Last last year Sam Inglis led a team of HeyUGuys writers to compile a list of the films of 2021 that were cruelly overlooked. As we’re halfway through 2022 the time has come to draw up another list of films, but this time there’s a different criteria at hand.
These are the films that we have discovered, so far, in 2022. These are the films, from any year, that we have watched for the first time, and wanted to share with you. Here there are cinematic classics along with obscure ‘90s action thrillers, character studies and slasher flicks galore – there is no other list quite like it around.
We hope you’ll find new favourites from the list here, and be inspired to look further afield for your own movie discoveries.
Daniel Goodwin Recommends
Colossus: The Forbin Project (Joseph Sargent, 1970)
At a time when Sci-Fi films were evolving from silly flying saucer B-movies into subversive, dystopian thrillers following 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, Colossus: The Forbin Project initially slid under many cinema goer radars when released in 1970. Now, director Joseph Sargent’s pertinent masterwork feels more relevant than ever, what with AI advances, the Russia/Ukraine war and societal unrest caused by the Covid pandemic.
The story melds technology gone haywire with political paranoias involving protagonist Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden), a world expert on computer systems who creates a government funded contraption called Colossus to analyse data and determine whether an adversarial attack on America is imminent. Protocols crumble when Colossus detects a similar device operating in Russia and retaliates after a request to connect with its counterpart is denied.
Colossus (the film) modulates its tension according to the manners in which characters retort, (initially with stoic professionalism until situations escalate) despite the increasing severity of their predicament. This has contradictorily unnerving results for the viewer and contributes to this forgotten “science-fact” thriller resounding as a criminally overlooked classic that’s so captivating, you could almost forgive Joseph Sargent for going on to make Jaws: The Revenge… almost.
Jack Hawkins Recommends
The Long Good Friday (John Mackenzie, 1980)
Get Carter always loomed largest in my impression of the British gangster genre. Somewhere in the distance was The Long Good Friday, which, for whatever fickle reason, had made a rather middling impact during my first viewing in 2010.
The film hasn’t changed in the last 12 years, but it seems I have. After a much needed revisit, it is obvious to me now that The Long Good Friday is a proper bloody, bollocking British crime film.
It is not only a high energy crime film, it is prescient, politically-charged London film that foreshadows what the Isle of Dogs would become, which is, for better or worse, a shiny capitalist shrine. The real pleasure is in the performances, though. As the livewire Harold Shand and the demure Victoria, Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren play off each other brilliantly.
Short, stocky and intense, you know Shand is a hard, nasty bastard. Yet Shand is also charming and ambitious—a perfect Thatcherite. A local boy done good, albeit with the help of guns, knives and all sorts of unspoken criminality. However, such means are rather vulgar to the Shand we meet, introduced to us at Heathrow Airport after a Concorde flight from New York City. This is Shand the businessman, not the career criminal, but it’s going to take some work to fully realise this ambition, and it will require not violence but decorum, which is where Victoria comes in.
Victoria was originally written as a typical mob wife—a nagging gold digger. But as Mirren explained to The Guardian, she persuaded director John Mackenzie to change her into a “middle or even upper middle class” girl. Mirren’s idea transformed the film’s chemistry, turning Victoria in a true partner rather than some brassy ornament; a skilful host who smooths the edges of Shand’s abrasive nature in his tense schmoozing with the New York mob.
However, despite his best efforts, Shand can’t escape London’s gang violence. Sounds like a familiar premise, right? Well, Mackenzie’s film, which was written by Barrie Keeffe, eschews convention not just through the strength of character and dialogue, which are brilliant realised by the performers, but also by capturing the zeitgeist of the late ’70s malaise and the laissez-faire economics that followed it. Oh, and that score too—fantastic.
Sam Inglis Recommends
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (Eric Rohmer, 1987)
Rohmer is a particular taste, but if you find his films on your wavelength, then (as far as I’ve seen to date) every one is a treat. This might be my favourite so far. Blanche (Emmanuelle Chaulet) and Lea (Sophie Renoir) meet and become fast friends. Lea has an on and off relationship with Fabien (Éric Viellard), who she knows she’s not especially suited to, and introduces Blanche to Alexandre (François-Éric Gendron), a handsome yuppie who Blanche immediately falls for, but when Lea goes away, Blanche and Fabien begin spending time together.
There are no prizes for guessing where this is going. Rohmer signposts it throughout, indeed he has one of the characters essentially lay out the plot in an early monologue, but the process of it getting there is compelling despite its smallness. At one point Blanche tells Fabien that she’s worried that she’s banal, it’s a charge that could be levied at the film, but what keeps it interesting for me is the sheer quality of the storytelling and character writing. Rohmer doesn’t allow an ounce of fat, every sequence begins with two or more of the characters meeting, and ends when they part. Their dialogue is often self-centered, I’m not sure I’d like them (except perhaps Blanche) much in real life, but it feels absolutely real, and that’s also reflected in the performances and in the chemistry, especially between Chaulet and Viellard.
Rohmer shoots almost the entire film outside, and setting the countryside walks Blanche and Fabien take against the featureless white concrete, nothing yet planted in the patches of soil set aside for that purpose, that surrounds Lea’s apartment building, feels like a pointed comment on her life with and without other people in it. I’m not often one for films that are so simple and gentle, but Rohmer and his actors execute them beautifully.
In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)
Japanese culture has been something of a mainstay of my pandemic experience. I started getting into J Rock bands, the game I’m playing most on my new PS4 is a Japanese RPG, I’ve taken the first steps in learning the (brutally difficult) language, and, among others, I finally got around to seeing this film in its fully uncut form, through the new Criterion BluRay.
Looking at the extras and reading the excellent booklet essay, it is clear that there is a metaphorical political context to what Nagisa Oshima is saying with this film, and especially by setting it in 1936. That said, I don’t think any appreciation of it is diminished by looking at it purely as what it presents itself as on the surface: an explicit account of a love affair so obsessive that it becomes dangerous. The story of Aba Sade (played by Eiko Matsuda, who made only two films before this and, sadly, would make only another handful, retiring in 1982) is true and apparently much of what she says in the film is drawn from transcripts of her testimony at her trial. Matsuda and co-star Tatsuya Fuji (a much better known name, who was in a film as recently as 2019) are absolutely credible as the couple transgressing his marriage vows for a relationship almost completely defined by its sexual element and its escalating intensity, leading into BDSM practices.
For all its explicitness, In the Realm of the Senses isn’t a prurient film, nor does it feel pornographic. It achieves what Michael Winterbottom never quite managed, nearly 30 years later, with 9 Songs: showing us a couple who communicate almost totally through sex, and drawing us into the dynamic between them. Where this film succeeds is in placing the couple in context within the world. The Japan of 1936 is always outside, always something Sada and Kichi are shutting out, but from the design to the political undertones, it also always feels specific. Beautifully made from top to bottom, In the Realm of the Senses is shocking and occasionally disturbing for its story, but its sexuality is always treated as a means of storytelling rather than for pornographic purposes. It’s film for adults, rather than an adult film.
Jason X (James Isaac, 2001)
Back in February, I found a good price on the recent (and exhaustive) Scream Factory boxset of the Friday the 13th films. This was a big punt, because I had never seen any bar the original and Freddy Vs Jason. Several of them could have made this list, particularly Jason Lives, with its inventive kills and multi-layered Sartre joke. That’s probably the better film, but by God, Jason X is FUN.
This is one of the dumbest films I’ve ever seen. It starts by cryogenically freezing Jason and an attractive female scientist played by Lexa Doig (who he manages to stab through the cryo tube just before he’s frozen, because Friday the 13th movie), then has the crew of a spaceship find them 400 years later. Both are revived and Jason begins picking off the crew of the ship. While many of the previous films were dogged by censorship that neutered a lot of the kills, Jason X has no such issues. From the opening impalement of a government scientist (played, with no small measure of glee, by David Cronenberg) to a spectacular moment when someone’s head is frozen in liquid nitrogen and promptly smashed to pieces, the gore is played for both brutality and silliness.
I’m not going to tell you that it’s especially well acted, but everyone here knows hat movie they are making. Without, aside from one great scene towards the end, entirely reducing itself to parody, the film leans into the inherent absurdity of its premise. Once it gets to the second half it’s almost full blown comedy. For example, in a knowingly silly moment, the ship’s android (dressed in skimpy leather because, again, Friday the 13th movie) suddenly gets programmed to know kung fu, gets tooled up and kicks and shoots Jason to death, at least until we get to Uber-Jason.
To me, this is almost the frozen pizza of cinema. Yeah, I know it’s bad for me, and I could get the same thing with healthier ingredients and better made… but it’s so easy to sit down and gorge on, and so satisfying despite—or perhaps because of—the total lack of nutrition.
Liam Macleod Recommends
House Party (Reginald Hudlin, 1990)
Back in the pre-pandemic days The Cube was Bristol’s premiere spot for arthouse or reparatory screenings, second only to the Watershed. The volunteer-run microplex struggled during the outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, running few screenings even today. However back in May, DET Entertainment decided to throw a ’90s themed house party at the venue and what better to screen at The Cube than 1990’s House Party?
Now being British and slightly whiter than a new-born polar bear my exposure to African-American cinema has been somewhat limited. Mostly to the work of Spike Lee or in younger years the Wayans Brothers (shudder). I knew nothing about House Party and even less about hip hop duo Kid n’ Play, for whom the film served as their feature debut. However, the film had since gained cult status and appealed as a fun, ‘one crazy night’ narrative with aesthetics reminiscent of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff were actually the studios first choice as leads).
Which is how I came to find myself sat in The Cube’s rickety seats surrounded by members of Bristol’s Black community. Quoting-along and laughing riotously while dressed in a variety of 90’s fashion trends. Honestly, this might have been the best way to get introduced to House Party. The raw enthusiasm with which the audience parroted each joke proved infectious. Overcoming any social or racial barriers to engage with the desires of Kid (Christopher Reid); to woo the popular girls, to show off sick dance moves, to be free of ones overbearing father (the late Robin Harris).
A few years ago I reviewed Steve McQueen’s Lover’s Rock, a far more sober version of the ‘house party’ narrative. Try as I might I simply couldn’t share in the genuine enjoyment of the characters onscreen as the film seemed to favour montage and non sequitur scenes over story and character. Less a narrative film and more a raw expression of Black joy. However, for an audience to empathise, even with something as simple and pleasurable as joy, there still needs to be some point of connection. That’s what House Party provides. It’s a gaudy, colourful, high-energy riot with fun relatable characters. A landmark moment in Black cinema that celebrates African-American music and fashion without reservation.
Ben Robins Recommends
Hard To Kill (1990) (Bruce Malmuth, 1990)
Don’t get me wrong, much like its leading man, Hard to Kill is a piece of shit. One of about five watchable Steven Seagal movies, all of which were released at the back-end of the ’80s/’90s action boom, it’s by no means good. But it is ludicrously entertaining in the most Wiseau-esque way imaginable. Seagal is his standard pistol-whipping, wrist-snapping renegade cop, narrowly escaping death and seeking revenge after waking up from a seven year coma. He sports some truly horrendous stick-on facial hair, brutally maims and murders an endless army of men with terrible haircuts, and partakes in what is quite possibly the most eye-gougingly awkward sex scene ever committed to film.
And despite being only two films deep into what would soon turn into a total cesspit of a career, Seagal really goes for it here, going full psycho. The climax plays more like a slasher movie, with Seagal as the killer, dancing around a giant house, dispatching unsuspecting bad guys one by one – often taunting them with messages written in blood on the walls. In fact, it plays so closely to a straight-up horror that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s You’re Next would go on to very literally rip it off 20 years later, and be deemed a modern slasher classic in the process.
It’s a stupidly fun and truly baffling watch.
10 To Midnight (J. Lee Thompson, 1983)
On the other end of the action hero spectrum is the stoney-faced Charles Bronson, at the height of his genre-movie powers here in what is essentially a low-budget, very ’80s version of David Fincher’s Seven. A psycho killer’s on the loose in a crime-riddled Los Angeles, and an ageing Bronson is hot on the case, laying the groundwork for both Mills and Somerset as he mentors a young rookie, and plays violent loose cannon simultaneously.
Regular Bronson collaborator J. Lee Thompson (also known for classics like The Guns of Navarone and the original Cape Fear) leans into the darkness, revealing the killer from the very beginning so we experience the cat and mouse elements on both sides. But it’s not until the super-charged third act that we really get the good stuff, with both Bronson and Thompson firing on all cylinders in a seriously nerve shredding face-off that doesn’t mince its words. A proper hidden genre gem.
Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)
Ghosts of Mars signalled not only the fall of John Carpenter’s nearly thirty year reign as the King of Genre, but it was pretty much the end of his special brand of modestly budgeted sci-fi horror all together. Critically panned, and a huge box office bomb all over the world, it’s easy to see why people didn’t really get it in 2001; it’s weirdly cast, weirdly edited, and everyone involved seems to be making a completely different movie from Carpenter himself.
Pam Grier, Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge join forces to defend a Martian mining post from a supernaturally-equipped tribe of natives. There’s ghosts, hot air balloons and Jason Statham with hair—in space. It’s gloriously campy, made even more entertaining by the entire cast doubling down on their straight-faced performances, despite Carpenter going for fun, blasting thrash metal and basically making a live-action video game. It’s safe to say that twenty years on, it plays very differently.
Matthew Rodgers Recommends
Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006)
We are currently living in an age of anime, with series and feature films as accessible as ever, and break-out hits such as Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train opening with $20M atop the box-office.
That might not have been the case back in 2006, or maybe it was a lack of awareness on my part, but Satoshi Kon’s Paprika slipped through my own levels of consciousness when it was released. I’d urge you not to do the same.
A surreal science-fiction epic in which a device that allows people to record and rewatch dreams is stolen from the team of scientists who invented it. The thief then uses it infiltrate their psyches’ and enact chaos upon the world, bleeding the line between the dream world and reality, leaving characters stuck in limbo. The scientists, aided by a sceptical police chief and a dreamscape avatar named Paprika, join together to try and realign their worlds.
If it all sounds a little Inception, that’s because it is, with narrative threads, visual beats and entire set-pieces plucked straight from Kon’s hand-drawn cels, so-much-so that you half expect a spinning totem to appear. That’s not a slight on Nolan, but if he revers Paprika in such a way that Inception feels like a homage, then that should be recommendation enough. Mind-boggling brilliance.
Midnight Run (Martin Brest, 1988)
I know, I know. This isn’t even the worst example of a film I should have seen before now, but you need to understand that I grew up in an era in which Robert De Niro doing comedy was at best Meet the Parents or Analyse This, and at worst Rocky and Bullwinkle or Analyse That. I just wasn’t a huge fan of his parody gangster schtick.
The endless hours of lockdown 2020 and the Clockwork Orange eyes pinned open browsing time spent on the Netflix menu meant that I stumbled upon Midnight Run, and soon realised what I’d been missing out on for all these years.
This should have been the type of film, like Beverly Hills Cop or The People Under the Stairs, that I caught in the 1am slot on terrestrial TV when I was too young to be watching it, thus etching it into my heart forever more. We all have regrets.
The overriding takeaway is just how brilliant De Niro is. Why didn’t he do more roles like this? If he did, let me know what they are! His charm is off-the-radar, and his chemistry with the magnificent Charles Grodin is lightning-in-a-bottle stuff.
Now you can stop rolling your eyes.
Dave Roper Recommends
10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016)
Cloverfield burst onto the scene in early 2008 off the back of a phenomenal teaser campaign. If you look back at the marketing, it feels a million miles from the way trailers and publicity material are packaged and released now – it feels like no film is going to be released now without everyone knowing exactly what to expect from it.
At the time, there was much talk of sequels, spin-offs and the like. One idea was that a “sidequel” would be made, which followed the guy who Hud sees on the bridge near the end, who is also filming everything for posterity. Sadly (or happily, depending on your appetite for such things) nothing immediately materialised.
Instead, what we got was an unexpected “spiritual sequel” in 10 Cloverfield Lane, staring John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Like its predecessor, it kept its cards close to its chest, at times suggesting a looser or closer relationship to Cloverfield, depending on who you asked. As far as we can tell, 10 CL was likely a stand-alone story that was instead repurposed to function as a sequel to Cloverfield (much like the screenplay for Simon Says in the ’90s that was refitted to be Die Hard With A Vengeance, whilst the original idea for Die Hard 3 became Speed 2….) and to be honest, it would have functioned and probably succeeded on its own merits, without having to be crow-barred into the Cloverfield “universe”. But it was retconned and so what we got was a really taught thriller about a girl who is kept hostage in an underground bunker because her captor is concerned about everyone’s fate at the hands of the alien invasion happening outside. Except because of the title, we are not entirely sure that the captor is delusional……
As you would hope from a film set in such claustrophobic surroundings, director Dan Trachtenberg keeps us suitably on edge, with character motivations deliberately murky and of course the hulking figure of Goodman towering over the relatively vulnerable Winstead brought the usual physical and gender dynamics into play (we hadn’t had Winstead “kick ass” in Kate yet, for example).
The denouement proved satisfying and although one might have hoped for a bit more ambiguity, we all know that such aspirations are unrealistic in the modern movie landscape. Watching a film like this while still in the tail end of the pandemic, with memories of strict lockdowns still vivid, definitely increased the emotional impact – maybe enjoy this and Searching as a pandemic double feature?
Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair, 2016)
A Disney production about a young girl with unexpectedly prodigious chess-playing abilities, who elevates herself from the slums of Uganda, might sound like so much “Rookie of the Year”, but in fact director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair) really digs into the messiness of young Phiona’s life, including an absolutely barn-storming turn from Lupita Nyong’o as her mother. Having spent time in Uganda, albeit many years ago, I can attest to the authenticity of what Nair puts up on screen – the smell, feel and desperation is all carefully and compellingly evinced.
And yes, as a Disney production there are certain beats to be hit and it is only going to go so far with the tragedy and suffering – this isn’t a spiritual sequel to City of God – but Queen of Katwe is nonetheless rich, real and gripping. Like many, it probably sounds moderately more appealing off the back of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, but this digs its own furrow and deserves to be enjoyed on its own terms.
The Butler (Lee Daniels, 2013)
Despite the flawless credentials of its director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy, The People vs Billie Holliday), The Butler caught some flack on its release, seemingly for an overly melodramatic and unsubtle approach. But it remains a rich and compelling story of half a century of almost unimaginably tumultuous American social and political history, all seen through the eyes of Forrest Whitaker’s White House Butler.
Although there is a slightly distracting amount of “spot the cameo” going on with the casting of various well-known actors as successive Presidents, Whitaker as Gaines and Oprah Winfrey as his wife Gloria are impeccable and we are given a well-rounded presentation of the differing approaches to, and attitudes about, civil rights and protesting by Gaines’s interactions with his increasingly activist son. We even get another incredibly unglamorous performance from none-more-diva Mariah Carey.
In the end, no single film can tell the whole story of America from 1920 to 2000, so this is only going to be a particular perspective, through a specific lens, but it is fascinating, moving and engaging and well worth a bit of your time.
Thank you for taking the time to read our discoveries – if you’ve had any of your own you’d like to share please do let us know in the comments.