The Top 10 Films of 2006
The end of 2016 is almost at hand, and before we do our annual countdown of the best films this year had to offer, we’re taking a look back at 2006. It’s hard to believe these films are already a decade old.
If you’re old enough to remember a world without the Internet, it may shock you that 2006 was the year social media really exploded. That year saw the launch of Twitter, and Facebook accounts finally became available to anybody over the age of 13 with an Internet connection. Even more importantly, 2006 saw the genesis of Flickchart, with co-creators Nathan Chase and Jeremy Thompson beginning work on the ranking website we all know and love. (Flickchart would exit closed beta and launch publicly in 2009.)
Only two of the five films nominated for Best Picture at the 79th Annual Academy Awards make our list of the best films of the year, but the winner does make #1. Nominees Letters from Iwo Jima, The Queen and Babel don’t make the Top 10. Meanwhile, two of the films on our list were the heavy-hitters in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, and were at the center of one of the more contentious Academy decisions in recent memory.
The highest-grossing films of the year are nowhere near Flickcharters’ list of favorites. The biggest money-earner in this list was #9 at the box office for the year: the triumphant return of a certain British secret agent. The casting of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig as James Bond was met with apprehension until his debut 007 adventure won rave reviews.
Here are, in ascending order, are the Best Films of 2006, as decided by the rankings of all users on Flickchart. (Check out our previous posts in this series for the Best Films of 1996, 1986, 1976, 1966, 1956, 1946, 1936, 1926, 1916, and 1906 AND 1896.)
#10. The Fall
To many, this is a 2008 film; it’s on the 2006 list on Flickchart because it premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, and was then shelved for two years before its theatrical release. Normally that’s a bad sign, and in fact, critics are pretty split on this film, all agreeing that it looks gorgeous but many feeling that the story is lacking. I respectfully disagree. To me, the story of a broken man and a lonely girl is what makes the film so powerful. It’s 1915, and a stuntman is injured, possibly paralyzed. In the hospital, he meets a young Romanian girl with a broken arm, and starts telling her a story. He hopes to gain her affection and trust so she will help him get morphine so he can kill himself — he’s plagued not only by his physical injuries, but by his beloved leaving him for a leading man. The girl’s imagination brings the stuntman’s story to life in absolutely stunning locales with incredible cinematography and practical effects. She begins to exert her will on his story, inserting herself into it and fighting for her father figure, the stuntman, to survive. I’ll admit to some bias; tales about how we mold our own fate by telling stories — and tales that blur the line between fantasy and reality — are pretty much my favorite thing ever. This was a personal pet project for director Tarsem, and it shows; some of it is perhaps indulgent, but it is filled with so much beauty, love, and faith in the power of story that it’s easily forgiven. — Jandy Hardesty
- Global Ranking: #792
- 133 users have it in their personal Top 20
It’s startling that writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck‘s only other feature-length film besides this one was 2010‘s The Tourist, a loud, silly, fast-paced adventure. The Lives of Others is the polar opposite. The movie follows Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler in 1984 East Germany and his assignment to monitor a certain playwright who may or may not be engaged in activities against the state. The film takes its time, slowly revealing the playwright’s life and those of his friends and love interest, and as we begin to develop an interest in them, so does Wiesler. Everything builds piece by piece, leading to a conclusion that I won’t spoil here but is, in this blogger’s opinion, perfect. Some movies make you feel despair for the state of humanity, others make you feel like there is some hope left. This film fits in the latter category. — Hannah Keefer
- Global Ranking: #591
- 918 users have it in their personal Top 20
On the surface, Little Miss Sunshine is a fairly typical road trip comedy. Where it excels, however, is in its presentation of an utterly real family dynamic. The dysfunction of the Hoover clan is readily apparent, but as they come together to help their little Olive (Abigail Breslin) achieve her dream of entering a beauty contest, we can all relate. This is only one of two Best Picture Oscar nominees on our list, and Michael Arndt’s script won a well-deserved Best Original Screenplay award, but the true strength of this movie is in its cast. Alan Arkin took home the Best Supporting Actor gold, but it’s the work of all six principal actors (including Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Paul Dano) playing off each other that gives Little Miss Sunshine its heart.
Plus, watching the clan dance to “Super Freak”, to the horror of the pageant judges, may be one of the single funniest scenes of the 2000s. — Nigel Druitt
- Global Ranking: #590
- 9,079 users have it in their personal Top 20
Anyone who’s talked to me for even a few minutes about movies knows that I love musicals. I am fully aware, however, that not everyone does. For those people, I often recommend Once, because while it incorporates music into the story, it’s done organically (the protagonists are both musicians) and it never seems to stop the plot or take the place of dialogue scenes. Besides being a good musical for musical haters, Once is also a good romance for romance haters. It’s a quiet, subtle, realistic story of two people making a connection through their music. There are no grand expressions of love, no cheesy apologies in the rain. It’s a simple, grounded tale of relationship, and it hits the mark on every level. — Hannah
- Global Ranking: #567
- 272 users have it in their personal Top 20
#6. V for Vendetta
Ironically enough, High Chancellor Adam Sutter is portrayed in a powerful performance by John Hurt; Hurt had previously played the victim of a totalitarian state in 1984, which this film certainly takes cues from. Sutter’s path to power has created enemies: namely V, played by a highly charismatic Hugo Weaving, who’s vowed to lead Britain in revolution. For all of the grand proclamations about liberty and freedom, these concepts are best displayed not in battles or speeches but in the relationship between V and Evey. Evey, played by Natalie Portman, is a reporter who bumps into V by chance. Their meeting is the foundation of a platonic love that bursts from the screen. Despite the fact that Weaving is obscured by a Guy Fawkes mask for the entire movie, his chemistry with Portman is fantastic, and makes the point about human freedom in a way that nothing else in the film can.
Stylized violence and bombastic sequences are a large portion of V, but fantastic performances (including one from a favorite actor of mine, Stephen Fry), a distinct visual style, and well-developed relationships give this film enough heart to complement its style. Human nature is to crave freedom even as we try to convince ourselves that security is better, and this film highlights the importance of those ideals and why liberty always wins out in the end. Remember, remember the fifth of November… — Connor Adamson
- Global Ranking: #444
- 11,221 users have it in their personal Top 20
#5. Casino Royale
Casino Royale’s predecessor featured invisible cars, elaborate ice palaces, and all the over-the-top action sequences we’d come to expect from a James Bond movie. Right away, Casino Royale sets itself apart from every previous entry in the franchise with a black-and-white opening. It’s different, it’s brutal, and it states loud and clear that Daniel Craig is a different kind of Bond than we’d seen before. For arguably the first time we see Bond as more than just a “superspy.” He’s more real, more flawed, and because of that, more admirable. We cheer more when he succeeds because it’s harder for him to do so.
The film itself is slick and stylish, and is one of few action movies that can bear a two-and-a-half-hour runtime with grace. And who would have thought that watching fictional characters play poker could be so gripping? It ushered in a new kind of Bond movie (as well as being one of the first to treat its “Bond Girls” with a high degree of respect), hopefully an approach that will stick around long after Craig bows out of the role. — Naomi Laeuchli
- Global Ranking: #362
- 11,200 users have it in their personal Top 20
#4. Children of Men
I confess: the first time I watched Children of Men, I was completely caught up in the technical aspects of the filmmaking, to the extent that they took me out of the story. A small group of people are traveling in a car when they are suddenly besieged by attackers, and the camera wheels around the vehicle until we suddenly realize there hasn’t been a cut for five minutes. Long takes have become director Alfonso Cuarón‘s signature, yet I still believe the 14-minute opening of Gravity could not have been as technically challenging as the 10-minute shot near the end of Children of Men that has Clive Owen charging through a war zone.
With my awe at the process out of the way, I watched Children of Men again. This time the process sucked me right into the story. Cuarón presents an eerily plausible near-future world that asks the question: what happens to society when mankind runs out of hope? And if we can rediscover a piece of it, how far will we go to preserve it? These are the underlying questions that drive the bravura filmmaking behind one of the finest films of the 2000s. — Nigel
- Global Ranking: #295
- 9,275 users have it in their personal Top 20
#3. Pan’s Labyrinth
El Laberinto del Fauno is a fairy tale with all the tropes and themes of that genre, yet it is 100% pitched at adults. In 2006 this approach was refreshing in and of itself. Yet Pan’s Labyrinth is so much more than “just” a fairy tale. It’s a study in contrasts, achieving by turns aching beauty and startling ugliness; blissful serenity and heart-stopping terror. It’s an intimate tale of an innocent young girl (Ivana Baquero) and a heartless personification of evil (Sergei López) set against sweeping backdrops of war and a fantasy realm that exists just beyond human perception. Its incredible cinematography, evocative score, and imaginative creature design all serve the vision of Guillermo del Toro, one of the most visually inventive directors working today. Pan’s Labyrinth is not just a fairy tale; it’s a unique cinematic experience. — Nigel
- Global Ranking: #278
- 9,434 users have it in their personal Top 20
#2. The Prestige
Little-known British filmmaker Christopher Nolan garnered critical acclaim following his suspenseful psychological thriller Memento, which was enough to get him the job of directing 2005’s Batman reboot, the beginning of one of the best superhero series of all time. In what became a pattern for Nolan, between Batman movies he used his cache to make something he wanted. The first such passion project was The Prestige. Taking place in Victorian England, this tale of magicians competing for glory is darkly compelling. Headlined by magnificent performances from Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, the rich period thriller is like a magic trick itself. It creates audience expectations for a character drama before picking up the pace as the pair begin to go to whatever lengths necessary to prove themselves superior. Throw in small performances from Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson and soon the audience is completely enraptured. The final trick of the film — the prestige, as the film itself describes it — is devious, and will send you to the restart button to watch the film again. Nolan’s meticulous nature as a director results in an enticing period thriller with richly designed costumes, lavish set-pieces, and a film that rewards rewatches. — Connor
- Global Ranking: #234
- 11,162 users have it in their personal Top 20
#1. The Departed
Every decade since he became a filmmaker, Martin Scorsese has released at least one film that proves him one of the greatest auteurs of all time. In the 70s he had Taxi Driver, in the 80s it was Raging Bull, and in the 90s GoodFellas. For the 2000s, Scorsese had The Departed. In previous epochs Scorsese’s muse was Robert De Niro, but with the new millennium he found a new one in Leonardo DiCaprio. At this point in Scorsese and DiCaprio’s careers, they both needed each other. When the two first worked together on 2002’s Gangs of New York, Scorsese needed to show he was still relevant, while the post-Titanic DiCaprio clearly wanted to be taken seriously after being seen as little more than a heartthrob. They came close with Gangs and The Aviator, but it was The Departed that truly refreshed public opinion on both of them.
It wasn’t until The Departed that Scorsese received his long-deserved Best Director Oscar, and it does seem strange that this film was the one to give him the honor. The Departed doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, especially considering it’s a remake of Infernal Affairs. But it shows Scorsese as a master craftsman with maybe his best cast, telling a taut, brilliantly-structured mystery filled with subtext and deception. The Departed also feels like a culmination of all of Scorsese’s interests he had worked through in other films, from the interest in gangster life (GoodFellas, Casino), Catholic guilt (The Last Temptation of Christ, Who’s That Knocking at My Door), and what it means to be a man (all of his films).
It is Scorsese’s oldest interest, though, that makes The Departed such a fascinating film: his fascination with the duality of man. The Departed puts this dual nature right at the forefront; no character is exactly who they seem, no person has just one side to them. This is exactly what Scorsese proved with The Departed — he wasn’t done yet, he wasn’t just a former great director who would fade into obscurity. He still had fight and greatness in him, and with The Departed he made one of the finest films of his career and a modern day masterpiece. — Ross
- Global Ranking: #126
- 13,757 users have it in their personal Top 20
The list above is generated by the rankings of Flickchart’s many users. What follows are some additional picks for films from 2006 that our Flickchart bloggers feel are worthy of recognition.
Don’t get me wrong — this film is awful. And yet its wonderful awfulness makes it well worth watching. Based on a 70s horror classic, the remake plays more as a comedy. Nicolas Cage‘s protagonist heads to a island in order to investigate the disappearance of his daughter. . . or something. It doesn’t really matter, because the film soon becomes a vehicle for Cage to let his inner loony loose. He delights in the delivery of lines such as “How did it get burned?” and “Ahhh, not the bees!!” Awkwardly, Cage’s character also punches women and beats them up. His horrendous performance looms so large that it nearly blocks out everything else, but the film also features a beguiling screenplay and highly questionable choices from director Neil LaBute. This film manages to be a wonderful disaster all around. While not quite at the level of Troll 2 or The Room, this film is a must-see for fans of bad movies. — Connor
Any year a Ghibli was released, it will be found near the top of my list. Any year, any Ghibli. Even this one, which is less well-regarded than most. It was headed by first-time director Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao, and reportedly neither father nor son were particularly pleased with the result. Nor was Ursula K. Le Guin, who wrote the fantasy book series on which the plot of Tales From Earthsea (Japanese title: Gedo Senki, “Ged War Chronicles”) is based. The movie meanders, never quite settling on a protagonist, taking the scenic route to an uncertain objective. The music, a romantic medley of Galician bagpipe, vocals, and ocarinas, is the subject of an excellent special feature on the DVD, but the Celtic/Iberian sound is different from what we’re used to with Ghibli. The villain, despite a memorable role in the film’s philosophical fantasy climactic, hews too close to anime tropes that Ghibli storytelling typically complicates and surpasses. Yet for all that, a Ghibli is a Ghibli: beautifully drawn, thoughtful, nostalgic, featuring strong women and an attention to place unparalleled in animation. Although the experience was physically and emotionally grueling for Goro, and his struggle was not rewarded with critical acclaim, I’m glad he didn’t give up on directing; his follow-up effort, From Up on Poppy Hill, is near the top of my personal best of 2011 list. As is any Ghibli, any year. — David Conrad
Full of data-hand-waving, unnecessary theatrics, and oversimplifications, this film will nonetheless be remembered as a seminal event in the cool-ification of the global warming debate. What surprised everyone was that it was not the content that was so arresting, it was the filmmaking. Yes, it’s a four-camera record of a political has-been clicking through Keynote, but it’s also one man’s moral journey to do what politics is supposed to do: wed data-driven social issues to the ongoing exploration of humanist ideals. Al Gore’s biography is not a particularly good example of this, and this film is not even a particularly good example of the documentary form, but there is an audacity and clarity to the storytelling here which nobody really expected. And that helped grease the wheels of its message. — Douglas Van Hollen
When I coerce friends to watch Bug, it’s typically by selling it on the strength of director William Friedkin, who, of course, directed The Exorcist, one of the scariest movies of all time. I’d argue Bug is even scarier, but in a very different way. While The Exorcist says there are supernatural forces out there that can come in and take control at any second, Bug builds a suffocating atmosphere of paranoia, hinting that the very forces we trust to take care of us are already controlling us. Bug is, at its heart, a two-person show; while other characters occasionally step in and out, it’s up to Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon to carry the weight of the ever-more-claustrophobic movie, and carry it they do. It’s difficult to talk much about the plot without giving away crucial details that are best revealed as the story unfolds, but let me finish by saying the final scene is one of the most unsettling, terrifying things I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s an excellent little horror film, and it’s an easy blogger’s choice for me. — Hannah
A collection of 18 short films, each set in a different one of Paris’s arrondissements, and each from a different director, each of these on their own are quite good little films (though some, of course, are better than others), but on their own they add up to a lot more for a lover of Paris like me. Most of them tell relatively straightforward little vignettes, and this is where the film shines. A young man striking up a friendship with a young Muslim woman by the Seine, a customer attracted to a print shop worker explaining his belief they are soulmates without realizing there’s a language barrier (directed by Gus Van Sant), a woman leaving her child in daycare only to go be a nanny for someone else’s child, a man deciding to stay with his terminally ill wife rather than leave her as he’d planned, etc. But there are also more outlandish ones, like Wes Craven’s gentle ghost story about a man receiving advice from the ghost of Oscar Wilde in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery; the Coen Brothers’ comic tale of Steve Buscemi’s mistreatment as a tourist who foolishly makes eye contact with a Parisian couple on the Metro; Sylvain Chomet’s mime love story; or Vincenzo Natali’s vampire story. The more outlandish episodes are less compelling most of the time, but the whole thing comes together in Alexander Payne’s pitch-perfect capper featuring Margo Martindale as an older American tourist on holiday alone, writing what she loves about Paris for her French class at home. If you love Paris, too, it’s impossible not to be moved by this mini-travelogue love letter to the city. — Jandy
Once in a while, there’s a film you disregard irrationally just because of its title. While Perfume could likely have benefited from omitting its subtitle at the box office, after viewing it you might agree that it is essential to condensing its purpose. What director Tom Tywker‘s (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas) film does present is a beautiful, haunting, fantastic tale of discovery and an exploration of the human condition from an angle you’ve never considered. Shots by cinematographer Frank Griebe look like compositions from art history books. Performances are exceptional from the entire cast: in particular, Ben Whishaw as the titular murderer; the late, great Alan Rickman as the worried father; and Dustin Hoffman as the farcical perfumer. It’s much more of a fantasy film and much less of a horror film (if at all) than you’d expect. If you love painterly scenes, measured dramatic acting, and a score filled with wonder, you’d be doing yourself a disservice to miss Perfume. — Nathan Chase
When the trailers debuted, people said it was too soon for a movie about the 9/11 attacks, and that it would be exploitative. When United 93 was released, writer/director Paul Greengrass proved them wrong in both respects. Greengrass (who earned a well deserved Best Director Oscar nomination) keeps everything simple throughout. There are no stars in the cast, and he even puts some of the original people who were there back into the very same position they were in on that fateful morning. By doing this, Greengrass and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd make you forget that you’re watching a movie, and put you in the position of actually being there. The build-up is handled so flawlessly that when United 93 is finally hijacked, the power of the story overcomes you. Once again, everything is kept to a bare minimum. There are no fancy visual effects shots and no over-the-top music cues to let you know how to feel. The final sequence in particular has so much power because of this simplicity that when the movie cuts to black, we are left stunned. United 93 is not just a story, but an experience. It is an unforgettable portrait of an unforgettable day, and a truly authentic masterpiece. — Nicholas Vargo
It shouldn’t work. The basic premise is ludicrous: Poisoned by his mortal enemy, the awesomely-named hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) must keep his adrenaline pumping long enough to get his revenge. If he stops, he dies. And thus, Statham goes on a literal rampage through Los Angeles, and writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor create a cornucopia of chaos on screen. From high-speed car chases through shopping malls to shocking himself with defibrillators, with a time out for a. . . uh. . . VERY public display of affection with his girlfriend (Amy Smart) in the middle of Chinatown, Chelios performs almost any feat imaginable to reach his goal. As a sly little post-credits sequence winks at, this just may be the closest anyone has come to representing full-out, no-holds-barred Grand Theft Auto-esque video game action on the big screen. Alas, a sequel, released in 2009, would not walk the line with quite as much dexterity as this first outing, making the fatal mistake of attempting to outdo its already over-the-top predecessor in every way. Nonetheless, Crank was mind-boggling fun for action junkies while it lasted. — Nigel
Admittedly, Borat is a dumb movie. It’s a film where the eponymous Borat tries to capture Pamela Anderson in a blanket and make her his wife. It’s a film where two grown men fight with gigantic black bars covering up their genitalia. But it’s also one of the smartest comedies in years. Borat’s pseudo-documentary style allows him and us to see sides of our country that we might never see, and at our present national moment Borat appears more prescient than ever before. But on a simple level, Borat is just hilarious. Unlike the Austin Powers franchise or Napoleon Dynamite, Borat has enough substance to transcend being merely a wacky character romp with some fun catchphrases. Sometimes it takes a true genius to make something so dumb. — Ross