My Top 10 Movies of 2022
Hey, guys. It’s movie time! As I do at the end of every year, I’ve put together a list of my ten favorite movies from 2022. As always, it was difficult to narrow this one down, but I did my best. These are the movies that I think are going to stick with me the most, and live on in my head for years to come.
This year I'm trying something new and putting my top ten list into video form, alongside this written post. If you'd like to watch the video, you can CLICK HERE! It's the same content for the most part, just a different form factor (and with more rambling). Either way, please now enjoy a list, beginning with some special, honorary awards:
The “Not Nearly As Bad As Everyone Said It Was” Award:
Don’t Worry Darling (Dir. Olivia Wilde)
Mired in behind-the-scenes controversy in the weeks leading up to its release, Don’t Worry Darling seemed doomed to failure from the start. After its release, most people seemed to agree that the hate was merited… But not me! I like this movie! It’s about a couple who live in an idyllic neighborhood where something mysterious and sinister is going on in the background, and maybe everything’s not quite as perfect as it seems…
Okay, so this is not a story that’s never been told before, but it was told with style (haha)! There’s beautiful, arresting imagery throughout, what I think are some genuinely great performances, plus so many of the tropes that I love; weird sci-fi, corporate dystopia, secret societies... Those are all things that I might refer to as “my jam”. Sure, if you really break down the ending, then
a few things almost nothing actually makes sense, but I was along for that ride either way.
The “Best Standout Scene in an Otherwise Unspectacular Movie” Award:
The Fabelmans (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
I fully expected a 2022 Steven Spielberg movie about making movies to be self-indulgent garbage, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found The Fabelmans to be just fine. It’s not a homerun, but for what could’ve easily just been a mawkish nostalgia piece, there’s a lot to like here. For my money though, the reason to see this movie is the last five minutes or so. I won’t give away exactly what this scene consists of, and I won’t give away what non-actor actor appears in a perfectly cast cameo, but I was grinning the entire time.
There’s a very dumb line in the beginning of the movie when Michelle Williams tells the little baby Steven Spielberg stand-in all about the magic of cinema, and how you’ll leave the theater with a big, stupid, sloppy smile on your face because of how magical it all is. And god damn it if I didn’t do just that at the end of this movie, I think mostly thanks to that final scene. Good job Steven Spielberg, you have now earned my approval and can therefore feel good about yourself at last.
The “You Sure Did Go For It Though” Award:
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Speaking of self-indulgent… I think I have a higher tolerance than most for overly long, pretentious, artsy films, but look, even I have a limit. I hit that limit watching Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. Actually, I think I hit that limit just reading the full title. This is a truly beautiful movie, made by undeniably one of the most talented working directors alive. I loved the cinematography, but most of all I loved how weird this movie was. It was genuinely refreshing to watch something that wasn’t sci-fi or fantasy, but also wasn’t afraid to use elements of metaphor and magical realism to tell its story.
Unfortunately, the movie lost me the longer it went on (and boy, does it go on). At the end, there’s a sort of “explanation” for the all the weird stuff that happened, and I found I didn’t like that as much as it just being done for the sake of it. This is also clearly a deeply personal movie, and I found it difficult to relate to. I think many people might find it difficult to relate to, unless you happen to be a Mexican film director whose name is Alejandro. Still, I can’t deny the ambition on display, and there are plenty of things in the movie that do work. I’m glad he went for it. He really went for it.
And now my top ten movies of 2022:
Aftersun (Dir. Charlotte Wells)
A few of the movies on this list are big and bombastic, with lots of actors, and special effects… and Aftersun ain't that. This is a very small movie about a man and his daughter on vacation, and you’re simply spending time with them while they’re there. A portion of the movie is shown to you through the literal lens of their personal camera (taking place in the 90s, there’s an authentic camcorder/home video aesthetic), and the result often feels like you really are watching someone’s home movies. Some people are sure to be turned off by that this is a movie where not much really happens. There's a narrative, but I don't know that there's a “plot” per se. Even the dialogue is relatively sparse, and there are several silent scenes.
And yet, by the end of it, I was genuinely affected and moved. What impressed me so much about Aftersun was that it could evoke powerful emotions in me by doing what felt like so little. It trusts the audience to catch on to what it’s doing without being flashy or obvious, eliciting emotions with only the gentlest of touches. It made me reflect on experiences I've had with my parents, and I'm sure if you have kids, it'll make you think about your kids too. Aftersun excels by doing a lot with a little.
Men (Dir. Alex Garland)
Men is about a woman who goes to a bed and breakfast in a quiet village following some recent trauma in her life. There, a man starts stalking her, and some very creepy things ensue… and then some even creepier things happen after that. As the title implies this movie is about Men; how shitty men can be and how frightening it can be to live as a woman in a male dominated world. As a man myself, that is not something that I personally experience, so I appreciate when movies like this can give me that perspective.
As the title might also imply, this is not a subtle movie. I’ve heard people criticize it for that, but personally, I’ve got no problem with a lack of subtlety (Sorry, Aftersun). Sometimes a director has something to say, and I’m fine with them saying it as loudly and as violently as they want to. Alex Garland definitely does just that by employing some seriously shocking imagery that I am never, ever going to be able to get out of my head. Thanks, Men!
Barbarian (Dir. Zach Cregger)
Hey, look, it’s another movie about a woman booking a scary bed and breakfast! I guess there’s just something about this concept that does it for me (don't read into that).
Anyway, in Barbarian, the main character finds that someone else is already staying at her previously booked Airbnb, and terror ensues. I’ll be very vague about the details, because what really thrilled me about this movie was its unpredictablity. As soon as I thought I knew what it was, it swerved and became something else that I loved even more, and it did that at least twice.
Before Barbarian, I knew Director Zach Cregger from the comedy troupe Whitest Kids U Know, and now he's somehow made my favorite horror movie of the year. That does explain why this movie is so sharply funny, and I found that the comedy never came at the expense of the horror. Whether you're making people laugh or trying to scare them, the timing is of the utmost importance, and a mastery of both is on display in Barbarian.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Dir. Eric Appel)
I'm fairly confident that Weird won’t be appearing on most critics’ Top 10 lists, but for me, it was almost a foregone conclusion. I'm an enormous Weird Al fan, and I have long been awaiting his return to movies since 1989's cult classic UHF. Weird is ostensibly a biopic about Weird Al's life, but of course it’s full of false details, descending into madness by the end. It's a brilliant send-up of the terrible, tropey, overdone musical biopics we usually get (coughElviscough), but it’s also funny enough on its own without knowledge of those movies. (I'd also like to say that it still works even if you're not a Weird Al fan, but I'm so steeped in that world that I really cannot say for sure.)
The biggest shame about this movie is that it was relegated to the Roku streaming platform (although had it not been for Roku, it maybe wouldn't exist at all). I just know it would be an even better experience to watch this in a theater with other people laughing at the same jokes. However, at-home streaming is currently the best we got, and the movie still works. There are dozens of great jokes in Weird that I’ll be quoting for years to come - things like the existence of a “hay-boy”, or Weird Al's mom explaining gently to her son, “we agreed it would be best for all of us if you would just stop being who you are and doing the things you love”. In spite of that sentiment, Weird makes you proud to be weird.
The Whale (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Brendan Fraser makes his much discussed “return to acting” in The Whale, where he plays a morbidly obese man struggling to survive and coexist with his estranged family. For many, I think the concern going into this movie was that it would lean too heavily on tone deaf body shaming, and that may still be the experience for some. To my surprise and delight, I found that the movie really didn’t focus too much on that subject. While his weight and health are certainly discussed, that's not the core of this character, a sweet, kind optimist, who just tries to see the good in everyone.
The Whale also touches on the importance of finding your own voice and speaking your own truth, just one of several themes that really spoke to me. And while the movie can certainly be melancholy, I don't think it's misery porn on the level of Aranofsky's other movie, Requiem for a Dream. On the contrary, I found it to ultimately be rather sweet and heartwarming. If nothing else though, Brendan Fraser’s performance is reason enough to see this one.
The Banshees of Inisherin (Dir. Martin McDonagh)
This movie is just about perfect. It’s about two fellas living in a very small, remote island village in Ireland. They live a peaceful, if not boring life, until one of them decides he doesn’t want to be the other’s friend anymore, and the rest of the movie is about the fallout of that crumbling relationship. This is essentially a breakup movie that just happens to be about two buddies instead of a romantic couple. We don’t get nearly enough movies about friendships in general, so I liked seeing that explored on screen.
At times Banshees can be tragic, graphic, and upsetting. It’s also one of the funniest movies I watched the entire year. Obviously this isn’t a comedy loaded with one-liners, but it’s funny in a more natural way; The things that these characters do and say are so over the top, you can’t help but laugh, but the drama is compelling enough that the absurdity of the situations doesn’t detract from anything.
Avatar: The Way of Water (Dir. James Cameron)
We discussed The Whale, as well as Banshees, but Avatar: The Way of Water is the only 2022 movie to feature both whales AND banshees.
I was a big fan of the original Avatar, and I think that The Way of Water outdoes it on just about every level. The visual effects are more incredible, the story is more original, the characters are deeper, and it sets up new threads that I'm much more excited to see unfold in future sequels. The team that helped write this movie also wrote the recent Planet of the Apes reboots, and their talent for worldbuilding and developing intricate dynamics between characters is evident.
I think The Way of Water starts to take this franchise into Star Wars territory, in the sense that it feels more like a space opera to me. The world is expanded, family drama comes into play, and it’s got everything that I love about sci-fi franchises like this one. The world on display is one I could happily get lost in, and I’d spend another four hours hanging out with the Na’vi in their water village if I could. It's beautiful, it's engaging, and I can hardly wait to go back to Pandora again in a couple of years.
Tár (Dir. Todd Field)
The incredible Cate Blanchett gives one of the best performances you’re ever going to see on screen in Tár. She plays a conductor who is established early on as this remarkable talent, having won dozens of awards, and achieved numerous artistic feats. To begin with, I was in awe of this character. I loved the way that she and others use language to discuss music and the art of creation. As the movie develops, more of Tár’s layers are unpeeled, and more complicated questions are raised. Who are these larger-than-life figures, celebrities, actors, artists and creators? Why do they do the things they do? How do we reckon with the mistakes that they make?
I was enraptured with Tár from start to finish. I place it on the level of something like Amadeus, an important (and actually good) biopic, except that Tár is about a fictional character. This allows room to enhance the story without the need to embellish or add the usual dumb things that those types of movies always add (coughElviscough). Again, Cate Blanchett is amazing, and thanks to her performance, this is a really powerful character study of a problematic, yet brilliant figure. It's a timely movie, but one that doesn't feel like it's going to be dated anytime soon. A modern classic.
RRR (Dir. S.S. Rajamouli)
RRR is an Indian movie that was released on Netflix, but I was fortunate enough to see it at a local movie theater. It’s the biggest, craziest, wildest movie going experience you are likely to ever have. It's got over the top action scenes coming out the wazoo; it's got animals that are CG, that you can tell are CG, but you don't even care because of how much fun you're having; it has songs that are sung off-screen by singers about the things that are happening on the screen as they're happening! What more could you want? Like Men, this is not a subtle movie, but it’s so damn sincere, that you wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s no sense of irony here, no winking at the audience, just a heart on a sleeve for everyone to enjoy.
RRR is about two awesome friends who do awesome things - oh, and also it's about the Indian Revolution against the British. It’s a blend of history, fantasy, and mythology, PLUS it has one of the greatest dance sequences ever put to film. It's a miracle that this movie works as well as it does. It shouldn't. It has so many strange, disparate elements, but somehow they all work together perfectly. It is as some might say, “pure cinema”.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (Dir. Daniels)
My personal favorite movie from the year 2022 was Everything Everywhere All At Once. (Daniels’ previous film Swiss Army Man was my favorite of 2016, so they’ve got a great track record with me.)
Everything Everywhere is about a Chinese immigrant struggling to raise her family and pay her taxes… and also, she needs to navigate multiple dimensions in order to save the universe. It's got nearly everything that I’ve ever loved in a movie; sci-fi, action, kung-fu, nihilism, beauty, love, hope, a talking raccoon, sentient rocks with googly eyes, and people with hot dog fingers. On paper, these things should conflict with one another, but on screen, it all works. It’s a silly comedy and a goofy kung-fu movie, but underneath that is a wonderful undercurrent of earnestness. The Daniels have an uncanny ability to evoke powerful emotions in me even though what I’m witnessing is objectively ridiculous. It's the perfect intersection of absurdity and sincerity.
Everything Everywhere also speaks to the concept that the more specific you make something, the more broad it becomes. I am a white man (sorry) without a family (you’re welcome). I do not run a laundromat. However, I can still find a way into this movie, easily. I think no matter who you are or where you're from, you're going to relate to these characters because they're portrayed in such a moving, believable way. You're not going to see another movie like this anytime soon, and for all those reasons and more, it's my favorite of 2022.
There are a lot more movies that I really, really loved from 2022, and I am going to highlight just another 10 of them (in alphabetical order) that I think are worth seeking out:
All Quiet on the Western Front (Dir. Edward Berger)
Babylon (Dir. Damien Chazelle)
Fourth of July (Dir. Louis CK)
Glass Onion (Dir. Rian Johnson)
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Dir. Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson)
The Menu (Dir. Mark Mylod)
Nope (Dir. Jordan Peele)
Pearl (Dir. Ti West)
Prey (Dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
Speak No Evil (Dir. Christian Tafdrup)
That sums up my personal favorite movies from 2022! If you’d like to see EVERYTHING that I watched last year, you can! I’m trying out this whole Letterboxd thing, so go there and check out my individual movie ratings, and maybe be friends with me? I don’t know how this works.
Let me know what your favorites of 2022 were, and what you’re looking forward to in 2023!
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