We’ve selected a dozen of the year’s releases for our readers. Not all of them are Oscar material, but they combine artistry, engagement and reasonably humane values which put them a cut above the rest.

We’ve done our best to cater for all ages and interests. No doubt we’ve left out some of your favourites – please leave comments with your suggestions.

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Top Gun: Maverick   

Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Tom Cruise; Miles Teller; Jennifer Connelly; Jon Hamm; Glen Powell; Lewis Pullman; Ed Harris; Val Kilmer. 130 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 96%

After 36 years, Tom Cruise is back doing what he does best, being the best aviator in the US Navy. Now he’s a test pilot ordered to teach the best of the best how to execute a secret mission which calls for superhuman skill. But, spoiler alert! Maverick takes charge and leads them to victory. “As a stand-alone blockbuster that’s just trying to suck viewers’ eyeballs out of their sockets with hellacious flight photography and thunderous sound, Maverick is just what every cineplex in the country has been crying out for,” says the critic for The Atlantic. “Top Gun: Maverick” was the highest grossing film of 2022. Get some popcorn, settle in, and lock your brain in neutral. Great fun.

Marcel the Shell with the Shoes On     

Directed by Dean Fleischer Camp. Starring Jenny Slate; Rosa Salazar; Thomas Mann; Dean Fleischer Camp; Lesley Stahl; Isabella Rossellini. 90 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 99%

“How can a film so disarmingly simple inspire deep feelings about loss, connection, and the meaning of family? I’m not sure I have the answer, but at a time when so many of us are feeling disoriented—or disconnected—a movie like this is especially welcome,” says critic Leonard Maltin. This is a mockumentary about a tiny shell looking for his family. The US media – including CBS star Lesley Stahl – pitches in to help.

Argentina, 1985

Directed by Santiago Mitre. Starring Ricardo Darín; Peter Lanzani; Alejandra Flechner; Norman Briski. 140 minutes. Spanish, with sub-titles. Rotten Tomatoes 98%

“Like a pair of old wingtips polished with wax, ‘Argentina, 1985’ spins a notable piece of history into an impassioned courtroom drama flecked with quaint humor,” says the New York Times. This passionate film reenacts the trial of the leaders of Argentina’s last civil-military dictatorship (1976–1983) for brutal crimes against its own citizens.

Nope 

Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Keith David. 130 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 82%  

“Flaws and all, the beauty of Nope is being two things at once. Art and cheap thrills, popcorn and provocation, blockbuster and brainfood: the old, mixed-up formula that is still cinema’s secret weapon,” says the critic for the Financial Times. This is a wildly imaginative film about horse-wrangling, race relations, and UFOs. It was loved by all the best critics.

The Outfit   

Directed by Graham Moore. Starring Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Johnny Flynn, Dylan O’Brien, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Simon Russell Beale. 106 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 87%

According to Empire Magazine, “The Outfit follows a pattern set by countless gangster flicks of the past, but its freshness is in the intelligence and surprise of the script. Like a well-made suit, it’s not old-fashioned — it’s classic.” British actor Mark Rylance is superb as a tailor for Chicago mobsters in this taut thriller with a plot twist every five minutes.

Father Stu  

Directed by Rosalind Ross. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, Jacki Weaver. 124 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 41%  

The critics didn’t like this film about a redneck boxer who falls in love with a Catholic girl, discovers that he has a vocation to become a priest, ditches her, and before being ordained discovers that he has a terminal disease which leaves him completely paralysed. It sounds corny, even for Catholics, but it is based upon a true story about a Montana priest who could eventually be canonised. The San Francisco Chronicle admitted: “‘Father Stu’ is often entertaining, thus avoiding the sin of omission committed by many movies made to proselytize. It’s just too damn likable to judge harshly.”

Till    

Directed by Chinonye Chukwu. Starring Danielle Deadwyler; Jalyn Hall; Frankie Faison; Haley Bennett; Whoopi Goldberg. 130 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 98%

In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was tortured and lynched in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His murderers were tried and acquitted after a 67-minute jury deliberation. “Till” tells the story of his mother’s passionate quest for justice. “Danielle Deadwyler gives the breakout performance of the year as a Black activist mother who used the 1955 lynching of her son Emmett Till to galvanize the civil-rights movement. Chinonye Chukwu crafts this emotional powerhouse into essential viewing,” says Peter Travers, of ABC News.

The Forgotten Battle  

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.. Starring Gijs Blom, Jamie Flatters, Susan Radder. 123 minutes. Dutch, English, German with sub-titles. 100%

The most-reviewed war movie of 2022 was “All Quiet on the Western Front”, a dark, bloody, nihilistic anti-war film from Germany. A much better example of this genre is “The Forgotten Battle”, a Dutch film about the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944. “If you’ve been missing a spectacular but uncomplicated wartime epic, this is it,” says a New Zealand reviewer. It follows three characters, a Dutch soldier fighting for the Germans, a British glider pilot, and a woman in the Dutch resistance. A terrific drama.

Turning Red  

Directed by Domee Shi. Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, James Hong. 100 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 95%  

Pixar has done it again. This animated film features Mei, a 13-year-old Canadian Chinese girl who turns into a giant red panda when she experiences strong emotions. It’s obviously a parable about puberty and growing up, but it works. “’Turning Red’ succeeds in hitting all the right emotional notes — and its real magic lies in its unabashed celebration of the joyful chaos of girlhood within a proud Asian immigrant family,” says the San Francisco Chronicle’s reviewer.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris   

Directed by Anthony Fabian. Starring Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Ellen Thomas, Rose Williams, Jason Isaacs. 115 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 94%  

Paul Gallico was a very successful popular novelist of the 1940s and 50s with a gift for writing heart-warming stories. “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” was one of his most successful novels, about a London charlady who wants to buy a Christian Dior frock. “Preposterous though it may be, this is a terrific family movie in a style audiences may not have seen since Mary Poppins,” says The Guardian’s reviewer, Peter Bradshaw.

RRR   

Directed by S. S. Rajamouli. Starring N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Shriya Saran, Samuthirakani, Ray Stevenson, Alison Doody, Olivia Morris. 182 minutes. Telegu, with sub-titles. Rotten Tomatoes 93%

Now for something completely different. “RRR” is the most expensive Indian film ever made. Is it also the most preposterous? A plot is in there somewhere – something about resisting the British Empire in 1920s — buried beneath incredible action stunts which make James Bond films look like a garden party with cucumber sandwiches. “The movie is such an irresistible and intoxicating celebration of cinematic excess that even after 187 minutes (including intermission or, as the title card announces, InteRRRval), you are left exhilarated, not exhausted,” says Variety.

Jockey  

Directed by Clint Bentley. Starring Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias. 95 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 92%

An ageing jockey faces his mortality in this beautiful film. “Jockey is one of those sleepers that makes even a bumpy moviegoing season worthwhile,” says the Wall Street Journal. “The film rests on the foundation of Clifton Collins’s underplayed performance-he is quietly persuasive and likable…a hardscrabble hero worth rooting for.”

Thirteen Lives  

Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Karen Lunder, William M. Connor, P.J van Sandwijk, Gabrielle Tana. 147 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 86%

Some tragedies seem made for Hollywood. The story of the 12 schoolboys and their teacher who were caught by rising water in a cave in Thailand is one of those. “Mr. Howard deploys exciting music, engineers suspenseful twists and delivers emotionally wrenching scenes that build to a grand payoff. In his fifth decade as a filmmaker, he might be Hollywood’s most enthusiastic purveyor of uplifting goodness,” says the Wall Street Journal.

You might also be interested in MercatorNet’s selection of films from past years
Our pick of the films of 2021
Our pick of the films of 2020
Our pick of the films of 2019
Our pick of the films of 2018
For other years, click here.

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.