Honourable mentions: Black Widow, No Sudden Move, Pig, A Quiet Place: Part II, The Green Knight, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Luca, Nobody, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Encanto, The Power of the Dog
10. No Time to Die
Daniel Craig’s tenure as MI6 agent James Bond ends in spectacular fashion. Bond is drawn out of retirement when the villainous Safin (Raimi Malek) threatens the world and Bond’s former love, Madeline (Lea Seydoux), causing Bond to ally with a new 007 (Lashana Lynch). No Time to Die adheres to Bond formula while unexpectedly upending others. There are things that have never happened in a Bond film which is surprising for a decades old franchise. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga delivers great action scenes, big twists, and huge emotional moments from all the actors, especially Craig who solidifies his place as one of the best Bond’s ever.
9. The French Dispatch
Director Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) has love, weirdness, whimsy, and wackiness in this film featuring multiple vignettes from the French Dispatch newspaper. Each one sings in its own wild way, following a prisoner artist (Benicio del Toro) and his guard muse (Lea Seydoux), journalist Lucinda (Frances McDormand) getting involved with a student revolutionary (Timothee Chalamet), and journalist Roebuck (Jeffery Wright) relating the story of the kidnapping of a rich child by a nefarious criminal (Edward Norton). Anderson’s intricately manufactured frame pops with details and awesome asides. There’s quirkiness, engaging dialogue and the lush exuberance of Anderson’s strange, weird film.
8. Don’t Look Up
A biting satire about how even with the world coming to an end cutting through the noise may be impossible. Two astronomers, Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) and Randall (Leonardo DiCaprio), discover a comet is going to crash into Earth and eliminate all life in 6 months. As important news as this should be, reactions of people are disbelief, malaise, mockery, and indifference. President Orlean (Meryl Streep) is trying to use the impending apocalypse to increase votes while tech mogul Isherwell (Mark Rylance) wants to mine the comet for riches. It’s a loud and dark farce that points out the extreme idiocy of people in power with lots of funny running gags and one-liners.
7. Tick, Tick… Boom!
An exuberant musical directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) follows young playwright, Johnathan (Andrew Garfield) trying to write a rock sci-fi opus as life gets in the way. It’s delivered in a pop-rock monologue by Jonathan relating how his creative impulse is fizzling out while trying to keep things good with his girlfriend, Susan (Alexandra Shipp) and hard-working buddy, Michael (Robin de Jesus). Garfield is fantastic as Jonathan has inspiration in fits and starts as the ticking deadline of the premiere hangs over his head. When the songs kick in, there’s bombast and joy with soaring tunes like the energetic opener “30/90” that will stick for a long time.
A waitress turned stripper, Zola (Taylour Paige), goes on a moneymaking jaunt to Florida with her new best friend, Stefani (Riley Keough), the twitchy boyfriend of Stefani, Derrek (Nick Braun) a boisterous unnamed man (Coleman Domingo) who “takes care” of Stefani (which Zola immediately clocks that he is her pimp.) Things spiral out of control when the pimp sells Zola and Stefani off as Zola tries to keep herself in one piece. It has inventive moments like the story flipping to Stefani’s perspective and lots of dark and funny twists as events get progressively worse. And a gripping performance from Domingo who switches from charming to menacing.
5. Last Night in Soho
Writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) crafts a surreal and horrifying flick about a fashion student, Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) haunted by visions of a woman from the 1960s, Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy). At first, her dreams are glamorous until Sandy’s story turns dark with Ellie’s visions bleeding into her real life. Wright’s camerawork is impeccable, like a beautiful shot of Sandy walking down a winding staircase with Ellie reflected in a mirror. It shows how romanticizing a bygone era can turn messy with narrative surprises and a fantastic final performance of Diana Rigg as a landlord with decades of knowledge.
4. The Last Duel
A harrowing film about the last duel in Medieval France with the line blurring between truth and memory. Knight Jean Carrouges (Matt Damon) returns from war and his wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer), says that she was assaulted by the squire Jacques (Adam Driver) and Jean challenges him to a deadly duel. Last Duel shows events from three different perspectives as the actor’s performances change based upon who is telling the story. Comer’s Marguerite needs to speak the truth, but the law views her as property. Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) goes all out in a finale brawl that is emotional and hard-hitting.
3. Spider-Man: No Way Home
A capper to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man trilogy that is also a celebration of 20 years of Spider-Verse flicks. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is in trouble when his identity as Spider-Man has been revealed. He asks the wizard Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to fix the problem with a spell, but it screws up and sends villains from the multiverse like Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) and more unexpected visitors. The sprawling cast is great, the action is superb, and the story of Peter Parker trying to do what’s right shines through. A third act is a Spider-Man fan’s dream with emotional payoffs that resonate throughout the series.
Director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic novel is a wonderfully deep look into a sprawling universe. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) travels with his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) and father (Oscar Isaac) to rule the desert planet of Arrakis. But Paul is haunted by visions of a mysterious woman (Zendya) and the evil Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) wants Arrakis for precious spice. The visuals are outstanding; ferocious armies running at each other, Paul’s trippy future visions, or the giant Sandworms that swallow ships whole. It’s a sci-fi land that feels real as Paul finds a strength he never knew he had.
1. The Suicide Squad
Writer/director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) pulls off a fantastic trick by taking superhero villain rejects and giving each a moment to shine. A crew of supervillains are sent into the war-torn nation of Corto Maltese, Robert DuBois (Idris Elba), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and more as colourful chaos ensues. The superhero war movie bounces between heartfelt, hilarious, and carnage, with awesome bits like the King Shark Nanaue (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) chopping on “nom noms” and affecting performances like Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2. The climax is insane, gory and emotionally powerful as The Suicide Squad, the lowliest and most despised of all, find a purpose.