Call us greedy, but we've said it once, and we'll say it again: Ten is not enough. While nearly all movie critics engage in the time-honored tradition of ranking their picks for 10 best flicks of the year, we prefer to take this time of year to recognize the admirable quantity of quality movies being produced, despite our occasional moaning that says otherwise. Therefore, like we have the past several years, we count to 50.

The big stories from 2009's list: Family fare ruled, with four animated films ranking in our top 15. It was also a good year for action and big budget movies, even if six of the year's 10 highest grossing movies didn't make the cut (prior to 'Avatar's' final figures, anyway). And perhaps the biggest lesson learned? Movies with the word "up" in the title totally rock. At least this year.

Presenting our 50 favorite films of 2009...


50. 'Where the Wild Things Are'
Adapting a much-beloved, 10-sentence children's book into a movie seemed like an impossible feat -- and director Spike Jonze's efforts resulted in perhaps the year's most divisive movie. But no one can deny that the film's dreamy cinematography and soaring soundtrack captured the melancholic essence of the Maurice Sendak's original work. And then there's the titular wild things, all soulful eyes and existential angst, who made our hearts rumpus. -- Kelly Woo

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49. 'Michael Jackson's This Is It'
The King of Pop's death rekindled a myriad of emotions from anger to admiration, but it was the release of 'This Is It' four months later that eschewed ideas of Jackson: The Man and focused on Jackson: The Performer. At its core, the film reminded former and current fans of the energy, determination and talent it took to be, at one time, the world's most popular entertainer and the unfulfilled promise of an imminent triumphant comeback. -- Jason Newman

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48. 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs'
'Cloudy' was one of 2009's many family-friendly 3D offerings that managed to stand out (pun intended!) thanks to its flawless animation and obvious jabs at Hollywood's big-budget disaster flicks. And with comedic stars Bill Hader and Anna Faris voicing the leads in a kooky story about a town in danger of being overcome by its food-flavored weather, this one rained hilarity. -- Alicia Roda

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47. 'Earth'
Let James Cameron spend hundreds of millions creating a breathtakingly beautiful distant planet. There were no special effects needed to inspire similar awe in Disney's first in a series of new nature films, which played like a highlight reel from the beloved BBC series 'Planet Earth.' This eco-friendly, dazzling doc deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as 'March of the Penguins.' (Better yet, it sees 'Penguins' narrator Morgan Freeman and raises it a James Earl Jones.) -- Kevin Polowy

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46. 'In the Loop'
This whip-smart political satire starring Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini is a funny, refreshingly crude and frighteningly eye-opening look at the behind-the-scenes machinations that occur when the British Secretary of State inadvertently publicly backs a war, igniting a PR sh**storm. If this is truly what goes on in government, we're all in trouble. -- Tom DiChiara

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44. 'The September Issue'
She may be a devil in Prada, as some movies suggest. But here, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is seen as a dedicated, hard-working and -- dare we say it -- likable figure in this breezy doc from R.J. Cutler. The real scene stealer, though, is creative director Grace Coddington, whose no-nonsense, carefree attitude provides the perfect yin to Wintour's yang. Suddenly, September is the new black. -- Andy Scott

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45. 'It's Complicated'
'Something's Gotta Give' director Nancy Meyers, master of the middle-aged romantic comedy, delivers an uproarious look at what happens when a 10-years-divorced couple (an effervescent Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, channeling Jack Donaghy) have a secret affair. Hint: earth-shattering sex, inappropriate pot-smoking and Baldwin's naked buttocks on Skype. -- TD

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43. 'Duplicity'
Those of us who loved 'Duplicity' were simultaneously thrilled and depressed by it -- thrilled because it was smart, funny, sharply written and featured top-notch (and sexy) performances by Clive Owen and Julia Roberts as competitive spies; depressed because this smart, funny, sharply written, well-acted movie went nowhere at the box office. Well, they can't all be 'Transformers 2.' -- Patricia Chui

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42. 'Ponyo'
Remember the first time you saw 'The Little Mermaid'? Now picture that same magical undersea adventure in the simple, delightfully sweet style of anime. The guru of the medium, Hayao Miyazaki ('Spirited Away,' 'Princess Mononoke'), created this whimsical G-rated treat, but it was the boss over at Pixar who brought it to the U.S., nabbing big names like Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Tina Fey and Matt Damon to voice the English translation. -- Maggie Furlong

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41. 'Drag Me to Hell'
Sam Raimi returns to his B-movie roots (see the 'Evil Dead' series) with a flick that reminds us horror movies don't have to be torture (or better yet, torture porn). In fact, they can be a whole lot of fun to watch ... especially when they're filled with chills, laughs and tons of gross stuff flying into Alison Lohman's mouth. -- TD

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40. 'The Informant!'
A black comedy surrounding the moral deficiency of corporate culture, Steven Soderbergh's 'Informant!' stars a nearly unrecognizable Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a half-witted, deranged executive coerced by the FBI into blowing the whistle on his corrupt firm. You can't help but chuckle at Damon's genius in such bizzare form (not to mention that 'stache), despite a conscious awareness that the film and its message are no laughing matters. -- AR

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39. 'Tyson'
This is no documentary; this is the baring of a soul. Director James Toback knocked us out with an unflinching, extreme close-up of the man, the myth, the contradiction known as Mike Tyson. The split-screens used throughout aptly show the many faces of the boxer: proud, angry, cocky, funny, lonely, vulnerable. In the end, 'Tyson' is a tragedy -- and a tale of survival. -- KW

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38. 'World's Greatest Dad'
One of the most pleasant surprises of the year, this deliciously demented black comedy shocked us in more ways than one: It's directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (yes that Bobcat Goldthwait), stars a likable, understated Robin Williams (not the obnoxious, over-the-top Robin Williams) and gets better as it goes along. 'Dad' is twisted in all the right ways, brims with clever satire, and features Williams' best turn in year. And if that's not enough, there's also a cameo by Bruce Hornsby! -- KP

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37. 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans'
For all the duds Nicolas Cage has unleashed recently ('Bangkok Dangerous,' 'Next,' 'Wicker Man' ... need we go on?), it was a relief to find the actor in a turn so unhinged and maniacal it was like 1988 all over again. Cage's wild performance alone would've been reason to see this project that once had "unnecessary retooling" written all over it, but the always reliable Werner Herzog injected it with enough aberrance to make it one of the year's most unlikely critics' darlings. – KP

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36. 'Sherlock Holmes'
What if Arthur Conan Doyle's master sleuth were just as adept with his fists as with his brain? He'd be Robert Downey Jr.'s bare-knuckle-boxing Holmes in this slick reinvention of the Brit detective. The dialogue snaps, the action comes fast and furious, and Downey and Jude Law (as his loyal but frustrated sidekick Watson) have better chemistry than most rom-com couples. Yes, the game truly is afoot. -- TD

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35. 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil'
'Anvil!' is that rare type of film that's about heavy metal that non-metal fans can still watch the hell out of. This hysterical and touching documentary follows the one metal band that didn't thrive in the '80s (despite influencing Metallica, Megadeth and all those who did) as they try to find a way to come back and succeed. It's a heartfelt film about the human spirit, determination ... and rocking out. -- Mike Hess

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34. 'Julie & Julia'
Mix a saucy Meryl Streep with a warm helping of Amy Adams and a dash of Stanley Tucci, and you get this delicious confection of a movie. Streep outdoes even herself portraying chef Julia Child -- and we don't just mean that perfectly-attuned voice. You don't need to be a foodie to appreciate the vivacious Child's zest for French cuisine, her husband and life. Salud! -- KW

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33. 'Broken Embraces'
Genius Pedro Almodovar and his magic muse Penelope Cruz strike again (shocking!). Recalling Almodovar-esque themes of love, jealousy and betrayal, the auteur's latest is told through the flashbacks of Spanish writer "Harry," whose life is riddled with tragedy and damning passion. Cruz, sultry and vulnerable as ever, is Lena, a complex, ambitious actress at the heart of his tale. There's simply nothing wrong with 'Broken Embraces.' -- AR

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32. 'A Single Man'
Colin Firth is a revelation in Tom Ford's auspicious directorial debut. In a rare moment, Firth sheds his brooding Mr. Darcy persona as he steps into George's shoes, playing a gay man planning suicide after the death of his lover. The film's lush '60s style is highlighted in a short, but crucial, scene, in which George has dinner with his best friend, Charlotte (Julianne Moore). It's all held together by the meticulous Ford, who, after one film, is already proving to be well-suited for the director's chair. -- AS

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31. 'Adventureland'
Coming of age dramedies are a dime a dozen these days, so it's always a treat to find one that manages to be fresh, funny -- and not entirely clichéd. 'Superbad' director Greg Mottola scores again with this nostalgic trip to the titular park in the summer of '87 starring a lovable Jesse Eisenberg and an uncharacteristically charismatic Kristen Stewart. Plus, the film confirms what most of us have long suspected: Amusement park games are all rigged!
-- KP

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30. 'Paranormal Activity'
There was insane hype, a clever marketing scheme, a hit, and then the inevitable backlash, but when all's said and done, this sleeper remains one of the scariest horror films of the decade (we challenge you to name three scarier). First-time filmmaker Oren Peli proves once again that less is more, letting much of the horror unfold off-screen and offering real, visceral chills. 'Paranormal' accomplishes the ultimate goal of its genre: it's the rare horror film that makes you scared of your own home. -- KP

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29. 'Whip It'
Drew Barrymore's impressive directorial debut, about a small-town Texas beauty pageant regular (Ellen Page) who embraces her inner badass to become a (Babe) Ruthless roller derby chick, is part feminist opus, part coming-of-age comedy and 100% sheer girl-on-girl (but not in a dirty way) fun. – TD

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28. 'Moon'
Duncan Jones' first film is a visual and philosophical trip -- not surprising when considering the chap's rock star daddy is David Bowie. The film surrounds an existential dilemma, wherein Sam Rockwell, in a remarkable portrayal, is a mentally-tormented astronaut leading a three-year mission on the moon by himself ... or so he thinks. An accidental discovery forces an unraveling of truths that threaten his entire existence. -- AR

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27. 'The Road'
The adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, about a father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee) fighting for survival in a natural-disaster-ravaged, cannibal-populated, post-apocalyptic America is as emotionally powerful as it is visually stunning -- which is saying a lot. 'The Road' can be tough to watch, but it's a journey worth taking. -- TD

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26. 'Sugar'
Husband and wife filmmaking team Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden followed up the exceptional 'Half Nelson' with this beautifully photographed drama about a young Dominican struggling to make it in baseball's minor league farm system. It's the most realistic portrait of professional ball we've seen yet, a touching and deeply resonating film that's like baseball's version of 'Hoop Dreams.' -- KP

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25. 'The Blind Side'
It's easy to see why America has fallen head over heels for this true-life story of Leigh Anne Toughy (Sandra Bullock), a well-to-do white Memphis woman, and Michael Oher, the black teen (Quintin Aaron) she adopts off the streets and nurtures into a star athlete. It's irresistible, charming, reliably inspirational and it comes with a fairy-tale ending we know actually happened. Of course, it's also got football -- and is truly the greatest tale of a left tackle ever produced. -- KP

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24. 'Food, Inc.'
Denial. It's what's for dinner ... breakfast, lunch and snacks. It's also why you might want to put that cheeseburger down (if you didn't after seeing 'Super Size Me') and face the hard facts presented in this stunning expose. Oft-referred-to as the "scariest movie of 2009," this doc is a mind-boggling -- and stomach-turning -- look into the bowels, er, mechanics of the companies and government agencies largely responsible for America's E.coli-related illnesses and escalating obesity epidemic. -- AR

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23. 'Crazy Heart'
At age 60, Jeff Bridges proves he's still got it in this quiet but crowd-pleasing adaptation of Thomas Cobb's novel. Here, he plays Bad Blake, a boozing country singer who quite literally lives up to his name. It's a big performance in a small film that is sure to earn Bridges an illustrious fifth Oscar nomination -- and quite possibly his first win (yep, he's that good). -- AS

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22. 'The Messenger'
You know that gut-wrenching moment in any war-related film where a mother or father or wife opens the door to find two military men on the doorstep, and their presence alone signifies that inconceivable tragedy? Oren Moverman's powerful debut is full of them -- making this drama starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson (in career-best performances) one of the year's hardest films to watch. But it's also one of the most rewarding, an insightful character study that'll leave you moved. -- KP

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21. 'I Love You, Man'
There exists a minority of us movie lovers who consider this gut-buster the best comedy of the year -- yep, even over a certain Vegas-set blockbuster. Master of improv Paul Rudd proves he may just be the funniest guy working in Hollywood as an impossibly amiable, recently engaged real estate agent on the hunt for a best man (enter Jason Segel, in his funniest stint yet). 'I Love You, Man' is the bromance to end all bromances -- so let's take a break from all the bromances for a while, shall we? -- KP

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20. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'
Harry Potter's all grown up. The latest visually stunning installment in the series raises the dramatic stakes to frightening, life-and-death levels, as the evil Voldemort makes headway against the forces of good. Danger abounds all around, but so does love (there's snogging everywhere!), and the main trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have blossomed into mature actors who can handle it all. -- KW

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19. 'A Serious Man'
The Coen bothers are back in fine form (which, depending on your take on 'Burn After Reading,' they make never have left) in what many are calling their most personal film to date with this comedic drama about a Minnesota college professor's (Michael Stuhlbarg) life quickly coming to pieces. The film is rich with the duo's signature dark humor, and while not all of it made perfect sense, we had fun trying to figure it out, anyway. -- AS

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18. 'District 9'
Overrated? Not at all. Neill Blomkamp's first feature gave us something new: a sci-fi movie with brains, an action flick that spoke movingly against segregation while still thrilling us with exploding alien heads and oozing black goo. It's no exaggeration to call this film brilliant -- and we can only hope the sequel exhibits the same scrappy daring. Save Wikus! – PJC

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17. 'Nine'
None of the songs from Rob Marshall's musical -- based on the stage musical, which was based on Fellini's '8 1/2' -- are what you'd call hummable. But that's a forgivable flaw when you have such fine acting from Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard (who deserves a second Oscar) and Judi Dench (who deserves our eternal awe). It won't revolutionize the genre, but it's stylish, attractive, sexy, and entertaining ... yup, we'll take it. -- PJC

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16. 'Invictus'
Clint Eastwood's true-life tale of how newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela (a spot-on Morgan Freeman) teamed up with the captain of the nation's rugby team (Matt Damon) to unite the apartheid-torn land with a run at the 1995 World Cup hits all the right notes. It's both an inspirational sports drama and a portrait of an inspired leader, with Oscar-caliber performances from its two leads and a heavy helping of that magical ingredient: feel-good. -- TD

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15. 'The Princess and the Frog'
While much of the pre-release hype surrounded the significance of Disney's first African-American princess (a long-overdue accomplishment not to be dismissed), it proved only one reason to celebrate this triumph. In a year ruled by 3D, stop-motion animation, motion-capture technology, etc, Disney went back to its roots and crafted a charming, toe-tapping and timeless tale in that good ol' classic hand-drawn style. -- KP

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14. '(500) Days of Summer'
Tired of the same-old, run-o'-the-mill romantic comedies? Here's the antidote -- a film so solid it feels strange to group in that dubious genre. Told out of order with a kickass soundtrack, whimsical flourishes (including a fantasy sequence involving Hall & Oates), and stellar turns by leads/part-time lovers Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, 'Summer' is what so few love stories are these days: lovely. -- TD

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13. 'Zombieland'
The Bill Murray cameo alone is worth the price of admission to this undead-ridden action-comedy, but it's the dysfunctional Butch-Sundance dynamic between zombie slayers Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg that makes this flick so bloody fun to watch. That, and the incredibly inventive ways it concocts to off the undead. Our favorite: death by banjo. -- TD

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12. 'The Cove'
Widespread love for dolphins dates back to the days of 'Flipper,' and comes full circle with this expose of their mass slaughter occurring in Japan (some 23,000 are killed a year), the best documentary of the year. Louie Psihoyos' doc is equal parts thrilling and heartbreaking -- he crafts a mission to uncover the slaughter as a full-on caper; the film then climaxes with one of the most devastating (and disturbing) scenes ever committed to non-fiction filmmaking. -- KP

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11. 'Coraline'
Ushering in the 2009 trend of children's movies perhaps best appreciated by adults, the stop-motion animated 'Coraline' is dazzlingly inventive, eye-poppingly beautiful ... and scary as all-get-out. Coraline's richly strange and imaginative world gave us one of the best 3D movies ever made, and it will stay with us for a long, long time, even if that's sometimes unfortunately manifested through horrible nightmares involving button eyes. -- PJC

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10. 'The Hangover'
Not since 'Borat' have we laughed as hard (and constantly) as during 'The Hangover,' the rare laugher in which nearly every scene is hysterical. Sure, it made Bradley Cooper leading man material, but the real stars are breakout Zach Galifianakis -- who steals every single scene he speaks in -- and Ken Jeong's (making stereotypes hilarious as Mr. Chow). Add in Ed Helms' missing tooth and a Phil Collins-loving Mike Tyson, and that's the formula for laughing till you cry. It's the biggest comedy of all time for a reason. -- MH

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9. 'Precious'
Oscar winner Mo'Nique. You may want to get used to saying that, because her brilliant, out-of-left field performance in 'Precious' is generating the kinds of raves that most actors can only dream of. And while 'Precious' may not be the feel-good film of the year, this ultimately triumphant story is supported by an ensemble of terrific performances worth seeing, newcomer Gabourey Sidibe in the lead. Even Mariah Carey shines as a social worker, in a performance that will almost make you forget that disaster called 'Glitter.' Almost. -- AS

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8. 'Star Trek'
After so much speculation, it didn't seem as though J.J. Abrams' reinvention of 'Star Trek' could possibly deliver. But deliver it did, with a terrific ensemble cast (including a snarky new Kirk in Chris Pine), rousing action sequences, and a storyline that sort of almost made sense. It was everything a summer movie should be, and kudos to Abrams for being bold enough to reboot the franchise -- may it live long and prosper. -- PJC

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7. 'An Education'
It's not often we get a winning coming-of-age tale told from the female perspective; Lone Scherfig's adaptation of Lynn Barber's is all the more impressive given it was adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby ('High Fidelity'). An elegantly, perfectly construed drama about a mature-beyond-her-years girl (the revelatory Carey Mulligan, one of many top-notch performances here) in postwar, pre-Beatles London, it's a universal tale set in an unmistakably distinct time and place. -- KP

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6. 'The Fantastic Mr. Fox'
Wes Anderson has never been wittier, funnier or more emotionally accessible than he is here ... with a stop-motion animation movie about chicken-pilfering foxes and their animal brethren (featuring the inimitable voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Jason Schwartzman). Go figure. It's like 'The Royal Tenenbaums' meets 'The Nightmare Before Christmas.' Which, of course, is a very, very good thing. -- TD

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5. 'Avatar'
You're probably already tired of hearing about how "James Cameron has completely revolutionized filmmaking" with his 12-years-in-the-making 3D extravaganza. Well, sorry to say it, but he kind of has. 'Avatar' is the first movie in which 3D is seamlessly integrated into almost every scene to eye-popping and, frankly, gorgeous effect. Heck, watching this groundbreaking epic might even make you feel like you're king of the world. – TD

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4. 'The Hurt Locker'
Director Kathryn Bigelow allows little breathing room in this suspense-filled war drama about a special unit (including Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie) tasked to defuse bombs in Iraq. The film's tightly-shot, almost documentary feel, captures military conflict in ways that other films this decade have failed, and may go down as one of the best war movies ever made. For now, at least, it's one of the very best of '09. – AS

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3. 'Inglourious Basterds'
Aldo Raine wasn't lying in 'Inglorious Basterds' when he stated his crew's lone goal: "Killin' Nazis." What he didn't explain is just how awesome and entertaining their Hitler-hunting journey would be, thanks to Quentin Tarantino's unparalleled storytelling abilities and dialogue matched by stellar acting (see: Christoph Waltz). There's action, there's film-geek fodder, and yes, there's someone named Bear Jew turning Nazi skulls into pudding with a baseball bat. It's tongue-in-cheek revenge that only someone as twisted -- and talented -- as QT could pull off. -- MH

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2. 'Up'
Everyone knew Pixar's latest was going to be good (it's Pixar, duh!), but nothing about "an old man attaches balloons to his house and flies away" prepared us for the heartbreaking sadness, the meltingly tender love story, the wondrous journey and the irrepressible sense of fun that permeated this truly exquisite film. It's no small thing to say this, but 'Up' might just be the best movie Pixar's ever made. -- PJC

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1. 'Up in the Air'
With three feature films now under his belt – 'Thank You for Smoking,' 'Juno' and now this instant classic -- is there any doubt that 32-year-old Jason Reitman is one of Hollywood's best directors? George Clooney somehow makes a corporate downsizer (topical!) lovable and magnetic in a superb lead turn (his best yet), while Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga kill as the distinctly powerful women who change his life. 'Air' is a near-perfect film that is at times bitingly funny, at other times heartrendingly sad -- sort of like life, come to think of it. -- KP

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