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2022 in cinema: The best movies of the year

What were the best movies our film critics caught this year? Where do they disagree? Take a look at our 2022 film round up.

Jack Anderson: EXB Film Editor

Aftersun: film of the year? Photo: Mubi

Aftersun – Charlotte Wells

Out of the blue and into our hearts, this meditation about the unspooling of the remembering mind is one of the best British debuts in recent memory. A tactical and tender father-daughter film which captures the incidental beauty of life’s casual moments.

A Chiara – Jonas Carpignano

In this traumatic spectacle of dislocation, 15-year-old Chiara grapples with the sins of her father. Threadbare and depopulated, the film is a tactile worldwithin- a-world, dimly lit with the glow of phone-screens. An empathetic modernisation of the mob film post 9/11.

Rimini – Ulrich Seidl

This haunting character study of 1980s lounge singer Richie Bravo revels in the vulgarity of its bloated protagonist. Bravo plays empty function rooms and clubs for his small but dedicated female fanbase. Beneath this baroque tragedy is an atmosphere of postdecadence and desperation.

The Worst Person in the World – Joachim Trier

Completely heartbreaking, disarmingly self-aware and utterly original. Renate Reinsve is outstanding as a restless millennial on the precipice of 30. Ending the director’s ‘Oslo Trilogy’, this film reminds us of what it means to live, love and lose.

Pilgrims – Laurynas Bareiša

A story of return, redemption and the brutal repetition of history. In trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, Bareiša stares the abyss of evil in the face and terrifies us with a work on the eeriness of empty space and the absence of remorse.

… and the flop?

Men – Alex Garland

Author of The Beach, screenwriter of 28 Days Later and Sunshine and director of cult classics such as Ex Machina and Annihilation, Alex Garland’s Men is an undeniable fixture of Gen X and a huge deception: the film lurches between religious clichés and comments on toxic masculinity with overconfidence and schematic predictability.

Florence Scott-Anderton: EXB Film Editor

Souvenir Part Two – Joanna Hogg

Part two of this coming-of-age saga is a triumph. A new chapter of protagonist Julie’s life, this film is as much about the process of filmmaking and creativity as it is an allegory for the realities of love, addiction, family and self-belief.

Memoria – Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Jessica (Tilda Swinton) embarks on a journey into the depths of the Colombian landscape. The voyage explores both the history of memory and the memory of history. This melancholy tapestry is an otherworldly experience for the senses.

Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson

Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman play an oddball unlikely on/off couple with an age gap (he’s in high school, she’s in her mid-twenties) and a goofy, mesmerising charm. Licorice Pizza is a sweet embrace of growing pains, punctured with golden humour.

Aftersun – Charlotte Wells

The heartbreaking chemistry of Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio as father and daughter is amplified by haunting fragments of memory. Backed by Oliver Coates’s stunning score, Wells announces herself as the most exciting new talent in Scottish cinema.

The Card Counter – Paul Schrader

The master of modern alienation pursues his trademark thesis of voyages for redemption and broken faith against a backdrop of casinos and motels. Oscar Isaac plays an ex-military gambler escaping the shadows of his past in a wonderfully tense and enthralling ride.

…and the flop?

Everything Everywhere All At Once – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

I left the cinema wondering if I’d been watching an extended trailer of A24-esque atmospheres. I’d have rather watched the reels from the world’s best ad agencies. Nothing is more boresome in 2022 than an overuse of identity politics to mask the lack of real substance within a script.

Tamara Khodova: Author and film critic

Pleasure – one of the movies of the year? Photo: Weltkino

Fresh – Mimi Cave

This uncompromising and ingenious debut is a body horror showing how the modern world can turn social media into a slaughterhouse and women into meat. Never shying away from the unpleasant and grotesque, the film delivers repellent details with deadpan humour.

The Worst Person in the World – Joachim Trier

A troubling yet compassionate drama about thirtysomethings who can’t figure out what to do with themselves. With a mellow summer glow and a cute romance, the film resembles a never-ending chill session in a coffee shop until everyone is swept away by the giant tidal wave of life.

Fire of Love – Sara Dosa

This inventive documentary follows French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who spent their lives filming eruptions around the world and were eventually buried by a flow of gas, pebbles and dust. This is the story of two flaming hearts, beating as one till the very end.

Pleasure – Ninja Thyberg

Linnéa, 19, moves from Sweden to LA to become a porn star. Despite the abundance of nudity and sex, the film aims to be as artificial and plastic as the industry it depicts. It’s an unusual take on modern feminism, whose ideas become distorted by the clash with reality.

Moonage Daydream – Brett Morgen

An immersive cinematic experience which takes you to the heart and mind of David Bowie through concerts, memories, archival footage and interviews. The director plunges viewers into a state of trance, giving audiences an opportunity to touch Bowie’s greatness.

…and the flop?

The Northman -Robert Eggers

This mediaeval Viking drama with a hint of Hamlet is an unfortunate showcase of one of the most promising filmmakers of his generation going rogue. The director betrays creativity for the sake of cheap tricks, heavy CGI and unreasonable brutality.

Elisa Rosi: Programmer, Lichtblick Kino

Petite Maman, an intimate fairytale. Photo: Berlinale

The Other Side of the River – Antonia Kilian

This feature started off as a secret tip from the festival circuit and ended up winning the Golden Lola as Best German Documentary in 2022. Kilian’s camera follows Hala as she joins the Kurdish female police force and her story of true and deep liberation.

Hive – Blerta Basholli

A Sundancewinning, female-driven film telling a story of resilience and empowerment. Not only did I love the film, but I loved having the communities from Kosovo and Albania gathering around it, making it a success at Lichtblick’s box office!

Petite Maman – Céline Sciamma

Discovered during the pandemic at the online Berlinale in 2021, it only came to German screens a year later. Sciamma’s intimate fairytale about a little girl meeting her mother’s younger self made a lasting impression on me personally.

Parallel Mothers – Pedro Almodóvar

Full disclosure: I love Almodóvar no matter what. I would put any of his films in my top 5 list (with very few exceptions). I love how much care and passion he puts into forming his characters and their stories, which were brought to life in this film by the striking performances of Milena Smit and Penélope Cruz.

Triangle of Sadness – Ruben Östlund

It’s almost too obvious to put the Cannes winner on this list – but Östlund brought much needed social criticism to the silver screen in this post-pandemic cinema year – in a funny, non-intellectual way that actually gives a lot of food for thought and conversation!

… and the flop?

The Worst Person in The World – Joachim Trier

I was supposed to love this film, but it didn’t really convince me. Even Renate Reinsve’s amazing performance couldn’t save the bad writing.