14. Casino Royale
“Casino Royale” was the reboot of the James Bond series, with a new Bond, new storylines, and a new timeline. It was the first to star Daniel Craig as 007 and it marks the third adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. “Casino Royale” is set at the beginning of Bond’s career as Agent 007, just as he is earning his license to kill.
After preventing a terrorist attack at Miami International Airport, Bond falls in love with Vesper Lynd, the treasury employee assigned to provide the money he needs to bankrupt a terrorist financier, Le Chiffre, by beating him in a high-stakes poker game. The film’s cast includes Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, and Judi Dench as M.
It received positive critical response, with reviewers highlighting Craig’s reinvention of the character and the film’s departure from the tropes of previous Bond films. It earned over $600 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing James Bond film until the release of “Skyfall” in 2012.
Although there was considerable scrutiny thrown at Daniel Craig and producers for not appearing to fit the original description of the character, Craig’s performance as Bond was praised and he has helmed the franchise ever since.
It was the highest rated modern Bond film on Rotten Tomatoes, with “Goldfinger” and “From Russia With Love” having slightly higher ratings. Revitalizing the Bond franchise, introducing Craig as Bond, and landing on several critic’s top ten list made “Casino Royale” one of the best films of 2006.
13. Letters from Iwo Jima
“Letters from Iwo Jima” portrays the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers and is a companion piece to “Flags of Our Fathers”. Both pieces were co-produced and directed by Clint Eastwood.
Although “Flags of Our Fathers” is a good piece of cinema, it was “Letters from Iwo Jima” that was better received. Starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya, the film is almost entirely in Japanese. Upon release, it received considerable acclaim and did slightly better at the box office than its companion.
Praised for its writing, direction, acting, and cinematography, “Letters from Iwo Jima” showed the good and evil from both sides during the war. Everyone from A.O Scott, Richard Roeper, Peter Travers, Kenneth Turan and Roger Ebert raved about the film and gave it their top rating.
The film was included in many critical top 10 lists, with several finishes in the top spot. “Letters from Iwo Jima” received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and received one award for Sound Editing.
The film was more commercially successful in Japan, where it was very well received by the Japanese people. Many noted that the Japanese acclaim is what made it distinguishable from many Hollywood depictions of Japanese people.
“Letters from Iwo Jima” was excellently researched to show Japanese culture during that time period and the actors were actually native to Japan. By bypassing stereotypes and showing the good and evil from the war, “Letters from Iwo Jima” was ranked of the best films of 2006.
12. Little Miss Sunshine
First premiering at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, “Little Miss Sunshine” was the directorial film debut of the husband-wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The screenplay was written by first-time writer Michael Arndt.
The movie stars Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin, and was produced by Big Beach Films on a budget of US$8 million. Its distribution rights were bought by Fox Searchlight Pictures for one of the biggest deals made in the history of the festival.
“Little Miss Sunshine” was a big box office success, grossing an international total of $100.5 million. It was also critically successful, earning four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, and won two; Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin and Best Original Screenplay for Michael Arndt.
“Little Miss Sunshine” chronicles The Hoover family — a man (Greg Kinnear), his wife (Toni Collette), an uncle (Steve Carell), a brother (Paul Dano) and a grandfather (Alan Arkin) — puts the fun back in dysfunctional by piling into a VW bus and heading to California to support a daughter (Abigail Breslin) in her bid to win the Little Miss Sunshine contest.
Many critics raved over the film, particularly the performances from Arkin and 10-year-old Breslin. It also received multiple nominations from many guilds, critic’s circles, and major award shows. From its irreverence and fun, to its great performances, “Little Miss Sunshine” is one of the best films of 2006.
11. An Inconvenient Truth
The only documentary to appear on this list, “An Inconvenient Truth” is about former US Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate citizens about global warming via a comprehensive slide show that, by his own estimate made in the film, he has given more than a thousand times.
A 2006 Sundance Film Festival product, “An Inconvenient Truth” is directed by Davis Guggenheim. The documentary was a critical and commercial success. It is the 10th highest grossing documentary ever and won two Academy Awards, Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song.
It grossed nearly $26 million in foreign countries, the highest being France, where it grossed $5 million. According to Gore, “Tipper and I are devoting 100 percent of the profits from the book and the movie to a new bipartisan educational campaign to further spread the message about global warming.”
Since the film’s release, “An Inconvenient Truth” has been credited for raising international public awareness of global warming and reenergizing the environmental movement. The documentary has also been included in science curricula in schools around the world, which has spurred some controversy.
It received positive reviews from critics, but some were critical of the film scientifically and politically. Most importantly, the film made an impact In a July 2007 47-country Internet survey conducted by The Nielsen Company and Oxford University; 66 percent of those respondents who said they had seen “An Inconvenient Truth” stated that it had “changed their mind” about global warming and 89 percent said it had made them more aware of the problem.
Three out of four (74 percent) said they had changed some of their habits after seeing the film. Its impact, science, and acclaim make “An Inconvenient Truth” one of the best films of 2006.
10. Notes on a Scandal
Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are quite the duo in this British film based on the Zoe Heller novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Patrick Marber and the film was directed by Richard Eyre, a famous British opera, theater and television director.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Judi Dench and Best Supporting for Cate Blanchett. It follows Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), a veteran teacher at St. George’s, who senses a kindred spirit in Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), the school’s new art teacher.
The younger woman’s charisma intensely draws in the older woman, and the two become friends. Barbara then learns of Sheba’s affair with a teenage student and becomes the keeper of the explosive secret. “Notes on a Scandal” was critically and commercially successful, with particular praise for the performances by Dench and Blanchett and the screenplay from Patrick Marber.
Philip Glass’s score also received praise for being the anchor of the film and adding another component to the grown-up drama. “Notes on a Scandal” is darkly brilliant and wonderfully acted film, and is a masterclass in great screen adaptation, and is one of the best films of 2006.
The man who is taking awards season by storm, Alejandro González Iñárritu, has had previous successes, including this multi-dimensional film. Directed and co-written by Iñárritu with Guillermo Arriaga, this multi-narrative film completes his death trilogy, following “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams”.
The ensemble cast includes Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. The latter women, Barraza and Kikuchi, received Oscar nominations for their performances. It is an international co-production among companies based in the US, Mexico and France, and the film portrays multiple stories taking place in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the US.
“Babel” was selected to compete at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, where Iñárritu won the Best Director prize. It received critical acclaim; its scores weren’t as high as other films on this list, but it earned acclaim nonetheless.
“Babel” won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and two for Best Supporting Actress, winning for Best Original Score. Its multi-narrative mature structure, along with the amazing direction from Iñárritu, make “Babel” one of the best films of 2006.
8. United 93
Made with the cooperation of the families of the passengers aboard this tragic flight, Paul Greengrass’s masterpiece chronicles the events of flight United 93, which was hijacked during the attacks on September 11, 2001. The film attempts to recount with as much veracity as possible (there is a disclaimer that some imagination had to be used) and in real time (from the flight’s takeoff) what has come to be known in the United States as a critical moment.
“United 93” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, a festival founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center, and to contribute toward the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan. It was the first Hollywood feature to draw its narrative directly from these terrorist attacks.
“United 93” was one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2006. Only “The Departed” and “The Queen” appeared on more Top 10 lists for the year and received more number one mentions than “United 93”.
It received numerous awards and nominations from film critics and guilds. Ultimately, the film received two Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, and six BAFTA nominations, including Best British Film, winning two for Best Director and Best Film Editing. Its harrowing look into the lives of passengers, its grit and heart, and masterful direction, make “United 93” one of the best films of 2006.