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The Best Films of the Decade: 2009

Fireworks2009.jpgThis is it, the final year in the decade. Next up I'll be revealing the films that won from each year in the decade and letting you vote for the Best Film of the Decade. However we have to get back to 2009 and finish that off first, since the last film of 2009 has been released and hopefully seen, we can start voting on them.

This year was tough, not just because the end of the year means that the US see films well before the rest of the world and so are eligible for the list but haven't really been seen, but because there were so many good films this year and it was hard to decide what to suggest and what not too.

However now it's down to you and for you to get voting.

Remember you can visit all the previous years and still vote on them.

2008 : 2007 : 2006 : 2005 : 2004 : 2003 : 2002 : 2001 : 2000

I wasn't surprised to find out that I hadn't seen as many films this year as compared to previous, it's been a tough year, but I'm hoping that doesn't carry onto next. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how many films I actually did manage to see, and that this year, despite the continuing remakes and sequels from Hollywood, there was a lot of good choice to be had.

(500) Days of Summer
I never did see this film, nor did I really have a great desire too, but those that did have positive comments to say about it. Was it really a very good film or was it more that it was quirky and stood out enough from the crowd to make it even more noticeable? Personally I think there was a bit of both, but when you see some of the other films in this list it's clear that it has tough competition for the top slot.

Everything in the build up to this film made it look exciting, the promise of director
Shane Acker, producers Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, and the excellent voice cast including Jennifer Connelly and Christopher Plummer, as well as the intriguing story that suggested something epic and very different. However when the reviews started coming in it appeared to be a little less than expected, and while it did okay, it didn't see to be the big hit that was expected. Shame, although it still remains high on my catch up list.

Antichrist (Filmstalker review)
To be fair there's a really good story in here, it's just obscured by the desire to be controversial and to be seen as controversial, and it results in a confusing mess of daftness, especially the rubber looking appendage. It's a real shame because if the director had calmed himself down and stepped back a bit he could have had a beautiful and powerful film.

Avatar (Filmstalker review)
Stunning. Quite frankly stunning. I know people will tell you that the story isn't up to scratch, sure it's a story we've seen before, and to that I respond "have you been watching any Hollywood films of late?". Just about everything we see can be compared to another film before it, they all follow similar paths and tales. Say "strip away this and that and the story just ends up being X" is true for so many films, even the films this is being compared too. Rant over, Avatar is a superb film packed with innovation and heart and has something for just about everyone, even those who don't like 3D (like me!).

Coraline (Filmstalker review)
I was surprised by just how good Coraline was, mainly because of the adult themes and the darkness to the tale. Like all of the best fairy tales, there's darkness and some geniune danger, as well as some innovative writing and characters. Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick have delivered a wonderful tale that works for children and adults alike.

The Cove
This is a great miss for me for last year and I have to get my hands on it as soon as possible. Listening to a few reviews of the film that looks at the ritual slaughter of dolphins in a small cove ever year you might be confused about the film's content, for the reviews I read mentioned the drama, suspense and emotional levels of the film, making it sound something more akin to a dramatic film than anything else. However that's what the film is about and by all accounts the footage, interviews and style elevate this above what you might expect from a standard documentary.

The Damned United
Michael Sheen stole this film with his performance of Brian Clough, and it marks another great outing for him and Peter Morgan. However I have to say I think it really struggles outside of those who follow football and have some knowledge of Clough. I think perhaps Frost/Nixon is more deserving of the space here than this film, and it would certainly reach a wider audience despite.

Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi returning to horror was a dream for those fans of the early Raimi and of the Evil Dead series, and the idea of him directing a horror film like this was exciting to them, indeed us. With the trailers giving a mixed view between good and bad, reviews suggested something similar. However people who've seen it whose opinions I do value say it's much better than expected and I should see it. Best of the year though?

District 9 (Filmstalker review)
While I really enjoyed District 9, I didn't think it rated being one of the best of the decade, but then people keep talking it up so I think it does deserve a place here as it will gain quite a few votes. Like people say about Avatar, this film was filled with connections and threads from other films, I could so easily sit back and say the story is weak and we've seen it before, but I'm not that ignorant. District 9 is a clever film that does a lot with the story, looking at apartheid and immigration rather cleverly, however I felt that the second half didn't keep up with this cleverness and resorted to some clichés. Still, it's a very good film, and I do now agree that it should be up here for voting, I just think it's up against stiffer competition.

An Education A British film set in the recent past and looking at…I was lost about there to be honest. When I heard what the film was about the idea of another British film based in the near past didn't have me filled with excitement, in fact I was uninterested at the prospect. However reviews have been much more promising than that, and with Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina and Emma Thompson involved, there's got to be more to it than I first thought. Is it worth being here?

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Many reviews have called this an adult film in the guise of a children's film, rather than trying to peacefully coexist between the two it is an intellectual and pondering film full of introspective moments and dialogue given a covering of a children's animation. I have to say the animation for me was a blocker and not an enabler, and I wonder what would have happened if they had given this an all out adult treatment.

Fish Tank
Another strong film from Andrea Arnold, and I have to wonder what she will come out with next. Thankfully she remains in the UK and delivers a heartfelt and passionate story that doesn't like to let you sit comfortably in your seat and let the film wash over you, which is my kind of cinema. Here's to getting to see more home grown film-making talent getting exposed this year, and more from Arnold.

Frost/Nixon (Filmstalker review)An excellent film from the Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen combination once again, although here the main draws are Morgan's excellent script filled with superb dialogue, Ron Howard's superb direction, and Frank Langella's superb performance as Richard Nixon. What a superb film, and who would have thought that this story would have been so enthralling outside of the key interview moment? Superb film.

The Hurt Locker (Filmstalker review)
Talking of superb films, The Hurt Locker is just that. It's a story about soldiers and the effect of war on them without turning into the usual preaching or over the top story. This looks and feels real, although I can't really say if it is for a fact, but I love the way the story plays it out and there's nothing over glamorised about it. A powerful film that is really well shot. Loved it, and so do many critics out there. This is a real contender for the Best of 2009.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
There are a couple of films here that I really regret seeing and not holding off to see what others thought before being slightly put off, I should just have gone to see the film regardless. However I'll look forward to a Blu-ray release with some extras from Terry Gilliam himself. For the film version I heard some criticism regarding the portrayal of other worlds and how it was a little too fantastical. I do think a little too much was played on this film over Heath Ledger's death, but then thankfully the film was viewed on it's own merits rather than being consumed by that story.

Inglourious Basterds (Filmstalker review)
Even after a second viewing which made me feel that it wasn't so drawn out in every scene, I still think this could have been a much better film without the Tarantino touches, or slams. Despite it having flashes of some great moments, I think it's let down by the weak main thread, Brad Pitt's distracting accent, and the Tarantino touches.

Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) (Filmstalker review)
I know it's being remade, but you must give this original the credit it deserves. Sure there are some problems, but it looks fantastic, has superb dialogue and characters, and just delivers a haunting and engaging story. I loved it and all I can hope for is that the remake doesn't try to copy it too closely or else does something very different. I do think this has a strong chance of making it to the Best of 2009 considering the readers on Filmstalker, but then again, there are some great other choices.

Milk (Filmstalker review)
There's a bit of contention here and I thought long and hard about this film. It was released in 2008, I know, but releases outside of a limited US run meant that the world didn't see it until 2009, and I feel I have to amend my 2009 Review to include this now, something I'll gladly do. Milk was a superb film that really championed human rights in America, picking on a poignant story that is incredibly relevant again today. It's a personal story but also a much bigger political issue, and besides being a damn good story it also carries an excellent performance from Sean Penn.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Filmstalker review)
The first part of this two part film, or duology (which isn't even a word!), is the stronger film of the two and allows Vincent Cassel a wonderful environment to really show his acting potential. He's superb in the film, and it's such a stylish and exciting thriller that has you following the lead character and sympathising with him despite his illegal activities on his rise to Public Enemy No. 1. Definitely worth seeing, and definitely worth a shot at the top for 2009.

Moon (Filmstalker review)
This has topped many people's favourite lists this year, the Duncan Jones film starring a Sam Rockwell in top form. It's a solitary tale that really does make great use of it's limited budget to make you believe in a much bigger story, and a much bigger budget. It's a spectacular film, in the styling and in the writing and acting, Jones has cast perfectly and pulled together a great film with some very interesting points to raise as well as some imaginative moments of filming. Moon could well become one of the classics of science fiction cinema.

Religulous (Filmstalker review)
I suspect that this film won't get the votes that it deserves, probably because it wasn't seen enough, or wasn't seen by the right people, for Religulous is far from anything religious, in fact it would definitely be seen by those in organised religions as quite a negative film. Perhaps that's why it didn't do so well, but for me and an impartial, open minded viewing, it's a very well made documentary with humour and seriousness in equal abandon, turning towards the more serious side of organised religion as the film goes on.

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie with the lead character appearing as more of a fighter than the straight thinker he has become known for, with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in the roles of Holmes and Watson, all sounded a bit odd from the beginning and a real gamble. However the gamble has paid off and there's a lot of praise for the film as well as decent returns. A strong film, and it's definitely going to kick off a foundation for a franchise, but does it come near the best of 2009?

Star Trek (Filmstalker review)
I struggled with Star Trek, and not because I'm obsessed with the franchise, but because this new Star Trek dropped the most important ingredient of the series for me, the relationships. Oh yes, the film had them, but it didn't take the time to build and reinforce them, and the development was limited to moments during the action sequences. As for the development of the bad guy, don't get me started. Still it delivered a lot and was a strong action adventure film, not my top film of the year, but I suspect some votes will be coming its way.

State of Play
This adaptation of a British television mini-series seems to have sparked the recent Edge of Darkness forward, and both films are strong contenders within their respective years. State of Play changed the original series to fit the new surroundings of the political and media environment of America, and the adaptation worked really well. With strong direction and powerful performances, the film delivered well and did the original proud.

With the children's animation bookended by some darker adult sections, some children found this a little too much to watch, however adults were touched and moved by it, and entertained by the central part of the film. Yet some thought that the children's part was too child friendly and didn't keep an adult theme, or at least a taste, to the rest of the story. Still, it's appearing in a lot of people's best of the year and may well get your vote.

Watchmen (Filmstalker review)
Another film that splits audiences. Watchmen fans loved it or hated it, with some believing that it should never have been so literally followed and others praising Zack Snyder for the superb job he did in the adaptation of the complex and weighty graphic novel into film. I think he's done an amazing job, and fans of the novel should be praising it no end, for come the next adaptation of their favourite material and I guarantee they'll be complaining about the interpretation. Watchmen was stunning film-making and a really great film.

Where the Wild Things Are
Although I liked the look of the trailers and the voice actors involved, I didn't really take to Where the Wild Things Are as much as others, perhaps as it wasn't one of the books of my childhood, which it seems to be for a lot of others. A fun tale with a nice streak of adult darkness through it, I've heard that it is worth being in this list from sources I trust. Of course none of it is down to me and it's all about you voting and deciding what you think is the best.

The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte)
Michael Haneke writes and directs this film of strange events which seem to be ritualistic abuse and punishment of children in a north German village just before World War I. A film that has been talked about a lot, sports a number of confusing trailers, but is high on my must catch up on list. The IMDB rating is higher than a lot of the other films around it.

Zombieland (Filmstalker review)
Light hearted fare still manages to get into this list, and quite rightly so. There's nothing overly taxing or difficult about Zombieland, and that's the way it should be, for this is all about the fun ride aspect and Zombieland delivers just that. Some great set-up moments and a well styled film coupled with two great moments of casting, one which I can reveal as Woody Harrelson, and the other should remain a surprise until you see it. A great fun film.

So that's the list, and a big one at that. With some people saying that production is grinding to a halt on anything but very low budget or huge epic productions, I think they have to look back to this past year to see that there are still some great films being made.

It's up to you to vote though and decide what's the Best of 2009, and to add some more complications to the choices, here is the list of the almost made it films:

The Box, Brothers (not yet fully released), Duplicity (Filmstalker review), Harry Brown, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, In the Loop, Invictus (not yet fully released), Law Abiding Citizen (Filmstalker review), New York, I Love You, Outrage (Filmstalker review), The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (Filmstalker review), A Prophet (Un prophète), Public Enemies (Filmstalker review), The Road, A Serious Man, Sin Nombre, Terminator Salvation (Filmstalker review), Up in the Air.

So that's all. We've reached the final year in the decade (no singing rubbish songs from Europe now) and the next time we convene will be to close the polls, gather the results, and then vote on the best of the films you've voted for year by year, and that will be the Filmstalker Reader's Best of the Decade.

Meanwhile, make sure your votes are in for the rest of the year: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000.



I would agree with your assessment that The Cove is not something you would expect from a standard documentary. This documentary very well put together from a film point of view and the viewer is also shown the details on how much of the video was filmed. I came away from watching this movie emotionally drained. This movie should only be watched by adults.

You don't have Basterds on the poll, and it was the best film of 2009. Also, as an atheist, I found Religulous deeply insulting. Bill Maher is smarter than that film and he should know better than preying on easy targets like people who believe the literal word of the Bible.


Three of the best films of '09.

Hey Dougie, thanks for the notice there, I've just added it back into the poll and it should be there within ten minutes.

On the subject of Religulous I don't see how his highlighting the less mainstream aspects of religious belief can be insulting to you if you're an atheist.

Why shouldn't he highlight them? I don't really see the rationale as to why Maher should ignore them. The beliefs are real and people do believe the literal world of all of the religious texts that were featured in the documentary.

I found it insulting because..

Lets say I'm Creationist Christian, and you're Catholic, and you probably reckon that I'm a bit thick to honestly believe the literal word of the bible, from the talking snake to the ark, whereas you accept that some of the stories in the Bible are there as life lessons to give guidance when your faith needs it.

Now despite our disagreements, we're both kinda similar people. Good, law-abiding citizens. We give money and time to the community and, if modesty allows it, heaven-bound when the time comes. And that's what's important. It's not the little things, it's whether you're a good person to the others around you. Thomas Hamilton isn't getting into heaven the kids he killed because he observed lent and they were sneaking chocolate.

But Maher ignored all that and seemed all too eager to get the camera on a consenting Christian, who was being very 'Christian' in the manners by letting the camera crew into their lives, to try explain that a) not all Christians believe the literal word, and b) even if they did, would it matter, provided they were still decent, honest people.

I remember reading about the film way before it came out and being excited about it, but that vanished when I saw just how lazy the film was. It makes little to no attempt at breaking down just WHY someone believes something, especially in situations where it's not what they were brought up with (I'd very much like to explore what changed my mind on relgion).

It saddens me that the foremost spokesmen for my (lack-of) faith are people like Maher or Dawkins, as they seem to me to be just as extreme-minded as the victims in Maher's film.

(I'm also aware that the more prominent people in many, if not all, other faiths can be looked at with the same disgust I have for Maher and Dawkins, but that's just my perspective, from outside the circle).

I'll probably want to read this back, as I'm quite tired, but what the hell, I can always clear up anything confusing later.

Okay, I get what you're saying, and I can agree with your comments on Religulous. I wouldn't say lazy so much though, probably more as you said about easy or cheap targets. It would have had much more impact had he delved deeper into the reasoning behind them, or gone for harder, more mainstream targets.

I also see what he was doing though, pointing out some extremes of religion, and that worked as well.

Interesting that you feel disgust for Maher and Dawkins, I'm sure that you'll probably downgrade that after reading it again. I have a lot of respect for Dawkins actually, even though he can be rather fringe himself. He's definitely not my spokesperson though, that's me!

It was really hard not to vote for Avatar. Despite any criticisms of the plot (which I actually liked), it was a true cinematic tour de force, and it will be regarded as a landmark film. Moon got my vote, though, because it reminded me you don't need to spend a gazillion dollars to make a great film, and you don't need to rely on computer-generated special effects to make science fiction.

Looking back on it, I'm happy with what I said regarding Maher and Dawkins. They're both incredibly intelligent people, and maybe they feel that religion is such an incredibly horrible thing, but that doesn't mean they should push their ideas down theist's throats. Dawkins especially, is far too, if you'll allow it, preachy.

Atheism isn't short of famous supporters, but it feels a bit like we've let the fundamentalist ones take the reins. Ricky Gervais has always been interesting to listen to when discussing faith (or lack thereof), as has Harlan Ellison.

Kind of back on topic, I saw 500 Days of Summer this morning, and it was an absolute fucking delight. I watched it after breaking my heart over The Cove and it was great medicine. Still Bastards for top place though.

I've gone for Watchmen. I've seen it about 5 or 6 times, and the sheer depth and richness of the film is amazing.

I loved the comic, but I never thought it could ever be filmed, especially while keeping the fan boys happy, and I include myself in that group.

I've heard some people say that it follows the comic a bit too closely. My take on it is that the comic was as near perfect as possible, so sticking to the source material makes sense.

The other part that blew me away were the opening titles, just staggering really.

Of course the downside if feeling slightly inadequate as a guy with a 12 foot willy walks around the screen.

The close but no cigar goes to Moon, Let The Right One In, and Inglourious Basterds. As a family we loved The Fantastic Mt Fox, and Milk just stunned.


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