One last look at 2009 -- Michael Jackson, Twitter, Taylor Lautner, and everything else that defined the last 365 days

Before the ball drops and champagne corks pop, EW reflects on the wild, unpredictable year that was:

JAN. 20
First Dance
Beyoncé serenaded the newly sworn-in President and First Lady with a heartfelt rendition of ”At Last” at an inaugural ball in Washington, D.C.

FEB. 2
Christian Bale’s Rant Goes Viral
Audio of the actor having a meltdown on the set of Terminator Salvation hit the Net. A ”What don’t you f—ing understand?” dance mix followed.

FEB. 22
Slumdog‘s Big Night
Capping its run as 2008’s Little Movie That Could, Slumdog Millionaire (starring Dev Patel and Freida Pinto) won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Natasha Richardson Dies
A gifted performer from a storied acting dynasty, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife to Liam Neeson, Richardson, 45, was fatally injured in a tragic skiing accident in Canada.

Susan Boyle’s ”I Dreamed a Dream”
Her Britain’s Got Talent bow became an overnight phenomenon and has now been viewed more than 315 million times. It can still bring a tear to the eye.

Wolverine Prevails
Even though an unfinished version hit the Internet a month before X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘s release date, the film managed to open at $85 million.

The Hangover Opens…Big!
Say hello to the unlikeliest stars of the summer: The Hangover‘s Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, and Zach Galifianakis

Farrah Fawcett Dies
Iconic sex symbols are, by definition, distant, ethereal. But Fawcett (above with fellow Charlie’s Angels Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson), who passed away at 62, was always down-home and human. Never more so than during her final, brave days battling cancer.

Harry Potter 6’s U.K. Premiere
On screen, the biggest shocker in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a certain character’s demise. Off screen, it was Emma Watson coming into her own as a red-carpet fashion figure. Our Hermione’s all grown up.

AUG. 4
Paula Abdul Tweets Goodbye
The delightfully daffy American Idol judge said farewell to the hit show in 140 characters or less, then sent up her replacement, Ellen DeGeneres.

The biggest band of all time somehow managed to get even bigger as the Beatles: Rock Band game hit stores the same day as the remastered rollout of all of the Fab Four’s classic albums.

SEPT. 14
Patrick Swayze Dies
During his inspiring and defiant battle with pancreatic cancer, Patrick Swayze, 57, never failed to display the same tough-guy grit and balletic grace he brought to all of his films.

SEPT. 14
The Jay Leno Show
Never mind that he was hardly gone long enough for us to miss him. Leno (sans desk) made the move to prime time with his new nightly talk show on NBC. First guest Jerry Seinfeld even sported a tux for the occasion.

OCT. 15
Balloon Boy Hoax
We held our breath as a dirigible containing (or so we thought) a 6-year-old boy floated skyward. Turned out it was a ruse hatched by his reality-star-wannabe dad.

NOV. 6
Rihanna Sits Down With Diane Sawyer
Trying to put closure on a year she would probably rather forget, Rihanna was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 nine months after being attacked by then boyfriend Chris Brown. ”This happened to me,” she said. ”It could happen to anybody.”

NOV. 16
New Moon Debuts
Robert Pattinson greeted a swooning mob of hopeful future Mrs. Robert Pattinsons at the L.A. premiere of The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The film opened on Nov. 20 to record-breaking midnight-showing and opening-day numbers.

NOV. 17
Sarah Palin Goes Rogue
Former Alaska governor, VP candidate, and aspiring author Sarah Palin released her tell-some memoir, Going Rogue.

NOV. 20
Oprah’s Big News
A teary Oprah Winfrey told viewers of her ever-popular daytime talk show that she would say adios to network television in 2011 (after 25 years!) to focus on her cable channel OWN.

NOV. 23
Jon & Kate Finale
After five long seasons, Lord knows how many runny noses, and one shockingly bitter tabloid split, Jon & Kate Plus Eight‘s divorcing Gosselins ended their hit TLC show, capping a tumultuous year that anyone who ever rooted for the family would like to forget. Now don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Seriously. Go away.

NOV. 24
White House Crashers
Aspiring reality stars/idiot bon vivants Michaele and Tareq Salahi gate-crashed President Obama’s first official state dinner at the White House…then, like absolute geniuses, posted the photos on Facebook.

DEC. 3
Is Jersey Shore Bad for Italians, Jersey?
Offended Italian-American groups cried basta! over MTV’s boorish musclehead reality show and its cast of self-described, fake-tanned ”Guidos.”