While still respecting the couch potatoes streamers who see the future of movies at their fingertips, let’s celebrate studio heads and the theatergoers who brought back the cinema experience to its former glory. It was an extraordinary year for films in a wide variety of mediums. From the big Hollywood blockbusters, the hidden streaming gems, the small independent documentary, and those films you forgot about last spring, There was no stone unturned to gather the very best movies of the year. Please enjoy my 30 favorite films of 2022.
The 30 Best Films of 2022
30. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
It’s a wonder why DreamWorks waited so long. After appearing in two Shrek films and the stand-alone spinoff, to greenlight another installment of adorable machismo cuteness. And they accomplish that sentiment with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. An animated film that is a meow-velous delight from start to finish.
29. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Perhaps no sequel in film history had stakes this high on a human level, considering the original film is a touchstone moment in cinematic history, the first big-budget comic book film with a majority Black cast, led by a hero who never looked like the white knights most Hollywood executives envision while layering the film with themes, traditions, style, and a celebration of a community’s heritage and ongoing legacy. How can a sequel possibly exceed expectations? Perhaps what Chadwick Boseman stood for and his tragic passing fueled the filmmakers to make a superhero picture with great gravitas, even one that may be a pulse-pounding metaphor for grief.
28. The Batman
Matt Reeves leaves a cinematic mark in comic film history with patient, intelligent filmmaking. Even at an almost three-hour running time, The Batman does not feel too long. It’s tolerant, even darkly serene. Every scene has a thoughtful purpose. With a layered story about the nature of politics of greed that undermine the very people and the underlining effects, it’s an ominous look at the psychological black hole where we always knew Bruce Wayne hibernated.
27. For Jojo
Jojo (Nin Gummich) may have the worst case of arrested development since Buster Bluth had his hand bitten clean off by a seal and zipped up Lucille’s dress. A cringe-comedy with melancholy notes, Ott’s German comedy For Jojo (Pauleve Jojo) is one of the year’s hidden gems. The script, by Stephanie Ren (Cleo), no matter how outlandish the behaviors of one person can be, there is no sugarcoating the fragility of human relationships.
Bros is a seminal moment in comedy history. One of the funniest comedies in years and has an eye-opening amount of poignant heart. Case in point, Eichner delivers a wonderfully plotted and paced speech about being forced to be someone he is not. It is an extraordinary moment of mesmerizing plaintiveness that we did not know Eichner had in him.
25. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Perhaps one of the most adorable, sweet, and heart-swelling movies to come out in years. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, embraces our shortcomings, insecurities, and sorrows by turning them into core strengths. Remarkably mindful, Dean Fleischer-Camp captures the childlike wonder of finding yourself and your place in life.
24. Emily the Criminal
John Patton Ford’s breakout freshman feature is a taut, gritty, and engrossing crime film with a pulse on what is happening to today’s generation. Aubrey Plaza, the Andy Kaufman-like comedic actress who turns heads with 2020’s Black Bear, is sensational here. And announces her arrival as a serious talent in feature films for years to come.
Cannes-winning filmmaker Wregas Bhanuteja’s Photocopier is an Indonesian neo-noir examining taboo subjects wrapped in a sinister and riveting mystery. His shadowy, black, and green photography highlights his vision of the subject’s resiliency.
NOPE may not be Peele’s best film, but it doesn’t have to be. The script is steeped in symbolism, and he knows the horror genre is about anxiety. His script is also steeped in symbolism. Horror films are about anxiety. Imagine living in a world where authorities could shoot you without provocation because of your skin color. It is a suspenseful, visceral old-fashioned horror film that will keep you on pins and needles while having plenty to say and have you pondering its meaning.
Resurrection is one of those movies with an ending so bonkers that you will forgive anything that happened prior. Andrew Semans’ script delivers that “Oh f**k” moment that drops your jaw to the floor and will have you talking with your coworkers over the water cooler debating its meaning. Does the plot point to a metaphor for changing gender norms? Or hell, I thought it may be a horror movie inspired by today’s infatuation and attraction to the “dad-bod” that has taken the country by storm. Well, at least I am drinking that Kool-Aid. The wicked, twisted, and dark tumbles are as thought-provoking as they are enigmatic. Yet, perhaps perversely, Semans’ cerebral film is about empathy and forgiveness.
20. Women Talking
Sarah Polley’s effortless and exquisitely thoughtful adaptation of Miriam Towes’ 2018 novel is as moving as it can be frightening. The type of poignant fear can only be created when a group of people debates critical, life-threatening decisions in small rooms where courage can be found. Polley’s film is well-composed and extraordinarily acted, and not a single syllable is wasted.
19. Gladbeck: The Hostage Crisis
Gladbeck: The Hostage Crisis is overwhelmingly powerful and raw that covers 54 hours in 90 minutes and the astonishing events that transpire. Volker Heise’s documentary exposes our appetite for flirting with our own moral ambiguity that remains unchanged.
18. Triangle of Sadness
Let me know if I have this right. Ruben Östlund’s film Triangle of Sadness, a Vantablack satire on the lack of morality that comes with beauty and the wealthy elite, was given an eight-minute standing ovation after its premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Palme d’Or award for Best Picture. So, has anyone asked if they missed the film’s point entirely? The mere fact that the audience applauds a harsh look in the mirror of ego-driven monsters brings a whole new meaning to the phrase if you look around the room and don’t see the sucker, you’re it. Thankfully, the film is not insufferable for the viewer, who can giggle and cringe in delight over the social elite getting a dose of their medicine.
An eclectic road trip film that pushes the limits of the meaning of the phrase, “family is what you make it.” Written and directed by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, delightful comedy is brimming with melancholy and breathes buoyant life into every moment. Especially the silences.
16. Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.
A biting commentary on organized religion, community culture, and the lack of faith in ourselves. Regina Hall gives one of the year’s best performances in Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a blistering satire of how one person’s salvation can be another’s damnation.
15. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Director Rian Johnson’s spinoff/sequel to his highly entertaining 2019 mystery Knives Out is precisely what studio escapism should be. You have a big named cast with a deep bench. A script that’s whip-smart and marvelously constructed, which happens to be very funny and highly entertaining. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is as close an equivalent of a great mystery novel as an original movie can get.
14. She Said
What Maria Schrader’s phenomenal film does so well is simple — listen. And not just to the victims, which it does powerfully so. She Said’s script includes the aggressors, the bullies, and the paid legal muscle to use the truth of their own words to expose predatory behavior.
13. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is courageous and refreshing filmmaking because the filmmaker always makes a bold choices without fear. A family film that continues to go through its existential crisis, like the world we live in today, that is bittersweet, full of heart, and offers something beautifully hopeful.
12. Avatar: The Way of Water
Tom Cruise may have saved the movie theatre experience and kept the doors open with Top Gun: Maverick last May, but James Cameron may have made it viable for decades. Avatar: The Way of Water is an immersive, spectacular pure Hollywood experience like no other you’ll have this year or maybe the next. This is why you go to the movies, for the magical experience a theatre can represent.
11. Bad Axe
David Siev’s exceptional view of what it means to live in Donald Trump’s America highlights how the only thing harder than the pursuit of the American dream is holding onto it during extraordinary circumstances. Bad Axe is a documentary film that offers rare insight into firsthand experiences of race in America when times are tough while clearly showing the invisibility of anti-Asian hate.
10. Top Gun: Maverick
How can we not include a film in our top ten list that saved movie theatres across the globe? Only one man can deliver in a world that desperately needs heroes – Tom Cruise! Stand up and cheer, ladies and gentlemen. Top Gun: Maverick is a full-throttle, action-packed nostalgia machine that delivers the supersonic thrills we all have been clamoring for.
9. The Northman
Truly visceral writer and director Robert Eggers’s downright Shakespearean Viking epic combines his distinct style with a film with mainstream mass appeal. The Northman blurs the lines between dreams and haunting nightmares. The magnetic Alexander Skarsgård gives a ferocious and volatile turn that will go down as one of the year’s most underappreciated performances.
This Netflix film also has the type of morality that people try to convince themselves of its ambiguity as the decade’s pass, never more than when a white descendant of a slave ship captain mistakes a new and unlikely bond to voice his opinion that is as jaw-dropping as the story itself. Trust me. It’s a stunner. As equally fascinating as it is riveting, Descendant is an extraordinary documentary about oral histories, gatekeeping, and community. Margaret Brown’s film is like no other.
7. Bones and All
I walked into a coming-of-age romantic cannibal road film, not knowing what to expect and fully knowing my chops for anything horror tend to lean away from the genre. However, Bones and All gets off to a ferocious and effusive start that you will hardly see coming that hooked me and would not let go. A stirring and tender love story that will have you walking out a completely different person than when you sat down. As the film says, there was life before Bones and All and after Bones and All. I left thinking just one thing — Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’s novel is an instant classic.
6. The Banshees of Inisherin
The wonderful thing about The Banshees of Inisherin is that you have no idea where it’s headed, even in its darkest moments. Director Martin McDonagh’s excellent script takes you to places you don’t expect, even if they are, let’s say, cosmetic, so to speak. Those truly bleak moments can be shocking, even jaw-dropping, because the film keeps doubling down on the threats the story makes. Featuring the best performance of Colin Farrell’s career, McDonagh strips away the movie minutia and makes the plot simple. If there was ever a story that offers a metaphor for being aware of boundaries, this is it.
Action spectacle? A Telugu bromance that rivals Peter and Sidney? Stunning folklore about colonialism? S. S. Rajamouli’s wholly exhilarating and highly addictive RRR is a rousing, adrenaline-fueled, dazzling act of genre-bending filmmaking for the ages.
4. All Quiet on the Western Front
One of the most gut-wrenching, brutal, and uncompromising anti-war films ever made. There are few cinematic experiences this or any year, like Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic work. The director captures the source’s material’s visionary concept of the anti-war story. The first anti-war novel abandoned popular themes of nobility, patriotism, and the romanticizing of fighting for something as inconsequential as a few meters of land. Berger brilliantly helps bring to life the curtain that Remarque pulled back. All Quiet on the Western Front is an indelible achievement.
There are moments so shocking that transpire on the screen of the CNN/HBO Max documentary Navalny, people would swear this is a fictional film because they may have trouble believing it. The documented account of a man challenging the sitting Russian president is an astonishing and downright chilling film that plays out like a tightly wound political thriller. The ending is so visceral that it can be felt in your bones, and the viewer becomes mindful of the current state of our present world.
2. Decision to Leave
Reminiscent of Hitchcock, the tone is seamless, the performances by Park Hae-il and Tang Wei are flawless, and the storytelling is addictively satisfying and engrossing. Perhaps no mystery crime film has been so exquisitely photographed while being so gracefully crafted. Park Park Chan-wook’s ability to elevate the “genre” film into remarkable pieces of art is breathtaking. His thriller, about an ominous romance, is an atmospheric masterpiece filled with obsession, jealousy, and loss of self-control. Decision to Leave is Park Chan-wook’s transfixing metaphor for what it means to love without trust and trust without love. The final haunting scenes will live in your memory long after the final credits roll and the lights come on.
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
There are very few film experiences that rival Everything Everywhere All at Once. It may be one of the most original movies I have ever seen. A genuinely bonkers, exhilarating, awe-inspiring, and mind-bending filmgoing experience. It leaves you breathless from sheer creativity while tugging at your heartstrings. The Daniels film is just an electrifying experience that’s a collective burst of creative energy. It will be a film with you saying to yourself that you have never seen anything quite like it, and many will try to duplicate it for years to come.
It’s the year’s best film.
What are your favorite films of 2022? Comment below!