Whether fantastic, funny, realistic, dramatic or simply bombastic: films can cause ecstasy and open-mouthed audiences in so many different ways. Representing the past twelve months, there are a dozen films that gave us exactly this mixture of enthusiasm in 2022.
It's true: the night is darkest before dawn. This shows the strong tour de force that has become "The Batman" by Matt Reeves (56). Because at the end of the exciting crime story in Film Noir style, which is too long at three hours, not only does the sun finally rise over Gotham – and with it a potentially rosy future for further parts with Robert Pattinson (36). Bruce Wayne aka Batman also has his perhaps most important insight: What most people want is not revenge, but hope.
While "The Witch" and "The Lighthouse" by Robert Eggers (39) still played like a chamber game with a few actors in a certain place, he was finally allowed to let off steam on a larger scale with his virtues in his luggage thanks to "The Northman". And Eggers did that in an epochal way, narratively, optically and pictorially. Betrayal and intrigue, atonement and retribution, battles and mysticism - a Viking story in Shakespearean garb.
The science fiction film "Everything Everywhere All at Once" impressively demonstrated how exciting traveling through parallel universes can be - in contrast to a certain Doctor Strange from the Marvel cosmos. Michelle Yeoh (60), as the central character(s) of the confused plot, has delivered a masterpiece with "Everything Everywhere All at Once". The film itself is a unique sensory overload - the "everything everywhere at once" in the title is no coincidence...
Modern cinema does not only have to consist of Marvel and cumbersome dramas - this lesson beat us "Top Gun: Maverick" together with leading actor Tom Cruise (60) at supersonic speed. In the run-up to the film, doubts grew as to whether the overstylized, at times unintentionally funny action bombast from the 80s could find its way into the present, or even be allowed to find it at all. Anyone who staggered out of the cinema with shaky adrenaline legs after "Top Gun: Maverick" said almost unanimously: He can and he may.
In 2017, Jordan Peele (43) hit the big time with the clever, socially critical horror film "Get Out". The film was nominated in four of the "Big Five" categories at the Oscars, in the end Peele went home with the golden boy for "Best Screenplay". The filmmaker's formula from "We" to "Nope" may have worn off a bit. Nevertheless, together with his renewed leading actor Daniel Kaluuya (33), Peele created an exciting strip that simply looks great and does not want to be limited to the horror film genre.
The Netflix film adaptation of "Nothing New in the West" is the German Oscar candidate. Well, that alone doesn't mean anything. But in fact Edward Berger (52) managed to wrap the story of Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970), which has been filmed several times, in a modern robe without glorifying what is shown - that would be the cardinal mistake. It is always said that there are no anti-war films, only war films. "Nothing New in the West" proves once again that this is not true.
Really a horror sensation or just one of those typical PR campaigns that in all seriousness want to sell viewers leaving the cinema prematurely as something good? No, "Smile" isn't the most violent horror film of all time - if you believe that, you can't have seen many films of this genre. However, "Smile" is one of those films, like recently "It Follows" or "Don't Breathe", which are horrible in the most positive of all senses and turned out to be surprisingly good.
With his whodunnit stroke of genius "Knives Out", Rian Johnson (49) created a crime case that was as clever as it was tricky. Unfortunately, the charming chemistry between Daniel Craig (54) as the new (possibly queer) cult inspector Benoit Blanc and Ana de Armas (34) has to be dispensed with in the second part "Glass Onion". Even Blanc's new case can't keep up with the debut and sometimes seems badly constructed. But at the same time, few films in 2022 were able to provide such a weird form of entertainment as "Glass Onion", where people could laugh out loud in the cinema (or via Netflix).
It wasn't an easy balancing act that lay ahead of the creators of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever". The blockbuster honors the legacy of its late leading actor Chadwick Boseman (1976-2020) while offering the usual Marvel action fireworks. After some rather average works such as "Eternals" or "Thor: Love and Thunder", Marvel Studios was back on the road to success.
Ralph Fiennes (60) and "The Queen's Gambit" star Anya Taylor-Joy (26) in a deeply black humorous reckoning with unjust social structures, represented by the sometimes badly pretentious cult of cuisine? That sounded delicious and it was! Similar films, albeit in a significantly different setting ("High Rise", "Snowpiercer"), also took on the criticism of decadence and are worth seeing. But "The Menu" is even seasoned with a pinch of "Squid Game".
You have to like the look of Buz Luhrmann (60), which is turned to the point of style, and tolerate the unsuccessful mask of Tom Hanks (66) - then with "Elvis" not only fans of the King of Rock 'n' Roll will come to theirs Costs. Of course, the film about Elvis Presley (1935-1977) also suffers from all the illnesses associated with the genre of musician biopics - all too often, for example, the rights to the music of the respective star only exist against a certain softening of their career. In addition, Austin Butler's (31) courage must be honored to have slipped into the title role - the Elvis fan camp judges with suspicious severity.
The second part of "Avatar" may not reinvent the dramaturgy wheel either. However, it once again offers a visually stunning escape from the sometimes gray horror of everyday life, which has had us firmly in its grip for the past few months and will probably not let go in the coming time either. It doesn't even bother that the film is actually much too long at over three hours. You can accuse "Avatar: The Way of Water" of many things. But like this year, he only shows "Top Gun: Maverick" why films belong in the cinema.