By Naomi Roper
2022 was a fine year for movies. From giant red pandas, Nicolas Cage playing Nicolas Cage to depressed Irish men it’s been a banner year. Below are our favourite films of the year:
You can read our top 20 horrors of the year list here.
20 – Spirited
At this time of year, you can get a bit Christmas Carol’d out. But Spirited is a feisty remake with a fun modern twist. Will Ferrell (as the Ghost of Christmas Present) fights to change the attitude of an “unredeemable” – Ryan Reynolds’ cynical PR agent. Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds and Ferrell is his usual quirky charming self. The tunes by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (best known for Dear Evan Hansen) are insanely catchy and will stay in your head forever. Good Afternoon – a fun riff on Mary Poppins with Reynolds going full Dick Van Dyke is delightful. Reynolds and Ferrell commit 1000% to the singing and dancing (including full tap routines!) and have great chemistry. Plus Octavia Spencer gets a lovely solo and a romance with Ferrell and we need more on-screen romances between people over 50. Set to join the rotation of annual Christmas movies.
Spirited is streaming now on Apple TV
19 – Thirteen Lives
Enjoyable workmanlike biographical pic from Ron Howard detailing the rescue of the Thai teenage boys and their coach who got trapped in the Tham Luang cave systems. Viggo Mortensen (as Richard Stanton) and Colin Farrell (as John Volanthen) are fantastic as the no-nonsense British cave divers who are instrumental in saving the boys. Also, cave diving is a completely ridiculous activity and no sane person should ever attempt it. The diving scenes are so claustrophobic they made me feel queasy.
Thirteen Lives is streaming now on Amazon Prime
18 – The Northman
I can’t really decide if Robert Eggers is a genius or a madman but his films always veer from inspired moments of genius to pretentious twaddle from minute to minute. Alexander Skarsgard is ferocious as Prince Amleth whose father (Ethan Hawke) is murdered by his uncle (Claes Bang). It’s brutal, looks very pretty and Nicole Kidman eats every single second of her screen time.
The Northman is now available to buy
17 – Turning Red
A beautifully animated film centring on an Asian family and looking at the trials and tribulations of adolescence as our lead learns that when she gets super stressed she turns into a huge red panda. Adorable and funny this should have had a cinematic release.
Turning Red is streaming now on Disney Plus.
16 – Ambulance
Michael Bay finally meets his match in the form of the chaos demon personified that is Jake Gyllenhaal. This bombed at the box office but trust me it’s great. It focuses on Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who gets pulled into one last score with his brother Danny (Gyllenhaal). When things go wrong the rest of the movie follows them in real-time as they escape the cops in an ambulance with paramedic Cam (Eliza Gonzalez) trying to keep a cop they shot alive. Meanwhile, Captain Monroe (the always superb Garrett Dillahunt) is on their trail. Bay throws everything he can at the screen, with approximately 11 billion drone shots and all the pyrotechnics in the world. But this is Gyllenhaal’s movie. This is a man who always understands the assignment. Whether he is screeching about flamingos or incandescent with rage that his cashmere sweater has been ruined Gyllenhaal is so mesmerising that everything else falters when he’s not front and centre. Abdul- Mateen II is a superb actor but he is wallpaper in this because its impossible to outdo Gyllenhaal when he’s dialled it up to 11. A rollicking good time.
Ambulance is now available to buy.
15- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Nicolas Cage playing Nicolas Cage. This should not in any way work (especially as Cage also plays Nicolas Cage’s spirit animal via the wonder of de-ageing tech in the form of young Cage). That it works at all is courtesy of writers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten and the charming performances of Cage and Pedro Pascal. A surprisingly frothy confection.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is now available to buy
14 – The Adam Project
Affecting big-budget sci-fi time travel tale as Ryan Reynolds’s experimental test pilot (Adam Reed) travels back in time and meets his younger self. Walker Scobell is perfect as the junior version of Reynolds. Zoe Saldana is passionate as Reed’s partner and Catherine Keener makes a surprisingly fun villain. Great work from Mark Ruffalo as Reed’s father who approaches his role with all the commitment of an Oscar passion project.
The Adam Project is now streaming on Netflix
13 – Strange World
Beautiful, clever old-school Disney animated movie with a crafty twist which has a strong message about the importance of caring for the environment and the value of alternative sources of fuel. Loved the different types of animation used and Jake Gyllenhaal is good value as the dad. Appears to have been effectively buried by Disney at the cinema possibly because the lead teen character is queer.
Strange World is now streaming on Netflix
12 – Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers
Directed by Akiva Schaffer and starring John Mulaney and Andy Samberg (who is a member of The Lonely Island along with Schaffer) Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers is an odd beast – a kids’ movie with an adult sensibility. What happens to two lifelong friends who make it big once the spotlight goes out? A surprisingly sophisticated look at the toxicity of fame and its effect on friendships while also being an adorable kid’s movie about two lil chipmunks. The humour is sharp as a tack and the pop culture references flow thick and fast. Ugly Sonic is a pivotal character! Most of the references will go over the kids’ heads while the rest of us can only marvel at how exactly they got the rights to use as many characters as they did.
Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers is now streaming on Disney +
11 – Thor Love and Thunder
Like many, I’m suffering with Marvel fatigue as the brand works out how to move forward when so many of the much-loved original Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow) are either dead or reaching the end of their franchise life (hi Guardians, Ant-Man etc). The Disney + shows have ranged from fine (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (terrible villain casting aside), Ms Marvel) to very good (Loki, Moon Knight, Wandavision and surprisingly Hawkeye which produced a Christmas set romp with an instant star in Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop and single-handedly justified the existence of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.
But the Phase 4 movies have suffered in comparison. Not even Sam Raimi could save Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness which sidelined Strange entirely for Wanda and splashy cameos. Eternals was as dull as ditchwater. No clue how they managed to take some of the most charismatic actors out there including Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan and Barry Keoghan and produce something so entirely devoid of charm and life. Shang Chi was charming (Awkwafina especially) but looked terrible and the entire final 20 minutes of the movie is a poorly rendered CGI slugfest. Black Panther was a cut above but understandably a wake I wouldn’t be keen to re-visit. The only Phase 4 movie which remembered that superhero movies are meant to be about having fun was Thor Love and Thunder.
Chris Hemsworth has transitioned nicely from action god to extremely deft comic actor and all his skills are on display here as the dopey Thor struggles with his place in life now that The Avengers are gone and the glorious Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is bored stiff running New Asgard. Enter Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher. Gorr is a little short-changed screen time wise but that’s probably because he’s completely terrifying. Add in a surprise return from a game Natalie Portman (forced to say one of the worst lines ever written) and while the result isn’t quite as good as Thor Ragnarok it’s still very charming indeed.
Thor Lover and Thunder is now streaming on Disney Plus
10 – Moonfall
Guys, I love Moonfall. In Moonfall the moon decides to, well, fall to earth causing widespread devastation. The only people who can save us are a washed-up alcoholic astronaut (Patrick Wilson looking like he’s about to do a GQ cover shoot at any moment), Halle Berry’s NASA chief and improbably, a deranged conspiracy theorist (John Bradley – delightful) who thinks the moon is a megastructure. Roland Emmerich directs this absolute nonsense which bombed at the box office but you should go and watch it immediately as it is possibly the best movie ever made. I saw this at the cinema and seriously at one point during a Patrick Wilson monologue I was laughing so hard I had to have a little lie-down. It is completely and utterly ridiculous. Nothing makes sense. The movie probably kills SEVERAL MILLION PEOPLE including (spoiler alert) the glorious Michael Pena (subbing for Stanley Tucci which honestly made way more sense casting wise but he got covid). And in our current times having the nut job conspiracy theorist be correct is very dangerous indeed. Hokum but a riot to watch.
Moonfall is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
9 – The Whale
I saw this at a London Film Festival preview screening and it’s one of those rare times when it’s hard to disengage the atmosphere of the screening from the film itself. Brendan Fraser received the biggest, loudest standing ovation I have ever heard (bearing in mind we Brits are not given over to such things) simply for walking on stage at the beginning. After the movie, we were ready to crown him King. It was hugely moving to witness for a man who has publicly gone through it in recent times. Fraser is wonderful in this deeply moving tale of Charlie, a desperately grieving man slowly eating himself to death. Hong Chau is phenomenal as his best friend/enabler and Sadie Sink is unpleasantly spikey as his abandoned daughter. Samantha Morton also pitches up to give an acting masterclass in an extended cameo as Charlie’s ex-wife. It’s arguably a little too sentimental and repetitive at the end but I’ll still be delighted when Brendan Fraser can add the words ‘Oscar nominee” to his resume.
The Whale is currently screening in cinemas
8 – Elvis
After a barren stretch, it’s wonderful to see Baz Lurhmann back to hyper-kinetic dazzling form in the form of Elvis – his biopic of the King. The first 45 minutes are dizzying as Lurhmann’s camera is never still swooping here and there tracking Elvis’ early years. Austin Butler finds the heart in the legend giving an impressive performance (which includes singing all of the early Elvis tracks himself). Tom Hanks gives a mannered OTT performance as Colonel Tom Parker – the villain of the tale. I can’t say I know as great deal about Elvis but this is a dizzying heart-rending ride which had me in tears by the end. It has plenty of detractors and lets off Elvis far too easily for his tendency to use black artists and songwriters to further his career even though he rarely remunerated them appropriately. But as “jukebox” style musicals go this is one of the very best.
Elvis is available to buy now.
7 – Top Gun Maverick
The last great movie star in the box office sensation of the year. Like or loathe him Tom Cruise is the only true movie star left standing but not sure even he could have conceived of how much of a smash Top Gun Maverick would be. Mixing nostalgia with incredible action sequences Top Gun Maverick is electric filmmaking. Cruise’s Maverick returns to teach a group of new pilots how to conduct a dangerous mission. This motley crew includes Hangman (Glen Powell – MVP of the newbies and team leader Bradshaw (Miles Teller) Goose’s son who blames Maverick for his death. The ariel sequences are insane – watching this in IMAX it felt like you were flying the planes. But the movie also allows for quieter moments like the lovely scene between Cruise and Iceman which takes Kilmer’s real-world health problems into account. Pure popcorn entertainment
What the big screen was made for.
Top Gun Maverick is now streaming on Paramount Plus
6 – The Batman
After Ben Affleck’s dreary take on the character, it seemed the kindest thing to do would be to retire humans from playing the role and just let Lego Batman (the best Batman) take over. Robert Pattinson had other ideas and while his Bruce Wayne may be the angry, black eyeshadow-wearing emo sort (endless shots of him standing looking sad in the pouring rain) he’s the best Batman since Michael Keaton (Christian Bale was great but eternally upstaged by his villains don’t fight me on this. Matt Reeves takes the character back to his detective roots in this loose adaptation of The Long Halloween. Zoe Kravitz couples the slinky feistiness you would expect from Catwoman with naked vulnerability. Paul Dano (playing the Riddler by way of the Zodiac killer) is unsettling but John Turturro quietly steals his thunder as the deeply menacing Carmine Falcone. I have watched this movie four times now and my brain still cannot compute that The Penguin is played by Colin Farrell drowning in prosthetics. It’s a hell of a performance with no trace of the actor. In Reeves’ hands, Gotham is a neon-drenched, permanently rain-logged hellscape of despair. Pattinson excels as Batman comes to terms with his complicated legacy and the knowledge that his clean-up mission isn’t quite having the effect he hoped. Violence begets violence… More please and preferably with Barry Keoghan’s Joker (glimpsed in a cameo at the end) front and centre.
The Batman is now available to buy
5 – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Extraordinary writing/directing from The Daniels in this sci-fi-tinged tale of multiverses and the woman who can save us all. Michelle Yeoh is superb as Evelyn- a woman so focused on looking for something more that she can’t appreciate what she has. Ke Huy Quan gets the role he deserves as the kind and caring Waymond. Stephanie Hsu is terrifying and stunning as Jobu Tupaki wearing some of the best costumes of the year. Add in a very game Jamie Lee Curtis and you have one hell of a cast. How can you not love a movie which puts googly eyes on everything? Never in my life has googly eyes on two stones been so heartrending. Never have I been so invested in a romance between two ladies with hot dogs for fingers. Extraordinary, exciting, kinetic filmmaking.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is now streaming on Amazon Prime
4 – Glass Onion
Nothing is more joyous to watch than how very much Daniel Craig loves playing Benoit Blanc – the great detective. I have re-watched Knives Out multiple times and Glass Onion is a worthy follow-up from Rian Johnson. Miles Bron (an Elon Musk type played by Ed Norton) invites his close group of “disruptors” to his private island for a weekend break. Murder and mayhem ensue.
Arguably 20 minutes too long Glass Onion has a stronger structure than Knives Out and even if it can’t quite match the dizzying heights of its predecessor it’s still a good damn good time. The cast is universally excellent with special shout-outs to effervescent Kate Hudson as the dim-witted Birdie Jay and Ed Norton as the slimy Bron. But the movie belongs to Janelle Monae who is luminous in the lead. I want Daniel Craig to make as many of these movies as his heart desires. They’re a delight!
Glass Onion is now streaming on Netflix
3 – The Lost City
Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum are adorable in this hilarious rom-com which is a modern twist on Romancing the Stone. Bullock plays a romance novelist (and archaeologist) Loretta Sage who is kidnapped from her book tour by Daniel Radcliffe’s unhinged millionaire Abigail Fairfax who wants to uncover a long-lost treasure. Alan (Tatum) is Sage’s longstanding Fabio-like cover model and sets out to rescue her (with the help of a cameo-ing Brad Pitt).
There is so much to love about The Lost City. It’s hilarious. It has a romance between a woman in her 50s and a guy in his early 40s and it’s not a thing as why wouldn’t Alan want to be with someone as wonderful as Loretta? There’s even a surprisingly touching defence of fandom via Alan realising he could never be upset about being a cover model for a romance book when it brings people so much joy It’s such an unexpected and wonderful moment to have Channing Tatum defending female lead fandoms.
Bullock always was a rom-com queen but Tatum’s comic timing is second to none and he’s hilarious here. I love that Alan doesn’t sweep in to save Loretta as bless him that isn’t his skill set and that it’s her intellect that wins the day. Radcliffe who thrives on unusual roles is clearly having the absolute time of his life as Fairfax. Huge fun.
The Lost City is now streaming on Paramount Plus
2 – The Bobs Burgers Movie
Before this year I had never seen Bob’s Burgers but courtesy of Disney + I have watched multiple seasons and am deeply in love with the Belchers. This is just a lovely movie as a sinkhole opens up outside Bob’s restaurant leading to the mystery of who killed Cotton Candy Dan? The cast of voice actors is superb with special love for Kevin Kline as the Belcher’s landlord. Filled with catchy tunes and heartfelt moments The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a fantastic watch even if you’ve not seen a single second of the show. Outstanding.
The Bob’s Burger’s Movie is now streaming on Disney +
1- The Banshees of Inisherin
Martin McDonagh is back and The Banshees of Inisherin just might be his masterpiece. A beautifully directed look at friendships, loneliness, despair and the suffocation of small-town life elevated by extraordinary performances from a committed cast including a career-best Colin Farrell as Paidraic. McDonagh’s script is the sharpest of the year filled with insanely quotable dialogue. Like most McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin features male characters whose lives would be considerably better if they could just express their emotions in a productive way and brutal unexpected acts of violence. Brendan Gleeson is always good but is fantastic here as the man who throws Paidraic to one side fearing that life is passing him by. Kerry Condon is heartbreaking as Siobhan, Paidraic’s lovely sister who is being ground down by the claustrophobic nature of small-town life. Barry Keoghan is heartbreaking as the village idiot with a crush on Siobhan. And Colin Farrell gives the performance of his life as the kind, dumbfounded Paidraic who doesn’t understand why his only friend has abandoned him. The speech he gives in the pub (“what’s wrong with being kind?”) is the scene of the year and had me bawling. Astonishing.
The Banshees of Inisherin is now streaming on Disney +