From The Batman to Everything Everywhere All At Once, here are the best movies 2022 has offered so far.
Two years in, the pandemic’s effect still lingers but moviegoers are now returning to theatres en masse bringing back with them blockbuster releases. Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022) and Tom Cruise’s throwback sequel to Top Gun are already global blockbusters, reviving craving for the theatre experience. The hugely entertaining multiverse madness concocted by directing duo Kwan and Scheinert in Everything Everywhere All At Once led to an unexpected smash hit. And in this era of OTT, even the non-conformist viewers are sated with easy access to profound arthouse dramas and original indie outings.
Beloved movie artists like David Cronenberg, Hirokazu Koreeda, Martin Scorsese, and James Cameron are working to bring us their much-anticipated films this year. And while we await all the surprises the rest of 2022 has in store for us, here’s an attempt to bring you the best of what it has offered thus far. Here’s our pick of the best films of 2022. Some of the films mentioned here might have had festival release last year, but released widely on streaming platforms only this year. We’ll update the list quarterly. Make sure to bookmark it!
1. Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood
Richard Linklater is often known for his delightful and touching exercises in nostalgia. Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood is one such distinctive Linklater movie which warmly recalls NASA’s historic launch of Apollo 11. Linklater uses rotoscope animation to craft an intriguing ‘what if’ scenario, surrounding the memorable summer of 1969 in Texas. Schoolboy Stan is recruited by NASA officials to test out a lunar module that’s feared to be too small for adults to use. Stan clearly seems to be a stand-in for Linklater, and the filmmaker showcases what it meant to have grown up during the space age in American suburbia. Overall, it’s an exhilarating walk down the memory lane.
2. Everything Everywhere All At Once
The directing team of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert takes the multiverse craze to new, insane levels in this poignant story of a middle-aged Chinese immigrant. Michelle Yeoh brilliantly plays Evelyn, a Chinese-American woman who runs a Laundromat with her estranged husband, Waymond. Evelyn finds it hard to connect with her melancholic daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). All hell breaks loose when Evelyn is forced to confront a sinister villain travelling across different universes. Kwan and Scheinert take the concept of multiverse to earnestly explore themes of family, intergenerational trauma, and disillusionment. Interestingly, the outlandish narrative trajectory also touches upon the philosophies of Nietzsche and Albert Camus.
3. Great Freedom
Austrian filmmaker Sebastian Miese’s Great Freedom opens in 1968 West Germany, and largely revolves around the lean and scruffy Hans Hoffmann (a brilliant Franz Rogowski). Hans is incarcerated for homosexual acts under the infamous Paragraph 175 of the German law. Hans has been jailed various times because of the law starting from 1945, right after spending years in the Nazi concentration camp. The law was reformed in 1969, but it wasn’t abolished until 1994. Sebastian’s transfixing character study deeply examines Germany’s post-war history and the queer life long before decriminalisation. The non-linear narrative allows for gradual yet meticulous development of the character and organically packs in the relevant themes.
French filmmaker Audrey Diwan’s Happening is an adaptation of 2001 autobiographical book by Annie Erwaux. The book chronicles the author’s experience of trying to have an abortion in the early 1960s when abortion was illegal. Anamaria Vortolomei plays Anne, a literature student with the usual desires and curiosities of a youngster. But Anne is soon thrown into a desperate situation, where a woman’s bodily autonomy is denied by draconian laws. Audrey Diwan crafts Anne’s excruciating experiences through unforgettably intense imagery. The intimacy and care with which Anne is framed reminds us of Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Without any doubt, Anamaria delivers one of the boldest and most ingenious performances in the central role.
Finnish filmmaker Hanna Bergholm’s clever coming-of-age tale under the guise of a body horror is riddled with rich themes and unsettling imagery. The narrative revolves around a lonely 12-year old gymnast, Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) who lives with her overbearing mother in the suburbs of Helsinki. Tinja finds a wounded bird’s egg in the woods and takes it home. She nurtures the strange giant egg, and it hatches to reveal a deadly and destructive creature. Though the dark satirical tone of Hatching isn’t much nuanced, Hanna beautifully executes the complex emotional drama between Tinja and her mother. The film’s ambitious premise culminates with a tense and wickedly entertaining finale.
The most mundane, ordinary details, that a lesser, incurious filmmaker would forgo, are a thing of wonder in director Nagraj Manjule’s films. In fact, therein lies his uniqueness and singularity as a filmmaker. His intuitive storytelling in Jhund powered largely by a non-professional cast of actors breaks barriers, takes risks and in the process subverts how we’ve come to define cinema over the years. The film gives us countless moments to celebrate and savor the influence that the medium holds over us. Manjule wrings performances from both actors and non-actors with an enviable savvy. Read Jhund review here. (Mansi Dutta)
7. Paris, 13th District
Stories of young love are predominant in French cinema. Jacques Audiard languorous yet multi-layered Paris, 13th District revolves around four young Parisians navigating their way through love, relationship, and sex. The narrative was adapted from the short stories of US graphic novelist Adrian Tomine, and the script was a collaborative effort between Audiard, Celine Sciamma, and Lea Mysius. Audiard has previously made strong character studies of women in films like Read My Lips and Rust and Bone. Here his collaboration with Sciamma and Mysius leads to deeper exploration of women’s modern sexual identity. The film also deals with the themes of alienation and dissatisfaction in the digital age.
Schools can be a frightening microcosm of social injustice and exploitation that’s rampant in the society at large. Laura Wandel’s powerful directorial debut Playground looks at the brutality of bullying and how it haunts one’s childhood experiences. Seven year-old Nora witnesses the bullying of her older brother, Abel. Nora tries to help him, though Abel asks her to remain silent. He feels that Nora’s meddling would only increase his chances of becoming a target for persecution. The playground becomes a jungle and the siblings’ day-to-day survival amidst the uncaring school system really cuts us deep. Laura vividly captures the dread and anxiety of school experience. Eventually, Playground is very relatable because sadly, bullying is a universal theme.
9. The Batman
Matt Reeves’ ominous and deeply satisfying interpretation of Batman is perfectly in sync with the original comic book vision. Batman is never a conventional family-friendly super-hero. And Matt Reeves only adds more complex layers to the super-rich masked vigilante. Nolan’s magnificent realist style is taken further and it’s evident in the labyrinthine and gloomy imagery of Gotham City. Reeves turns Batman into a flawed sleuth here, as the comic-book hero attempts to uncover a criminal conspiracy. The dark and twisted nature of the story reminds us of David Fincher’s films. Robert Pattinson is absolutely electrifying and intense in the eponymous character. Batman/Wayne’s vengeance fantasies and emotional needs are deeply explored by Reeves and his co-writer Peter Craig.
10. The Northman
Robert Eggers is known for his immersive arthouse movies, set in a unique place and time. The puritanical New England was the setting for his debut feature, The Witch. A mysterious and vicious lighthouse sets the stage for a tense character conflict in The Lighthouse (2019). With Northman, Eggers moves to the Viking-era and crafts a bloody tale of revenge that feels Shakespearean. The narrative is based on the legend of Amleth. It tells the story of a prince embarking on a two-decade journey to seek vengeance for the murder of his father. Eggers’ glorious staging and eerie visuals combined with Skarsgard’s powerful performance turns Northman into a spectacular experience.
11. Top Gun: Maverick
Joseph’s Kosinski’s highly entertaining Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel and spiritual successor to the 1986 Tony Scott movie. Tom Cruise reprises the role of Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, a naval aviator who is relatively wiser and mature compared to his younger version. Pete is tasked with leading a new team of Top Guns into a death defying mission in order to take down an unknown powerful adversary. Kosinski and Cruise offer an old-school action movie, full of outstandingly executed set-pieces. Tom Cruise does all his stunts and his stellar charisma is the driving force of the narrative. There are few missteps in terms of writing. But it perfectly works due to the magnificently crafted adrenaline rush and as an exercise in nostalgia.
12. You Won’t Be Alone
Australian-Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolveski’s feature-film debut is a folk horror that also works as a profound humanistic fable. The film is set in an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia. A shape-shifting witch known as Old Maria commands a mother to give her little daughter as a blood offering. The mother begs the witch to allow her daughter to grow into a young woman. What follows is unpredictable and distinctly original. The segment involving Noomi Rapace is the most memorable and poignant. The meditative narration, glacial pace, and lush landscapes inevitably remind us of the filmmaking style of Terrence Malick. Besides, Stolevski’s vision is equal parts philosophical, horrifying, and beautiful.