The Best Movies of 2009 Didn’t Have Enough Aliens… or Did They?

2009 was a banner year for geeks, boasting more great sci-fi films than we’d seen in a good while, some standout animated features, and a damn fine zombie comedy for good measure. If every year produced the amount of quality blockbusters as this one did, movie nerds would be a considerably less bitter lot than we are. Lets look at the five best.

5 Zombieland

A seamless blend of action, horror and comedy that’s got the young talents of Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin mixed with the reliable old ones of Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray (hilarious as himself). The zombie apocalypse has come, and Eisenberg’s character, making his way to Columbus, OH to locate his parents, has got survival down pat. In his journey he encounters a Hummer-driving, gun toting all around badass (Harrelson) and a pair of con artist sisters (Stone and Breslin), all culminating in a massive zombie massacre at a West Coast theme park. In addition to brisk humor and solid action, the make-up and gore effects are top-notch.

4 The Fantastic Mr. Fox

As rewarding and unique as one would imagine a pairing of the talents of Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl (who wrote the original book) would be, this stop-motion animated marvel boasts a mighty voice cast and Anderson’s trademark detailed visuals. George Clooney is the title character (outfitted in a very Wes Anderson corduroy jacket) a master thief of foodstuffs who is determined to pull off one last heist from some very nasty men. The expectedly retro charm of the animation, the likeable characters and the quite funny script brought to life by the likes of Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman makes this a family classic, even if it must live in the shadow of Up.

3 Star Trek

J.J. Abrams fresh, vibrant reboot hit succeeds by being a Star Trek for people who don’t like Star Trek. Chris Pine stars as cocky James T. Kirk, wasting his potential an Iowan townie until the call comes to follow in his late father’s footsteps and join up with Starfleet. He soon becomes embroiled in a rivalry with Vulcan wunderkind Spock (Jeremy Quinto, perfect) that evolves into partnership when some very angry Romulans (in a very dodgy looking ship) led by Eric Bana emerge from the future looking to settle scores. The cast includes Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as the irascible McCoy, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and Zoe Saldana as Uhura (here made a love interest to Spock in a move which had old school Trekkies yelping). The result is a character-driven film is funny, exciting, well paced and surprisingly relatable. Everything about it screams “A Star-Trek for our time”, right down to the Apple-esque asthetic of the Enterprise bridge, while still staying true to the essence of the classic mythology.

2 Up

You probably heard the hype about how touching this film was, (particularly its tear-jerking opening) and you probably found it to be very justified upon seeing this Pixar masterpiece about the adventures of a pudgy boy scout and a lonely old man (both adorably designed) in a flying house. The film only served to boost the animation studio’s already preeminent reputation by telling a story packed with wit and hearth that offered just as much to adults as it did to kids, as well as being (unsurprisingly) beautifully rendered and animated. Featuring the voice talents of Ed Asner and Christopher Plummer, the film was a no brainer for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

1 District 9

Utilizing social allegory (as most of the best sci-fi does) gritty camerawork, and some of the most convincing cg effects in all creation, Neil Blomkamp brought us this Peter Jackson produced bombshell (adapted from a short film Blomkamp made in 2005), that is not only thought provoking, but relentlessly thrilling and inventive entertainment. Set in South Africa and drawing obvious parallels to that country’s Apartheid situation, District 9 tells of a future where despised alien refugees, known derisively as “Prawns” are quarantined to a filthy enclosed camp within the city, the District 9 of the title. Sharlto Copley quite memorably portrays the smug, smarmy bureaucrat tasked with evacuating and moving the settlement to a new area, only to find himself suddenly sympathizing with the Prawns’ plight, thanks to his gradually turning into one via DNA infection. With its impressive collection of alien artillery and giant mech suit battles, District 9 manages to be the greatest video game movie of all time, despite not actually being based on any pre-existing video game. District 9 was nominated for Best Picture (though we all knew the Academy would never have the stones to actually name it as such) and also for its script, editing, and visual effects

Honorable Mention

Fish Tank – A thoroughly convincing and engaging British drama about a lower class girl, with the awesome Michael Fassbender as her trashy mother’s sketchy bf.

Crazy Heart- Jeff Bridges knocks it out of the park as an alcoholic country music has-been, with Maggie Gylenhaal, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell helping out.

Coraline – Another stellar animated work from this year, directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas).

That’s the story on 2009’s best movies. If you for some strange reason don’t agree, or have something to add, sound off.

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