Best Movies Of 2022
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been dreading writing this list. Not because I don’t like thinking and writing about movies in a deep and profound way. Anybody that has known me for more than five minutes can attest to the fact that you will eventually get an earful about how and why the Coen Brothers are the greatest living American directors.
No, I’ve been dreading writing this list because, up until now, I didn’t think I had the dedication to actually sit down, go through my list, my MASSIVE list, of all the movies I saw this year and give the best ones the love, time, and attention they very much deserved. Partly, it’s because I got bit hard again by the Tarkov bug, not nearly as hard as last year when I basically fell off the face of the earth, but hard enough.
I also feel my attention span getting smaller and smaller. Whether that’s due to me engaging with, on an hourly basis, the microscopic structure of something like Tiktok, the dopamine drip coming faster and furious than any form of entertainment known to man up to this point. Or the fact that my synapses are simply not firing at the same rate as they did when I was 22, making the writing process much more complicated than it would have been had I taken on this endeavor back then.
With all that said, some movies from 2022 that didn’t make my top 10 list that absolutely deserve love and recognition include, in no particular order;
- Kimi, the Steven Soderbergh Rear Window/Blow Out-inspired paranoia thriller, stars Zoe Kravitz, who gives an incredibly underrated and understated performance as an autistic shut-in who hears something she shouldn’t.
- The Northman, Robert Eggers’ third film about Alexander Skarsgård’s Prince Amleth, who, after witnessing his father’s death at the hands of his uncle, Claes Bang’s Fjölnir the Brotherless, goes on a mission of vengeance. That might sound like a synopsis of your typical Hollywood revenge movie, but trust me when I tell you, it is nothing like anything you’ve seen in a movie starring Gerald Butler or Frank Grillo. Eggers is a director who is very much not interested in pacing his movies in a way that the average American audience member is accustomed to. And I, for one, very much appreciate that fact and will line up day one for his Nosferatu remake, coming sometime in the next 18 months.
- Barbarian, the directorial debut from The Whitest Kids You Know alum, Zach Cregger, is, of all the great horror movies in 2022, the one that got mostly universal praise. As I mentioned in my Letterboxd review, putting a horror movie out in a post-Cabin In The woods and other meta-horror film world, one has to reckon with the fact that audiences are going into your movie with the knowledge that their expectations will, in some way and to some degree, will be subverted. Somehow Cregger does, in fact, about halfway in, successfully make me say to myself, “Why are we here? Where is here? Who is this person?” Hopefully, horror directors will learn from Barbarian’s structure and iterate appropriately.
At the risk of overwhelming the reader, here are some very, very good movies from this year that are very much worth checking out but that I just don’t have much to say about; The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair, Chip And Dale: Rescue Rangers, Jackass Forever, RRR!!!, Top Gun: Maverick, On The Count Of Three, Emergency, Crimes Of The Future, Watcher, The Sea Beast, Resurrection, Prey, Happening, Speak No Evil, Decision To Leave, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, Emily The Criminal, Triangle Of Sadness.
Another reason I was dreading writing this list is that, like most years, ranking movies from this year has felt like trying to wrangle amorphous blobs. How do you compare a $100 million Tollywood movie with a 2-million-dollar indie about a family of mollusks, an animated film about a 13-year-old going through a metamorphosis akin to puberty, with a somber drama about a school shooting?
You kind of can’t, but for the sake of clarity, posterity, and a little bit of self-flagellation, the show, as they say, must go on.
10. The Fallout
In a few years, we’ll look back at this period of filmmaking and storytelling, and, if there’s any justice in the universe, The Fallout will be remembered, along with things like Fran Kranz’s Mass, as some of the first significant pieces of film commentary on the age of school shootings.
The movie, almost entirely anchored by a stunningly understated and sublime performance by 19-year-old Jenna Ortega, playing sophomore Vada, unflinchingly examines the ramifications of a school shooting. We sit in every excruciating moment, from Vada and her classmates in a bathroom stall, hearing the gunshots reverberating from classroom to classroom, into the hallway, getting closer and closer, until they hear police take him down. Uvalde, this isn’t.
The movie goes on to explore how, in the age of smartphones and social media, the different ways young people may process these all-too-common experiences. Vada’s friend, Quinton, takes the activist approach, lobbying his local city council to address the woefully underfunded mental illness counseling programs. In contrast, Vada and her friend Mia, played by always-great Maddie Ziegler, drown out the world and block out their feelings with drugs and alcohol.
The movie never comes down and scolds or judges Vada and Mia; it simply states the facts of the matter. These kids, like many, many others, observe not only the act of violence itself but the infuriatingly little action being taken in the wake of the violence by the people who are supposed to keep them safe. What is a person to do in this world of violence and the maddening indifference to it? If I were them, I would feel just as hopeless as they do.
Whatever reason or societal failing that is causing mass shootings, we owe our kids to do whatever is in our power to stop this shit from happening all the fucking time. Failing that (unfortunately, is the case so far), we absolutely owe them an hour and a half of our time with a movie like The Fallout.
The Fallout is currently streaming on HBOMax.
9. Bodies Bodies Bodies
In many different ways, Lee Paces’ character in Bodies Bodies Bodies is my spirit animal. I spend a lot of time in spaces not necessarily meant for people my age; TikTok, Twitch, and Youtube are synonymous with youth culture and young folks. So, seeing the 43-year-old actor interact with and very much bounce off of the interests of the 20-somethings in this movie was somewhat heartening.
This movie has been described in many different ways by some very clever people on Letterboxd, my favorite being LME calling it “A24’s Among Us”. For those that don’t know, Among Us is a video game whose popularity is very much indebted to famous Twitch streamers playing it in the early days of the pandemic. It’s also prominently featured in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Sorry not sorry if you think that was a spoiler.
This GenZ mystery-thriller stars some of my favorite up-and-coming actresses from the last few years; Amandla Stenberg from The Hate You Give, Maria Bakalova from Borat 2, Myha’la Herrold from Plan B, and Rachel Sennott from one of my favorite claustrophobic family dramas of the last few years, Shiva Baby.
They all play off each other with biting faux niceness plastered with insults and insults disguised as niceness. And that, to me, was what was at the heart of Bodies Bodies Bodies. We’re living in a post-post-post-modern-irony-soaked world, where it’s cool to care, but not really. It’s cool to be genuine, but not too genuine, lest somebody thinks you’re dying or just trying to get likes and views.
The twist, which I won’t spoil here, came out of nowhere for me. But, on further reflection, it works perfectly for what the director, Halina Reijn, was trying to say with the film. We all think everyone is always thinking about us when that couldn’t be further from the truth. And, sometimes, the truth is so much dumber than we could ever imagine.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is currently $5.99 on VOD.
At a certain point, we’ll all have to accept that we really don’t know anyone, including our parents. You can have all the conversations you want, try to piece them together from the stories your grandparents tell you about them, the things you hear secondhand from their brothers and sisters. And, maybe most importantly, try to think back to the memories you have of them from when you were a kid when you thought that they, and every other adult in your life, had all the answers. Or, at the very least, they had enough figured out to make it seem like they did.
But, at some point, you realize that they, just like everyone else, were very much working out what was right and wrong as they went along. You also recognize that you often only saw them at their worst, often due to you acting like an absolute bastard towards them.
Our parents and our memories of them are very much at the heart of Charlotte Wells’ directorial debut, Aftersun. Paul Mescal, best known for his role in Normal People, plays Calum, the father of Frankie Corio’s Sophie. Their chemistry here is a thing to behold, a familiarity on display that usually takes years to coalesce naturally but is formed here by two actors who probably had two weeks with each other before filming.
Don’t go into Aftersun expecting easy answers or a clear resolution. But, to me, that’s what the best movies can do: leave you with more questions than answers. And, if we can, we can use those questions to understand ourselves and our relationships with others better.
Aftersun is currently, as of 12/26/22, in theaters.
7. Apollo 10 1/2
Another movie about memory, although this time less about a specific person and more about nostalgia broadly, is Richard Linklater’s newest film, Apollo 10 1/2. The film follows 9-year-old Stan, played by Milo Coy, who is ostensibly a stand-in for Linklater, as he also grew up in Houston in 1969. The overarching narrative involves Stan making up a scenario in which NASA officials recruit him into a secret program to send him to the moon instead of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
That fantasy, and also the hazy nature of the rotoscoping technology, lead to an entire movie that has a tone and style that very closely recreates the feeling you had as a kid in the summertime; that time and reality didn’t really exist. At least not in the way that time feels now as an adult, with one day just bleeding and blending into the next.
The way summer felt at 9–10, and how Apollo 10 1/2 depicts it, is similar to how a book I read this year depicts it as well, The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson. Both the movie and the book get at and deeply understand just how goddam loooong every day felt. You’d get up, go ride your bike in the morning, go over to someone’s house, watch a show or a movie, hang out at the park, play frisbee or baseball, then go to the mall and see a movie or just hang out. The days just seemed to last forever.
Apollo 10 1/2 is currently streaming on Netflix.
6. The Banshees Of Inisherin
Of all the movies I saw this year, Martin McDonagh’s newest feature hit the closest to home for many different reasons. I have a large contingent of Irish on my dad’s side, which meant for a long time, I made drinking a significant part of my life. I’m also at a place in my life where years feel like weeks, weeks like minutes, and days come and go like dreams. I just don’t have the capacity for calorie-deficient conversations anymore, nor do I threaten to chop off my fingers if I have to humor them.
Brendan Gleeson’s Colm Doherty isn’t a person I look up to, but he is someone I can deeply empathize with. He has conversations with his priest in which he admits, “The despair is back a bit.” Whatever you think of a man willing to threaten and eventually follow through with, chopping off his fingers to spite his friend, you have to see and understand the amount of mental and emotional pain Colm is experiencing.
I don’t think many people understand that empathy is not just putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. It’s also not feeling sorry for that person; that’s what sympathy is. Empathy, true, radial empathy, is seeing the world from the other person’s perspective and not asking, “What would I do in this situation?” but asking, “Why is this person doing what they are doing?”
Colm is clearly at the end of a very long, very worn rope. Something people tend not to take into account with a movie like Banshee’s is that a decision like the one Colm is making is looooong time coming. He didn’t just wake up the day the movie starts and decide to tell Colin Farell’s Padriac that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. This is something that Colm’s been stewing over for a very, very long time.
There’s a lot bubbling underneath the surface of Banshees Of Inisherin. But what the film is ultimately about is staring down the specter of death, realizing you’ve got fewer days ahead of you than behind, and, in that realization, lashing out at what you perceive to be the reason you haven’t accomplished what you wanted to. It’s also a movie about kindness and what happens when we choose meanness instead.
One of my favorite film critics, Walter Chaw, has, as usual, sublime observations about Banshees. He says, “That’s the thing about The Banshees of Inisherin: it describes life as a game where the only rule is kindness. The price for failing to be kind is you make kind people brutal and mean people right…There are a few versions of yourself in the collateral, of course, from when you were Dominic, who thought people were better than they could be. Or when you were Pádraic, doing your best to be a good person until it was beaten out of you by the accident of surviving long enough.”
Please read his whole review here.
The Banshees Of Inisherin is currently streaming on HBOMax. For now.
5. Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
If The Banshees Of Inisherin was about the lack of kindness and what that absence can wreak, then Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is about what an abundance of kindness can do. Marcel is directed and co-written by Dean Fleischer-Camp, with Jenny Slate co-writing and voicing the little guy Marcel, with Isabella Rossellini voicing the little guy’s mother, Nana Connie.
Marcel is, as it says on the tin, an anthropomorphized mollusk who, after finding online fame, sets out to find his bed of family members that went missing. In the process, Marcel realizes Nana’s health is in decline, and after a stressful interview with 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl, he has to halt the search for her family. While the fame Marcel found online helped give her resources for finding her kin, it also brought unforeseen stress to her and her mother’s quiet life.
In a year with massive blockbusters and big movies with big ideas, Marcel is one of those movies that everyone talks about that doesn’t get made anymore. A simple story about a little guy just trying to find their tribe. Another story that I can deeply relate to.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is on VOD, Amazon, Vudu, etc… for $5.99. And “The Plex.” WinkWink.
4. Turning Red
I was talking to someone recently about how stories that are specifically about a certain culture, gender, or age group can be universally relatable. They disagreed, saying it’s not often the case that hyper-specific scenarios can be empathized with and that we can’t find parallels in our own life. I have, however, found several movies this year highly relatable. So that is very much the case here, and with my number 1 pick.
Roseline Chiang plays Meiline, a thirteen-year-old 3rd generation Asian-Canadian living in Toronto in the early 2000s. One day, Meiline wakes up and is unrecognizable, exhibiting symptoms that, as much as she would like to, she can’t hide. Does that sound familiar to you? It should, as almost everyone knows when you reach a certain age, you begin to change in ways that can be scary, weird, and extraordinarily embarrassing.
Meilin isn’t going through puberty, as you might have assumed. Well, she might be, but that’s not what Domee Shi is focusing on in her directorial debut, Turning Red. Instead, what is afflicting Meilin is a transformation of a different sort, one that balloons herself into a giant red panda.
Usually, in these situations, the main character tries to hide their transformation for as long as possible. They think nobody will understand that they’ll be made fun of and ostracized from their home, school, and community. Here, Mei and her parents, Ming and Jin, played by Sandra Oh and Orion Lee, discover Mei’s transformation early on. They explain to her that there is a family blessing/curse going back two generations. Mings’s mother, Sun Yee, and her family were given powers to protect her family during the war.
Turing Red is a movie about generational trauma and how holding onto that trauma but not examining or acknowledging it can be damaging and toxic. So, without going into spoilers, Mei and the rest of her family do what they’ve avoided for decades. They put down their defenses, speak to each other like equals, and really, truly understand each other.
If only more people tried that, to connect to their family members on a real emotional level, we could be in a better place as a species.
For many, large parts of Jordan Peele’s latest feature is a beguiling enigma. The main source of the confusion stems from a shoe, after a vicious attack by an orangutan who gets spooked by a popping balloon, the camera panning across the carnage. It’s then when we see it: a shoe, a tennis shoe. The type of shoe that is light enough and soft enough to be impossible to stand on its own.
So, what’s going on here? A couple of things; throughout Nope, there are several instances of what is described as ‘bad miracles’; Steven Yeun’s Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park is one of the only survivors of the rampage on the tv set. He survivors, we are to surmise, because he doesn’t look the ‘predator’ in its eyes. Years later, Jupe will label this event, his survival of it, and, most importantly, the shoe standing upright as a ‘bad miracle.’
Throughout the film, we see other examples of ‘bad miracles,’ Daniel Kaluuyas OJ’s father dying from a random object falling from the sky. OJ’s survival being the bad part of the miracle.
The second reason for the shoe to be standing up on its own is a reference to the phrase, ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop.’ It’s a turn of phrase, meaning you’re waiting for something else to happen, whether good or bad. Jupe, waiting underneath a table, could either be killed or saved; thus, the other shoe has yet to drop.
There’s so much more in Jordan Peele’s latest horror/thriller/neo-western; you can read my full review here.
Nope is available to rent on VOD.
In his episode of Voir, “But I Don’t Like Him,” Drew McWeeny makes the case that ‘protagonist,’ ‘hero,’ and the ‘main character’ are not interchangeable adjectives. For a story to be compelling, its protagonist doesn’t have to be a ‘good or moral person,’ whatever that means.
We live in a world now where half of the county looks up to and has labeled a proven liar, a sexual predator, a tax cheat, and overall demonic human being their ‘hero.’
That is all to say that Lydia Tàr is, as objectively as it is possible, a cunt. But, unfortunately for us, she’s a successful, rich, and immensely powerful cunt. As a result, people look up to her, and, more importantly, protect her whenever there is a whiff of indiscretion surrounding her. And so, what makes Tàr, the film and the character so goddamn compelling is the anticipating of when, not if, Lydia’s meticulously crafted house of cards will come tumbling down around her.
In one of the first scenes of significance, in a spectacularly shot oner, Lydia verbally decimates a young black student. The student is clearly shaken, literally, his leg bobbing up and down until Lydia forcefully physically stops it. This action is just the first in a long line of instances in which Lydia assumes a place of privilege, thinking that she has a God-given right to violate someone’s personal space and take away their bodily autonomy. For the majority of the 1st and 2nd act of the movie, this act of intrusion doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on her life or career.
The sheer casualness with which Lydia lobs insults at the student shows that in her world, she has never faced any significant consequences for her actions. This is all to say that Lydia, like Terence Fletcher before her, is a force to be reckoned with. Whether or not she is a force for good or bad is utterly and wholly beyond the point.
And, just like J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, Cate Blanchett gives one of the great performances in the history of film. Part of the greatness inherent to the performance is, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, “I’ll know it when it sees it.” That is to say, what makes Blanchett’s performance so captivating, so mesmerizing, is that it’s beyond words. Well, English words. As the French say, it’s got that je ne sais quoi, or ‘that certain something.’
Tàr is, among many other things, one of those ‘they just don’t ’em like that anymore.’ So, if you want more like this, then I highly recommend checking it out.
Tàr is currently available to rent on VOD.
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
I’ve probably put more words into the ether about this movie than any other movies I’ve ever seen, so I’ll be relatively brief here.
EEAAO is a perfect movie. Its runtime is perfect. Its pacing, its dialogue, its action choreography, its shot composition, its score, its costuming, its casting, and its seamless blending of disparate genres is perfect.
It’s such a meticulously crafted work of art that you view almost any scene, hot dog fingers I’m looking at you, and you will get the same emotional wallop as if you had watched everything leading up to it.
I’m tearing up just writing this; reading quotes, just READING them, shatters me. Waymond says when talking to his wife Evelyn, who, in this universe, has pursued a career in acting, but he might as well be talking to the first Evelyn, the one he wants a divorce from. He says:
“You think I’m weak, don’t you? All of those years ago, when we first fell in love… your father would say I was too sweet for my own good. Maybe he was right. You tell me it’s a cruel world… and we’re all running around in circles. I know that. I’ve been on this earth just as many days as you… When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything.
I don’t know. The only thing I do know… is that we have to be kind. Please. Be kind… especially when we don’t know what’s going on. I know you see yourself as a fighter. Well, I see myself as one too. This is how I fight.”
There’s just so much pain and suffering and meanness and cynicism, so much goddamn nihilism in this world. It costs literally nothing to be kind and generous and empathetic. There’s that word again. Empathy.
Roger Ebert said, “For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”
EEAAO is the best example of that. I may not be a third-generation Asian-American whose parents work in a laundry mat. But, my parents did divorce when I was 9, after a lengthy period filled with hate, meanness, cruelty, and spite. So the tension between Evelyn and Waymond at the start is something I deeply empathize with.
My mom is also taking care of my ailing grandfather; I almost burst into tears the first time we see Evelyn pushing her father in the wheelchair in the IRS building.
If there’s one thing I want anyone reading to take from not only this movie and this review of it, is just to be kind. As Waymond said, it’s not naivety to look at the world and think kindness and empathy will fix everything. It won’t. It might not even fix half of it. And you’ll probably get your heart broken over and over again. But Waymond, and this movie, tell us that even though life may break your heart, it’s still worth fighting for.