At the start of every new year, critics and movie fans alike look at the list of movies for the year and start to consider what looks the best, the worst, and what might surprise them. There are shocking hits, failures, and then the movies with the highest expectations that actually succeed ... or totally crash and burn. 2009 had some excellent blockbusters that might have annoyed the critics ("Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," "G.I. Joe," "New Moon") but still managed to kill in the box office. Then there were the indie films that managed to become hits, or the big star names that never actually managed to draw in a crowd. Here's a look at 2009 and some of the biggest surprises from the year.

"Star Trek" is Actually Good!

When J.J. Abrams announced he was going to do a remake of the original "Star Trek" series, starring a very young cast and set in a slightly altered universe, no one knew quite what to think. They trusted Abrams - he was known for making excellent sci-fi. But the intense Trekkie fandom was skeptical, even angry, and even if it was very likely "Star Trek" would make money on the first weekend, it was hard to believe it'd manage to revive a whole series. And yet that's exactly what it did. Fans of the famous sci-fi series loved it, newcomers loved it, seniors and children and everyone in between loved it, men and women loved it, and it still holds a 95% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It became the highest-grossing film in the "Star Trek" series, and it actually deserved it. The cast of the movie is now shot into the public eye, and no one can wait for the sequel! Bring us more Chris Pine as Kirk and Simon Pegg as Scottie. Keep shocking us with Spock and Uhura making out, and Old Spock hanging out with the decimated Vulcan race. This may be an alternate reality, but it's just as good as the original. Believe it!

Where Did "The Hangover" Come From?

"The Hangover" is one of the top ten highest grossing films of the year, the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever, and no one really saw it coming. The movie astounded everyone by doing decently in its first weekend, but really getting popular after word of mouth spread and everyone had to see what the buzz was about. Staring four actors who are somewhat known but not exactly famous, it's about four friends who go to Vegas for an extended bachelor party. Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married so he brings his best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) along. His soon to be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) tries to drug them with ecstasy to make it a better night, but roofies everyone instead so they wake up with absolutely no memory of what happened. "The Hangover" might've seemed like a typical Vegas-gone-bad comedy, and yet somehow its raunchy, hilarious nature made it feel free and new. Join in on their wolf pack, and you won't be sorry.

Image © Warner Bros.

"Paranormal Activity" Terrifies Everyone!

Want to hear something interesting? A little indie horror film called "Paranormal Activity" is considered the most profitable movie ever made. On a budget of $15,000 dollars, it managed to gross over $140 million, beating "The Blair Witch Project" in it's surprise success. Starring two complete unknowns and using a hand-held home video camera, the film is about a young couple who feel like they are being haunted in their home. Katie (Katie Featherston) believes a demonic entity is following her, and a psychic agrees. The video camera is set up in their room so any weird activity can be caught on it. Things steadily escalate, as expected in demonically haunted houses, and it has an intensely creepy ending. No one had even heard about this movie before word of mouth got along that it was scary, and it'll be shocking if any indie film that cheap ever manages to beat its box office record.

Image © Paramount Pictures

Peter Jackson Brings A New Sci-Fi Masterpiece In "District 9"

"Alive in Joburg" was a 2005 short film directed by Neill Blomkamp, and it caught the attention of Peter Jackson after the "Halo" movie fell through with Blomkamp. He agreed to the produce a full length feature, and from that "District 9" was born. The movie had some serious undertone messages about segregation, xenophobia, and fear mongering. It's about a ship of aliens that arrive, terrifying everyone, and on board thousands of them are found starving and miserable. They are allowed to become refuges in Johannesburg, South Africa, but when Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is assigned to start relocating the aliens, he gets infected with a mysterious liquid. What happens to him after, and how his fellow humans treat him because of it, turns Wikus into an unlikely hero for the aliens. This is a difficult film to watch, because it shows some of the worst parts of humanity, and speaks to the dehumanization of refuges. This sleeper hit made back its entire budget in the first weekend, and went on to great success. It was filmed with a lead actor that had never starred in a film before, in an actual impoverished neighborhood where people were forced to move from, and it had exceptional special effects considering the low budget. Better visual effects, in fact, then most of the huge budget blockbusters that preceded it.

Image © Columbia Tristar Marketing Group, Inc.

Megan Fox Doesn't Win In "Jennifer's Body"

Honestly, "Jennifer's Body" seemed like it really should have been a slam dunk. It was written by Diablo Cody of "Juno" fame, upcoming beautiful starlet Megan Fox starred, and it seemed like a sharply written black horror-comedy. Popular girl Jennifer (Fox) and sweet Needy (Amanda Seyfried) have been best friends forever, despite the fact they have nothing in common. Jennifer is sacrificed in a demonic ritual and possessed by one of the spirits, thus taking her vengeance on her killers and anyone else who gets in her way. It had mixed reviews as soon as it came out, with some people crediting the clever writing and others saying it just wasn't scary or funny enough to be interesting. The film didn't completely bomb, but it wasn't at all the box office draw everyone expected it to be with such a power house of a leading lady and writer. Megan Fox might want to apologize to Michael Bay for her snarky comments now.

Image © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Story by Chelsea Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer

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