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Alex's Top 15 Movies of 2006

by
January 8, 2007

Yes, it's yet another "top" list for 2006, but you know, I've got to publish it! Maybe I'll strike some controversy, or maybe I'll just show you a bit more about the films I enjoy and are undoubtedly fine creations. I'm an advocate for the fact that we at least need to distinguish and discuss top lists, because it enhances our knowledge and expertise and especially the experience of cinema all around. Anyway, enough rambling, on to my list!

Disclaimer: my choices here are my personal top movies of 2006, not what I determine to highest quality in comparison of all films in the world. There is an intricate equation in my mind, part of which involves the movie-going experience as well as the quality of film, visual and audio quality, and finally everything else that comprises the film as well as my overall enjoyment.

Honorable Mentions:

This list in no particular order only because I could go on forever and don't want to do so. So these are films that I felt needed to be mentioned for being extraordinary but unfortunately did not make it on the top 15 of my list.

Brick
X-Men: The Last Stand
Superman Returns
Little Children
Dreamgirls
Invincible
Crank
Snakes on a Plane
Grandma's Boy
Clerks II

Top 15:

ApocalyptoApocalypto
I was entirely unaware of what to expect going in, and yet was blown-away by what I saw. I am amazed at Mel Gibson's creation, in that he so visually and so expertly crafted a dead civilization into a very enjoyable and intense film, and that impressed me alone. In addition, Rudy Youngblood, the first-time main actor, led the whole show and did it profoundly. All of this combined was an energetic and unforgettable experience that I can certainly watch many times over again and still enjoy. It took this spot on my list and deserved being at least on it, as an experience that came from nowhere yet shocked me in amazement.
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The DepartedThe Departed
I truly wanted to have this higher on the list, and I mean wanted. Given its placement in #1 on so many other top lists this year, I felt like it needed to be there on mine. But I put my honesty into this, and I watched it a couple of times recently, and just didn't enjoy it personally as much as everyone else. It is a fine film, but it's not something I fell in love with. I love "Marky Mark" Wahlberg the most, and Matt Damon and DiCaprio both deliver incredible, award-worthy performances, but in terms of personal enjoyment, it's very high up there, but not at the top.

BoratBorat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Seeing this the first time, truly unaware of what to expect, in July at Comic-Con was just amazing. The best comedy of the year, of many years, and definitely deserving of a spot on my top list. The experience was great, but this is something where I am just more amazed at what the film has in it, especially for a comedy. Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedic genius, and it shines in this film. I can watch this over and over and still enjoy it, and that's a true quality of a film that should be on a top list.
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Letters from Iwo JimaLetters from Iwo Jima
Although far from actually being released wide, this is the film that had the true "heart" that Flags of Our Fathers should have. Whether it was the different stories or Japanese side that I wasn't familiar with, or the incredible Ken Watanabe, this film was truly a cinematic experience unlike anything. It had some of the most powerful and moving scenes in any movie this year, along side of Children of Men and Bobby, on top of a great story and great performances. Eastwood only achieved success once this year, and it was with Letters from Iwo Jima.
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Pan's LabyrinthPan's Labyrinth
One of the best foreign films of the year, and probably the most high quality film of the year. This really should be higher on my list, as I love Guillermo del Toro and I loved this film, but the problem is that it is unfortunately quite "joyless." It's such a sad and dark fantasy tale, that although I can watch it a few times, it's hard to truly enjoy deeply. Only at the end when Ofelia sees her kingdom does it truly hit some point deep within me as pure enjoyment. Don't get me wrong, this is one of the best films of the year, but when I add into the equation my personal experience, it's not the highest.
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Saw IIISaw III
The one film that will only be on my list and no one else's this year. Why? Well, it was the experience. I came down to just getting so drawn into the very atmospheric and moody story that the whole film was built on, and I loved Jigsaw's character in his entirety. This film was incredible, I'm not sure how you can say that much bad stuff about it besides nagging on its story and plenty of gore, but I think it comes down to how much you appreciate horror, and good horror, on this film. I loved it, and my personal feelings weigh in on this, because my appreciation for Saw series is very high.
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United 93United 93
An interesting addition, as I didn't even see this film until recently, and now I regret not seeing it in theaters. Although a somewhat slow build-up, the climatic scene at the end was one of the best I've seen all year. I've talked often about scenes that make your heart race, but the one at the end of United 93 topped them all. I felt charged, and energetic after watch this, and I guarantee when a film does that to you, you'll fall in love with it as well. Something that can truly exert so much emotion in a person while watching yet still hold onto a good story perceived well is definitely a top film.

PerfumePerfume: The Story of a Murderer
A key to impressing me is defining an atmosphere or a mood so well, that I am excited for every last second of the film and don't want it to end. Perfume created that and Perfume delivered that. This film is so far from being an "indie" creation and deserves a wide release, despite its shockingly dark and sexual mood. Another amazing performance from a first-timer, Ben Whishaw as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, also impressed me more than nearly any other actor out there. Despite some slightly difficult caveats, such as the poor dialogue from Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman, nearly every moment of this movie was perfectly imagined and captured.
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BobbyBobby
The second one (along with Saw III) that will only be on mine list alone. I enjoyed it, despite the popular consensus that it had terrible scripting and acting. It progressed fairly smoothly and the stories were each well created, but it was the end, the overall structure and conclusion, that won this for me. I will say that if any moment of a film has this vast of an impact upon me that the entire film is deserving of recognition on my top list. And even further to the point, it's not that I had any problem or any difficulty enjoying the early part of the film before the conclusion, and overall thought Bobby was a film that deserves to be seen purely for its timeless message that only Robert F. Kennedy can deliver.
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The PrestigeThe Prestige
I've always loved magic and magicians - I even wanted to be one when I was a kid. Finally all my young fantasies came to life when this glorified magical adventure came to the big screen. It was a combination of the pure excitement watching the magic tricks (and their secrets) as well as the mystery of the secret and how Christopher Nolan revealed it, as well as the best on-screen duo this year, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. From the very first screening, I was wriggling in my seat, the very last time I saw it in theaters, and have been truly waiting the DVD release to watch it plenty of times again. Nolan is an amazing director, and I'm anticipating The Dark Knight in 2008 as well.
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Science of SleepThe Science of Sleep
One of, if not the only, film on my list to make me want to fall in love with an amazing girl at the end. I have to begin by stating how amazing Gael Garcia Bernal, as his acting jobs have graced 2 of the top 5 films on my list. He can define a very intricate and different character, as he did in Science of Sleep, yet stay different from another film. And finally, I love Michel Gondry's creations too. He's a visionary, and created a unique romantic comedy that explored uncharted territory of cinema that we've never seen, and pulled it off exquisitely. This was certainly one of my favorite films of the year, I definitely can't deny that.
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Children of MenChildren of Men
A simply astounding experience, with cinematography and camerawork that is just incredible. Nearly every aspect of this movie was amazing. Clive Owen, an incredible actor, combined with one of my new favorites, Chiwetel Ejiofor, as well as Alfonso Cuaron, one of the three Mexican powerhouse directors from this year. I can't exclaim enough how amazing this film is, and how you need to see it in theaters. As with the Matrix in 1999 as well, see it in theaters while you can, so you can be one of those people who remembers that they say one of the greatest films of the century on the big screen.
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BabelBabel
The highest ranked of the Mexican powerhouse directors on this list, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and his amazing creation - three intricate stories all laid out amazingly. By now these three top films on my list truly have every little detail, from the soundtrack to the directing to the actors and camerawork, all perfect. It comes down to enjoyment, experience, and impact, and Babel explored all three. I enjoyed the story of the young deaf and mute Japanese girl Chieko (played by Rinko Kikuchi) the most, which tells something about me personally, as every person who sees this will have a different opinion on each one. Overall, the best dramatic and world culture film of the year, that explores a subject too many Americans are too blind to see.
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V for VendettaV for Vendetta
A timeless masterpiece from first-time director James McTeigue. You can't forget this film from 2006, as it's obviously one of the very best. It delivers a message almost even more timeless than Robert F. Kennedy in Bobby, and explores a futuristic story with a superhero in an incomparable fashion. Hugo Weaving, who has never given a performance below anything remarkable, gives one of the most extraordinary performances of the year without showing a glimpse of his face. On top of that this is one of Natalie Portman's greatest roles ever, whom I'm already infatuated with and have even more respect for after this. V for Vendetta struck me hard, and is one of the best films of the last few years. If you look at the list, nearly all of them are from late in the year, and the only one that has been able to stick with me since all the way back in March is this one - that truly says something.

The FountainThe Fountain
Ah yes, The Fountain! I was a "virgin" to Darren Aronofsky's films, as this was the first one of his that I've ever seen. I can't express how amazed I was when I saw it for the first time in Los Angeles at the press screening. I never have had this theatrical experience, ever. This film is so unique, so amazing, so vast, so powerful, so romantic, that nothing else even compares to it. Hugh Jackman gives the best male performance of 2006, and the film has the best score of 2006. Unfortunately this is by far one of the most underrated of 2006, and the least I can do is express how much I loved it. My very top movie of 2006 - The Fountain!
Read My Review

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  • Jeff
    Some interesting choices here. I would have to agree with some of them, but others are a bit questionable. However, like you said, these aren't movies that are graded on their quality, but rather personal choice. It's good to see that you gave a shout out to Saw III, which of course won't be on any best lists. I'm really happy to see The Fountain as number one and the inclusion of The Prestige, Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth. I noticed that one movie in particular wasn't mentioned in honorable mentions or on your list that was on numerous other lists, and that movie is Little Miss Sunshine. Did you not see, or not think highly of it? Considering some of your honorable mentions, it would be interesting to see what you thought the worst movies of the year were. Personally, I thought Crank was horrible, as well as Snakes on a Plane. But, its all personal choice again.
  • I did see Little Miss Sunshine... but it didn't love it to do death like everyone else. Coincidentally I just bought it on DVD anyway, and still think it is a great movie, especially coming from an independent nature (like Napoleon Dynamite) from "nothing" into a huge film. Honestly, the honorable mention list is way bigger than just the 10 I said, but I didn't want to publish because I wanted some of the lesser recognized films to stand-out more than the ones that will be picked up by everyone. As you said, LMS is already stated by everyone, so I could've included it, but I wanted to mention a few others that no one would state - like SoaP (despite you not liking it).
  • Jeff
    I hear you. I also created a top ten list, and I had much the same mentality as you. I tried to include some lesser known movies, like American Gun, Beowulf & Grendel and L'Enfant while not putting The Departed or Little Miss Sunshine on my list. I had to include The Prestige and The Fountain because they were both excellent. A lot of lists out there lack both of these fantastic movies, which is a real bummer. Its a good thing to see a variety of different movies on a bunch of different lists.
  • Chris
    You have some really great choices on your list, 5 of your top 6 made my own personal top 10 list. Some of these I haven't seen, but I'll look for them in the video store next time I go. What I really wanted to comment on was what you said about "The Departed" and when you watch it, you feel you should love it just like everyone else. It certainly is a very good, if not great movie, but it doesn't even really seem that great compared to other Scorcese movies or other movies released this year. Yet it seems like the frontrunner for a lot of awards, especially the Best Picture Oscar. I wish more people had seen The Fountain or even Babel, both of which were better movies and better cinematic experiences.
  • Charlie
    This was a solid list with some strong films on here (The Prestige, Borat, United 93, Children of Men). Perhaps the greatest pleasure of the whole list is seeing The Fountain at #1. I think Alex really gave the film a great review when it first came out, which was wonderful since so many dismissed it. It's a film of originality and depth, with a score that was hypnotic. Despite it all, I do have to be one of those people praising the good name of The Departed. Scorsese is a filmmaker who will always live in the shadows of his best work, with people saying each new movie is not as good as his old stuff. I certainly don't think so. The Departed would rank below several of his other films on my list, yet on its own its still an amazing piece of work, and had it been the film of another filmmaker it would certainly be my favorite or top three on their list. Perhaps film fans should really be delighted in this film's overwhelming success because the director will no doubt be given greater resources to make more personal masterpieces.
  • Chris
    I liked this list a lot. The one exception would be saw, but hey this is your list not anyone elses. I thought the fountain was the best movie of the year too. I have never had a film experience like that. Just watching a movie and leaving and not knowing what to think. My biggest question is about Perfume. Did you read the book. I was a little nerd and read it back in middle school and loved it. When i heard they were making a movie about it i was a little skeptical. It would be so hard to do. I wasnt really impressed with it, but it stayed pretty true. Great list though
  • bublu&bwyn
    hi polliwogs! bublu: I've seen the entire movie, V for Vendetta, between clips and watching from another room. It's FANTASTIC. I think it should be rated PG-13. I mean, it's not really THAT violent... Except for the part where the guy falls on his head and it CRUNCHES! EW! :p! But even though he is quite violent, I think V is a very respectable character. He is bold, outgoing and steps up where no one else dares. I LOVE the way he's untraceable. I do find his relationship with Evey a little strange. Natalie Portman did a great job acting out the internal trama Evey faced. bwyn: i love this movie! the violence is very, well, fake. i love the movies plot, though! the way he says *remember, remember, the 5th of november* is AWESOME! he fights for freedom for everyone and even sacrifices himself in the process. the inspector dude rocks, too. actually, bublu said most of it. that is all. bublu: We both love the ending. It's SO cool! The dominos, the subway, Evey and the inspector, the roses, EXPLODING buildings! It's a great ending to a great movie... The mass of Vs is kind of creepy, but it's funny when they go past the soldiers-- you can tell the soldiers are thinking, Please don't touch me! The movie clips to the music of 'What I've Done' are awesome! In those clips, is one of my favorite scenes, when V taps the pipe and starts conducting the explosions... V can do anything! Don't you think that's totally spam? It's lubricating. Well I'm phasing...

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