Den of Geek Film Of The Year 2009

What are Den Of Geek writers' favourite films of the year? We're glad you asked...

Welcome to the round-up of Den Of Geek’s favourite films of the year. It’s the ‘f’ word that’s key here: we’re not trying to emulate the Oscars, or anything of that ilk. Instead, what we’re trying to bring you is our list of our favoured films, the films we liked and enjoyed the most. That accounts for one or two of the omissions – Slumdog Millionaire, for instance – and also one or two of the more unusual inclusions (Wolverine, we’re looking at you. In fact, all but one of our writers are looking at you).

So here it is: the individual thoughts of many of our writers, and we’ll come to our overall top ten at the bottom. All of these films, incidentally, had a UK cinema release in 2009. And, due to the joys of deadlines, none of us had been able to see Avatar in time for this list, in case you’re wondering why it doesn’t appear…


Top 5

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1. District 9 2. Where The Wild Things Are 3. Drag Me To Hell 4. Star Trek 5. 17 Again

The Duffer: The Fourth Kind

2009 has been a terrific year for cinema goers. I can’t remember a year where I’ve been to the cinema as much as I have over the past 12-months. I would guess that the majority of my list is going to be similar to those of my fellow DoG writers so I thought I’d justify my inclusion of 17 Again as my fifth favourite film of the year.

My top five list could have been occupied by any number of quality movies, Zombieland, The Hangover, In The Loop etc were all considered and I didn’t see Moon, as it didn’t show at my local cinema and I’ve been told I can’t rent it as it would ruin Christmas. I couldn’t justify leaving out the film that surprised me the most. When I say it surprised me I’m not referring to the film having had major plot twists that I wasn’t expecting, as it didn’t. It surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. It may have been the case that I was in an exceptionally good mood at the time of watching it, but even if I wasn’t I could see myself enjoying it just as much. Sure it’s cheesy but there are plenty of laughs throughout the film and Zac Efron shows signs that he will become a strong leading man in years to come.

My nomination for stinker of the year would be The Fourth Kind. For anyone who’s seen the movie the reason why will be obvious. For those who haven’t seen it; I direct you to Ron’s review that sums it up nicely. It really is as bad as he says.

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Top 5

1. Drag Me to Hell 2. A Serious Man 3. District 9 4. (500) Days of Summer 5. The Hurt Locker

The Duffer: Dragonball: Evolution

I can’t think of a film I’ve enjoyed more in recent years than Drag Me to Hell. Thrilling, funny, over-the-top, scary, and packed with endlessly inventive set pieces (that car park one left me giddy), it was Sam Raimi re-invigorated after the middling Spider-Man 3.

Similarly, the Coens’s last film, Burn After Reading, left me rather cold; so A Serious Man was a welcome reminder of their genius. Probably the best Coen brothers film that doesn’t have Jeff Bridges in it.

District 9 and (500) Days Of Summer also did it for me. No explanation needed hopefully if you’ve seen them. Plus I’m running out of space.

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If this had been a top six, 17 Again could have snuck in at the end, purely for Thomas Lennon’s best friend Ned.  His dinner date with a high school principal that turns into a Lord of the Rings love-in was one of the best scenes of the year. Or maybe Star Trek, for making a Star Trek film without Shatner in it seem relevant again. But it’s The Hurt Locker that nabs the last slot – Bigelow back to making great cinema again after K19 and The Weight Of Water ruined her batting average.

The worst of the year?  Easy – Dragonball: Evolution.  Just horrid.


Top 5

1. District 9 2. Star Trek 3. Up 4. The Hangover 5. Zombieland

The Duffer: Grace

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Ah, 2009 you tease. We’ve waited nearly a decade for some really great sci-fi movies and you go and release two in the same year! In terms of originality and sheer brilliance District 9 is my movie of the year without a shadow of a doubt. Brilliantly acted and masterfully shot and directed it is the sort of movie I have been praying would come out of Hollywood and it in fact came out of South Africa.

Sticking with a space theme as somebody who never really watched Star Trek I wasn’t holding out much for the reboot but was knocked out of my socks by the re-jigged timeline and story which packed more than a punch. It isn’t often I want to see a sequel but this maybe the exception to the rule. Pixar once again pulled at my heartstrings and tickled my funny bone in equal measure with Up and they deserve kudos for making such a realistic old man character in Carl, and comedy ruled with The Hangover showing how it should be done. And Zombieland? Well there wasn’t much point to it but it was great!

As for the stinker, it’s ‘horror’ movie Grace, where a baby who dies in the womb comes to life when given birth to and needs to drink blood to survive. Zombie baby? Vampire baby? By the end of this movie the only thing you will care about is the fact you have wasted two hours of your life.


Top 5

1. Moon 2. District 9 3. The Hangover 4. Drag Me To Hell 5. In The Loop

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The Duffer: Bruno

Hmm…I think it would hard for anyone to argue that 2009 was a vintage year in cinema. Lets be honest here, the blockbusters were pretty crappy, and there was hardly a glut of independent movies out there to fill the gaps. Hopefully, this can be explained as the residual aftershock of the Writers Strike. That’s not to say that 2009 was a total flop, and there has been the odd glistening pearl gleaming amongst the swine.

Three films standout as cast iron locks for the best of the year. Low-fi sci-fi mindbender Moon, with its retro style and use of old school miniatures and models, took science fiction back its golden age of the 70s and 80s. Sam Rockwell gives a superb central performance (sign that petition to get him an Oscar nomination!). Is Moon the best ‘cult’ film since Donnie Darko? Could just be. 

The South African mocumentary mash-up about a bungled alien invasion and the resulting extraterrestrial apartheid, District 9, is a rare example of event cinema let off the leash and allowed to be original. A bold strategy in the age of the proto-fit blockbuster – that then wiped the floor with the rest of the summer’s sub-par output.

Lastly, Todd Phillip’s The Hangover was the year’s standout comedy. With its lack of star power diluting the mix and no big egos to be pandered to, The Hangover is another example of how comedy is funniest before the comedians become stars.

Sam Rami’s much-overlooked return to the horror film, Drag Me to Hell and Armando Iannucci’s foul-mouthed political farce, In the Loop, take up the last two spots. However, ‘not seen’ notes should be attached to a duo of possible contenders, Il divo and Chan-wook Park’s Thirst.

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A dishonourable mention should be attached to my personal Stinker of the Year: Sacha Baron Cohen über-turkey Brüno, which took everything funny and fresh about Borat and made them teeth-clenchingly lame and stale. Brüno is my stone cold worst film of the year, which is quite and achievement with Couples Retreat, Fast and Furious and Wolverine all in the running, too.


Top 5

1. Star Trek 2. Coralline 3. Moon 4. Up 5. Inglourious Basterds

The Duffer: G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

I’ll be honest and say that finding five films I’d entirely recommend this year hasn’t been easy, as I don’t think 2009 was a classic 12 months for cinema. But amongst some of the nastiest Hollywood gross we’ve seen yet I’ve managed to find five that are certainly worth seeing even if they’re not perfect.

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I’ve put Star Trek at the top mainly because it’s so incredibly rare for a big summer movie to actually deliver what it promised on the tin. But two animated movies in my top five does hint that this was a classic year for that creative sector. In my review of Up I was critical of some choices Pixar made, but then their flawed movies are actually better than most people’s best ones. My shock inclusion was Moon, which unfettered by unrealistic hype that follows some productions provided excellent respite from the by-the-numbers science fiction we’ve been getting of late.

Almost as challenging as pulling the cream to the top is deciding which movie sank lowest. I nominated massive summer movies, with both Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation strongly in the running. But the singularly most awful summer experience for me was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. It took the marketing of toys to an extreme I’d wished could be erased from my mind without giving me a frontal lobotomy. Just horrible.


Top 5

1. Let The Right One In 2. Coraline 3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona 4. Moon 5. A Serious Man

This is a tough year to rank. I could easily fill a top 10 with films that are all very close in my estimation – so picking an ordered 5 is a particular form of punishment. For the purposes of this, and to make it easier, I’ve chopped out any films that technically belonged to 2008 (shout outs to Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Steven Soderbergh’s Che), leaving a good five choices that were all given a general release in the last twelve months. Handily, I’ve reviewed four of my picks for this very site, and the other is no doubt on many others’ lists, so I can be brief (and you can click away for more info, if you’re so inclined). Let The Right One In is a beguiling and revolutionary masterpiece, reinventing the supernatural genre just as Twilight is making it mainstream and dull. Coraline is, likewise, a great literary adaptation, twinning Neil Gaiman’s tight, chilling children’s book with the creative genius of Henry Selick; it also caps off one of the strongest years for animation that I have lived through – with Up, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Ponyo (general release in 2010, unfortunately) all deserving heaps of praise and regard. It’s certainly going to be an interesting fight for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards early next year.

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Already a (deserved) Oscar winner for the outstanding Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen’s best film in a long while. It is a mix of his quirky, neurotic comedy moments, psycho-philosophical ruminations and dramatic character interactions that emerges as a perfect novella film, with brilliant performances all round. The appeal of Moon is rooted in Sam Rockwell’s load-bearing, one-man turn – and deserves notice for that at the very least – but the whole film is a serious, atmospheric triumph. Speaking of serious, The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man may not be a crowd-pleaser, but it ties together their best traits – bold characters, sharp dialogue, moments of surreal barminess – and combines them with what is their richest narrative yet.


Top 5

1. Inglourious Basterds 2. Up 3. Drag Me to Hell 4. Let the Right One In 5. Halloween 2

The Duffer: Transformers 2

I’ll try to keep this as short as I can and, as a result, this write up may appear a little brash. I liked Inglourious Basterds the most, but then I liked Up and Drag Me to Hell nearly as much. Slightly behind them I really liked Let the Right One In. As the fifth film in my top 5 I’ve included Halloween 2, which isn’t an incredible film but I liked the shit out of it anyway.

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There’s a good chance that you didn’t see Halloween 2 or, if you did, that you didn’t like it. I’m not massively interested though, so please don’t clog up the comments section prattling on about it. I’m not interested. You know that glazed over look that everyone you know has whenever you say anything? Well that’s the look I have when I read something you’ve written.

I also really liked In The Loop, Observe and Report, Watchmen and Moon. I also have a feeling that (500) Days of Summer would be top 5 if I hadn’t watched it on a plane.

There were worse films this year than Transformers 2: The What-The-Fuckening, but none quite so hateful. The equally bad Wolverine and Terminator Salvation just didn’t turn out right; Transformers 2 was meant to be that stupid. Intentions mean everything.


Top 5

1. District 9 2. Watchmen 3. Drag Me to Hell 4. The Men Who Stare at Goats 5. Star Trek

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The Duffer: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

It’s a sick and twisted year for me when a new Star Trek movie ranks amongst the best, while time honoured deliverers of my beloved blockbuster trash such as Emmerich and Bay, fail to fulfil my meagre needs and offend me instead. Deep down I think I knew G.I. Joe would be terrible, but both Transformers 2 and 2012 merely had to deliver more of the same and didn’t. While 2012 managed to be lazy and contemptuous, TF2 managed both of those ‘qualities’ while piling on blatant misogyny and racism. Most upsettingly though as both a die-hard Transformer geek and Michael Bay apologist, he managed to take the easy task of making me cry in scenes involving a certain characters’ mortality and make me feel nothing. Impressive when you consider I get choked up during his first Transformers film when Bumblebee gets captured…

Despite the failings of most mainstream blockbusters, at least they allowed the fantastically realised District 9 to shine through, a film that you’re really better off knowing nothing about and letting its creativity and, most importantly, its originality wash over you – a triumph of inventiveness over budget. Watchmen, thanks especially to its clever soundtrack, evoked stronger emotions in me than expected and remained admirably faithful to its source material, even managing to make an anti-hero such as The Comedian more likeable/charismatic thanks to its (mostly) perfect casting. When I saw Drag Me to Hell  it was nothing but a joy to see a long overdue return to horror by Sam Raimi, who it transpires, might just be the nicest man in the world.

The Men Who Stare at Goats had an amusing trailer, but managed to be so much better than just a few strung out punch lines. I expected George Clooney to merely tap into his likeable Coen Brothers mode, yet somehow he delivered a much more affecting performance, more akin to Pierce Brosnan in The Matador, adding a personable level to a film which, for me, contained what I can only describe as a beautiful spirit (it’ll make more sense when you’ve seen it).

Monsters Vs. Aliens was just nudged out by Star Trek, a galling fact when you take into account that I’ve never really been a big Trek fan. I’ve seen most of the films and bits of the Shatner era TV series, but I’ve never really loved it like I do Star Wars. So I had to swallow my pride as some of my Trekkie friends laughed smugly in my face, when I conceded that Abrams movie was superb. If anyone asks, at least I can hide behind my ever growing Karl ‘I’m a spy!’ Urban love – I even like Doom

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Top 5

1. In The Loop 2. Let The Right One In 3. Inglourious Basterds 4. Up 5. Drag Me To Hell

The Duffer: Year One

Transporting a successful comedy series onto the big screen is not as easy as one may think: for every Life of Brian, there will always be an Ali G Indahouse. Luckily, In the Loop, Armando Iannucci’s adaptation of the savage political sitcom The Thick of It, is much more in league with the former. With comedy icon for our times, Malcolm Tucker, the only character surviving the transfer to cinema, and with several TTOI cast members making welcome appearances, including Chris Addison as the hapless Toby Wright, In the Loop takes us behind the scenes, as both the UK and US governments face a seemingly inevitable invasion of the Middle East.

In terms of writing, it doesn’t get more acerbic, cutting, and laugh-out-loud hilarious as this. Practically every other line, as well as being jam-packed with some of the most spectacular swearing in recent history, is destined to be quoted by film fans forever more.

Despite a terrific turn by James Gandalfini, and an almost show-stopping cameo from Steve Coogan (and his crumbling wall), it’s Peter Capaldi’s incendiary performance as the unceasingly unhinged Tucker that will have jaws dropping. Finding a better comedy this year will be difficult difficult lemon difficult indeed!

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As for the stinker? It’s got to be Year One. Despite having all the ingredients for a comedy classic – Jack Black, Arrested Development’s Michael Cera,  Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis – this somehow ended up being the dullest, most painfully unfunny film I’ve had the misfortunate of sitting through this year.


Top 5

1. Wolverine 2. Defiance 3. Role Models 4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon 5. Harry Brown

The Duffer: Watchmen

No doubt my list will cause some controversy, but these films were chosen honestly and fairly. So here goes. Wolverine was everything I hoped it would be. It filled in what turned out to be a fascinating back story for my favourite X-Men character, as well as giving Hugh Jackman and the other main characters a chance to shine. Action packed from beginning to end – superb. Defiance – which arrived in the UK in January – gives another nod to Liev Schreiber as he and Daniel Craig portrayed touching yet fascinating subject matter in a way which had me glued to the screen. Stunning backdrops add to the effect.

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Role Models, which also made it here in January, is a really daft comedy which I can (and have) watch over and over again. The Twilight Saga: New Moon was not quite as thrilling as I’d hoped, but still makes my list. And then Harry Brown – I can do this in one word: phenomenal. Caine is a legend.

As for the stinker? Watchmen. At least ten people walked out of the showing, and I nodded off more than once. Boring, pointless and far too long. Boo.


Top 5

1. In The Loop 2. Coraline 3. Up 4. Moon 5. Gran Torino

The Duffer: The Ugly Truth

Honourable mentions, first. I loved Role Models more than The Hangover. The Wrestler was great. Star Trek was too. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs was a lovely surprise.

But In The Loop? I’m still laughing about it months after I saw it. It is, to be fair, a television episode on the big screen, and it finds its natural home on DVD. But Peter Capaldi’s foul-mouth bile is the best comedy performance I’ve seen in ages. It’s nasty. It’s brilliant. It’s my favourite film of the year.

Henry Selick’s stunning Coraline nearly took it, to be fair, and it’s the first film I’ve seen in ages where I’ve sat and simply wondered how they managed to do what they do on screen. In the CGI era, that’s some achievement. It just edges Up for me, which was stunning at its best, although spluttered a little once the superb first act was out of the way. Duncan Jones’ Moon boasts the acting performance of the year from Sam Rockwell, while the Clint devotee in me has to give Gran Torino a nudge. It might not be the fifth best film of the year, but it’s in my personal favourite top five.

Katherine Heigl’s remarkably shit rom-com The Ugly Truth isn’t though. How Heigl, in hindsight, has the gall to criticise in any way Knocked Up when she turned in this piece of offensive rubbish beggars belief. The only person grateful for The Ugly Truth is Matthew McConaughey, else Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past would be sitting right here…


Top 5

1. Up 2. Moon 3. Zombieland 4. The Hangover 5. Drag Me To Hell

The Duffer: Miss March

A lot of stuff other people will list I still haven’t seen, like District 9, Star Trek, and Paranormal Activity. Here’s the best of the ton of mediocre movies I did see this year.

Up was not the best animated movie of the year, it was the best movie of the year period. Funny, touching, sweet, sad, and romantic all at once. If there was any justice, it’d win Best Picture. I know the Academy changed the rules when Beauty And The Beast got nominated in 1992, but there’s not a live action movie that was even close to this good.

Science fiction without any explosions or CGI?! I didn’t know such a thing was possible! Duncan Jones’ Moon goes old-school, Kevin Spacey goes HAL 9000, and Sam Rockwell goes stir-crazy in a movie most will overlook for District 9.

Zombieland was a uniquely American Shaun Of The Dead, featuring Woody Harrelson’s most memorable character since Mickey in Natural Born Killers. A meta-zombie buddy-comedy coming-of-age-romance that doesn’t skimp on the gore and laughs.

The Hangover? It’s a raunchy, R-rated comedy from the subgenre’s brightest light, Todd Phillips. Now that Judd Apatow is trying to grow up, Phillips is the guy to lead the way in drunken debauchery and star-making. Finally, Drag Me To Hell proves that Spider-Man 3 was just an aberration for Sam Raimi with this funny, gross, and horrifying return to his roots. Features more mucus per hour than my nose in the height of summer allergy season.

Stinkers of the year: I had a whole thing written up about just how bad The Fourth Kind is, and then I remembered that Miss March, Dance Flick, AND Year One came out in 2009. Plus, Transylmania, which I haven’t seen but don’t need to watch to know that it’s terrible.

5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: Funniest movie of the year! Wait, it’s supposed to be a dramatic romance? Err…nevermind.

4. The Fourth Kind: A great idea for a movie wasted in spectacularly bad fashion. It’s like eating two bad movies, then barfing them both up and filming the mixed bits of sick. Significantly less entertaining than my description.

3. Year One: There’s nothing worse than a bad comedy, unless it’s a bad comedy with a horrible lead and antique jokes that weren’t good the first time around.

2. Dance Flick: I saw some of this movie on one of my premium channels. It makes Meet The Spartans look like The Naked Gun.

1. Miss March: Absolutely horrible. Not even close to funny. The two leads are annoying, Craig Robinson should be ashamed of himself, and the less said about sad-eyed old Hugh Hefner, the better. Possibly the worst movie I’ve ever seen.



With all that, here’s our accumulated list of our favourite films of the year….

1. District 9 2. Up 3. Drag Me To Hell 4. Coraline 5. Moon 6. Star Trek 7= In The Loop 7= Inglourious Basterds 9. A Serious Man 10. The Hangover

Here’s hoping we get as many interesting genre movies in 2010 as we seemed to get in 2009…

Leave your own views down in the comments…!