I recently read that while more films were released this year, the film industry won’t reach the output of a pre-pandemic world until 2024 and while 2021 was one of the worst for quality cinema, 2022 has oddly found most of its successes, at least critically in the smaller films, showing that much like 2020 which we spent mostly in our own homes, it was the films we watched at home, the ones we never would have watched otherwise that really made the most impact. That being said it was nice to return to a world of big blockbusters and the cinema experience and most of the films here I did manage to see on a movie screen but some of the choices may surprise you. As previously mentioned the choices here are made up of only the UK releases of 2022 so films like Babylon, The Fabelmans or The Whale will not be here, mainly because I haven’t seen most of them.
While it is easy to say that I omitted this film or that film, the strange paradox of working in a cinema is you very quickly run out of time to watch anything when work ends. Such is the paradox of this list, in that a lot of the films I wanted to watch I didn’t manage to get around to solely for the reason that I was busy helping show them. Films like Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World and Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island were just two of the films I never got around to watching but a few of the others I never got around to include All Quiet on the Western Front, Compartment No 6, X, Pleasure, Red Rocket and Vengeance. These are but a few of the films I missed so once again, if there is something missing in these lists this is out of what I managed to get to and my own opinion. But before I get to my favourites of 2022, here are a few that just missed but still impressed.
Lee Jung-Jae’s directorial debut is a slightly outlandish spy thriller but it is an expertly taut one that constantly contorts itself around its central mystery with no character being safe from being the mole being hunted. Constantly reinventing itself throughout and leaving its audience conflicted by these two thoroughly unlikable but undeniably interesting leads, Hunt shows a director who not only understands how to properly pace but also one with a keen eye for visually stunning action with the finale, despite its over the top dramatics being a showcase of Korean action cinema. While it was hard to decide how I felt about the characters at the heart of Hunt, I didn’t doubt just how much I enjoyed the ride.
The latest in the Scream franchise was not only a return to Woodsboro but a return to form for the aging franchise. Not only does it directly riff off of the first film in Wes Craven’s series but it manages to weave in legacy characters convincingly unlike in Craven’s 4th entry which just felt like a forced extension of a series that was past its prime. David Arquette is excellent here and the addition of Melissa Barrera, Jenny Ortega and Jack Quaid make for a 5th outing that has given fresh life to the series and introduced a new final girl to the series in a fun and oddly whimsical outing that isn’t afraid to make a joke out of its past for the benefit of the future. Personally I’m looking forward to March’s Scream 6.
Don’t Make Me Go
Whether or not you like Don’t Make Me Go is down to how you react to the ending. It’s impossible to avoid but the last 20 minutes either make or break director Hannah Marks’ film. Personally I loved it but even before that moment, this heartfelt family road movie with two standout performances by John Cho and newcomer Mia Issac is a methodical and smooth feature that never feels constructed, instead allowing its drama to unfold naturally. Issac is a revelation and one of 2022’s standout performances but its Vera Herbert’s delicate script that shines most here with this father daughter relationship feeling oddly perfect underneath all the strained expectations and teenage angst that spills out slowly on the road.
However these films weren’t quite as good as the next 25 to come but first of all here are the first 5 of them. These 5 run the gamut of the best of British cinema to a snappy animation back to a comedy action film that flew under the radar upon first release in August.
The Best Films of 2022- No 25-21
25. Ali & Ava
This British original feature failed to draw an audience when it began showing early in 2022 but those who did manage to watch it were gifted a film of immeasurable grace. Directed by Clio Barnard, Ali & Ava tells the story of two people who are painfully alone despite having people around them. It is only their relationship to each other, people who don’t have any clue of their past or for that matter, don’t care, that brings them into a new lease on life. Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook are excellent and Barnard manages to make the murky suburbs of Bradford seem homely and welcoming while never overselling it. Easily this years best British original.
24. Jackass Forever
When it was announced, everyone thought the same thing. What was going through, these almost 50 year old mens heads when they decided to commit to yet another Jackass film. Not only were they too old but surely all the stupidity and insanity of the first three features would have drained everyone of unique ideas to make another go seem pointless. While Forever is more of the same it is the fact that these people are now well into middle age that seems to breath new life into the outlandish ‘stunts’ they perform. There is a liberty to what is happening here. Instead of living up to a brand like the originals its people doing something because they want to. It might just be Knoxville’s new lease on life that comes through here but Forever is fun, freaky and well worth watching.
23. Do Revenge
When the trailer for Do Revenge came out it looked like a bright splash of colour but nothing worth putting any time into. A generic high school revenge feature for the Netflix audience. However, Do Revenge was written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson whose short-lived but spectacular TV series Sweet/Vicious played with many of the same themes seen here and did them expertly well. Do Revenge very much feels like the spiritual successor to that series and Maya Hawke and Camilla Mendes are a dynamic duo of Machiavellian schemers out for payback from their prospective nemeses. Smartly written and touching, Do Revenge has a sharp tongue not just in its comedy but in its scathing social commentary. Netflix’s best film of the year.
22. The Bad Guys
There is an old fashioned feel to Dreamworks Animation’s latest film with the playfully cell shaded animation style to the 70s crime caper feel of the story, the Bad Guys hit all the right notes for me. Not only are Sam Rockwell and Marc Maron a double act I didn’t know I needed but this story of anti-heroes and elaborate heists is something that many animations weren’t this year. The Bad Guys is pure fun with a cast of characters that play off classic crime capers with Rockwell’s Big Bad Wolf feeling like a spiritual successor to Paul Newman in The Sting. While it plays to a younger audience and some of the edge of the films it is playing off of, The Bad Guys is a smart, well written and quietly moving heist movie worth a watch.
21. Bullet Train
Coming off of the success of Deadpool 2, David Leitch has found a niche for himself in action comedy and has found an equally adept partner in Brad Pitt as Bullet Train relies heavily on both to cover over the cracks in its simplistic story. Based on the Japanese novel Maria Beetle, Bullet Train meshes together some of the year’s best comedy performances into one movies with memorable turns from Pitt, Bryan Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The real surprise however is how a film about contract killers manages to be strangely playful, a soothing balm to the self serious Marvel movies that the year seems to have pumped out. Although it didn’t take off at the box office it made a make with the audience that did watch it.
In the next part are 10 very different pictures including a Finnish coming of age story, a New Zealand set booze filled family drama and a tragically romantic musical to list but a few.