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Film: Mark Kermode’s 10 best of 2022 | Movies

1. Aftersun
Released in the UK in
Charlotte Wells’s Bifa-winning debut feature is an astonishing, understated father-daughter coming-of-age movie that mutates into a mesmerising meditation on memory, love and loss. Superb performances by Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio lend naturalistic heft, but there’s a poetry in Wells’s film-making that evokes the finest works of Lynne Ramsay. Electrifying and heartbreaking.

2. Elvis

Austin Butler breathes uncanny life into one of the greatest pop icons of the 20th century, but director Baz Luhrmann’s film isn’t just glitz and glamour. Instead, it’s an astute and often witty reading of Presley’s life and times masquerading as a garish bump-and-grind sideshow. Tom Hanks brings a touch of Elmer Fudd to carnival-huckster/narrator Colonel Tom Parker, who plays Salieri to Elvis’s Mozart.

3. The Banshees of Inisherin
Matters of life and death collide in tragicomic form in this cracklingly bleak island-bound feature from writer and director Martin McDonagh. Reuniting Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson (the stars of In Bruges), McDonagh conjures his most accomplished work to date – a film that will make you laugh and cry simultaneously.

4. Gangubai Kathiawadi
Alia Bhatt excels in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s genuinely subversive Hindi-language drama, inspired by S Hussain Zaidi’s book Mafia Queens of Mumbai. Tough truths mix with musical romance in an epic drama that is as gritty and eye-opening as it is enthralling and uplifting. You can find it on Netflix, alongside this year’s Indian cinema smash RRR.

Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi.

5. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Death and fascism are two central themes of Mexican maestro Guillermo del Toro’s extraordinary stop-motion reimagining of Carlo Collodi’s timeless tale, turning it into a Mussolini-era parable about “a lethal form of control and paternity”. Del Toro calls this the third part of a thematic trilogy, along with The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.

6. The Quiet Girl
First-time feature director Colm Bairéad works wonders in this beautifully poignant poignant adaptation of Claire Keegan’s novella Foster, about a young Irish girl (superbly played by Catherine Clinch) who finds herself stepping into ghostly shoes in the home of a childless couple. Plaudits to cinematographer Kate McCullough and composer Stephen Rennicks, who get the emotional tone of the picture just right.

7. Hit the Road

Panah Panahi, son of authority-defying Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi, finds his own voice in his thrilling debut as writer and director. Deftly blending the personal and the political, this deceptively low-key road movie nods to Kiarostami and Kubrick alike, gazing up at the stars while keeping its feet firmly on the ground.

Rayan Sarlak in Hit the Road.
Rayan Sarlak in Hit the Road. Alamy

8. Moonage Daydream

Director Brett Morgen’s celebration of the life and work of David Bowie is a maximalist collage that overwhelms the senses as it immerses the viewer in a sea of music, mime, painting, acting and dance. Diehard fans were delighted; newcomers were converted.

9. Ali & Ava
Dynamite performances by Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook drive Clio Barnard’s pitch-perfect Bradford love story; a vibrantly gritty affair that uses the transcendent power of song to turn a streetwise story into a diegetic musical.

10. Catherine Called Birdy
Lena Dunham’s sprightly adaptation of Karen Cushman’s young adult novel is a joy – a medieval tale of female empowerment with a rip-roaring star turn from Bella Ramsey, a jukebox of reworked pop tunes and a laudably frank attitude towards adolescence, menstruation and marriage.