Back Again: The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2009
by Alex Billington
January 21, 2010
← Back to the first page. Here's the second half of the best movies from 2009 that we suggest watching:
Mary and Max
Opened on September 25, 2009
Directed by Adam Elliot
A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York.
Why it's on here: While there were many great stop-motion movies last year, this is easily the most underrated and under-appreciated one, probably because it was never released theatrically. Mary and Max was the opening film of Sundance last year and I fell for it immediately. It's a charming story of two pen pals, one a young girl in Australia, and one an old man in New York, but neither of them have any friends. The character design and style is unique and the comedy in it is hilarious. And if I didn't tell you Philip Seymour Hoffman voices one of the characters, you would've never guessed. If you're a fan of animation or stop-motion, you need to find Mary and Max and see it as soon as you can!
Opened on November 13, 2009
Directed by Oren Moverman
An American soldier struggles with an ethical dilemma when he becomes involved with a widow of a fallen officer.
Why it's on here: The Messenger is a tough film. Centered around a US Army Staff Sergeant, played by Ben Foster, who's assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service, it's a harrowing story about the survivors left at home during war time. When Ben Foster's character becomes involved with a woman to whom he delivered the news of her husband's death, both sides of grief and loss are explored. Foster's and Woody Harrelson's performances are revelatory. It's tone is bleak, though, and its story becomes repetitively dismal as the movie progresses. But it can not be denied that the film is able to accomplish a realistic, illuminating exploration of grief and just what it means to survive the ones you love. (Written by Brandon Lee Tenney)
Opened on July 3, 2009
Directed by Duncan Jones
Astronaut Sam Bell has a personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.
Why it's on here: By now, everyone has probably heard of Moon, but how many have seen it? If you haven't seen it yet, make it a priority to watch it, especially if you love sci-fi. What Duncan Jones was able to achieve on a budget of $5 million is astonishing. And Sam Rockwell knocks it out of the park with his performance(s) as well (he deserves an Oscar nomination, too). And let's not forget Clint Mansell's wonderful score. There are some low budget sci-fi movies that just fall apart, but this is not one of those, and not only does it bring up great questions about morals and ethics, but it's just a beautiful film as well.
Opened on August 28, 2009
Directed by Dan Eckman
A group of former Encyclopedia Brown-style child-detectives struggle to solve an adult murder mystery in their small town.
Why it's on here: Mystery Team is the first movie by YouTube's Derrick Comedy team and it's hilarious. Donald Glover, D.C. Pierson, and Dominic Dierkes lead the way in this outrageous and smartly written comedy about a ragtag team of wannabe detectives who just never grew up. It's a true shoestring-budget indie, but you'll be impressed with the camera work as well as the writing and directing. It's not for everyone, but if you've loved any of Derrick Comedy's videos or Donald Glover's appearances on NBC's "Community", you'll enjoy Mystery Team as well. And beyond that, these guys need all the support they can get, as they're the true definition of indie filmmakers.
Pirate Radio (aka The Boat That Rocked)
Opened on November 13, 2009
Directed by Richard Curtis
A period ensemble comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960's.
Why it's on here: Despite opening in theaters across the nation, Universal dropped the ball on the marketing campaign for Pirate Radio (better known as The Boat That Rocked in the UK), and therefore the people who should've seen this, never did. What I love about Richard Curtis is his ability to balance an enormous ensemble cast, and in this movie we're talking about more than 10 different disc jockeys all stuck on one boat. And if the impressive cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh) isn't enough to convince you, the soundtrack is one of the best I've ever heard. It's a bit too long, but I had such a great time watching this movie, I couldn't help including it on here.
Opened on November 25, 2009
Directed by John Hillcoat
A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible while walking down the Eastern seaboard.
Why it's on here: I'm guessing this is another film that a lot of people have heard about, but I don't know that many who actually went to see it. It's a "beautifully bleak" adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's harrowing novel about a father and his son trying to survive in a desolate, ash-covered post-apocalyptic wasteland. It's incredibly moving, extremely well made, and features more than a few impressive performances (from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as well as other actors who show up later in the movie). It's one of the best adaptations of 2009 and a movie I'm sure Brandon will be happy that I included it (he absolutely loved it).
Opened on July 31, 2009
Directed by Park Chan-wook
A failed medical experiment turns a Korean priest into a vampire.
Why it's on here: Although I prefer Bong Joon-ho's Mother over Thirst, that film isn't out until this year. I first saw Thirst at Cannes last summer and it was later released theatrically in July. It's not better than his Vengeance Trilogy, but seeing Park Chan-wook take on the vampire genre in a way you've never seen before is certainly enough of a reason to include it on here. It's got a great performance by Korean actor Song Kang-ho (who starred in The Host) as well as Korean actress Kim Ok-bin. And yes, in typical Park Chan-wook fashion, it gets crazier than you could've ever imagined in the third act. But don't watch this if you can't handle blood.
A Town Called Panic
Opened on December 16, 2009
Directed by Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar
Cowboy and Indian's plan to surprise Horse with a homemade birthday gift backfires when they destroy his house instead. Surreal adventures take over as the trio travel to the center of the earth, trek across frozen tundra and discover a parallel underwater universe where pointy-headed (and dishonest!) creatures live.
Why it's on here: If anyone is looking for the most off-the-wall, unique, and entertaining movie to watch from this list, this is it. A Town Called Panic, known as Panique au Village, is a Belgian stop-motion animation comedy using figurines (watch the trailer). You may think it's for kids at first, but I can assure that it's definitely not for kids, and even if it is, I was laughing more watching this than I was any other kids movie released by Hollywood in 2009. As wacky as Bad Lieutenant is, I think this movie is even wackier. If mushrooms are your thing, you wouldn't even have to take them and you'd still trip while watching this. It's so ridiculously fun and everyone else I know that has seen has loved it, too.
Women in Trouble
Opened on November 13, 2009
Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez
A serpentine day in the life of ten seemingly disparate women: a porn star, a flight attendant, a psychiatrist, a masseuse, a bartender, a pair of call girls, etc. All of them with one crucial thing in common: trouble.
Why it's on here: It's rare to see a movie so honest, that it would include several lovely ladies (the likes of Emmanuelle Chriqui and Adrianne Palicki) running around in their underwear. In all seriousness, Women in Trouble is an honest look at the experiences of several women. Their situations are heightened, laden with comedy, and rife with sex. And it all works in the movie's favor. We always talk about wanting comedy with depth above gag, charm above quirk. This is that movie. It also has hot women in their underwear. (Written by Neil Miller of FSR)
World's Greatest Dad
Opened on August 21, 2009
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
A comedy about a man who learns that the things you want most may not be the things that make you happy, and that being lonely is not necessarily the same as being alone.
Why it's on here: This is officially the 11th Sundance movie I have on here, but it deserves this final spot. World's Greatest Dad is one of the darkest comedies you'll ever see, but it's still damn good, and that's why it's on here. It's rare that films like this with absurd concepts even get made and it's worth seeing just to appreciate that someone out there funded this. It may not hold up as well on repeat viewings, but if you've never seen it, you're in for a treat watching it for your first time. Best of all, it's probably Robin Williams best performance in the last 10 years.
I hope I've been able to introduce everyone to a few more great must-see movies that they've never seen. Not everyone will love all of them, that's certainly expected, but I guarantee there is something unique to discover in every last one of these. Support an indie filmmaker today, watch one of these 19, it will make a difference! Let us know what you think of it after, too!
Special guest commentary on In the Loop and Women in Trouble provided graciously by our very good friend Neil Miller of Film School Rejects - thanks as always for helping us put this together my friend! Additional commentary on Anvil, The Messenger, and The Cove written by our own Brandon Lee Tenney.
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