(This article is part of our Best of 2022 series.)
After two years of delays and theater closures, 2022 felt like the theatrical experience had officially returned. I saw a ton of movies on the big screen, including the three new Marvel films (fine, meh, and double fine). My Top 5 of 2022 is constantly changing, so I’ve decided to once again select five films that either surprised me during my first viewing, gave me exactly what I was looking for and then some, or left me thinking about it for the next week. They are ranked in no particular order. Let’s get started.
The Brenaissance is here! I finally had a chance to see The Whale in theaters at the start of the new year and the film did not disappoint. Everyone has been talking about Brendan Fraser’s lead performance in The Whale for months now, but when the first reviews from critics came out suggesting that — while the performances were stellar — the story was subpar, I’ll admit I got worried. Luckily, at least personally, I found The Whale to be a nice drama anchored by a trio of great performances from Fraser, Sadie Sink, and Hong Chau. The Whale continued to grow on me long after the credits had finished rolling, and to this day I still think of the film’s ending, which I’ll admit had me on the verge of tears. If Fraser’s phone isn’t ringing with movie offers for the next year then I’ve truly lost all hope in Hollywood.
Top Gun: Maverick
I’m a Tom Cruise guy and I have been for a while. Besides The Mummy, I watched every film he released in the 2010s. He’s a movie star and the fact that he does his own stunts just makes him all the more watchable. Yet, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Top Gun the first time I saw it, so I wasn’t really sure whether Maverick would be my jam. However, I wasn’t going to pass up seeing Maverick on the big screen, especially after early reviews called it, “The Movie of the Summer.” So, I rewatched the original (much better the second time around), headed to the theater, and… was sort of underwhelmed for the first three-quarters of the film. It was good (Maverick doing the test run was one of those can’t look away scenes you love to see in a movie), but I didn’t think the film was really going above and beyond. But then the film stranded Maverick and Rooster and it all clicked together for me. From then on, I was 100% in the Danger Zone. Even after leaving the theater (and months later), Top Gun: Maverick still creeps back into my head to remind me, “Yeah, that was a really good film.”
Downton Abbey: A New Era
My family got addicted to Downton Abbey after the first three seasons had already aired on PBS. I know some people cannot get into it, but we find absolutely compelling. When the series ended, a film continuation was announced almost immediately, which opened in theaters in 2019 and did quite nicely at the box office. A New Era picks up after the events of the 2019 film and gives the fans everything they could have hoped for with a sequel that also works as a conclusion to the entire franchise. I do not need another Downton Abbey movie after A New Era. The film so perfectly encapsulated everything that makes Downton so damn good that I would hate to see it even slightly besmudged by a third film. Instead, I look forward to seeing what the talented cast of Downton Abbey does next.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Predator franchise, but I wasn’t about to miss out on seeing a prequel that was free for me to watch. So, I hit play on Prey and was immediately impressed. Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers are really good as the young Comanche siblings, who have to take on a more primitive version of the Predator. While I am still confused as to why the Predator didn’t notice that his tracking missiles helmet wasn’t on his face (thus allowing him to get his ass whooped), it’s a minor detail I’m willing to overlook. Prey was definitely one of the biggest surprises of the year and I’m down with wherever they take the franchise next.
If you had asked me at the start of the year if The Batman would be on this list, I would have laughed and said, “No.” I had zero interest in seeing this DC film. Sure, the trailers and marketing had me intrigued, but I just couldn’t get behind yet another Batman reboot. (How am I ever going to get a Nightwing film if DC keeps giving us films focusing on a young Caped Crusader?) I finally got around to watching The Batman in December and immediately regretted having not watched it sooner. Like I was in shock at how much I was liking this film while watching it. I liked the performances (although I didn’t care for Paul Dano’s Riddler or Andy Serkis’ Alfred). I liked the world-building. I just had a good time watching The Batman and now I’m patiently waiting for a sequel that will hopefully give us a BTAS-esque Mr. Freeze. Dammit, director Matt Reeves, you got me.
Those are my five favorite films of 2022. The runner-ups would be The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, The Lost City, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and Emily the Criminal.
What are your thoughts on the movies that made my top five? Share them down below!