2022 has been an interesting year in terms of what audiences have flocked to, and what has dominated the conversation. While, of course, the standard blockbusters were a point of major discussion a number of indie and foreign language titles garnered much praise and attention throughout the year. The likes of RRR had as much spectacle (and masses more madness) than a number of Marvel features, and The Worst Person In The World had many of us wanting to run freely down the streets. Even All Quiet On The Western Front and Decision To Leave, both with support of streaming services, received plenty of attention.
And while we saw multiple new additions (one particularly better than others) to the rise in Pinocchio adaptations in recent years original films continued to earn a spotlight. From indie hits such as Everything Everywhere All At Once and Aftersun to the grand scale of Nope and The Woman King. Many of these triumphing over the rise in ‘legacy sequels’ such as Hocus Pocus 2, Scream, Disenchanted, Halloween Ends(ish) and Jurassic World: Dominion(ish) – of course, Top Gun: Maverick and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers stand far apart from these.
It’s been interesting to see what has and hasn’t quite resonated since cinemas have reopened after/ in the wake of the pandemic. We’re still up for a all-out biopic such as Elvis, and superhero films (alongside James Cameron’s return to Pandora in the long-awaited Avatar) certainly proved to bring in an audience, alongside revived murder-mysteries such as Glass Onion and See How They Run. And yet amongst all these good, strong storytelling and drama still bring in the viewers. Yes, a number through the streaming push but plenty more through the strength of word-of-mouth and the cinematic push.
2022 has certainly been a year of variety in terms of releases and what we’ve found escape, and general favour, in. There are a number of films I wish I could have found a space for in my eventual top ten that had plenty of discussion when released (Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, Men, Moonage Daydream), and some throughout the year (Everything Everywhere All At Once, Nope, After Yang), while others perhaps went slightly under the radar, or seemed to quickly disappear (Three Thousand Years Of Longing). Regardless, while I’m rather confident with my top four the rest of my top ten, while fairly solid – at least in my opinion as I write this – took a bit more work in getting ‘right’/ confident enough to send this. So, without anymore rambling, as it stands at the moment, here are my top ten films of 2022.
An intense, worry-fuelled panic attack the first time you watch it, an emotional wipeout the next. All revolving around the wonderfully natural central performances of Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio. The true power of Aftersun is in all its subtleties, constantly working in the background of the deeply-contrasting surface layer.
While the images you watch largely make up a calm, relaxing holiday between father and daughter writer-director Charlotte Wells quietly weaves a set of finely constructed personal dramas and hints throughout the film that causes you to worry for both the main characters. Initially a fear that something bad will happen to either of them at any second, despite the calmness that’s display on screen, and then an emotional gut-punch as you witness the cracks and distance in their relationships. A grown daughter shrinking to the form of the smiling child she once was in the constantly flashing lights of a nightclub as the camera falls is one of the most devastating shots of the year.
There’s plenty to consider and witness on repeat viewings as the holiday becomes something very different for both characters. Either way you never quite want to see someone go past the airport terminal gates as you worry for where the road may take either character. All thanks to the details, the strength of the unspoken elements, which have been layered and carefully placed at certain stages over the course of the narrative to make sure that your engagement and connection with the events makes for the biggest impact possible. Debuts don’t come as emotionally complex as this.
There’s plenty of detail within the set and costume design of Cyrano which helps to bring you into the finely crafted world of the film. However, perhaps the most engaging factor is the screenplay itself. Musicals, as the name implies, are often very much about the music, the songs. Yet, Cyrano appears to prioritise the dialogue in-between to truly show the passion for and effect of words from and on the various characters. Each tone is well captured in the various conversations throughout the film, and indeed the performances – particularly a fantastic award-worthy Peter Dinklage – from the fast-paced exchanges which open the film to the more gradual back-and-forths of confessions of love which develop over the course of the narrative.
A truly cinematic sense of theatricality often takes centre stage in a number of the musical numbers – it feels particularly fitting that many of the opening events take place in a crammed theatre. It echoes into the interactions between each character while never feeling as if things could easily be played out on the stage (especially with the film itself being based on a stage musical). This tone and style helping to push the emotions which are present in the developing relationships and allowing for greater engagement with elements such as battle sequences and songs – not to mention Ben Mendelsohn relishing chewing up the scenery with a truly delicious musical number, and performance, lined with threat and malice.
There’s plenty crammed into the sometimes mesmerising course of Cyrano. Unashamedly allowing its story to tell itself and be itself it embraces its elements and theatricality and puts it into each element without allowing for things to go too far or feel too much. Instead, it’s embraced and understood by those involved and spread across the various production details and visual style which helps to keep you further involved in the events, musical numbers and all-important dialogue.
Hustle is perhaps the film that’s grown on me most throughout the year. I certainly liked it very much on first seeing it, however the more I’ve thought about it, and indeed after revisiting it I feel there was almost a point of me not quite understanding just how much I enjoyed it. Yes, it may be a somewhat conventional not-quite-underdog sports story, but it’s a very well told one at that.
The key point that engages you within the events, and key sporting action, is the fact that the characters themselves – namely the leads of Adam Sandler (who is brilliant in the central role) and Juancho Hernangomez – are so likable. You quickly engage with them, particularly thanks to the strong chemistry between the cast, and find yourself caught up within their arcs and the handful of dramas that make up the run-time. When mixed with the energy that’s created within the montages and training sequences you don’t just get caught up within the flow of events but also the sense of warmth which becomes present between the central pairing.
Most elements manage to just click to bring you in and keep you engaged within a story that, while familiar, creates an energy and lightness which invites you in to want to see the characters succeed and allow for a film with an equally entertaining nature on a rewatch. The elements simply click and work creating a very enjoyable film which rises above some of its conventions thanks to some of the simple character details and bonds present not just between Sandler and Hernangomez, but those around them.
7. Bodies Bodies Bodies
The best screenplay of the year, Bodies Bodies Bodies is smart, funny and never forgets to balance its blend of genres to bring in effective tones of mystery and horror. This is a film which successfully speaks to its Gen Z audience without ever feeling condescending or as if it’s trying too hard or simply being misunderstanding. Bringing in other audience groups through its sharp satire there are plenty of laughs to be found throughout the fast-flowing narrative.
In a similar vein to the fantastic Ingrid Goes West this is a truly modern film which understands who its representing and trying to speak to most. How well it ages will have to be seen – however, like Eighth Grade from a couple of years ago it may prove to be a time capsule of the moment in which it was made with still as much effect. Regardless, for now there’s a lot to like about just how well Bodies Bodies Bodies gets across what its points and captures the rising tension within the central location in which the events unfold.
Helped along by highly energetic performances from the excellent ensemble cast, cast and crew give something of a knowing wink to the audience as the words “every time we play this game it gets ugly” are spoken. Cue the deeply entertaining chaos and fear of the various characters trapped in an expansive house with no power during a hurricane.
Yet, perhaps where writer Sarah DeLappe and director Halina Reijn truly show their success is in the way they that they treat some of the more serious topics. Not bogging the film down in them, but making them a key point of the characters and tackling personal issues and relevant points with a respectful openness which feels natural and further reflective of the audience it wants to capture and get across, while not dampening the brilliant satire for other audience members.
6. Boiling Point
Boiling Point’s strong fluidity doesn’t just come from its one-shot style but the consistently escalating tension which relentlessly builds up throughout. Perhaps the most stressful film of the year you’re thrown into the rising heat of the open kitchen – allowing for the agitation from the tables to flow more easily into the prep areas.
Waiters, cooks and bar staff are all followed with ease with no clashes in focus as everyone is a part of the mix displaying the intense stresses that each of them face. From trying to keep track of allergies on an overbooked night to the presence of TV chefs and fussy ‘Insta-pillocks’ there’s so much going on that there’s only really one occasion where it feels as if the camera briefly drifts away so everyone can take a breather while it’s not facing them. Yet, it’s obvious that the characters haven’t taken a breather themselves as their rage rises in the face of poor management and even worse customers.
The team effort of the staff is reflected in the strong performances of the ensemble cast – brilliantly lead by Stephen Graham and Vinette Robinson. They drive the film and the stirring emotions and dropping veils which make up part of the thick, tense mixture which the film is made of. One which throws you directly into the restaurant for a truly stressful, intense piece of work which feels boosted by its core technical one-shot element rather than constructed around it.
5. The Northman
With The Northman Robert Eggers solidifies himself as a master at creating atmosphere. Both visual and audible its thick within his latest feature which acts as an intense Viking roar of a film. There’s a genuine fear factor which forces you back in your seat as a fire-lit chant leads the camera to push towards Alexander Skarsgård’s enraged face. Scarred, dirty and vengeful he reflects the tone and style of the film as a whole, equally matching the intensity of the blood-splattered attack sequences with just his screams.
There are reminders throughout the film of Eggers’ debut The Witch, perhaps down to the idea of myth and folklore. However, The Northman dives into the ferocity and savagery of its characters and setting through the pouring of bloody in muddy plains making sure the viewer feels a part of the film through the authentic look and feel of the situation which the central figure finds himself in, all to get revenge for acts that threw his life off course as a child. There’s no denying just how effective it is in bringing you into the dark drama at play. You’re consistently reminded of the narrative and Skarsgård’s motives through the events of the run-time and the mysticism which lies within them.
Mysticism which brings to mind questions of whether certain instances are dreams of reality. Particularly in otherwordly sequences where the colour drains, and in particular when we meet Björk’s seeress. Everything combines to create a brutal, loud, cinematic, and occasionally terrifying, bellow of atmosphere with plenty of visuals, and sounds, outside of the effective gore made for the big screen.
4. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Like the first Knives Out film played with the idea of hidden rooms and the central house being like a Cluedo board, Glass Onion sees writer-director Rian Johnson gleefully tinkering with puzzles, games and riddles. However, even more playfully he creates twists and turns based around the fact that he knows the audience is playing along from the very start. Using their engagement and guessing from the start of each characters’ introduction, and pointing this out along the way, for a real effect.
A murder-mystery that’s all about the audience experience. The gasps, the laughs – there’s an argument to be made that Glass Onion could perhaps be an out-and-out comedy with just how funny it is – and the responses to many of the reveals and developments are made for an audience to experience on the big screen, with plenty to enjoy on re-watches. Both in terms of the characters, each of whom are well-detailed and led by a superb Daniel Craig who is clearly enjoying his time as Benoit Blanc, and the various clues, details and red herrings which pop up throughout.
Johnson and co have constructed an excellently consistent mystery which keeps you guessing throughout and uses that fact for its benefit, pointing that fact out to you along the way. It just makes for a more enjoyable, and increasingly clever, ride stemming from the excellent screenplay. Just a brilliantly detailed piece of work perhaps on par with the original. (Plus, one of the best cameos of the entire year (see also, Spirited and Everything Everywhere All At Once)).
3. Clerks III
The Clerks films have always been highly personal pieces from Kevin Smith. Each looking at his career and life at that particular stage. With Clerks III he does this once again but also looks back with a hint of emotion. It’s clear how much Dante (Brian O’Halloran), Randal (Jeff Anderson) and the Quick Stop have meant to him and that comes through as this latest film from the writer-director sees the pair, and the supporting cast, trying to make a film about their lives in the convenience store after Randal suffers a ‘widow-maker’ heart attack similar to Smith’s a few years ago.
While not all the emotional beats entirely click the frequently laugh-out-loud humour is enough to lift things up and make for a highly entertaining piece of work. Echoing throughout in the various tones is the continuing sentiment that “this job would be so much better if it wasn’t for the f*cking customers”. However, here it’s acknowledged that it also wouldn’t be the same without the f*cking customers. It’s an idea which has echoed for 28 years in these films and the minds of the central characters, who (mostly) have found themselves stuck in the same place that entire time, knocked down and stopped from progressing at every possible opportunity. It all makes for a wonderfully funny return to the Quick Stop. A far from inconvenient assurance that they are very much still open.
2. The Bob’s Burgers Movie
This is perhaps the 2022 release that I’ve seen the most (and may have provided most of the UK box office for). Having never seen the original TV series, or any advertising, in the build-up to my first viewing I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I saw was the funniest film of the year. A hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny breeze of summer joy from start to finish.
It’s clear that the cast and crew all care about these characters with them seemingly having made the transition from the small to big screen with little change or issues. The Belcher family, and indeed those around them, each have their own distinct personalities which come through with ease and help to create much of the humour. Even after multiple viewings I’m still noticing new jokes, and still laughing at some of the same ones just as much as I did the first time around. In many ways The Bob’s Burgers Movie is probably the biggest surprise of the year for me.
Flying by as it follows the kids on their own adventure while the parents worry about saving their business when a sinkhole opens up outside of it, with a skeleton inside, neither strand feels tangled as things converge and perfectly play alongside each other. Again, coming back to that character detail and how well the circumstances seem to just fit the central family, and the regular customers and faces within the restaurant. Yes, I’ve found it endlessly funny each time, but, perhaps more importantly, I just loved it.
1. The Batman
While I was looking forward to it I can’t say that I was necessarily expecting The Batman to be my best film of the year going into it in February. However, I was truly taken in by its taking Batman back to his detective roots with a dark thriller. The slow-burn nature matches the more grounded take on the classic character and allows for the various details of the cat-and-mouse between Robert Pattinson’s character, the police (primarily Jeffrey Wright’s Lieutenant Gordon) and Paul Dano’s Riddler.
Yet, while the narrative pans out in this way there’s plenty of fast-moving action in the likes of swift, heavy punch-ups and, of course, that stunning car chase! It all combines to create what feels like a fresh take on the character – at least after the last few years of grit. Perhaps thanks to the mystery which surrounds the titular figure as even he is still trying to work out who he is, and where Bruce Wayne fits into his life, and vice versa. Alongside Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle/ Catwoman the pair match the determination and boldness that the film aims to have and indeed all three reach those heights rather well -especially the film.
At almost three hours long the run-time flies by thanks to the thrilling air which flows throughout it. Each character and their actions help to push the events along in a true investigative style further enhancing the detective line which runs throughout, which, of course, has its various clear filmic links and inspirations.
There has been criticism of the third act and the directions in which it goes, and I must admit that, while I can understand the issues that people have with it and see why it might seem like an aside from the rest of the film/ tonally very different, however for me it worked just as well as what comes before it. Thanks to the exposition of the Riddler and what we’re shown about him, and also the Gotham that co-writer (alongside Peter Craig) and director Matt Reeves have created, alongside the production team who help provide it with its visual style; not to mention the cinematography of Greig Fraser and Michael Giacchino’s score (that theme did quite a lot). Overall it all combines to create a brilliantly told detective thriller with some equally great action sequences throughout. I certainly didn’t expect it to be, but even after a couple of rewatches at various points, The Batman is my personal best film of 2022.