Now that 2022 has come to a close, it’s time to rank my 10 favorite movies of the year! But before we get started, it’s important to mention that I have not seen every single film from 2022 and this is a purely subjective list. Everyone’s going to have differing opinions, and that’s the beauty of cinema. Anyway, let’s begin with a few honorable mentions:
- Bullet Train
- The Menu
- The Outfit
10. The Black Phone
Scott Derrickson’s homage to Stephen King is the best horror movie of the year. Based on a short story by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s real-life son), “The Black Phone” shares the same energy as films like “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Shining.” It’s very much a callback to horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s, as evident by its methodical pace and emphasis on characters and atmosphere over cheap scares.
Derrickson is at the top of his game here. He maintains this eerie atmosphere throughout, making the audience doubtful that Finney will even be able to escape The Grabber. Watching this film I felt dirty, beaten, and deprived alongside Finney.
Speaking of Finney, this film’s most impressive accomplishment is that it actually brought out good performances from child actors. Children are notoriously awful in movies (“Black Adam” is a recent offender of this), so when a young actor is actually good in a film, I notice it. In “The Black Phone,” Finney and his sister feel like actual kids from the 1970s. They don’t spew lame quips and they’re thankfully intelligent rather than obnoxiously incompetent. But of course, the real standout is Ethan Hawke, who’s absolutely horrifying as The Grabber, a kidnapper who’s very childlike himself. I was shaking each time Hawke entered the room and spoke in that raspy, gentle voice.
“Aftersun” is a poignant, tragic, and unique study of a father-daughter relationship. It follows 11-year-old Sophie’s vacation with her 31-year-old father Calum and the story is strictly told from Sophie’s perspective. The subjective narrative presents the facade of a fun-loving dad Calum puts on for his daughter with only a few hints of his internal torment. “Aftersun” somehow maintains both a sense of childlike excitement with a looming sense of dread, a feeling that the bond, while genuine, is doomed to break.
Calum is a fantastic character. He clearly loves his daughter more than himself and is in reality self-loathing, unfulfilled, stricken with depression, struggling financially, and terrified of the many years gone by. However, since this is told from Sophie’s perspective, much of these traits must be searched for and discovered rather than laid out. “Aftersun” demands the audience’s attention and grabs it. The characters feel so real and sympathetic due to the stellar performances from Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio.
Due to a stellar script, subtle performances, and clever storytelling, Charlotte Wells’ debut feature film is one of the year’s greatest movies.
Cate Blanchett delivered the performance of a lifetime in Todd Field’s “Tár.” She’s able to put herself through an intense range of emotions, from complete anguish to haunting stoicism. Yet she always feels like an actual person. It’s incredibly difficult for an actor to make the audience forget he/she is a real-life person playing a fake character, but Blanchett excels at it from her very first line of dialogue. She will yank you into the screen, so experiencing her work is enough of a reason to see the film.
Writer/director Todd Field is just as much of a star as Blanchett. Firstly, the dialogue in “Tár” is nearly flawless. Field was able to integrate musical vocabulary and intentionally pretentious monologues while making the characters’ conversations engaging and comprehensible. Not a single syllable is wasted. Field’s direction is also some of this year’s best. It’s perfectly understated; he never gets in the way of the story or performers, making the film feel like a documentary. His subdued style perfectly complements the grounded nature of the movie.
What makes “Tár” especially unique and refreshing is its portrayal of today’s climate and how it explores both sides of the cancel culture debate through gray areas, not forcing a position on the audience. The film trusts the audience’s intelligence and ability to form their own opinion. For example, in the best scene of the film (which is beautifully filmed in one ten-minute-long take), Tár debates a student on representation in art, and both sides are completely understandable.
“Tár” is a well executed slow-burn (albeit a little too long) with an intricate screenplay and the year’s best performance. It kept me thinking long after I experienced it.
7. The Fabelmans
Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical love letter to filmmaking is a touching and endearing experience. It’s full of his style and sense of wonder that make him my favorite director, while also having a distinctly strong sense of humor and wit. It also moves surprisingly quickly for a 150-minute-long film. There aren’t any dull sections of the movie; each scene is completely necessary to flesh out the themes, narrative, and characters. I don’t have all that much more to say about this one. It was just a fun time at the movies.
6. Top Gun: Maverick
Since I somewhat despise the original “Top Gun,” the sequel needed to really wow me. And it did. “Top Gun: Maverick” is an improvement on the original in every conceivable way. It’s a great callback to the blockbuster movies of the 1980s and 1990s that made Tom Cruise’s stellar career. The passion, heart, and soul of this project is clear throughout. Cruise’s mission to record all the flight sequences with practical effects more than paid off. The action scenes pack a lot of punch when you know everything you’re watching actually happened. Actors’ faces were really sinking under the pressure of G-force and the camera was actually inside the cockpit as the pilots swerved left and right. There’s so many nail-biting moments packed into this film that justify it as this 2022’s most successful blockbuster.
I was also surprised at the quality beyond the technical aspects. The performances in “Top Gun: Maverick” are actually really good, not just for a summer blockbuster. Tom Cruise was incredible in this movie, especially in that emotional moment between him and Iceman. There are actual arcs to the characters, and while they may be a little too generic, they’re still incredibly effective and help invest the audience even further.
Ultimately, beyond the technical feats and emotional punch of “Top Gun: Maverick,” this film’s greatest accomplishment is that it reminds us of the magic of cinema.
5. All Quiet on the Western Front
The latest film adaptation of “All Quiet on the Western Front” is easily the most impactful. It’s a brutal and unflinching anti-war movie that’s brilliantly directed by Edward Berger. He puts you in the mud, blood, and carnage right next to Paul and the other characters. It’s the scariest film of the year, particularly in an impressive sequence with tanks that feel almost sentient, like lions devouring their prey. The film doesn’t hold back any punches, showing every gory detail of this unnecessary conflict that obliterated millions of young lives. The cinematography by James Friend simultaneously makes “All Quiet on the Western Front” the most gorgeous and the most grotesque film of the year. The use of vibrant colors, lighting, and swift camera movements make for an incredibly immersive experience.
I also need to mention Volker Bertelmann’s phenomenal pulse-pounding score. The main theme is actually made up of just a few notes, but it’s incredibly effective, as it can be used to elicit a wide variety of emotions from the audience. The same beats can get you hyped up for a battle sequence or petrified of what’s about to happen depending on what’s on screen.
Paul’s tragic arc is what really drives the message home though. He begins as an enthusiastic, naive, and patriotic young man, unknowingly wearing the repaired uniform of a slaughtered German soldier. On his first day deployed, he quickly realizes the hellish journey he’s about to embark on, and from there we see him descend into a lonely, deprived, and soulless tool of war exploited by his own country. This culminates in a devastating finale that’s my favorite ending to a film this year.
4. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is one of the year’s most emotional movies. It has the childlike wonder of the 1940 Disney classic while conveying surprisingly mature themes, the most prominent of which being death. Pinocchio is so lovable in the movie due to his optimism, innocence, and empathy. It’s heartwarming to see him improve many of the supporting characters due to these qualities, all while learning to become a more intelligent person himself. Becoming a “real boy” is taken in the figurative sense rather than the literal sense here, as Pinocchio’s arc is to mature with the world and understand the importance of mortality rather than change from wood to flesh.
The film’s story is enhanced by the gorgeous stop-motion animation which took over 1,000 days to complete. The impressive dedication of the animators paid off massively. Each frame of this film is a painting full of emotion and humanity. Like Pinocchio, the visuals have a vibrant and deeply personal soul to them. Additionally, the voice cast of this film is impeccable. Ewan McGregor is hilarious as Sebastian J. Cricket, the comic relief character who grows into a more selfless person by the end of the film. Yet the most impressive performance was that of David Bradley, which is honestly worthy of an Oscar nomination. He’s absolutely incredible as Geppetto, who’s given a far more substantial presence throughout this movie than in any other adaptation, almost to the point where he’s just as much of a lead as Pinocchio. Bradley is absolutely heartbreaking, showing the anguish of his character in each perfectly delivered word. Geppetto is really the heart of the film, which I hadn’t expected prior to watching it.
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is an incredible achievement in visual and thematic storytelling that transcends the genre. Del Toro has stated that this is his most personal film, and it definitely shows.
3. The Northman
“The Northman” is a historical epic like no other. Robert Eggers was brutally accurate in his portrayal of Viking culture, not shying away from the savagery of raids and assaults. This is a bleak world without morals, and therefore morality is the overall theme explored by Eggers. Alexander Skarsgård’s Amleth begins as a flawed but sympathetic hero out to avenge the murder of his father, but descends down a dark path where he becomes far worse than the initial antagonist. He’s unable to recognize that his strive for vengeance goes too far, unintentionally harming those he cares about and committing absolute atrocities.
The performances of this film are what keep it grounded and gut-wrenching. Skarsgård is incredibly imposing and complex as the enormous Amleth and Nicole Kidman gives one of her greatest performances as Amleth’s deceptive mother. Yet what most ties this film together is Eggers’ incredible direction. The film is absolutely gorgeous thanks to the breathtaking vistas and trippy imagery characteristic to his movies. Additionally, while this isn’t an action film, when there is action it’s some of the year’s best. Each one is filmed in one long take with brutal and slow combat. You feel the weight of the swords and the shocking violence of the time.
“The Northman” is a harrowing film with a sprawling scope and story, complex characters, career-best performances, and powerful themes.
2. The Banshees of Inisherin
“The Banshees of Inisherin” was able to take such a small, seemingly insignificant conflict and dramatically expand it into such an enormous story. It’s similar to “Parasite” in how it’s able to blow up its narrative, but I thought this film took it to far more extreme degrees. “The Banshees of Inisherin” begins as a hilarious comedy and ends as a brutal tragedy.
The setting is cleverly used in the film, not only because the nature of Ireland is beautiful, but because the isolation of this small island in the 1920s makes the simple breakup of a friendship more impactful. With such a small population, losing one friend would make you almost completely alone. This also has my favorite screenplay of the year. Martin McDounagh’s snappy dialogue is instantly quotable and just as unpredictable as the twist-filled story. In my opinion, Colin Farrell gives the best performance since Anthony Hopkins in “The Father.” While an inferior actor would play Pádraic as goofy, Farrell plays him with subtlety to make the character lovable and grounded, making his struggles all the more heartbreaking.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is a genius piece of filmmaking with a lot of soul that gets better every time I watch it. This is a nearly flawless film that deserves even more attention.
1. The Batman
As a lifelong Batman fan, I’ve found that the previous live-action movies never completely understood the character. Thankfully, “The Batman” broke that streak. What makes “The Batman” so special to me is that it feels like a Batman movie made by actual Batman fans — people who read the comics, watched the Animated Series, and know the core tenants of the character. I’ve seen the film three times so far, and from each viewing I felt reassured by Matt Reeves’ confident vision of a noir detective story inspired by David Fincher’s “Se7en.” This film studies the psychology and morality of the character, which is what all the best Batman stories have done. Reeves’ Batman is just as driven, flawed, and heroic as he is in the comics.
Robert Pattinson is already one of my favorite live-action Batmen. He’s perfect in the cape and cowl; he has the imposing glare and menacing presence that Batman needs to have. You can feel the rage and inner turmoil radiating from him. Pattinson gave a brilliant physical performance which I’m ecstatic to see more of in future movies. The rest of the cast is also stellar (except for Barry Keoghan as the Joker, who felt like a toddler doing a Heath Ledger impression), namely Paul Dano as the Riddler, who’s absolutely frightening. That bomb collar scene is the most thrilling sequence of the entire year, in large part due to Dano’s haunting intensity.
The film is consistently engaging despite it’s three-hour-runtime. There’s so many twists, turns, and reveals that keep the plot interesting and the characters challenged. Batman goes on a transformative arc where he learns to become more than a symbol for fear, but also a symbol for hope.
I acknowledge this placement is incredibly biased. Objectively speaking, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a better movie, but “The Batman” resonated with me more than any other film of the past few years, so I had to give it my top spot.
Check out my full-length reviews for some of the films on this list: