The 10 Best Films Of 2006With 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.

null10. “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.

null9 “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.

Children Of Men8. “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. 

  • Bill

    Half Nelson was implausible white guilt nonsense and one of the most overrated films i\’ve ever had to misfortune to see.

  • MishuPishu

    Can\’t believe you missed this one but with the torrent of great films from 2006, I guess it makes sense. Blame It On Fidel, an absolutely wonderful film about a French girl who must deal with her parent\’s activism during the 70\’s. There\’s so many good films here but this one definitely should at least have an honorable mention.

  • Igor Sousa

    Seriously? The Fountain?

  • Jorge Clooneigh

    did you seriously just try to defend Superman Returns? No.

  • MishuPishu

    Crazy that all three Mexican auteurs could have been in the top ten here, although I thought Babel was a bit of a mess. Children Of Men and Pan\’s Labyrinth definitely belong here.

  • MishuPishu

    It\’s a downright travesty that "Clean" is not in your top ten here, let alone #1. That movie is top ten of all time for me. Absolutely perfect portrayal of a woman overcoming her own limitations and selfish nature. As beautiful, heartfelt and picturesque as any film out there.

  • cineman

    Children of Men at No.1 for me by far.

  • PhotographicAmnesia

    The Fountain was a bloated infomercial on New Age with Hollywood\’s gold standard approval. Just the thought of it leaves me with a mouthful of sand and desperate for water. Spike Lee\’s Inside Man would be a nice replacement pick. Still haven\’t seen Old Joy. And the Proposition finally gives weight to any conversation of over taking Sam Peckinpah\’s The Wild Bunch as the best Western ever made.

  • Nathan Duke

    I\’m really surprised \’Pan\’s Labyrinth,\’ \’The Departed\’ and \’Inland Empire\’ are not in the top 10. And how about \’Three Times\’? Glad to see love for \’Children of Men,\’ \’United 93,\’ \’Volver\’ and \’L\’Enfant.\’

  • loved her in DREDD

    juno star Olivia Thirlby was in UNITED 93

  • Nathan Duke

    Yeah, tried to post my list as well, but was told it was too spammy. Indiewire, something you can fix there?

  • cirkusfolk

    I agree. 2006 worst year of all the 2000s but then 2007 is the best year. Can\’t wait til the list tomorrow!

  • cirkusfolk

    No mention of Little Miss Sunshine?

  • Daniel

    2006 was a bad year. The worst till 2012

  • Wes

    I would post my list, but apparently my comment seems to be spammy.

  • Liz

    Nah, it\’s great. I missed this the first time around when they ran it in 2009. It\’s a well-written interesting capsule in time (read the opening). I\’d be very curious to see how they feel about the order and line-up today and i suspect it would be fairly different.

  • Zip

    Worst clickbait series ever… and during sundance at that! You can\’t even use the slow news day excuse.

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  • Sergei

    Playlist will always consider it “alienating” but Fast Food Nation deserves a lot more love.