Telegraph critics pick 2022’s top 50
5. The White Lotus
The second series of Mike White’s satire about super-rich guests in a luxury hotel is as delicious as the first, this time transferring the action from Hawaii to a clifftop retreat in Sicily.
4. The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe
A story almost too absurd to be true – John Darwin faking his death in a canoe accident, hiding in plain sight then running off to Panama – is retold with Eddie Marsan in the lead role and Monica Dolan as his long-suffering wife.
A murder investigation in a Nottinghamshire former mining village exposes old wounds in James Graham’s brilliant, layered exploration of community and class division, featuring a top-notch ensemble cast.
2. The English
Emily Blunt stars in Hugo Blick’s homage to the spaghetti western, as an Englishwoman crossing the American West in an operatic tale of romance and revenge.
1. The Responder
Martin Freeman is terrific in this nerve-jangling drama about a police officer on the streets of Liverpool, dealing with drug addicts, the threat of violence and his own mental health struggles.
Charlotte Wells’s quietly staggering debut, about a young father bonding with his daughter at a Turkish resort in the late 1990s, signals the arrival of a major new talent. But it’s also a joy in itself: tender, funny and moving.
4. The Banshees of Inisherin
An old friendship sours in Martin McDonagh’s charred-black comic parable of Irish identity, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson on the form of their lives as the warring pals.
3. Licorice Pizza
In 1970s Los Angeles, a washed-up young actor makes mischief with his on-off sweetheart. Paul Thomas Anderson’s shaggy-dog picaresque beautifully captures the two youngsters – and perhaps by extension a whole generation.
2. The Souvenir Part II
The second half of Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical diptych about a young filmmaker finding her feet. On its own, a pristine pleasure; combined with its 2019 forerunner, one of modern British cinema’s greatest delights.
1. Top Gun: Maverick
Not just the best blockbuster since Mad Max: Fury Road, but an unassailable argument for cinema as mass art: beauty, amazement and emotion in an addictive, Imax-sized dose, best experienced as part of a gasping crowd.
5. Arms and the Man
Orange Tree, London
An exemplary staging of Shaw’s vintage 1894 comedy of wartime romantic intrigue and punctured idealism, directed by the 20th-century giant’s current leading reviver, Paul Miller.
4. Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen
Marcelo Dos Santos’s whiplash-sharp solo, performed by Samuel Barnett, about a stand-up whose boyfriend could die of laughter
3. Age is a Feeling
One of the discoveries of the Fringe, Canadian performer Haley McGee’s prodigiously calm and wise yet head-spinning solo walked us through a life right until its end.
2. Prima Facie
Harold Pinter Theatre, London
Stretching beyond Killing Eve, Jodie Comer delivered a shape-shifting tour de force as a criminal barrister encountering the system from the victim’s side, in Suzie Miller’s Australian import.
1. The Southbury Child
Chichester Festival Theatre
Stephen Beresford’s humane comedy – anchored by Alex Jennings’s priest – turned a parish spat, spiralling out of control, into a timely portrait of spiritually adrift England.
5. Carlo Crivelli: Shadows on the Sky
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
After almost a quarter of a century, outgoing Ikon director Jonathan Watkins indulged his passion for Carlo Crivelli, by staging the first British exhibition about the 15th-century Italian painter within a setting that’s more typically a backdrop for contemporary art.
4. The World of Stonehenge
British Museum, London
The first exhibition at the BM devoted to prehistoric Britain brought into focus the people who built it, and for whom it had sacred meaning – by stuffing the gallery to the gills with bling and fascinating objects, including spectacular gold collars known as “lunulae”.
3. Hew Locke
Tate Britain, London; Birmingham
A bumper year for the sexagenarian Guyanese-British sculptor, whose carnivalesque Procession of nearly 150 exuberant figures lit up the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain. With characteristic wit, he also temporarily transformed a colossal statue of Queen Victoria in the middle of Birmingham.
2. Van Gogh: Self-Portraits
The Courtauld, London
The Courtauld Gallery assembled 16 of Vincent van Gogh’s 35 painted self-portraits, spanning his short career. The show finished off the hoary, insensitive myth of van Gogh the mad genius, splurging “raw emotions” onto the canvas. In fact, it showed, he painted in between crises.
National Gallery, London
Boasting superlative loans from the Vatican, Washington, and elsewhere, this stately stunner of an exhibition presented the full scope of Raphael’s short career (he died in 1520, aged 37), reminding us why Vasari described the High Renaissance purveyor of grace and harmony as a “universal artist”.
5. Harry Styles
We’re just wild about Harry, and rightly so. With stadium shows and a sensuous third album, Harry’s House, the former 1D star kept the British flag flying on the world’s pop stage. Just don’t mention his acting career.
4. Weyes Blood
For those who value literate, melodious, emotional and epic songcraft, America’s Natalie Mering – who has been performing under various guises since the age of 15 – produced another masterclass on her thought-provoking fifth album, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow.
The weakening of pop’s Anglo-American power bloc has allowed artists of different musical, rhythmic and cultural heritages to flourish. The electro-flamenco star’s Motomami was one of the most inventive albums of the year.
2. Wet Leg
British indie at its perkiest, this Isle of Wight duo – Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – make being in a rock band look fun again with their tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
1. Kendrick Lamar
The groundbreaking US rapper’s psychologically bold fifth album Mr Morale & the Big Steppers was transformed into a breathtaking arena show: performance art on the scale of stadium rock.
5. Marianna Spring
The BBC’s first ever disinformation and social media reporter was the year’s brightest star, with Americast, Death by Conspiracy?, War on Truth and Disaster Trolls.
Radio 4’s experimental drama strand Limelight, with series such as Siege, Lusus and English Rose, showed how thrilling radio drama can still be.
Victoria Derbyshire and Vitaliy Shevchenko’s podcast, on air almost from the moment Putin’s tanks started rolling satisfied our hunger for in-depth analysis.
2. This Cultural Life
John Wilson’s long-running Radio 4 interviews about the cultural hinterland of big names hit new heights with Norman Foster, Neil Tennant and Glenda Jackson.
1. Soundscape of a Century
Radio 3 condensed 100 years of BBC broadcasting into eight hours of archive clips and ravishing music.
5. Nish Kumar
It’s in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves
Fast and furious, Kumar’s best tour in years featured a show-gone-wrong story for the ages about a disastrous Christmas charity gig and a flying bread roll.
4. Maria Bamford
On her first UK tour, the rubber-voiced American star of Lady Dynamite proved why she’s every comedian’s favourite comedian. A sensitively handled routine about her mother’s death brought tears, laughter and gasps.
3. Jazz Emu
You Shouldn’t Have
Sublimely silly songs and gorgeous videos from funky multi-instrumentalist Archie Henderson, strung together by an absurd storyline about his disgraced pop-star alter ego.
2. Leo Reich
Literally Who Cares?!
Satirising Gen Z’s contradictions in wickedly sharp stand-up (with electro-pop songs from the composer of Six), this debut positioned 24-year-old Reich as the voice of a generation.
1. Jordan Gray
Is It a Bird?
With the hair of Amy Winehouse and the piano chops of Tim Minchin, this irrepressibly cheeky comic from Essex is a star on the rise – and a sympathetic voice detoxifying the trans debate.
Southbank Centre, London
A five-day festival of glorious cutting-edge music.
4. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Feodor Akimenko’s Cello Concerto was the highlight of many resurrected Ukrainian pieces.
3. Florian Boesch
Wigmore Hall, London
Baritone Florian Boesch transformed Schubert’s Winterreise.
2. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Royal Albert Hall, London
Mahler’s colossal Eighth Symphony miraculously cohered.
1. Hallé Orchestra
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Mark Elder led a thrilling performance of Verdi’s Requiem.
A vibrant and inventive show, almost more a collection of flamenco-inspired set-pieces of music and dance, this was the hit of an excellent season for the Glasgow-based company.
4. The Handmaid’s Tale
English National Opera
Margaret Atwood’s dark novel was turned into an opera by Poul Ruders before it became famous on TV: this new production was alarmingly relevant in its themes of repression and control.
A bold mixing of cultures, interweaving Monteverdi’s earliest opera with South Asian music, all set in a suburban garden: a refreshing experiment updating Orpheus’s story of love and loss.
2. Peter Grimes
Allan Clayton was outstanding in the title role of Britten’s masterpiece, with Bryn Terfel as Balstrode, and conducted by Mark Elder. The evocation of the Suffolk coast was down-at-heel and brutal.
1. The Makropulos Affair
Welsh National Opera
In a powerfully imaginative staging by Olivia Fuchs, Janáček’s story of the 300-year-old Emilia Marty, conducted by Tomáš Hanus, was brilliantly sung by Ángeles Blancas Gulin.
5. Say It Loud
A potted history of the company that performed it, created by artistic director Cassa Pancho for Ballet Black’s 20th anniversary: smart, tart and euphoric.
4. Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby
Rambert director Benoit Swan Pouffer and Steven Knight turned the all-conquering TV series into dance theatre – the result, as much rock gig as dance show, was (yes) a blinder.
3. Like Water for Chocolate
Laura Esquivel’s 1989 food-obsessed novel got the Christopher Wheeldon treatment. The piece had its flaws, but proved a cracking, lavish evening’s entertainment for all that.
A brazen, Black Mirror-style reworking of a 19th-century classic: exciting, immensely original stuff, and the sort of piece that could well recruit newcomers to the art form.
1. Set and Reset
Watching this sparkling revival of the late Trisha Brown’s 1983 work was a little like stumbling across some benign rite playing out in a remote, moonlit forest glade – 24 minutes of 24-carat joy.