Credit: Illustration by Kyle T. Webster

Look, up in the sky! It’s a snake! It’s a plane! It’s—well, not the worst movie of this year, even though it seemed to have been carefully sculpted to win that crown. Either way, Snakes on a Plane was the flick to talk about in 2006. Really, did the world need Superman when it had a motherfucker like Sam Jackson?

The answer, of course, is that there was plenty of room, if not love, for both of them on the world’s silver screens. (And, just maybe, they’ll nestle into one or 100 Top 10 lists this month.) The funny thing is that although fanboys might have freighted message boards with their cynicism about how the return of the Man of Steel was shaping up, Hollywood threw the best comic-moviemakers it had at the production. And it was good.

But the suits handed Snakes over to the people. Tweak the dialogue? Sure. Reshoot scenes? Why not? Even the rating was changed, all to incorporate the so-terrible-they’re-great ideas the Internet-savvy believed were crucial for Snakes on a Plane to live up to its so-terrible-it’s-great name.

And though few actually bothered to see it, it was good.

Now consider what Tinseltown thinks we want to see. (“We” meaning the Great Unwashed, not the Academy.) Out of the 181 films I’ve seen this year—a fraction of the releases—picking out the best of the bunch was a snap. But narrowing down the worst? My God. When a movie goes bad, it’s usually very, very bad. Rant-to-your-companion bad. Bad to the nth degree. I was allowed to officially castigate only three (see page 26), and the decision tortured me. I had well over two dozen of ’em on my just-atrocious list—and, unlike my early days as a Washington City Paper critic, I’m not often sent to the throwaway movies anymore. Who knows how frequently my senses were spared.

The winnowing ultimately came down to two things: 1) how many different ways a particular movie sucked and 2) which of those transgressions offended me the most. By my quick count, there are 10 aspects of a film that Joe “Has Standards” Moviegoer could recognize as having gone seriously wrong—or sadly, from the studios’ perspective, $$$. Er, I mean, just right.

Awful dialogue is a personal favorite, from The Grudge 2’s earnest/frightened/pathetic “I don’t know what to believe anymore!” to Ultraviolet’s quite seriously played “Are you mental?!?”

You, Me and Dupree falls—and falls hard—under many categories: Clichéd storyline. Cheap comedy. Blatantly stereotypical characters. (To Owen Wilson: Fer chrissakes, just say no. The fact that your Dupree does a 180 in the last chapter isn’t depth, it’s making the movie worse.) Embarrassing acting was all over the place, but let’s award first place in that category to those who should know better: Here’s to Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx’s sleepwalk through Miami Vice.

A sexy, wet-haired (for some reason) vampiress. (I’m sorry, “vampire warrior.”) Werewolves. Very cool gray-blue environs. These—I’m talking to you, Underworld: Evolution—shouldn’t add up to the most boring action movie ever made.

Finally, the last four typical no-nos—remakes, sequels/prequels, scary movies that are just bloody, and scary movies that aren’t scary—are efficiently covered by two contenders: The Hills Have Eyes is pure gore and no fun, while The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is pure gore and no fright. (If I were to bet, I’d guess that most of the year’s other “horror” flicks weren’t classics, either.)

But 2006 doesn’t win any blue ribbons for its haplessness. As it was in the past, so will it be in the future. The era of the audience-assembled movies, though, may indeed be over, just as abruptly as it began, if folks don’t go out and actually see them. You’ll have no one but yourselves to blame when Little Man 2 comes to a theater near you.

Sometimes, though, stupid can be sublime. Jackass Number Two may surprise you with how funny watching grown men getting repeatedly punched in the face can be. As for Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny, all I have to say is: “cock push-ups.” It’s too silly not to get a giggle.

Here are some others that scored. Some are original; some looked like quickto-DVDers. If you can, go see what you missed the first time around.