Serious impact: Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, with Jeremy Renner, was one of three 2009 films in which moviemakers finally came convincingly to grips with the Iraq War. Jonathan Olley/Summit Entertainment hide caption

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Hard Target: Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes update (with Robert Downey Jr. and Rachel McAdams) looks to put a bullet in the idea of the deerstalker-wearing detective — though who Ritchie's hero is, exactly, remains something of a mystery. hide caption

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When Walls Come Down: Daniel Day Lewis plays Guido Contini, a famous film director struggling with writer's block — and looking for inspiration in the assortment of women who have shaped his life. David James/Weinstein Co. hide caption

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Love's Loss: Colin Firth (with Julianne Moore) plays George Falconer, a closeted British professor in 1960s Los Angeles grieving over the sudden death of his partner. Unable to cope with the despair of his solitude, Falconer plans to end his life. Eduard Grau/The Weinstein Company hide caption

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Madiba Unconquered: Winning the South African presidency was one thing for Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman). Bringing the racially divided country together was a bigger battle — and one in which Mandela deployed some unexpected troops. Keith Bernstein hide caption

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Ties That Bind: Sam (Tobey Maguire), a Marine presumed lost in combat, returns home to find that his once-wayward brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) has found a new purpose — looking out for Sam's wife and children. Lorey Sebastian/Lionsgate hide caption

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That's A Wrap: Screenwriter-turned-director Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar) clings to his actress muse — played by Penelope Cruz, the real-life muse of Broken Embraces director Pedro Almodovar. Emilio Pereda & Paola Ardizzoni/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

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Mother Knows Best: Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) points adopted son Michael Oher in a brand new direction in a formulaic based-on-a-true-story heartwarmer called The Blind Side. hide caption

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The hardest words: Woody Harrelson, left, and Ben Foster play two soldiers charged with bringing war's human costs home to military families in Oren Moverman's accomplished debut film. Oscilloscope Laboratories hide caption

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Jackson Strive: The movie might be shorter if he were just a little slower, but John Cusack's bookish Jackson Curtis always manages to stay a step ahead of the advancing abyss. Columbia Tristar Marketing Group hide caption

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Gabourey Sidibe plays Precious Jones, a Harlem teenager struggling to rise above the physical and mental abuse that has defined her life. It's a seeming curse that leads to new chances and new friends, including a nurse played by Lenny Kravitz. Ann Marie Fox/Lionsgate hide caption

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