XPRESS TOP FILMS OF 2022
Another year has nearly come to an end, and the films of 2022 have shown us the varying surprises cinema has to offer. At this point, it seems the filmmaking world has gotten over its COVID hangover, finally releasing the rest of its delayed back-catalogue, with top earner Top Gun: Maverick’s patience completely paying off. But the quality of the films this year cover a wide range of diverse films, from gloomy noir-like superheroes, multiverse madness, horror movies about filmmaking, dark Australian cinema, thoughtful sci-fi, and Bollywood making its way into international reception.
Here are the 15 best films we saw in 2022, selected by our Film reviewers DAVID O’CONNELL, CAIN CIALLELLA, MELISSA MANN, and DAVID MORGAN-BROWN, a wide range of films that each showcase a different way that cinema can affect us and speak to us about the world we live in and its many, many cultures.
It’s insane to me that Jordan Peele created a tent-pole blockbuster, calling out Hollywood exploitation, that mirrors the original Hollywood summer blockbuster, Jaws (1975). The themes and the narrative structure of Nope often play at odds with each other, creating a film that is unsettling and demands audiences think about what it is saying, and how it is doing this. The result is a work with multiple layers to unpack, that is stunning in its audacity.
Three Thousand Years of Longing
A love story stretching generations has its chance at resolution once its protagonist, Idris Elba’s Genie, is unlocked by Tilda Swinton’s self-sufficient, sharp-as-a-tack Alithea, who is well-versed on the precautionary tales of wishes and genies. Master filmmaker George Miller (Babe, Happy Feet, Mad Max: Fury Road) takes you places you won’t see coming in this conceptually ambitious visual smorgasbord.
The Woman King
A rare film that is both bloodthirsty and heartwarming, The Woman King is based on a true story of West Africa in the 19th Century, as tribes are kidnapping each other for sale to the European colonialist slave trade. One battle weary female general, Nanisca (an indomitable Viola Davis in a career-defining performance), wants to lead her Mahoney people out from under the thumb of oppressors. The Woman King is triumphant storytelling. It is a story of overcoming trauma, of sacrifice, of empowerment, and a kick-ass group of women.
After 70 years on the screen, The World’s Greatest Detective finally gets a detective thriller? How about that? Matt Reeves’ take feels somewhat akin to a David Fincher crime procedural, miring us in the grime of Gotham’s underworld and a corrupt system. Ironically this darkest take on the setting goes a long way to shifting the tone of the character back towards the light, by giving Batman a character arc that progresses him from dark avenger to a literal torchbearer of hope for renewal.
This movie didn’t have that much going for it. Aged, and missing the coolest members of the Jackass clan, what seemed to be a last-ditch cash grab turned out to be easily the best comedy of the year from Knoxville, Pontius, O, and co. With the stunts still passing the pub test and the new cast members (some of whom almost steal the whole damn movie – I’m looking at you Zack Holmes) adding zest and zeal, a fifth entry may yet be on the cards – pending medical clearance of course.
A joy to watch, despite the scumminess of its lead character, Red Rocket contains as much gleeful and manic energy as this troubling main character does. This is a film that doesn’t attempt to make you like such a morally unsound, conniving dude, but it does make you care about the world he inhabits, a place of very little tranquility and mostly constant struggle, where the smallest amount of joy is to be savoured.
You’re never going to see a bloodier version of Shakespeare than this…and that includes Kurasawa and Troma! Egger’s take on this viking saga comes across as Robert E Howard scripting Hamlet, and I am there for it. The Northman drags audiences into a vividly recreated Old Norse revenge epic that treats historical details and mythological beliefs with equal validity.
A low-key film that clearly demonstrates that science fiction doesn’t need to be all spaceships and action beats. After Yang gently explores the effects of robotics on our lives, and gives us a meditation on future social issues. A rare piece of sci-fi filmmaking, and a brave direction to take in an often overblown genre.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Sometimes, when a man wants to be left alone, it’s best to just leave him alone. Colin Farrell’s earnest but limited Padraig learns this the hard way in Martin McDonagh’s heartbreakingly familiar and superbly crafted addition to his burgeoning canon of masterpieces that will deserve every award it’s rightfully nominated for this awards season, and will likely snag a few. Farrell and Brendan Gleeson knock it out of the park in this bleak yet welcoming portrayal of a friendship turned stale, and are ably supported in this taut tale by an unmissable Barry Keoghan and an excellent Kerry Condon.
Ever wondered what it would be like if David Lynch tackled Australian noir? Well wonder no further, as Tom Wright brings us the closest we would ever get to such an oddity with this stunning crime thriller, loosely inspired by true events. Complex and disquieting, The Stranger is more than just a two-hander, but it absolutely centres on the interaction between Edgerton and Harris, and both actors give it their all.
This is a masterclass in excess that brings you a film unlike anything you’ve seen before. Well, to be more accurate, as this is Indian cinema, this brings you several movies like you’ve never seen before, all rolled up into one. RRR never neglects to amaze with its “over the top” antics – from one man facing off against a mob of thousands, to the great colonial dance off, to the characters becoming incarnations of gods in the climactic battle. It is a bonkers historical epic that’s constantly entertaining and imaginative.
Centring on a group of porn filmmakers creating their new masterpiece in the back-shed of a killer old couple’s sprawling property, X uses its sexy concept to explore the changing culture of the late ‘70s, on both societal and personal levels. Rather heady for a horror film, but once the blood, gore, and scares hit in the film’s finale, they hit hard. With both a prequel (Pearl) and sequel (MaXXXine) set for release next year, it’ll be great to see this tale of the pursuit of fame continue.
Adam Sandler yet again turns in a commendable dramatic performance in this brisk, earnest look at an international recruiting scout for an NBA team, and his ever so transactional relationship with his new found talent, his potential ticket to the big offices, gamely captured here by real-life Toronto Raptor Juancho Hernangomez. There’s no doubting it’s a “sports movie”, but sports movies are hard to make, and this is one of the better ones. Sandler tones down the self-destruction painfully displayed in Uncut Gems but that fervour for one big win to consolidate them all remains compellingly present, and Hernangomez holds his own when called upon. Hustle is surprisingly affecting, genuinely compassionate and authentic in all the right spots.
Triangle of Sadness
Slipping in just before the end of the year, this is the kind of ferocious, acidic, and thoroughly naughty dark comedy film that is most appropriate to conclude 2022. Examining the lives of the elite upper class as they “enjoy” their incredibly rocky yacht trip, Triangle of Sadness is more surprising with its observations than you may expect, all the while being roaringly entertaining and hilarious – but you must be warned, it’s a film strictly for those with strong stomachs.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
This is the true Multiverse of Madness, from sausage fingers to talking rocks, The Daniels take us on a wild ride through endless possibilities. As tempting as it is to get lost in the breathtaking fight choreography and the sheer lunacy of the premise, this is a film anchored by genuine sentiment. Sure, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a mad dimension-hopping tale filled with martial arts mayhem, but at its core it is about not being afraid to learn through failure, and those that support you on the way.