Roger Ebert's Two Lists of the Best Films of 2009 Unveiled

December 20, 2009
Source: Roger Ebert's Journal

The Hurt Locker

Ah yes, it's that time of year when everyone starts putting out their best of the year lists. Roger Ebert has announced his list of the best of 2009 and he's split it up into two specific lists in order to give 20 different films this honor. He explains: "The lists are divided into Mainstream Films and Independent Films. This neatly sidesteps two frequent complaints: (1) 'You name all those little films most people have never heard of,' and (2) 'You pick all blockbusters and ignore the indie pictures.' Which is is my official Top Ten? They both are equal, and every film here is entitled to name itself 'One of the Year's 10 Best!'" See all 20 below!

The Top 10 Mainstream Films:
» Bad Lieutenant
» Crazy Heart
» An Education
» The Hurt Locker
» Inglourious Basterds
» Knowing
» Precious
» A Serious Man
» Up in the Air
» The White Ribbon

"Now you are thinking, hey, what about Avatar? Faithful readers know of my annual Special Jury Prize. This year it goes to James Cameron's ground-breaking epic. No, that doesn't mean it's the best film of the year. It means it won the Special Jury Prize."

The Top 10 Independent Films:
» Departures
» Disgrace
» Everlasting Moments
» Goodbye Solo
» Julia
» Silent Light
» Sin Nombre
» Skin
» Trucker
» You, the Living

I don't know how films like The White Ribbon or Bad Lieutenant or even Crazy Heart count as "mainstream films", because those three are certainly not mainstream, but I guess they're not as independent as those on that list. Usually I agree with Ebert, but something seems off about his lists this year. Maybe I just don't think that most of those he ended up choosing were really the best films of 2009. Sure, they are great, but I guess I just feel like he's missing a few that I really want to see up there. I am very happy for Up in the Air though, as it definitely deserves that spot on here, as do The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds as well.

Find more posts: Feat, Movie News



inglorious basterds is a cool film,i personally loved the watchmen & transformers 2.

tobi,leader of the akatsuki on Dec 20, 2009


Knowing? Really? That was one of the most cliche and badly acted/written films I have ever seen, yes the aliens/ships were cool but that's about it.

RPH on Dec 20, 2009


I know this isn't going to Roger, but I mean....REALLY ROGER? KNOWING? REALLY? (500) Days of Summer > Knowing. ANYDAY of the week. Come on Roger...

Spencer on Dec 20, 2009


Tobi, Transformers 2 was one of the WORST movies I have ever seen in my entire life.

Spencer on Dec 20, 2009



crabby on Dec 20, 2009


@ spencer it maybe what you think,but it done what it said on the packet,great special effects,megan fox,giant fucking robots fighting.ain't that cool in its own right.

tobi,leader of the akatsuki on Dec 20, 2009


Knowing?? Seriously Wow. No Avatar??? And the White Ribbon needs to be on the bottom list. I usually view Ebert's review with reverence but this can't be right

Scott on Dec 20, 2009


what i am wondering is why district 9 is not on either list (honestly no clue as to which it should be on) as it was one of the best films of this year by far or is it just that because it is sci-fi it gets the screw?

David on Dec 20, 2009


I agree District 9 deserves to be up there. Knowing? Common!

Brandon on Dec 20, 2009


"You, the Living" is the best film of 2007, not one of the top ten of 2009. LOL

me on Dec 20, 2009


he must have been smoking crack. both lists are horrible

samuel j on Dec 20, 2009


i don't like this list stuff. but if i had to pick the best? best mainstream: "an education"......this year nothing else is close. if it's based on visuals alone - then avatar gets it; but, i expect more and "education" really delivers. it's wonderful. best indie : "sin nombre"..... and again, no other indie comes close to it. i don't think i could pick between my two "best" movies. they're both equally great. if anyone on here hasn't seen them - do so. they're excellent. a few other thoughts: - and by the way.......i have to agree with the people above - "knowing"?????? it wouldn't make my top 10 due to weak story and unbelieveably predictable ending. - i thought that after chapter 4, "inglorious bastards" was very boring. and the ending was lame too. - why didn't "district 9" make his top 10?

beavis on Dec 20, 2009


no star trek? district 9? up? o and tobi....... only a child thinks a movie is good just because it has explosions and giant fucking robots. "aint that cool in its own right." cool does not equal good! sure it made it a bit entertaining, but theres a big line drawn where something is GOOD. it was entertaining, but it wasnt good! the story sucked, the acting sucked, ect..

kalen on Dec 20, 2009


Knowing? lol what about D9? 500 Days of Summer? The Hangover? Star Trek? Moon? (I'm the only one who love this movie).

Zim on Dec 20, 2009


can't stop laughing at the tobi guy with his transformer 2...

tms on Dec 20, 2009


I'm relieved to not see Avatar, but a little sad to not see District 9. Also, Knowing is completely random. That movie was quite mediocre.

Come on people on Dec 20, 2009


i'm thinking that knowing was put up there as a joke...

HB on Dec 20, 2009


I would consider about 5 of those Mainstream films mainstream and even THAT's generous (Precious, Hurt Locker, Basterds, Knowing, Up in the Air)

Ryan on Dec 20, 2009


Roger Ebert is fat

dan on Dec 20, 2009


I agree with #19.

notes on Dec 20, 2009


I agree with #20

smithy on Dec 20, 2009


i agree with #21

The Goodfella on Dec 20, 2009


Although I loved the beginning of Up, the rest was pure fluff, so glad he didn't include it. But hey no (500) Days of Summer, what gives?

Caitie on Dec 20, 2009


errr the moment i saw "Knowing" on the list .. i laughed.. just listing that movie alone made the list not credible. I would have expected Up or 500 Days of Summer in there somewhere.. or even Avatar? .. .or Where the Wild Things Are? or like... District 9??

locxn on Dec 20, 2009


and also.. a lot of the titles listed under "Mainstream" are not even mainstream releases...

locxn on Dec 20, 2009


oh yea and transformers 2 sucks megan's ........ 😀

locxn on Dec 20, 2009


@tobi Dude, Transformers did not do what was advertised. Avatar did. Transformers was a jumbled together piece of shit that didn't even have cool action.

Spencer on Dec 20, 2009


D9 was nothing special aside from the special effects. It wasn't some sort of brilliantly unique story that people keep raving it is. I didn't feel for the characters even though the acting was fine, simply because the direction didn't give me a way to empathize. The writing and storyline were both cliche and the action grew tired during the climax, although seeing people get vaporized/exploded never grew old. I like Knowing better than most reviewers, but have to agree that it's crazy to have it on a top ten list. 500 Days of Summer would be on my list as both the funniest and possibly most stylish movies of the year. Loved the camera work in that movie. I'm incredibly happy that Up didn't make the list. Overrated piece of formulaic garbage.

dqniel on Dec 20, 2009


The idea of having two lists (one mainstream and one indie) is a horrible idea. First, where do you draw the line? What was Slumdog Millionaire? Second, the best part of these lists from film critics is to discover films that you might not have had the chance to see. But now, the viewer has no frame of reference of how good these movie are. Are they indie good or mainstream good? Horrible idea.

Taylor on Dec 20, 2009


What about the hurt locker?

jon on Dec 20, 2009


Spencer.....Okay you can hate on Transformers 2 , but to say it didnt have cool action is just showing you are a one sided assclown...I am not saying Transformers 2 was great but The Forrest fight alone in Transformers 2 was more action than you have ever gotten in your life....Nuff said !!!

LORD MANTACO on Dec 20, 2009


Alex, you do know what determines a 'Mainstream film' right? It's the number of theaters it's released in, not the style/money.

hi on Dec 20, 2009


@ 31 "The Top 10 Mainstream Films: » Bad Lieutenant » Crazy Heart » An Education » The Hurt Locker------------------------------------------------------------------ » Inglourious Basterds » Knowing » Precious » A Serious Man » Up in the Air » The White Ribbon"

hi on Dec 20, 2009


wtf. Ive only heard of two of those movies. Um hello pick movies people know of!

Me. on Dec 20, 2009


Saying the difference between mainstream and indie films is the number of screens it was released on makes just as much sense ad splitting them up alphabetically

Taylor on Dec 20, 2009


Wheres Fantastic Mr. Fox? Glad to see Goodbye Solo up there.

The real Me on Dec 20, 2009



billy on Dec 21, 2009


Dear Roger: YOUr love affair with the Hack Cage is just plain wrong.

Clover on Dec 21, 2009



jep on Dec 21, 2009


$20 that "Come on people" hasn't even seen Avatar

Geoff on Dec 21, 2009


KNOWING was the best movie I have seen this decade. Way to be courageous Roger!

Eric B. on Dec 21, 2009


I'll have what ever Roger was smoking while watching the majority of those movies.

Dirty Dutchman on Dec 21, 2009


Just like the Academy Awards, you spend money, you'll end up winning whether it was a good movie or not. Prime example, Hollywood loves cliche musical. Best picture will be Nine. Not that is should actually get it, but that's what will happen because they bought the right people. Just like this list. He was paid or compensated in some manner to include certain movies and blurred the lines of what could or should be called independent. From what I understood, Inglorious and Hurt Locker were considered Independent films. I guess a better definition is needed as to what makes one and not the other.

radiogorillaz on Dec 21, 2009


@ radiogorillaz, I was also under the impression that Hurt Locker was considered Indie.

jep on Dec 21, 2009


Harry Brown is good, Transformer Revenge of the Fallen, Gi joe, A prophet, sherlock holmes, District 9, inglourious Bastards.

Cineprog on Dec 21, 2009


I think Roger Ebert is as honest as they come for movie critics. He actually ENJOYS watching movies, which is why Knowing is probably his guilty pleasure. He enjoyed it, plain and simple. I doubt he thinks it's a technically well made film, as many like I think it's not a very good flick, but it was one of HIS favorites. Can't fault him for that; plus, he also includes some other solid picks.

Golgo 13 on Dec 21, 2009


Knowing? Get off the acid Robert

CJ on Dec 21, 2009


@35... if you keep up with movies at all then you've heard of all those movies, and if you don't keep up then thats why critics make lists like that, so noobs that can't find a good movie can find one.

Derek on Dec 21, 2009


My top 10 mainstream: >The Hurt Locker >Inglourious Basterds >A Serious Man >Avatar >District 9 >Up In the Air >Precious >Crazy Heart >The Bad Lieutenant >Star Trek ...i haven't seen An Education or The White Ribbon yet so i can't speak for them, but Knowing, seriously? >>ALSO, i had to go to an independent theatre to see A Serious Man, and i know it was a popular movie among movie people but it only showed in like 250 theatres across the US so idk how it could possibly be labeled as MAINSTREAM?!?!?

Derek on Dec 21, 2009


Knowing sucked so fucking hard, I'm STILL trying to remove my couch from my TV. That "movie" had some of the worst everything I've ever seen. I wonder if making a bad movie is like being crazy. Do you actually know you're making a horrendous piece of piss? Piece of shit is too kind. This movie is a petrified piece of rancid truck stop mens room floor urine. I like Nic Cage, and yes he's made some turds, but he still gets a pass for some of his earlier work (I just watched Bringing out the Dead again a couple of nights ago and when Cage has good material to work with he's solid as fuck), but I would have to say after praising him for his earlier work, I would have to punch him in the dick for making this putrid piece of stinktacular detritus. I watched it for free and I still want my money back. We have to save the children!!! Fuck you. and the children. Nuff said.

DLM Entertainment on Dec 21, 2009


oh yeah and further follow up, roger ebert has lost about a trillion points on my respect meter, guilty pleasure or no.

DLM Entertainment on Dec 21, 2009


angels and demons and star trek both should replace knowing and a serious man. Its a bit unfair when someone with different tastes to some others decides which movies were best.

yumyumfish on Dec 22, 2009


LOL @ #51 !!!!!! i, too, watched it for free :P...... and i am robbed of 2 hours of my life that i can't get back. Seriously... His taste or not... it is undeniably a shit movie. But if you are into that kind of entertainment, fair enough.. theres tonnes of movies like that out there... and don't get me wrong... i thought "Knowing" was kind of entertaining..kind of funny even with that gooky script who wouldnt? But to list it as one of the best "mainstream" films of 2009 is just ludicrous... hey in that case.. why not put Transformers 2, or Terminator Salvation, or at least district 9??

I hate sushi. on Dec 22, 2009


@53've obviously not seen A Serious Man, that was easily one of the funniest movies of the year... NOONE does dry humor like the Coen Bros!

Derek on Dec 23, 2009

New comments are no longer allowed on this post.



Subscribe to our feed -or- daily newsletter:
Follow Alex's main account on twitter:
For the latest posts only - follow this one:

Add our updates to your Feedly - click here

Get the latest posts sent in Telegram Telegram