If the results of last year’s audience top ten films showed a strong return of big screen blockbusters this year’s demonstrates that the taste for indie fare hasn’t gone away. While perhaps the push of recognisable talent may have provided a push there are definitely some titles present which appear to have simply taken off thanks to word-of-mouth and the fact that they were generally rather good (to put it lightly). Alongside the continuation of a handful of surprises and pushes of favour towards certain films there’s plenty to be interested within this top ten. The big screen and the audience experience (Michael Flatley’s Blackbird received two votes after all) are very much still going strong. And so, let’s jump into it, as voted for by the listeners, readers, visitors and general audience of Just A Little Bit Random, here are their top ten films of 2022 (by UK release date).
10. Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical
The stage version of Matilda The Musical continues to be a major success over a decade after its West End debut and it seems that part of what’s made it such an audience favourite has made it into the film adaptation. Matilda has long been a favourite story for many people, with the 90s adaptation being a key touchstone for many people, and it appears that this continues, perhaps especially for a new generation who this take seems to have particularly clicked with.
There’s a new way to escape through the various stories and tales which make up the film, and indeed a new Trunchbull to fear (wonderfully performed by Emma Thompson, perhaps the highlight of the film – relishing lines such as “to teach the child we must first break the child”). A villain who deeply contrasts with Lashana Lynch’s performance as Miss Honey – Lynch herself having been a highlight of 2022 with her diverse turns in the likes of this and The Woman King (one of the best performances of the year). Yet, of course, the true joy for many lies in the musical numbers. Anthems such as Revolting Children and Bruce have you cheering on the characters and diving further into the world which feels as if it could have literally come from the mind of a child. A call which many appear to have answered for it to have landed as the tenth best film of the year in the audience poll.
9. The Worst Person In The World
In a year with plenty of foreign language successes The Worst Person In The World was perhaps one of the first. While prominently displayed in what may be its two most-seen images – the above of lead Renate Reinsve running through the street in a freeze frame of time, and the rather different sharing smoke moment – there was plenty for audiences to absorb, recognise and emotionally connect with within the highly praised not-quite-rom-com.
Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier’s Oscar nominated screenplay has been praised for its picking apart of rom-com conventions and placing them further into something more resembling the real world, all while keeping elements of fantasy/ which take place more in the central character’s mind. Reassembling them into something which seems familiar to the audience and yet in terms of the film’s world far different from a standard anti-rom-com. All displayed through a very modern lens for which the film was also praised for, definitely seeming to demonstrate its originality which led it to various Original Screenplay nods.
The various blends of genres within the relationships which are shown throughout the film, with various characters occasionally living up to the title, are handled well and indeed form the natural course that we follow for the duration of the film. Wonderfully observed they formed the core connection for many audience members and allowed for a great emotional response as they developed, or in some cases failed to, over time. It makes for a personal yet communal experience that had many people talking about the film and what it provided, both to them and as a whole. Leading to something of a word of mouth hit early in the year. Particularly following on from the 2021 success of Drive My Car it simply helped to kick off a year filled with plenty of success of foreign language, and indeed general indie, films.
8. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
There’s been much conversation over the last year as to the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe post-Endgame. And while Marvel films have placed high on the audience vote in pervious years (Avengers: Endgame named the best of 2019 and Spider-Man: No Way Home the second best of 2021) favour appears to have generally been spread elsewhere in 2022. However, out of all their output there’s no denying the success of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
For obvious reasons there was already a lot of discussion around the film and just how it would work. And Ryan Coogler and co managed to pull it off rather well. Creating a strong tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and his iteration of Black Panther, while also managing to tell an engaging story with plenty of engaging action. Action which is made all the more engaging thanks to the fact that, once again, the antagonists of the piece (namely Tenoch Huerta’s Namor) are so close to being in the right/ justified that the only thing that stops this from happening is the way that they go about things.
There’s plenty more detail, from the production and costume design to Ludwig Göransson’s score, to increase the authenticity of Wakanda and make it an even more interesting place to experience and be in throughout the film. Adding to the action sequences which certainly provide plenty of thrills and generally making for a more involving world and feature. It was acknowledged that it would be a difficult task to make Wakanda Forever, but the effort and care of all involved clearly shows through the success that it has been, and clearly a favourite of fans from the last year, and perhaps even other audience members as it finds itself in this year’s top ten.
7. The Menu
Proving itself to draw an audience when released in cinemas The Menu appears to have had a number of lives after its festival appearances, including very recently with the word-of-mouth generated from it dropping on Disney+. There’s a lot to enjoy within the theatricality that it presents within the dark delights that are on display throughout. Much like the various chefs helping to prepare the food which appears over the course of the run-time there’s a highly involving nature to the details of the delivery and performance within the various stages – or rather courses – of The Menu.
As the evening takes a dark turn for the handful of diners attending Ralph Fiennes’ restaurant (Fiennes himself providing a captivating performance, holding court even after the reveals have shown the true course of the meal) there’s some truly devilish fun to be had. The thriller lines are well-woven into the pitch-dark humour which pops up throughout. Making for something rather different from not just the rest of the films in this list but also from the rest of the year. While many praised the film for avoiding feeling stage-like there was also plenty of love for just how entertaining it was, and indeed for some of the originality on display within the concept and just how things developed. Overall it was, for some, something of a surprise from 2022’s releases and indeed was one of the many films helped by strong word-of-mouth saying just how much fun there was to be had within this particular dining experience from Hell.
Another film which it seems no one saw coming until it was too late, and by too late I of course mean until the tears were streaming, Aftersun picked up traction on the festival circuit and simply hasn’t stopped gaining speed and power since. Whether providing something close to a panic attack or an emotional wipeout there’s certainly been a strong personal and audience-wide response to the film and the subtle emotional complexities that it deals with in the background of images of a relaxed holiday.
A number of people have talked about return visits and repeat viewings which perhaps speaks to just how good the film is and the effect that it has had, especially with it not overly being one that you’d want to return to quickly with the effect that it has. Debuts don’t often come as strong, or – as I continue to say – emotionally complex as Charlotte Wells’ but Aftersun is an undeniably impressive achievement.
Led by excellent performances from Paul Mescal (who continues to have light awards talk around him) and Frankie Corio it may be a film that slowly dawns on you afterwards but there’s no denying that it does have a strong impact on you. One which stays in the mind long after the credits have rolled, leaving a long lasting impression – particularly the much-discussed Under Pressure sequence. Perhaps just part of the reason why people felt compelled to vote for it, enough people to land it this far up the audience top ten.
Speaking of long-lasting impressions the number five entry in this year’s top ten takes us back to the very start of 2022 to Kenneth Branagh’s personal reflection, Belfast. Awards chatter, and success (let’s not forget it won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar), alongside plenty of discussion about other films throughout the year perhaps meant that Belfast (alongside the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza) was somewhat forgotten, or at least left out of the conversation by the end of the year. However, when actually looking back at the various films released there was clearly a lot of love for the once-Best-Picture-frontrunner.
While dealing with the rising tensions of The Troubles there’s plenty of familial warmth on display within the innocence demonstrated by Branagh’s central character Buddy (Jude Hill). It adds to the personal angle of Belfast while also providing an extra layer for audiences to engage and connect with, especially with the way that the film follows its central figure and the way that he responds to the changing world around him – his main worry still being how he’s going to talk to a girl he likes at school.
It feels as if Belfast is one of those films that has been dampened slightly by all the awards buzz, at least in the minds of some people (myself included, to be honest). However, on reflection and re-watches it may likely prove to be something referred to along the lines of ‘we forget how good this film is’. Clearly so as it finds its way this far up the top ten almost a whole year after its initial release here in the UK.
4. The Northman
Next to Moonage Daydream The Northman is possibly the biggest sensory attack of the year, although a very different one to the former. Its striking atmosphere is pure Robert Eggers – who appears to have so far increased his audience with each film so far, perhaps showing by the placement of his third film in this year’s audience top ten.
While not the biggest box office success when first released it’s believed that the film eventually made a profit when released on digital platforms and DVD. Whether returning viewers or new The Northman has proved to have some longevity not being forgotten throughout the year (it’s difficult to forget something this intense). Revenge films are often a favourite of many and we certainly haven’t seen one like this for a fair while. One which throws masses of dirt, blood and anger into the mythological mixture.
There are plenty who claim that Robert Eggers is never going to be given this kind of budget, and scale of feature, again – or at least for quite some time. However, he’s certainly picked up a lot of favour, acclaim and potentially even new audience members with this particular Viking roar.
3. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Perhaps the most praised film of the year, and one of the biggest runaway successes, it’s likely no surprise that Everything Everywhere All At Once has appeared on this list, particularly this high up. It might just be one of the defining films of the year with its multiversal narrative full of strange worlds managing to pack in existential themes about life and family.
Much like Michelle Yeoh’s central character, Evelyn, we’re thrown in and out of worlds where life could have been very different (there’s even the possibility of one where everyone has hot dog fingers). Amongst the madness of it all – there’s no denying that the film lives up to its title – there’s no denying the thoughtful elements present within the film and the themes that it tackles throughout. Perhaps all best summed up in the highly existential everything bagel which crops up as a key element.
It feels as if there’s little more to be said about the film. or rather that almost everything has already been said for it. In many ways it generally speaks for itself, alongside the love that has been poured on and towards it. Undeniably one of the most praised, and insane, films of the year which more and more people have discovered and re-watched plenty of times over the course of the year. This is a life.
2. The Banshees Of Inisherin
The reteaming of Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson was a long-anticipated event for many people and it seems that The Banshees Of Inisherin was no disappointment. The simple story “about one boring man leaving another man alone” brought plenty of dark laughs and chuckles, as was expected after the likes of In Bruges (although this certainly isn’t in the same vein). Yet, while the leading faces were a major draw the supporting cast, primarily Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan, almost appear to have stolen the show and gained plenty of attention since the release of the film, and indeed it also recently dropping on Disney+ leading to clips making the rounds on Twitter.
It’s also here that it seems people have been finding more to connect with within the film. While the frequent humour is still very much present it’s the dramas which have also felt more present, and for some heartbreaking. None more so than Keoghan’s “well, there goes that dream” conversation with Condon which has proved a widely spoken about highlight of the film for many viewers.
Of course, there’s still been plenty of praise for the fallen-out friends played by Farrell and Gleeson, both of whom have rightful awards conversation around them. Their increasing feud forms the course that the film travels along yet never detracts from everything happening around them – including the bursts of threat and darkness posed by the Irish civil war unfolding on the mainland right across the water from the fictional island of Inisherin. It all comes together to have created another hit blend for audiences, especially fans of the reunited trio.
1. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Normally when the annual audience best of the year vote happens there’s a close race between the top two or three films. In fact, often it’s not clear what will even in the last few hours of voting. However, this year was a very different affair as Glass Onion powered through well ahead after it began to pick up steam in the first couple of days. In total it picked up almost twice as many votes as the second-placed Banshees Of Inisherin. Even more impressive with the fact that it only landed on Netflix (admittedly after time on the festival circuit and the week-long cinema release) on 23rd December.
There’s no denying the love that’s formed around Rian Johnson’s Knives Out films, and, of course, Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, not to mention his eclectic wardrobe and exclamations of shock and frustration. Glass Onion knows that the audience is playing along and trying to guess who the killer is from the very start; well before anything properly happens. It plays with this idea, points it out and continues to tinker and gleefully meddle with murder-mystery conventions for an even more enjoyable experience. Johnson knows just what makes a murder-mystery as enjoyable as it can be and uses that with his own unique set of spins.
Throw in another enjoyable ensemble cast/ set of suspects and you’ve got another hit case for Benoit Blanc. With the first Knives Out film being voted the third best of 2019 (behind Avengers: Endgame and Joker) it appears that for a lot of viewers there’s been little drop in quality, and perhaps even a boost for some, as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery finds itself voted as the Just A Little Bit Random audience’s best film of 2022.