The 10 Best Movies of 2022 So Far

The 10 Best Movies of 2022 So Far

As we reach the halfway point of 2022, cinemas are back in full action as if the pandemic were but a distant memory.

Likewise, studios are now clearing through their backlog of releases - such as the long-delayed 'Top Gun: Maverick'. As ever, we reach the halfway point and look back before we look forward.

Here now, our 10 best movies of 2022 so far.

10 'Elvis'

In retrospect, it seems completely logical for Baz Luhrmann to direct 'Elvis'. His sensibilities completely match everything about the Elvis story, from the gaudiness of it, the faded glamour, the tragedy, and the sharp casting choices. Austin Butler will go on to have an impressive career and 'Elvis' will be the start point of it. The only thing keeping 'Elvis' out of the lower parts of this list, however, is Tom Hanks. Yes, Colonel Tom Parker was a wild and unpredictable character who was as slippery as an eel, but did Hanks need to play him like a cartoon character? Was it really necessary? Sure, subtlety isn't the order of the day in this thing, but come on.

9 'Top Gun: Maverick'

Speaking of star-making roles, Tom Cruise returning to the role of Pete Mitchell after almost four decades shouldn't have worked as well as it did. What 'Top Gun: Maverick' displays is when almost every correct choice is made in a movie. It played the cheese right up to the last second before it got tiresome. The action was led by the spartan story, not the other way around. It acknowledged its legacy without being burdened by it. Yes, some of the moments outside of the cockpit were a little flat, but beyond that, 'Top Gun: Maverick' soared through the skies and the box office.

8 'Jackass Forever'

Some of the best arts journalism produced this year was about 'Jackass Forever'. Great pieces by vaunted outlets like the New Yorker, Vulture, the Washington Post, and beyond lauded the movie for its embrace of physical, elegantly simple comedy matched with the aged-but-forever youthful crew of misfits. When you watch 'Jackass Forever', you can see there's a kind of tenderness about it, even when they're being gored by bulls and slapped by giant paper mache hands. The friendship and bond between the original crew still exist, they're all just so happy to be in each other's company, even if they're in extreme pain.

7 'Benedetta'

Yes, the 'Father Ted' jokes have been made. Down with this sort of thing. Is it a nudey type of thing, Father? And so on. 'Benedetta' has enjoyed the kind of controversy and religious condemnation not seen since Martin Scorsese's supposedly blasphemous efforts in the '80s with Willem Dafoe. Here in 'Benedetta', however, it's nowhere near as reverential. If anything, it is a searing indictment of hypocrisy and avarice in religious institutions, as well as a bold and singular examination of sexuality and obsession. Nobody but Paul Verhoeven could have made a movie like 'Benedetta', and nobody else would want to. We're lucky to have him.

6 'Everything Everywhere All At Once'

It's to the credit of the likes of JJ Abrams' reset of 'Star Trek' and the Marvel Cinematic Juggernaut that audiences are now versed in multiverses. Otherwise, a movie like 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' wouldn't have worked. It mainlines several genres into one two-hour hit. There's slapstick comedy, family drama, sci-fi silliness, kung fu action, heartrending romance, and just some completely out-there shit that you need to see for yourself. All of this, however, could not have been done without Michelle Yeoh. Her own versatility allowed the Daniels - the directors - to weave the kind of batshit story that, frankly, could only exist at this moment in time. Too early and it would have fried people's brains. Too late and people would have been nonplussed by it. All that said, 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' is not to everyone's taste, but those who can take it, will have enjoyed one of the most engaging and enthralling experiences at a cinema this year.

5 'The Batman'

The duty of each iteration of Batman is that it be distinct in some way. Matt Reeves' seventies cynicism-inflected take on the Caped Crusader played the idea of Batman out to its logical conclusion. Batman is not a choice, but a burden to carry. Moreover, anyone willing to go to these lengths is someone who desperately needs therapy. Enter Robert Pattinson, playing Batman like the pissed-off, wounded animal he truly is, in a city that is decaying from the inside out. Gotham is a shithole, nothing seems to be making any difference, and faith in institutions is at an all-time low. Much like our previous entry, 'The Batman' has shown up at just the right time.

Matt Reeves' approach took inspiration from everything from 'The Parallax View', 'Klute', David Fincher's 'Seven' and 'Zodiac', but also how we now view the world. Our anger towards those in positions of power is justified. Moreover, the cynicism it breeds means that no justice is perfect, and that plays into Batman's handling of the Riddler. It's heavy stuff, but it's never been done with this character before. On that basis, 'The Batman' asserts its right to exist.

4 'The Northman'

Most adaptations of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' either zero in on the court intrigue or they take an approach where Denmark is some kind of fascist, totalitarian state. Ethan Hawke's new millennium spin on the story, or closer to home, Yael Farber's interpretation with Ruth Negga as the spurned prince. Here in 'The Northman', director Robert Eggers and Alexander Skarsgard pull back the layers and return the story to its buried roots. The soliloquies are replaced by grunts and farts. Hamlet skulks through the night and stabs men to death, while his father is a conquering warlord.

In comparison with 'The Lighthouse' or 'The Witch', Robert Eggers has made his most easily accessible movie here. The story is sinewy with little left to interpret, and the performances by all are played at full volume. Seeing Shakespeare at its most raw and savage really is something, and compared to 'The Tragedy of Macbeth' with Denzel Washington, 'The Northman' has more heft to its blade.

3 'Belfast'

'Belfast' might have been iced out of the Oscars this year, only coming away with a Best Original Screenplay out of seven possible wins, but it's by far Kenneth Branagh's most celebrated work in years. It leaves behind all of the pomp and circumstance of his other work, there's more personality and vitality in it, and it just sings off the screen in a way that so few movies do. Sadly, Caitriona Balfe's powerhouse performance and Jamie Dornan's steely charisma was overlooked, but nevertheless, 'Belfast' is a highlight in both of their careers.

There's no denying that 'Belfast' is overtly sentimental about itself and yes, it isn't so much pulling as it is reefing at your heartstrings. But, what of it? It's a movie told exclusively through a child's eyes, and the innocence of these emotions is part of it. Moreover, the childhood that we experience in 'Belfast' is one made out of huge emotions, but also huge shifts and changes. The very city around them is changing, and while it only briefly touches on the chaos to come, 'Belfast' doesn't shy away from it. In the end, it is a moving tribute to a city forever on the edge of memory.

2 'The Duke'

Probably the least-seen movie on this list, 'The Duke' came and went from cinemas in the early months of reopening. It had a reasonably well-known cast - Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren in leading roles - and the posters seemed relatively inoffensive and welcoming. Underneath it, however, was an understated masterpiece that dazzled with quiet brilliance and gentle elegance that it's only as the credits you find yourself tearing up at it, unaware of how it all happened.

'The Duke' is a movie about, and champions, solidarity. Solidarity between communities, between races, between classes, between us all. Jim Broadbent's common working man comes up with a scheme to pilfer a precious work of art and ransom it to the government - but not for his own benefit. He wants the government to provide an amnesty on the television licence for senior citizens. Reading that, you might think it's a crackpot caper comedy and it is to a certain degree, but the way in which the script ties together this with a story of unity and selflessness is utterly compelling and charming.

1 'An Cailín Ciúin'

Irish cinema has enjoyed rude health in the last ten years, and 'An Cailín Ciúin' is further evidence of this. It could well be on its way to becoming a crossover hit with international audiences as it begins its release across the globe, but here in Ireland, it's become a success story with audiences and it's not that hard to see why. It is a gorgeously told, gorgeously shot story of childhood innocence and family secrets.

In his feature debut, writer-director Colm Bairéad has crafted one of the best Irish movies of the past few decades and possibly the best Irish-language movie ever made. There is such a delicate touch to it all, but so clearly made with a strong vision in mind. Catherine Clinch marks herself out as a talent to watch, but it's how Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett are able to draw out moments of grief and joy with the slightest of looks and glances, and all of it so devastatingly real, that makes this so good.

'An Cailín Ciúin' has no comparison for how it does so much and tells such a rich and complicated story with so few moving parts, losing none of the nuance or the emotion in its movements, and arrives at an ending that is earned emotionally by every scene that preceded it. Go see it if it's still in a cinema near you.