Following a heavy blow from the pandemic, the cinematic landscape was quite never the same again. In 2020, cinema struggled and the movie theatre struggled to justify its existence with the rise of new movies being readily available to stream a few weeks after their theatrical release. In 2021, things were starting to take a change for the better but audiences weren’t quite ready to go back. In 2022, the directors were ambitious, the filmmaking was passionate and the stories lively and resonated, the magic of cinema was brought back to the big screen in massive waves. From ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ topping the box office and creating new records to directors executing their unhinged creative visions like Damien Chazelle’s ‘Babylon’ and Jordan Peele’s ‘NOPE’. Every medium and genre made the biggest of comebacks with horror being the most successful it’s been in years and animation finally breaking the mold and taking shape in the most wonderful of ways. This was the year that defined my love of movies all over again, and that made me remember why movies are my favorite thing in the world. In fact, this will be the first year where I make a Top 20 list rather than a Top 10 so without further ado, let’s run through the first ten real quick!
Movies that were released in the U.S. in 2022 but came out in 2023 elsewhere still qualify for this list. Some movies that might have made it that I haven’t gotten to are ‘Puss In Boots: The Last Wish’, ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’, ‘The Northman’ and ‘Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio’.
TOP 20 – 11
20. ‘Barbarian‘ (dir. Zach Cregger)
Horror may be subjective but ‘Barbarian’ managed to evoke a genuine sense of fear from within me that I don’t know if most horror movies were able to achieve. A fantastic script, score, and memorable concept come together for one hell of a movie. full review.
19. ‘Scream‘ (dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett)
For a fifth entry in a franchise to be this relevant, smart, witty, and scary is truly commendable. Cinema needs Ghostface now more than ever and this movie realized that in the best way possible. full review.
18. ‘The Woman King‘ (dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood)
A truly beautiful epic both visually and emotionally. The incredible cast may be led by Viola Davis’s incredible performance but what her fellow costars, Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu, and Sheila Atim bring is just as important in this powerful portrayal of womanhood. full review.
17. ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery‘ (dir. Rian Johnson)
Following the instant classic, ‘Glass Onion’ is a sequel that broadens its scope in favor of a funnier, more direct approach where the humor is just as sharp, the mystery just as befuddling, and Benoit Blanc all the more iconic. full review.
16. ‘Halloween Ends‘ (dir. David Gordon Green)
A thrilling finale that sweeps the rug from under you and surprises you with a stirring tale of legacy, victim-shaming, and taking back the narrative, all packaged in a delightfully cheesy love letter to the eighties. The saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode couldn’t have ended any better than this. full review.
15. ‘Turning Red‘ (Domee Shi)
Gorgeously animated and beautifully written, Pixar’s nod to the 2000s and what being a preteen girl in those times hits out of the park with an endearing tale that’s just as funny and heartfelt as it is nostalgic. It is also the only movie ever to feature ‘Nobody Like U’ by 4* Town so that’s just an automatic win. full review.
14. ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever‘ (dir. Ryan Coogler)
Who would’ve thought that one of the most moving theatre experiences came in the form of a Marvel movie? ‘Wakanda Forever’ is a truly powerful tale about loss and grief, a big step-up narratively on Marvel’s part, and some of the best acting it’s ever delivered. full review.
13. ‘Bones and All‘ (dir. Luca Guadagnino)
Never would I have thought that a cannibal road trip movie would be this high up on any list but Guadagnino managed to craft one of the most beautiful, touching, and tragic romances of the year. It is also indeed disgusting. full review.
12. ‘Pearl‘ (dir. Ti West)
It’s Mia Goth roaming around a farm in the late 1910s killing people and screaming to her mother about wanting to become a star. I don’t know what else I can say to justify why this movie is as good as it is. She is a STAR! full review.
11. ‘Triangle of Sadness‘ (dir. Ruben Östlund)
Truly one of the most unhinged movies I’ve ever seen. The cast is excellent, the writing is fantastic, and it goes all the way in terms of humour and just being truly disgusting at times but my God was it fun to see this story unravel.
10. ‘Avatar: The Way of Water‘ (dir. James Cameron)
‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has taken everything that the 2009 film founded and expanded on it exponentially and created something that I don’t think we will ever see again outside of this franchise. Every little detail James Cameron creates and inputs into Pandora whether it’s the sound of the many creatures. the design of the villages or the true love of nature that this franchise possesses, it makes for three hours of true blockbuster escapism. This sequel is far more sophisticated and has one of the best third acts I’ve ever seen. While the script could be called simple and not groundbreaking, it is still effective and compelling and I cannot wait to see what the consequences of the events in this sequel will look like in future installments. I am, by all means, an ‘Avatar‘ stan now which I never thought would happen but here we are!
9. ‘Top Gun: Maverick‘ (dir. Joseph Kosinski)
When you get an audience to care for the characters, to root for someone, to await that emotional climax, that is the foundation of any great movie. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ knows this and it uses this to make for one of the most refreshing blockbusters in recent memory. Just an absolute blast from start to finish, it actually progressively gets better the longer it goes on. From stunning shots of aerial stunts and choreography to thrilling action sequences that get your heart beating as fast as it possibly can, this is what a true blockbuster is made for. It’s simple storytelling but it just does the job effectively. Tom Cruise is single-handedly making sure audiences come back to theatres, his passion for filmmaking and true ambition has never shone so brightly as it does in ‘Maverick‘. He is one of the last true movie stars and we love him for it. It’s just very easy to love this movie, it united people together, it brought people together, it reminded us of what cinema is able to achieve on a hot summer day. It’s just a great fucking time and it deserves all of the hype it’s getting.
8. ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie‘ (dir. Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman)
Out of all the wonderful animated releases that 2022 has provided, it has been a damn shame that ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ has not been talked about more. It’s a movie that radiates so much heart and joy through its humour and family dynamic. The Belchers have never been better. This movie had me in stitches laughing out loud in a theatre which is something I never do, I will chuckle but never laugh whole-heartedly, that is until I saw this movie. Considering how dialogue-heavy the humour is, the fact that a good ninety percent of it landed for me is just very impressive. I love, love, LOVED the musical numbers, ‘Sunny Side Up Summer’ is the hit of Summer 2022 as far as I’m concerned. The animation was very fluid and gorgeous, it was just mesmerizing to see 2D animation work its charm on a big screen again. Definitely my favourite animated movie of the year, if you haven’t seen the show, check it out! You’ll have a fun time nevertheless.
7. ‘The Batman‘ (dir. Matt Reeves)
Out of all the movies from 2022, ‘The Batman’ has been the one that I have craved to rewatch the most. A spectacular blockbuster that knows exactly what it wants to be and how it wants to achieve that. Stunning cinematography accompanied by one of the year’s best film scores by the one and only Michael Giacchino. Performances by Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Paul Dano that demand your attention. A perfect mixture of tones ranging from genuinely terrifying and tense to some of the best deadpan humour I’ve seen in a movie of this kind. It uses its nearly three-hour runtime to ease you into its perfect atmosphere and unravels another horrible and fascinating layer of Gotham with every few sequences. It features some of the best action sequences of the year. That car chase sequence with The Penguin is still a highlight. It is a perfect example of atmospheric movies done right, this is Gotham and Robert Pattinson is my favourite Batman. An atmospheric masterpiece that showed the potential of comic-book movies and how perfect they are for this medium of storytelling. Perfect casting, perfect costuming, one of the best scores of the year and an example of how comic-book movies don’t need to follow one formula to get it right.
6. ‘Babylon‘ (dir. Damien Chazelle)
As someone who was shaped by the works of Damien Chazelle in my years of teenagehood, ‘Babylon‘ revamped that inspiration and awe and just downright admiration all over again. From the massive and boisterous score by Justin Hurwitz, the engrossing cinematography by Linus Sandgren, and the sheer ambition on display from Chazelle himself, it is impossible not to give this movie your undivided attention. Starting with a half-hour sequence detailing a lively 1920s party full of coke, sex, and music to ending with a bold montage that reminds us why we love the movies so much, it goes for it all the way and embraces its frantic ambition. It may have familiar messages but the way it explores them and the pure excitement it shows when filmmaking is involved, it left a huge smile on my face. The commentary on Hollywood and how it’s a machine and yet it’s a gift that leaves these people an eternal legacy through the power of cinema. It’s not groundbreaking but my god does it stick when this movie shows it. I have seen it three times at this point, the score is my favourite thing on the planet and I just hope I can achieve something this big and proud in my life.
(review coming soon)
5. ‘Decision To Leave‘ (dir. Park Chan-wook)
A gripping movie not because of the mystery it presents but instead the exploration of its two compelling leads. ‘Decision To Leave’ is a meticulously detailed movie that is infinitely rewarding on rewatch. It is a very deliberate movie in the way it not only presents information retaining to the mystery but also how we view the characters and how they change over time. It’s a film that feels very alive and on its feet and yet it also feels very dreamlike and surreal, mirroring the two leads in a way where it parallels the exhaustion and disheveled manner of Hae-joon with the orchestration and detail of Seo-rae. It is something that the movie balances perfectly in the first two acts, going back and forth until the two become one in the third act, and whatever question the movie ponders melts away as the puzzle pieces all fall into place. It’s one of the most tragic endings of the year, one of the best, and one of my favourites. It’s the type of movie that the longer it sits with you, the more you understand it. Everything the movie presents comes back and solves itself naturally. It’s such a neat achievement, I really need to check more of Park Chan-wook’s work after this. It is also sinful that this was completely shut out by the Academy.
4. ‘The Fabelmans‘ (dir. Steven Spielberg)
I don’t know if I have ever fallen in love with a movie as quickly as I did with ‘The Fabelmans’. So many movies this year changed my life and perspective and what ‘The Fabelmans’ did for me may have given me my entire career. This along with ‘Babylon‘ inspired me to start thinking about pursuing a career in filmmaking. I had the widest grin on my face seeing Sammy film his small movies and getting so lost in them, it’s exciting seeing the camera, seeing where you put the camera to achieve a greater feeling of scope and emotion. It is simply exhilarating! Sam is someone that I can relate to quite a bit as I’m sure is the case with most aspiring filmmakers watching but that is me up on that screen. Someone who cannot exist without movies who is constantly thinking about how any setting he’s in can make for a good shot, it’s that commitment that is powerful it has the power to sometimes get in the way of family. I expected to go into this movie and get all emotional about the film stuff but to be honest, I found myself getting emotional about the family aspects, specifically the relationship between Mitzi and Sammy. 2022 has been a really good year for movies that show us that our parents are actually people too with their own lives outside of us. The message to follow your heart no matter how far away it leads you as long as it feels right, I just might start tearing up right now. I will hold onto what this movie left me with for as long as possible and I’m gonna protect that feeling, that yearning and just like Sammy, I’m gonna do something about it. I truly don’t know if a movie has ever given me a greater gift.
(review coming soon)
3. ‘NOPE‘ (dir. Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele, the master that you are. ‘NOPE‘ is a genre-bending masterpiece that terrifies and encapsulates the viewer in a wildly thought-provoking movie that you will remember for the rest of your life. There are shots and sequences in ‘NOPE‘ that are ingrained in my brain. I couldn’t get enough of this movie, so much so that after I saw it for the first time, I wanted to watch the movies that inspired it and I spent a week watching movies like ‘Jaws’, ‘Signs’ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. I would just put on interviews of Peele talking about the movie and just feel enamored with his vision and how uniquely original it is. To portray the human flaw of curiosity and how we’re moths to a flame when a spectacle occurs, no matter how horrible it is. How trauma can sometimes hold onto a person for the rest of their lives and how it can reunite two siblings and get their bond to a level that’s never been stronger. Not to mention how it explores animal mistreatment in Hollywood through the lens of a UFO/UAP. That is insane to me to even make that connection is brilliant but to execute it flawlessly like this is just insanity to me. Jean Jacket, you will always remain iconic! This is easily my favourite blockbuster and horror movie of the year, it is one for the ages. Justice for Michael Abels for that fantastic score and for the insane cinematography as well. Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya, Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea, you are the best cast cinema has ever seen. There’s really, genuinely not a single flaw with this movie. Everything from the clothing (that Jesus Lizard shirt, come on) to the mixing of genres from horror to science-fiction to western, it just works flawlessly.
2. ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once‘ (dir. Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert)
Hot dog fingers, butt plug awards, googly eyes and bagels are just a few of the ingredients for one of the most inventive and heartwarming movies in recent memory. For what is undeniably the craziest movie of the year, ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ is ironically also the most tender. I absolutely love and adore this movie, the exploration of nihilism and the strength found in happiness and hope through such an eccentric plot. I love the character work as well from Michelle Yeoh’s detached and on-edge Evelyn Wang to the hopeful and wholesome Waymond to the complex Joy who represents the complete opposite. A family portrait painting the spectrum of life from nihilism to hope and kindness with Evelyn at the center being pulled both ways. Despite how impressive and inventive this movie is, its shining quality is found in its messages and writing. The movie’s case for hope and kindness being as demanding of strength, to try and find the good in everything and calling it strength instead of naive, it really struck a chord with me. It has been a breath of fresh air and a true game-changer and I really am excited to see what type of movies this has inspired.
1. ‘Aftersun‘ (dir. Charlotte Wells)
A soul-shattering view of parenthood, childhood and how the two co-exist and recontextualize with age. ‘Aftersun‘ is the type of movie that changes a person and I don’t say that lightly. What Wells has managed to create here is truly commendable, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie that understands humanity to the degree that ‘Aftersun‘ does. Paul Mescal delivers my favourite performance of the year as Calum, a young father who is struggling with depression. It’s the type of performance that is so subtle and powerful because the movie never lets us into his mind yet with his eyes we can tell exactly what is going on internally. Pair that with some inventive symbolism about memories and perspective and you have one of the biggest gut-wrenching stories you will ever experience. Frankie Corio also does a fantastic job at capturing that innocence and curiosity, the two together are perfectly matched. It is one of those movies that you expect to go a certain direction and it pulls the rug out from under you and leaves you with this profound sadness that sticks with you. It’s the type of movie that reinvigorates the reason why cinema is there in the first place, to connect us to something familiar and craft a story with great emotion out of it. I know for a fact that I will keep this movie close to me for as long as possible.
Overall 2022 has proven to be quite a fantastic year for the movies, I haven’t felt this inspired and invigorated by cinema in a while and these lot of films really, truly reminded me why I dedicated my life so to this artform. No matter how great these next few years might be, I will always hold this year especially close because these are the movies that made me confident enough to say that I want to work in the movies, something I thought was too foolish or crazy to even consider but when it feels this right, it would be a damn shame to let it go. So I thank all of these directors and their cast and crew for doing what they do, I hope they know it means the world to me, to get to experience these stories. With that being said, I hope 2023 is prepared because it has quite the standard to live up to.
To see where movies like ‘The Menu’, ‘TÁR’ and ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ landed, check out my entire list on Letterboxd!