The Best Overlooked Movies & Shows of 2006

All the movies here are highly-rated (by both critics and viewers), little-known, and handpicked by our staff.

This list is ordered by most recent good movies, and therefore is not a ranking. Here are the titles considered as the best from the year 2006.
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Sean Patrick Thomas
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

The Fountain is a highly compelling science-fiction/fantasy film told in three interwoven parts related to the mythical concept of the Tree of Life. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star in a triad of roles that alternate along the film’s narrative: 1) an ancient conquistador assigned by the Queen of Spain to locate the legendary tree within the jungles of South American, 2) a modern medical doctor desperately striving to find a cure for his wife’s terminal brain cancer, and 3) a futuristic space traveler transporting the sacred tree across the cosmos with spectral images of his wife as his companion. In this, his 3rd feature feature-length film, writer/director Darren Aronofsky has crafted a strikingly ambitious depiction of the search for, manifestation of and preservation of the oft-fabled key to eternity. It’s highly philosophical and at times strikingly abstract visual storytelling, aided immeasurably by Jackman’s and Weisz’s heartfelt, aggrieved performances. The passion and the earnestness they deliver helps to buoy a complicated plot that isn’t always entirely cohesive, but comes together as a wonderfully compelling amalgamation of sights and sounds bound to inspire the viewer. Kudos to Aronofsky for eschewing simple fantasy in lieu of something so dynamic, original and emotionally commanding.

Stars: Adam, Oliver O'Grady, Thomas Doyle
Directed by: Amy J. Berg

A truly timely and difficult documentary, Deliver Us From Evil follows an interviewed confession of a Catholic pedophile. In addition, the film shows his victims, their coping strategies and lives as well as the extreme lengths the Catholic Church went to to cover up and enable the systemic rape of children. While often times hard to watch, this film shines a light into the dark corners of human behavior, forgiveness, sin and faith in a way that is both confronting and relatable.
Stars: Jo Hartley, Stephen Graham, Thomas Turgoose
Directed by: Shane Meadows

Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is a 12-year-old kid fueled by rage because of his father’s death. Over the course of the summer in good ole’ Northern England, he befriends a group of local skinheads and instantly feels at home – with the mischief-making still partially at bay then. This was prior to meeting Combo, the most ill-bred of the gang, and being led down a path of greater danger.
Dubbed as director Shane Meadows’s best work, it’s easy to pick this one off a list and give it all the praise, depicting England perfectly in a coming-of-age approach you otherwise would’ve paid no mind to.
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Shia LaBeouf
Directed by: Dito Montiel

Robert Downey Jr., Channing Tatum, and Shia LaBeouf star in this powerful drama about growing up in 80’s Astoria, New York. It follows the memoirs of the author, director and musician Dito Montiel as he visits his ailing father after 15 years in Los Angeles, away from home. Told via flashback and present-day exposition, as well as several fourth-wall bending monologues,  A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a coming of age film that leaves a deep impact, with two Sundance awards and heaps of nominations to its credit.
Stars: Anthony Mackie, Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps
Directed by: Ryan Fleck

The self destructive, substance abusing history teacher Dan (Ryan Gosling) works in a Brooklyn middle-school and is constantly at odds with the curriculum, preferring to teach 13 year old kids Marxist theory in class. Meanwhile, his student Drey (Shareeka Epps) has to go through struggles of her own, her brother being in jail on drug charges and her single mother having to work long hours to make ends meet. Slowly, an unlikely and tender friendship between teacher and student evolves, in which it becomes less and less clear who of them is the adult part. Steering away from cliches, Half Neslon is not your typical social drama. Its intelligent plot twists, great cast (with outstanding performances by both Gossling and Epps) and slow, non dramatic storytelling makes this a highly underestimated movie that, although treating depressive topics without any easy relief for the viewer, will leave with an inner smile, albeit a sad one.
Stars: Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Craig Brewer

Chances are good you missed this movie the first time around due to the studio’s big mishandling of it’s promotion. The posters and trailers were squarely aimed at the lowbrow audience, ironically turning off the kind of viewers that would have appreciated the film. They promised an exploitation flick about an old black man keeping a sexy half-naked young white girl chained up in his shack. Which is, to be fair, exactly what you get – minus the exploitation. Samuel L. Jackson absolutely nails the role of Lazarus, a retired bluesman. He finds and rescues Rae (Christina Ricci) after she’s left for dead in the road, and yeah, there’s a chain, but.. well, you’ll just have to see. Black Snake Moan is funny, sexy, tense, and (surprisingly) heartwarming. And oh hey by they way, its a helluva music-lovers’ film in the bargain. Sporting a tremendous soundtrack full of that lowdown dirty blues (some performed by Jackson himself), you owe it to your ears to watch this someplace you have a decent sound system.
Stars: Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Penélope Cruz
Directed by: Pedro Almodoóvar

Pedro Almodovar’s films tend to swing wildly between comedy/farce and melodrama/tragedy. Volver somehow hits the sweet spot right in the middle of all four genres, with an added dose of magical realism. It’s a total joy to watch, which is really saying something since the story touches on murder, adultery, incest, malignant tumors, ghosts, and Penelope Cruz’s derriere. But maybe that’s the magic of Almodovar’s films? He’s able to take dark themes and surround them with bright colors, warm characters, and screwball humor—and really, is there anything better than that?
Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gael García Bernal, Miou-Miou
Directed by: Michel Gondry

How does a standout director follow up to a film like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? With a more profound exploration of style, a further exploration of his originality. Gael Garcia Bernal (who you might know from Y Tu Mama Tambien) plays an imaginative but awkward kind of guy who falls for his cute neighbor, played Charlotte Gainsbourg. Bizarre and whimsical dream sequences follow and a sweet, if hesitant, love story unfolds. An eccentric, funny and very French movie (with most scenes in English).


Stars: Ben Kingsley, Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman
Directed by: Paul McGuigan

A fast-paced crime movie that surprises as much as it entertains. It’s violent yet charming, winding yet captivating. In the midst of a war between two rival crime bosses, Slevin (Josh Hartlett) is pulled right into the middle of the rivalry through a case of mistaken identity. Wanted by both ‘The Boss’ (Morgan Freeman) and ‘The Rabbi’ (Ben Kingsley) Slevin must use every resource at hand including a world renown assassin (Bruce Willis) to outsmart his enemies. What ensues is a twisting plot story including humor and drama in a spiraling turn of events leading to a climatic ending.
Stars: André Dussollier, François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze
Directed by: Guillaume Canet

Francois Cluzet, who you may remember from The Intouchable, plays a man whose wife is killed and is afterwards accused of murdering her. To make matters even more confusing, signs that his wife is actually still alive surface. This well thought out thriller is at all times the furthest thing from boring and has, among other great components, well crafted chase scenes as the protagonist looks for 8 years of unanswered questions.
Stars: Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Mühe
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

I saw this movie about a month ago, and I can’t stop seeing it again every weekend. It’s so heartbreaking. Wiesler, an officer of the Stasi, is designated to spy on a playwright and his girlfriend because the State Security has doubts about their loyalty. However after a while Wiesler becomes absorbed in Dreyman and his girlfriend’s lives and that’s when the empathy and the human component surge to be confronted with orders, and the realities of the time.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film is a melodrama , quietly affecting, quietly chilling, quietly quiet. It captures the drab architecture of totalitarianism, the soul-dead buildings of a soul-dead state and the haunted freedom in that time.
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen
Directed by: Susanne Bier

There is a unique emotional approach to Danish films rarely matched by anything else, that has to be seen to be understood. Oscar-nominated After The Wedding perfectly embodies that. Jacob Peterson (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is an idealist who runs a financially struggling orphanage in India. He returns to Copenhagen to seek a large donation when he discovers that in order to get the money he will be unveiling dark secrets about his own personal past. Scenes are stretched, and feel incredibly realistic. But because of the great plot and premise as well as the fantastic cast, they’re never boring — on the contrary, After the Wedding is thrilling and at all times interesting. You will also feel that it is capturing every emotion you’ve ever encountered, or will ever encounter in the short two hours it spans.
Stars: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Christopher Nolan

This movie at first confuses you as to what is going on with a feud involving the two magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale), but it then grips you with the plot. The unveiling of the mystery will leave you in awe, however it is the storytelling and the process that Christopher Nolan puts together so beautifully that is the greatest thing about this movie.
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clive Owen, Julianne Moore
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

Starring Clive Owen in a post apocalyptic nightmare, Children of Men is definitely not for everyone. An insightful, moving and action-packed film where women can no longer have children, and all hope lies on one man to guide the world’s last fertile woman to safety. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this film is a moving portrait of the end of the world that asks the audience to really think.

Stars: Darren Aronofsky, Kimberly Peirce, Kirby Dick
Directed by: Kirby Dick

This movie seeks to expose the secret cabal at the heart of the MPAA rating system. Numerous filmmakers are interviewed about their frustrating struggles to come in under the “R” wire, and the seemingly arbitrary and sexually repressed nature of the decision making process. At the same time the filmmaker is actively working to identify the actual people on the board in charge of enforcing the various nefarious tactics. Although the subject matter is dark and very important, the movie’s style is light and humorous. Note: included are scenes cut from the movies in question, stuff that was deemed too sexually graphic for an “R” rating.
Stars: Jennifer Connelly, Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson
Directed by: Todd Field

A triple Oscar-nominated drama which explores how ambiguous our roles in society can be. While categorized as “adults”, a number of us are yet to outgrow certain adolescent stages. Let’s face it – we all live in pretense of adulthood, obeying the general rules and hoping society will not detect our little bugs of immaturity. This film questions and analyzes that, by going through human nature, sexuality, morals and beyond, while remaining authentic and genuine. The characters are complex (with great performances from all actors, especially Kate Winslet) and the directing is superb. All in all, a good watch for anyone looking for non intelligence-insulting entertainment.