After the last two years saw cinema closures due to the pandemic for significant parts of the year, it has been immensely satisfying to have had a full interrupted 12 months of uninterrupted movies on the big screen. And what a year for film it has been, whodunnits aplenty, a long-awaited return to Pandora, more multiversal shenanigans, a very meta-comedy, some utterly enthralling action epics and a couple of extremely important movies that shone a spotlight on some very important and brave people. So without further ado, let us have a look at the best films of 2022.
With regards to films eligible for inclusion on this list, I always aim to include films which are listed as 2022 releases on IMDB. Yet, as seems to be the case every year, there are those films listed as 2021 releases which did not get released until well into the year, which makes them eligible for my 2022 list. On the flip side, there are some films featured here that are yet to be released in UK cinemas, but as I was able to catch these at London Film Festival, they are eligible for inclusion on this list. And as much as I would want to, I haven’t seen every film released in 2022, so if your favourite film is not on here, I might not have seen it. (On that note, I haven’t yet seen Babylon or The Fabelmans as they have not been released in the UK yet. I will factor these films into this list once I have seen them.)
Lastly, as always, the grades I awarded a film do not determine the final position on this list, a film which gets a perfect grade will not necessarily make it my favourite film of the year. This is my unashamedly biased list to highlight and celebrate the films which defined cinema in 2022 for me. As usual, there are some honourable mentions, films which are really great and worth your time but just didn’t quite make my list this year:
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent [review]. Nicolas Cage stars as Nick Cage in a very meta, but utterly hilarious, comedy that celebrates the career of Nicholas Cage, whilst also recognising the greatness that is Paddington 2. What more could you want?
Causeway. Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry both give exceptional performances in this slow-burning but heavily impactful drama exploring the dynamic between two people trying to readjust and find their place in the world following tragic circumstances.
The Menu. A delightfully delicious satire of the wealthy elite of our society with a fascinatingly chilling performance from Ralph Fiennes as the head chef of this unique restaurant which will make you crave a particular food item by the end credits.
The Banshees of Inisherin [review]. Martin McDonagh reunites with his In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for a simple tale of two friends who have fallen out elevated by McDonagh’s razor-sharp screenplay, which is a fascinating blend of black comedy meets tragedy.
Bros. Billy Eichner co-writes and stars in by far and away the funniest film of the year in a hilarious, heartfelt and groundbreaking rom-com which stars a predominantly LGBTQ+ cast, and openly and proudly celebrates the LGBT+ community in a massive step forward for diversity on screen.
Honourable mentions honoured. Now, here comes the top 10…
15. The Whale
For years, Brendan Fraser was absent from Hollywood for a multitude of reasons. In this powerful drama from Darren Aronofsky, he makes his triumphant return in this moving film as an obese man who tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter after he drove her away by eating to excess. It’s a simple story but one made extremely powerful, with stunning supporting performances from Hong Chau and Sadie Sink, as well as a devastating lead performance from Fraser.
14. Avatar: The Way of Water
13 years after the release of his ground-breaking film Avatar, James Cameron triumphantly returns to Pandora for the long-awaited sequel which has proved the appetite for audiences to make the return to this incredible world was there all along. This enthralling sequel offers some of the most dazzling visual effects you will ever see, especially for all those underwater scenes. While a bit of a retread of the first film in terms of its plot, it offered plenty of emotional stakes and compelling action to make this a worthwhile return to Pandora.
In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally lynched and murdered by white supremacists. Following this heinous crime, his mother Mamie Till became an activist and a powerful voice in the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, campaigning for justice for her murdered son. It is certainly not an easy watch, but an extremely powerful and necessary one thanks to Danielle Deadwyler’s extraordinary, devastating and awards-worthy performance.
12. See How They Run
Agatha Christie is arguably the greatest novelist of all time when it comes to penning murder mystery novels and plays, so where better to set a murder mystery at the centre of a production of The Mousetrap? Harbouring the whimsical spirit of a Wes Anderson film, this film provides some delightful and witty meta-commentary on the murder mystery genre, whilst getting stellar performances out of its cast, especially Sam Rockwell as a grumpy detective and the scene-stealing Saoirse Ronan.
Jordan Peele’s first two films, both superbly blending horror and comedy, cemented the former star of the Key & Peele comedy double act as one of those directors whose name alone has the power to sell a film. Much intrigue surrounded his third film in the build-up to its release as to what the master and horror comedy could produce and whether he could complete his hat-trick? Short answer, yep, he can.
Once again providing an expert blend of horror and comedy, Peele upped the ambition for this one by going down the sci-fi route as a strange phenomenon haunts the sibling owners of a ranch, namely OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer). Like his previous two films, the film has a lot to say with thought-provoking subtext and social commentary about humanity’s love/fascination with spectacle. Reuniting with Peele after Get Out, Kaluuya adds another stellar performance to an impressive filmography, but this film belongs to Keke Palmer who steals the show with a fantastic performance.
Now for the top 10…
10. Bullet Train
A high-speed bullet train is probably the last place you’d want to find yourself on your commute, especially if you knew there was a group of deadly assassins on board whose missions are interconnected. Fortunately for us, under the vision of stuntman-turned-director David Leitch, this particular service is a delightfully entertaining and one of the most stylish action films all year as these missions criss-cross with violent and hilarious results and one of the best comedy double acts of the year in Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s assassin comedy duo.
9. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The foundations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were forever changed when it was announced that Chadwick Boseman passed away in August 2020. It put director Ryan Coogler in the toughest of positions when it came to the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther as to how on earth they could overcome such a tragic horrific loss of someone who brought so much to the screen with every single role? In the most difficult of circumstances, Coogler and his cast came through to deliver a heart-breaking but beautiful film which in the most difficult circumstances explores how we process the grief when someone close to us has passed away, while also serving as an emotional tribute to Boseman’s extraordinary legacy.
8. Turning Red
Pixar films have never been afraid to tackle meaningful subject matter while also turning audiences into blubbering messes with the brilliantly emotional stories they have created over the years. In their first film directed by a woman, Domee Shi continues this trajectory with her brilliant, hilarious and emotional film about a girl who discovers whenever she gets nervous or excited, she turns into a giant red panda. Simultaneously a moving story about culture, family, and the perils of growing up, plus lots and lots of 2000s nostalgia. Furthermore, to its immense credit, the film is not afraid to shy away from the subject of puberty from a female perspective.
Offering some of the most jaw-dropping and stunning animation we have seen so far this decade, Mamoru Hosada’s film is a beautiful tale of one girl who, after a personal tragedy, is able to rediscover her passion for singing when she joins a vast digital world and becomes a global sensation. Encompassing themes of the impact of bereavement on a young person, the increasingly digital nature of society and the desire particularly among young people to have an online presence, the highs and lows encompassing fame/viral sensation online, while providing a modern 21st-century update for a tale as old as time. It is utterly scandalous this film was not nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
6. The Woman King
What comes to mind when you hear the words: historical epic? Chances are you’ll think of a film like Gladiator or Braveheart where men are taking revenge against those who have wronged them or are charging into battle. Given these sorts of films are almost always from the perspective of a man, it makes Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film telling the true story of the Agoije, an all-female group of warriors in a West African kingdom so awe-inspiring and badass. Viola Davis’s General Nanisca is exactly the sort of commander who you would follow onto the battlefield. She leads an impeccably acted cast including career-best work from Lashana Lynch, an impressive breakthrough performance from Thuso Mbedu and a wonderfully regal performance from John Boyega.
5. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
When Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc made his introduction in Rian Johnson’s 2019 murder mystery/whodunnit Knives Out, right then and there, with his iconic Southern drawl, a modern icon of the genre was born. With the film representing a revitalisation of the genre, it came as little surprise when Netflix sanctioned a massive money deal for the rights to two further sequels. It brought much anticipation as to what everyone’s favourite Southern sleuth would get up to on his next case.
With another superbly stacked cast bringing to life another array of eccentric, colourful and rather douchey characters at its core, Johnson proves once again there was no foul play with Knives Out as he demonstrates his love for the genre with another wonderfully witty and hilarious screenplay, which is almost prophetic with the satire and social commentary at the centre. Every single member of this ensemble cast play their roles to perfection, and it is wonderful to see Craig have so much fun following his stint as 007. But the standout is, by far, Janelle Monae. So long as Craig and Johnson are happy to keep making these movies, there will be no complaints from me if we have many more adventures with Monsieur Blanc for many years to come.
4. Top Gun Maverick
One of many films to have seen its release date moved around a few times due to the pandemic, fans may have wondered if this long-awaited sequel to 1986’s Top Gun was ever going to take flight. Perhaps it was due to the multiple delays, but it certainly seemed like the hype around this film was fairly muted prior to its release. Though this all changed when it finally blasted its way into cinemas, becoming Tom Cruise’s highest-grossing film of all time.
The original Top Gun arguably made a star out of Cruise, but his star power has continued to grow in the 36 years between the two films’ releases. His commitment to entertaining the audience through crazy, death-defying stunts remains unrivalled in big blockbuster filmmaking, and we are lucky to have him. Through a winning combination of utterly exhilarating flight sequences putting the audience at the heart of the action, alongside an extremely emotional story of Maverick confronting his past and his guilt over the death of his close friend Goose, as well as an extremely emotional scene with Val Kilmer’s Iceman, and you have a sequel which surpasses its predecessor in every single way, and will take your breath away again, again and again.
3. She Said
Throughout history, we have seen examples of the extraordinary work journalists can do to bring stories to light in a way that changes the world forever. One such example is the extraordinary work of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, whose tireless investigative reporting uncovered the rampant sexual abuse of men in positions of power, such as Harvey Weinstein, which gave rise to the Time’s Up and Me Too Movements.
Given how these movements represent very recent history, it was important for the filmmakers to approach this subject matter with care, and this is exactly how Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz handled it. The film simultaneously shines a light on the incredible bravery of the women who came forward to speak out against such systemic behaviour and the tireless determination of the women who, in spite of threats to have the story buried, persisted in their efforts to bring the truth to light. Flawless acting by the entire cast, especially Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as Twohey and Kantor respectively, this important film shines a light on the important work journalists carry out, and the necessity for women’s voices to come to the fore when telling these stories.
2. The Batman
The Caped Crusader is an iconic figure in both comic book and cinematic history throughout the decades. Every actor who has donned the cape and cowl has managed to bring something unique to the role. The pressure was certainly on Matt Reeves for his take on this character to do something we haven’t seen before, and he absolutely delivered.
In a Gotham City quite unlike anything we have seen before, under an eternal cloud of perpetual rainfall, we have a Batman early in his crimefighting career (portrayed magnificently by Robert Pattinson) who must utilise all his skills as he comes up against Paul Dano’s terrifying Riddler. Portraying Batman’s skills as a detective in a manner previous Batman films have rarely utilised was an inspired choice and the combination of the exploration of Gotham’s murky criminal underworld, exemplified by a terrific performance from Colin Farrell as The Penguin, alongside some brilliant action sequences. When you have all of the above, along with an outstanding turn from Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman and you have one of the greatest incarnations of the Dark Knight ever put to screen.
And so my favourite film of 2022 is
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
When 2022 began, it was poised to throw a number of films at audiences which explored the concept of the multiverse. Such a concept has exploded in popularity in recent years, particularly in the genre of comic book films, little did we know that the best film to explore this concept was not something that had a Marvel logo attached to it, but was an entirely original indy flick, from the minds of the directors of Swiss Army Man.
The film lives up to its name by throwing a plethora of genres all into one big melting pot and the results were bonkers, hilariously entertaining and emotionally devastating all at once. You will never look at googly eyes, rocks, raccoons, hot dogs and bagels in the same way after watching this masterpiece. At the heart of it is an awards-worthy performance from the legendary Michelle Yeoh who pours her heart and soul into every single action scene, likewise for Ke Huay Quan who after several years away from acting makes a triumphant return. No other film released this year has illustrated to me perfectly just how special cinema can be as an art form, and for this, it more than earns the title of my favourite film of 2022.
And that brings the curtain down on my list of the best the big screen had to offer in 2022. Thank you for reading, especially if you read all the way through! What were your favourite films of 2022? Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on the following platforms: Twitter, Facebook or Letterbox’d.
For my picks for my most anticipated films of 2023, please click here.