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Film Comment’s End of Year Critics’ Poll 2008

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Leave it to the professionals, baby! The top films of 2009, released and unreleased, ranked for your convenience

Welcome to Film Comment’s ninth annual critics’ poll. (It wasn’t broke, so we didn’t fix it.) Just as in years past, a small army of colleagues ranked their favorites in two categories: 1) those released theatrically, and 2) those that made their debuts elsewhere—which generally means on the festival circuit. Once again, the selection committee of the New York Film Festival, now in its 46th year, proved to be either cultural weather vane or tastemaker: 10 of the top 20 theatrical films, and 10 of the 20 undistributed titles, made their big-league debuts courtesy of the NYFF. A 100-plus chorus of critics responded with votes that spanned nearly 500 films. For each ballot, a first-place choice was allotted 20 points, 19 for second, and so on. We published the results for the Top 20 in the current issue and on the filmlinc blog in mid-December. Below are the Top 50.

(Released theatrically in the U.S.)

1. Wendy and Lucy Kelly Reichardt, U.S. 580 points
2. Flight of the Red Balloon
Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan/France 564
3. A Christmas Tale
Arnaud Desplechin, France 557
4. Happy-Go-Lucky
Mike Leigh, U.K. 538
Andrew Stanton, U.S. 534
6. Still Life
Jia Zhang-ke, Hong Kong/China 521
7. Paranoid Park
Gus Van Sant, France/U.S. 465
8. Waltz with Bashir
Ari Folman, Israel/France/Germany 424
9. My Winnipeg
Guy Maddin, Canada 406
10. Milk
Gus Van Sant, U.S. 356
11. Let the Right One In
Tomas Alfredson, Sweden 351
12. The Duchess of Langeais
Jacques Rivette, France/Italy 335
13. The Class
Laurent Cantet, France 334
14. Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufman, U.S. 297
15. Hunger
Steve McQueen, U.K. 289
16. Silent Light
Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands 286
17. Ballast
Lance Hammer, U.S. 283
18. Man on Wire
James Marsh, U.K. 282
19. The Exiles
Kent Mackenzie, U.S. 257
20. Gomorrah
Matteo Garrone, Italy 253
21. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan, U.S. 252
22. Che
Steven Soderbergh, Spain/France/U.S. 237
23. The Wrestler
Darren Aronofsky, U.S. 233
24. The Last Mistress
Catherine Breillat, France/Italy 229
25. Rachel Getting Married
Jonathan Demme, U.S. 215
26. Trouble the Water
Carl Deal & Tia Lessin, U.S. 203
27. Momma’s Man
Azazel Jacobs, U.S. 202
28. Ashes of Time Redux
Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong/China 201
29. In the City of Sylvia
José Luis Guerín, Spain/France 200
30. Alexandra
Alexander Sokurov, Russia/France 196
31. Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog, U.S. 195
32. Gran Torino
Clint Eastwood, U.S. 189
33. The Romance of Astrea and Celadon
Eric Rohmer, France/Spain/Italy 178
34. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher, U.S. 172
35. La France
Serge Bozon, France 167
36. Taxi to the Dark Side
Alex Gibney, U.S. 163
37. The Edge of Heaven
Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey/Italy 161
38. Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle, U.S./U.K. 157
39. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen, Spain 154
40. The Silence Before Bach
Pere Portabella, Spain 141
41. Frost/Nixon
Ron Howard, U.S. 140
42. Woman on the Beach
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea 138
43. Before I Forget
Jacques Nolot, France 137
44. Frozen River
Courtney Hunt, U.S. 126
45. The Order of Myths
Margaret Brown, U.S. 123
46. Heartbeat Detector (La Question Humaine)
Nicolas Klotz, France 112
47. Tell No One
Guillaume Canet, France 110
48. Chop Shop
Ramin Bahrani, U.S. 108
49. Profit motive and the whispering wind
John Gianvito, U.S. 106
50. Fengming: A Chinese Memoir
Bing Wang, China 103

(*Currently without U.S. distribution)

1. The Headless Woman* Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/Spain/France/Italy 201
2. 24 City*
Jia Zhang-ke, China/Hong Kong/Japan 171
3. Summer Hours
Olivier Assayas, France 154
4. Still Walking
Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan 102
5. Tulpan
Sergey Dvortsevoy, Germany/Switzerland/Kazakhstan/Russia/Poland 84
6. RR
James Benning, U.S. 83
7. 35 Shots of Rum*
Claire Denis, France/Germany 78
8. Of Time and the City
Terence Davies, U.K. 76
9. Tony Manero*
Pablo Larrain, Chile/Brazil 74
10. Liverpool*
Lisandro Alonso, Argentina 70
11. Sugar
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, U.S. 55
12. Tokyo Sonata
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan/Netherlands/H.K. 51
13. Birdsong*
Albert Serra, Spain 48
14. The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow, U.S. 47
15. United Red Army*
Koji Wakamatsu, Japan 40
16. Night and Day*
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea 36
17. Four Nights with Anna*
Jerzy Skolimowski, France/Poland 33
18. Me and Orson Welles*
Richard Linklater, U.K. 31
19. Il Divo
Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France 29
20. Chouga*
Darezhan Omirbaev, Kazakhstan/France 28
21. Lorna’s Silence
Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy/Germany 26
22. Treeless Mountain
So Yong Kim, U.S./South Korea 24
23. A Time to Stir*
Paul Cronin, U.S. 23
(tie) Goodbye Solo Ramin Bahrani, U.S. 23
24. Captain Ahab*
Philippe Ramos, France/Sweden 22
(tie) Revanche Götz Spielmann, Austria 22
25. Everlasting Moments
Jan Troell, Sweden/Denmark/Norway/Finland/Germany 21
(tie) I’m Gonna Explode* Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico 21
26. Afterschool*
Antonio Campos, U.S. 20
27. Flame & Citron*
Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark/Germany 19
28. Three Monkeys
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/France/Italy 18
29. Itinéraire de Jean Bricard*
Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, France 16
30. Sparrow
Johnnie To, Hong Kong 15

Participants: Sam Adams, Thom Andersen, John Anderson, Melissa Anderson, David Ansen, Michael Atkinson, Saul Austerlitz, Miriam Bale, Margaret Barton-Fumo, Marjorie Baumgarten, Bruce Bennett, Nick Bradshaw, Richard Brody, John Caps, Michael Chaiken, Andrew Chan, Chris Chang, Tom Charity, Godfrey Cheshire, Travis Crawford, Gary Crowdus, Mike D’Angelo, Evan Davis, Sam Di Iorio, Lisa Dombrowski, Bilge Ebiri, Cheryl Eddy, David Edelstein, David Ehrenstein, David Fear, Paul Fileri, Scott Foundas, Patrick Friel, Graham Fuller, Susan Gerhard, Gary Giddins, Jason Gross, Larry Gross, Dennis Harvey, Molly Haskell, Logan Hill, J. Hoberman, Robert Horton, Johnny Ray Huston, Harlan Jacobson, J.R. Jones, Kent Jones, Kristin M. Jones, Dave Kehr, Glenn Kenny, Laura Kern, Stuart Klawans, Robert Koehler, Michael Koresky, Nathan Lee, Dennis Lim, Phillip Lopate, Cynthia Lucia, Scott Macaulay, Todd McCarthy, Maitland McDonagh, Don McMahon, Joe Milutis, Wesley Morris, Rob Nelson, Chris Norris, Geoffrey O’Brien, Mark Olsen, Mark Peranson, Jake Perlin, Tony Pipolo, Richard Porton, John Powers, James Quandt, Jed Rapfogel, Nicolas Rapold, Megan Ratner, Bérénice Reynaud, Jim Ridley, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Joshua Rothkopf, Andrew Sarris, Richard Schickel, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Gene Seymour, Gavin Smith, Vivian Sobchack, Chuck Stephens, Bob Strauss, Jim Supanick, Amy Taubin, José Teodoro, Kenneth Turan, Brynn White, Donald Wilson, Genevieve Yue, David Zuckerman


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