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Austin Butler (centre) and Tom Hanks in a still from Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic, one of the best films screened at this year’s Cannes festival. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Cannes Film Festival 2022: the 10 best movies, from Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave to controversial Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness

  • Decision to Leave deservedly won Park Chan-wook the best director prize, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic dazzled, and the winner of the top prize was controversial
  • Snapshot of adolescence Close won a share of the Grand Prix, and David Cronenberg returned to Cannes and to sci fi/body horror with Crimes of the Future

The sun shone. The stars came out. And after two pandemic-interrupted years, the 75th Cannes Film Festival felt something akin to normal … well, as normal as you can get in a carnival like Cannes.

There were protests on the red carpet against violence towards women – at the premieres of both Three Thousand Years of Longing and Holy Spider – and hysteria when Tom Cruise arrived with Top Gun: Maverick.

And while it got off to a slow start, the films increasingly impressed over the course of the festival’s 12 days.

Here’s a breakdown of the most essential movies that played this year.


Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont won the Camera d’Or with his first movie, Girl, which played in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard strand in 2018. This time, he was promoted to the main competition with Close, a sensitive look at friendship between two boys on the verge of their teenage years.

Lots of critics – me included – adored it for its honest, and heartbreaking look at the vulnerabilities and fragilities of adolescence. The jury agreed, awarding it a share of the Grand Prix – second place – with (shockingly) Claire Denis’ Stars at Noon, a risible love story set in Nicaragua.

Tori and Lokita

Recent films by the Dardenne Brothers – Young Ahmed, The Unknown Girl – have felt like the Belgian two-time Cannes winners were spinning their wheels.

But this tale of two young African immigrants (Pablo Schils, Mbundu Joely) desperately trying to survive any way they can is a taut, methodical and moving exercise that once again cuts to the heart of social inequality and exploitation.

Recalling Rosetta, one of their past Palme d’Or triumphs, in its look at how the young are often left to fight alone, it was given a one-off prize – a Special 75th Anniversary Award – but this vital, alive film deserved more.

Crimes of the Future

It wasn’t quite the David Cronenberg comeback to set the Croisette alight, but after eight years away from filmmaking, it was still thrilling to see the Canadian back in Cannes.

Reuniting with Viggo Mortensen – this is their fourth movie together – Cronenberg also found his way back to the sci-fi/body horror that made his name.

There is an argument to be had that this tale of organ evolution and performance art saw Cronenberg revisiting his greatest hits, including gizmos that jacked into torsos (eXistenZ) and erotic wound-play (Crash). But despite the presence of a child autopsy (!), it was Cronenberg in restrained, meditative form.
A still from Aftersun, directed by Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells.


A sensual treat turned up in Critics’ Week, with this feature debut from Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells. Set in the late 90s, it delicately tells of the bond between 11-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) and her father Calum (Paul Mescal) as they share a few days away in a Turkish holiday resort.

The film, which won the French Touch Prize, is a dreamy evocation of a shared experience, a coming-of-age film for both parent and child, in a way. Mescal proves that his turn in the BBC’s Normal People was no fluke, with a humane portrayal of a man figuring his way through parenthood any way he can.


The reactions from critics were mixed, but Baz Luhrmann’s glitzy, energetic Elvis Presley biopic was exactly the show-stopper that Cannes needed in its second week.

Austin Butler really does put on his blue suede shoes, delivering a supernova turn as Elvis. The concert scenes, particularly the ’68 Comeback Special sequence, are artfully staged, while the handling of Elvis’ demise is dignified.

Tom Hanks, as the film’s narrator, Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker, may be the film’s weak point, but whether he is wearing Christmas jumpers or Elvis merchandise, his larger-than-life persona feels fitting for a film that cranks up the volume to ear-splitting levels.

Boy from Heaven

The jury chose well here, awarding Tarik Salah the best screenplay prize for this dense but rewarding Cairo-set thriller set in Al-Azhar university, the foremost institution for studying Sunni Islam.

Saleh, moving back into similar terrain to that of his 2017 noir The Nile Hilton Incident, explores high-end corruption through Egyptian society, as a young fisherman’s son (Tawfeek Barhom) is recruited by a State Security agent (Fares Fares) to spy on various parties during a secretive election, following the death of the university’s Grand Imam, the highest-ranking religious leader.

It’s a potent portrait of those in power – and what they’ll do to stay there.

Triangle of Sadness

This year’s Palme d’Or winner. Right from the opening credits – cut to a snatch of MIA’s Born Free – Ruben Östlund’s latest film is aggressively in your face.

A divisive satire where the super-rich get cut down to size after a luxury cruise goes haywire is as repugnant as it is bold. The film’s centrepiece, as the elite are left vomiting and more besides during a violent storm, had most in the audience either agog or gagging.

It is broad, farcical, savage and wryly funny – and the prize, adding to the Palme that Östlund won for 2017’s The Square, confirms him among European cinematic royalty.

Decision to Leave

Playing mid-festival in competition, Park Chan-wook’s tale of a detective who falls for a woman he’s investigating was the film that finally got critics chorusing their approval. Decision to Leave won’t play well to those who enjoyed his Vengeance Trilogy and thirst for a bit of ultra-violence, but it’s an elegantly crafted film that requires utmost concentration.

Chinese actress Tang Wei exudes a silky charisma as the female under suspicion, while Park (who took home the best director prize) conjures one of his most mature films to date. It capped a great year for Korean cinema, with the best actor prize going to Parasite star Song Kang-Ho for his turn in Broker, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first film in Korea.

As Bestas

Unveiled in the Cannes Première section towards the very end of the festival, Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s As Bestas is a richly evocative thriller.

Denis Ménochet (Inglourious Basterds) and Marina Foïs play a couple tending a small farm in the Galicia region who find themselves at odds with the locals over a proposed wind turbine project, a feud that soon escalates as two brothers take it upon themselves to intimidate these middle-class outsiders.

With a final act that makes a surprising – but impressive – switch, it’s an absorbing ride that explores love, violence, and vengeance in equal measure.

One Fine Morning

After her insipid Bergman Island, which played in Cannes competition last year, it seems strange that Mia Hansen-Løve’s much better One Fine Morning would be relegated to the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar.

Based on her own experiences with her father, who suffered from Benson’s Syndrome, a rare form of Alzheimer’s, the film is a harrowing watch.

Léa Seydoux, who also appeared in the Cronenberg film, gives everything as the daughter who simultaneously experiences the horror of losing a parent in such a cruel way while finding love with a married man. Sometimes, agony and ecstasy really can go hand in hand.

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