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The 20 Best Movies of 2006

23 February 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Ryan Anderson

Children_of_Men_movie

I can’t believe it either, but these cinema gems came out 10 years ago, give or take a few months. From the outlandish, to the beautiful and subtle, 2006 was a varied, interesting, and downright solid year to spend some time at the movies.

I have selected the best films of 2006, based on critical acclaim, audience response, staying power, and box office success. This is not a comprehensive list, but I tried to make a varied list of 20. Love them or hate them, these are some of the best films of 2006.

 

20. Thank You For Smoking

Thank You For Smoking

Based on the satirical novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley, “Thank You For Smoking” may not have received awards attention like other films on this list, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the best.

“Thank You For Smoking” follows the efforts of Big Tobacco’s chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who lobbies on behalf of cigarettes using heavy spin tactics while also trying to remain a role model for his 12-year-old son. Jason Reitman, who went on to direct “Juno” and “Up in the Air”, makes his directorial debut here.

Aaron Eckhart stars as Naylor, alongside Katie Holmes, Maria Bello and Robert Duvall, among others. The film was praised for being acutely hilarious, along with being witty and a great dark comedy. It pricks at the anti-smoking message from all sides using wit, intelligence, and delightfully unscrupulous characters.

A source of contention for critics was the film’s lack of continuity and that the satire was not as biting as it was in the novel by Buckley. There was also concern about the sappy ending, unlike the ending seen in the novel.

Even with such criticisms, “Thank You For Smoking” is hilarious, and has enough biting commentary and crazy characters to make it one of the best films of 2006.

 

19. Dreamgirls

jennifer-hudson-dreamgirls

Adapted from the musical of the same name, “Dreamgirls” is a semi-biographical film of the history of the Motown record label and one of its acts, The Supremes. The story follows the history and evolution of American R&B music during the 1960s and 1970s through the eyes of a Detroit girl group known as the Dreams and their manipulative record executive.

The film adaptation of “Dreamgirls” stars Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, and also features Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose and Keith Robinson. Adapted and directed by Bill Condon, “Dreamgirls” was a commercial and critical success.

Earning $154 million at the box office, it received eight Academy Award nominations, tied for the most at that year’s ceremony, although it was not nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, or either of the lead acting categories. Four new songs were added to the film, along with a few minor changes from stage to screen.

The soundtrack to the film peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. “Dreamgirls” received positive reviews and has a 78 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The performances from Hudson and Murphy were singled out as truly exceptional, and Oprah Winfrey even called Hudson and said her performance was “a religious experience” and “a transcendent performance”.

Murphy won Supporting Actor awards from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, among others, and Hudson won a huge number of Best Supporting Actress awards, including ones from the Oscars and Golden Globes. The funky music, beautiful design and the acting, especially from Hudson who steals the show, make “Dreamgirls” one of the best films of 2006.

 

18. Half Nelson

Half-Nelson-2006

Ryan Gosling earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for playing an inner-city middle school teacher with a secret drug problem. He forms a friendship with one of his students (Shareeka Epps) after she discovers his drug habit.

Premiering at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, “Half Nelson” is based on the short film by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden titled “Gowanus, Brooklyn”. Fleck and Boden returned to this project, co-writing the screenplay with Fleck in the director’s chair. It was scored by Juno-award winning band Broken Social Scene.

The film did well financially, earning almost $5 million against a budget of $700,000. Greeted with high critical acclaim, “Half Nelson” found its way to many Top 10 lists for the year, citing Gosling as a stand out.

The searingly truthful tale about an unlikely friendship and the effects of drug use on youth and adults alike, “Half Nelson” has been cited as one of the best independent films of the decade, ranking in Paste Magazine’s list of best of the 2000s. Through the believable, raw, and real performances of the entire cast, especially Gosling, “Half Nelson” is one of the best films of 2006.

 

17. Borat

borat-film

“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (or simply “Borat”) is a British-American mockumentary comedy film.

Written, directed by and starring Sasha Baron Cohen, “Borat” follows a fictitious Kazakh journalist travelling through the United States as he records real-life interactions with Americans.

It features unscripted vignettes of Borat interviewing and interacting with Americans, who believe he is a foreigner with little or no understanding of American customs. Baron Cohen won the 2007 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor: Musical or Comedy, while the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture in the same category. “Borat” was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards.

The film was a commercial and critical success, achieving a 91 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it grossed over $250 million worldwide despite being banned in most of the Middle East. Baron Cohen did decide to kill off the character of Borat so there will be sequels, even with the success of this film.

“Borat” was not without controversy; some of the participants were not too happy about their portrayals and some of them took legal action. The film has been censored or completely banned in many parts of the world. Its craziness, fun attitude and controversy make it one of the best films of 2006.

 

16. Brick

Joseph-Gordon-Levitt-Brick-2005-Portable

Although this film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision, “Brick” was not theatrically released until April 2006, therefore it qualifies for this list.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson in his directorial debut, “Brick” stars Joseph Gordon Levitt and Emilie de Ravin. The film’s narrative centers on a hardboiled detective story set in a Californian suburb. Most of the main characters are high school students.

The title refers to a block of heroin, compressed roughly to the size and shape of a brick. “Brick” serves as an homage to classic noir and has been updated perfectly to fit a contemporary high school setting. As in classic noir, the story is not always clear as it unfolds, but it uses dialogue, suspense, and grit to hold the viewer’s attention.

“Brick” received positive reviews from critics and started the career of Rian Johnson, an up and coming filmmaker soon to direct an episode of “Star Wars”.

It has a rating of 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 137 reviews with an average score of 7.1 out of 10, and it was also named one of the 50 Best High School Movies by Entertainment Weekly. “Brick” has shown itself to be a cult classic and one of the best films of 2006.

 

15. Inside Man

Inside Man

From director Spike Lee and frequent collaborator Denzel Washington, “Inside Man” follows an elaborate bank heist on Wall Street over a 24-hour period.

Washington stars as Detective Keith Frazier, the NYPD’s hostage negotiator; Clive Owen as Dalton Russell, the mastermind who orchestrates the heist; and Jodie Foster as Madeleine White, a Manhattan power broker who becomes involved at the request of the bank’s founder, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), to keep something in his own personal safe deposit box protected from the robbers.

“Inside Man” was critically and commercially successful, receiving positive reviews and being the most successful film financially in Lee’s career, grossing $184 million worldwide. Lee’s film is not just a great heist thriller, but it goes beyond the stereotypes and traps of the genre with wit and skill.

Named one of the best films of the year by the American Film Institute, “Inside Man” is not really a Spike Lee joint, a la “Do the Right Thing”, but Lee still brings the New York attitude and personal touch to make the film distinctly Spike Lee.

Although some critics gave the film mixed reviews, and the planned sequel has since been scrapped, “Inside Man” is still one of the best films of 2006.

 

 

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  • Bosma

    No Inland Empire? Seriously?

  • Travis Bickle

    Inland Empire is one of the best films of 21st century, and its not even in the list.

  • Brandon Thompson

    Children of men is my favorite film of the decade, The Departed is my 2nd favorite Scorsese movie, Pan’s Labrinth was the movie that made me love foreign movies and Volver is easily Penelope Cruz’s best film.

    Also Inland Empire should’ve been here!

  • Unkle Amon

    Borat ftw! 🙂

  • Llort Bew

    As an Asian, I just don’t get why The Departed is so highly rated. I just don’t get it.

    • Chrisychipz

      Infernal Affairs is better

      • Llort Bew

        Definitely.

        • frank mango

          no

          • Llort Bew

            The Departed is shit. It has shit shit shit fuck fuck fucking cunt than actual dialog and everything has to be spelled out for the dumb American audience sloooooowly. That’s why it’s so much longer than Infernal Affairs. Hey look, it’s a rat on the balcony, because, you know, he was a rat. Get it? Gib me da Oskar nau.

          • Abhishek

            Hahaha. I laughed for a minute there!

          • Llort Bew

            Because you agree or disagree?

          • Abhishek

            Agreed Sir!

  • Dimitrije Stojanovic

    Some of my favorites that didn’t make the list:

    Ne le dis a personne
    Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a
    A fou sau n-a fost?
    The Last King of Scotland
    Wristcutters: A Love Story
    Obsluhoval jsem anglickeho krale
    Il Caimano
    Den Brysomme Mannen
    Direktoren for det hele

    • I would have never in a million years remembered Direktoren…but while I didn’t find it fantastic, I thought it was actually very clever. Jens Albinus is soooo good in it too, especially considering how ridiculous of a role that was. 🙂

  • Henrik Vinther Sørensen

    1. Inland Empire
    2. Children of Men
    3. The Fountain
    4. Lady in the Water
    5. Pan’s Labyrinth

    • Chrisychipz

      Lady in the water? I don’t think so dude

      • Henrik Vinther Sørensen

        I didn’t expect many to agree with me. But I found it to be one of the most unique, challenging and heartfelt movies of the year.

  • Camilo

    I’ve started myself a Film blog, perhaps you guys would like to take a look a at it 😉 https://breakingthefourthwallsite.wordpress.com/

  • Chrisychipz

    Deliver Us From Evil, Inland Empire, L’enfant, Jesus Camp, Paprika?

  • mckracken

    so many boring hollywood movies?

  • RHCdG

    The good shepherd

  • While I find most of the films on this list rather average, I truly loved Children of Men – it is a textbook example of how good, creative directing can make a film stand out even when the script doesn’t impress. Cuaron really shows off here, and it works – I admire his courage.

    Apart from this – and admitting that I found The Prestige lovely (although I am no Nolan fan – but here he is not as pretentious as usual, which pays off) and Das Leben der Anderen somewhat overrated, but was soooo happy to see the magnificent Ulrich Muehe gain international attention! – my 2006 was mostly marked by European cinema: Corneliu Porumboiu’s A fost sau n-a fost?, which gave us a taste of what’s to come from him; Susanne Bier’s Efter brylluppet (which now seems a bit cheezy, but back then I found it delightful); Radu Muntean’s wonderful Hîrtia va fi albastrã…Canet’s Ne le dis à personne was also quite OK, although not as good as the ones listed above. Tom Tykwer’s Perfume was very good, but I was at that time still a huge fan of his, so I’m maybe not being quite objective on this. Costa-Gavras’ Le Couperet was interesting, as was David Lammers’ Langer Licht, which I remember listing as my favourite debut film of the year, although I’d have to re-think that decision now…:)

    In all honesty, it was probably not the best year in film, but there were things to admire and enjoy.