Here’s a list of 50 movies I watched last year that I really loved. It does not include movies from 2009, which will be a different list. Only the Top 10 is ranked, and the rest is alphabetical.
The Top 10 Greatest Movies I Watched in 2009
1. The War Zone (1999, Tim Roth)
A teenage boy finds out his sister is having a sexual relationship with their father, and doesn’t know what to do about it. Really fucking bleak story that goes to very graphic and disgusting places. Incest is one of those themes that completely fascinates me and it’s always a treat seeing it in the movies, but this one actually made me feel gross. And for that, I fell in love with it, as I have literally waited my entire life for a movie to make me as uncomfortable as this one did, at least while also being a great fucking movie. The performances are all low-key, realistic, and amazing, particularly Ray Winstone and Lara Belmont. It reminded me a lot of a Mike Leigh movie, but a thousand times more depressing.
2. Pieces (1982, Juan Piquer Simon)
A little kid murders his mother after she nags about his filthy jigsaw puzzle with a nude woman on it, and then 40 years later, he starts killing women again, and hacking off pieces of them to make his own real life jigsaw puzzle. Lots of gore, that is sometimes done effectively, but is often just blood spraying everywhere from offscreen, but the effort here is always worth appreciating. The characters are all pretty hilarious, and there are some truly weird and random scenes that are truly fucking brilliant. It’s amazing. The poster for it is also fucking amazing, as are both of the taglines: “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!” and “It’s exactly what you think it is!” I love the simplicity of the latter.
3. Sorry, Haters (2005, Jeff Stanzler)
Robin Wright Penn gets in a cab with a Muslim driver, and pries her way into his personal life, and claims she can help him out with his brother’s immigration issues, but instead ends up robbing him and horribly tormenting him in various ways. He eventually tries to fight against her by threatening her incredibly adorable dog, which leads to her apparent redemption. Penn is fucking incredible. Her performance is intense and frightening, and the ending of the movie is un-fucking-believable. One of the most shocking and amazing endings I’ve ever seen. I had been put off by the movie’s weird title (it’s the name of a Cribs-style reality show Penn’s character is supposedly the producer of), and a synopsis that included terms like “post-9/11”, but this shit seriously fucking blew me away.
4. A Woman Obsessed (1989, Chuck Vincent)
A man who doesn’t know he was adopted happens upon a painting that seems to be of himself, and it turns out to be a portrait of his biological father, painted by his long-lost mother. He reconnects with her, and goes out to her mansion with his wife Linda Blair. All seems to go well at first, but then it turns out the mother is fucking insane, and is unable to distinguish her son from her late husband, and I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say that that plot detail is taken as far as it can possibly go, and I was actually surprised by it. There are some weird moments here, like two extended monologue sequences where the non-speaking actors look really uncomfortable and unsure what to do with themselves, which may be awkward to watch, but I actually found it to be realistic and possibly inspired. For the most part, it’s a brilliant thriller, that delightfully takes things way farther than expected, with an incredible and intense performance from Georgina Spelvin as the mother. It’d make a great double feature with Night Warning starring Susan Tyrrell.
5. Raw Force (1982, Edward Murphy)
There are some monks on an island who eat enslaved women in order to raise the dead, and there’s a guy who looks like Hitler, and some white martial artists out to save the day. Or something. There were also some Nazi pirates and zombie ninjas, just for good measure. Honestly, I don’t really remember the plot because the movie is too overwhelmingly fun and awesome to actually take in anything that’s happening aside from my own sense of having the fucking time of my life watching it. Every scene is amazing, but the best part would have to be the party on the boat, featuring a bartender who slams his head into a block of ice, and a woman practically raping a hilarious schoolteacher.
6. Gang Boys (1994, Wings Hauser)
Linda Blair’s gay son gets raped by Nazis, so she tracks down the father, played by Wings Hauser, and helps him deal with his alcoholism, and eventually they kind of fight back. It’s fucking amazing.
7. Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
A young girl wanders into a fantasy bathhouse for gods and spirits, and they all hate humans, but she manages to get a job and win them over. All the different creatures are really amazing, and the animation is fucked up incredible. There’s also some scary shit, and even a fairly bloody sequence. It’s really great.
8. Johnny Mnemonic (1995, Robert Longo)
Keanu Reeves has a bunch of computer storage space in his brain where there used to be memories of his childhood, and he uses it to make money smuggling information, but his latest case ends up going way over his capacity (320 gigabytes, and he can only hold 160 with a booster), so he needs to get the shit out of there as soon as possible before it kills him, but he lost half of the download code during a Yakuza attack! This movie has an incredible cast. Keanu Reeves is in top form, and Dina Meyer, Ice-T, Udo Kier, Henry Rollins, and Beat Takeshi are all fucking amazing. The real standout here, though, is Dolph Lundgren, who is completely brilliant as a preacher who worships violence, and kills people with a knife shaped like a crucifix. Amazing. Everything about the movie is perfect and great, but I think when it really peaks is with the introduction of the junkie hacker dolphin. A fucking dolphin who is a code-breaking hacker and is addicted to some kind of drug that needs to be injected. Unfortunately, though, it turns out that the dolphin’s drug problem was actually cut out of the U.S. release and can only be found in the Extended Japanese Cut that I had downloaded when I couldn’t find a DVD in widescreen. But even without the dolphin being a junkie, or the extra violence the Extended Version has, it’s still fucking great. This movie is the best.
9. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002, Park Chan-wook)
A deaf-mute needs money for his sister’s kidney transplant, so his girlfriend convinces him to kidnap his former boss’ daughter, and things go really wrong from there. Every character ends up either seeking, or being on the receiving end of vengeance, usually both, and this results in a whole lot of killing. It kind of plays out as a modern, violent noir, which is something I always love.
10. Lady Terminator (1988, Jalil Jackson)
A young student is possessed by an ancient evil queen, and starts killing a bunch of people, occasionally fucking them first and destroying their genitals in the process. It’s obviously amazing.
0 More Movies I Saw in 2009 That I Also Loved
Ace in the Hole (1951, Billy Wilder)
Kirk Douglas is a newspaper reporter and he discovers a man trapped in a cave, and so he turns it into a huge story, and does everything he can to prolong the amount of time it takes to extract the trapped man. It’s really great.
Airport (1970, George Seaton & Henry Hathaway)
A star-studded cast leads a story about some passengers on an airplane, and the people running the airline, who end up having to deal with a guy who blows himself up while his plane is in the air. It’s a fucking awesome and intense disaster thriller.
Airport 1975 (1974, Jack Smight)
Oh my god, so here’s what happens. A small plane crashes into a large commercial plane with a bunch of passengers, and it kills and badly injures the pilots, so flight attendant Karen Black has to be coached through how to put the plane into cruise control, until a real pilot can parachute into the cockpit. I should really be watching more disaster movies. This was fucking amazing.
Bedroom Eyes (1984, William Fruet)
A businessman out jogging one night comes across an open window where a woman is stripping down. Discovering his inner peeping tom, he returns to the window every night, until the girl ends up dead, with a trail of clues leading to him having done it. It’s a really perfect and amazing erotic thriller, that seems tailormade for grainy VHS. Actually lives up to it’s incredible poster.
Black Book (2007, Paul Verhoeven)
A Jewish woman joins a small resistance group during World War II, and goes undercover with Nazis to find out what they’re up to. An excellent thriller that, in the last third, starts to feel like first season 24, where there’s countless reveals of betrayal, and you can’t trust what side anyone is on. Fucking great.
Brighton Rock (1947, John Boulting)
Richard Attenborough is a young gangster who has someone killed, and the police think it’s a suicide, but there’s a waitress who could prove it wasn’t, so Attenborough starts dating her, and then marries her so she can’t testify against him, but there’s some random nosy woman who is trying to solve the case. Attenborough is pretty evil in it, and the whole movie is kind of mean, and it’s fucking awesome.
Bye Bye Birdie (1963, George Sidney)
Ann-Margret wins a contest to kiss a dreamboat rock ‘n roll star on TV before he’s drafted. Apparently, stars Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde, who had both been in the Broadway production, were dissatisfied with the film because it focused too heavily on Ann-Margret’s character. They’re fucking idiots. It’s a good story, with some excellent musical numbers and decent humor (Lynde, in particular, is hilarious), but it is the tour-de-force adorableness of Ann-fucking-Margret that truly elevates the film to something great. She’s fucking amazing, and George Sidney definitely did the right goddamn thing by making it her story.
Choque (Short, 2005, Nacho Vigalondo)
Nacho Vigalondo goes on some bumper cars with his girlfriend, and when he feels some teenage punks are being too aggressive, he challenges them to some more bumper car madness. It’s pretty hilarious.
The Dirty Dozen (1967, Robert Aldrich)
Lee Marvin, a Major in the military, is recruited to train a dozen convicted murderers and rapists, and lead them in a mission to assassinate a bunch of Nazi officers. Great story, and a tense finale, and the cast is fucking awesome, especially Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, and Telly Savalas.
Double Blast (1994, Tim Spring)
Joe Estevez is trying to find some treasure, so he kidnaps archaelogist Linda Blair to translate some shit for him, but he runs into trouble when a young kickboxing brother-sister duo get involved and repeatedly beat the shit out of his bumbling henchmen. I knew I was in for something special when the opening credits actually explained who one of the stars was, as seen here. It’s kind of a retarded movie, if you can believe it, but also a fucking great one.
Electric Dreams (1984, Steve Barron)
A guy buys a computer to help organize his life, and the computer is very curious about stuff, and also it talks (creepily voiced by Bud Cort), and when the guy starts dating and falling for his neighbor (Virginia Madsen), the computer also falls in love with her, and so the computer incoveniences the guy at every opportunity. I think this is the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen. I could barely even comprehend anything that was happening, but I know that it was something special.
Event Horizon (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)
The crew of a spaceship in the future goes to rescue this other ship that had disappeared for awhile called the Event Horizon, which had been designed to create a temporary black hole that allowed for teleportation. But it turns out opening up black holes causes people to cut themselves up and kill each other, and so when the new crew gets there, they run into all sorts of problems. Thrilling and gruesome, with a great performance from Sam Neill. Apparently, the original version had 30 extra minutes of gory self-mutilation and bloody orgies (we now only get quick flashes of this), which sounds incredible, but sadly, the footage no longer exists.
Fright Night Part 2 (1988, Tommy Lee Wallace)
Charley Brewster is trying to move on with his life, but the sister of the vampire he killed in the first movie has moved to town with some other vampires, and they’re looking to get revenge. It did something that always annoys me in movies where the lead vampire girl (not necessarily a vampire in other movies) is supposed to be the most beautiful and desirable woman ever, and the main character is completely entranced by her, but they get the casting all wrong, and end up with the actress (in this case, Traci Lind) who plays the apparently ordinary girlfriend being like a billion times hotter than the lead vampire girl. I kind of bought it in this movie because whatever, it’s supernatural, and also because Charley Brewster is so easily distracted by new things that it probably didn’t even matter what the woman looked like, or even if she was a woman, since I guess the exact same thing happens in Part 1 with a male vampire. Anyway, this movie is great. There are vampires who rollerskate and go bowling, sometimes at the same time. It’s awesome.
Gravity (Short, 1976, Michael Nankin & David Wechter)
A spoof of educational films by the directors of Midnight Madness where a little girl asks her family and a doctor what gravity is, and they all give her ridiculous answers. It was really fucking funny and great.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988, Tony Randel)
The daughter/niece from the first Hellraiser is in a mental institution, and the head of the mental institution raises up the wife who had died, and they kill some people, and then the niece tries to save her father by searching for him in a labyrinthine underworld seemingly designed by M.C. Escher. Bizarre and bloody, and I don’t have an especially clear idea of what the fuck happened in it, but it was amazing.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008, Guillermo Del Toro)
There was a war between humans and the underworld, and they had reached some kind of agreement or something where humans got to rule the land, and all the underworld creatures have to stay hidden, but some Elf Prince gets fed up with this, and tries to reignite the war, so Hellboy has to stop him. The action is awesome, and it’s visually fucking amazing, wi
th lots of incredibly designed creatures, and a flawless use of both make-up and CGI.
Homicidal (1961, William Castle)
A woman pays a bellhop to marry her, and as soon as he does, she stabs the justice of the peace to death, and takes off. The woman then returns to the family she’s staying with, and makes some people uncomfortable, and during the investigation of the murder, scandalous family secrets are uncovered. It’s fucking awesome, with a crazed performance from the lead, and a great twist that’s a little obvious now but probably completely blew the minds of people in ’61.
Ice Castles (1978, Donald Wrye)
Lynn-Holly Johnson is a rising star in the ice skating world, until an accident leaves her blind, but as the tagline says, this is “a girl who refused to forget she was once a champion”, so with the help of her dad and Robby Benson, she keeps trying. It’s very emotional, and very fucking good.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986, Penny Marshall)
Whoopi Goldberg works at a bank where she chats with clients around the world on a computer, and one day, she gets a message from a British spy who’s in trouble, and she ends up helping him out, even as he asks her to do more and more dangerous and crazy things that put her life in danger. My favorite thing about the movie was how whenever he asked her to do something over the instant messaging, she would start freaking out and yelling about how there way no way she’d do it, but then she would type something completely contradictory. Like he asks her to sneak into the British Embassy and hack their computer, and she’s like, “WHAT?! You must be out of your goddamn mind if you think I’m gonna do that! There is absolutely no way, that’s fuckin’ crazy!” and then it would show her typing, “Yes. I will do it.” It’s kind of a love story between them, even though they’ve never seen each other, and at the end of the movie once they finally meet (right after a big shoot-out), one of her friends is like, “You did all this for a date?” And it’s true! She goes through so much shit in this movie, and is nearly killed and/or tortured like ten times, and it was all for a blind date. This movie is kind of amazing. Whoopi’s hilarious, too.
Junior High School (Short, 1978, David Wechter & Michael Nankin)
From the genius directors of Midnight Madness, this is a musical about a day in the life of junior high school students starring actual junior high schoolers, including a 15 year old Paula Abdul, done in the style of a tv movie. It’s pretty heartwarming and realistic, and could practically pass for an actual tv movie if it weren’t also a comedy. Supposedly, it will be getting a DVD release someday soon, which will hopefully also include their educational spoofs Gravity and School, Girls, and You.
The Killers (1946, Robert Siodmak)
Some hitmen kill Burt Lancaster, and an insurance investigator finds out why with the help of flashbacks. Good acting, good story.
Megaforce (1982, Hal Needham)
Megaforce is a secret army led by Barry Bostwick who are hired by a peaceful city to prevent the bullying neighboring city from continuing to fuck with them all the time. The neighboring city’s military is led by Henry Silva, who is an old buddy of Bostwick, and when they meet up, they are thrilled to see each other even though they are fighting, just as everyone else is constantly thrilled to see one another, as this just may be the cheeriest movie ever made. The actual plot of the movie is not very important, as it’s all about watching actors who could not possibly be having any more fun making an amazing futuristic sci-fi adventure movie.
Mister Scarface (1976, Fernando Di Leo)
A young loan collector for the mob is sick of the business, so he joins up with a friend and an older, hilarious mobster guy (played adorably by Vittorio Caprioli) to scam a mob boss (a scar-faced Jack Palance), and make enough money to move to Brazil. Fun movie with a good amount of violence and a clever script. Some great performances, too.
Moving Target (1988, Marius Mattei)
Someone on a motorcycle is trying to kill everyone to get a key that I guess unlocks riches, but we never actually find out, and so there’s this blond girl on the run who is topless throughout the entire movie for no reason whatsoever, and she hides out with a tennis star who is probably her father, and they have a ton of sex, and there’s also a persistent news reporter, whose cameraman is working for the bad guys, and Ernest Borgnine is a detective trying to figure out what’s going on, and Linda Blair occasionally shows up, but doesn’t seem to actually serve any purpose. By the end of the movie, even the characters themselves don’t seem to have any idea whose side they’re on, and everyone just starts randomly shooting each other. And on top of all that, the soundtrack and score are fucking incredible. This was a tough one to track down, but definitely worth it.
Mr. Sardonicus (1961, William Castle)
A man’s face freezes into a horrifying grin after he digs up his father’s grave in order to retrieve a winning lottery ticket, so he hires a surgeon, who is his wife’s former lover, to help him out. This is Castle at his demented best. Great fucking movie.
Never Too Young to Die (1986, Gil Bettman)
John Stamos plays Lance Stargrove, a high school gymnast who finds out his recently murdered father was a secret agent, and he has to take over the family business to stop Gene Simmons in drag from poisoining the water supply. Pretty amazing stuff. When I first saw the trailer, I thought about how discovering the mere existence of this movie is what makes life worth living (all I could find online was the teaser trailer, which is still good, but not as incredible as the full one). I was pleased that the actual film lived up to expectations, and was shocked by how mind-blowingly awesome Gene Simmons’ performance was.
New Year’s Evil (1980, Emmett Alston)
There’s this singer at a New Wave/punk club who gets a call from this guy who says he’s gonna kill someone every time the clock hits 12 in each time zone, and his final victim is going to be her. It’s pretty fucking awesome, with some incredible music and funny stuff, and I was surprised by how well-edited it was. The kills are good, but short on gore, always cutting away too early, but it’s done in this great way where it almost doesn’t matter. The ending is good, too, with a nice speech about women being evil.
Point Blank (1967, John Boorman)
Lee Marvin is double-crossed by his partner in crime, John Vernon, who leaves him for dead, but Marvin resurfaces and sets out on a mission to get his money from the deal he was scammed on. Lee Marvin is great. Tough, but with some humor, and it’s a solid crime story. I loved the angle that he didn’t really care about revenge, all he wanted was to get paid, and if this required throwing John Vernon naked off a building, then that was just a bonus.
The Quick and the Dead (1995, Sam Raimi)
Sharon Stone comes to a small Western town seeking vengeance against Gene Hackman, and the town is having a shoot-out tournament, where only the quickest comes out alive. Fucking awesome concept, with bits of Raimi’s innovative style, and an impressive cast. Great fucking movie.
Risky Business (1983, Paul Brickman)
Tom Cruise’s parents go out of town, and he hires a prostitute, who steals one of his mother’s belongings when he can’t pay her, so he tracks her down, and they end up becoming friends and helping each other out, and they throw a prostitute pa
rty. It’s really good, and Rebecca De Mornay is really fucking cute in it, and I loved the Tangerine Dream score that barely fits the movie and turns it into more of a drama than it needed to be.
School, Girls, and You (Short, 1978, David Wechter)
Another educational spoof about a college going coed, and how the boys should deal with being suddenly surrounded by girls. This one is also fucking great, and it stars a young Paul Reubens!
Seed (2008, Uwe Boll)
A mass murderer is on Death Row, and they try to electrocute him three times, but it doesn’t work, so they pronounce him dead, anyway, and bury him alive, but he climbs out of his grave and starts killing people again. It’s not very funny or entertaining like much of Boll’s best work, but is actually effectively ugly and mean-spirited, with some fucked up, disturbing kills.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979, Robert Wise)
The Star Trek crew reunites for a mission, investigating a mysterious ship headed toward Earth that’s been killing whatever shit gets in its way. I guess a lot of people don’t like this movie, because there are a lot of long shots of the exterior of the ship or something, but maybe because I was prepared for a slower pace, it actually worked for me. I found the plot really interesting, too. It’s kind of a perfect nerdy sci-fi story. I can sort of see why people don’t respond well to it, but I thought it was awesome.
Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)
A farmer is having an affair, and the woman asks him to drown his wife, so he tries to do that, but instead ends up spending the day with her and realizing how much he loves her. It’s really good.
Supervixens (1975, Russ Meyer)
A guy who fights with his wife a lot goes on the run after she’s brutally murdered by a cop, fearing that he’ll be framed for it. On the road, he struggles with every woman wanting to fuck him, as it usually leads to trouble. The murder scene is surprisingly violent and horrible (in the best fucking way), and the last third is completely bizarre, bringing back previous actors as sort of the same characters but the main character doesn’t recognize them (with no explanation for why this is), and lots of Meyer’s trademark humor and quick editing. Really good.
To Let (2008, Jaume Balaguero)
A couple wanting to start a family responds to an ad for an apartment, and it turns out to be a large, dingy building in an abandoned neighborhood, and the couple isn’t interested, but the landlady doesn’t let them leave. This shit is super fucking tense and really awesome. Definitely one of my favorites of the Films to Keep You Awake series, along with Xmas Tale.
The Tooth Fairy (2006, Chuck Bowman)
There’s an evil tooth fairy who is after a little girl who just lost her last tooth, and she is ready to murder the fucking shit out of anyone who gets in her goddamn way. This was an amazing and hilarious fucking slasher movie, with a vicious and disgusting tooth fairy that completely blew away that pussy from Darkness Falls (which I had watched immediately before). This tooth fairy disposes of people with a nail gun, a hatchet, and a wood-chipper, and she’s not afraid to chop up kids or slice off a redneck’s dick, either! Fucking awesome.
Vigilante (1983, William Lustig)
Fred Williamson leads a vigilante group trying to clean up the streets of New York from the pimps and drug-peddlers who the police aren’t doing shit about, and he tries to get Robert Forster to join them. Forster isn’t interested at first, but then when his family is killed, and the court lets the killers go free, he knows it’s time to take matters into his own hands. It’s fucking great, and Forster, as always, is amazing.
Virtuosity (1995, Brett Leonard)
Russell Crowe is a villain in a virtual reality game, and Denzel Washington is an imprisoned ex-cop who is forced to play the game all the time because that’s just something they do with prisoners in the future, and then the creator of the game finds a way to bring Russell Crowe into reality, for reasons I wasn’t very clear on, and sets him loose on the world to kill people and make club mixes of people screaming. It’s really good. Russell Crowe is ridiculous.
West of Zanzibar (1928, Tod Browning)
Lon Chaney’s wife leaves him for another man, and he and the other guy get in a fight that leaves Chaney crippled, and later the wife dies, and leaves behind a daughter, so Chaney moves to Africa, and waits around for nearly 20 years, then gets the other guy and the daughter together to finally put his elaborate plan of revenge into motion, but it doesn’t work out the way he intended. Very dark and mean. Really fucking good.
To read more of Austin’s writings, almost always about movies, visit his website at www.placentaovaries.net.