The Top 10 Movies of 2009It was a year of overly-hair-gelled vampires, badass boy wizards, hungover idiots and shape-shifting robots; a year when 'Star Trek' became relevant once again and George Clooney and Brad Pitt proved they deserve to be the biggest movie stars on the planet; a year when Sam Raimi reminded us what horror movies are all about and Wes Anderson found his true calling; a year when 'Wild Things' roared and James Cameron became king of the world for a second time (though this go-around he deserves it). In short, 2009 was one heck of a year for people who love to make up these nifty end-of-the-year top 10 lists ... and an even better year for people who simply love to watch movies. The Top 10 Movies of 2009It was a year of overly-hair-gelled vampires, badass boy wizards, hungover idiots and shape-shifting robots; a year when 'Star Trek' became relevant once again and George Clooney and Brad Pitt proved they deserve to be the biggest movie stars on the planet; a year when Sam Raimi reminded us what horror movies are all about and Wes Anderson found his true calling; a year when 'Wild Things' roared and James Cameron became king of the world for a second time (though this go-around he deserves it). In short, 2009 was one heck of a year for people who love to make up these nifty end-of-the-year top 10 lists ... and an even better year for people who simply love to watch movies.

'Drag Me to Hell'10. 'Drag Me to Hell'
Sam Raimi atones nicely for 'Spider-Man 3' with this B-movie gem starring Alison Lohman as a home loan officer who rejects an utterly gross Gypsy woman's plea for an extension and --as is always the case when one rejects an utterly gross Gypsy woman's pleas -- is summarily slapped with a deadly curse. Raimi telegraphs the end a bit, but the movie is filled with enough terror, laughs and delightfully disgusting stuff -- including the aforementioned Gypsy woman's crusty dentures -- flying into Lohman's mouth to more than compensate. Best of all, Raimi reminds us that watching a horror movie doesn't have to be torture (or torture porn); in fact, it can be one 'Hell' of a good time.

'Where the Wild Things Are'9. 'Where the Wild Things Are'
OK, so there really wasn't a coherent story per se, but what'd you expect from a movie based on a 10-line children's book and directed by the guy who gave us 'Adaptation' (that'd be Spike Jonze)? But the plot here is not the point; no film has ever captured more perfectly exactly what it feels like to be an 8-year-old boy, alternately kind and spiteful, loving and hateful, tender and ferocious -- in short, a wild thing.

'Zombieland'8. 'Zombieland'
The Bill Murray cameo alone earns this post-apocalyptic action-comedy instant classic status, but it's the dysfunctional Butch-Sundance dynamic between zombie slayers Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg that makes 'Zombieland' such a hoot. That, and the incredibly inventive ways it concocts to off the undead. My favorite: death by banjo.

'500 Days of Summer'7. '(500) Days of Summer'
Tired of the same-old, run-o'-the-mill rom-coms? Here's the antidote. Told out of order with a kickass soundtrack, whimsical flourishes (including a fantasy sequence involving a dance number to Hall & Oates), and stellar turns by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, 'Summer' is what so few love stories are these days: lovely.



'Star Trek'6. 'Star Trek'
The 'Star Trek' franchise had all but crashed and burned until director J.J. Abrams went boldly where no filmmaker had gone before: back to the beginning. Abrams' fiercely entertaining origin story gives the space-set saga new wings, not to mention tantalizing special effects and a Starfleet-ful of talented up-and-coming young actors (Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto) at which to marvel. We'd say "beam us up," but we're already there.


'Avatar'5. 'Avatar'
You're probably already tired of hearing about how "James Cameron has completely revolutionized filmmaking" with his 12-years-in-the-making 3-D extravaganza. Well, sorry to say it, but he kind of has. Until now, 3-D pretty much has been a gimmick employed by horror movies to show axes and decapitated heads flying out into the audience or to hide a nude animated Beowulf's junk with a 3-D candelabra. But in 'Avatar,' 3-D is seamlessly integrated into almost every scene to eye-popping and, frankly, gorgeous effect. It's also a compelling and engaging flick with dynamic characters and only mild doses of 'Titanic''s cheesiness. Watching it just might make you feel like you're king of the world.

'Up'4. 'Up'
The nearly wordless montage that opens Pixar's latest masterpiece and chronicles the complete romance, from start to heartbreaking finish, of Carl and Ellie is a thing of pure, unadulterated beauty. It's also a prime illustration of why the studio has yet to produce a cinematic turd: Pixar has the stones to put something so poignant and wonderfully sad at the outset of a kids' movie because they're not afraid to take risks. And -- you know what? -- those risks never fail to pay off in beautifully colored spades.

'Inglourious Basterds'3. 'Inglourious Basterds'
Quentin Tarantino proves once again that he's one talented Basterd with this brutally graphic, surprisingly thought-provoking, utterly entertaining and refreshingly revisionist take on WWII. Brad Pitt is top-notch as Nazi-scalping Lt. Aldo Raine, Christoph Waltz is a cinch for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn as the villainous Col. Hans Landa, and the wish fulfillment and catharsis offered by the film's climax are what going to the movies is all about.

'Fantastic Mr. Fox'2. '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. Go figure. It's like 'The Royal Tenenbaums' meets 'The Nightmare Before Christmas.' Which, in case you're wondering, is a very, very good thing.



'Up in the Air'1. 'Up in the Air'
'Juno' director Jason Reitman proves that he's all grown up -- and delivers his finest film yet -- with this modern masterpiece that's at once funny, charming, sad, hopeful and, most important, emotionally honest. George Clooney has never been better (or more Oscar-worthy) than he is as a frequent-flier-mileage-obsessed loner, who, with the help of two equally Oscar-deserving women (Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick), discovers that solo is not always the best way to fly the friendly skies.