The Best and Worst Movies of 2009

  • Publish Date: January 4, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 19 user comments

Wide releases: An animated bunch

Breakdown of 2009 Wide Releases (Min. 7 Reviews)
Good (Metascore ≥ 61) 38 films
Mixed (40-60) 67 films
Bad (≤ 40) 45 films

Perhaps the typical film critic is really a child at heart. Three and a half of the four best-reviewed wide release films from the past year were animated (the unique Avatar blends CGI with live action), including the top-ranked film of the year: Pixar's Up. The films could not be more different from one another, however. While Up blends computer animation with a storyline that appeals as much to adults as children, the second-ranked Ponyo utilizes Hayao Miyazaki's masterful hand-drawn animation. And the Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox uses old-fashioned stop-motion animation to create a movie that is more Wes Anderson comedy than children's film.

In all, eight wide releases exceeded our cutoff to be considered as having "universal acclaim" from critics (with a Metascore of 81 or higher), including two science-fiction films (Star Trek and District 9) and a horror film (Drag Me to Hell). The only drama-like movie to fall in that group was the George Clooney dramedy Up in the Air.

However, while there were 38 wide releases receiving positive reviews from critics (with a Metascore of 61 or higher), 75% of wide releases received middling to poor reviews. Here is the full distribution of scores, for the year, by season, and by month:

Metascore Distribution for Wide Releases, 2009
  Median Low / High Scores Score Distribution
All 2009 Wide Releases 47.5 7 / 88 7,36.25,47.5,60.75,88
Winter Wide Releases (1/1 - 3/5) 43 17 / 80 17,35,43,50,80
Spring Wide Releases (3/6 - 4/30) 52 7 / 76 7,41.5,52,61,76
Summer Wide Releases (5/1 - 9/7) 48 17 / 88 17,36,48,62.5,88
Fall Wide Releases (9/8 - 11/5) 46 23 / 73 23,33,46,64.75,73
Holiday Wide Releases (11/6 - 12/31) 51.5 8 / 84 8,43.25,51.5,60.5,84

In the score distribution charts, half of all scores (from the 25th percentile to the 75th percentile) fall within the shaded box, with the vertical line in the middle of the box representing the median.

Wide Releases by Month, 2009

In the chart above, Green represents the number of positively-reviewed movies (Metascore of 61 or higher). Yellow represents movies receiving mixed or average reviews (40-60). Red represents negatively-reviewed movies (0-39).

Next, let's see which movies received the most acclaim from critics during the past year.
The Best Wide Releases of 2009
  Title Netflix Genre(s) Metascore Users
1Up Animated, Family88 9.0
2Ponyo Animated, Family867.6
3Avatar Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure848.4
4Fantastic Mr. Fox Animated, Comedy838.3
5Star Trek Sci-Fi837.9
6Drag Me to Hell Horror836.1
7Up in the Air Comedy/Drama836.3
8District 9 Sci-Fi817.9
9Coraline Animated, Family807.8
10Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire Drama798.3
11Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Fantasy, Family 786.6
12Adventureland Comedy766.5
13(500) Days of Summer Comedy, Romance767.6
14Invictus Drama747.2
15Princess & the Frog, The Animated, Family738.4
16Zombieland Horror, Comedy738.1
17Hangover, The Comedy737.3
18Earth [2009] Documentary, Family725.4
19Where the Wild Things Are Family, Fantasy716.6
20I Love You, Man Comedy707.6
21Public Enemies Drama706.3
22Inglourious Basterds Drama697.4
23Duplicity Drama, Thriller694.6
24Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Fantasy686.4
25Paranormal Activity Horror685.2

Only movies with seven or more reviews released between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009 were considered. Re-releases are excluded. A wide release film is one that screens at more than 600 theaters. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, movies are ranked prior to rounding. User scores represent an average of scores assigned by site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good).

On the other end of the spectrum, the worst wide releases of 2009 tend to fall in the comedy genre -- make that the "comedy" genre. Out of all of these terrible films, only Couples Retreat generated over $100 million in box office revenue, although Bride Wars and Obsessed performed well relative to their budgets.

The Worst Wide Releases of 2009
  Title Netflix Genre(s) Metascore Users
1Miss March Comedy73.9
2Transylmania Horror, Comedy83.1
3All About Steve Comedy173.6
4Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li Action-Adventure172.7
5Old Dogs Comedy19 4.0
6Couples Retreat Comedy235.7
7Bride Wars Comedy243.5
8Sorority Row Horror246.1
9Obsessed Thriller255.1
10I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell Comedy264.8

On the next page, we examine the best and worst limited release films of the past year.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (19)

  • Trekking  

    I have to agree with A Guy. Star Trek and District 9 should be there ahead of Avatar

  • shadow  

    however Avatar was the real madness of that year, in my case I revive my old fears with Zombieland, this movie was like a TNT cartridge blow up my mind and send me back in time.

  • A Guy  

    Where is district 9? Where is Star Trek? Where is Public Enemies? All those movies where the best of 2009! People liked Avatar becasue of it's visual effects when really it had no real story line or anything like that, just visual afffects.

  • Hun Chung  

    i agree with skopq1 inglorious basterds are overrated & plain boring.
    Distirict 9 is very good

  • skopq1  

    worst movie : inglorious bastards. it´s soo overrated

  • Bad News for Bad Mov  

    [...] around the turn of the decade, Metacritic published an article talking about the quality of movies in 2009. Regarding wide releases of movies – the ones you don’t have to live in LA to see [...]

  • Jah Rastafari  

    Inglourious Basterds should have won fall wide release. Zombieland was great but it was simply america's version of Shaun of the dead. It doesn't beat the great acting and orginality of Inglourious Basterds.

  • Wolfmaster  

    no one even likes kathryn bigelowe or however you spell her name is stupid and honestly before this I'd never even heard of her no one likes you kathryn go away

  • Wolfmaster  

    The hurt locker was a disgrace to military men all around the world

  • okuroryu  

    district 9 was a way more interesting movie than avatar and had more action than the hurt locker
    if the academy had half a brain they will pick it but miracles don't happen

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