ranters and ravers

What’s the Worst Movie of 2009?

Surprisingly, it’s not Paul Blart: Mall Cop! In fact, that memorable Blart got just one vote in our year-end critics’ poll, which determines the year’s worst stinkers, turkeys, botches, and fiascoes once and for all.

After all, this time of year, everyone’s in a hurry to explain to you why Up or Avatar or Invictus is the best movie of the year. But what about the awful films of 2009? Who will remember them? The warmongering toy commercials, the unfunny comedies, the misguided awards fare, the chaos of Lars von Trier? Who will tell us which, of the 300-plus movies disgorged by Hollywood this year, was truly the most lousy?

Vulture, that’s who! The Vulture Critics’ Poll is the definitive survey of terribleness in film, with ballots and commentary from 43 of America’s most prominent critics, from Manohla Dargis to David Edelstein, from J. Hoberman to A.O. Scott. (But not Anthony Lane! He won’t return our e-mails!)

So sit back, click through, and revel in our inglorious list of the ten worst movies of 2009. And when you’re done, check out the ballots, complete with awesome commentary from critics finally cutting loose on movies they cannot believe they hated so much.

Related: Vulture’s Critics’ Poll: The Complete Ballots
Previously: The 2008 Vulture Critics’ Poll

These two Oscar front-runners attracted plenty of critical backlash this year, and not just from Armond White. The New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis suggested Precious was “more concerned with putting the ‘boo!’ in taboo than with any meaningful social inquiry.” And Up in the Air rubbed some the wrong way: “Maybe not the worst filmmaking,” noted Moving Image Source’s Dennis Lim, “but definitely the worst politics.” Narrowly missing tenth place: Avatar, Away We Go, The Hangover, Jennifer’s Body, The Men Who Stared at Goats, Spinning Into Butter.
Charlyne Yi’s docu-comedy seriously annoyed America’s critics. “A definitive test for toxic-twee tolerance,” wrote Time Out’s David Fear. “When they grow up (or sober up),” the AV Club counseled, “Yi and director Nicholas Jasenovec ought to find this movie awfully embarrassing.”
A movie whose badness was best expressed in Tumblr form. “Insulting garbage,” wrote Richard Roeper. “Stupefying and dimwitted,” added Roger Ebert. And the AV Club cut to the chase: “Much worse than a ball-to-the-groin kiddie comedy starring Robin Williams and John Travolta ought to be.”
Remember when Nine seemed like a front-runner for one of the best movies of the year? Instead, all audiences got was a chance to see “a horde of Oscar winners mug for the camera,” wrote IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. Edelstein concurred: “The lyrics add an extra element of pain.”
This blaringly loud, laughably subtext-free spectacle baffled critics. “It hurt my brain,” complained the Observer’s Sara Vilkomerson. And the Awl’s Choire Sicha could only write, “I mean obvs, Jesus Christ, WHAT.” And it’s only the second-worst warmongering toy commercial of the year!
Lars von Trier’s overblown masterpiece/crapterpiece finished ahead of Bright Star and Precious in the Village Voice best-film poll but received numerous votes in our poll, as well. A “spectacular artistic failure,” wrote The New Yorker’s Richard Brody, and New York’s own David Edelstein said that it’s “more entertaining when the mutilations begin.” Slate’s Dana Stevens has a particular gripe: “Fuck you, Lars von Trier, for ruining my favorite Handel aria forever.”
“I had a feeling that gooey slumber party at the end of The Return of the King didn’t bode well,” cracked Movieline’s Michelle Orange, and Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s best seller topped a lot of lists — including that of The New Republic’s Chris Orr, who gave the drama his award for “Worst Picture (Everything Going Wrong That Could Possibly Go Wrong category).”
An unfunny comedy mostly remembered for using vibrating panties for comic (?) effect. “It almost makes me feel badly for Katherine Heigl,” wrote Vilkomerson. And Orr pegged the movie’s real problem: “Misogyny pretending to be feminism.”
Sandra Bullock’s race to box-office glory (and an Oscar) hit a speed bump with this summer misfire. “Humiliating,” declared EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum. And Brent Simon of Screen International went further: “A special sort of train wreck that unfolds like some fever-dream, recycled-parts mash-up of Anchorman, Mad Love, and a drunkenly self-amused improv sketch.”
Is Michael Bay’s blockbuster too big of a target? Not for America’s movie critics, who universally hated it — whether those critics were extremely picky (“Worst of 2009.” —Manohla Dargis) or … less so (“Pure unadulterated stupidity.” —Peter Travers).
What’s the Worst Movie of 2009?