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
|2009||The Hurt Locker 94|
|2008||4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 97|
|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.
|Category||Best-Reviewed Film in Category||Metascore|
|Overall||The Hurt Locker||94|
|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|
|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|
|Suspense/Thriller||The Headless Woman||81|
On the next page, we take a deeper look at the past year's biggest films.