It's absolutely true that 2009 was a great year for movies, but I'm not altogether sure that 2009 was a year for great movies. The difference, some might argue, is negligible, since there probably shouldn't be any sort of division between smarter and more substantive fare and populist entertainment. In a year like, say, 2008, that might have been true, at least where its biggest blockbuster, The Dark Knight, was concerned. But in '09, it seemed like about five people saw the "serious" movies, while everyone else was watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
That said, the value of being entertained isn't necessarily less than that of being enlightened or inspired, and box office success isn't automatically antithetical to quality. (I actually kind of liked Revenge of the Fallen, after all.) Ultimately, however, making a Top Ten list for 2009 has seemed like a more ambiguously-defined process than in previous years, because I realize that many of the movies I enjoyed were not the most meaningful or deep, and ones I admired or respected were not always the ones that readily thrilled or excited. As such, here's a list of my top ten favorite films of the year, arranged in deliberate but basically arbitrary order. By all means discuss, debate, and disagree, but I'd love it if I could get folks to see even one or two of these that they haven't already, even if it's to fortify their arguments why I'm wrong.