Usually I don’t do a Top 10 movie list. I don’t see the point. But a few people asked what my top ten would be and I thought for a blog I might as well compile one. I also thought --with the Oscars jumping to 10 movies for “Best Picture” -- it works on that level, too.

I don’t see every film that comes out. I missed “Goodbye Solo” which I’m guessing would’ve made my list. I missed “Bright Star”, a movie about an interesting poet (Keats). I heard it was slow, and couldn’t talk anyone into going with me.

There was “Sugar” about minor league baseball (and Dominican players); a different take for a sports film. But the ending was weak and there just wasn’t enough there.

My top ten are as follows.

  1. AVATAR. In 3D, this was simply the best movie of the year. Any critic that doesn’t have it on their Top 10 list is…well, they’re the Giovanni Ribis character in real life. The movie just made a billion dollars world wide…it’s about time I learn how to properly say the title. I always think of the word “aviator” and it throws me off.

  2. UP. I’m guessing the other “up” movie (Up in the Air) will be on more critics lists. I’m not even a fan of animated pictures (which is why I missed that Fox flick), but this blew me away. A few scenes had me crying my eyes out. I’m convinced Pixar can do no wrong.

  3. FUNNY PEOPLE. No scenes in this movie made me cry, and there was a character dying of cancer. But I found it to be a comedy that was actually funny. And the way it showed comedians working on their material and running it by each other – amazing stuff. One time it’s Seth Rogen talking about his weight loss to an uninterested Jonah Hill. Another time, it’s Rogen listening to a horrible comedian who does well on stage because of his manic energy. And to see great comedic minds riff on a subject, even when it involves a friend getting emotional over his grandfathers death, well…this movie is a must see.

  4. A SERIOUS MAN. Pixar can do no wrong, but the Coen brothers can. Last year, their “No Country For Old Men” was good, but not great. And they’ve done a few clunkers (The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty). This merely has an awful intro. The rest is solid. And geez, how great is Richard Kind? I loved him in the last three films he’s been in.

  5. THE MESSENGER. This is by far, the best war picture of the year. The Hurt Locker was good, but the silliness of the second half killed it. The performances in “Brothers” didn’t work, and it had problems. But this was highly emotional and very interesting. Who would’ve thought there’d be so many rules to follow when you show up at a door to inform a family their child died in combat? If Woody Harrelson gets nominated for an Oscar, I’ll be bummed. The performance of Ben Foster (so great in “3:10 to Yuma”) and his love interest, blew Woody out of the water.

  6. ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL. This documentary on a heavy metal band will pull at your heart strings as if they were on a Gibson Les Paul. You may even be humming “Metal to Metal” or “Thumb Hang” for the next few days. Who would’ve thought a real life Spinal Tap would be so fun to watch. And that you’d actually care about (and root for) the band members.

  7. GOOD HAIR. I can’t believe I’m putting a second documentary on the list. One critic I really respect, put the documentary “Pulling John” which dealt with arm wrestlers, on his Top 10 list. It was okay. “Tyson” was an interesting documentary, but it lost something with just him narrating. In previous years, great documentaries like “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” and “King of Kong” got overlooked. And it would be a shame for Chris Rock’s film, despite lawsuits involving it, not getting on any lists. It deals with what African-Americans go thru with their hair; hysterical and interesting, even more so if you aren’t African-American and weren’t aware of all these hair products and expenses.

  8. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. I’m not a fan of Zooey Deschanel, but she’s perfect in this. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of “3rd Rock From the Sun” fame, has become an interesting actor. He did the high school noir film “Brick” which I loved, and “The Lookout,” a few years back (I had an interesting conversation about that with actor Mathew Goode, who played a great villain with an American accent). The soundtrack is hip and great. Something that the movie “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” tried unsuccessfully to capture last year. And who wouldn’t love the musical sequence involving an entire city dancing along to Hall & Oates when Levitt finally spends the night with the woman he’s pined after at work for months? Although, it was weird that they picked the same song that bonded Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in “Step Brothers.”

  9. MOON. I hate to use that cliché that movie critics always do when compiling lists of the best films of the year. They say “It was a weak year for movies,” but this year it really was. And that’s the reason Moon was able to creep its way onto my list. It got a lot of attention because it was done by David Bowie’s kid (no, they didn’t play the song Space Oddity). It’s so derivative of so many movies (most notably 2001, with Kevin Spacey even doing the “HAL” voice). But watching Sam Rockwell slowly go nuts is a blast. I can easily picture other actors going over the top with this character, and it’s one of the reasons Rockwell is one of the best actors working today (I liked him in the underrated “Everybody’s Fine” from this year).

  10. ADVENTURELAND. So many teen comedies don’t work for me. I love when I’m pleasantly surprised with movies like Election, Clueless, or Mean Girls. It keeps me from talking about John Hughes being the only filmmaker that nailed this genre. The movie wasn’t as funny as the commercials would’ve led you to believe. And as much as I love SNL cast members Wiig and Handle playing the couple that runs the amusement park, they at times almost kill the vibe by playing bosses that are inept. The other characters are well written; the nerds weren’t complete nerds. The gorgeous girls didn’t just act snobby to everyone. And the cool guy that turns out to be a poser, is very believable. That’s because this was such a well-written picture. And as one screenwriter said (Diablo Cody) “How can you go wrong with a story that has roller coasters as a backdrop?”

An honorable mention goes to “A Single Man,” perhaps the most beautifully shot film this year, and the best use of flashbacks I’ve seen in years (often times flashbacks are done grainy; these were done in color, with the current scenes being shot in a different light). Brokeback Mountain wasn’t romantic in the least (and not just because I’m straight), but “A Single Man” actually was, which made us feel Colin Firth’s pain (he’ll surely get an Oscar nomination). Moore was good, but hardly deserves the Oscar nomination she’ll get as his best friend/drinking buddy.

“An Education” was good, with great performances. Young actress Carey Mulligan will be getting a nomination (she was also the best thing about “Brothers”). Her dad in the movie, Alfred Molina – always aces.

“District 9” I enjoyed more than I thought I would. If this were a Top 25 list…

…and, the commercials for “In the Loop” had my laughing, but I never saw it. I do steal a quote from the film which my friend told me. “I’m not going to read you the Riot Act, but I’m gonna give you excerpts from it.”

A few movies that don’t deserve Honorable Mention, but will be on other critics lists and I figure are worth at least mentioning:

Up in the Air. It was good, but a bit flawed and clichéd in parts to truly warrant the praise it’s getting (Clooney will get an Oscar nomination).

Precious (I’m not going to write the whole dorky title) was good, but not great. I’d love to see that actress get a nomination. And I’d love to see Mo’nique win Best Supporting Actress. I’m guessing she will.

The Hurt Locker was highly overrated, and the second half of the movie sinks it for me. Same thing with “Inglorious Basterds,” which started off so promising, with perhaps the most intense opening scene I’ve seen in years.

“Crazy Heart” I have not yet seen, but find it odd that Jeff Bridges, who sings and plays guitar in real life, will get a nomination for doing it in film (and playing a boozer to boot). If Kris Kristofferson played this part (which he’d do wonderfully), he wouldn’t get an Oscar nod, so why will Bridges?

The Informant! Okay, but with horrible music (sorry Hamlisch) and a few other problems, it would be relegated to my Top 25 list, as would “World’s Greatest Dad.” I think comedian Bobcat Goldthwait is a talent, but casting his friend Robin Williams hurt this movie. Williams played serious so well in “Good Will Hunting,” yet in the scenes here, he does this thing where he bites his lip as he yells at his son, and you aren’t sure what’s going on. I was expecting him to start talking like Mork or Popeye.

And another comedy -- The Hangover -- was okay, but not great. I’m apparently the only person that feels this way, as my friends all loved it. It does have the funniest closing credits you’ll see in a movie.


bushidojohn Jan. 4, 2010 @ 4:24 p.m.

Very good list. Though I would include Me and Orson Welles and Bright Star (it is slow but it is well worth it, particularly for Abbie Cornish's performance).

Love the love for The Messenger!


cold666pack Jan. 4, 2010 @ 4:53 p.m.

Josh how could you leave off Whip It? It was AWESOME!!!!


cold666pack Jan. 4, 2010 @ 4:55 p.m.

Oh my god, and Star Trek for God's sake. That was probably the best movie in my book of 2009, hands down.


cold666pack Jan. 4, 2010 @ 4:58 p.m.

Jesus Mary and Joseph why do i have to have thoughts so sporadically and disjointedly? I wanted to add that Julie and Julia was on my worst movies list. I had a lotta hope for thisw movie cuz i love to cook and all but it just was so lame it broke my heart.


thestoryteller Jan. 4, 2010 @ 5:34 p.m.

I was pleasantly surprised by "Whatever Works." I figured it would stink like so many others, but I found it entertaining. I'll see the movies on your list. I find most movies so boring, I get half way through them then give up or fall asleep in the theater.


Josh Board Jan. 4, 2010 @ 5:58 p.m.

I was a bit disappointed with WHATEVER WORKS. I didn't think it worked. A few good scenes, and great choice of casting by Woody Allen, but it was like an unfunny and longer episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Bushido: I wanted to see Me & Orson Wells, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Great move by Zack Effron taking that part, instead of some crappy teen film for an easy paycheck.

I didn't see Whip It. I don't like the Devo song, and I don't like Drew Barrymore in movies. I also thought it looked like Ellen Page (so great in Hard Candy and Juno) was miscast.

I never saw Star Trek, but my stepbrother and a few friends, tell me it was great and even though I'm not a "trekkie" I'd enjoy it.

Meryl Streep isn't so reliable anymore. Her acting is still wonderful, but her choice of scripts, I'm not so sure about. Julia didn't get the best reviews (and I don't cook), so I avoided it. Unfortunately, I saw "It's Complicated" and it wasn't very good. But she cried in it, so she'll probably get an Oscar nomination.


rickeysays Jan. 4, 2010 @ 6:14 p.m.

"Me and Orson Wells" was just OK, in my opinion. Same for "Whip It". I really like Ellen Page, so I wanted to like it, but there just wasn't that much there. But you know, I just saw the top ten lists from the two guys that do the "At The Movies" show now, and there were only two movies on both lists ("Hurt Locker" and "Where The Wild Things Are"), so that shows how much of this is personal taste. With that as an introduction, here's my list. Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back. UP Where The Wild Things Are Hurt Locker Sunshine Cleaning Funny People Star Trek Avatar 500 Days Of Summer Up In The Air Li Tong

and special mention to two documentaries, The Philosopher Kings, and Old Partner.


Josh Board Jan. 4, 2010 @ 7 p.m.

Good list, but a few things.

What the heck is Li Tong?

And, I've always wanted to sound like a one of those pretentious, New Yorker reading pompous book snobs and say this about a movie. I'll say it about "Where the Wild Things Are". THE BOOK WAS BETTER!

Ya know what? I completely forgot about Sunshine Cleaning. It's not as good as the directors previous film (Little Miss Sunshine), but I would've easily put it on my list for this year. So...I'm redoing my list. Dropping "Adventureland" and replacing it with "Sunshine Cleaning".


PistolPete Jan. 4, 2010 @ 7:58 p.m.

The trailer for Avatar made it seem so cliche. The other movies I have no clue about. Spending money at the theater just seems like a waste to me. I'm an old school drive-in kind of guy myself. Sneak in some beer, weed and friends and enjoy the cheap movie...


shizzyfinn Jan. 4, 2010 @ 9:21 p.m.

Pete, your suspicions are correct: plot enthusiasts will find Avatar's to be as cliche as they come. Not a lot of chemistry between the actors, either, IMHO. It's the 3-D visuals that set the movie apart. And the visuals are amazing. (Anyone seen it in 2-D? Would love to know if it holds up.)

cold666pack, hear hear on Star Trek - that one has lots of plot, terrific chemistry, and the visuals are darn spiffy, too. In fact, if you take the hype out of the equation, Star Trek probably out-Avatars Avatar.

Josh, I'm with you on The Hangover. Can't figure out where all the love is coming from. I laughed about 4 times, groaned at least 16 times, wanted my money back. The Mike Tyson bit was purely depressing.

As for the intro to A Serious Man, that worked for me - after some reflection. Through almost the whole movie I wondered, "What was that intro supposed to mean?" Then the answer came to me: "Exactly."

Great call on tossing Moon into the mix. I loved that movie, mainly from a special effects standpoint. Seems like life on a moon station would look and feel just like that.


Josh Board Jan. 5, 2010 @ 1:01 a.m.

Shizz...I met a guy working post-production at the movies recently (used him in Off the Cuff, too). He told a great story about Moon and how inexpensive it was to make it look like that, and how other studios are using the same company that did it. I can't remember all the great details, though.

The Tyson scenes in Hangover would've been okay, if we didn't see them all in the commercial. Had that right cross come out of left field, while he's doing the Phil Collins drum solo...okay, that's funny. But not when we already knew it was coming.

Regarding chemistry among the actors in Avatar, I thought Zoe (in her alien makeup) and the Marine, have lots of chemistry.


Josh Board Jan. 5, 2010 @ 1:18 a.m.

I just looked at Roger Eberts list. First, he copped out and made two lists. One for indie films, the other for "blockbusters". Lame.

On his blockbuster list, he has the Nicolas Cage movie Bad Lieutenant. That amazes me. It had some great scenes, but was very poorly written in so many places.

He also has "An Education" (not sure why that's on the blockbuster list), which is good, but not great (and a bit unbelievable, even though it's based on a journalists real story).

Hurt Locker and Precious will be on many critics Top 10 lists, but really shouldn't be. Good movies that aren't great.

But what blew me away was on his indie list, he had "Julia", perhaps the most disappointing movie this year. The first half is so great, as we watch an alcoholic (played wonderfully by the always great Tilda Swinton) mess up time and time again. But it ends up getting so crazy, and characters do things they would've never done, that you really just stop carrying at that point.


shizzyfinn Jan. 5, 2010 @ 8:51 a.m.

You're right about the Tyson bit from The Hangover...the big joke was spoiled in the preview. But the worst part was how his daughter had died in an accident about a month before. Seeing him in the movie reminded me of all the troubles he's had, which put a damper on the comic mood.

According to, Moon was shot in 33 days for $5 million. Also says the movie was shot during the writers' strike, so the director was able to hire lots of effects professionals at bargain prices.

Not only is it odd that Ebert put Bad Lieutenant toward the top of the 2009 pack, but why on his blockbuster list? Almost no one I know has even heard of the movie, and according to, it's grossed a whopping $2 million to date. And I'm not sure where all it played locally, but when I saw it, it was only at Landmark Hillcrest.


Josh Board Jan. 5, 2010 @ 11:26 a.m.

Yeah, I saw it in Hillcrest also.

And why is he putting An Education on a "blockbuster" list?

He claims that he does this because the indie crowd gets mad if it's all blockbusters, and the other crowd gets mad if he does a list of pictures they've never heard of. Well, tell them to all go jump off a cliff. A good movie is a good movie. If the ten best of the year are all indie pictures, so be it. If they're all blockbusters like Avatar, oh well.

Usually, I'm guessing, it would be a nice mix of both. I swear, the amount of times I talk film with someone, and they want to go on and on about these indie movies that are so great, and I like to say that...there are just as many bad indie films as there are big blockbusters. They just had a smaller budget.

When I saw the Hangover, it was WELL BEFORE that incident with his daughter happened.


verolicas69 Jan. 7, 2010 @ 9:27 p.m.

I really enjoyed It Might Get Loud. I saw it for free at an FM 9.49 screening at Hillcrest Cinemas and oh man!! Now it's out on video, and it's even better the 2nd time!! You have to see if you love music, have a soul or if you're just breathing!!


Josh Board Jan. 8, 2010 @ 2:05 a.m.

It Might Get Loud was great. Nothing like watching Jack White and Jimmy Page jam on an underrated Zeppelin tune (I can take or leave the Edge). Why wouldn't he take off that ski cap???


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