Critics Choose Must-Sees and Worsts of 2009

Some of RT's distinguished critic friends share their choices with us.

by | December 29, 2009 | Comments

RT is a great place to connect with other movie lovers, read up on the latest industry news, and stay updated on the hottest upcoming releases, but at the core of it all, what makes RT unique is our focus on the critics. With that in mind, we reached out to some of our friends and asked them to offer us their choices for the one film moviegoers must absolutely see this year, as well as the one film everyone should avoid. Some of the choices reflect what a lot of the awards nominations thus far have demonstrated, and it would seem that there is a relatively clear leader for “Worst Film of 2009.” But we won’t spoil any of the fun for you; read on to find out what some of RT’s distinguished friends picked as the best and worst films of the year!

Claudia Puig, USA Today


Must-See: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is at once a profound psychological portrait and a spectacular action film which captures the complexities of the Iraq War with visceral suspense as well as explosive battle sequences and powerful performances. By taking a close look at a trio of courageous but also very human soldiers and exploring the line between bravery and bravado, it brings the conflict to life in a way that no previous movie about Iraq has managed to do.


Worst Film: All About Steve

All About Steve is a bonafide disaster movie: unbearably dreadful, off-puttingly creepy and cringingly unfunny. Sandra Bullock is supremely irritating as she flails about as a love-starved stalker blurting out terrible dialogue. The movie’s attempted satire of the easiest target around — sensationalized TV news — is humor-free, toothless and tasteless. Only the worst kind of movie could position deaf children falling into a sinkhole as a laugh riot.

Alonso Duralde,


Must-See: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Watching director Wes Anderson create an intricate and immaculately designed little world for this charming stop-motion animated feature, it no doubt occurred to many of us that we were witnessing an artist finding his perfect medium. What came off as airless and fussy in movies like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or The Darjeeling Limited suddenly became a perfect fit once every single thing on screen could be precisely art-directed by its auteur.


Worst Film: All About Steve

It was a terrible year for rom-coms — Bride Wars, The Ugly Truth, Post-Grad, and so on — but this one featured such pathologically unlikable characters and a total divorce from reality-based behavior as we know it. I’m happy that Sandra Bullock is enjoying a career renaissance for the popular but utterly conventional The Proposal and The Blind Side, but let this dud be a reminder to her that what might look good on paper can be thoroughly revolting by the time it hits the big screen.

Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine


Must-See: Up in the Air

Dazzling dialogue delivered with precision timing and style by George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, sharp direction by Jason Reitman and a timely theme all add up to a film not easily defined as comedy or drama. It’s simply a movie that for generations to come will serve as a primer on the way we were circa 2009. Who says they they don’t make movies for grownups anymore?


Worst Film: Miss March

In a year when there were some really good comedies, there were also a large number that nearly killed the genre including Bride Wars, I Love You Beth Cooper, New In Town, I Hate Valentine’s Day and Post Grad, but none was more excruciating to sit through than Miss March, an insipid waste of time about a guy who wakes up from a four year coma to discover his once demure girlfriend is now a hot Playboy centerfold. Watching it made me wish I was in a coma.

James Berardinelli, ReelViews


Must-See: Avatar

It goes without saying that James Cameron has revolutionized 3D with Avatar, proving that, if used with care and respect, it can be more than a gimmick. But there’s more to Avatar than immersive 3D and stunning visuals. Cameron is a story-teller and, while there’s nothing groundbreaking or stunningly original about the narrative, it represents a familiar tale told exceedingly well. Avatar is one of the few movies of 2009 that feels like a genuine cinematic “experience” instead of just a “motion picture.”


Worst Film: Old Dogs

What studio executive greenlighted this? If the stench of the script wasn’t enough to consign it to a compost heap, then the flies buzzing around it should have sealed the deal. What’s amazing is that someone gave director Walt Becker a few million dollars to make this and that it was selected for a theatrical release rather than the comfortable oblivion of straight-to-video. Tell me, Walt, of whom do you have pictures?

Peter Howell, Toronto Star


Must-See: The Hurt Locker

The movie to beat the Iraq War film curse – if you can handle the raging adrenaline. It brings the conflict down to the bomb-strewn pavement, where lives are saved through skill and nerve but lost through bad luck and malevolence.


Worst Film: Away We Go

Dead-end trip to Quirksville, as the dramatically inclined Mendes veers wildly off track with this lame attempt at a road comedy. Narcissistic lay-abouts seeking advice for their impending parenthood go on a twee trek, meeting hateful and pathetic stereotypes.

Jordan Hoffman, UGO


Must-See: Star Trek

Usually when you try to please everybody you please nobody, but the right mixture of matter and antimatter help propel J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the mother-of-all nerd franchises to warp speeds. Fun, funny, dazzling to look at and loaded with fan service, Star Trek put me into a sugar shock of pure science fantasy euphoria this summer.


Worst Film: Gentlemen Broncos

The rare kind of awful that makes you angry. At least the hacks that serve up American Pie 12: The Nude Zoo know they are making junk — Jared Hess is audacious enough to think his half-baked, lazy filmmaking is some kind of quirky genius. Gentlemen Broncos is so bad it made made me retroactively hate Napoleon Dynamite.

Nell Minow, BeliefNet


Must-See: It Might Get Loud

There are a lot of great box office and critical successes this year, and even a few that managed to be both, and no one needs me to list those titles. So I will pick a movie that might not show up on end-of-year lists but is guaranteed to inspire and entertain everyone from die-hard rock fans to those who think Led Zeppelin is a mode of transportation. The movie is It Might Get Loud, and it is a documentary about three guitar rock gods from three music generations: Jack White of the White Stripes, The Edge from U2, and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) introduces us to each of the men and lets them introduce us to their instruments and above all their love for the sounds of music, whether listening or playing. There are some surprises when they explain their influences and share their memories, and it is enormous fun to see them talking to each other and sharing ideas and riffs. This is a movie about rock music, but most of all it is a movie about passion, commitment, and pure joy. We experience the musician’s pleasure in music and the director’s pleasure in film-making. For a perfect double feature, add Anvil! The Story of Anvil, another of the year’s best films, a documentary about a real life metal band that has been trying for success for 30 years.


Worst Film: All About Steve

So many possibilities here — Miss March? Old Dogs? Next Day Air? And yet, one movie stands out as the worst because it has the biggest chasm between the talent of its performers and the catastrophically bad screenplay and disastrously incompetent direction than any other this year. In between two of her biggest crowd-pleasers ever, The Proposal and The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock produced and starred in All About Steve. Somewhere deep inside it, like the little tiny pea in the bed of the princess, was an idea that could have been an interesting movie. Unfortunately, like the princess’ pea, it was smothered in 20 mattresses of awful and 20 more mattresses of just plain dumb. Even the always-welcome appearances of top actors like Bradley Cooper, Beth Grant, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong, D.J. Qualls (bringing class to a barely-written role), and the delightful Katy Mixon (doing more than I would have thought humanly possible as a cliched hick) could not breathe any life into this soggy story — one that tries to make humorous situations out of deaf children stuck in a mine and a dispute over the amputation of an infant’s third leg. I’d rather be stuck down a mine than have to watch this again.

Eric D. Snider,


Must-See: 500 Days of Summer

My “must-see” movie of 2009 is 500 Days of Summer. Nothing I saw all year was funnier, truer, or more resonant. Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship that didn’t work out — which, um, is pretty much everyone — can relate to Tom, Summer, or both. The now-legendary musical number is just one of a dozen clever innovations that made this standard story into something special.


Worst Film: All About Steve

For me, the worst movie of 2009 was All About Steve. What a rancid train wreck this was. What a misguided, ill-begotten pile of cinematic excrement. It is hard to believe that someone as likable as Sandra Bullock could play a character as slap-worthy as the one she played here. Let us never speak of it again.

James Rocchi, MSN Movies


Must-See: The Hurt Locker

Kinetic, tightly-coiled and suspenseful, yes — but look closer and it’s a scathing look at what, exactly, we’re at war for and why, from the brief note about the name-change of the base to “Camp Victory” (“It sounds better …”) to the moment where Jeremy Renner’s Sgt. James winds up at the wrong house, with a gun, in the middle of the night, looking for something that simply isn’t there. Proof that movie making can have brains and brilliance.


Worst Film: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The logical illogical conclusion of all-money/no-script filmmaking, larded with idiotic action, meaningless special effects, irrelevant human characters (“Oooooptimus! Nooooo!”) and indistinguishable non-human ones all blended up in a globe-trotting idiotic mess of a plot that insulted your intelligence while it assaulted your senses.

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