Best Movies of 2006



Pedro Almodóvar | 121 mins | Comedy/Drama
Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo

“Set in a windy, superstitious Spanish village, Pedro Almodóvar’s tremendously rich melodrama shimmers with vibrant, colorful passion and familial melancholy. The combination of Almodóvar regulars is inspired; voluptuary Penélope Cruz reminds us how amazing she is when acting in her native tongue (she was nominated for an Oscar and tied for a Cannes actress award), plus Blanca Portillo and Lola Dueñas make perfect complementary accents. The film’s title (“Return” in English) is echoed by the return/resurrection of the protagonist sisters’ mother thought to be a ghost (and played by former Almodóvar muse Carmen Maura, returning to work with the auteur after a falling-out that lasted a decade). Enhanced by Alberto Iglesias‘ score, the intricate, and at times comical, Hitchcockian thriller is ultimately a deeply felt consideration of death, family and forgiveness. One of the decade’s best and a deeply affecting work.” – indieWIRE


Half Nelson

Ryan Fleck | 106 mins | Drama
Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Shareeka Epps, Jeff Lima

“Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s staggeringly confident drama transcends its crackhead-teacher marketing hook. Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is the Brooklyn public school teacher in question. Drea (Shareeka Epps ), the girl, is his student. And their relationship brilliantly personifies his schoolroom dialectics lessons, with the teacher on one side and the local drug dealer (Anthony Mackie ) on the other. They both want custody of the girl, figuratively speaking. The film perceives the limits of theory, while daring to hold white liberalism accountable for its delusions of salvation. How can Dan save Drea when he can’t save himself? Praise for Gosling’s heroic understatement tends to omit Epps’s steely street mask. But for the movie’s dialectic structure to work, she needs to be every bit as good as her co-star, and she is.” – Wesley Morris, Boston Globe


Children of Men

Alfonso Cuarón | 109 mins | Drama/Thriller
Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine

“Children of Men is Alfonso Cuaron’s fantasy set in the year 2027, when terrorism has rendered the world ungovernable, and no children have been born in 18 years. When a newborn infant and its mother Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) come into the circle of the hero (Clive Owen), he joins with a former lover (Julianne Moore) and her associate (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in an underground movement, to help the young woman find refuge in a rumored haven off the coast of Britain. This involves a journey across the land, and a stop at the home of a courageous aging hippie (Michael Caine) who tries to live somewhat outside the system. The view of the deteriorating society they travel through is humbling; is this where we are headed?” – Roger Ebert


Letters From Iwo Jima

Clint Eastwood | 141 mins | Action/Adventure/Drama
Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryô Kase

“Clint Eastwood, the greatest living American filmmaker (as of November; see No. 10), just gets better and better. Telling the story of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view, this companion to “Flags of Our Fathers” deepens his careerlong exploration of the nature and consequences of violence, moving into territory that few Western directors have even tried to comprehend. He undertakes this journey with a calm mastery that provides fuel for endless reflection as well as overwhelming emotional impact. Working with a Japanese cast in their own language, Mr. Eastwood once again gives his actors room and confidence to work, and they — Ken Watanabe in particular — repay him, and the audience, with remarkable performances.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times


Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro | 118 mins | Drama/Fantasy/War
Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú

“This tale of a little girl (Ivana Baquero) who becomes the prisoner of her sadistic stepfather (Sergi Lopez) after the Spanish Civil War isn’t fantasy in the mode of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but fantasy in the mode of Alice in Wonderland or the tales of the Brothers Grimm. Mexican horror director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone) has reached into the depths of our collective unconscious—not to mention the fertile swamp of his own mind—and pulled out a fever dream of a movie. More than any other film I can think of except possibly the Spanish masterpiece The Spirit of the Beehive (which it occasionally resembles in subject and mood), Pan’s Labyrinth evokes the mental landscape of childhood, the feeling of what it’s like to slip between dream and reality just by whispering a magic word. But the political and psychological realities it explores are deep, dark, and ugly; though this is a great film about childhood, it’s decidedly not a film for children.” – Dana Stevens, Slate



Larry Charles | 84 mins | Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell, Chester

“Look, comedy is supposed to hurt. It can be cruel, uncomfortable, juvenile, cretinous, all for the sake of advancing a sharp observation or two, or blasting through a taboo, or simply cramping you up with laughter. Comedy is not nice. The Greeks knew this. So did Lenny Bruce. Most people, however — Americans included — are obsessed with being perceived as nice while sometimes saying not-so-nice things. This is what “Borat” is really about. Well, that and a naked fat guy running through a sales convention. Sacha Baron Cohen’s tatty, low-budget prank-a-thon was both the most overhyped movie of the year and the most underrated, the smartest and the stupidest, the most bigoted and the most open-minded. (It was also the funniest. Hands down.) In other words: a movie that encapsulated the extremes of our culture and our times better than almost any serious movie you can name. In all, this plucky little fellow from a mythical Kazakhstan — acting extremely nice while spewing ignorance in every direction — fit right into the American scene. Sinclair Lewis would have recognized the people Borat meets, and even Chaplin might have found in him a rude, crude modern descendant: a Little Tramp for an age of industrial-strength complacency.” – Ty Burr, Boston Globe


Little Miss Sunshine

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris | 101 mins | Comedy/Drama
Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin

“A hopelessly dysfunctional family of oddballs discover the true definitions of winning and losing when their little girl is tapped as a pageant contestant, and they all rally behind her in a hilariously disastrous cross-country rush to get her to the contest on time. Uniformly excellent and engaging performances from an incredible ensemble cast (Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin) make this heart-grabbing comedy-drama from first-time feature directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris the most pleasant sleeper surprise of the year.” – Gene Triplett, The Oklahoman


The Queen

Stephen Frears | 103 mins | Biography/Drama/History
Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings

“The populace well knows that, by royal decree, Helen Mirren is this year’s queen of queens: Her Elizabeth II invites closer, fairer access to a modern monarch than any performance in memory, and Mirren deserves each and every honor bestowed upon her by the rulers of Hollywood. What this non-subject of the realm would like to celebrate now, however, is the movie beyond the movie star, with its astute observations about the tensions between tradition and change, responsibility and popularity, public display and private feeling, glamour and reliability (not to mention queen and prime minister). You thought you had soaked up every scrap available regarding the 1997 death of Princess Diana? Think again.” – Lisa Swarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

2. UNITED 93

United 93

Paul Greengrass | 111 mins | Drama/History/Thriller
David Alan Basche, Olivia Thirlby, Liza Colón-Zayas, J.J. Johnson

“In its scary and lacerating way, a revelation: For most of Paul Greengrass’ amazing, hair-trigger 9/11 vérité thriller, we’re not just sitting back and watching a terrorist attack — we’re right on that plane, along with the passengers, living their fear, imagining what we would do, experiencing the shuddery charge of their bravery as they try to seize control of the plane from suicidal Islamic hijackers and, in a moment, alter the destiny of a world that has opened into an abyss beneath them. The bogus question turned into a mantra by the media — is it ”too soon” for a movie like United 93? — really translates as: Do American audiences want to feel this close to this actual a tragedy when they go to the movies? Maybe not. Maybe it’s about time they did.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly


The Departed

Martin Scorsese | 151 mins | Crime/Drama/Thriller
Tommy Lee Jones | Javier Bardem | Josh Brolin | Woody Harrelson

“Crime in the streets. A Martin Scorsese specialty, from Mean Streets to GoodFellas. So what’s so special about The Departed that I’m calling it the best movie of 2006? For starters, it’s a new high in a historic career. The Boston crime milieu scrupulously laid out in William Monahan’s screenplay sparks something fresh in Scorsese about how moral corruption begins in childhood and festers in adult life. The acting, from Jack Nicholson’s Irish mobster to Mark Wahlberg’s hothead sergeant, is top of the line. And Leonardo DiCaprio, as an undercover cop, and Matt Damon, as an undercover criminal, give the performances of their lives. Scorsese orchestrates acting, writing, editing, production design and camera placement into a model of what directing is when craft rises to the level of art.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Full Top 50:

1The Departed307503.7456%11%1683054%11%
2United 93280593.9151%12%1543050%11%
3The Queen268234.3149%5%1541550%5%
4Little Miss Sunshine197174.8336%4%98632%2%
6Pan's Labyrinth180234.5633%5%1101836%6%
7Letters from Iwo Jima157253.9929%5%911429%5%
8Children of Men145294.1326%6%871428%5%
9Half Nelson13375.1224%1%71323%1%
12Little Children11574.4821%1%62620%2%
13The Death of Mr. Lazarescu100194.0418%4%721323%5%
14The Lives of Others106154.2518%3%53617%2%
15Flags of Our Fathers97114.2718%2%511017%4%
17A Prairie Home Companion9365.4117%1%51317%1%
18Casino Royale9336.0117%1%45215%1%
20Thank You for Smoking7325.3213%0%2518%0%
21The Proposition6815.8012%0%38112%0%
22Inland Empire66144.0212%3%451015%4%
23An Inconvenient Truth6426.0412%0%31010%0%
24Old Joy6315.0212%0%44114%0%
25Army of Shadows59183.4011%4%461415%5%
27Notes on a Scandal5625.7010%0%35111%0%
28Three Times51124.169%3%39813%3%
29A Scanner Darkly4934.289%1%39313%1%
30Inside Man4925.649%0%2829%1%
31Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story4825.189%0%2909%0%
32The Prestige4735.209%1%1936%1%
34Marie Antoinette4335.388%1%2217%0%
35The Science of Sleep4025.937%0%2227%1%
36Deliver Us From Evil4005.717%0%30010%0%
37Stranger Than Fiction3915.977%0%1515%0%
38The Last King of Scotland3815.227%0%1515%0%
40The Fountain3554.896%1%1926%1%
41Miami Vice3435.566%1%1916%0%
42The Descent3305.686%0%2107%0%
43The Good Shepherd3104.586%0%1906%0%
44V for Vendetta3125.046%0%1625%1%
45Neil Young: Heart of Gold2805.815%0%2107%0%
46Superman Returns2715.525%0%1605%0%
46The Devil Wears Prada2715.245%0%1013%0%
49World Trade Center2705.275%0%1505%0%
50Battle in Heaven2624.555%0%1625%1%

Lists Included 547 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 309

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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