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OPINION: The Best 50 Films of 2022

Disclaimer: Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.

It’s that time again (2021's list - here!). After successfully wrapping up another year which saw Glasgow and London Film Festivals both come and go; a move to Hertfordshire, a new full-time job, my movie-watching hasn’t really slowed down – in fact, I’ve applied for more film festivals in 2023 already than I applied for in 2022. So it’s been quite a big year – as usual, as I’m based in the UK this means I’m going by UK releases – so don’t expect films like “One Fine Morning”, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Lea Seydoux-starrer chronicling a messy midlife relationship in Paris, Mark Jenkins’ “Enys Men”, a Cornish folk horror set on a small abandoned island, Hlynur Pálmason’s priest-journeying-into-the-unknown barren hostile wasteland drama “Godland” set in 19th century Iceland, Alice Diop’s memorable courtroom drama about a woman who murdered her own child using witchcraft as a defence in “Saint Omer”, or “The Eternal Daughter” – Joanna Hogg’s ghost story featuring a memorable double performance by the great Tilda Swinton, playing both a daughter and her own mother.

Also 2023 in the UK that I have seen - Sarah Polley’s talk-heavy acting triumph of “Women Talking”, Darren Aronofsky’s insufferable “The Whale”, a movie single-handedly redeemed by Brendan Fraser’s triumphant return - Chinonye Chukwu’s powerful, deeply moving “Till” about the Emmett Till lynching in 1955 and his mother’s quest for justice – and finally, Florian Zeller’s “The Son”, a movie that’s flat out awful on every level – and gets the prize for the most misguided turkey of the year.

In addition - this list that rules out a list of films that I haven’t seen for the same reasons: Ti West’s “Pearl” doesn’t debut in the UK until 2023, but then I wasn’t a big fan of “X” so it probably wouldn’t feature here even if I had seen it. “The Fabelmans”, Spielberg’s ode to his family childhood, “Empire of Light”, Sam Mendes’ exploration of the history of British cinema, “TÁR”, Todd Field’s character study of Lydia Tár, and Damien Chazelle's "Babylon", all don’t feature here simply because they’re out in the UK next year. Expect them; if anywhere - on 2023’s list. Maybe. I haven’t seen them yet.

And then we must come to before we start is a list of films that didn’t make it; for one reason or another. The Daniels’ “Everything Everywhere All At Once” perhaps the biggest omission, which would’ve been on there but it spectacularly fell apart on a second watch for me, the reference-heavy and elongated second act let it down – “The Worst Person in the World” from Joachim Trier probably would’ve made this list but if it felt a bit too “manic pixie dream girl 101” – I much preferred the directed-by-women complex relationship dramas of “Anais in Love” by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet; and also adored Martine Syms’ art-school “After Hours” delight that was “The African Desperate”. “Ali & Ava”, Clio Barnard’s human study of a relationship that grows from two characters from different backgrounds and “Zero Fucks Given”, a tale about a rapidly disenchanted flight attendant played by a career-best Adele Exarchopoulos, both won me over – as did eventually, Sebastián Lelio’s “The Wonder”, the Florence Pugh movie of the year that we should all be talking about.

I was a massive fan of Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6”, a love story brought together by shared loneliness, Andrew Dominick’s collaboration with the two greatest composers in the movie business, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, “This Much I Know to Be True”, both horror franchise sequels “Scream” and “Halloween Ends” for their own merits, and of course, Baz Luhrmann's chaotic biopic “Elvis”, sure to be an Oscar win for Austin Butler. And further beneath that pack – I’ll just list them here before we get started: Zhang Yimou’s “One Second”, George Miller’s “Three Thousand Years of Longing”, Richard Linklater’s “Apollo 10 ½”, Fran Krantz’s “Mass”, Michel Franco’s “Sundown,” the Zürcher’s “The Girl and the Spider”, Ana Lily Amirpour’s “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon”, Eskil Voght’s “The Innocents”, Claire Denis’ “Both Sides of the Blade”, Laura Wandel’s “Playground” and Khadar Ayderus Ahmed’s “The Gravedigger’s Wife.” I could have almost made a top 50 out of stuff that didn’t make the actual top 50, and still call it an excellent year for cinema, so we’ll cap it off here – but I also have the list of everything that I watched this year from 2022 on Letterboxd ranked, if you’re so inclined.

Now without further ado – let’s begin – shall we?

50. MOONAGE DAYDREAM; Brett Morgan.

David Bowie has had a great movie year with plenty of his songs featuring in other films but this powerhouse of a documentary takes nothing for granted: bold to start off with the final lines from "Blade Runner", bolder still to adopt the same approach that Edgar Wright took with "The Sparks Brothers" doc that he made in 2021 and leave no expense spared – this is a tell-all take on Bowie’s entire discography, 135 minutes long yet I could have sat there and watched it for hours. You’re swept up in the singer’s ideas of fame and how it’s changed him – but also how fans view Bowie – as nothing short of a god, a Starman – to them – with the film as creative, cinematic and as daring as its subject.

49. IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE; Hong Sang-Soo.

"In Front of Your Face" is very direct; unusually so for Hong Sang-Soo - searching out the gracefulness and beauty in the world and letting it shine. His loose, improv-friendly approach to filmmaking goes against traditional norms and stands out as one of the most unique works of art of the year - deeply powerful in its sense of warmth and togetherness. At the end of the day it's 'another' Hong Sang-Soo movie that still would be a major work from another filmmaker.

48. IL BUCO; Michelangelo Frammartino.

Entirely naturalistic geographical film that’s made with barely any dialogue and total respect for its subjects; an historical artefact that flows in a way that whether or not you got on with Michelangelo Frammartino’s "Le Quattro Volte"; you’ll find something to love. Out of all the movies that I watched this year, I would’ve loved to have watched it on the big screen – earnest motion in a deliberately slow paced way that I completely fell in love with.

47. PARIS, 13th DISTRICT; Jacques Audiard.

Quite the year for writer Celine Sciamma who co-wrote "Paris 13th District"; "Petite Maman" is a masterclass that only doesn’t make this list because it came out in the UK in 2021 and in fact, finished highly on last year’s being one of my favourites of the decade so far. "Paris 13th District" is one of Jacques Audiard’s best films in a while – a perfectly human and guilt-free study of dating, sex and relationships in the internet age using Paris as a backdrop – I was going to love this from the get go and it did not let me down.

46. CORSAGE; Marie Kreutzer.

A love letter to the rebellious spirit of Empress Elisabeth of Australia, with a stunningly multi-layered performance by Vicky Krieps at its heart. Such a devastating film that betray its years – the culture at the time and the outlandishness of the rich elite at the top of the food chain is captured superbly – "Corsage" holds nothing back, really – devastatingly so in its betrayal of character. Judith Kaufmann’s cinematography creates an historically bold view; and I love the wonderful complex tale that it benefits from at its core.

45. GLASS ONION; Rian Johnson.

Even more self-aware and terminally online than "Knives Out", "Glass Onion" is the Agatha Christie adaption of our times moreso than the actual Agatha Christie adaption from Kenneth Branagh – "Glass Onion" unites a dream cast of Edward Norton, Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson, Madelyn Cline, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick and Janelle Monae and has them all play suspects for Daniel Craig’s sleuth Benoit Blanc to investigate. It’s a delight – a laugh-a-minute line that made watching this with a lost voice a very bad call – and it’s a real shame Netflix aren’t giving this the proper theatrical release it deserves as this was made to be seen with an audience. Such a hoot from start to finish – and yes; I got to see the cast at a press conference after the film, no that does not affect my opinion of it at all – it’s just as good at home.

44. THE NORTHMAN; Robert Eggers.

Raw, gritty, brutal – welcome to the era of the Vikings. Hamlet repurposed with a new setting that feels like it owes more to the PS4 video game "Hellblade: Suena’s Sacrifice" (a gem for anyone who's not played it yet), Eggers’ portrayal of a land torn apart, and a character fuelled by a quest for vengeance drives the narrative forward; unrepentant in its savagery and feels completely removed from its modern filmmaking craft. Entirely uncompromising – an odyssey of destruction and chaos.


Almost certainly going to be the most misunderstood film by boomers of the year; this devastating portrayal of the internet age, increased loneliness, and the need to find oneself hit home hard – less of a horror and more of a grand social statement film; "We’re All Going to the World’s Fair" speaks to the younger generation in a way that few films of its ilk will ever manage to do so.

42. TRIANGLE OF SADNESS; Ruben Östlund.

A biting eat the rich satire that put privilege through the wire and forced the elite out of their comfort zone; "Triangle of Sadness" reaches its crescendo in the middle act, a sinking cruise ship of the elite upper class is put through the wire in the best way possible. Cold, raw and brutal with one of the very best scenes of the year featuring a heated confrontation between a drunk Russian Capitalist and an equally drunk American Marxist on a boat quoting Ford and Marx at each other after looking up the quotes on the internet – "Triangle of Sadness" is rich with raw, unfiltered rage. Harris Dickinson knows how good he looks, and the tragic loss of Charlbi Dean earlier this year is deeply felt – a star-making performance if there ever was one.

41. ATHENA; Romain Gavras.

Romain Gavras’ angry-young-men drama tackles social injustice in modern day Paris; looking at the tragic death of a young sibling and how his three brothers are affected and their lives are thrown into chaos as a result. The ensuing madness is suitably chaotic from the opening set-piece that plunges you straight in with little time to explain – a lengthy one shot that just keeps going and going; showing the full chaos of a city in open revolt before your eyes. "Athena" is a wonder in technical wizardry but also a fascinating exploration of the human heart and consequence in a poignant, ferocious rebellion that has enough of a power to start a revolt.

40. PREY; Dan Trachtenberg.

Dan Trachtenberg should be given carte-blanche to do any horror franchise that he wants as on the back of this and "10 Cloverfield Lane", he’s very good at them. Reinventing the Predator franchise and turning it into the best action-horror movie of the year was a surprise that I didn’t see coming, and the decision to move the film to the Great Plains of 1719, make it more of an excellent backdrop for the terrain – Comache Warriors vs. Predators is such a thrilling concept it’s hard not to like. Amber Midthunder’s performance gives the film a touch of class; she’s excellent – and it really deserved to be released wide rather than dumped on Disney+.

39. FUNNY PAGES; Owen Kline.

Rare has an indie director poured all of his efforts into one debut to the point where you wonder whether him making any more films would be a good thing rather than leave you excited for more and to that be a positive takeaway from the film, but such is the case with this darling of a film "Funny Pages", Coen-esque with the rare coming of age narrative that doesn’t focus on the coming of age of it all, having its protagonists refuse to learn any lessons and be just dicks in general to each other. Never meet your heroes, is the message here – and the grit and the grime has never been felt clearer.

38. RRR; S.S. Rajamouli.

Just major, major filmmaking – action packed taken to a whole new level; all singing, all dancing, a maximalist historical epic of profound proportions that flies by with the pace of a freight train at a hundred miles an hour. "RRR"’s grand scope redefined blockbusters and made the majority of action filmmaking that came out this year look weak in comparison.

37. THE BATMAN; Matt Reeves.

Robert Pattinson’s return to the blockbuster is as much a triumph as you’d expect from those who have been keeping up with his films like "High Life", "The Lighthouse" and more. This feels distinctively new for a reboot, rare territory indeed: a complete ground-up take on The Batman establishing him of something of an urban legend operating in a world in which he’s still trying to figure out what it means to be the Caped Crusader. Paul Dano’s performance as The Riddler is appropriately chilling as Gotham’s Rogue’s Gallery raises the stakes to match him - the best understanding of The Dark Knight on screen maybe so far. Zoe Kravitz and Robert Pattinson are sensational; and the return to form of a grounded narrative voice for a comic book movie that doesn’t stop to bother setting up a universe feels like a rare miracle.

36. BRIAN AND CHARLES; Jim Archer.

An outsider in a small rural Welsh village Brian builds a robot mannequin – and what follows is a series of inventions that lead to Charles; a cheeky A.I. – who learns English from a dictionary; but before long – he quickly dreams of escaping the small confines of Wales and seeing the world – in a delightfully quirky oddity that finds a way to lure you in and keep you under its spell. The comedy lands, the humour is excellent and the exploration of loneliness and friendship is quickly subverted in favour of a parental-child relationship that becomes its own thing.

35. KIMI; Steven Soderberg.

Trust Steven Soderbergh to make one of the best action thrillers of the year in a scaled-down, COVID-19 filmed setting. It’s the most fun "Rear Window" homage since well, "Rear Window" itself – a tech worker discovers evidence of a violent crime and is tasked to investigate on her own. Zoe Kravitz is excellent as the sense of paranoia and dread builds and builds; and The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage has an unnerving habit of only showing up in good movies and this is no exception.

34. JACKASS FOREVER; Jeff Tremaine.

Some people never learn; and all the better for it. One of the most heart-warming, touching films of the year about the shared connectivity of male friendship and bonding came from, who’d have thought it, a "Jackass" movie? Never has the line “We have 15 gallons of pig semen!” been screamed in the history of cinema with more excitement, passion and love for its craft – and as a result, that excitement, passion and love for its craft has never been more infectiously felt by everyone from its characters to its audience.

33. HAPPENING; Audrey Diwan.

If there was any justice in the world, "Happening" would be an Oscar front-runner. Anamaria Vartolomei’s Annie, a bright young student, is facing an unwanted pregnancy in 1960s France when abortion was still illegal – and is grappling with what comes next. Her performance is movie-star making, character-driven in a way that echoes Eliza Hittman’s "Never Rarely Sometimes Always", exploration of the judgements labelled her way is instantly felt on her face, the restraint that the subject matter is handled with allows a quiet burst of simmering rage to echo underneath. "Happening" is horror – real and misery-inducing in a way that gets under your skin.

32. LIVING; Oliver Hermanus.

An adaption of Akira Kurosawa’s "Ikiru" for the modern era had no right to be this good; but thanks to the magnetic performance of Bill Nighy as a veteran Civil Servant in the rebuilding of Britain post the second World War, and a smart adapted script from Kazuo Ishiguro of "Never Let Me Go" fame; this film becomes one of the best of the year – postwar Britain and its society is captured with accuracy – never has there been a more awkward dining scene, and the dynamic between Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood is marvellous. Just such a well-made film with excellent cinematography, craftmanship and care – one of the best scores from Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, it captures the feeling of being alive perfectly.

31. FLEE; Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

A brilliantly powerful and moving documentary that finds a way to be compelling in every sense of the word – "Flee" has lost no staying power since its extended performance at last year’s Oscars which it defied all expectations. Visually arresting and a powerful reminder as to how hard the struggle to even gain some form of basic human rights is for some people; and the way this film uses choppy animation to create a more abstract narrative worked like a charm.

30. EVERYTHING WENT FINE; François Ozon.

The first Ozon film to feature on this list is an adaption avoids the easy trap of becoming a remake of "Amour" and uses a father’s sickness to explore these characters and their relationship with him. Unbiased in its approach and quieter and more lowkey than the louder "Summer of 85", this makes for a heartfelt and raw package that is the more restrained Ozon of the year. The attention to detail is terrific, and the interior design really injects realism to this – and Ozon sits back and lets Sophie Marceau and André Dussollier do all the work for him – easy for him when they’re as good as they are – two of the best actors in the game.

29. WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY; Ryusuke Hamaguchi.

A collection of short stories from the director of "Drive My Car" is presented in Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, this ode to humanity and romance in an erotically charged anthology. Delicate and tender-hearted with emotional depth at is core Hamaguchi betrays his Eric Rohmer influence where the simplicity of human interaction makes for a compelling, vivid worldview – deepest desires are sacrificed, chaos is revealed – and life will never be the same, disrupted and imperfect maybe – but life as it was meant to be lived.

28. GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO; Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson.

A rich, wonderous stop-motion marvel – glorious in a way that few movies before it have been and few will be since. It’s an updated portrayal of a legend that many know – told with the passion and care of a director like del Toro who has poured his heart and soul into every project. Balancing the personal with the political this is a dark fantasy reimagining set against the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy, the inter-war years are used as a backdrop for Pinocchio’s journey in a world full of dangers. The opening ten minutes are among del Toro’s most finely crafted work – and lead to instant comparisons with the likes of "Porco Rosso", taking a well-known storyline and giving it a completely different but no less important setting.

27. LICORICE PIZZA; Paul Thomas Anderson.

A fun hangout movie recreated in a time and place that Anderson grew up in with sinister edges beneath its surface; who wouldn’t want to spend as much time in 1970s San Fernando as possible? The shared performance between Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman makes for a fantastic duo as you just want to spend more and more time with them; the music is excellent ("Life on Mars"!) and Anderson’s flashbacks to a younger, self-aware storyline without the rose-tinted glasses captures the awkwardness of a wildly inappropriate first crush and a coming of age story that stands up there with the best of them.


One of the great ‘actors’ movies’ of 2022, "The Banshees of Inisherin" sees the end of a friendship with a sudden urgency that kickstarts the plot in the small town of Inisherin, and a rivalry form that is dictated by death and the need to be remembered in the future vs. the need to be liked in the present. Colin Farrell puts in an Oscar-worthy performance opposite the commendable Brendan Gleeson in a gorgeous, lonely meditation on death – one of the best interactions and line deliveries of the year comes when Gleeson’s character tells Farrell’s that everyone knows Mozart, yet Farrell responds with “well, I don’t,” and the dialogue really makes this work as a play trapped within a film setting – the loneliness of the landscape really enhancing the setting.

25. LINGUI: THE SACRED BONDS; Mahamet-Saleh Haroun.

A testament to the bond of unbreakable mother-daughterhood. Slender and scaled-back but no less compelling the film is more concerned with the everyday interactions and struggles of a woman trying to secure abortion for her 15 year old daughter where it is illegal than Chad’s big-picture politics and the film is all the better for that; the film feels deeply moving and is just a fascinating exploration of loyalty between its core cast of women, no matter how bleak things get.

24. PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN; Tatiana Huezo.

Simply stunning, breath-taking, and heart-pounding filmmaking, a work of art - devastatingly beautiful all at once and completely magnetic from start to finish – so, so important, "Prayers for the Stolen" is one of those rare coming of age films that completely broke me. Mexican cinema is great right now; going from Limite to this and Monos it's a real shame no Latin American films made it onto that sight and sound list that was published earlier in the year. Tatiana Huezo captures hopes and dreams, realises them on film, and then spends the 110 minutes tearing them away from the characters in a provocative and deeply moving way.

23. WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY?; Alexandre Koberidze.

Such a nuanced drama about love at first sight in a Georgian city during the 2018 World Cup - you can tell I loved this one as it combines my two absolute favourite things: magical realism and football, if there was ever a film more made for me. Subtle, quietly moving and profoundly impactful - a simple approach of a case study of real people doing real things, and it’s all the better for it.

22. CRIMES OF THE FUTURE; David Cronenberg.

Not just a would-be-swansong but a major piece of filmmaking, "Crimes of the Future" is a stellar work for David Cronenberg, a modern marvel of body horror presented in a science fiction future where the flesh is the new sex. A late period career marvel that rivals films like "The Image Book", "Faces Places" and "The Irishman"; you’re witnessing the next stage in human evolution presented in one of the most creative ways possible – an experiment in provocation and unflinching chaos has never been more delightfully twisted and unique.

21. TOP GUN: MAVERICK; Joseph Kosinski.

Sometimes, you just want to have a fun time at the movies. Nobody understands the power of cinema better than Tom Cruise; who makes no secret in being fully aware of his reputation of the last movie star – like Maverick, Cruise is a man out of time, headed for extinction, but, “not today”, he tells his superior, Ed Harris’ general – in a chilling sequence that sets the tone for an amazing feat of technical practical effects wizardry and entertainment that add up to Cruise’s most human, most mortal character – acknowledging his age he delivers a movie that’s fully aware of that, whilst not sacrificing the action-packed spectacle that puts even the greatest Star Wars to shame.

20. PARALLEL MOTHERS; Pedro Almodóvar.

A film that digs deep into Spanish history in true Pedro Almodóvar fashion, it’s no surprise that "Parallel Mothers" was not the film that Spain selected to compete at the Oscars yet it’s thanks to the testament as to how good Penélope Cruz is she was nominated anyway. Two unmarried women who have become pregnant by accident end up taking the wrong babies home and history changes – what could have been a plot too unbelievable for a soap is presented with the skilful accuracy and vibrant colours that only a genius like Almodóvar could give you – multiple questionable decisions here presented in a way that feels wholly believable.

19. BERGMAN ISLAND; Mia Hansen-Løve.

A film in two halves. An English-German filmmaking duo, Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps – move to an Island that inspired Ingmar Bergman for the summer to write their screenplays for their upcoming films. As the screenplays evolve; fiction becomes reality and the lines begin to blare – less of a tribute to Bergman and more of a teardown of the concept of the auteur – it’s accessible even for non fans. Quite possibly the best usage of ABBA in a film of the year, too – this film is such a love letter yet its own identity in the process it’s hard not to champion it; passion laid bear on the screen. Look out for "One Fine Morning" too, out next year in the UK – and sure to feature just as high on 2023’s list unless there’s a record-shattering year.

18. HIT THE ROAD; Panah Panahi.

One of the most charming indie films of the year comes from Panah Panahi’s "Hit the Road", a chaotic family on a road trip across Iran – only the older brother is quiet in a dysfunctional family that balances a Dad with a broken leg; and a mother who’s trying to laugh when holding back tears – we never know quite in what direction this film is headed – using its location and the current state of Iran to tell the story for us. A messy and tender bond of family is captured perfectly here – an offbeat road trip that gradually reveals itself as it develops with a breakout performance for Rayan Sarlak as it places such a key emphasis on the resilience of family.

17. AFTER YANG; Kogonada.

As anyone who’s seen Pachinko will know, Kogonada is *very* good with opening sequences; and the dance sequence that brings After Yang into action is filled with hopes, dreams, family and vision of a future that never happens: not long after, a daughter’s beloved companion android named Yang malfunctions, prompting a desperate search for a replacement from a distant father Jake who is able to use Yang’s death to reconnect with his wife and daughter in a tale of family bonding. What a year it’s been for Colin Farrell – "After Yang", "Banshees of Inisherin", "The Batman"… but it’s worth signal boosting the tender, subtle and nuanced performances that come from Jodie Turner-Smith, Malee Emma Tjandrawidjaja and Justin H. Min, in this low-fi study of memory, and what it means to be alive.

16. MEMORIA; Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Nobody makes movies as interesting as Apichatpong Weerasethakul and "Memoria"; the director’s first Western film, is testament to that. Tilda Swinton’s Scottish orchid farmer visiting her ill sister befriends a young musician and archaeologist but is increasingly bothered by loud bangs that prevent her from sleeping – and the sound becomes instantly haunting and will stay with you long after it’s gone. It asks yourself to get on its wavelength and connect the vibrations of the Earth and the person, with a beautifully illustrated assault on all manner of senses. "Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall his Past Lives" may be Weerasethakul’s best work, but this is his most assured.

15. FLUX GOURMET; Peter Strickland.

Such a Peter Strickland film that its non-fans will almost be weirded out by it, Peter Strickland expands on the world of food and culinary items with an inherit weirdness that made the likes of "In Fabric" and "The Duke of Burgundy" so special. Nobody makes movies quite like Strickland does and I’m happy to see Asa Butterfield continuing to make zany, weird, outside the box creative choices that he excelled at in "Sex Education" – revelling in the role of Billy Rubin, part of a collective caught in power struggles, artistic vendettas and gastrointestinal disorders. There’s certain films where you can be evidently clear from the start aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea and Strickland doesn’t hide away from laying his influences bear on the screen, but all the better for it. Such a good companion piece to "Crimes of the Future"; with Strickland wearing his kinks on his sleeve.

14. DECISION TO LEAVE; Park Chan-Wook.

The most romantic police procedural and the best one since David Fincher's "Zodiac" is "Decision to Leave", Park Chan-Wook’s masterclass of a cops-and-robbers toxic relationship between Park Hae-ill’s seasoned insomniac detective Hae-Joon and Tang Wei’s Seo-rae, who’s suspected of murder. Caught in a web of lies, deception and attraction the two play games with each other – Wei’s performance makes Seo-rae as natural and believable as they come, and Park Chan-Wook gets the best out of their magnetic chemistry to weave a storyline that has five different endings and makes every single one of them stick. Starting at the highest point and ending at the lowest, "Decision to Leave" is expertly choreographed with a more mature, yet no less stylistic approach. "Decision to Leave"? No; "Decision to Love" would’ve been a better title.

13. BOILING POINT; Philip Barantini.

The best of the kitchen dramas that we’ve had this year – and there have been many good ones ("The Bear" and "The Menu", the latter perhaps less so), Boiling Point is a one-take film set inside a busy restaurant that undergoes crisis after crisis with head chef Andy Jones, played by Stephen Graham, trying to hold the whole thing together. Every actor looks like they believably have worked in the service industry before and the whole thing feels natural – the chaos of working in a kitchen will bring up vivid memories from anyone who’s worked one, like myself, before – and this film takes every chef’s worse nightmare and has them all happen on the same night. Seamless editing and stellar performances – "Boiling Point" is superb, a master-class of tension and humanity in the face of all odds.

12. NIGHTMARE ALLEY; Guillermo Del Toro.

Del Toro’s love letter to the noir genre comes with "Nightmare Alley" which asks the question: man or beast? And delves into the nature of humanity when faced with the opportunity to get-rich-quick. Bradley Cooper’s smooth-talking ambitious carnival man with a talent for manipulation winds up with a theatre troupe that he quickly moves beyond, but soon meets his match in Cate Blanchett’s psychiatrist who may be even more dangerous than him. Such a fascinating, gorgeous game of cat and mouse between two actors at the top of their game – a love letter to practical effects with stunning cinematography by Dan Laustsen. I've seen this twice now and am eagerly looking forward to my next viewing.

11. AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER; James Cameron.

13 years later and James Cameron finds a way to double down on everything that was great about "Avatar", rather than refuse to listen to the many (often repetitive and often unfair) criticisms levied against it in the past decade or so. A technical accomplishment that left me asking just “how did they make that?” multiple times even in an age of CGI; "Avatar: The Way of Water" manages to be a surprisingly anti-Imperialist piece of work as much as something made under the Disney umbrella can be, as it finds a way to be earnest and hopeful with enough care to make you strongly moved by what happens – embracing the humanity and stakes of it all in a way that few major blockbusters before and since have been able to match. Sincere is the watchword, and you buy every minute of it.

10. PETER VON KANT; François Ozon.

There have been a lot of “eat the rich” movies that seem to be getting plenty of attention this year but the best of all of them may be François Ozon’s "Peter von Kant", a delightfully and shamelessly gay second film by the ever-prolific director to feature here – exploring the life of successful director Peter von Kant, and his relationships with those around him – chiefly his assistant Karl, who he frequently likes to humiliate and tear down every second he gets, claiming they have a unique relationship. The film is a nearly all-male adaption of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant", given an updated but no less melodramatic edge that calls to mind the likes of the great Douglas Sirk, paying a resounding tribute to the Karls of this world, who deserve so much better than their lot. Ozon’s best work in years.


If you’re going to cast family members in your movie you might as well cast movie stars to play them and James Gray does that with Anne Hathaway playing his mother, Jeremy Strong his dad, and Anthony Hopkins his grandfather in a biopic about his childhood in the 80s that is stripped of any and all traditional 80s nostalgia; if there is any nostalgia present here it is for family and remembering relatives – this is deeply personal and humane for Gray. It avoids the white saviour narrative with care and precision; drawing influences from The 400 Blows to act instead as a warning to the future from the past, a takedown of capitalist and elite ideas presented through a time and place of ‘80s Queens. Using very real characters to create a jump scare moment more horrifying than any horror movie this year – "Armageddon Time" may be the best exploration of the consequences of class privilege which few directors understand this better than Gray does.

8. GREAT FREEDOM; Sebastian Meise.

The greatest actor working in movies right now is Franz Rogowski and few capture the human emotion and subtle touches as well as he does in this film, "Great Freedom", a movie that ironically uses the title to look at life liberated, post-war Germany for this who are homosexual and must live under Paragraph 175 which criminalizes it. We get a multiple-decade quest for love and freedom here that Rogowski’s Hans Hoffman undertakes in a personal, tender and heart-breaking odyssey – playing its cards close to its chest with its emotional moments yet letting Rogowski act his heart out. The film explores a dark period of Germany history that is rarely told – and its sad, emotional highs are rarely bettered this year.


Joanna Hogg’s conclusion to "The Souvenir" duology explores the fallout of Julie’s relationship with a manipulative older man and her continuing career as a film student that reaches its apex. It’s a marvellous triumph of the mother-daughter duo of Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, who play mother-daughter in this role expertly – with more scenes shared between them than the first. Separating fact from fiction with a comic relief performance by Richard Ayoade as a maverick, power-hungry director that anchors the whole thing together – "The Souvenir Part II" may be one of the best films “about films” of its generation – enough to win over doubters of the first and stay true to its message consistently and throughout. Sometimes the most moving piece of art comes from you at your worst. Look out next year for "The Eternal Daughter" - a loose "Part III" in all but name, and a ghost story for the ages.

6. AFTERSUN; Charlotte Wells.

My favourite thing to come out of this year’s London Film Festival is a heartbreaking look at memory and reflectiveness through the eyes of an adult Sophie, looking back at one “perfect” holiday with her father, Calum, when she was much younger – trying to work out if there were any signs of the man she didn’t know working beneath the one that she did, using real and imagined memories. It’s a clash that shares childhood recollection and that nostalgia for that perfect holiday with the gritty reality of what it was like for your parents; and explores the close gap that both Sophie and Calum had, mistaken for brother and sister, in a way that is portrayed with the natural chemistry from both Frankie Corlo and Paul Mescal, stars of their own – directed by Charlotte Wells with a profoundly personal passion that makes this the best debut film since Lynne Ramsay’s "Ratcatcher". Not just the best usage of a David Bowie needle drop but also technically a Queen one too.


There have been so many “war is hell” movies over the last few years that have been aggressively focused on style over substance that you sometimes forget what substance actually is, and then along comes a movie like "All Quiet on the Western Front" to remind you that you can have both – this film looks phenomenal, it’s a near three hour long adaption of Erich Maria Remarque’s World War One novel; focusing on German soldiers and the extreme physical and mental torture that they were subjected to right up until the very end of the war. It’s an eat the rich film – the generals are portrayed as greedy, lavish, and arrogant whilst the men on the front line suffer, but it succeeds at giving these boys hopes and dreams that are cut short before your very eyes.

4. THE QUIET GIRL; Colm Bairéad.

As introspected and as quietly moving as its protagonist, a neglected girl who is sent away from her dysfunctional family to live with relatives who care about her for the first time, this Irish-language film is a 94 minute, tightly paced drama that moves with the touch and skill of a master. Heart-breaking, heart-aching – the emotion in its final few moments is laid bare on its sleeve for all to see. Such a tremendous work from director Colm Bairéad I’m glad Ireland are putting this in as a foreign language submission at the Oscars this year – "The Quiet Girl" deserves major accolades – Catherine Clinch’s performance is quietly moving against an empathetically delicate backdrop.

3. AMBULANCE; Michael Bay.

The best video game adaption that we ever got wasn’t a video game adaption at all; but instead Michael Bay’s "Ambulance" is a return to the "Bad Boys", pre-"Transformers", pre-franchise Bay – a stripped down film that still manages to feel like a Grand Theft Auto 5 star wanted chase for the entirety of its runtime; as two thieves hijack an ambulance to escape from a heist that has gone badly wrong. Chaotic, explosive, with two of the best needle drops of the year – god bless the man who told Michael Bay about drones as the camerawork here puts experienced craftsman to shame – Anthony Hopkins; who worked with him in the "Transformers" films, compared Bay to Spielberg and Scorsese and on the basis of "Ambulance", he may very well be right.

2. BENEDICTION; Terence Davies.

Terence Davies has been my favourite new-to-me director discovery this year and this was where I started with him, fresh out of Glasgow Film Festival with a resoundingly deep and moving biopic centred around the anti-war poet Siegfried Sassoon, played by Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi at different ages in his life. Lacking the sentimentality of many of his co-writers, "Benediction" gives voice to the man who wrote angry and compassionate poems about the first world war, calling out generals, politicians and churchmen for their incompetence. The fusion of poetry and cinema is combined as one for the ex-Catholic Davies; one of cinema’s finest auteurs, with wartime archival footage blending perfectly with the wit and humour of the high class circles that Sassoon operated in. It’s handled with tenderness and care that a subject with the weight of this storytelling needs – and is a near-perfect character study, second to none.

1. NOPE; Jordan Peele.

Hollywood has been trying to imitate Jordan Peele’s "Get Out" ever since 2016 but rather than look back, Peele has only moved forward with radical reinvention after radical reinvention. This time up it’s "Nope", a masterclass of a horror with touches of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", a work that puts Peele up there as the Spielberg of his era – Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer (the passion that she brings to the role is infectious!) – play brother and sister who find themselves faces to face with a terrifying new threat. A true blockbuster that acts as an instant crowd-pleaser, unable to escape its ever present sense of dread and despair, running with the concept of never-ending everyday horror being broadcast into our living rooms daily. “What’s a bad miracle?” Kaluuya asks – however "Nope" is anything but.

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