Doctor of Movies’ Top Ten of 2022

The Doctor of Movies blog went a bit quiet in 2022. Work and life meant that I didn’t have the capacity to be regularly writing reviews, so I gave myself a pass. That didn’t mean I wasn’t watching movies though. I set myself a challenge this year: each week I would try and watch at least one new release film, one older film that I hadn’t seen before, and one rewatch. I ended up doing a bit more than that most weeks with the result being that I ended up watching 270 films for the year, including 80 new releases.

2022 has been an interesting year in film. While Covid is still very much around, this year we didn’t see the studios ducking and weaving with their releases. After two years of disruption, this was our first look at the new normal. And to be honest it was a bit troubling.

Hollywood seemed to retreat even further into their singular focus on big-budget franchise filmmaking. While the year started in the glow of Spider-Man: No Way Home being the film which brought people back to the cinemas that momentum didn’t continue. Marvel didn’t have their strongest year, DC somewhat imploded, and no one wanted to put anything up against Avatar: The Way of Water this summer. Top Gun: Maverick and The Batman aside, it was an underwhelming year from the big end of town.

Would-be people pleasers like Glass Onion received only the briefest of theatrical windows before jumping onto streaming services, which have become the home of smaller and mid-range pictures. While the likes of Netflix, AppleTV+, Disney+ and Amazon Prime have released some really interesting films, the fractured streaming market means that what people have seen depends on what service they have, making it hard for films to become hits in that environment (and we only have the streamers word for it as to how many people are actually watching them).

All of that being said, there were still some really cool movies released this year. Here are my picks for the best of them…

10. The Menu (Mark Mylod)

A dark comedy/thriller with touches of horror, The Menu is a lot of fun in a kind of perverse way. Mylod uses a parody of wanky food culture to satirise privilege and status, the result being the revenge fantasy of anyone who has ever worked in the service industry. With the action largely restricted to the restaurant it has an almost theatrical containment to it that works quite well. There are insufferable people on both sides of the equation which means your allegiances shift back and forth as the situation evolves. There is nothing particularly subtle in its critique but it hits the target and remains really funny even as it gets darker (Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are amongst its producers).

9. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Sophie Hyde)

Who would have thought that a film about the relationship between a middle-aged woman and her sex worker could be among the most delightful of the year. Sophie Hyde’s film is a wonderful two-hander, composed entirely of conversations in a hotel room between Emma Thompson’s widowed, retired school teacher and Daryl McCormack’s handsome young gigolo whom she has employed to help her discover what she has missed out on. Thompson is unsurprisingly great while McCormack admirably holds his own. At different times funny, sweet, heartfelt and sad, this sex-positive film speaks to the need for women to feel comfortable and confident to ask for what they want, be that in the bedroom or any other situation.

8. The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen)

Being an AppleTV+ release meant next to no one saw this Joel Coen solo venture, but then a black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation was never going to do big business anyway. I had to include The Tragedy of Macbeth on my list simply because it is not only the most visually stunning film of the year, it might just be one of the most striking films ever made. You could legitimately make a coffee table book or gallery exhibit by pulling stills of Bruno Debonnel and Stefan Dechant’s expressionist-inspired cinematography and production design. Some shots were so breathtaking they pull you out of the story. I was mesmerised watching on my TV and just wish I could have seen it on the big screen.

7. The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) 

A really impressive directorial debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal that didn’t get the attention that it deserved. The Lost Daughter is a challenging character study anchored by brilliant performances from Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley, playing older and younger versions of the same complex character who manages to be both unlikeable and understandable. While many films explore the the way our culture doesn’t readily allow women to balance motherhood and other ambitions, few allow their protagonist to come down where this one does.

6. The Stranger (Thomas M. Wright)

The Stranger was the best Australian film of the year for mine. An undercover crime drama brimming with tension, you think that it is one thing and then a rug pull sees it flip, causing you to realise it was something else all along. Narrative cleverness aside, it is the eeriness of tone they made it for me, though. It is a rural film without being an ‘outback’ film, so there is a great sense of isolation to it. The characters are so often alone in the space. There are rarely extras filling out a scene. It all serves to elevate the sense of threat. Sean Harris does a decent Australian accent and shows his capacity to be creepy is not accent dependent.

5. Broker (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

I was lucky enough to catch this one at the Sydney Film Festival. Broker was winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize at Cannes for the film that best “touches on the spiritual dimension of our existence.” It is an interesting accolade to bestow on a film about human traffickers but speaks to the brilliance of Kore-eda’s film. Following a young woman working with two men who make a living selling babies to hopeful adoptive parents to find someone to take her baby, it is a morally conflicting story, but Kore-eda does an amazing job of guiding you through that to arrive at a place of incredible compassion for all parties.

4. The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh)

Martin McDonagh is one of my favourite filmmakers so The Banshees of Inisherin was my most anticipated film of the year even before the strong reviews started to roll in. The core premise – a man’s life being turned upside down when his best friend, out of the blue, decides he doesn’t want to be friends anymore – sounds almost childish, but it doesn’t take long for the film to let us know how serious the situation is, and the backdrop of the Irish Civil War gives it a certain poignancy. McDonagh doesn’t make simple films. He gives you something to think about but refuses to provide a nice, neatly wrapped message at the end. The Banshees of Inisherin is a very funny, darkly bleak and very Irish movie.

3. Everything Everywhere All at Once (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)

While there was a lot of hype around Marvel Studios’ move into multiverse storytelling this year, largely due to its potential for fan-servicing, cross-franchise cameos, undoubtedly the best multiverse film of the year came from independent filmmaking duo ‘The Daniels.’ Everything Everywhere All at Once is hard to top in terms of sheer ridiculous inventiveness in both its narrative and action. Most impressive of all, where multiverse stories can struggle for dramatic stakes as nothing really matters when infinite outcomes all happen, this film manages to flip that on its head to become a beautiful reflection on the importance of love and connection. It was great to see Michelle Yeoh finally given an American film role worthy of her talent, and it was such a joy to see Ke Huy Quan on screen again.

2. Top Gun: Maverick (Joseph Kosinski)

While it might seem strange to have what feels like a pretty straight up and down blockbuster at number two on this list, Top Gun: Maverick is a reminder of the increasingly lost art of blockbuster filmmaking. Much more than the nostalgia based money grab many expected, I don’t know that there has ever been a sequel that so surpassed the original in quality. Yes, the plane-based action is exhilarating, with the actors actually being in the jets adding a level of authenticity that we haven’t seen in this sort of film before, but it is the beautifully efficient storytelling that really separates this from what we have come to accept from blockbusters in recent years. At a time when theatrical windows are getting shorter and shorter, Top Gun: Maverick was in theatres for eight months. It became the highest grossing movie of the year helped in some small part by my having gone to see it four times.

1. RRR (S. S. Rajamouli)

I could have lived with any of these top four taking the number one spot but ultimately I had to go with my heart. My interest in Indian cinema has grown in recent years, so when I came out of a screening of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent one evening to be greeted by a large crowd waiting to enter a screening of RRR my interest was peaked. It did not disappoint. Even with a three hour runtime, RRR is a lot of movie. An anti-colonial historical drama with Fast & Furious-level action, a sweet romance, a sweeter bromance, and some of the best song and dance numbers you’ll see. RRR was my most euphoric cinema going experience of the year and one I will likely always remember.

The Next Best (alphabetical): 

  • After Yang (Kogonada)
  • Amsterdam (David O. Russell)
  • The Batman (Matt Reeves)
  • Belfast (Kenneth Branagh)
  • Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
  • Glass Onion (Rian Johnson)
  • Here Out West (Fadia Abboud, Lucy Gaffy, Julie Kalceff, Ana Kokkinos, Leah Purcell)
  • Three Thousand Years of Longing (George Miller)
  • The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Tom Gormican)
  • The Woman King (Gina Prince-Bythewood)
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