2009 is almost upon us, and with it comes another year of hopeful movies looking to stretch the box office, entertain audiences and, in most cases, also appeal to critics. Some will exceed expectations, and some will fail miserably. It’s impossible to tell at such an early stage, but here are 25 movies that one must see in 2009. Of course, most of these movies have already released trailers of some form or another – there are plenty more that may be better but have yet to reveal their goodness to us fans.
[UPDATE: If you liked this, see the 25 must-see movies of 2010]
- Star Trek
A few years ago, the Star Trek franchise was nearly obliterated when they decided to release the film right around the time that a small indie flick called The Lord of the Rings was playing. Now, J.J. Abrams, the man behind Alias, Lost and Cloverfield, looks to resurrect the franchise by appealing both to Trekkies and non-fans alike. This movie is risky, as it looks to recreate the universe from the ground up without completely offending fans, but even skeptics are anticipating this action-packed sci-fi epic.
Another sci-fi epic comes to theaters in March (assuming the Fox lawsuit gets settled), marking the first adaptation of what is widely considered the best graphic novel of all time. From the man who brought us the excellent Dawn of the Dead remake and 300, Watchmen involves superheroes, amazing special effects and a dark, apocalyptic story. The trailers have been absolutely phenomenal, and fans are rabid to see this picture. Whether it will appeal to wider audiences is still to be determined, but this one looks like an early blockbuster.
- Terminator Salvation
When I heard that McG, the man behind Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, was directed Terminator 4, I cringed. I cried. I screamed. But having seen the trailers for the picture, I am anticipating this film greatly. Marking a departure from the last three movies, which featured good and bad cyborgs facing off to save John Conner in present day, this one takes the action to the future, following the annihilation of the world. With humans facing extinction, John Conner (Christian Bale) leads those who survived to take down Skynet once and for all. The movie looks gritty, exciting and visually stimulating, and the presence of Bale and some other quality actors doesn’t hurt, either.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Fans were outraged when the sixth Harry Potter movie was pushed back six months, and November and December just don’t feel the same without it. Thankfully, the movie does come out soon, promising an even darker storyline as one of the big characters is killed off by another. Having read the book twice, this one is a great story – though it will be interesting to see how good of a movie it will make, since it basically it setting up things for the war that takes place in the seventh novel. Furthermore, I still question whether David Yates, who botched the last installment, is up to the task, though the return of Steve Kloves, the screenwriter who adapted all of the other books except for the last one, is reassuring.
Nothing much is known about this sci-fi epic, other than that it is directed by James Cameron. Cameron, who hasn’t directed a feature movie in over a decade since he conquered the world with Titanic, is responsible for some of the best sci-fi action movies ever made, including The Abyss, Aliens, Terminator 2 and True Lies (which isn’t sci-fi but still damn good fun). As such, one should expect great things from Avatar.
It’s a Pixar movie, so of course it has to be on the list. In their latest flick, a grumpy old man ties a bunch of balloons to his house and floats away – except he accidentally brings one of his neighbor’s kids with him. Presumably, there is some adventure involved, though the simple teasers have focused on the pure comedy of the initial situation. The movie, as always, looks great, though it will be hard to top Ratatouille and Wall-E.
- Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino returns with his long-anticipated WWII film, which has one of the strangest casts in recent history. This movie, which will most likely be very graphic and not your typical war film, will probably not appeal to the masses but instead to Tarantino’s loyal followers. Either way, I’m excited.
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Hugh Jackman returns to the role that made him famous, but this time without the other X-Men around to help him out. In the first of what Marvel hopes to be a series, this one will examine the early years of Logan and what turned him into Wolverine. Frankly, I don’t think “X-Men Origins” is the way to go, but if there were to be any character that deserves such a prequel, it would be Wolverine. This one should be good, though X-Men 3 took the shine off the franchise.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Michael Bay and crew return for the inevitable sequel to the massive 2007 hit. While the first one could have been a little better, it still was an amazing thrill-ride with some of the best visual effects ever seen. I’m a little hesitant about whether Bay can match the first one, but there’s no question as to whether this will be an action-packed extravaganza.
- The Road
Rumors are flying wild as to how The Weinstein Co. could let The Road get delayed to 2009, given that it had major Oscar buzz. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road is about a father and son in a post-apocalyptic future who travel around trying to survive amongst a variety of threats. Viggo Mortensen stars. I hope that the movie was delayed simply due to production issues, and that it was not taken out of awards season for more common reasons; then again, the Weinsteins moved Scorsese’s Gangs of New York back a full a year and that one went onto receive a variety of Oscar nods. Time will tell.
- Angels & Demons
Tom Hanks and Ron Howard return for the “sequel” to The Da Vinci Code. The movie has a similar plot and focus to Dan Brown’s more popular piece of work, but I actually think Angels & Demons can make for a better movie. Thankfully, some of those involved in the first movie have acknowledged that they adapated The Da Vinci Code a little too literally – it was rather dull and uninspiring. I’m a little worried that Ron Howard will make the same mistake here, but then again, maybe not. At least Tom Hanks’ hair is cut this time. Unfortunately, the teaser trailer is a bit cheesy, with the stupid pan-around the gargoyle and narration, but I still hold out high hopes.
- Public Enemies
I don’t know much about Public Enemies, other than it has director Michael Mann directing Christian Bale and Johnny Depp in a gangster film set in the 1920′s and 30′s. Mann. Bale. Depp. Say it out loud a few times and let me know if you disagree.
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen team up -or square off – in the Ocean’s 11-esque crime comedy Duplicity, about a former CIA agent who recruits a former MI6 agent to take a job at a rival technology company. With them both acting as heads of security at the two competing firms, they are in prime position to steal – and sell – proprietary secrets. Of course, as their plan snaps into effect, their lack of trust toward one another becomes an issue; their love for each other could also be a problem. Duplicity looks witty, funny and clever.
- New Moon
I am two-thirds through reading Twilight and was one of the people who actually liked the movie, perhaps thanks to lowered expectations. The sequel to Twilight has a new director and a hugely ambitious release date (only a year after the first) – so we’ll see how it goes. But the first one was entertaining and engaging, and pretty faithful to the book, so this one shouldn’t be too much different. Plus, I like Kristin Stewart.
- Sherlock Holmes
Guy Ritchie, who has been faulted for making a bunch of crap since he jumped onto the scene with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, looks for a comeback with the big-budget mystery thriller Sherlock Holmes, which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. There are no trailers for the movie yet, but the character and talent involved are enough to turn heads.
Sure, Roland Emmerich is known for mindless action flicks that don’t always quite click, but let’s face it: we love seeing the world blow up, and few people have such a passion for theoretical what-if’s than Mr. Emmerich. The teaser trailer evokes some laughs with the tagline, “How would the worlds’ governments prepare six billion people for the end of the world? They wouldn’t,” but frankly, it’s effective. And the increasingly creepy buzzing sound combined with a shot of a ridiculous amount of water gushing over the Himalayas is pretty damn cool. This won’t be an Oscar winner, but it should be fun.
- Friday the 13th
Frankly, I hate the Friday the 13th franchise. I haven’t seen all of the many movies, but of the ones I’ve seen, they’ve sucked big time. I’ve never understood how so many movies were made from such a terrible first couple of films. That being said, I’m looking forward to this remake of the original (well, it’s not quite a remake, as Jason wasn’t really in the original). It looks pretty slick, and is directed by Marcus Nispel, the man behind the rather cool Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake back in 2003. If anyone can resurrect a horror franchise, it is Nispel.
- State of Play
In State of Play, Russell Crowe plays a journalist who uncovers a murder conspiracy involving a congressman (Ben Affleck). Directed by Kevin Macdonald, who did The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void, the movie looks like a tense little political thriller with some quality actors. We’re long overdue for a good political thriller such as this, so it better not disappoint.
- The Soloist
I’m rather sick of seeing the previews for this one, but The Soloist, which stars a Robert Downey, Jr. and a schizophrenic Jamie Foxx looks like a solid drama. The movie is about a journalist who befriends a crazy homeless man that was once expected to be one of the best celloists in the world. Through their developing friendship, the journalist helps the man get back on track. The acting looks superb and the story is interesting, though the April release date is rather troubling. This one looks like an Oscar contender, so why it isn’t being released near the end of the year is a question worth asking.
- The Brothers Bloom
This crime comedy was pushed back from 2008, which is not a good sign, but given that it now has a release date in May shows that the studio may have moderate prospects for it after all. The film stars Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody as two brothers who team up to con an eccentric millionairre, played by Rachel Weisz; however, they soon discover that she’s a handful and not nearly as naive as first thought. The movie looks pretty smart and funny.
There aren’t any trailers for this movie yet, but Hilary Swank stars as Amelia Earheart. That’s enough to keep me interested.
- The Unborn
I’m pretty desensitized toward horror movies, but this January release about a girl (Odette Yustman, of CloverfieldThe Unborn fame) who starts seeing visions of her never-born brother, looks pretty scary. The trailers are effective in frightening the audience, and creepy little kids can always be, well, creepy. Who knows… More than likely, will just be like a bunch of other forgettable horror movies where the director throws random images of ghosts on the screen, but I am expecting just a little more.
I don’t have huge hopes for the Nicolas Cage-starring thriller, as Cage tends to choose a lot of B-grade action flicks, but the premise is certainly interesting: a man finds a code that was created decades ago that details the time and magnitude of every major disaster over the last several years. Of course, what happens when the code runs out? While the premise is pretty goofy, it still looks like mindless fun.
- The Ugly Truth
Katherine Heigl will most likely pan this movie for being demeaning to women, yet she is the star alongside Gerard Butler. The premise? She plays a TV producer who is forced to work with a man who is a ratings sensation by promoting advice to women such as, “If you want a man to notice you, use a Stair Master.” He, however, promises to quit if she uses his advice on her latest find and it doesn’t work. Of course, as one might suspect, they end up falling for one another. The Ugly Truth is a pretty routine romantic comedy, but the trailer evoked enough laughs that it may be worth checking out.
- Haunting in Connecticut, The
I’m pretty tired of ghost stories, but every once in a while, something catches my eye. The creatively titled The Hauntng of Connecticut is “based on a true story” and basically looks like The Amityville Horror. Virginia Madsen stars as the mother of a couple of children who move into a new house that of course is inhabitated by evil ghosts. What sets this movie apart is its rough, low budget look; the appearance of the film itself – and even the title – lend to the creepy atmosphere.
From the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas (and no, that doesn’t mean Tim Burton) comes a stop-motion film about a girl who wanders into an alternate reality where her parents are actually cool. The only problem is that this alternate world is not as wonderful as it may seem, and, among other things, the girl must use black buttons as eyes. The movie looks a tad creepy for little children but certainly imaginative.
In 9, some human-made little puppets are all that remain of “life” in an apocalyptic future. Several of these puppets band together to fight a bunch of robotic-looking spider creatures. Yeah, it looks as weird as it sounds, but some cool visual effects (the movie is CG-animated) and a very intriguing premise make it clear that this movie is shooting for Best Animated Picture next year.
- The Princess and the Frog
Time will tell, but one must assume that Disney is putting extra care into their first traditionally animated release in years. Ten years ago, people were becoming complacent with Disney’s films and distracted by the new whiz-bang technology called CG, so Disney canned its traditional animation projects, failing to realize that the problem was more in the quality of the productions than the style of art. Needless to say, with people now becoming more complacent toward CGI films (how many are there a year?), parents may flock to what they regard as a return to their childhood with The Princess and the Frog. I’m interested to see how it goes.
- H2: Halloween 2
If you’re a horror fan and haven’t seen Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween yet, what the hell are you waiting for? The movie is one of the creepiest and most effective slasher flicks in years, and builds upon the original with a more human look at what turned Michael Myers into the silent serial killer. According to recent reports, a sequel, also directed by Rob Zombie, will be coming out soon. What worries me is that the first one worked so well because it developed Michael Myers in a way we’d never seen before; how will this one be any different than the typical slasher flick?
In what looks to be a pretty low budget film, Liam Neeson stars as the father of a girl who is kidnapped in Paris. There’s one problem for the kidnappers, however: Neeson is a trained killer. The movie trailer is so-so, but Neeson rarely disappoints and I do love the stretch where he explains over the phone to the kidnappers who he is and what he will do to them. The person on the other line simply says, “Good luck” or something of that nature. This could be a nice little violent revenge flick.