Top 10 of 2022
2022 was a year with a lot of very good movies, even great movies. There's a lot on this list I admired, but few that I downright loved. Simply put, 2022 wasn't the type of year where I had movies I wanted to constantly rave about and tell others to go out and see. In the early part of the year, it looked to be promising, but the second half didn't quite deliver the goods that I had hoped. And yet, there were still many honorable mentions that easily could swap out half of the entries on this list. So be sure to check my picks at the end to see which movies just missed the cut.
10. TIE The Fabelmans
Steven Spielberg's fictional in name only auto-biopic The Fabelmans was a fascinating peek into the man behind the camera. Scene by scene, Spielberg reveals how his artistic gift shaped his life both for the positive and the negative. I expected the Spielberg version of Cinema Paradiso, in thinking it would be much more about the love of the art of movies themselves and how it inspired him. I didn't expect the glimpse we got of Spielberg's family dysfunction and the difficult positions he found himself put in time and time again, often in conjunction because of his love of the craft. The Fabelman's is a very good film and perfectly cast. Seeing recreations of Spielberg's original teenage films was an absolute joy.
10. TIE The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin is the fascinating look at what happens when a people pleaser just can't please a particular someone. There's a certain type of person that just cannot handle leaving something unresolved and are determined to fix the unfixable. Such efforts only make things worse. There's a feeling of helplessness that occurs when a relationship you once valued goes by the wayside and you have no choice but to accept and respect the other person's wishes, no matter how slighted you feel. Performances across the board are amazing and the script is constantly biting and darkly comedic.
Damian Chazelle is such a talent and I really admired Babylon--the flip side of fame and chasing dreams he previously portrayed in La La Land. Babylon isn't the most accessible film, nor the easiest to recommend, but his style and dedication to the craft is undeniable. This year had a lot of good films as I said, but having a filmmaker at the helm with such vision makes all the difference and gets Babylon a spot on my list. Chazelle's choices are just a thrill to watch from start to finish, and that's quite the feat considering its hefty runtime. The first 20 minutes are a fever dream that lead into a deep dive of Hollywood history, from silent films to the rise of talkies. I know the term "love letter to cinema" has been overused, but when the shoe fits, it must be said! The only catch is, Babylon not only covers the highs of fame, but the absolute lows and how fleeting it all is. Yet the beauty of cinema is that it always lives on.
8. Top Gun: Maverick
For someone who was ambivalent to borderline meh about the original film, liking Top Gun: Maverick as much I did was definitely a surprise. Not to mention it also had the baggage of a huge mountain of hype working against its favor too. The film had a lot to live up to and yet somehow it made it all look so easy. The dogfighting scenes are absolutely thrilling to behold, and knowing the lengths Cruise went to for himself, as well as pushing the rest of the cast for a certain level of authenticity shows. It's not only a legacy sequel done right, but the perfect blue print for a summer blockbuster. After years of superhero films taking up cinema screens, Top Gun: Maverick felt like a breath of fresh air.
7. Cha Cha Real Smooth
Every January when I catch up with the Sundance Film Festival. I hope to find a crowd pleasing dramedy that wins my heart and makes me smile. In 2022, it was Cha Cha Real Smooth. I love relationship films, as well as a good coming of age story, and this was told with real warmth, heart and humor. Seeing the differing perspectives of someone with their wide eyed optimism of their 20s contrasted with the learned lessons of someone in their 30s really hit close to home. It's like taking one of the characters in Before Sunrise and matching them up with another from Before Sunset. The only possible outcome can possibly be heartbreak and growth.
6. The Northman
Robert Eggers is in fine form giving us the Viking version of Hamlet with The Northman. The Northman is filmmaking firing on all cylinders, where every element is perfectly executed. From the score, the performances, the cinematography and editing--every single thing in this film is top notch. It's Eggers coming down a little bit from the inaccessibility of The Lighthouse, but still pushing the limits in his own ways and proving again why he's such a talent to watch.
5. Decision to Leave
Decision to Leave is as close to a modern day Alfred Hitchcock movie as you can get. As a huge fan of Hitchcock, that made this film instantly one of my favorites of the year. Its initial mystery pulls you in, but before you know it you find yourself caught up in this web of underlying passion and obsession. I love its stylish moodiness and how it's a story of two separate halves. Initially there came a point in the first half where I felt like the movie had reached its natural end, and yet it went on and still continued to draw me in. Decision to Leave is a fantastic mystery thriller with a surprisingly tender romance at its center, even when you shouldn't be rooting for it.
4. The Menu
While the film might be a bit on the nose for some, I couldn't help but eat up every morsel from The Menu. It is black comedy satire (with a dash of horror), at its finest. The Menu feels reminiscent of some of my favorite films, but still manages its own unique flavor. I particularly love the commentary on the art of professional criticism, and how eventually it can destroy a creators passion for the things they love to create. Ralph Fiennes sinks his teeth into his role as usual, Anya is magnificent as always and Nicholas Hoult is an absolute hoot.
3. The Batman
Matt Reeves had an unenviable task ahead of him in creating yet another iteration of the Batman character (the third in the span of a decade). Yet somehow, he created a Batman film that while just as rooted in reality as the Nolan films, still managed to have its own identity. Reeves smartly made this a detective film first and a Batman film second, which is actually why it succeeds. It both feels familiar and new at the same time. We aren't given his origin story for the umpteenth time, but we don't need it. We are given just the pieces we need for the story to work and to understand that this is a Batman in the early stages of his career. The cast all around is excellent, and the story incredibly strong. Really excited to see where Reeves takes the characters next.
2. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Like Top Gun: Maverick, Everything Everywhere All At Once had an enormous amount of hype to live up to by the time I was able to see it. I worried there was no possible way to match the type of praise people were giving it. Yet as I went on its wild ride, I couldn't help but love it all. It's endlessly funny, thrilling, imaginative and profound. I love its message of the wounds we pass on from generation to generation, and how important it is to not continue to perpetuate the toxic cycles we've been taught.
This may be an unorthodox pick for my number one, and truly better films were made this year--BUT Barbarian was undeniably my favorite time I had at the movies all year. Plus I don't think I've been more passionately vocal in trying to get people to watch any other movie in 2022 than this one. I just love how brilliantly it plays with audience's expectations of horror to deliver the most perfect hairpin turn in the genre in recent memory (okay save for Hereditary). Its cleverness works due to the perfect casting of its three leads, and in their performances this movie is able to truly pull off the impossible: to surprise you.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: I loved seeing Baz Luhrmann at it again with his unique flair in ELVIS. Austin Butler impressed by pulling off a nearly impossible role inhabiting the rock legend. Tom Hanks' performance keeps it from greatness. UNBREAKABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT had me in massive stitches from start to end, and honestly I LOVED this film. It's generic finale though was my only issue. SHE SAID like Spotlight is a solid investigative journalism tale that really moved me, but seemed to be missing some pivotal scenes to stick the landing. TÁR features a magnetic performance from Cate Blanchett in a biting take at cancel culture. While the film is composed of incredibly framed shots, its pacing definitely felt tedious at times and its the type of movie that makes the audience work for it. I WANT YOU BACK is one of the funniest and most charming romantic comedies in some time. Only problem is Charlie Day as a rom-com lead is a tough sell no matter how funny he is.