(This article is part of our Best of 2022 series.)
What a year! Here we go again. Ready yet again to look back on the last twelve months of cinema and crown our favorite achievements of the year.
Unfortunately for me, 2022 seemed to be predominantly defined by a lack of enthusiasm. For much of the year I patiently waited for a movie to come along to really get my juices flowing. Many tickled my fancy, but I’m still not sure that we’ve received our next instant classic.
The post-COVID movie era is still waiting for it’s first definitive film and I fear that we our reducing our chances of finding based on recent industry trends.
The economics of the theater industry appear to be as dire as ever. Any release not belonging to a major franchise appears doomed for financial failure. Of the top 10 highest grossing movies of 2022, Matt Reeves’ The Batman is the only non-sequel.
Despite the financial writing on the wall, directors, studios, and the film industry as a whole continue churn out new movies for us year after year. And although much of this intro sounds like the ramblings of a cranky and pessimistic curmudgeon, there were plenty of movies that I did enjoy this year.
Here are 10 films that I believe represent the best of what 2022 had to offer:
10. The Banshees of Inisherin
Martin McDonagh sure can write the heck out of a script. His latest, which he also directed, is probably the most laugh out loud funny of the year. But it’s also insanely tender and poignant.
Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell remain the perfect vessels for McDonagh’s unique brand of storytelling. Farrell reminds us why he’s the most underrated actor working right now. Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan offer strong performances as well, rounding out one of the best acted movies of the year.
The Banshees of Inisherin will make you laugh, it might make you cry, and it’ll make you ask important life questions. That’s gotta be the mark of a pretty “fecking” good movie.
9. The Northman
Robert Eggers went BIG for his third movie. Nordic revenge epic big to be exact. However, mixed in with the giant viking battles are meditative scenes of Alexander Skarsgard plotting his subsequent moves. This is where the movie finds its true self. The heart, soul, and undeniable identity of The Northman is not found in the blood or the gore. Rather, it’s found in the deepest desires of Skarsgard’s Amleth. Eggers sits with Amleth’s confused motivations with such grace, that it becomes hard to be anything but deeply appreciative of this powerhouse film.
Yes, Cate Blanchett does give the definitive performance of the year in Tár. However, the cool thing about Tar is, is that the movie itself is actually really darn good. It’s quite understandable that movie that chooses to take a deep dive into the world of classical music is a tough sell for contemporary audiences. However, Tár‘s core interests are undeniably modern. Plus, a good character study is almost always a safe bet for a quality film.
As a commentary on so-called “high brow” art and culture, Tár inevitably ends up becoming the butt of its own joke. It’s presentation as a pretentious arthouse film just further underlines the absurdities it sets out to highlight – making it surprisingly one of the cheekiest movies of the year.
7. The Fabelmans
I’m starting to think this guy Steven Spielberg might know a thing or two about directing.
Our current content landscape seems to be dominated by tell-alls and desires to “control one’s own narrative”. In The Fabelmans, Spielberg gets to do a bit of his own narrative control. However, because he’s one of the greatest filmmakers to walk the earth, he does it with extreme care and great catharsis. The Fabelmans exists as a treat for film lovers who are familiar with how Spielberg’s filmography is infused with the therapeutic explorations of a man coming to terms with his formative years. In this latest work, we get a fully recontextualized Spielberg. His deepest vulnerabilities play out for us with full cinematic clarity.
The final scene of The Fabelmans is easily the best ending of the year. A surprise performance steals the show and the final shot will leave you grinning from ear to ear.
6. The Batman
The title of best comic book movie of 2022 still belongs to Matt Reeve’s The Batman. I might even be ready to say it’s the best live action Batman movie of all time.
What I love so much about The Batman is that I think it’s in on the joke. Gotham is an absurd place; Bruce Wayne is a ridiculous character. Making Batman movies that are dark, gritty, and grounded are tonally inconsistent with the source material and its medium. The Batman is deceivingly silly, and I love it for that.
It also serves as a reminder that superhero movies can be really cool as standalone projects when we give directors full authority to make the movies they want to make.
I still wish Prey got a proper theatrical release. It would’ve been an absolute blast watching this in a dark room full of strangers. All of us cheering on The Predator executing gnarly kills on French settlers and Comanche warriors. Fortunately, this movie was rad enough to enjoy via home viewing.
Dan Trachtenburg proves he knows how to make a sleek, self contained, kick ass movie. The pacing is rock solid, the action is good fun, and there’s a top tier movie dog. What’s not to love here?
4. Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once is the surprise hit of the year. I definitely didn’t have an A24 distributed movie about multiverses that explores generational trauma and the power of choosing love making over $100 million at the international box office on my 2022 movie bingo card. I also never envisioned a movie that features butt plug kung fu to move me to tears with a line read about taxes and doing laundry.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a truly singular cinematic experience. One minute you’re laughing your ass off at a team of henchmen getting pulverized by dildos, and the next minute two rocks with googly eyes are having a deeply existential conversation. Few directors have the confidence to attempt something so bold. Even fewer can pull it off with the same success as The Daniels do in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
3. Decision to Leave
This is easily the most intoxicating movie of 2022. Park Chan-wook takes us on an absolutely wild ride in this dazzling thriller. I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that this is the first of his films that I’ve seen (it certainly won’t be the last).
Decision to Leave is impeccably photographed and edited. Shot after shot we are lured deeper and deeper into the psychological state of our main character, Hae-joon (a dynamite Park Hae-il). The form and function of the medium is less concerned with narrative progression, and more focused on emotional response – from both audience and its characters.
Simultaneously captivating and admittedly kind of confusing, Decision to Leave invites multiple rewatches. I’m already looking forward to my next viewing.
I’m still not sure why RRR gained so much traction stateside while so many other Indian movies fail to find footing here. Whatever the reason is, I’m quite thankful for it. This movie rocks so much. The three hour epic about Indian independence from the Brits features the best musical numbers of the year, some of the most bonkers action sequences of the last decade, and the best movie bromance of all time.
If a movie were judged by the number of times it makes me say “oh my god”, RRR would be near of the top of the list of all time greats. For now, I’ll just leave it as my number two movie of 2022.
In a year when Steven Spielberg made a movie about his family and childhood years, Nope still managed to somehow be the most Spielbergian film of 2022. The charming and familial low stakes adventure vibes feel like a lost art in modern filmmaking. Peele is able to nail it here with the clever eye that we’ve all come accustomed to from him.
The more I thought about Nope, the more realized I couldn’t help but make it my top movie of 2022. Jordan Peele’s third feature is something of an enigma to me. At first, I thought it was a fun, fairly simple piece. However, as my time away from the movie grew, its layers began to reveal themselves to me.
The social commentary is ever apparent, even if the actual intention of its inclusion is up for debate. The keen eye for creating cinematic iconography is also there – in the form of wonderful shots and images that are burned into our collective movie loving memory.
Nope is smart. Nope is fun. It pulls from what we know and love, but it exists as something fresh and exciting. For all of that, and for so much more, Nope is my favorite movie of 2022.
Cheers to another year of movies.
I hope this list has ruffled some feathers and piqued some interest. Let’s keep the conversation going. What’s ranked too high? What are my egregious omissions? What are you putting on your list?