Note: I still haven't seen A Single Man, Nine, Bright Star, Crazy Heart, An Education, Broken Embraces and The White Ribbon. I imagine maybe one or two one of those films would've made this list. With that said...
1. A Serious Man
Its usually hit or miss for me in regards to the films made by The Coen Brothers. This however is an exception. This may be my favorite Coen Brothers film. With a superb cast and an ending that is totally uncomprising, A Serious Man is my favorite film of the year.
2. Inglorious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino's best film since Pulp Fiction and quite possibly the best script he's ever written. I remember two years ago I was walking back to my car from an prior job in the valley and saw Tarantino work on something at some English pub. He had a dozen books on the table as he was writing something down. He may have been working on Inglorious Basterds, who knows. Anyways job well done QT. Oh yeah: Christoph Waltz had better win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
3. 500 Days of Summer
Out of all the films I've seen in 2009, 500 Days of Summer is the film that I had to argue the most about. So what if the film had way too many gimmicks or that it was pandering to some sort of "hipser audience," 500 Days of Summer spoke to me in a way that no other film did in 2009. NUFF SAID. HOLLER.
4. The Hurt Locker
I tend to like films that have characters who are completely obsessed with a certain thing (i.e. their job). Even though the film veers in a completely different direction in its third act, the Hurt Locker is tense as heck and features two breakthrough performances, one from Jeremy Renner and the other from the always great Anthony Mackie (dude needs to be in some major staring roles ASAP). The film is directed with such expertise by Kathyrn Bigelow and probably has the best movie ending of 2009.
5. Up In The Air
Probably my favorite Cloon Dog performance. This film really surprised me. I wasn't expecting a lot but it really hit me emotionally. Sure it was topical and it was a "NOW" type film but the theme that struck me the most was the whole "sure you're successful but are you really even though you dont have someone in your life." yeah im a total softie.
If you didnt cry at least once during Up then frankly you dont like movies.
7. Star Trek
J.J. Abrams has never failed in my eyes. Star Trek is no exception. My favorite popcorn film of 2009.
8. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
My favorite documentary of the year.
If you know me then you know that i'm a big fan of James Cameron. While this film isn't as great as Aliens or Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Avatar is still a worthwhile cinematic experience based solely on its visuals (motion capture) which I believe are a landmark achievement in cinema. The king of the world is officially back. Now I hope he'll make True Lies 2.
10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
I'm usually up in arms with the film aesthetic of Wes Anderson. Sometimes it works to perfection (Rushmore) other times it becomes this bloated style over substance exercise (A Life Aquatic). Fantastic Mr. Fox is a return to glory for Anderson.
Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist
Charlotte Gainsbourg's performance in Antichrist is completely fearless that it deserves a mention on this list. I still have that image of genital mutiliation in my head. OUCH.