Most of us watched a lot of movies at home, but we seem to have regained our appetite to experience movies together on big screens.
With the notable exceptions of the Top Gun and Avatar sequels, it wasn’t even a good year for blockbusters.
Jurassic World Dominion, Lightyear, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore, and Marvel’s Doctor Strange were content to cash in on past glories.
But here are 10 movies that made my year…
10 All my friends hate me
Something of a corrective to the smug Footlights film Peter’s Friends, this British black comedy follows earnest twenty-something Pete (Tom Stourton) to a stately home to meet his stylish college friends.
It takes a dark turn after a sinister stranger is invited over and Pete begins to suspect he’s the victim of a cruel practical joke.
Crisp lines are delivered with perfect timing. The writers, actor Stourton and Tom Palmer, met at Eton and this takedown of the upper classes feels like an inside job.
9 After Yang
A moving performance by Colin Farrell propels this melancholy sci-fi about a family man mourning the death of his robot son.
But it’s Korean-American director Kogonada’s visual brilliance and Aska Matsumiya’s hauntingly effective soundtrack that makes this familiar premise so haunting.
8 The Orderly
I don’t have the time, the Disney+ subscription, or, to be honest, the inclination to follow the interconnected storylines of Marvel’s “Cinematic Universe” across various TV series.
Thankfully, as they did in 2019 with Joker, rival team DC stepped in with a dark but fascinating indie film.
The score is sinister, the cinematography is moody, and Robert Pattinson is tough as director Matt Reeves turns the Caped Crusader into an old-fashioned detective.
Colin Farrell gets some laughs as a prototype penguin and Zoe Kravitz is damn cool as a feline-loving thief.
I had given up on ugly alien hunters long before Shane Black’s annoyingly quirky 2018 reboot The Predator.
But director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) accomplished something remarkable with this prequel: He made that familiar face scary all over again.
Cleverly holding back her slightly less-technological killer until halfway through the film, it builds tension by introducing us to a young Comanche woman (Amber Midthunder) in 18th-century North America when an unseen hunter begins taking out her tribesmen.
The murders are inventive, the stakes are high, and the insight into Comanche culture is fascinating.
Matthew Heineman’s documentary provides a front-row seat to the chaos that followed President Biden’s 2021 decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.
Heineman had amazing access to a US military base and the tortured deliberations of Afghan General Sami Sadat.
I still can’t get rid of his beautifully composed images of desperate faces gathered at the Kabul airport.
5 Lunar Age Reverie
Director Brett Morgen gave David Bowie the documentary he deserved with this mind-blowing tour of his career.
Many documentaries are fine to watch at home, but this riveting reminder of Bowie’s genius demanded to be seen on the biggest screen available.
4 The Duke
Jim Broadbent is at the height of his powers in a touching underdog tale that evokes the big-hearted spirit of Ealing comedy.
He plays the eccentric Kempton Bunton, the wonderfully awkward 60-year-old Geordie who went on trial for stealing a painting from London’s National Gallery.
The late Notting Hill director Roger Michell strikes the perfect combination of comedy and drama when Bunton plots an unlikely heist so he can hold the government to ransom for its refusal to grant free television licenses to retirees. This story is so improbable that you know it has to be true.
3 The Banshees of Inisherin
Fifteen years after In Bruges, the dream team of writer/director Martin McDonagh, Brendan Gleeson, and my man of the year Colin Farrell (this is his third film in my Top 10) reunited for another dark comedy.
The setting was not a “fairy tale” Belgian town, but a small island off the coast of Ireland in the 1920s with the Civil War raging on the water. And instead of playing feuding hitmen, Farrell and Gleeson are old drinking buddies whose relationship has gone sour.
McDonagh’s script is peppered with cutting lines and his deadpan double act delivers them with perfect comic timing.
2 Top Gun: Maverick
Not only did it avoid the danger zones of the sequel, but the long-delayed Top Gun: Maverick was elevated even higher than the original. The dialogue is sharper, the plot more gripping, and the vastly improved aerobatics really take your breath away.
The stakes are high when Tom Cruise’s ace pilot takes charge of a series of high-profile new recruits for what the higher-ups see as a suicide mission.
The stellar box office numbers suggest this is the kind of collective big-screen experience we all crave.
1 The King Woman
There are stunning battle scenes, flint warriors, and rousing speeches in this wonderfully old-fashioned blockbuster. Yet there’s something refreshingly modern about director Gina.
The action-packed historical epic of Prince-Bythewood.
In Gladiator and Braveheart, the heroes were white men. Now, amateur black women have a chance to claw their way to glory.
A fearsome Viola Davis is magnificent as General Nanisca, leader of a unit of warrior women in 19th-century West Africa, and Lashana Lynch steps in with a charismatic, acrobatic supporting turn. The fight scenes are excitingly choreographed, brutal, and refreshingly free of CGI.