It’s that time of year again, where everyone puts together lists about the 10 best films that came out over the past 365 days. Except only here will you be able to get the most objective subjective list on the internet, so thanks for dropping by!
2022 was an overall solid year at the movies (for my detailed thoughts on this past year, check out my full rundown). There was not a clear-cut, runaway best film of the year like a “Marriage Story,” “La La Land,” or “The Father” but I think by not having too many bad movies it can go down in the books as a positive slate.
The true highlight of the year was all the quality animated movies, with seemingly everyone’s top 10 including at least one (as you’ll see in a second). There were several that I really enjoyed that didn’t quite make the cut, including “Turning Red,” “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” and “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” (though that’s a live-action hybrid). There were numerous other films overall that I liked that just missed the 10, including the Robert Downey Jr. documentary “Sr.,” the whacky Sam Raimi MCU entry “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and the romcom “I Want You Back.”
Honorable Mention: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
For the second straight year, my honorable mention is a Marvel entry. “Wakanda Forever” had a lot working against it, including losing its lead actor Chadwick Boseman, working amid a pandemic, following a recent string of mostly underwhelming MCU films. But “Wakanda” ended up giving us one of the best-acted Marvel films to-date (and for those who have lost track, we’re 30 entries deep), while retaining the strong emotional beats, musical score, and memorable bad guy of the first film. Gives hope to the MCU moving forward after it seemed like hope may be lost for the ever-sprawling franchise.
Putting aside the little summer following this film developed or how this is among the first non-English films to break into year-end lists like the National Board of Review, “RRR,” the Indian blockbuster set amid the 1920s British Raj rule, is a blast. Not only does it have physic-defying stunts and absurd action sequences, but the film features a tender story of friendship. Check this one out!
Martin McDonagh knows how to make a dark and mean-spirited movie that doesn’t lose sight of its heart, and he does it here with “Banshees.” Colin Farrell (who had himself a great year) and Brendan Gleeson reteam from McDonagh’s “In Brudges” and turn in darkly comedic performances as two feuding friends, while Kerry Condon is also great as Farrell’s loyal sister. A feel-bad treat, McDonagh does it again!
Every top 10 is subjective, that’s what makes it your top 10. “Scream” was everything it needed to be, carrying the torch of my favorite horror franchise and acting as a vehicle for Jenna Ortega’s rising star (speaking of actors who had a good year). Fans loved how brutal the filmmakers made Ghostface here and I am excited for the sixth film’s release this upcoming March.
7. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Blending “Spider-Verse” animation, classic DreamWorks humor, and great voice performances, “The Last Wish” was one of my biggest surprises this year. Here’s hoping it is merely the first step in a new Far Far Away journey, because while Puss may be on his last life, the “Shrek” franchise may be getting new breath.
6. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The second animated film to appear on this list that had no business being as good as it is. From the stop-motion animation (which took 940 days to capture) and the dark humor to the updates to the classic tale, Guillermo del Toro managed to be the third adaptation of Pinocchio this year (after the not-seen Pauly Shore version and Robert Zemeckis’ colossal misfire) yet it feels like the most original one we’ve ever gotten. As ponderous as it is emotional, this “Pinocchio” will be the gold-standard by which future versions are compared.
I only really discovered the “Predator” franchise this year (outside Shane Black’s 2018 abomination), but I binged through all the films, liking each one (even the critically panned “Alien vs. Predator” to a degree). “Prey,” a prequel set in the Great Plains of 1719, works well not only as a science-fiction monster movie, but as a historical set piece, too. Amber Midthunder gives a fantastic final girl performance, and the Comanche-spoken dialogue (an option Hulu gives users in lieu of English) immerses you into the world. Really looking forward to what they do with this franchise moving forward, maybe dropping a Predator amid a World War II platoon or into Wild West town.
You will see this film on as best of 2022 lists as you will worst of, and I understand the argument for either camp. “The film is too long!” Yup. “The gross-out gags feel out of place!” They sure do. “It’s not as good as ‘La La Land’ or ‘Whiplash!’” What is? Damien Chazelle’s spaghetti-to-the-wall ode to/condemnation of Old Hollywood is a hoot, and features a great musical score, performances, and attention to period detail. I really enjoyed it, despite all its “muchness.”
A simple thriller with a great paranoid (or maybe not-so-paranoid) performance from indie scream queen Maika Monroe, “Watcher” is unnerving and intense, and stuck with me since I saw it in August. A nice, timely “Zodiac” meets “Disturbia” film that I think will age well over the years as more eyes find it.
2. Top Gun: Maverick
The film that saved theaters in 2022 (well, kind of). I don’t think too-too many people cared about this film leading up to its Memorial Day release; who needed a 35-years-later sequel to a film that, while popular, is never cited for actually being that great? Turns out, we all did. “Maverick” is a classic blockbuster that is built to last through the ages, removing any social commentary, green screens, and capes and replacing them with practical effects, stunts, and emotion (some earned, some nostalgia-baited; hey, no film is perfect). The film gets better each time you see it, and managed to stay in the top five at the box office its first 10 weeks (unheard of in the modern era) and in the top ten for 21 weeks (absolutely insane). The film was adored by dads for Tom Cruise and its jet tricks, and by teenage girls for Glenn Powell’s cocky smile and Miles Teller’s mustache; if that’s not a unifier in these divided times, I don’t know what is.
Like I began with, 2022 was a solid year of movies. I really enjoyed everything on this list, nearly identically. Anything on here could honestly make an argument one way or another for being my #1 film of the year. But only one film kept calling me to revisit it, only one film immersed me like no other. And that is…
1. The Batman
When I saw this film back in March, I walked out of the theater knowing that I liked it and knew it would eventually be on my top 10, but I thought it was “only” good. But upon several rewatches the flaws, similar to “Babylon,” fade to the background and you just get lost in the world that Matt Reeves and his team created. In a world of superhero films that emphasize forced cameos, horrible green screen effects, and unfunny jokes, “The Batman” feels special. It harkens back to an age when studios would set out to make a superhero movie that stands on its own, not to act as an advertisement for sequels and shared universes. The highway car chase scene alone eats Marvel for lunch, and the city of Gotham feels completely lived in. “The Batman,” like “Top Gun,” was a moment at the movies when it was needed most, and for that reason is my top film of 2022.
Thank you for reading and I hope you had a good time at the movies this year! I have a good feeling about 2023, and hopefully the movies in it agree!
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