RT's Ten Most Popular Movies of 2009

Based on your clicks, we uncover the movies that sat at the cool kids' table in '09

by | December 30, 2009 | Comments

As the year winds down and we all prepare to put things like “Get in shape,” “Watch every Best Picture winner,” and “Befriend a beluga whale” on our New Year’s Resolution lists, we at RT wanted to share what movies you, our users, made most popular on our site this year. After consulting with Fenton, our temperamental bean counter, for the freshest data from the depths of the RT tomato patch, we’re ready to unveil a list of the top ten most popular movies of the year on Rotten Tomatoes as chosen by your very eyeballs, mouse clicks, and newfangled Internet browsing devices.

And don’t forget, you still have until midnight on December 31, 2009 to get your ratings in for RT’s first ever User Golden Tomato Award. So if your favorite movie of the year didn’t make this list or any of our end of the year lists, do your part to give it a shot at this year’s GTAs! Read on to find what movies you made reign supreme in RT stadium this year!


10) Terminator Salvation

If there’s a surprise entry on this list, it could be Terminator Salvation, which has the distinction of bringing up the caboose while still kicking off a list of some of the year’s most talked about movies. But when you look a little closer, Salvation had plenty to talk about — a PG-13 rating, Christian Bale shedding the bat suit and designer threads for some post-apocalyptic action, McG of The OC and Charlie’s Angels fame signing on as director, and let’s not forget about a little Christian Bale YouTube-meme-ing. Of course, now that our beloved Terminator is a government official (in real life, not the movie), audiences had to adjust to the new perspective of the film’s characters. Co-star Sam Worthington, who also stars in one of this year’s biggest movies, Avatar, did plenty to stay front of mind with audiences this year, but read on to find out if late entry Avatar was able to break the top ten.


9) Up

It’s no secret that Disney/Pixar collabos have seen more than their share of box office and critical successes over the years and Up surely didn’t disappoint. With a near perfect Tomatometer at 98%, Up may have been the unexpected source of more heartfelt tears than all the previous “Dixar” movies combined as many moviegoers cried not once, but twice during the 3D adventure. With Ed Asner voicing the role of Mr. Carl Fredricksen, a crotchety old balloon salesman who decides to leave town by taking his whole house along for the ride, Up‘s effect on audiences and critics alike has given it plenty of awards buzz that kept the film front of mind with moviegoers, despite its May release. As the only fully animated movie (CGI not withstanding, since that would eliminate most of today’s action films) to make the top ten, Up‘s popularity with audiences is a yet another tribute to the Disney/Pixar tag team.


8) Paranormal Activity

When you have a horror movie that goes Certified Fresh (82%), it’s a pretty big deal. When you have a Certified Fresh horror movie that goes on to become the most profitable film of all time (based on return on investment), it’s a very big deal. So goes the story of Paranormal Activity from first-time director Oren Peli, who also penned the mockumentary-style story of a young couple living in a haunted home in San Diego. With word of mouth carrying the film far, far past even the most optimistic of studio executive dreams, Paranormal had plenty of legs online as people were clearly interested in seeing what all the Paris Hilton-night vision-esque preview fuss was about. As big of an underdog as they come, it’s refreshing to see one of the lowest budget successes of all time find a seat at the table with some of the year’s biggest movies.


7) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Optimus Prime, the Decepticons, and well, Megan Fox, currently still have Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen standing as the biggest blockbuster of 2009, as they join forces to fend off a late season charge by Avatar. And despite an unquestionably Rotten rating of 20% on the Tomatometer, the people wanted more robots in disguise this year and it especially showed at the box office and here on RT, where the Michael Bay-directed series took no prisoners, no matter what the critics said. Released in the heart of summer movie season and given a second push by its home video release, it’s only fitting that the top grossing movie of the calendar year finds a spot in this top 10.


6) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Despite the return of a vampire-filled franchise this year that shockingly didn’t break the top ten (had we done this last year, Twilight would have easily made the Top 10), it was the return of the Harry Potter franchise that our users made one of our most popular movies of the year. Still going strong six films in, the Harry Potter franchise, powered by the worldwide following of the J.K. Rowling books, has done a pretty otherworldly job of working its brand of wizardry on not only the Box Office, but the Tomatometer (ranging from 78% – 89%) as well. With the first half of a two-part continuation of the Potter franchise coming in 2010, the strength of the series appears as strong as ever as it moves closer to its inevitable conclusion.


5) Inglourious Basterds

Since premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, where some attendees with tickets were being offered upwards of $1000 per ticket (must be nice!) to see Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds , the star power of Brad Pitt and Tarantino proved to be a formidable combination with critics and audiences alike in 2009. The Tarantino telling of Jewish soldiers fighting back against the Nazi regime inevitably ran into some controversy due to some creative liberties taken with the story, but all of that controversy created buzz around the film that has since translated to Oscar talk for the film’s stars and the film itself, giving it plenty of momentum since its August release. Add on a Blu-ray release in the same calendar year, plenty of crowd-pleasing violence, and a Certified Fresh rating of 88%, and you have the makings of a very, very popular film rounding out this year’s top five.


4) Watchmen

With an installed fanbase from its graphic novel following, Watchmen had plenty of moviegoers hooked well before it hit theaters and it also had a boatload of hype to go with it. Positioned as being darker than The Dark Knight, which was no laugh riot itself, Watchmen portrayed its heroes brought out of retirement in an unusual light by making them more human than many moviegoers were used to seeing. Critics were largely split on the film, calling it visually stunning and as gritty as advertised, and many made note of a certain phallic blue extremity that refused to be ignored as it swayed in the breeze. All that being said, perhaps as one of the other surprises to make this list, Watchmen‘s heroes found a home with RT users in 2009.


3) District 9

It’s true, District 9 wasn’t chosen by any of our editors as a personal favorite this year (and many of us liked it, a lot), but fans will be happy to see that it takes a very noble spot on the Tomato Cup podium as our third most popular movie of the year. Starring Sharlto Copley as Wilkus Van De Merwe, a field operative tasked with moving a camp of Aliens (politically incorrectly referred to as Prawns) into a new facility, the documentary-style film took an unusual slant on alien movies through not only its presentation, but the humanization of the aliens, which are about as ugly as they get on screen. Despite a large, mysterious viral marketing campaign that put caricatures of D9’s aliens all over benches and billboards, District 9‘s box office success still feels a bit like a sleeper success story. RT users, however, appeared to be all over it, making it our third most popular movie of the year.


2) Star Trek

In a year filled with crowd pleasers, J.J. Abrams’ jumpstart of the Enterprise’s thrusters was more than enough for RT users to clown car their shuttlepods and beam up to the Star Trek page to find out more about the new version of Space: The Final Frontier. Not only did Star Trek take on the box office competition with its phasers set to kill (ok, we’re stopping), but the film was also Certified Fresh as one of the best reviewed movies of the year. With action for days and a new, young twist on the franchise that wasn’t just for nerds this time around, Star Trek was holding strong as our most popular movie of the year, helped by a second surge from its release on Blu-ray and DVD, until a late sprint by this year’s winner (they have blue skin) sent the Na’vi flying past the crew of the Enterprise.


1) Avatar

Is there anything that hasn’t been said about the James Cameron sci-fi epic? The film opened strong at the box office in its first weekend, then dropped a mere 3% in its second week as part of the biggest holiday movie weekend of all time. And now, despite being released with only two full weeks left in the year, we can say that it was the most popular movie on Rotten Tomatoes in 2009. As soon as the first clip of Avatar hit the web, the anticipation factor had been installed, upgraded, and rereleased. And as reviews began flowing in, giving the film a near perfect Tomatometer at the outset, that anticipation came to a boil as many critics called it a landmark moment for CGI and 3D filmmaking. A steady stream of positive reviews eventually gave Avatar a Certified Fresh rating and clearly, word of mouth will continue to give the film a strong finish through the end of the year — extending the Na’vis’ lead even further over the competition and its reign as Queen Bee of 2009.

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