Every site you go to these days has a list of their top 10 best movies of the year. But how many time can you look at slight variations of the same lists you only semi-agree with?
Besides, ranking entire movies is a big job. After much debate on the subject, we here at Screen Rant have decided that, in the end, a year in movies is perhaps best defined by specific movie moments that are now and forever burned into our collective memory.
So, without further ado, here are our picks for those 2009 movie moments which audiences collectively remember as being unforgettably awesome, hilarious, moving, inspiring or are otherwise just plain enjoyable…
(By the way, there will be some spoilers in the items below since all the movies in this list have been out for a while.)
10. The Kidnapping Scene in Taken
Taken is a movie that had many standout moments. But the one scene that gets the whole thrill ride started is probably the best. Ex special forces guy Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) finally gets a phone call from his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who is off running around Europe, only to learn that his daughter is moments away from being abducted by some violent criminals.
The situation is certainly every parent’s worst nightmare, but Bryan Mills handles it like a seasoned pro: He calmly instructs his daughter on what to do, knowing full well that she’s going to be taken, and when the kidnappers find her cellphone, Bryan, with unwavering calm, promises them that if they do this, he’s going to find them and kill them (which, of course, he does). In that single moment the world experienced a great revelation: Liam Neeson is a bonafide action movie badass. Move over Jason Bourne.
9. Walt Kowalski’s Last Stand in Gran Torino
Young folks know Clint Eastwood as the accomplished director of acclaimed films like Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Invictus. However, us middle-to-older folks still remember a time when Clint Eastwood was one of America’s most iconic movie badasses. Gran Torino was the first time we’d seen “Tough Eastwood” onscreen in awhile, but when the movie finally reached its violent climax, we had no doubt who would be left standing when all the guns finished blazing – or so we thought.
Walt Kowalski was as brave and heroic as any other iconic Eastwood character, but where a younger Eastwood would’ve solved his problems with violence, the older, wiser, Eastwood gave us another option to consider: Noble self-sacrifice. Walt’s last stand against a gang of neighborhood thugs was deep, harrowing, and certainly thought-provoking.
8. The Closing Credits Photo Montage of The Hangover
For the whole runtime of The Hangover, I didn’t think it could get funnier than watching those three guys (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) wake up in a drunken stupor, only to be confronted by surreal absurdities – including a live baby and a live tiger – littered about their suite. But then, just as the end credits rolled, something funnier indeed came along.
If you made an immediate run for the lobby bathroom, you missed it all; the photograph montage of what actually went down while the boys were blacked out was both outrageous and raunchy as hell. Director Todd Phillips could have left it all to your imagination and the brief explanations we got in the film – but thank god he didn’t. Hilarious stuff.
7. The Car Bomb Scene in The Hurt Locker
There were so many scenes in The Hurt Locker that we debated, including what is arguably the best sniper battle ever filmed. However, since I’m writing this, I’m going to highlight the car bomb scene. I first saw this scene screened for a NY Comic Con panel back in February, and it left my nails chewed down to the cuticles.
The scene takes place on the day that SSgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) goes out on his first mission with his new partners in the Explosive Ordinance Device unit. The mission is to disarm a car rigged with so many bombs that SSgt. James doesn’t even bother wearing protective armor – it’s pretty much a do or die situation. The bomb site is totally exposed, the bomb itself is expertly made and death could strike at any moment. With a sharp eye for photography, editing, sound and silence, director Kathryn Bigelow makes us sweat every precious tick of the clock.
6. Rorschach Delivers a Hot Grease Facial in Watchmen
The crowd is still divided about stylistic choices of the overall film, but one Watchmen moment that definitely transposed perfectly from comic book page to film screen was the prison scene in which one unlucky convict tries to step up to Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley). Not only does Rorschach beat the guy with a lunch tray, he also tosses a vat of sizzling grease in the guy’s face!
After that came the all-time classic Rorschach line, “You all got it wrong: I’m not trapped in here with you – you’re trapped in here with me!” I’ve never seen an audience go from being horrified to applauding quite that fast.
5. The Final Showdown in District 9
No matter what you thought about the opening sequence of District 9 – a faux documentary about the aliens’ arrival on earth – it is impossible to deny just how awesome the ending of the movie was. Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) had been having the worst day on Earth – slowly transforming into an alien, everyone turning on him – and just when he’s about solve all his problems, everything goes to hell. But does Wikus back down? Hell no. Instead, he grabs some alien guns, an alien Exo suit and throws down with the bad guys John McClane style.
Before people were dropping their jaws over Avatar, they were being amazed by the sort of visual feats director Neill Blomkamp achieved with a $30 million budget. And while District 9 may be a sci-fi film, as far as Westerns go, the ending is one of the best OK Corral shootouts ever put to film.
4. The Sacrifice of George Kirk in Star Trek
Actor Chris Hemsworth will play Thor in the summer of 2011, but undoubtedly his star first shot high when he played Captain Kirk’s father, George Kirk, in the epic opening sequence of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. George Kirk’s bravery in face of the terrors of space not only sparked the Trekker spirit in many longtime fans, it set the immediate precedent that this was going to be a Star Trek movie that the average person could actually connect to and care about – a film with genuine feeling and drama but also some epic and enjoyable adventure.
After that grand overture, I was strapped in tight for the voyage.
3. The Final Battle in Avatar
Upon first viewing, I thought that “the banshee flight” sequence in Avatar was my favorite. Upon second viewing, I have to say it is definitely the final battle between the Na’vi aliens and the mercenary forces of the evil Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Dozens of CGI alien beasts, gunships, mech suits, roaring flames, explosions, smoke and splintered wood blasting into the air, blue aliens fighting to preserve their world while sacrificing their very lives.
There is a lot about Avatar that was amazing, but this end battle truly showcased the potential of Cameron’s vision: a scene that is almost totally CGI, yet is as weighty, dramatic, moving and beautiful as anything “real-world” film can capture. Study this and learn, George Lucas.
2. The Opening Montage of Up
Pixar’s latest was marketed as a lighthearted adventure fantasy, so imagine everyone’s surprise when the film opened with a heartbreaking montage of the life and romance of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen. From the first time they met as kids, to their wedding day, the ups and downs of their married life and finally, Ellie’s untimely passing – the film was barely onscreen for fifteen minutes before we were all reaching for a tissue or napkin to stop our tears.
Never has a mainstream animated movie packed such a powerful emotional punch.
1. Perrier LaPadite vs. Col. Landa in Inglourious Basterds
People were nervous that Quentin Tarantino’s latest film would be another Death Proof (read: bor-ing). However, those fears were instantly erased by the opening scene to Basterds. On the surface, it was just a conversation: A mild-mannered French farmer (Denis Menochet) is paid a visit by a notorious Nazi Colonel (Christoph Waltz) and the two have a civilized conversation over some glasses of fresh milk (harmless, right?). However, beneath that innocent facade, many brilliantly twisted and terrible things were happening.
Col. Landa’s diatribe about why Nazis do what they do sounded almost logical for all of a second before an act of insidious violence reminded you just what kind of monsters the Nazis truly were. Hands down one of Tarantino’s best scenes ever (and one that has made a star out of Christoph Waltz).
Those are our top ten standout movie moments for 2009. Do you agree with our list? Have a few other moments you would like to add? Let us know below.