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  • Writer's pictureSaxon Whitehead

Top 10 Films of 2022

In some ways, 2022 felt like a breath of fresh air in the world of film. It wasn't a perfect year, but it felt more innovative and more exciting than the past couple of years. From maximalist epics, to excellent genre films, to introspective works from both veteran and emerging filmmakers, 2022 had quite a bit to offer. It's always tough to come up with a top ten list of my favorites for the year, and this year is no exception. I watched 122 new releases this year, and I enjoyed a great portion of them. Not only was it difficult to narrow my list down to ten films, but there are several different permutations of the list that I would be happy with. I went back and forth many times on the exact placement of some of the titles, as some of them are interchangeable. But after a lot of thought and shifting around different films, I have finally come up with my Top 10 Films of 2022. There are several films that I could have easily put on this list, but these 10 films represent the ones that resonated with me the most, and the ones that impressed me the most out of all the films I saw this year.

But first, I would like to shout out a few honorable mentions:

  • Barbarian: Easily one of the most unpredictable films I saw this year, and one of the best movie going experiences I had in 2022.

  • Babylon: Both an epic ode to cinema and a tale of how it swallows up those who make it. Simply stunning.

  • The Woman King: A bonafide crowdpleaser with a stellar cast and great battle sequences.

  • Aftersun: A deeply personal film that has really grown on me since my first viewing. Tackles memory and parent-child relationships in such a tender, heartbreaking way.

  • The Batman: Easily one of the best comic book movies of the past decade.

  • Three Thousand Years of Longing: Not for everyone, but this was right up my alley. Idris Elba is the most charming Djinn ever.

  • Mad God: Twisted and disturbing, but also one of the most beautifully crafted animated films of the past several years.

  • Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio: A dark retelling of a classic story, and perhaps the most emotionally resonant iteration of it.

  • The Menu: A darkly funny satire of art and the upper class. Absolutely delicious.

  • The Northman: A stellar revenge film that certainly deserves a little more credit than it got.

  • Glass Onion: A worthy follow-up to Knives Out, and features one of the best ensembles of the year.

And now, on to the top ten:

10. After Yang

Ever since I saw After Yang back in January, it has lingered in my mind. The film deals with grief and mortality in a simple, yet affecting way that truly spoke to me. It is so calming, and allows writer/director Kogonada to widen his scope a little to showcase his gift for depicting humanity on screen, while also delving into elements of sci-fi. On top of this, Colin Farrell's quiet performance is so beautiful, and is the heart of the whole film. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it really clicked with me.

9. RRR

In a year of massive epics, RRR emerged as a surprise international smash. It encompasses so many genres over its 3 hour runtime, and is one of the most stylish films I've seen in recent memory. It boasts some of the best action sequences of the year (if not the past few years), and has some excellent musical numbers on top of that. One particular number, titled Naatu Naatu is a major highlight of the film, and might be my favorite scene of the year. Writer/director S.S. Rajamouli puts so much in this film, yet it never feels overstuffed or overwhelming. It is one of the biggest and most bombastic films of the year, and it is such a glorious spectacle to behold.

8. Top Gun: Maverick

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me came in the form of Top Gun: Maverick. The idea of a sequel to the iconic 1986 film Top Gun seemed a little preposterous to me, let alone one that was being released a whopping 26 years later. But by the power of Tom Cruise, this film ending up wildly exceeding all of my expectations. The way it continues the plot of the original film is handled much more deftly than I would have ever guessed, and it is structured quite well as a whole. The flight scenes are absolutely exhilarating to say the least, and had me on the edge of my seat. But what really surprised me about the film was how touching it is. The romantic subplot, as well as the dynamic between Maverick and young pilot Rooster (Miles Teller) is quite compelling and gives the film a healthy dose of substance. It's quite possibly one of the best sequels I've seen in recent memory, and further cements Tom Cruise as one of the greatest action stars of all time.

7. Avatar: The Way of Water

13 years after Avatar became the biggest movie of all time, James Cameron has returned with a sequel. While I was admittedly skeptical going into Avatar: The Way of Water, I was amazed by what Cameron and company pull off here. The visual effects are next level, the underwater sequences are gorgeous, and even though the script is a bit derivative, I was still intrigued by how it builds off the first film and how it expands the world of Pandora. On a purely technical level, this is one of the most impressive films I've seen in quite some time. But even beyond that, the film as a whole is one of the most thrilling experiences I had at the movies this year, and has me more excited than ever for what James Cameron has in store for future installments. Easily the best blockbuster of the past several years.

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a bit of an unexpected phenomenon, as it is a high-concept, original film that was far more successful than most people would have ever guessed. But when you look past the wild premise, flashy visuals, and offbeat sense of humor, it is clear to see why this film has caught on with so many, myself included. It touches on themes of generational trauma, existentialism, and kindness in a way that is rather universal. There is a strange comfort that flows throughout much of the film, and it is so different from anything I've seen before. It is quite possibly the most creative film of the year, as there are so many specific details that had me wondering how anyone could come up with them. To top it off, it has an incredible cast, with Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and James Hong all doing top-notch work here. But it is the direction from directing duo Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert) that holds the film together. In the hands of anyone else, this film wouldn't work nearly as well as it does, but with them, it is absolutely spectacular, and perfectly showcases their sensibilities as filmmakers. This film is sure to have a lasting cultural impact, and will undoubtedly be talked about for years to come.

5. The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg's most recent output has been so fascinating, as he has this sense about him that any of these films might be his last. Perhaps that is why he finally decided to make The Fabelmans, a long gestating project loosely based on his own family. It is undeniably Spielberg's most personal film to date, and has the right balance of schmaltz and sadness to allow for an emotionally rich film. In certain ways, this is an ode to cinema and filmmaking, but it is much thornier than it seems, and shows the sacrifice that comes with being a creator. This might be my favorite cast of any film this year from top to bottom, as everyone is so talented and brings their A-game here. But perhaps the biggest standout is Gabriel LaBelle, who plays Sammy Fabelman. He holds his own against his more seasoned co-stars, and he shows his range as an actor all throughout the film. It's one of the best breakthrough performances of the year, and asserts him as one of our most promising young actors working today. As for the film as a whole, it reveals itself slowly over time, and is more layered than it appears. It is heartbreaking and uplifting, and ends up being yet another home run from one of our greatest living filmmakers.

4. Decision to Leave

A beautiful fusion of mystery and romance, Decision to Leave is yet another thrilling effort from acclaimed director Park Chan-wook. This is one of the most finely crafted screenplays of the year, as it is structured in a way that pulls the rug out from under you multiple times, and draws you in further and further over its runtime. Park is a master of suspense, and he demonstrates this multiple times throughout the film. The core mystery is so gripping, and the chemistry between stars Park Hae-il and Tang Wei is electric. Wei's performance in particular is stunning, as she embodies the ambiguity and nuances of the character with precision. It has such depth, and is one of the most fascinating performances of the year. What really makes this film pop, however, is the cinematography and editing. Both of these elements are so meticulous and stunning, and some of the shots in the film left me wondering how Park and company pulled them off. This film had me wanting to rewatch it from the moment I finished it, and is so wonderfully crafted.

3. Nope

Jordan Peele's directorial career has fascinated me, as he has proven that you never know what to expect from him. Even though all of his films thus far have a similar style, and each of them use horror and suspense in order to make commentary on various social and cultural themes, the directions he takes his films are unexpected. The same can be said about Nope, which allows Peele to work on a larger scale and create a true spectacle. The film as a whole is about our obsession with spectacle itself, and explores this through the lens of the entertainment industry. He takes some huge swings with this film, and almost all of them pay off handsomely. There are many aspects of the film that surprised me, and kept me wondering where it was heading. Peele builds tension so masterfully over the course of the film, which leads to one of the most exciting third acts I've seen in years. The film as a whole is such a great balance of style and substance, and had me invested from the opening shot. Add in some great performances by Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, and Brandon Perea, and you have an absolute knockout of a film that left me beaming from ear to ear.

2. The Banshees of Inisherin

There has been a recent influx of media that has extolled the virtues of being nice. Martin McDonagh's The Banshees of Inisherin is a bit of a flip on this, as it shows that kindness doesn't solve everything. McDonagh uses a falling out between friends to illustrate this, which allows him to touch on themes of friendship and mental health. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson deliver some of the finest performances of their respective careers here, and are incredible in their scenes together. However, the supporting players steal the show a little, with Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan also giving excellent performances that brim with honesty and specificity. Beyond that, McDonagh is at the top of his game as a writer and as a director with this film, as he is able to make you laugh out loud one minute and break your heart the next. McDonagh is a master of dark comedy, and this film is a brilliant showcase for this. This film has haunted me in the best possible way since I saw it, and connected with me on such a deep level.

1. TÁR

When most films try to be timely, or to comment on more current trends and ideologies, they tend to feel dated right from the jump. But every now and then, there are films that do this and feel fresh and incredibly relevant. TÁR is one of these films. It is so ingrained in our current social climate, taking on issues of power dynamics, cancel culture, and life in the digital age with great insight. It zeroes in on whether or not we can truly separate art from the artist, and allows the viewer to form their own opinions on the matter. So much of the film is presented in such a direct way, but it never feels like writer/director Todd Field is trying to push a specific agenda or anything. He truly allows the film to speak for itself, and it never feels heavy-handed. Furthermore, the film functions as an intimate, yet comprehensive character study. Cate Blanchett fully embodies the character of Lydia Tár, and gives what might be the best performance of her career. She is so in the pocket here, and she absolutely captivated me. Field paints such a full, rich portrait of the character, and Blanchett breathes even more life into her. Every bit of the film, no matter how small, or how seemingly inconsequential, is so integral to what Todd Field is ultimately going for. It may seem boring to some, but everything has a purpose, and comes together to make something truly phenomenal. TÁR may be a bit of a quiet film, but man, did it speak to me.

And that's a wrap on my Top 10 of 2022! This was a great year for film, and I am hopeful that 2023 will be just as good, if not better. What are some of your favorite films of the past year? Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

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1 Comment
Feb 06, 2023

Excellent list. Decision To Leave is a cinematic highlight of 2022.

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