With 2022 firmly in the rear view mirror, looking back on the best films of that respective year is something we all take part in debating. Whether you’re a casual fan or a pundit or a critic, the best part of creating lists is sharing them and comparing said lists with others. And with awards season well underway, the celebration is just getting started with the best films of the year being put on a pedestal for the world to agree to disagree on. Coming out of the pandemic, movie going has found a sense of normalcy, reverting back to a time before theaters didn’t limit capacity and enforced strict restrictions on movie goers. 2022 was a return to the theater going experience with some major franchise films obliterating box office expectations that pleased fans and critics alike.
Though it came out at the tail end of 2021, Spider-Man: No Way Home was the first film to perform over expectations signaling the confidence fans had in coming back to a shared experience. There is still nothing quite like an opening Thursday night for a blockbuster or an indie horror film with a group of strangers all experiencing the same catharsis. Following in Spideys footsteps, a couple other films would go on to soar past the 1billion mark – those being Jurassic World: Dominion, Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water. The latter two would recently just be announced as 2023 Academy Award Best Picture nominees.
Crazy right? A film 36 years in the making having the legs it did to cross a billion while also being a best picture nominee. Top Gun emulates what going to the movies is all about. Something star Tom Cruise fought for for his film. A shared experience that will make people come together for a couple hours and celebrate the existence of that story. A story so good the word of mouth spreading like wildfire resulting in multiple viewings and emotional payoffs 3 decades in the making. As much as I loved Maverick, it didn’t crack my top 10. Sorry y’all.
Opposite Maverick is another film years in the making only due to the technology used to make the film was being invented in real time. Those thinking The Way of Water wouldn’t have the same impact as the first film should pinch themselves as it just became the 4th highest grossing film in history. One man accounting for nearly 10 billion in box office is absurd to think about but counting James Cameron out is never a good idea.
While the blockbusters kept the theaters open, the lights on and the popcorn warm and buttery, it’s the indie films from studios like A24 and Blumhouse that kept people returning month after month. Both studios reminding us the power of storytelling with darling films coming one after the other. A couple films from each studio even making my top ten of the year. Each year we can count on a health mix of indie films and block busters but 2022 was a different beast altogether. The summer months provided an endless amount of entertaining films that were both unique and familiar to those who ventured out.
End of the year lists are always a treat to put together for the sole reason of getting the chance to reflect back on the number of wonderful films and filmmakers that have shared and brought to life some truly remarkable stories. Looking back, 2022 reminded us all the the pastime of movie going will never die out, even with the abundance of streaming services popping up and those services securing exclusive rights to some major films. Some of my favorites of 2022 can be found on these services with more on the way in 2023.
I could easily ramble on about how special 2022 was for film, but that’s not the point of this post. There were too many films that I absolutely adored but narrowing the list down to 10 has been difficult since I started revising films. Films like The Batman, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Tár and others didn’t make a spot but are a few honorable mentions that will be listed in the next post. For now, here is my bottom half of my top ten films of 2022, numbers 10 – 6.
10) The Northman
Director Robert Eggers first burst on the scene in 2015 with his debut The VVitch, a period piece elevated thriller New England Folk Tale. In one way the A24 backed film served one purpose – giving Eggers a blank check to make whatever film and story he has a burning passion for. There is no denying Eggers talent as a filmmaker and storyteller as well as the craftsmanship that bleeds off the screen when viewing his work. His follow up, another A24 backed film The Lighthouse, saw that blank check come into play with one of the most uniquely mind bending trips of two men stranded at sea, descending into pure madness. The VVitch and The Lighthouse learned to walk so Eggers third film The Northman could fly. Releasing earlier in the calendar in April, The Northman is Eggers most ambitious film to date. Vowing to never make a modern day setting film, I hope Eggers keeps his word as his skill as a storyteller shines brightest in the minutia of the different periods he explores. Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Claes Bang, the film is an adaptation of The legend of Amleth told in a violent, bloodthirsty and brutal tale of Norse mythology. One aspect of Eggers I admire most is the verisimilitude used to bring each film to life.
The less that is known about a film like Barbarian, the better the experience will be had by anyone who watches this low budget horror film. Made for just $4 million, every dollar is spent well making the story as absurd and yet believable all at once. Full of twists and turns, zigs and zags, director Zach Cregger delivers on one of the best surprises of the year. Coming out during the height of summer blockbuster season, Barbarian is full of suspense and earned jump scares but has way more depth and thematic elements that sticks in the memory banks well after the films conclusion. Starring horror legend Bill Skarsgård (its really unfair how talented that family is), Georgina Campbell and a surprising performance by Justin Long, what Cregger accomplishes in his film can be somewhat credited to the performances of his stars. It also helps that Cregger wrote a fascinating screenplay that is full of pleasant surprises with every scene. Disturbing, creepy and down right terrifying, Cregger balances out the exaggerated horror with real life 1st world woes. Along with a return to the genre by Scott Derrickson with The Black Phone, the genre is in good hands with a resurgence and Jason Blum producing films for mere pennies.
8) Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Who else would change the way a biopic is made and executed then Weird Al Yankovic. The same way he pioneered and revolutionized an obscure genre of music, the parody, and crafted a long lasting career with an astounding fanbase and cult like following, Weird Al brought a breath of fresh air to a boring, stale and generic genre that changes the star but not much else. Within 5 minutes of Weird, the message is clear and as a viewer, you’re either on board or the point will fly right over your head. A brilliant concept that only Weird Al can conceive with Eric Appel directing and co-writing with Yankovic. With how brilliant Weird is, the film was never given a chance to see how long it could stay at the top of the charts. Released exclusively on the Roku channel (which is free), its streaming home would be the charming and hilarious indie film’s Achilles heel. Led by Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al (Radcliffe’s career post Harry Potter has been an absolute treat to see his versatility shine in numerous roles) and featuring supporting roles from Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna and Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, the cast fully commits to the parody aspect that Eric Appel and the real Weird Al (who also cameo’s) set their sights on.
Part semi-autobiography, part deeply endearing look into human nature by both a child’s perspective and a parents, writer director Charlotte Wells will leave anyone in a glass case of emotions. Told in both past and the present by the central character Sophie, played exceptionally by newcomer Frankie Corio, the actresses natural instincts compound the depth added to the character by Wells. Opposite Frankie and her character Sophie is father Callum and actor Paul Mescal who was recently nominated for his performance at the 95th academy awards set to take place in March. On holiday in Turkey, the single father does his best to brave his crippling depression, anxiety and hopelessness for his daughter benefit and their time together. Mescal gives these subtle looks he when he thinks Sophie isn’t watching but the sad part is, kids are more aware of their parents feelings than they let on. Interwoven throughout the simple narrative of vacation activities is a look toward the future and an adult Sophie played by Celia Rowlson-Hall reflecting on the complications being a parent can bring. Aftersun creates the sensation of a pit in the stomach through the complex relationship of its two lead characters. Sadness quickly takes over as we learn to cope with the fact that not everything in life is happy and easily understood. More than just a deep look into a parent child relationship, Aftersun is a beautiful coming-of-age tale with new life experiences to be had by Sophie every day of their Turkey vacation and a reminder that growing up doesn’t need to happen all at once.
6) Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Who would have thought that the famed detective Benoit Blanc would live to solve another murder case after the events of Knives Out, one of 2019’s best films of that year. Following in the Agatha Christie model of murder mystery, writer director Rian Johnson is back with another spiderweb of intricacies after Netflix purchased the distribution rights with a 3rd film as part of a packaged deal. Like its predecessor, Glass Onion follows the same narrative structure with a new cast of characters and the stoic Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig leading the investigation. Don’t worry, the Foghorn Leghorn dialect is back and more absurdly nuanced as ever. Featuring an all-star ensemble of A-list talent, the mystery is part of the alluring nature of the film. Johnson once again puts ingenuity and style at the forefront of his script, banking on the resurgent popularity of a whodunnit to steer the ship. Brightly colored, genuinely funny and featuring a classic whodunnit twist, Johnson proves that Knives Out wasn’t a fluke. Among the ensemble, Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr, Kathryn Hahn, and Dave Bautista all give standout performances but really, its the entire cast as well as some well placed cameos that keep the wheels turning and causing a great speculation on social media with who will be in the third film. With Glass Onion, and the third film yet to come, hopefully Netflix will allow more of a theatrical release window as the film is at its best seen in a crowded theater full of strangers experiencing the mystery together for the first time.