Well, this took a while to get to! To be honest, I spent most of January catching up on a few key movies from 2022 that I at least wanted to see before making this list. Overall, 2022 was a fantastic year at the movies. I know that the domination of superhero movies bums some people out. There’s no denying that we get less of some kinds of movies at the theater. Especially in wide release. As an ardent fan of comic books, even I have some superhero fatigue at this point. That being said, I think this year is a testament to the amount of great cinema—from massively budgeted superhero epics to micro-budget indies and everything in between—that is still released every year. This year, especially, has produced some fantastic surprises as far as movies that were both critical and commercial hits. So, without further ado, here are my personal favorites. I tried to keep it to 10, but then realized there was simply no way I could cut some of these. You can read about my favorite Books and Music in separate journal entries. Unlike previous entries, I did number these. Why? I don’t know. It just felt right to. Maybe because there were so many of them? So, without further ado…
15. The Menu
My partner and I had two very different reactions to The Menu trailer. He thought it looked kind of silly. I thought it looked completely fascinating. First of all, it has three performers that I enjoy a great deal: Anna Joy Taylor, Ralph Fiennes, and Nicholas Hoult. The marketing was wonderfully mysterious and kept a lot of things close to the vest, so even though you knew something bad was happening at this restaurant, exactly what that might be was kept hidden. The way the movie unfolds—echoing both a meal’s courses and, according to one theory, the seven deadly sins—is a delight. The introduction of the characters, the ratcheting up of tension all flows naturally and is aided by some wickedly sharp dialogue. There are all sorts of ways the movie could have gone wrong, especially at the end, but it’s resolved with style, panache, and substance.
14. The Batman
I know, I know. ANOTHER Batman movie? We’ve had so many! I went into this movie hopeful (Reeves) but wary (the general aesthetic) but I’m happy to say hope won the day. Yes, it’s very Noir. But it’s not the mirthless, pitch-black thing that some reviewers want to cast it as. There’s a lot of humanity here, for one thing. And there’s humor, just not the quippy “Whoa, that’s gonna hurt!” humor of Marvel movies. The thing that surprised me the most is that Reeves has managed to create a heightened grittiness that’s actually very in-line with the Noir roots of the movie and work very well for Batman as a character. I’m glad there’s plans for a Batman & Robin movie as part of James Gunn’s new DC movie plan. I’d like to see a more “comic book” Batman. But one of the great surprises of this movie is that, even if they look more grounded, he at least makes the characters feel true to their comic counterparts, and creates a Gotham that feels alive and unique.
Kimi came out so early in 2022 that I almost talked myself into thinking it came out in 2021 and wasn’t eligible for this list. I love 70s thrillers. Kimi captures a lot of them (and Rear Window, of course!) to create a paranoid thriller where, uh, the paranoia feels more than appropriate. Part of it is that Soderbergh, by setting it in the VERY up-to-date setting of the pandemic-stricken US, does a fantastic job of highlighting just how little we managed to learn from all those 70s thrillers and we’re living in a scarier world for it.
12. Three Thousand Years of Longing
I am at a complete loss to the reaction (or muted non-reaction) to this movie. It’s the follow-up to Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller! Tilda! Idris! A richly told tale that is elegant and emotional but not in easy and manipulative ways. I thought it was absolutely lovely, and I hope it finds the audience it deserves some day.
One of the few movies on this list I managed to see twice, Barbarian was a surprise critical and commercial hit. A movie (like The Menu) that hid most of what it was very close to the chest. It made for a surprising, incredibly satisfying ride. And, joy of joys, it’s an absolute blast to rewatch. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to unpack here, too. Subtle explorations of the times we find ourselves living in.
10. Glass Onion
I adored Knives Out. I’m a complete sucker for mysteries, especially “the murder is in one of us” sort of mysteries. Clue is one of my favorite comedies of all time, and I’ve always liked Murder on the Orient Express and it’s various other derivatives. Although I still haven’t watched the latest version of that. Add in a fantastic performance by one of my favorite actors (Daniel Craig) and supporting performances by a bevy of great names (too many to list) and it’s easy to see why Knives Out was such a hit. I was excited and a little bit nervous for Glass Onion. Could lightning strike twice? Could Rian Johnson and crew keep the quality up?
Turns out I needn’t have worried. I think, in some ways, Glass Onion is the better movie. I’m a huge fan of Janelle Monae as an actor, a musician, and a writer. She’s so effortlessly cool and her role here was a lot of fun, allowing her to show different sides. The rest of the guest cast is, of course, very well judged with Dave Bautista once again proving he’s the best wrestler-turned-actor of all time. The man really can do any role well, can’t he? All that being said, the one thing that held this back for me some was the ending. It got a little “bigger” that I expected. It’s not bad, mind you, it just wasn’t really expected in this series. That being said, I think with time this will bother me less. And i’m excited another movie is planned. I could watch these—even if they become less frequent—with Craig playing Benoit Blanc into his dotage.
Will Babylon be everyone’s cup of tea? No. But I suspect anyone who loves film will end up loving it. I could be wrong, but I found the first 2/3rds to such fun, exciting, interesting filmmaking it completely won me over and kept me with it until the end. Is it too long? Maybe. I don’t know, it really flew by for me. When things go south for the characters the movie loses some energy, but I think that’s intentional, as the characters really hit a brick wall. I enjoyed spending time with the characters, and the runtime helped reinforce the passage of time. Margot Robbie, as always, was fantastic. Brad Pitt, as almost-always, was also pitch-perfect. Between this and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood he’s cornering a market, here. But I have to give a shout out to Diego Calva’s Manuel. He’s the least known name, but he’s the fallible, beating heart of the movie.
8. Banshees of Inisherin
This is my first Martin McDonagh film, and if this is emblematic of the quality of his films, I really need to seek out more. The movie is based on such a simple, real premise. What if you just plain got sick of someone? Not someone who was “bad” in any way. Just someone who you no longer wanted in your life. Blackly comic, outrageous, humane, and absolutely stuffed full with so many fantastic performances. Colin Farrell gives what I think is his best performance ever. I’m not that knowledgeable about Brendan Gleeson, but he’s an electric performer. I really should try out the Mr. Mercedes series sometime. Barry Keoghan turns up in a performance that is sweet, irritating, and creepy all in equal measure. It’s beautiful.
7. Top Gun: Maverick
I am still in awe of Top Gun. I liked the first movie but had no special attachment to it. That being said, I’m a fan of Kosinski as a director (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) and the trailers were great. But I wasn’t prepared for the pure cinema rush of Top Gun: Maverick. It made me remember how fantastic movies could make you feel. It was thrilling and heartwarming and romantic and funny. I know it sounds silly, but I’d kind of forgotten what a made-for-adults summer blockbuster could feel like.
6. Crimes of the Future
I’m cheating and just straight up quoting my review, because it still feels like the best write-up I can do: “What makes Crimes of the Future so exciting is that there is literally no one else on Earth, past or present who could (or perhaps even would) make this movie and we are lucky that Cronenberg did. The movie slashes through so many lines, but in such a gentle and intimate way.
The cast is uniformly excellent. But I have to give Viggo Mortensen extra accolades for a riveting and strange performance. The score by Howard Shore is a complete, brilliant surprise. The costuming. The devices. The staging of everything in a rusted out, twilight world standing at a cross-section of time. Anywhere and nowhere. Perfect.”
The only thing I’d add all these months later? The movie has stuck with me. The imagery, the story—it’s written itself onto my brain.
5. Moonage Daydream
An absolute must for any David Bowie fan. It sadly never came to IMAX near me, but I was at least able to view it on the big screen. The decision to let David tell his story in his own words through imagery, concert footage, archival interview footage, and the like makes it feel truly special. And, of course, the soundtrack is amazing. This is definitely one of those movies that feels more like an experience than anything, and I adored it.
4. Everything Everywhere All At Once
When I first reviewed EEAAO, I wrote: “I’m not guaranteeing Everything Everywhere All At Once will connect with everyone the way it did with me. But I am not exaggerating when I say that I don’t remember the last time I laughed or cried so much during a movie. It’s beautiful and goofy and so alive. I loved it.” I still agree with all of this. I want to rewatch it soon, but it’s one of those movies I had such a good time watching in the theater that part of me wants to keep that amazing first impression in my memory versus watching it again. Except, I suspect the movie has a lot to offer on repeat viewings.
Aftersun was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I was intrigued by the movie, and I’d heard it was getting good reviews, but I went into it without knowing much about it. The weird thing is, there’s not a lot to know about it. On the surface, it’s kind of a hangout movie between a dad and his daughter. But the sheer storytelling genius and prowess here means that a rich, delicate, and emotionally complex story is told with almost zero dialogue ever talking about much of anything. The meaning, the emotion—it’s mostly told visually. I still find this movie hard to talk about in that trying to describe it feels limiting. I can’t really capture what it’s like. And maybe how much you enjoy it will depend on how much you invest in it. But I thought it was superb.
2. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Setting it in Mussolini’s Italy is a stroke of genius that lets the story spark off of the context. It’s creepy and charming and delightful. A beautiful soundtrack too. Rich character work really brings the oft-told story to life with a fresh perspective. May stop-motion live on forever. Nothing really replicates the feel of it. I was in tears by the end. A triumph.
I snapped up a 4K disc of Tár almost immediately after watching it. I’m only sad I didn’t get to see it in the theater, and I keep hoping maybe they’ll bring it back if it wins some Oscars. Which it most definitely deserves to. I went in knowing precious little about Tár. Other than the fact that it starred Cate Blanchett, which is usually enough for me. But the fact that DG was doing a score, and the raves about Blanchett got me excited. I was not, in any way shape or form, ready for what this story was about. There’s a point where, after rooting and enjoying Lydia Tár for all her power and capability, I realized where the story was going, and re-evaluated my own feelings about the character. I love when a movie can do this. This is another movie that has really stuck with me and that I’ve thought a lot about. It’s told with such complexity and nuance, rarely taking the obvious path in pretty much anything it does, but evoking incredibly powerful, stirring imagery, character moments, and ideas.