Let the Right One In - Lina Leandersson as the mysterious Eli

Vampires, aliens and wizards fought it out at the box office in 2009, but the year at the cinema wasn’t just about blockbusters. Plenty of fine movies reached the screens with much less hype and from places other than Hollywood. Here’s my top 10 of the year’s cinema releases, plus an additional half-dozen films that just missed the cut.

Let the Right One In
Everyone got Robsessed about Twilight this year, but when it came to cinematic bloodsuckers this unexpectedly brilliant Swedish vampire thriller proved infinitely more chilling – and touching – than its Hollywood counterpart.

The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow’s gripping and intelligent movie about a US army bomb disposal squad in war-torn Iraq blew away the competition with its explosive action and nerve-shredding suspense.

Up
Those wizzes at Pixar displayed their customary wit and verve with this buoyant animated comedy adventure – and tugged at the heartstrings with a moving wordless montage that captured the essence of a lifelong marriage.

Il Divo
Paolo Sorrentino’s surreal and sardonic, flamboyantly Baroque biopic of Italian political puppet-master Giulio Andreotti was a chilling, tragi-comic satire.

The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke’s austere and unsettling period drama set in a small German village in the months leading up to the outbreak of the First World War was this year’s worthy Palme d’Or winner.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil
This documentary about Canadian heavy metal band Anvil looked like a rockumentary spoof, but director Sacha Gervasi’s real-life Spinal Tap turned out to be hilariously and touchingly true.

Mid-August Lunch
Sweet, gentle, and surprisingly life affirming, this low-budget Italian movie about a morose middle-aged man looking after four old ladies over a sweltering bank holiday in Rome was an unexpected delight.

Fish Tank
Andrea Arnold’s gritty, gripping drama boasted a terrific performance by newcomer Katie Jarvis as a sullen, headstrong 15-year-old Essex girl with hip-hop dance dreams and limited horizons.

Bright Star
Jane Campion’s ravishing period drama about the tragic love story of John Keats and Fanny Brawne gave a real sense of the flesh and blood and beating hearts beneath the frock coats and bonnets.

Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle’s vibrant, crowd-pleasing tale of a Mumbai slum kid’s rags-to-riches journey thoroughly deserved the awards showered upon it in 2009.

Mentioned in dispatches:
District 9
In the Loop
Synecdoche, New York
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler
Zombieland