- As well as Hollywood blockbusters, this year’s list includes French, Indian, Iranian, Irish and Swedish movies
Our favourite films of 2021 included “Summer of Soul”, “The Power of the Dog” and “Titane”. Read that piece and similar “best of” lists here.
Note: this list is mostly drawn from British release dates.
“Aftersun” In Charlotte Wells’s quietly devastating debut drama, a Scottish 11-year-old girl (Frankie Corio) and her 31-year-old father (Paul Mescal, the star of “Normal People”) go on holiday to a shabby resort in Turkey, sometime in the late 1990s. There are no crises, or even any weighty heart-to-heart speeches, but Ms Wells conjures up a listless, uneasy atmosphere, and an ominous sense that this will be the last holiday the two ever take together.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” Martin McDonagh follows up his Oscar and BAFTA winner, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, with an absurdist black comedy about two old drinking buddies (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) on a rural Irish island in 1923. Their friendship comes to an abrupt conclusion when one of them announces that he will chop off his own fingers if the other one ever talks to him again. An exquisitely scripted and acted meditation on kindness, mortality, the value of art—and the ridiculous stubbornness of men everywhere.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” Imagine if “The Matrix” was remade by Michel Gondry, the director of “Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind”, and you’ll have some sense of this ambitious, unpredictable, sci-fi kung-fu action-comedy. Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan star as two lowly launderette owners who have to save reality from obliteration. Like this year’s best Marvel blockbuster, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” hops between numerous different realities. Though it clearly has a smaller budget than Marvel’s film, it has enough big ideas and emotions to compensate.
More of our recommendations from 2022: • The best podcasts • The best books • The best television series • The best albums
“Happening” Based on the autobiographical novel by Annie Ernaux, “Happening” stars Anamaria Vartolomei as a student who gets pregnant on a one-night stand in 1963. She tries to secure an abortion, even though the procedure was illegal in France at the time, but soon finds that few will help her—and several will stand in her way. Audrey Diwan stages her flawlessly acted and perfectly paced film in the style of a contemporary indie drama, without the usual signifiers of the 1960s, so you could easily assume that it was set in the present day. If the location were different, it could be.
“Hit the Road” Panah Panahi’s Iranian comedy-drama starts as a light, humorous road movie about an affectionately bickering family. Only later does it become apparent that one of the boys in the car is being smuggled out of the country at great expense and greater risk, and that the others might never see him again. “Hit the Road” grows into an elegiac, beautifully scenic and magically surreal fable—without losing any of its initial lightness and humour.
“Moonage Daydream” There have been countless documentaries about rock superstars, but none quite like Brett Morgen’s 140-minute meditation on David Bowie, which ignores many of its subject’s albums, films and key collaborators, and instead charts his philosophical and emotional development. Hypnotic and psychedelic, “Moonage Daydream” suggests that Bowie might well have been a time-traveller, an alien or a demigod; but he was definitely a clever, thoughtful and highly articulate fellow.
“Pinocchio” Two major Pinocchio films came out this year. Disney’s live-action remake of the classic cartoon was feeble, but Guillermo del Toro’s heart-rending version was a revelation. He sets the tale in fascist Italy (complete with a cameo appearance by Mussolini), and fills it with as much death and darkness as his earlier films, “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth”. But it’s also a rollicking delight, with rousing songs, gorgeous stop-motion animation and an endearingly pompous cricket voiced by Ewan McGregor.
“RRR” S.S. Rajamouli’s Telugu-language epic proved to audiences around the world that Indian films could be as action-packed, entertaining and excessive as anything produced in Hollywood. Set in Delhi under the British Raj in the 1920s, “RRR” is the tale of two Indian revolutionaries who become best buddies while concealing their true allegiances from each other. The dance routines and fight sequences are gloriously ridiculous, but there is a complex, earnest story of sacrifice and liberation in there somewhere.
“Top Gun: Maverick” Few people predicted that one of the biggest and most lauded films of 2022 would be a much-delayed sequel to a cheesy, 36-year-old paean to the US Navy. And yet “Top Gun: Maverick” turned out to be as painstakingly designed and assembled as any of the jet fighters flown so spectacularly by Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and his cocksure trainees. Exhilarating but wistful, this is almost unique among sequels in that it honours its predecessor while improving on it in every way.
“Triangle of Sadness” Ruben Ostlund’s second film in a row to win the Palme d’Or, the top prize at Cannes Film Festival, “Triangle of Sadness” is a satirical attack on the rich and entitled, from social-media influencers to arms dealers. Its first half is set aboard a luxury cruise liner, where the super-rich guests patronise the staff; the second half, after a shipwreck, is set on a desert island where money counts for nothing. It isn’t subtle, but Mr Ostlund’s anger at society’s unfairness is thrilling and hilarious.
“Turning Red” A Pixar cartoon about a 13-year-old girl (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) who turns into a huge red panda whenever she is upset, “Turning Red” is groundbreaking in all sorts of ways. It has a nerdy Chinese-Canadian heroine, it is candid about puberty and menstruation, and its narrative focus is not on noble heroes and nefarious villains, but on the friction between loving parents and children. All that aside, it is one of the most buoyant and purely fun films that Pixar has ever produced.
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