The Plain, Simple Review of the Year: Part Two – Top 20 Films of 2022

So now, the time has come for us to look at twenty of the best films that 2022 had to offer, in my opinion. It’s been an odd year for film, I think, because for the longest time, I was sure that we were given more poor/forgettable features but the year did thankfully give us some great films and, who knows, maybe the best films are the ones that passed me by. Or the ones that haven’t been made available to me yet. Well hey, I’m confident that there are even more stellar films out there from the year 2022 but these are the twenty best ones from the selection that I was afforded this year.

So enough of the preamble, let’s just dive into it!

All have 2022 UK release dates.

Honourable Mentions: Scream, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Sea Beast, Jerry and Marge Go Large and Entergalactic.

20. Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe (2022)

I have to admit that after my initial viewing of this Paramount original, I knew that I liked it but didn’t think it was as good as when they “did America” and that they didn’t make the absolute most out of the central “they end up in the future” premise but after subsequently watching the new TV series, I watched it for a second time and I was really able to just sit back and savour it all; it’s a genuinely funny and well animated film with a fine story and, gosh darn it, I just really like these two sociopathic dumdums!

19. The Northman (2022)

I don’t believe that I was in the best of moods whilst watching this film as, in a near empty cinema screen, some guy just HAD to sit right next to me (grrr), but I’m still able to see that The Northman is an ambitious, grisly, and boldly violent Viking epic all about revenge and it succeeds thanks to its admirable production design and the standout performances from Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicole Kidman.

18. Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

This highly acclaimed film is one that I’m positive would not actually make this list because after my first viewing of it, even though I appreciated all the craft and ambition that went into it, coupled with the fact that its an undeniably superior multiverse film when compared to this year’s new Doctor Strange film, I didn’t think that it lived up to the immense hype that social media built up for it and I didn’t believe that it was as clever or as funny as it thought it was.

But after rewatching it, I certainly appreciated it more and I recognise that the filmmakers really do think way outside the box on this one and the film does have a highly imaginative and passionate story. I still believe that it isn’t as clever nor as funny as it could have been (the silly humour isn’t really my thing) but a lot of work clearly went into making it and performers like Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan really carry the film on their shoulders.

Just like Michelle Yeoh and Harry Shum Jr. in the “Racacoonie” universe!

17. Nope (2022)

At this point in time, I’d say that Get Out and Us are Jordan Peele’s best films but still, Nope is nonetheless a great film from the popular director as there are some genuinely chilling sequences involved – particularly in the Gordy scenes and whenever we hear the faraway screams of innocent victims as Jean Jacket flies overhead – and the sound design is truly worthy of an Academy Award nomination. Also, the film has a central mystery that’s interesting to watch gradually unfold and the participation of Daniel Kaluyya and Keke Palmer benefits the picture greatly.

16. The Menu (2022)

I’m not sure what I was expecting with The Menu but I certainly didn’t expect what we ultimately got: it’s an engrossing and hypnotic black comedy/drama that does well in taking a jab at pretentious wannabe “foodies”, out-of-touch critics and high-end chefs who simply aim to serve unnecessarily weird and “artistic” dishes and the film sure proves to be an intriguing ride and performance-wise, Ralph Feinnes and the ever reliable Anya Taylor-Joy both do mighty fine work.

If anything, it’ll make you crave a cheeseburger.

15. X (2022)

Everyone around the blogosphere seems to have already seen this and its sequel, Pearl, about a dozen times but having seen this popular film for myself just a short time ago, I’d say that X is an impressively engrossing and hypnotic horror film and it manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its enticing and menacing atmosphere, the performances from Mia Goth and Jenna Ortega, and the characterisation of the central villains; we spend a generous amount of time with them and so we are able to see just what they’re all about and what their motivations are.

14. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)

Although 2022 cursed us with a particularly awful live action adaptation of the classic tale with Robert Zemeckis’ Pinocchio, film fans were also gifted with a properly worthwhile and technically marvellous adaptation as well. Del Toro’s adaptation has far more of a reason to exist than the Zemeckis adaptation as it aims to tell a story about family, grief, and what it means to be human, as our central character does some bad things and has offputting characteristics but slowly learns how to better himself and how to truly love and care about those around him, and furthermore, the film has a spirited voice cast (one that includes many surprising additions – try and guess who voices the monkey!) and such intricate and miraculous design and stop-motion animation that must surely earn the creative team several awards and recognition. Such talent.

13. Barbarian (2022)

A much talked-about film that I regrettably didn’t get a chance to go and see on the big screen, Zach Cregger’s horror film does such an excellent job in establishing an atmosphere of genuine dread, tension and menace – making great use of the creepy locations and all the dark corridors and passageways that could be hiding anything – and it has a chilling story that slowly unfolds ever so tantalisingly, using something of a three chapter structure quite cleverly.

12. The Worst Person in the World (2021)

I’m going to be totally honest and say that I don’t completely remember everything that happened in this acclaimed feature but I do remember thinking very highly of it as I was watching, noting how it had one of the best screenplays that I’d seen in a while; not knowing what you want to do with your life when everyone around you does, walking alone on the streets and seeing everyone else living it up and enjoying their lives, working in a job that you don’t particularly care about just because there’s nothing else to do – I get it – and the film really is an impressive one as it is shot beautifully, it’s written very well, and Renate Reinsve puts in a very likeable and efficient performance.

11. The Woman King (2022)

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s previous feature The Old Guard was, surely, a forgettable feature but under her stewardship, The Woman King turned out to be a most impressive picture. I’m not sure that there’s much there in terms of narrative – though its central message of fighting against subjugation and slavery is most impacftul – but Viola Davis and Lashana Lynch shine brightly, the characters make a big impact, and it’s obviously so amazing to watch the intimidating and formidable warriors take no prisoners as they vanquish all their enemies while also sharing a special sororal bond.

10. The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

Despite not having too much of a story, I’d say that Banshees was nonetheless a particularly fulfilling feature as it includes a lot of genuinely effective comedy at particular moments but also, the drama elements prove to be engaging to sit through, the island location is well utilised, and the relatively small roster of characters are an endearing and interesting bunch, all played very well by Colin Firth, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon.

9. Hustle (2022)

I may not exactly be a big basketball fanatic (with the exception of Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and Shaq, I had never heard of ANY of the pro basketballers that appear right at the very end) but this was such a good film that was very accessible to a layperson such as myself – a film that’s not insanely complicated like the baffling High Flying Bird.

Instead, this is a Rocky/Karate Kid type story and it succeeds because of the stellar performances from Adam Sandler (dramatic Sandler is infinitely superior to comedy Sandler) and the very likeable Juancho Hernangómez as well as its solid script, exciting montages/training/basketball sequences, and the very assured direction that allows the film to move at a breezy pace and to make the film both absorbing and dramatic as well as funny and lighthearted.

A real treat, that was.

8. The Batman (2022)

In a nutshell: long and slow and dark and moody!

Yes, the runtime is notoriously excessive but regardless, The Batman is still surely a cut above your average cookie-cutter comic book movie thanks to its smart writing, absorbing atmosphere, committed performances, and the memorable, menacing score from Michael Giacchino.

It’s a film that’s seemingly faithful to its source material – given its central Batman/Catwoman relationship as well as all the actual detective work that occurs – and rather than being one of those films that merely jumps from setpiece to setpiece, this film has a “dense” story and it requires its audience to do a bit of thinking. It’s well directed by Matt Reeves as he makes sure that the film is near constantly absorbing, even in its slower moments, and he makes sure there are several appealing shots in there and concerning the cast, they all do well as R-Patz is ideally sullen and moody, though clearly also strong and conflicted, as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Zoë Kravitz has the ideal physique and is commanding as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Paul Dano really makes an impression as the crazed Riddler – a villain who is here gifted with a good backstory as well as clear motivations for doing what he does.

7. Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

At number seven, we return to the beautiful world of Pandora and to the indigenous Na’vi and in this sequel to the record-breaking behemoth 2009 original, James Cameron has, honestly recycled the plot as we see the militaristic “Sky People” (i.e. overtly macho and clearly evil humans who just want to kill and raze the world to the ground) again attempt to impose their will onto Pandora but, regardless, this sequel really works because it is a beautiful, colourful, and wholly immersive experience that’s a real treat to sit through.

Cameron and the filmmakers do a great job in further exploring this expansive alien world, taking us to new locations and letting us see new characters and a whole new way of Na’vi life, and the film, though obviously long, is enjoyable to watch as the action sequences excite and everything on screen – be it the local flora and fauna or our favourite beautiful blue aliens – is just lovely to look at.

6. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

Clearly better than Death on the Nile (2022). If you only see one murder mystery film this year, obviously make it this one.

Knives Out was a good start but Rian Johnson really knocks it out of the park with Glass Onion: an ambitious and complex murder mystery that I hope Agatha Christie herself would have been proud of. Although you could argue that the runtime is a little self-indulgent, the film looks sleek (the split-screening right at the beginning was a treat) and the production design is immaculate, the cast members all do a fine job, and Johnson’s writing really shows signs of growing maturity and intelligence as he gives us a clever, dense, twisty-turny plot that impressively improves upon what he accomplished with his previous Benoit Blanc mystery.

5. Turning Red (2022)

Pixar’s latest sees a young lady turning into a giant red panda whenever she’s overwhelmed with emotion – a great metaphor for growing into womanhood that only Pixar could come up with – and it works so well because it contains several endearing characters who are given life by the game cast and additionally, the film has a solid story that examines a particular mother/daughter relationship, an upbeat soundtrack, and plenty of exquisite animation that the popular animation studio has become renowned for.

4. Nightmare Alley (2021)

Mexican maestro Guillermo Del Toro makes his second appearance on this list with 2021’s Nightmare Alley: an excellent adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s book that was also adapted in Edmund Goulding’s 1947 movie. I went into (relatively) great detail when I reviewed this movie at the start of the year but in a nutshell, I believe that, despite a leisurely beginning, the film evolves into a brilliantly designed and tantalising mystery/thriller that appears to be Del Toro’s very own homage to the great film noirs of yore; performances are great and the film positively sizzles during scenes between Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett.

3. Belfast (2021)

The very first new release that I saw this year (review HERE) and didn’t it do well to remain so high in the list, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical tale about a young lad growing up in Belfast at the time of The Troubles is an all round excellent, stirring film and I found the whole thing to have been such an immersive and highly enjoyable feature.

Branagh and co. wisely shoot the film through a child’s POV (and in marvellous monochrome, no less) and, while also packing an emotional punch at certain times, it’s filled with such joy, magic, and wonder that may indeed make you recall your own childhoods; performances are wonderful across the board but Ciarán Hinds and Caitriona Balfe shine particularly brightly.

2. RRR (2022)

I feel that I’d be doing this particular film a disservice by actually attempting express just how accomplished it all is – as this feature surely merits a whole essay that celebrates its accomplishments – but in a relative nutshell, RRR positively hits the ground running with a shocking and emotional opening that’s later on followed by a daring rescue and the super stirring inclusion of the opening title screen (40 minutes in, mind you!) and from then on, the film continues to soar thanks to its entertaining, highly imaginative, super stylized, and gloriously over-the-top action sequences (the best fighting setpieces that I’ve seen all year), the wonderful (and unexpected) song and dance numbers, the epic, dramatic and constantly emotional storyline, the highly accomplished direction as well as all the stellar work done by the design teams, and the committed participation of our two leading actors who just do so well as they are required to juggle comedy, hard hitting drama, dancing, singing, and so much fighting, shooting, and other physical business.

It is such a unique and proficient epic that deftly balances so many different genres while also telling a strong story that manages to be both humorous and devastating – a particularly impressive feature that does most everything right.

1. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Despite having no strong feelings towards the original from the 1980s (heck, it really isn’t that good of a film, in all fairness), I can confidently say that it’s far superior to said original as it is a very impressive blockbuster spectacle that does include a lot of fan service (which isn’t at all annoying or forced, thank the Lord) but it’s also a film with big stakes – having, this time, an actual credible threat, rather than a few enemy jets – as well as nail biting aerial manoeuvres/dogfighting and an emotional arc for its protagonist that manages to stir the emotions while never being too preachy or syrupy; it truly provoked several smiles out of me and Lady Gaga’s title track, particularly the big orchestral version that is heard during the big dramatic scenes, is a very worthy and stirring successor to Berlin’s popular piece.

Tom Cruise yet again proves that he’s one heck of a charismatic movie star and additionally, Maverick has several other strong performances in the cast – performers like Miles Teller and Glen Powell shine particularly brightly. It’s truly an impressive and all round excellent movie event and it really did leave me satisfied as the credits started to roll.

. . . . . .

Well, that’s my end of year list done with for another year. I thank everyone who read and (hopefully) enjoyed reading it.

In 2023, I hope to give up Twitter so who knows? Maybe that’ll give me more time to go back to blogging and to reading more of what you lot are putting out there. We can only hope.

For now, let me just wish you all a happy new year and let’s all hope that 2023 brings you good health, wealth, and happiness, among other things. Good films, too!

Best wishes,

Plain, Simple Tom.

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