As in previous years, it was hard to play favorites with the great movies I've seen in 2009. If we're talking the best, how could I not include the thrilling documentary The Cove, or a fabulously cheaper thrill, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, or Summer Hours, the beautiful French tale of relative value?

As in previous years, it was hard to play favorites with the great movies I've seen in 2009. If we're talking the best, how could I not include the thrilling documentary The Cove, or a fabulously cheaper thrill, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, or Summer Hours, the beautiful French tale of relative value?

In the end, a large handful of films had to be nixed to get the list down to a diverse group of 10. And as with the past two years, a Pixar film sits at the top. I swear I tried to fight it, but there's no denying the sheer cinematic force surrounding a squat little old man with tennis balls on the feet of his walker.


10. "Food, Inc."

Robert Kenner's doc about the trampling of independent farmers and how big business is infecting the way our food is grown, fed and processed is like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle for the 21st century. Here's hoping it becomes as well-known and influential.


9. "Star Trek"

For full disclosure, I'll admit that I was raised among Trek fans and had a stuffed tribble as a kid. That said, a lot of my non-fan friends agree - this was the tightest, most satisfying blockbuster of the summer.


8. "The Class"

Laurent Cantet's year in the life of an inner-city Paris schoolteacher could be called To Sir, With Open Hostility, but like the protagonist, you'll keep getting sucked deeper into its successive frustrations.


7. "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

Of the three movies she's released in '09, this is the only one that Meryl Streep doesn't have to carry. Wes Anderson, a team of dedicated stop-motion animators and a group of fellow voice actors, including George Clooney, Bill Murray and a terrific Jason Schwartzman, have her back.


6. "Hunger"

While there are many filmmakers willing to show the ugliness of our world, it's a rare few that can make it as hauntingly beautiful as Steve McQueen's portrait of IRA hunger strikers in the early '80s.