1. “Inglourious Basterds”
We’re all well aware of Quentin Tarantino’s notoriety for dirty, unpolished cult classic cinema. What “Basterds” accomplishes is a popular culture version of his taste, where the cinematography is cleaner but the dialogue remains loyal to fans of QT. While gruesome and ridiculous, the movie is suspenseful and entertaining, which is not something typical for a snuff film. Take it to the bank, Tarantino, because you’ve now officially made another hit.
– Emelie Battaglia

2. “Up”
The film hits us with a lengthy dialogue-free sequence very early on, showing basically an entire lifespan — and it’s one of the most beautiful montages to ever hit screens. The film doesn’t go down (get it?) from there, feeding its audience with beauty, cuteness (Dug the Dog, anyone?) and humor everywhere. “Up” doesn’t make a children’s movie accessible to grown-ups. Instead, it makes the grown-ups more childlike to enjoy the movie. 
– Philippe Lazaro

3. “The Hurt Locker”
Despite the Iraqi setting, director Katherine Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is not a political polemic. Instead, it is one of the most gripping, and nerve-wracking thrillers of the modern era. The film uses a docudrama style to detail the daily lives of a group of men charged with dismantling IEDs in post-war Iraq. Though the plot is often episodic, the camerawork and sharp character details demand respect. Forget the retarded, fascism of Transformers 2, this is the action movie of the year.
– Hunter M. Daniels
3. “The Hangover”
Out of a decade where almost all comedies were pretty much made by the Judd Apatow guys or the Ben Stiller crew, in pops “The Hangover” with none of the regulars. Like an Apatow film, “The Hangover” dips toward the crude, raunchy direction, but not in vain. With extremely memorable quotes, a guaranteed comedic premise and Zach Galifianakis’ deadpan delivery, “The Hangover” is canonized alongside the “Anchorman”s and “Superbad”s of this decade’s comedies. 
– Philippe Lazaro

5. “Star Trek”
I’ve been a “Star Wars” fan from day one, but I was anything but excited for this new adventure aboard the USS Enterprise and was not disappointed. “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams reinvents Gene Roddenberry’s baby, pumping new life into the franchise and reminding this generation who Spock, Scotty and Sulu are. “Star Trek” also serves as a prequel to the previous “Star Trek” films, as it tells how the crew came to be and how James Tiberius Kirk followed his father’s footsteps and join star fleet. Accompanied by witty and comedic dialogue along with great acting by the young cast, “Star Trek” takes off at light speed. Make sure you don’t miss it.
-Lance Kosher

6. “(500) Days of Summer”
Amid 2009’s rather putrid crop of ostensible romantic comedies (think “All About Steve” or whatever the hell that Katherine Heigl film was called) came “(500) Days of Summer.” While far from perfect — I’m sure the preciousness of the characters or the use of graphics turned more than a few people off — the film features a winning performance from Joseph Gordon Levitt and an ending that probably won’t satisfy fans of the “happily ever after”-type ending that usual rom-coms employ.
– Virginia Yapp

7. “Where the Wild Things Are”
We’ve already heard the “This isn’t really for kids” claim, and that is true. But “Wild Things” remains ever so true to Maurice Sendak’s style, which isn’t very much for kids to begin with. Add director Spike Jonze’s flair for enigmatic meaning through minimalism, and you have a great movie with different levels of accessibility. If that’s not enough, the truly amazing visuals are worth some amazement. 
– Philippe Lazaro

8. “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans”
(For more on this little gem, check out Lance Kosher’s review on the adjunct page.)

9. “The Road”
Cormac McCarthy novels are the rare exception to the general movie-adaptations-suck rule. While the story, characters, and message are dramatically different from “No Country for Old Men,” McCarthy’s bold storytelling remains in tact. With cinematography, sound, and production that match the feel of the book, “The Road” leads to a triumphantly rewarding end.
– Philippe Lazaro

10. “Drag Me to Hell”
It’s hard to describe the appeal of cult director Sam Raimi’s latest masterwork to those uninitiated to his “Evil Dead” films: To the untrained eye, it looks like just another hacky horror film swimming in a sea of hacky horror films, but Raimi’s penchant for over-the-top imagery and wild, cartoonish characters cannot be matched. He also manages to throw in damning scenes about our current economic woes and the state of the U.S. banking system… not quite your average horror film. Maybe we’ll forgive him someday for his “Spiderman” films.
– Virginia Yapp

Artsweek would like to take this moment to acknowledge some low-scoring favorites, from Michael Haneke’s “White Ribbon,” the lovely and amazing “Ponyo,” Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday,” the Sundance favorite, “Peter and Vandy,” Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (which may have made this list, had more Artsweekers gotten a chance to see it), “Precious,” “An Education,” “Thirst,” the Sam Rockwell-starring “Moon” and “The Beaches of Agnes.”

Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s latest film, “Adoration,” “Antichrist,” “The Cove” and “The Damned United.”

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And, of course, there is more to come. It’s barely December, and that leaves a good deal of worthy films left to be released. We’re planning on checking out “Up In the Air,” “The Last Station,” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and, of course, “Sherlock Holmes.”