I found 2009 to be a particularly disappointing year for movies. There were very few released that I actually want to own on home video, and that's saying something.
This year will be remembered forever for one movie: Avatar. Whether the 3D craze it started lasts or not, the film became the highest grosser of all time, and now everyone is struggling to catch up with James Cameron. 3D will be applied to a lot of movies, even ones that were shot in 2D.
But Zack Snyder's Watchmen was the most noteworthy film of the year. An unfilmable graphic novel was filmed, and, using the miracle of cinema, audiences were completely tranported to an alternate reality. The last sixty years of U.S. history were rewritten. A god walked among us. Every healthy young male on the continent realized that their lives were missing something and that her name was Malin Akerman. Snyder crafted an epic that was cast to the letter and used c.g. special effects in the best way possible: to tell a story.
Snyder also shows a Danny Boyle-like appreciation for montage, which is apparent in the opening credits sequences of Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Watchmen. I'm sure plenty of critics would say that editing footage to a catchy song doesn't count as good filmmaking, and they'd be right- that's done every day on MTV. But Snyder uses his little music videos to better his films; the credits of Watchmen are brilliant, and they're my favorite six minutes of cinema from all of 2009.
If you've seen any footage of Snyder, you know that he's a successful filmmaker who can also beat you up. Dang, his forearms are big! Look for Legend of the Guardians, a c.g. film, next from Snyder this fall.