Best Movies of All Time + [United 93]

Top 10 Films of 2006

The year is 2006, and a lot has happened in the movie world. To help take you back in time, here's a look back at some of the film-related events that took place:

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes welcome their daughter, Suri, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie welcome their daughter, Shiloh.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest becomes the year's highest-grossing film, earning over $1.06 billion at the worldwide box office.
The Departed wins the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as three other awards, including Best Director for Martin Scorsese, marking the first time he won the award.

The world loses the likes of Chris Penn, Don Knotts, Bruno Kirby, Jack Palance, Robert Altman and Peter Boyle.

I've been able to see 79 films released in 2006, and from those, I've compiled my own top ten list. As one can imagine, some great films had to be left off the final list. Here's a look at some of the movies (listed alphabetically) that just missed the cut:

Blood Diamond
Little Children
Little Miss Sunshine
Notes on a Scandal
A Scanner Darkly
But enough about the runners-up; here's the list you've been waiting to see! Counting down from number ten to number one, I've listed each film and have given the principal cast list as well as if and how fared at the Academy Awards. Also, I've listed the film's rank on my "Best Films of All-Time" list, if applicable. So without any further delay, here's my top ten movies of 2006!

10. Inside Man

Rated: R
Directed by: Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor
***
This was actually the first Spike Lee joint I ever had the privilege of seeing, and what an introduction to his style! Centered around fantastic leading performances from Washington and Owen, this chess duel between these dynamic actors proves to be one of the best heist films I have ever seen. Also very good are Foster and Plummer in supporting roles, but the interplay between negotiator Washington and heist-man Owen offers the real meat of this film. Chalk full of interesting camera angles as well as a number of plot twists, Inside Man is not a film to be missed.

9. Letters from Iwo Jima

Rated: R
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya
Academy Awards: 4 nominations, 1 win
***
The second part of Eastwood's Iwo Jima films, Letters from Iwo Jima tells the Japanese side of the battle on the island of Iwo Jima. Much better than the American-centric Flags of Our Fathers, Letters, which can be considered a foreign language film, found a way to show the American public a side of World War II Japanese soldiers that may not have ever been made available to the mass public. With an incredible performance by Ken Watanabe at the center, there's a lot to like about this relatively quiet and thoughtful war film.

8. Hard Candy

Rated: R
Directed by: David Slade
Starring: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson
***
Hard Candy is an independent film that tells of an older-than-her-age teenager who tracks down and torments a supposed pedophile and alleged child murderer. At times, the evil that Ellen Page brings to the screen is almost unbearable, and even though Wilson's character is the true scum in the film, we as the audience want to cheer for him against this monstrosity of a girl looking to exact a bit of vengeance. Because Page and Wilson are essentially the film's only characters, it's up to them to keep the film moving along, and they succeed wholeheartedly. As I said, it can be tough to watch at times, but there's something brilliant about this psychological thriller that cut me pretty deep.

7. Brick

Rated: R
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Matt O'Leary, Emilie de Ravin, Richard Roundtree, Meagan Good
***
Another independent film, Brick is actually a bit of a genre bender as well. It takes the film noir format and changes the setting, placing in the midst of a high school drama that deals with drugs, lies and murder. When a teenager's ex-girlfriend is found dead, he decides to solve the mystery on his own, with a little bit of help from his friends. What he finds is a very deep and convoluted drug cartel run by the dredges of the school. We're getting a great performance from Gordon-Levitt, but it's really the screenplay that excels here, giving a good story as well as fantastic dialogue that perfectly fits the mold.

6. The Prestige

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall, Scarlet Johansson, Andy Serkis, David Bowie
Academy Awards: 2 nominations
All-Time Ranking: 112
***
Nolan really outdid himself with this one, once again proving that he is capable of handling any type of storyline and making it into a fantastic film. Aided by great performances from Bale, Hall and Serkis, The Prestige tells the story of two dueling magicians who continually try to best one another with different variations of the same trick. Like the two magicians, the film itself delves into a bit of sleight of hand, offering twist after twist as we make our way to a truly jaw-dropping finale. Let's just say I was left relatively speechless after the first I saw this film, and it has continued to leave me staring in wonder at the closing credits.

5. The Departed

Rated: R
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin
Academy Awards: 5 nominations, 4 wins
All-Time Ranking: 109
***
The film that finally earned Scorsese his first Academy Award for Best Director is actually a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film entitled Infernal Affairs. This film tells the story of two young men, each from opposite sides of the law, impersonating their enemy in order to infiltrate either the police force or the criminal lair, respectively. It's a who's-who cast of big-time actors, and each plays his or her par to the tee. Especially good are DiCaprio and Nicholson, and even Alec Baldwin surprises with a pitch-perfect bit part. It's a very good film that proves to be quite entertaining, and it's aided by a great and memorable score from Howard Shore.

4. Jesus Camp

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
Academy Awards: 1 nomination
All-Time Ranking: 108
***
I had heard about this film back when it first hit theaters, but it took me a little while to sit down and see it. Having come from a background of working with my church, this one hit me pretty hard considering how horrendous some of the events prove to be. Rather than working towards showing how good a strong faith in God can be, the leaders of the church shown in this film instead prefer to brainwash the children under their care into conservative morals and ideas. While I do not have a political preference, I do not think that brainwashing children is ever the right way to teach them, and this film proves to be a bit of a horror story for me. It's a tough watch, especially if you're religious, so be wary.

3. The Bridge

Rated: R
Directed by: Eric Steel
All-Time Ranking: 44
***
I have to issue a word of caution for this film as it is definitely not for the feint of heart. This documentary depicts images of people jumping from the Golden Gate Bride in San Francisco in order to end their lives. Eric Steel filmed the bridge for a year and captured a number of these suicides. He then talked to friends and family of the deceased in order to understand their emotions and coping mechanisms. It's a beautiful, if harrowing, film, but be wary. This is as close to a tasteful snuff film as you're ever going to find, so know going in that you're in for some disturbing images.

2. United 93

Rated: R
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Trish Gates, David Alan Basche, Christian Clemenson, Cheyenne Jackson, Khalid Abdalla
Academy Awards: 2 nominations
All-Time Ranking: 43
***
We all remember what happened on September 11, 2001, as the events of the day reverberated all around the world. When Greengrass decided to make this film chronicling the men and women on the fateful flight that crashed in a Pennsylvania field, many speculated as to whether the film was coming too soon. Still, it offers an intense and profound look at what may have happened on board the flight, and it depicts the passengers as quite the heroic ensemble.

1. Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno)

Rated: R
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Maribel Verdú, Sergi López, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil
Academy Awards: 6 nominations, 3 wins
All-Time Ranking: 9
***
Arguably one of my favorite foreign language films of all time, Pan's Labyrinth can best be described as a "fairy tale for adults." While it delves into a series of fanciful adventures with our young heroine, there's a grittiness and a horror surrounding the events of the film that puts this beyond any child's realm. I've also found there to be a rather religious context in which the film can be taken, and for me personally, that only heightens the enjoyability of the film. It's a fantastic film all around, and I highly suggest you see it.