AFI announce Top 10 American films of 2009

Posted by · 4:32 pm · December 13th, 2009

Algenis Perez Soto in SugarJeez, give us some breathing room. Anyway, the American Film Institute has revealed their annual selection of the year’s best U.S. titles, and as usual, it’s a pleasingly diverse, idiosyncratic list.

My heart sings to see Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s marvelous “Sugar” make the cut, at the expense of heavily-hyped titles like “Invictus” and even “Avatar” — Anne Thompson reports the latter got a special citation for technical achievement, though it’s not in the press release.

From an awards-watcher’s perspective, however, the most interesting inclusion here might be “The Messenger,” whose higher-than-expected precursor profile suggests some may be underestimating its Oscar potential.

Those looking for correlation with the Academy’s eventual Top 10 should bear in mind that a foreign title like “An Education” isn’t eligible for inclusion here. Even so, I’d say there are plenty of American titles not included here that are more likely to land Best Picture nods than, say, “The Hangover.”

But that’s the beauty of the list — it’s always a joy to see a set of year-end honors with more on its mind than mere Oscar prognostication. Check out the full Top 10 after the cut.


“The Hangover”
“The Hurt Locker”
“The Messenger”
“A Serious Man”
“A Single Man”
“Up in the Air”

Finally, if you’re interested, this is the rather formidable jury responsible for assembling the above list:

Norman Jewison (chairman)
Sean Astin
Dustin Lance Black
Leo Braudy
Mark Harris
Patty Jenkins
Leonard Maltin
Elvis Mitchell
Chon Noriega
Tom Pollock
Claudia Puig
Richard Schickel
Lisa Schwarzbaum

→ 30 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

30 responses so far

  • 1 12-13-2009 at 4:37 pm

    JJ said...

    SO happy for ‘The Messenger’, one of my favorites of this year.

    As far as ‘Nine’, ‘Invictus’, and other “misses” …

    people, we all know these are Oscary films, not Top 10 Best quality among American critics.

    I’m not saying they can’t be both. But this happens every year. Every year.

    p.s. – I’m responding to the hordes of people across the internet on Oscar-related boards who are befuddled at the exclusion of some of these titles.

  • 2 12-13-2009 at 4:37 pm

    geha714 said...

    I wonder if they left out Avatar because they didn’t see it on time or because they want a more diverse list.

  • 3 12-13-2009 at 4:39 pm

    Amir said...

    I understand and appreciate the diversity, but if there is to be a popular comedy in the list, aren’t “zombieland” or “500 days of summer” much more award worthy than “the hangover”?
    maybe it’s just me, but i really didn’t like that movie; barely even laughed during the whole thing.
    the list is really good, but i would have much preferred the inclusion of the two aforementioned titles or “Nine” instead of the hangover.

  • 4 12-13-2009 at 4:39 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    i doubt they saw avatar, the only 1 of the four to perform it seems, whod have thought? wish these awards had been spread out though

  • 5 12-13-2009 at 4:40 pm

    Amir said...

    and i haven’t seen Avatar, but i’ll bet on anything that that movie is also going to be far better than the hangover.

  • 6 12-13-2009 at 4:48 pm

    Dylan said...

    I’m happy to see Coraline getting some love. With this, and the LAFCA choosing Fox today, maybe Up’s Animated Feature Oscar isn’t so inevitable?

    (Yes, I’m not blind. I realize that Up is included in this list too)

  • 7 12-13-2009 at 4:54 pm

    Joe said...

    This list both excites and depresses me. I KNEW I should’ve paid more attention to SUGAR when it first came out.

  • 8 12-13-2009 at 4:59 pm

    Scott said...

    Very happy they included Coraline.

  • 9 12-13-2009 at 5:06 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Joe: We tried telling you! ;)

  • 10 12-13-2009 at 5:21 pm

    James D. said...

    Surprised that Basterds did not make it. Also, this center justified forum layout is making me feel queasy.

  • 11 12-13-2009 at 5:34 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Center justified? What am I not seeing?

  • 12 12-13-2009 at 5:40 pm

    John said...

    The real delight here is THE HANGOVER, an absolute joy from beginning to end. Of course, THE HURT LOCKER, PRECIOUS, and UP are no slouches either.

  • 13 12-13-2009 at 5:47 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    As for Avatar not making the cut, I imagine this jury for the most part simply hadn’t seen it in time for the vote. It only started screening a few days ago, and the majority of the people listed as the jury aren’t film critics so unless there was some special invitation for them to see it, I’d imagine that they haven’t.

    Not to say that Avatar couldn’t have been snubbed, but it’s very hard to imagine The Hangover making the cut over it if they actually had.

    That said, a peculiar list, a lot of films many would’ve expected to see show up here didn’t, and in favor of some curious choices, both the populist (The Hangover) and the out-of-nowhere (Sugar, which I’ve heard of, but never in a “one of the very best films of the year” way).

  • 14 12-13-2009 at 5:54 pm

    Troy said...

    I didn’t care for Sugar at all, and didn’t find the Hangover all that funny. :/

  • 15 12-13-2009 at 6:30 pm

    Glenn said...

    The AFI always give better top ten than most other organisations. The one year they did an awards show was also the best too.

    Guy, you haven’t noticed that all InContention entries and comments and the sidebar are now centred? It’s like someone hasn’t turned off a centre html opening or something.

  • 16 12-13-2009 at 6:41 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Looks fine on my google chrome.

  • 17 12-13-2009 at 6:47 pm

    Steve said...

    Yea, it’s normal for me on Firefox.

  • 18 12-13-2009 at 6:50 pm

    Amir said...

    the more i look at this list, the less i like it.
    how can they ignore inglourious basterds and then give a spot to the hangover?
    seriously AFI? really?
    the hangover is a “better” film than ‘ingourious basterds’?
    in what aspects? the script? the direction? the acting? production values?

  • 19 12-13-2009 at 7:17 pm

    PJ said...

    Good list, but it isn’t that idiosyncratic; save for “Coraline”, “Sugar”, “The Hangover” and maybe “The Messenger” all the other films have been present in most best film discussions and announcements. I personally found their TV list more off-beat and interesting; “Nurse Jackie, “Party Down”, “True Blood”, “Glee” and “The big Bang Theory” amongst more regularly acclaimed shows like “Mad Men”.

  • 20 12-13-2009 at 7:22 pm

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    Yeah, it’s centre-justified for me too when I access the site from Internet Explorer.

  • 21 12-13-2009 at 7:29 pm

    Glenn said...

    BTW, all those saying that “Nine” is on “life support” or is already “dead” are clearly ridiculous. That isn’t the sort of movie that critics give big awards to. Not anymore, anyway. “Nine” will be a guilds hit, I’m sure.

  • 22 12-13-2009 at 7:42 pm

    Dylan said...

    I have center justified too…

  • 23 12-13-2009 at 7:44 pm

    James D. said...

    It must be an Internet Explorer thing.

  • 24 12-13-2009 at 7:48 pm

    Adam Smith said...

    Nine is neither on life support, dead, or a sure thing. It is, however, on notice. It’s a film that definitely needed some recognition SOMEWHERE, and even the NBR gave it the cold shoulder. That seems a bit suspect. I’m not saying it’s totally out, but it’s certainly not the juggernaut we expected. Of the big four, Avatar is looking the strongest, but that could be because the buzz is still fresh.

  • 25 12-13-2009 at 8:48 pm

    Silencio said...

    The Hangover is actually in my top ten so far. Like # 5 or 6, so I’m pleased.

  • 26 12-13-2009 at 11:33 pm

    Maffew said...

    THE Sean Astin?

  • 27 12-14-2009 at 1:05 am

    Brian said...

    I’m surprised Julie and Julia and 500 Days didn’t make it.

    Hopefully this will start the journey for Sugar to be nominated for Original Screenplay.

  • 28 12-14-2009 at 3:01 am

    red_wine said...

    Why is everyone picking on The Hangover? Why not pick on Precious. I really rather liked The Hangover. I certainly liked it more than Precious and 500 days.

    And why does everyone assume that if someone does not vote for or include Avatar, they haven’t seen it. Maybe they didn’t like it, its not that hard to imagine.

  • 29 12-14-2009 at 4:08 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “the hangover is a “better” film than ‘ingourious basterds’?

    I’d say so, yes.

  • 30 12-14-2009 at 4:17 am

    nork said...

    Boy, “In Contention” really has it in for “Inglourious Basterds”…