In an especially busy
year, I haven't been able to catch as many new films as I would have
liked, nor find time to fully review all the ones I have seen. Still,
I did manage to see a fair few, including some that really stood out.
Here, then, are my choices for the ten best films of 2022.
(Alphabetically to begin with, with my choice for the film of the
year at the end. Details I consider too spoilerific I've hidden, you
can just highlight them to read them.)
I did manage to review
this one when it came out. Long story short, this film justified
rebooting the Batman franchise yet again with a powerful and
impactful take on the hero and his rogue's gallery, with excellent
performances from Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano and and
almost unrecognisable Colin Farrell as the Penguin. Naturally, there
will be a sequel, but whether it can have the impact of this scathing
attack on male obsession remains to be seen. Flawed, certainly, but one of the best movies to come out of DC/WB in a long time.
Where to watch:
available as part of a NOW TV subscription, and available to buy on
DVD/Blu-Ray, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and YouTube.
Following up 2018's
seminal Black Panther was never going to be an easy job, but
to do so after Chadwick Boseman's tragically early death seemed
impossible. Marvel's decision to focus on his legacy rather than
recast the T'Challa is a wise one, and while Letitia Wright's Shuri
was an obvious choice for his successor as Black Panther, she really
does elevate this film from a solid sci-fi actioner to something
She's ably supported by
Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira and the great Angela Bassett, who all
give effortlessly classy performances, and while Michaela Coel and
Florence Kasumba are underused, it's a great MCU debut for Dominique
Thorne as Riri Williams. There's a risk with these films that putting
the blocks in place for the next run of stories will overwhelm the
one being told now, and Riri is here partly to set up Armor Wars
and Ironheart, but she's is a perfect foil for Shuri, two
engineering geniuses who happen to be young black women, but from
vastly different backgrounds.
It's Tenoch Huerta
Mejia who perhaps has the hardest job as Namor. While the mutant is
one of Marvel's oldest and most important characters, he's also one
who really skirts the line between super and silly, and it's to the
credit of Huerta and Coogler as director that a man with tiny wings
on his feet remains a serious and formidable presence on the big
screen. While changing Namor's origin from Atlantis to an offshoot of
the Mayan civilisation doubtless owes more to not wanting to be
compared to closely to Aquaman, it works thematically, with
both Wakanda and Talokan representing fantastic versions of cultures
threatened by western imperialism. (Wonderfully, Huerta couldn't swim
before this, learning specifically for the role.)
Everett Ross still seems out of place, and the film is at least half
an hour too long, but it remains the best comicbook movie of the
year, a thrilling and visually stunning story of two vastly powerful
forces meeting explosively.
Where to watch:
still out in cinemas, and coming to Disney Plus on 20th
One of two singer
biopics in the list, although they couldn't be more different. Elvis
sees Baz Lurhman regain his standing as the master of musical
spectacle, but more importantly, restores the life of Elvis Presley
to the legendary status it deserves. Presley's death long after his
prime, and the decades of cultural familiarity since, has left him as
an archaic figure for many, and a joke for many more. The film puts
him back into the spotlight to remind us just how exceptionally
talented he was, and how important he was to the history of popular
Austin Butler is truly
exceptional in the lead role, and is definitely one to watch (a
tenner says he's cast as Clark Kent in the latest Superman reboot),
but holding much of the film together is Tom Hanks in a truly
unforgettable turn as the self-serving Colonel Parker. While Presley
comes off a little too innocent here – laying the blame for his
addiction troubles purely at Parker's feet is unrealistic, and the
film rapidly skirts over his preference for much younger girls –
ultimately it's a largely accurate and heartbreaking look at one
young man so swept up in his own success that he couldn't see how he
was being exploited.
The decision to have
Butler sing his own songs, untouched, in the early scenes, then to
very gradually blend in Presley's own voice as the film progresses,
was an ingenious one. The final scene, where Butler finally shifts
into Presley himself in his final performance, is powerful.
Where to watch:
available to buy on most streaming services, including Amazon Prime
Video, YouTube and Google Play, and out on DVD/BluRay.
Glass Onion: A
Knives Out Mystery
2019's Knives Out
was a joy, and from the outset Johnson had hoped to continue
Benoit Blanc's adventures in successive films. Setting it during the
height of the Covid-19 pandemic should have made the film feel dated
(a testament to our ability to pretend the damned thing isn't
actually still happening), but by luck it's been released perfectly
in time with Elon Musk's catastrophic self-own, making this tale of
billionaire idiocy absolutely on point.
Edward Norton is a
perfect choice for Miles Blon, the Musk-like antagonist, not least
because apparently very few people actually like working with the
guy. As obnoxious as Miles is, his hangers on are somehow worse,
particularly men's rights activist Duke (the ubiquitous Dave
Bautista) and the near mindless model and influencer Birdie (Kate
Hudson). We've also got brilliant turns from Kathryn Hahn and Leslie
Odom Jr, who play somewhat more balanced characters, but still just
as amoral as the others. Janelle Monae is even more impressive, but I
really won't spoilt why here, as this is a compelling mystery and to
give any more way would spoil it. It's not quite on the level of the
original Knives Out, but it
has a re-watchability that means I'm certain to revisit it.
Daniel Craig, as well
as being the best Bond ever (no, I will not change my mind), is a
truly brilliant character actor. Benoit Blanc is an irresistibly
watchable character, an Craig is clearly having a ball playing him.
Netflix have bought the rights to one more Blanc film, but I could
see the character continuing for years, or at least as long as the
current vogue for murder mysteries lasts.
Where to watch:
available on Netflix with subscription, with a limited cinema release
Peele's third horror film, and perhaps the most divisive, not for its content but its style. Yes, it's undeniably slow to get going, but every element is so essential to the story and its themes that it's essential to pay close attention. Bizarrely, some commenters have struggled to identify the themes of the film or the need to include the flashbacks to the brutal events with the chimpanzee in the TV studio. The major theme of the film – that of exploitation and underestimation of animals – is so clearly written that it seems impossible to miss.
While there are other themes involved, such as the racial element, and the power of media exposure illustrated by various characters' obsession with getting footage of the creature, it's this that is the most essential. Animals, be it OJ's horses, the suddenly violent chimpanzee Gordy, or the mysterious and unearthly Jean Jacket, must be treated with respect and understanding, and to assume they can simply be used without such care leads inevitably to tragedy – for the human handlers and bystanders, and the animals themselves.
More than that, though, the film is an ingenious take on the UFO phenomenon, albeit not an entirely original one. Whether Jean Jacket is a previously unknown terrestrial animal (which seems to be the intention of Peele according to interviews) or an extraterrestrial organism (which was my interpretation – it's nature as a cloud-living creature and the prominently named “Jupiter's Claim” convinced me it's Jovian in origin) doesn't really matter.
Aside from a couple of moments, Peele has managed to create a horror film that is both full of spectacle and truly disquieting without being gory or over-the-top. It also works as a truly modern neo-western, with a thick atmosphere of isolation and hopelessness from the get-go. Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea are all excellent in their roles.
Where to watch: available to buy on DVD/BluRay, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play and Curzon home cinema.
(Guillermo del Toro)
are, somehow, three adaptations of The Adventures of Pinocchio out
this year, and while I'm sure to watch both the Disney remake and the
Russian animation at some point, this is the one that caught my
attention and had to be considered a must-see. You know that any film
from del Toro will be a visual extravaganza and a chilling fantasy,
so yes, to some extent you know exactly what you're getting from a
film marketed as Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.
Yet the directions he has chosen remain surprising, with the story
shifted from the late 19th
century to interwar Fascist Italy to provide a historical lesson that
has uncomfortable implications for the way politics is moving today.
voice cast is excellent. Gregory Mann is a charming, mischievous
Pinocchio, with David Bradley giving us a flawed but sympathetic
Geppetto. Ewan McGregor gives a solidly entertaining performance as
the cricket (Sebastian J. Cricket in this version), who is also our
narrator. It wouldn't be a del Toro film without Ron Perlman turning
up, but the most surprising casting is Cate Blanchett as abused
performing monkey Spazzatura (“garbage” in Italian, the poor
thing). She gets one chance to speak, as Spazzatura performs through
puppets, and otherwise communicates in screams and grunts. It's a
stop motion film that stars a puppet and other characters that talk
through puppets, which has a certain surreal genius to it.
Swinton is haunting as the two main supernatural beings in the film,
the Wood Sprite and Death. The former is still the blue fairy we'd
expect, but rendered more as a terrifyingly Biblical angel, while
Death is sort of sphinx or chimaera, who has many meetings with
Pinocchio as he repeatedly dies and is resurrected. It's a quite
astonishingly dark take on the story (although less terrifying than
the Disney classic's
donkey transformation scene), but one that is ultimately very
beautiful and hopeful.
to watch: the cinematic run seems to be over, so on Netflix with
I've never been the
biggest fan of the original Predator, brilliantly done through
it is; it's altogether too macho for my tastes. So this reworking of
the central concept appeals to me greatly, with Amber Midthunder
captivatingly cast as the Comanche hunter Naru. Having a woman in the
central role gives the film an entirely different feel and verve to
the previous instalments (including AVP, which was really just
a huge videogame cutscene), and the period setting means that a
forty-year-old franchise manages to feel fresh again. It's not the
first time this has been tried (there are some extraordinary fanfilms out there), but it represents a different direction for the
series on film proper.
direction is taught and nerve-wracking, and there is some truly
gorgeous cinematography. Comanche/Blackfeet producer Jhane Myers was
responsible for ensuring much of the historical accuracy of the
script, and the resulting film is an intelligent discussion of
traditional gender roles as well as the brutal treatment of Native
populations by alien invaders (not just the Predator, but the dreaded
French). Notably, this is the first feature film to be released in
Comanche. Plus, there are some satisfyingly gruesome kills and a
great update on the Predator design.
Where to watch:
available to buy on DVD/BluRay, or to stream on Disney Plus with
Six Years Gone
Among all the big names
and blockbusters, there's still room for indie films to make a huge
impact. Six Years Gone might well have passed me by if I
didn't have a fleeting connection to its star, Veronica Jean Trickett
(my partner Suzanne was in the short film The World Can Wait with
her). Trickett has risen from such shorts to starring in this
multi-award-winning, Cannes Award Trophy-nominated drama, and she
gives an astonishingly strong performance.
Written and directed by
Warren Dudley, Six Years Gone is the unflinching story of
Carrie, whose daughter disappears from outside school on day. Six
years later, Carrie is in emotional and financial ruin. While the
early scenes are a little clunky in terms of exposition and dialogue,
the film rapidly tightens up to become a disturbingly real insight
into loss and desperation. Carrie's life unravels as her situation
worsens in a chain reaction of impossible choices, but there is,
ultimately, some hope to be found. Powerful, upsetting and moving,
largely down to Trickett's performance.
Where to watch:
available to buy on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play (only
£3.49 in the UK).
Weird: The Al
and released by Roku, Weird is a biopic presented the only way
that Weird Al could do it: as an ingenious parody. Eric Appel
co-writing, Yankovic has done something genuinely clever: taken as
many liberties with the truth as acclaimed films such as Rocket
Man and draw attention to them. The result is baffling and
hilarious. Daniel Radcliffe, who has grown into the choice actor for
weird roles, is perfect in the lead, while Evan Rachel Wood is a great
choice for Madonna. The singer, who actually did suggest that
Yankovic parody “Like a Virgin” with “Like a Surgeon,” has
been the source of Weird Al rumours, including suggestions that she
disapproved of his work and tried to get the single pulled. It seems
fitting, then, that this film has led to a spate of internet searches
to see if she and Yankovic really did have a relationship, when in
reality they barely know each other. Madonna's real life opinions on
being made into both the love interest and villain of this film
Where to watch: only
via the Roku Channel, so you'll need a Roku device. However, there's
no subscription needed. Alternatively, Weird Al himself has mentioned
that there might be a TORRENT of alternative channels on the
Finally, my film of the
Everywhere All at Once
(Daniel Kwan and
That rarest of things:
a genuinely original film. While the multiverse is, of course, the in
thing at the moment, Everything Everywhere is the first film
I've seen that really runs with the concept and does something
worthwhile with it. As much as I enjoyed Doctor Strange in the
Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home (which
would have made the list if had been released a few weeks later),
their use of the multiverse was primarily as a source of fan-pleasing
in-jokes. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and No Way Home in
particular married it to a meaningful story, but it's shallow water
compared to this.
Michelle Yeoh continues
to show that she's a true star of the modern era of film-making, with
a subtle and very real performance as the unwitting heroine Evelyn
combined with some spectacular martial arts. Originally it was
conceived by the Daniels as a vehicle for Jackie Chan, and yes, I can
totally imagine that, but he wouldn't have given it the depth that
Yeoh does. And how amazing to have a sixty-year-old woman as the lead
in an action movie?
It's also a joy to see
Ke Huy Quan back on screen after so long, with a performance so
assured you'd never think he took a decades-long break from acting.
Really standing out is Stephanie Hsu as Evelyn's daughter Joy and her
nihilistic alter ego Jobu Tupak, an absolutely stunning performance
that elevates the long series of confrontations into something truly
special. It's a treat to see Jamie Lee Curtis again, in a very
different role to what we're used to – at 64 she's now allowed to
be old, grim and frumpy, and she's still allowed a romantic subplot.
Well, one iteration is anyway.
The film is a wonderful
examination of Asian American identity, family dynamics, the
agonising loss of hopes and dreams and deeply philosophical questions
of reality and identity. It's also a surreal, truly unpredictable
action comedy, which goes beyond the normal twists of parallel
universe fiction to present some unforgettable images. You won't get
hotdog fingers world out of your head for a while. A brilliant,
affirming, hilarious, smutty, cosmic, ingenious adventure, an
Where to watch:
available to buy on DVD/BluRay, and on YouTube, Google Play and
Curzon home cinema. It's currently included as part of an Amazon
Prime Video subscription, but that could change to a paid
,purchase-only option at any time.