Finally, we come to the end of the year, 2022, having lived vicariously through films from various genres, some pathbreaking, some underrated, and some not up to the mark, which we won’t be talking about. Rather, the list will focus on the positives and try to shed light on the most impressive and interesting films of the year. This list will not be a ranked one, as to make those lists; one needs access to the majority of the films from the year, which can sometimes be quite difficult and would only be possible a few months into the new year of 2023 when more or less everything is more accessible to watch. This list will mainly be concerned with the action genre and will also include those belonging to the various sub-genres, as many films are a mixture of different genres, encompassing and playing with these generic tropes and conventions. This genre is generally quite popular with the audience, especially for the large-scale cinematic spectacle experience and for something that sometimes tends to go beyond the realm of reality, with some elements of cinematic escapism. So, here is a list of the Best Action Films of 2022:
Top Gun: Maverick (2022) (Dir. Joseph Kosinski)
Definitely ‘the blockbuster’ of 2022 and starring one of the most renowned stars of the current era Tom Cruise. He reprises his role from the 1986 film “Top Gun,” as Captain Pete Mitchell, commonly known as Maverick, and that too in a sequel that definitely shines way over its 1986 prequel in terms of cinematic aspects. Even though the film seems to be edging toward American military propaganda, one cannot deny the sheer brilliance it possesses in terms of technical marvels and filmmaking aspects. In this era where everything is either about franchises and spinoffs, where many of them are just pure example of lazy filmmaking, “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022) perfectly challenges that notion with a purely cinematic experience displayed on the screen that feels breathtaking and contains one of the best action set-pieces seen in 2022, along with probably the best Air Combat ever to grace the screen in the history of Cinema.
The Woman King (2022) (Dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood)
“The Woman King” (2022) is reminiscent of the well-known male-dominated hero-centric large-scale action epics such as “Braveheart” (1995) and “Gladiator” (2000), but here the twist lies in its subversion of the gender tropes by taking a very feminist route while playing with these conventional generic tropes. Filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood brings to the screen a vision of a very epic and detailed world and fills the film with gorgeous action set pieces that also have an angle of emotional quotient that further aids the sequences and gives meaning and layers behind the characters and their actions. Although the film is not a pitch-perfect one and some parts can be a little tedious, with many questions being raised even about its historical authenticity, one should not skip this, especially for the performance from Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis, which is one of the major highlights of the film and acts like an anchor that keeps this film afloat.
The Northman (2022) (Dir. Robert Eggers)
Having proved his directorial prowess with films like “The Witch” (2015) and “The Lighthouse” (2019), filmmaker Robert Eggers, who is also one of the most exciting emerging directors one should look out for, takes the task of creating an epic revenge action saga blended alongside folklore with “The Northman” (2022). He succeeded in this endeavor as he managed to perfectly weave a tale based on the legend of Amleth (the inspiration for the famous Shakespearean play “Hamlet”) and set in the Nordic region revolving around the Vikings. The film boasts of exceptionally choreographed action along with some of the most breathtaking visuals that perfectly etch out the grand scale vision of Eggers, which definitely deserves a watch, especially, if possible, on the big screen.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) (Dir. Daniel Kwan And Daniel Scheinert)
This is comparatively a pretty low-budget film if one considers the scale and the grandness of ideas it portrays, with a very interesting take on the popular concept from various CGI-inflated films that tend to use the gimmick of the Multiverse. This film, at its core, remains an emotional and familiar narrative about the mother-daughter relationship and about dealing with adolescence and the acceptance and recognition of one’s individuality. But keeping these aside, the film is thoroughly filled with very inventive use of action, which is perfectly coordinated and choreographed, at the same time being very quirky and extremely hilarious and holding a great rewatch value. The director duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert should be praised for their unique vision, which they have displayed through an excellently enjoyable film while at the same time talking about serious themes of immigrant life in the USA.
RRR (2022) (Dir. S.S. Rajamouli)
This is probably the best in terms of the sheer outrageous thinking of filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli while designing and making its various breathtaking and unique action set-pieces. Even “RRR” (2022) is not immune to a fair share of criticism, mainly due to very problematic politics related to caste, religion, and gender in the current climate of the Indian socio-political ecosystem and tends to be quite in favor of a very Hindutva style use of imagery and also the revisionist takes on historical icons. Yet, unlike some other shameless propaganda as seen in some films from India, which often lack any kind of artistic finesse, this film possesses quite impressive filmmaking and cinematic excellence, and that is also one of the reasons for its becoming a phenomenon on a global scale. Other than that, this film portrays emotions in a very strong way, which are perfectly etched out by Rajamouli and brought out to the screen by him in a very effortless manner. Furthermore, the film boasts probably the best song and dance sequence of this year, “Naatu Naatu,” which in itself portrays a wide array of energy and emotion within just 5 minutes of screen time. Furthermore, it is a blast to watch this bombastic alternate history action/epic drama that, even with a runtime of a little bit over 3 hours, is out and out engaging.
The Batman (2022) (Dir. Matt Reeves)
The main credit should go to its director Matt Reeves for redefining the highly popular comic superhero character of Batman with an interesting take, through a very noirish approach. This film shines at a time when the majority of superhero films are there just to act like cash cows and sell merchandise, lacking any kind of artistic merit. Here, Reeves takes a totally different approach to this widely beloved character and shifts the focus to the more psychological aspect of the action and also towards a less heroic one making it one of the most brilliant character studies to catch in the sphere of mainstream cinema in 2022. “The Batman” (2022) is further elevated by some brilliantly written and acted side characters with the likes of Colin Farrell as Penguin and John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, along with the main protagonist, Batman/Bruce Wayne, played through a very sublime and toned-down performance by Robert Pattinson, and the menacing antagonist, The Riddler, by Paul Dano.
Athena (2022) (Dir. Romain Gavras)
“Athena” (2022) marked the directorial debut of Romain Gavras, the son of acclaimed Greek director Costa Gavras. The film is set against the backdrop of a riot between civilians and the police, followed by the custodial death of a prisoner. From the get-go itself, the film showcased an exceptionally choreographed action sequence that is almost a 15-minute long take that perfectly sets the mood and tone of the film and fills the air with high intensity. The film is an exceptional showcase of cinematic blocking, along with having a very raw and gritty energy, with very calculated and meticulous use of the various cinematic apparatus. The film further boasts brilliant characterization, with the actors giving some tremendous performances that enhance the film’s intense and atmospheric quality, along with some fine action set pieces and sequences.
Bullet Train (2022) (Dir. David Leitch)
Although “Bullet Train” (2022) is not a perfect film, it is definitely one of the most enjoyable and fast-paced ones, and its presence on this list is largely due to its fun factor. Like the previous films of director David Leitch, who previously made “Atomic Blonde” (2017) and “Deadpool 2” (2018), this film also has some impressive and fun action bits to look at and kind of carries this film forward even when some aspects falter. Furthermore, it contains one of the most easy-going and effortless performances by the lead actor, Brad Pitt, who plays the role of an assassin codenamed Ladybug, and it is a pure pleasure to watch his fights with other confronting assassins, all of which take place primarily inside the tight space of a bullet train.
The abovementioned list tries to encapsulate the different ways the action genre was explored in 2022, with some playing with generic conventions and some being totally outlandish and outrageous in their approach. Although some of the films may not be best if judged in terms of their entirety, they definitely fulfill the perfect portions of brilliantly choreographed, conceptualized, and designed action set-pieces, making it the perfect watch for the viewers. So, other than these, here are some of the special mentions: “Vikram” (2022), “The Big 4” (2022), “Saani Kaayidham” (2022), “Prey” (2022), and “Violent Night” (2022).