The Best and Worst Movies of 2009

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

CORRECTION: The critic Top 10 list summary table on page 4 has been updated slightly (although the results appear in the same order as before) to correct critic Peter Hartlaub's list, which ran in the incorrect order on the SF Chronicle's website. [1/6/2010]

The Hurt Locker is the best-reviewed movie of 2009

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High Scoring Movies by Year
(Minimum 7 Reviews)
2009 The Hurt Locker 94
2008 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 97
2007 Ratatouille 96
2006 Pan's Labyrinth 98
2005 The Best of Youth 89

Although 2009 may not have had a movie scoring as high as the top films in recent years, the past 12 months in film compare favorably to the prior year. We can see this by looking at the extremes of both years. In 2008, a total of 33 movies surpassed the 81 Metascore threshold to land in "universal acclaim" territory. This year, 37 movies received such acclaim from critics. Similarly, last year, 12 movies fell into truly terrible territory (with a Metascore below 20). This year? Just nine films. Overall, 46% of 2009 releases received generally positive reviews, compared to 42% in 2008.

A limited-release film has earned top honors in three of the past five years, including this year's best-reviewed movie, The Hurt Locker. Kathryn Bigelow's action-packed drama, perhaps the most decorated film of 2009, follows a U.S. Army bomb squad in the middle of the Iraq War. Bigelow is not exactly a prolific filmmaker; Locker is just her first film in seven years, and her previous two entries this decade -- The Weight of Water 45 and K-19: The Widowmaker 58 -- were underwhelming. But in addition to the glowing reviews, her new film has been named the best film of the year by several organizations, and is a sure thing for a Best Picture nomination at this year's Academy Awards.

Over the next few pages, we'll explore the best and worst wide releases and limited releases of 2009, and determine which films are finding their way onto critic Top 10 lists at the end of the year. First, let's look at some of the best overall movies of the year.

High-Scoring 2009 Releases by Category
Category Best-Reviewed Film in Category Metascore
Overall The Hurt Locker 94
Winter Release Gomorrah 87
Winter Wide Release Coraline 80
Spring Release Goodbye Solo 89
Spring Wide Release Adventureland 76
Summer Release The Hurt Locker 94
Summer Wide Release Up 88
Fall Release 35 Shots of Rum 91
Fall Wide Release Zombieland 73
Holiday Release Crazy Heart 84
Holiday Wide Release Avatar 84
Blockbuster (>$100 million box office) Up 88
Action-Adventure Avatar 84
Animated Up 88
Comedy (Wide Release, Live Action) Adventureland 76
Documentary The Beaches of Agnes 86
Drama (Wide Release) Up in the Air 83
Family/Kids (Live Action) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 78
Fantasy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 78
Foreign Language 35 Shots of Rum 91
Horror Drag Me to Hell 83
Sci-Fi Avatar 84
Suspense/Thriller The Headless Woman 81

For this and all tables in this article, only movies with seven or more reviews released between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009 were considered. Re-releases are excluded. 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.

On the next page, we take a deeper look at the past year's biggest films.

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

Comments (19)

  • Jack  

    The Hurt Locker gets what it deserves

  • bitenuker  

    i'm disappointed to see avatar named best sci-fi. take out the stunning visuals and you're left with a boring mediocre story. not only that, but the acting was not worthy of note. where's district 9 and star trek in all of this? however, i am happy about "up" being mentioned. when has pixar ever done wrong.....

  • 2010 Movie Preview -  

    [...] The Best and Worst Movies of 2009January 4, 2010 [...]

  • richard head  

    omg were is mega shark vs giant octopus?

  • The Best Reviewed Fi  

    [...] For all the lists and ratings (and extensive graphs) surveyed by Metacritic, click here. [...]

  • Ben  

    IGN can do what they like.
    Metacritic averages out a range of review scores. Why would IGN carry any more weight?

  • Matthew C. Kriner  

    I simply wanted to add a comment here to say thanks for you very nice ideas. Blogs are troublesome to run and time consuming therefore I appreciate when I see well written material. Your time isn't going to waste with your posts. Thanks so much and carry on You'll defintely reach your goals! have a great day!

  • ‘Avatar’  

    [...] that “The Hurt Locker,” the film about bombs over, in and around Baghdad, has been named the year’s best by Metacritic, the online review aggregator. Kathryn Bigelow’s gutsy feature has won kudos from nearly every [...]

  • surafel  

    what about ign ign gave district 9 movie of the year

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