The 28 best films of 2022 (so far) – Time Out

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The essential movies of the year: from ‘The Woman King’ to ‘Top Gun: Maverick’
It’s not been your standard, regular, common-or-garden year at the movies so far. The slate of big new movies remains a little (okay, a lot) skinnier than usual and release dates have continued to shift, with more than one big release decamping to the safer surrounds of 2023. But even the lingering impact of Covid hasn’t stopped it being an often crowd-pleasing, occasionally electrifying six months so far. From awards picks like Parallel Mothers and Licorice Pizza, to virtuoso indie gems like British chef thriller Boiling Point, to popcorn perfection like RRR and Top Gun: Maverick, there’s been much to celebrate. Here’s our best of the best of the year to date.

😬 The best thriller films of all-time
🤣 The best funny films of all-time
🌏 The best foreign films of all-time

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Awkwardly, no Pixar film had been solo directed by a female filmmaker until Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi came along with this cute-as-buttons creature feature about a 13-year-old girl who turns into a red panda when big emotions come knocking. It’s based on her own childhood – okay, not the panda part – and comes freighted with the authentic growing pains of adolescence. The only pity is that it went straight to Disney+, because its surprisingly Godzilla-esque climax would have looked epic on the big screen.

What we said: ‘Its boldest move is tackling female puberty in such a candid, empathetic way.’
This elemental, awe-inspiring doc follows two volcanologists –Maurice and Katia Krafft – to the ends of the earth and witness their passion: for this molten geological marvels and, even more movingly, for each other. It’s narrated by indie doyenne Miranda July and was a Sundance breakout hit at the beginning of the year, but it feels like one of pieces of non-fiction filmmaking that will stand the test of time. It shows us the kind of spectacular fiery abyss that most blockbusters can only dream of – and not a drop of CGI in sight.

What we said: ‘There are only so many times you can shout ‘‘woah!’’ at yourself during one film, but this doc pushes that number up.’
There’s a reason Telugu director SS Rajamouli sits so high on our list of the 50 coolest filmmakers in the world: his OTT epics are just absurdly fun. And this year’s RRR, the third highest-grossing Indian film ever, could be the most fun of them all. The ‘Rs’ stand for ‘rise, roar and revolt’, themes that play out in a Raj-era storyline about British colonialism and an abducted child that occasionally pokes through all the insane fight scenes, razzed-up dance routines, exploding trains and tigers (there are a lot of tigers). It’s the perfect gateway drug to the highs of Telugu action cinema.
What we said: ‘Rajamouli has a knack for finding stars who command the screen and setting them loose on bonkers-sounding adventures.’
Aside from being absolute gold for pun-lovers, this moo-tion picture is a bold doc from British indie director Andrea Arnold (American Honey) that’s set entirely among a herd of dairy cows. On one level, it’s just 90-minutes of voiceover and explanation-free bovine action – a whole world of moos and manure. On another, it’s a moving cycle-of-life examination of a cow’s life that’s far too unsentimental to try to steal your heart but kinda manages it anyway.

What we said: ‘Arnold gives us a straightforward slice of a cow’s relentless life of muck, milk, breeding and feeding.’
Proving that he can do just about anything, Stephen Graham fuels this terrific one-take drama with skittish, sweaty energy as a chef on the edge in a buzzy London restaurant – all while shucking oysters like a pro. As an advertisement for getting into the hospitality industry, it’s pure nightmare fuel. As a viewing experience, it’s a thrilling watch that left everyone who caught it feeling rinsed out like a kitchen sink at the end of a dinner service. 
What we said: ‘Stephen Graham and Vinette Robinson help make this the best kind of worst ever restaurant trip.’
It’s takes chutzpah to rock up to the home of one of the true titans of cinema and make a movie that riffs on his life and work, but Mia Hansen-Løve’s sunlit relationship story set on Ingmar Bergman’s island of Fårö pulls the feat off with aplomb. Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth play two writers whose relationship seems to be hitting the skids almost imperceptibly, as they joust gently in their supposed creative haven. There are sharp observations galore here – about relationships and women’s creative emancipation – as well as a juicy, meta twist to keep you on your toes.
What we said: ‘Hansen-Løve has a real genius for amplifying small moments in relationships, and she finds deft collaborators in Krieps and Roth.’
When a film gets described as a touching treatise on nostalgia, friendship and growing older, it doesn’t usually also feature a half-naked man hang-gliding into a cactus. But that’s the unique joy of this unexpectedly glorious sixth outing from Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius and the gang – a movie that combines the hilariously puerile with the gently profound, while introducing a new generation of willing young pain-junkies to the joys of the Port-A-Potty and the human ramp. It still hurts just to watch it, mind you.
What we said: ‘This franchise is far more than just a patchwork of batshit crazy hijinks and dick jokes.’
Fittingly for a movie with a cloaking device at its heart, we did not see this period-set Predator flick coming, Sure, the trailer looked sufficiently promising to banish awkward memories of the last few outings from this creaking franchise, but just how much fresh life talented director Dan Trachtenberg has managed to inject into it amid all the gory, inventive offings still came as a very happy surprise. Yes, it belongs on the big screen rather than a straight-to-Hulu release but at least it’s easily rewatchable – and with part-Sioux actress Amber Midthunder providing its ridiculously engaging action hero and that mandibled space bastard actually scary again, it’ll be on our favourites list for years to come. 
What we said: ‘Aided by a forceful performance from relative newcomer Midthunder, this Predator movie is full of surprises.’
Last year saw Ryusuke Hamaguchi break through to western audiences with the Oscar-nominated Drive My Car. His quickfire follow-up, a triptych of loosely connected relationship tales, made fewer waves but is just as worthy of the clamour. Its beguiling trio of 30-odd-minute vignettes takes the perspective of three different women, each with a deeper heartache and confusion that steers them in emotionally dangerous directions. Together they make for a magnetic slice of slow cinema.
What we said: ‘The writer-director’s greatest gift is in wringing intense emotion from each moment.’
The trailers made it look a little, well, hammy, but Baz Luhrmann’s ode to the King turns out to be a hip-shaking and hypnotic experience. Is it occasionally over-the-top? Yup. Are the maximalist visuals a lot to absorb over two-and-a-half hours? Sure. Does Tom Hanks’ waxy, fat-suited version of Colonel Parker seem to be in danger of melting from contact with the nearest bright light? That too. But for all its flaws, Elvis is an irresistible night at the pictures: a more-is-more collage of music, history and Presley pilgrimage that’s lit up by the spectacular Austin Butler.
What we said: ‘Just when Baz Luhrmann’s hyper-stylised visions were starting to feel played out, he delivers his best film for 20 years.’
A kind of Iranian Ken Loach, Asghar Farhadi is a master at weaving thorny morality tales into a wider social framework. This Cannes hit is another probing look at life in a hierarchical, judgmental society. Its protagonist, Ramin, emerges from imprisonment for bankruptcy and finds a shot at redemption in the form of 17 gold coins found by his girlfriend. Does he do the right thing or milk the situation for financial or social capital? The genius of A Hero is in the ways Farhadi finds to turn this basic moral dilemma into a nightmarish Gordian knot that shows up a malfunctioning social order for what it is.

What we said: ‘It’s a superb morality play that keeps us guessing right to its powerful final shot.’
‘It’ girls, grieving high-schoolers and cyber dragons collide in Mamoru Hosoda’s dazzling anime skew on ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The tunes are banging, the visuals eye-popping and the ideas, exploring life as a digital native and the oldies who forlornly try to help Gen Zers navigate it, richly conceived. The Japanese animation master has come a long way since being fired as director on Howl’s Moving Castle.
What we said: ‘It’s high time to mention Studio Chizu in the same breath as Studio Ghibli, because this one is an absolute feast.’
Great War poet Siegfried Sassoon gets the touching, immaculately mounted Terence Davies treatment in a biopic that manages to be both heart-wrenchingly sad and PG Wodehouse-funny. Peter Capaldi plays the once-closeted gay writer in his older, embittered years, but it’s Jack Lowton who really catches the eyes as the younger version, who struggles to find himself amid the buzzing gadflies of London’s post-war social scene. The writing is bayonet sharp, as when Sassoon is haughtily informed that his poetry ‘has gone from the sublime to the meticulous’. Benediction is yet more proof that Davies’ filmmaking remains sublime.  
What we said: ‘A glidingly elegant, emotionally ransacking story of queerness, repression and the past.’
A historic action epic about Black women, The Woman King is as entertaining as it is culturally significant. It’s immense fun watching Viola Davis and her Amazonian warriors train up and fight the bad guys in 1800s Africa, and it’s moving when you realise how groundbreaking and empowering this is. Already a big hit in America, it’s proving that Black female stories can smash it at the box office. Bring hankies for this emotional epic in the vein of Braveheart and Gladiator.
What we said: ‘It’s a story of sisterhood and racial identity that deserves to pack in the crowds.’
Forget the hammer smashes and octopus guzzling of Oldboy, because this Park Chan-wook movie showcases the slowburn, cerebral side of the Korean auteur. It’s a Busan-set puzzle box of a thriller that sees a detective and a young widow locked in a complex dance involving a murder, an investigation and a lot of barely suppressed desire. As you can tell, it takes a leaf out of the Hollywood erotic thriller handbook – albeit with a chillier atmosphere and even more satisfyingly mazy plotting.

What we said: ‘Park Chan-wook slows things down with a woozily seductive and ridiculously elegant murder-mystery.’
While the rest of us were mastering sourdough, Jordan Peele spent the pandemic fusing sci-fi, horror and westerns to create a whole new kind of monster movie. The result – with no disrespect to any our baking efforts – was even better: an unnervy, unsettling and frequently funny third Peele effort, lit up by Keke Palmer’s livewire performance, a killer score and terrifying sound design. It’s easy to over-lionise the filmmaker as the savour of horror – as one poor tweeter discovered – and Nope isn’t without flaws. But it’s a blockbuster that’d unafraid to be depart radically from the norm, securing a likely spot in the midnight movie pantheon in the process.

Seen 1917? Brace yourself for 1918. Netflix’s often awe-striking German-language reimagining of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic antiwar novel takes place in the dying embers of the Great War. And ‘dying’ is the operative word, because this vision of conflict is as violent a film as you’ll see this year – a cacophony of screaming shells, rumbling tanks and the rat-a-tat of flying bullets. In the middle of it all is a young German conscript (talented newcomer Felix Kammerer) just trying to stay alive. It’ll leave you dazed.
It’s been a bittersweet 2022 for Iranian filmmaker Panah Panahi: his dad, legendary auteur Jafar (The White Balloon), was sentenced to six years in prison by the country’s oppressive regime; but it’s also been the year his debut film, a beguiling but quietly tumultuous family drama set on the dusty highways of Iran, met its public. And what a debut it is – filled with wry wit and barbed social comment about modern life in the country, and with an outstanding performance from six-year-old Rayan Sarlak as the rascally youngster in the back seat of his family’s SUV. The Little Miss Sunshine comparisons are unavoidable, but Hit the Road’s destination is altogether more impactful.
What we said: ‘It’s a road trip movie with an aching heart that’s filled with wry relatability.’
Ridiculously charming, playful and touching, this bittersweet British comedy is the year’s surprise package. An oddly-shaped package, sure, what with its titular robot, Charles Petrescu, being built from an expressionless mannequin’s head plonked on top of an old washing machine. But through a much-harder-than-it-looks feat of physical comedy, off-beat dialogue and pure heart, his – ‘its’ doesn’t feel right – bond with lonely inventor Brian Gittins (David Earl) sparks into a magical bromance that delves deeply into what is it to be human – and half-washing machine.
What we said: ‘Funny and touching, this bittersweet robot buddy movie is the oddly-shaped surprise package of the year.’
Sure, it’s not always subtle – no film with a six-minute barf-athon right in the middle ever is – but that’s not to say that Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winning comedy, a film that channels the spirit of Swift and Golding, isn’t sophisticated. The Swede slowly saws at the chair legs of entrenched power structures – fashion, money, class and race – until they crash to the floor in the sublimely executed chaos of the third act. Harris Dickinson and the late Charlbi Dean are great as the model/influencer couple at the heart of the storm, but Filipina actor Dolly De Leon steals the show as the ‘overseas worker’ who executes Triangle of Sadness’s memorable coup.
Somewhere out there is a small but fanatical posse that holds Swiss Army Man on their shoulders as an unheralded classic. For the rest of us, this high-concept multiversal sci-fi is the first proper showcase of what directing duo the Daniels could do. With Michelle Yeoh launching from laundromat owner going through marital strife – basically a Mike Leigh character – to action star and back again, and then into a multitude of other adventures, Everything Everywhere All At Once does exactly what the titles implies and sends you spinning through time and space in exhilarating style.
What we said: ‘The Daniels juggle silly gags and weird visuals like cackling Dadaists.’
In a year in which the US Supreme Court put Roe v Wade in its crosshairs, Audrey Diwan’s tumultous, hard-hitting drama arrives to show the realities of illegal abortions. It’s not for the faint hearted – it goes further than Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake in depicting this bleak world – but it’s a gripping story of a pregnant student who risks prison in ’60s France, and Anamaria Vartolomei makes a luminous heroine full of gritty determination.
What we said: ‘An atmospheric, gripping drama full of poignant contemporary relevance.’
Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve is the heart and soul of this touching and inventive account of one millennial life that unfolds over several years in Oslo. Very much not the worst person in the world, her medical student-turned-writer is a perfect avatar for the uncertainties and confusions of young adulthood: a whole mess of conflicting desires, moments of directionless and emotional rawness that feels endlessly relatable. And her showstopping run through a freeze-framed city is possibly the movie moment of the year so far. 
What we said: ‘Any film that can combine questions of mortality with funny, fully alive scenes of sex, social awkwardness, professional screw-ups and throwaway fun is a rich one.’
In Bruges is an all-time comedy great, so the reunion of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson under the watchful eye of director Martin McDonagh is an enticing prospect for any movie lover. And boy, does this fizzingly funny and flawlessly acted anti-buddy movie live up to expectations. Instead of a gobby hitman and his long-suffering colleague, the pair play a couple of old pals on an Irish island whose friendship hits the skids in a big way. Peppered with its writer-director’s trademark dark wit, it carries at its heart an poignant political allegory for the sorrows of The Troubles. 
What we said: ‘With apologies to Three Billboards fans, this is Martin McDonagh’s best film since In Bruges.’
Pedro Almodóvar gets serious with this poignant investigation of Spain’s buried Civil War trauma, although without ever sacrificing his light touch and delight in giddying melodrama. Penélope Cruz lights it all up like a starburst, with her performance as a new mum caught up in a case of mistaken identity in the maternity ward a career high, even by her own lofty standards. In a just world, she would have picked up her second Oscar for it.
What we said: ‘Entering Almodóvar’s world is a pleasure, even when we’re faced with pain and tough lessons.’
‘A widescreen rallying cry for cinema in the age of streaming’. So read Time Out’s admittedly fairly breathless appraisal of Robert Eggers’ brilliant, blood-soaked Viking epic when it landed in (smashed into? Ransacked?) cinemas in April. But the sentiment stands, because in an age increasingly dominated by streaming sites, The Northman is a useful reminder that the place to witness the grandest, boldest cinematic visions is on the biggest screen possible – and unless you live in an IMAX, that won’t be in your front room.  
What we said: ‘Thank Odin for Robert Eggers and his mad, brilliant, violent, hypnotic, trippy Viking opus.’
Okay, hands up who saw this practically flawless blockbuster coming? A few people probably did – this long-in-the-making Top Gun sequel was originally due out two years ago – but that enforced delay detracts not one iota from the purest widescreen thrill ride of the year so far. Tom Cruise’s ace pilot provides heart, soul and some fighter jet manoeuvres that we’re pretty sure defy every law of physics in the book. Mind you, the book gets binned early (and literally) in this one, to reinvent the so-called ‘legacy sequel’ into something that soars way above hollow Hollywood cash-ins.

What we said: ‘Tom Cruise owns a crowd-thrilling sequel that easily surpasses the original.’
Paul Thomas Anderson delivered his sunniest film with this ‘70s nostalgia trip to the San Fernando Valley about a cocksure teenager trying to win the heart of a drifting twentysomething. Somehow that teenage-gaze premise never comes over remotely Porky’s, helped by two breakout lead performances from Cooper ‘son of Philip Seymour’ Hoffman and Alana Haim, some A-list turns (Bradley Cooper as Hollywood producer-stroke-total-maniac Jon Peters), and PTA’s usual godlike touch behind the camera.

What we said: ‘Paul Thomas Anderson’s sweet coming-of-age yarn is free-spirited and fun as hell.’
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