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Batman ruled the year, but so did a few jokers

Shaun Harrison
MovieHighlights-Blockbuster-DarkKnight5.jpg
1 of 11 Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros. Pictures

Biggest Blockbuster: The Dark Knight

The Batman film we've always wanted: A packed, jittery spectacle with nearly $1 billion in international box office to show for it. Christian Bale's Batman, as usual, played straight man to a city dragged into insanity. Heath Ledger was terrifying and brilliant as the clown doing the dragging. It won't pass Titanic as the highest-grossing movie ever, but it may be the coolest.
2 of 11 Sam Urdank/Universal Studios

Funniest Movie: Role Models

Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott take us to a wonderful world where Minotaur rules, swordplay is more important than court, and cocaine for breakfast is just a slip-up away. The chemistry? Dynamic. The jokes? Filthy. The whole bit about why KISS is cool? Dead-on.
3 of 11 Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Super Hero: Batman

An inventor named Tony Stark made this harder than we were expecting, but Batman wins. Stark and Bruce Wayne have plenty in common: smarts, inherited fortunes, powers that come from technology, not within. But Batman is darker, grittier, and as real as a guy dressed as a bat can be.
4 of 11 courtesy Universal Studios

Best Surprise: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

From an unpromising ad campaign sprung a smart and hilarious movie with happy surprises at every turn: Jack McBrayer's inexperienced newlywed, Paul Rudd's baked surf instructor, Russell Brand's achingly likable romantic rival. And that's just in the supporting cast. We're not forgetting the leads, or that Dracula musical. Because we caaaaaaaan't.
5 of 11 courtesy Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures; Merie Weismiller Wallace/Paramount Pictures

Biggest Risk-Taker: Robert Downey Jr.

Downey isn't one of those guys who just plays himself. This year, he played two guys playing two other guys: Tony Stark, who hides within the Iron Man armor, and the Aussie thespian in Tropic Thunder who transforms himself into an African-American. It's nice to see Downey Jr. take risks with his career instead of his health — and to see them pay off.
6 of 11 courtesy Columbia Pictures

Best Action Movie Without a Super Hero: Quantum of Solace

Cutting out double entendres, goofy gadgets, and almost everything that made it seem fun to be James Bond, this second installment of the latest 007 brought the secret agent back to earth — and almost buried him.
7 of 11 courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Biggest Disappointment: Body of Lies

How did a movie directed by the great Ridley Scott and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe turn out to be such a stinker? Oh well, we still have high hopes for Leo in Revolutionary Road.
8 of 11 courtesy Columbia Pictures

Best Sex Scenes: We Own the Night

Movie sex scenes never feel dirty anymore. They're clean and well-lit and fake-seeming. So thanks to Eva Mendes and Joaquin Phoenix for scenes filled with decadence and pawing and awkward sounds and Blondie's "Heart of Glass."
9 of 11 courtesy The Weinstein Company

Worst Sex Scene: Zack & Miri Make a Porno

Nothing but love for Elizabeth Banks here. But any sex scene with Seth Rogen is a really bad sex scene.
10 of 11 Deana Newcomb/Summit Entertainment; courtesy Sony Pictures

Breakout Stars: Robert Pattinson, Kat Dennings

Vampires may not have reflections, but Twilight's Pattinson has obviously been practicing his smoldering look in the mirror for a long time. Denning, meanwhile, turned it up with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist after smaller parts in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Sex in the City.
11 of 11 courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Villain: Heath Ledger as The Joker

What a character Ledger leaves behind: Savage, devoid of empathy, and ghastly, yet weirdly vulnerable, with his endless tics and turns. We miss him madly.