With 2015 upon us, we figured it was a good time to look back on the movies the millennium has brought us. We’ve dug into the archives and are re-running our Best of the 2000s pieces, from way back in 2009 when the Playlist was a little Blogspot site held together with tape and string. Each list runs down the top 10 films of each year (it’s possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the movies, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible). Check out 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 if you missed them, and today we continue with 2006. The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.
The mid-aughts were incredibly strong for movies — we dealt with 2005 yesterday, and had to expand the list it was such a good year, while 2007 (coming tomorrow) had several of the very best movies of the whole decade. In between the two, 2006 is less immediately stacked with goodness, but over time has been revealed as a truly great year for genre filmmaking. Young auteurs took the western, the detective movie, the sci-fi flick, the gangster film, and even the “inspirational teacher” genre, and turned them into films as smart and subversive as those below. Even the Bond movie was reinvented, and more successfully than anyone could have imagined.
Elsewhere, Martin Scorsese finally won a long overdue Oscar for “The Departed,” and Ken Loach picked up the Palme d’Or for “The Wind That Shakes The Barley” (although both are examples of filmmakers being rewarded more for past work than for their best movies; particularly considering the presence of Cannes films, “Volver,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Red Road“)
Blockbuster-wise, the bloated “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” dominated, losing most of the charm of the original, while “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Mission: Impossible III” also proved to be unsatisfying sequels, and “The Da Vinci Code” made a ton of money, despite easily being one of the worst films of the decade. On the plus side, “Borat” proved the sleeper hit of the year, and “The Devil Wears Prada” surprised by proving to be one of the best chick flicks (man, we hate that term) in some time.
10. “The Fountain”
Tomas plunges deep into the jungle, in a search for the Fountain of Youth, Tommy (Hugh Jackman) is trying to push modern science to the brink to end his wife’s suffering (Rachel Weisz), while Tom sails through space and time in pursuit of Xibalba, the tree that will bring life to his long-dead paramour. The discussion as to whether all three are real, and the same person, is one with multiple sides and one that only underlines the multiple interpretations that can be given to Darren Aronofsky’s intense meditation on love, mortality and acceptance. Originally set up as a big budget post-“Matrix” sci-fi adventure with Brad Pitt, “The Fountain” eventually became a much more satisfying small project. An intimate, centuries-spanning tale of how death truly is the road to awe.
9 “The Lives of Others”
With its slow-burn paranoia and pitch-perfect performances, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck‘s Oscar-winning “The Lives of Others” (it beat out “Pan’s Labyrinth” among others) works as a political suspense film for the majority of its running time. The tale of an East German secret policeman (Ulrich Muhe, who would pass away six months after this riveting turn) who spends the majority of the film listening in on the lives of an arty couple (Sebastian Koch and Martina Gedeck), a playwright and actress suspected of harboring Western sympathies, really gets under your skin. As the tragedy increases, and the line between listening and getting involved blurs, the tension mounts. But it’s the final scene, too devastating to reveal to those who haven’t watched yet, that delivers the emotional suckerpunch. If only every historical thriller was this affecting.
8. “Children Of Men”
For a film which is, ostensibly at least, science fiction (it creates one of the most coherent, fascinating futuristic dystopias ever seen on screen), “Children of Men” sums up our War-on-Terror, immigration-panic era better than any contemporary drama could. It’s impossible to talk about it without mentioning its bravura, CGI-assisted tracking shots, which immerse the viewer even more deeply in this bleak, terrible view of Britain in 2027. Focusing on the first pregnant woman on Earth after two decades of global human infertility, it’s a fiercely political and grim movie, but also one unafraid to be playful (the Pink Floyd homage, for example, or Michael Caine rocking out to Aphex Twin), miraculously remaining thrilling, funny and moving in equal measure throughout. Despite outstanding notices on release, Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece was neglected by audiences, but it’s only going to get better and richer as we edge towards the future it predicts.