll probably see it sometime next week. Honestly though, I stand by my 5, so even if it is a great film, I probably wouldn't bump anything.

Congrats on a great year Colin! I'm on your site every day, and I love the community here. You should really throw some forums up!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick Capertina

close between UP IN THE AIR and 500 DAYS OF SUMMER

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNelson

Hmm, voted for other as I found Still Walking, which had a US release this year, to be the best non-revival experience at the movies I've had this year. Otherwise I would probably go with the Informant! or A Serious man.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterknives

Just like Mondays after the NFL weekend fans tend to over react, I believe Colin Cowherd calls it Over re-act Mondays because fans or so emotional right after the big win or loss. Give it some time and redo this poll and Avatar would probably be ranked 3rd or 4th. With it being so fresh in our minds and an enjoyful movie, its going to be highest voted. I am guilty of this as well, District 9 was my favorite movie of the year and Avatar is up there with that for me for some reason.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

I voted for Avatar. First of all it represents the future of cinema and it is also a very good movie.

Most of the other films on the list are actually overrated in different ways.

Most overrated is probably Inglorious Basterds. It has some good scenes but most of them are too long and slow and the story-telling is heavy-handed. QT's rather deperate attempt to jazz it up with 70's titles is rather sad.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLengthy Johnson

Again, is it the future of cinema or the future of James Cameron's cinema? I can't see how Avatar could ever impact most of the movies on this list. Could Precious tangibly benefit from all that wizardry? Will future Up in the Airs be in 3-D? I just don't think you can make that argument yet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterGet The Big Picture

Yea Avatar changed it's style of film and those in that SPECIFIC GENRE... BUT not like a Precious, Up in the Air, or 500 days that relay on more "real" human behavior and relationship dynamics....

I voted for The Hurt Locker,,,it was just brilliant FILMMAKING & MOVIE MAKING, I mean it will be remembered for years as an amazingly shot film with a story/plot never truly explored in such a way as Katheryn Bigelow has done it.....
---James Cameron is probably wondering why he let such a talented female movie maker go....I sure would be..

But my pick for film that encompasses great outstanding ACTING along with GREAT MOVIEMAKING, my top movies of the year would probably be .....

Precious ----1st time actresses in major roles give tremendous/powerful performances
An Education ----Carey Mulligan, need I say more...
Crazy Heart ---Jeff Bridges isnt acting he just IS in this film, HE IS
Up in the Air ----Clooney encompasses this very almost too natural performance
A Single Man ---Colin Firth deserves the recognition...
Invictus ----Morgan Freeman subtle Nelson Mandela was too "little" for me, but after another viewing that is just who the great Nelson Mandela was, subtle & humble

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSEAN

I really admire Cathryn Bigelow and her entire catalogue. The Hurt Locker does not, however, break any new ground. The component parts can be found in any number of war movies of the last few decades.

It is rather ironic that in the year that she releases her most critically accepted film, her ex-husband comes out with the film that defines the future of cinema.

To say that Avatar is only relevant to James Cameron, is to say that Aliens, Titanic and Terminator 1 and 2 are irrelevat to modern film-making. In many ways Cameron set the gold standard for particular genre movies.

In an age when everyone has massive projector and TV screens at home, 3D is the logical next step. I agree that the low-budget dramas may not use 3D for a while, but once it becomes the standard format for big budget flicks it's only a question of time before everything is 3D.

It's really been the same for moving pictures, sound pictures, colour pictures and wide screen pictures. First it's cutting edge, then it's every day stuff.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLengthy Johnson

I must say that if I was to pick a movie, mine would be SAW VI based purely on the story, effects and it was alot better than some of the ones on the list.

My list would go
2. Zombieland
3. 2012
4. The Hangover
5. Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Hate if you will but these movies were much more interesting than perhaps some others.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

Meg, I don't doubt that you enjoyed those movies the most.

But they are not terribly good.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLengthy Johnson

No, that's not what it says, Lengthy. I'm just not as sure as you that James Cameron is the only one breaking new ground or that Aliens is more relevant today than the pioneering events in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, say, or Metropolis or 2001 or Jurassic Park. The first color movie? Cupid Angling from 1918. Didn't change anything. And absent from this discussion - shamefully, in my opinion - is the work of IMAX making this kind of thing more possible all the time. And the 3-D companies, like Real-D, with whom Cameron worked on Avatar.

And even if smaller films do use 3-D, is that because Cameron used it or because less expensive technology - like the digital Red camera - is pushing the boundaries for filmmakers in more practical, cost-effective ways? District 9 used the Red, My Bloody Valentine - the year's other 3-D accomplishment - did, too, and it's the only thing Steven Soderbergh uses now. The "future" of cinema works a hell of a lot faster than James Cameron ever has.

Incidentally, Bigelow's a great example of technological advances behind the scenes taking hold on the screen, even if we wouldn't notice it. She shot with super 16mm and HD on Hurt Locker, and while you may not think it broke new ground, it adds to the way filmmakers on a budget will be able to shoot projects less expensively but more expressively.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterGet The Big Picture

While I see, understand, & partly agree with what your saying Lengthy Johnson, I sure hope it doesn't come to that...

I mean would you really want to watch great/legendary films such as just to name a few

Sophie's Choice, Taxi Driver,The Godfather, Capote, There will Be Blood, Kramer vs Kramer, ...

in 3D??? Boy lets not hope for that. The entire craft & nature of dramatic work & acting craft/character development would be destroyed...for the sake of seeing things in 3 dimensional....

Not to mention great comedies as well as all the arthouse/ indie films that are amazing

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSEAN

Oh & congrats on the excellent year Colin,

Ive learned so much by reading your blog entries, opinions, & detailed insights, pretty much everyday if time allows it...

Its been a great ride & happy to know your still going strong...

GOOOO GET THE BIG PICTURE !!!!! (wooohh woohh!!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSEAN

I have to say that Inglourious Basterds is still the best time I've had at the cinema in quite a while and it has everything you could want in a great film (great writing, directing, acting, music, everything). District 9 is definitely a close second for me though. As far as some of the others, Up in the Air was great (I'm not getting how it's ending is so radical though? Did I miss something?) Star Trek good fun, Up typically Pixar greatness, The Hangover hilarious and well acted. I do think The Hurt Locker is a very good film but over-hyped a wee bit (easily in the years top ten but it's lasting impact hard to see).

Lastly, the most groundbreaking film of the year was... No NOT Avatar, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which proves exactly why Avatar isn't going to have the impact that some think it will. The throwback stop-motion was absolutely amazing. Screw 3-D, screw Imax, I like my films in beautiful widescreen 2D with a great story (no matter how small or epic) and great acting. I'm not denying how impressive Avatar was, and it was, but the future of cinema I certainly hope not. I agree with Colin whole-heartedly with his LotR argument. Those films are quickly fading, probably won't make many best of the 2000-2025 lists when that time rolls around and I'm not confident in Avatar's place either. Cameron's a talented dude (T2, True Lies and Aliens are three absolutely great action flicks) but he's still not one of the best filmmakers of the last three decades. All that being said, the most important film of the last decade will prove to be There Will Be Blood and as far as this years crop, although many good to even great films there certainly were, will be lucky to have a single entry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranybody

Imagine Hurt Locker in 3-D... wow that would be awesome .. that would definitely help it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

My top five in no particular order.

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Moon
3. Antichrist
4. A Serious Man
5. Inglorious Basterds

Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Colin and Sean

I think that when we look back at 2009 in five or ten years from now, we'll think of Avatar first.

For instance, everyne remembers Terminator 2 (Cameron) from 1991 but very few people remeber Point Break (Bigelow) from the same year. I personally enjoyed Point Break more and still do, but T2 became iconic.

Besides, mixing film and HD video is not a new thing. Michael Mann was doing it for a while before going all HD. Goerge Lucas did it on the later SW movies. I actually think that HD is going to be great for movie-making, once directors and directors of photography learn to use it properly. The shaky-camera style that Mann used on Public Enemies was clearly not a good idea for HD.

As for 3D, I don't see any problem shooting live action drama in stereoscopic. If anything it'll make film-makers concentrate more on cinematography, which is a good thing. I don't think it'll happen tomorrow, but once people get used to watching blockbusters in 3D it's just a question of time before most vieving material is 3D.

Going for more pixels, more audio channels, more colours, more darkchips etc is not going to have the same impact as going 3D will have. Therefore, 3D should be the future.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLengthy Johnson

But why not expand your argument to include Zemeckis, who has at least made three movies is a handful of years with performance capture, which is getting better all the time? No, Bigelow isn't the first director to use HD and film, and that's what I'm trying to say: James Cameron is not the only director working in 3-D, and he wouldn't even be in the position he's in without people who were also making great strides in that department, whether it's filmmakers, tech companies, or exhibitors. The success of The Hurt Locker, especially if it wins Best Picture, will make that kind of filmmaking more accessible for directors and producers on a budget, because it gives them something to point to. I think that has at least as good a chance of having a lasting impression than a movie that's too expensive to reproduce any time in the foreseeable future.

It's a big deal visually, but even with that, I just never warmed to the screenplay. A phenomenal story, sure, but that's not the same thing. His writing lets him down, the same way it did with Titanic, a film that has not aged well at all. I can still watch L.A. Confidential all the way through, but I have to skip half of Titanic to be remotely interested.

And I'll repeat what I said early in this thread: How do you know what its legacy will be? Lord of the Rings made a ton of money, but outside of Gollum (for which Dobby from Harry Potter is a clear pre-cursor technologically), what did it really do to change the movies? Nothing. People were making franchises concurrently before that, and now, I can't look back with any real clarity on anything else that broke new ground - to borrow your phrase - that wasn't also in other films of the same time. It's not a standalone achievement the way Toy Story was or even Star Wars was, though fans insisted it would forever change movies. Ho hum.

Personally, I don't think of T2 or Point Break when I look back to 1991. I think of Silence of the Lambs. Then I think of Boyz N The Hood, followed by JFK. Will I think of The Hurt Locker before Avatar? I don't know. I think Up might be the one that holds up. Ten years ago, I would've sworn it was Being John Malkovich or even America Beauty, but it's The Insider. The next year...well, it's still Crouching Tiger for me.

The point is, I don't know what I'll remember ten years from now, and I'm certainly not looking at this year as a time capsule for 2019.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Registered CommenterGet The Big Picture

A Single Man by Tom Ford. Best movie of this year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

The most annoying thing with modern cinema is that so many films are intentionally ephemeral. They are not made to stand the test of time but to be fashionable and make as much money as possible during a few brief months after their release.

Therefore, I really like films that are made with some sort of lasting value. James Cameron has been a pioneer in several ways, mostly in the fusion of drama, character and special effects. One of the things that he does in Avatar, is to reverse the destructive use of heavy-handed digital effects in today's cinema. We get a lot of movies with amazing digital effects but they often kill the drama and the characters and turn into de luxe cartoons almost.

Also to say that The Lord of the Rings had no lasting impact on film-making is untrue. For one, MASSIVE, made it possible to depict battles and mass-scenes in a way that was impossible before. Just look at the "analogue" battle scenes in Braveheart or Jeanne d'Arc, which looked good at the time but now look almost ridiculous compared to scenes made with massive. The trilogy also made the fusion of live action and digital characters and scenery more viable and realistic than ever before, influencing any number of blockbuster movies after that.

At this stage Cameron 3D is not viable for everyone but it solves so many problems and expands the opportunities for film-making so much that as the technology develops and gets cheaper, it is sure to spread.

Anyway, digital HD makes it a lot cheaper and easier to make movies and the Hurt Locker was neither the first nor the last film in this respect.

Whichever film wins the best picture award is rather irrelevant. The Hurt Locker is much more likely than Avatar in this regard, because it is topical. But Oscars tend to be ephemeral. Good movies get remembered even if they don't win, often for not winning. And movies that do win are sometimes forgotten once their topic vanes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLengthy Johnson

District 9 was the one movie that had me leaving the theater far more impressed and satisfied that I had expected. After a few blockbuster disappointments, it was very refreshing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob

SHIT! I totally forgot to put Moon on my list. I'm dropping Precious for Moon!

Monday, December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick Capertina

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