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Top 10 Films of 2006

To be completely honest, we didn't see every movie released in 2006. Nevertheless, our staff saw quite a few good films over the past year, while unfortunately catching a few duds along the way (cough, "The Lake House," "Lady in the Water"). Because the Oscars and other award shows generally honor dramatic, more serious films with the highest artistic merit, we've decided to both consider those movies (aka "The Best") and those that made us smile, cheer and count down the days 'till their DVD releases (aka "Our Favorites").

Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Kôji Yakusho, Rinko Kikuchi

Much like "Traffic" before it, "Babel" shows how a global web of initially unrelated people, events and stories can be deeply interconnected. It tackles intensely dramatic subjects—random violence, suicide, gun control, the death of children, racism, even international terrorism—with a relentless viewpoint that is both gripping and disturbing. From the Moroccan and California deserts to the streets of Tokyo, "Babel" will keep you thinking about it long after the final credits roll—and isn't that what great films do?


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian

With the second-longest movie title in history (and possibly the funniest), "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" is wildly hilarious from beginning to end. The only reason not to see it is if you have a heart condition that can be worsened by excessive laughter. Baron Cohen's brilliant improvisational skills, originality and keen ability to push the envelope just enough make this one of the best comedies of all time. It also received the most votes from our staff.

Genre: Animated Comedy
Rated: G
Directed by: John Lasseter
Starring: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry The Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, Richard Petty

True, it's not "Toy Story" or "Finding Nemo," but Disney-Pixar's latest is a great movie that can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike with its mix of beautiful visuals and multi-layered humor. An all-star cast of voices power this heart-warming, colorful tale of anthropomorphized automobiles who teach a young, hot shot race car how to slow down and appreciate the smaller things in life. Anyone who ever gave their car a name, or who treats it like part of the family will especially have a soft spot in their heart for "Cars."


Casino Royale

Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffery Wright

James Bond movies always provide a fun theater-going experience, but very few could be described as a great film—"Casino Royale" is. This 21st entry rises above most of its predecessors with a thrilling mix of innovative action, intense performances, ingenious plot twists and intriguing characters, including Daniel Craig's fantastic wet-behind-the-ears Bond who reminds us why we've loved this character since Ian Fleming first created him in 1954. Many have said this is not only the best Bond film ever, but also the best movie of the year.

Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin

This was our highest-rated (most stars) film of the year and it's also a favorite for the Best Picture Oscar. With striking visuals, an A-list cast and directed by Martin Scorsese (will this finally net him that elusive Oscar?), it is a film about honor, truth, betrayal and revenge among men. It all adds up to a movie so emotionally wrenching—and fascinating—that you’ll be thinking about “The Departed” long after you’ve, well, departed the theater.

The Departed

An Inconvenient Truth

Genre: Documentary
Rated: PG
Directed by: Davis Guggenheim
Starring: Al Gore

The man many considered too boring to be president is the star of one of the year's best movies? Well, yes, but it's not Al Gore's charisma (which, he actually shows more of than in his eight White House years) that carries this film, it's his passionate and deeply thorough warning about our planet's dangerous environmental state of being. Gore systemically tackles every conceivable logical question or doubt about global warming in a manner that is neither partisan, belittling nor too hard to understand. As Roger Ebert said for the first and only time, "You owe it to yourself to see this movie." We couldn't agree more.

Genre: Action / Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Because it came out in early March, many people have forgotten about this smart Spike Lee joint that keeps you guessing and captivated until the very end. Denzel Washington is his usual energetic self, while Clive Owen delivers yet another layered, captivating performance even though he spends most of the movie behind a bandana and a pair of sunglasses. By playing on the audience's many expectations for heist films, "Inside Man" simply keeps you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out what's going on, what just happened and who exactly is the inside man robbing the bank.

Inside Man

Little Miss Sunshine

Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin

This serio-comic gem follows the adventures of the Hoover family as they pile into a raggedy, old yellow VW bus to take nine-year-old Olive (the inspired Abigail Breslin) to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Mixing moments of real pathos with gut-wrenchingly funny scenes, the film sets a tone that is clever yet real, sometimes pathetic, usually ironic, often sad, and all together completely engaging. Steve Carell of "The Office" and "The Daily Show" proves he has serious acting chops as the depressed uncle Frank, while the rest of the cast turns in award-worthy performances.

Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Starring: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings

Helen Mirren has been nominated for Golden Globes for playing queens Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II in the same year. That's pretty cool. Trivial minutiae aside, Mirren's delicate portrayal of Britain's sitting monarch is layered and worthy of the praise she's been garnering. In the wake of Princess Diana's death, the queen is torn between generational differences, royal tradition and the grief of both family and nation. Mirren brings life, compassion and even humor to a woman everyone has seen, but few truly know.

The Queen


Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo

To say “Volver” is a chick flick simply because it revolves around women of several generations and their issues of family, partnership, incest, motherhood, death (and ghosts!) would cheapen this beautiful picture. In typical Almodóvar fashion, you can take it as a comedy with dark, playful notes, or you can look into a whole universe that speaks volumes about who we are and why we are that way. Cruz proves that she’s a high-caliber actress and along with her colleagues, highlights how refreshing a foreign film can be, where actresses do not look actressy and botoxed and where dialogues are fresh, surprising and cliché free.

Academy Awards
Top 10 Films of 2013
Top 10 Films of 2012
Top 10 Films of 2011
Top 10 Films of 2010
Top 10 Films of 2009
Top 10 Films of 2008
Top 10 Films of 2007

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