I’ve watched far fewer movies this year than in 2021 and there have only been a few that really struck a chord or impressed me enough to include here. There may be only a few and I’m not going to try and rank them this year, but each comes highly recommended. Caution there are spoilers below.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) is definitely one for the fans and if you haven’t seen the two Andrew Garfield films then there’s going to be quite a bit of the story that falls rather flat for you. Also returning to join Tom Holland is Tobey Maguire who had three outings in Sam Raimi’s hugely successful Spider-Man trilogy. When the trio of Spideys unites to overcome the bad guys there some great banter between them about how it’s only Maguire’s version that actually shoots venom out of his body rather than mechanical web-slinging devices. There’s also some very well-pitched dialogue about the losses they’ve suffered as various characters got ‘fridged’ in their stories.

As well as Jamie Foxx’s Electro, we see all the best villains from the previous five Sony pre-MCU films – Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), The Lizard (Rhys Ifans, who doesn’t get much time on screen), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). These characters all pop up as a side effect of a botched spell from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he tries to make people forget Spider-Man’s identity – revealed by a dying Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the previous Tom Holland film.

Yes of course this film is dining out on the same nostalgia gravy train as the recent Ghostbusters and Top Gun: Maverick films, but for once I really enjoyed it, and it reminded me that despite my take-it-or-leave-it attitude to a lot of the Marvel stuff, I am a big fan of Spider-Man in all it’s iterations.

Prey (2022) is a great looking action movie, really well shot and atmospheric. The fact that it’s got the alien out of the other Predator films is kind of secondary really as the star of the show is undoubtedly Amber Midthunder who plays Naru a Comanche hunter wanting to prove her worth among her male-dominated tribe. I could see Midthunder’s potential from her role in FX’s TV show Legion, and it’s great to see her do such a fine job in the lead role of such an enjoyable film.

The pull of the film I guess is quite how an axe and bow and arrow wielding hunter is going to overcome the technologically advanced alien intruder. The end of the film actually felt a bit silly to me, but I was rooting for the Comanche’s all the way, especially for Naru and it’s a satisfying film in that respect. For fans of the franchise there’s a few Easter eggs – reused lines of dialogue and one really big one linking it to Predator 2. But you’ll get no spoilers from me here!

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) was a film I had heard a lot of hype about and so was eager to see. The legendary Michelle Yeoh is brilliant in the main role as a laundromat owner in trouble with the tax office who gets involved in a mission to save reality across multiple universes. She is aided and abetted by Ke Huy Quan (Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) playing her husband Waymond Wang. Jamie Lee Curtis is also great by the way.

The story is as wacky as a bag of frogs, the VFX are eye-achingly good and writer/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert do a good job of controlling the chaos enough to tell a coherent story. The film did slow down a bit in the middle compared to the start and the climax, but this spare tyre is forgivable given the originality of this comic-book style romp.

The Suicide Squad (2021) is the first comic book movie in this list, but predictably not the last. I was a tad disappointed with the first attempt at bringing this DC comic book to the big screen in 2016, but not so with this iteration. Yes it is super violent, but if you can accept that then you’re in for a treat. The adult-orientated film has great characters, lots of humour, some great eye-watering VFX and a well-paced action-packed story. There really is never a dull moment.

Idris Elba was great as Bloodsport and Margot Robbie gets another chance to develop the beloved Harley Quinn character. She is central to making this film have some kind of moral compass and a lot of humour – especially when the squad go to rescue her only to find she’s escaped under her own steam.

Joel Kinnaman (Altered Carbon) reprises his role as Colonel Rick Flag as does Viola Davis as his ruthless boss Waller. John Cena also shines as Peacemaker and it was great to see Polka Dot Man on the big screen. This movie is as close to having a well-drawn and inked comic book rammed into your face as you’re ever going to see I think, and I think it’s the best DC film there’s been in a long time.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) was fresh onto Disney+ a week or so ago and is a colourful treat for the eyes after all the darkness of Obi Wan and Stranger Things. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Doctor Strange film, but really enjoyed this one. Obviously there are some great special effects and an obvious feeling of freedom to it after the Spider-Man film in which he played a bit part, and the animated TV show What If… also appears to have had an influence, but what really did it for me was to have Wanda Maximoff / The Scarlet Witch (an at times terrifying looking Elizabeth Olsen) as the antagonist, and tie it smoothly into Wandavision.

I can’t really say anymore about the film if I am to keep this spoiler-free, suffice to say this is one Marvel film that does live up to the hype. Olsen shines brighter than Cumberbatch, but the real plaudits need to go to writer Michael Waldron. Also it is worth noting that this is a Sam Raimi film, and it shows (not just because of the obligatory Bruce Campbell cameo) – his choice of shot and a certain amount of undead fun really gave the film a fun flavour perhaps lacking in some of the films churned out on the Marvel/Disney conveyor belt of late.

The Batman (2022) is a long-winded retelling of the dark knight’s story with a gritty emo atmosphere and some great SFX and scenes. Robert Pattinson is great as moody Generation-Z caped crusader with charcoaled eyes and Zoe Kravitz is a good choice to appear alongside him as Catwoman. Kravitz doesn’t have the same level of the sexy je nais se quois as previous actors who have played the role, but it’s perhaps more realistic as a result. Pattinson has the chin and the brooding silence that is typical of Bruce Wayne, but also a level of vulnerability that other actors haven’t shown. It’s a good mix especially because this is Batman Year 2 – i.e. very early on in his fight to bring justice to Gotham and obeying the law more than he does as he gets older.

It took me a long time to realise actually, just by the sound of his voice (and embarrassingly just after I’d seen him in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, alongside Barry Keoghan who has a bit part in The Batman) that Oz aka the Penguin was Colin Farrell. What a great job creating the most realistic looking version of the Penguin I’ve ever seen.

The design aesthetic and look of the whole film stayed with me longer than the actual story. The thoughtful use of coloured light (mostly reds) and shadow is exactly what a Batman film needs. There’s real feeling of grime and menace to the city’s streets, alleyways and even the rooftops. The vehicle design is totally grounded in reality and Batman’s famous gadgets are kept to a minimum.

Honourable mentions

West Side Story (2021) mixes subtle SFX, quality cinematography and framing, glorious musical set pieces with a classic musical theatre take on Romeo and Juliet. Siggy and I were both surprised how many songs we knew from the musical without ever having seen any other version of it but this. Having nothing to compare it to obviously helped the experience – we were West Side virgins. Finger-clicking good.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (2022) starts it’s humour with the title, a play on Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and goes from there. Nicholas Cage and Pedro Pascal do not fail to deliver in this meta comedy, aided by some amazing de-aging SFX, about the Hollywood actor being paid a million bucks to be a guest at a rich guy’s birthday party.

The film goes into action overdrive in the third act but not before the two main characters have started working on a film script of their own and dropped some acid. The subplot about Cage needing to spend more time with his daughter (Lily Mo Sheen) and estranged wife (Sharon Horgan) is woven in really well and while the film follows a predictable buddy movie arc it does so with style and panache and whole lot of Nick fucking Cage. In fact his alter-ego from Wild At Heart pops up like his very own Tyler Durden from time to time to give him bad advice, and there’s tonnes of movie references throughout. It’s just great.

Emma. (2020) was also most enjoyable to watch. I have not seen a movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel before and neither have I read the book, so I went into this only really expecting a rather idiosyncratic character in the form of Emma who is played brilliantly by Anya Taylor-Joy (Queen’s Gambit) based on what I have picked up about the literary character over time by cultural osmosis.

The performances are top notch throughout and I guess that’s partly because the dialogue and the story are so well written. Johnny Flynn and Mia Goth are great co-stars and all actors seem to shine in this comedy of manners. Emma lives vicariously through her manipulation of those about her, fitting them perfectly into her idea of matchmaking. However her machinations rather unravel when she finds herself falling for Mr Knightley (Flynn). Also noteworthy is the attention to detail in the wardrobe department – the period costumes (and there are many) are immaculately created.

The Hunt (2020) stars Betty Gilpin (GLOW) as a woman who (for reasons that become only slightly clearer as the film progresses) knows how handle herself and wakes up with eleven strangers by the side of a field. There’s a box of weapons in the middle of the field and a bunch of rich dudes taking pot shots at them from a hidden gun position. So begins their idea of fun – get a bunch of poor people together and hunt them down as if they were deer.

Unfortunately for the rich arseholes they’ve made a mistake including Gilpin’s character among their prey. The Hunt is a surprisingly fun romp through an unpredictable and violent story of immediate revenge and consequences.