The Top 10 Films of 2022

Right, so we’ve been through the worst. But as much as it’s fun to rant about terrible movies, the reason we keep going to the cinema are the great movies.

So let’s not wait too long and discuss the best films of the year.

10. Smile

You haven’t seen me review this yet, it currently sits in my draft pile, but this is exactly what mainstream horror should be. It may be a bit of an update of The Ring, but The Ring was a great concept and this is a much better way of bringing it into the modern era than Rings ever was. This curse, with vague enough rules which allow horror to strike at any moment, is terrifying. It feeds on trauma, continuing a modern horror trend of focusing on mental health problems as we become much better aware of them, and is absolutely terrifying as it preys on our main character. Add onto that the film manages to make fairly standard movie gore into something incredibly settling and you have a great horror movie which is probably going to have lots of pointless sequels.

9. The Woman King

Viola Davis is one of the best actors on the planet and I’m delighted that she got a role where she can just be absolutely awesome. She is the star of this show here as she combines being a badass in the action scene with fantastic dramatic scenes where she has to combine the agony of previous emotional trauma with being the best leader for her legion of woman soldiers. This is her movie and she is the reason to go watch. Combine that with a story that while it has quite a few clichés, despite the fact it’s in a very different setting to what we are used to, is extremely well executed. What this means is we get a very powerful movie with lots of great characters and even some great action scenes to boot. Viola Davis is certainly the king alright.

8. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Welcome to my usual Marvel on one of these lists because I always overrate these things. Anyway, here’s why this one is on the list. This was not just a traditional superhero sequel. This film not only had to do those traditional things, bigger and better effects etc, but also handle the death of its lead actor. We all now know about the death of Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther in the first film and various Marvel movies, and how they decided not recast him like other franchises have done with the untimely deaths of key actors. This led this film to be a tribute to him, leading to a beautiful funeral scene early on in the movie. But the great part of the movie is that while grief is a big theme, it isn’t to drag the movie down into a pit of despair as it’s also about moving forward. Not only are these stronger themes than most superhero films, the superhero stuff is great as well. Namor is a brilliant villain and the action scenes are great fun. That’s why this is the best traditional superhero film of the year.

7. Belfast

Just a reminder, I judge a 2022 film as being a film released in the United Kingdom in 2022. So yes, I can put Belfast in this list. So while there will be an argument about the technicalities of me putting Belfast on this list, I’m sure there’ll be none about the quality of the movie getting it a place. Kenneth Branagh is an inconsistent director but by going back to his childhood, something that Steven Spielberg is now copying him on with The Fabelmans, he has made what is possibly the best movie of his career. He combines what feels and looks like a traditional social realism movie and a war movie as we see the Troubles through the eyes of a child, something that makes it even more shocking. While the ‘Look at something awful through child’s eyes’ is a fairly common tactic (film students are still collectively traumatised by Come and See), it works to make this a brilliant movie. More of this please Kenneth and less of Artemis Fowl.

6. Elvis

Elvis is one of, if not the, greatest music superstars to have ever lived. But there hasn’t really been a film that has showed why he was such a superstar, especially when the things that were controversial are so passé now. Seriously, we had a song called WAP which barely raised a stir, so some gyrating doesn’t exactly get the modern outrage scene going. Baz Luhrmann responds to that by simply planting you in the middle of one his concerts and simulates the delirium Elvis caused with his music, and thus passes that delirium onto him. Luhrmann has also had a manic energy in his directing, for better or worse, but here he uses it to simply show what Elvis must have been like to those teenagers in the 1950s begging for something different to show up. Austin Butler is incredible in the lead role, proving himself to be the next big star in Hollywood. It is the biopic that defines Elvis and shows a new generation why he is such an incredible star.

5. Top Gun: Maverick

How on earth did Top Gun: Maverick become the highest grossing movie of the year? It was a sequel to a movie that definitely had it’s place in cinema history, but for many had been written off as an 80s propaganda piece for the US Air Force. Tom Cruise’s star power had been ailing for a while as well. But then, here came Maverick, an absolute beast of a movie that cinema owners can be thanking for the reason they still have a business. But why did so many people gravitate to this movie? Because it was brilliant, for starters. In an era where people wear CGI suits and fight CGI aliens in front of green scenes, seeing a film where pretty much everything you see actually happened in front of an actual camera was a stunning sight. Tom Cruise is indeed a mad man but that works in the film’s favour. No one else could get real fighter jets to do these stunts on camera and encourage the actors to get up into the skies rather than in a studio set. This dedication to realism means watching this film is an exhilarating experience, whether you saw the first one or not. It’s a stunning piece of cinema and I hope it will be an inspiration for others in the coming years.

4. The Good Nurse

Hey wait, I just reviewed this one! At the very least, I don’t have to look at many of my notes to write this section. Too many movies about the American health system take the easy target of the fact that going to a doctor with a runny nose will land you with a $10,000 bill. At this point, making the point that’s terrible is pushing on an open door, easy to do but still with the risk of falling onto the floor and smashing your nose in, causing an even bigger bill with the hospital. No, this tackles the web of cover-ups that these American hospitals did when trying to stop themselves being shamed over having a killer nurse on its books. Then when we get to the crux of the actual plot, it’s excellently done. Eddie Redmayne is quietly sinister as the nurse who is killing patients seemingly just for the hell of it, and Jessica Chastain is brilliant as the nurse trying to stop him while also not putting her family and livelihood at risk. It’s incredibly tense, excellently done and I’m glad I watched it in time to put it on my list.

3. Nope

Jordan Peele is one of the great young directors around but I’ll admit, I’ve got some flack for not being as on board with him as other critics. I thought Get Out was very good, but had some flaws. Then came Us, which I thought ended up being too complex for it’s own good. In many ways, it was a classic 2nd album. Trying a bit too much, though it of course has its fans. But Nope really hooked me in. It took it’s time, it’s very slow paced compared to a lot of the big blockbusters that come out, but eventually it’s combined narratives of a mysterious alien ship alongside flashbacks to a traumatic event on the set of a family sitcom really do really work. The intensity of this movie is really something and it the best part is that delivers on that intensity. The inside of the alien ship still gives me the shivers from time to time, but that may also be that I’m too cheap to put the heating on half of the time. It then has one of the best third acts of any film to come out this year, delivering on every loose thread Peele dangled in front of you. It’s my favourite Jordan Peele film for sure.

2. Prey

What. Ok, so I might have to explain this one a bit more than the others. I haven’t been looking at other people’s Top 10s, but I feel like most of the films you’ve seen here will have appeared on the others. Jumble them around a bit but nothing I’ve put on here is too questionable. Heck, I’m probably not the only one to put Prey on the Top 10 list. After all, it was very warmly received. But as the second best film of the year? I have some explaining to do. But it’s just a very simple explanation. It is the film that I enjoyed the most. Films are certainly experiences which make you feel a whole range of emotions. Films on this list have made me scared, depressed, exhilarated, a whole range of emotions. But at the end of the day, the best thing a film can do is put a smile on your face. And no film put a bigger smile on my face than Prey did. I could spend some time praising how the people behind this movie took a tired franchise and completely reinvented it by taking it into a completely different, and in many ways alien to the average Brit, setting and era. I could tell you that the brutal action was brilliantly done, once again restoring the Predator into a being to be feared. But at the end of the day, I haven’t enjoyed another film as much as this.

Admittedly, that only got it second on my list. So let’s see what’s first.

  1. The Batman

Critics have a certain reputation which has caused audiences to distrust them over the years. Audiences often think that critics are out of touch with the general population, hence why arthouse movies which have around 11 people watching them get praised while the blockbusters normal people like get blasted. This conceit has some truth in it, but it is very exaggerated as you’ll usually find audience responses line up with critic responses.

But critics do feel pressure to live up to this idea that we’re film connoisseurs. That we dismiss the idea of blockbusters and films aimed at a common audience and instead find solace and joy in a four hour black and white Dutch film about how awful life is. So when it comes to making these Top 10 lists, I do like the idea of putting some film you’ve never heard of at the top of the list. It makes me feel smarter and that I’m doing something good for the film world. Heck, lots of critics are chucking Everything, Everywhere All At Once at the top of their list, mostly because it stops maniacs wrecking your Twitter. Of course, I left it completely off my list.

And so here we are, with The Batman at the top of my lists of the best films in 2022. It’s something many people will agree with. But probably not many in the critics community. The people who share my belief that The Batman was the best film of the year are probably the people who only go to the cinema every couple of months when something really jumps out of them. The people whose Top 10 list is probably just the list of all the films they saw this year.

But just like I defended Prey being №2 on my list, I can definitely defend The Batman being №1 on it. That’s because this is not just a traditional superhero film. Apart from the final act, it kind of feels wrong to call this a superhero movie because it never feels like it. It’s part film noir, part dark detective and there’s even some dollops of slasher movie in there. That’s how Batman is portrayed in this in the eyes of the criminals of Gotham, anyway.

This film definitely owes far more to movies like LA Confidential than it does any of the other Batman films. There’s no camp one-liners, no gothic overtones or even incredible stunts that have dominated the other Batman films, for better or worse. Instead, you get a film about a cloaked detective-cum-vigilante trying to find a murderous terrorist before he kills more people while he has to wrestle with the possibility the murderous terrorist might be doing more good than he ever had with a vigilante.

Everything about the film works. Robert Pattinson seemed like a very questionable casting choice as Batman, but it works. It still kind of looks like he needs grow into the suit, something that works well with the themes the movie is trying to deliver. The music is simply incredible. Michael Giacchino was already one of the most respected film composers out there thanks to his work on Up, Doctor Strange and Rogue One but this movie elevated him to being a household name like Hans Zimmer. The power of his music is incredible, especially in the standout moment of Batman approaching the flipped car of the Penguin. It’s an incredible combination of so many people being at the top of their game.

I’ll admit, most years this wouldn’t top my list. It has been a weaker year for top tier movies, much like it’s been a lot less terrible movies than usual, hence a better than normal Worst of 2022 list. It’s been a fairly mediocre year for movies. But despite that little asterix, I’m still very happy with The Batman being the best film of 2022, even if it is the normy choice.

Anyway, it’s time to say farewell to 2022 and I look forward to 2023!

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A Guy Who Talks About Movies

Former Head of Movies for Screen Critics. Film Reviews now hosted on Medium.