Top Ten Films of 2022
Updated: Jan 3
Aftersun - Charlotte Wells seems to invent her own film language with her stunning debut Aftersun. It manages to capture how we remember people who are no longer in our lives in a way I have never seen before. The heart-stopping finale and the swell of emotion that followed are among my favorite cinema memories this year, plus it marks the best use of a Queen song since Wayne's World. Fragmented as the story can feel at times, it culminates into a deeply felt portrait of a daughter, the fantastic Frankie Corio, and her father, the tremendous Paul Mescal. Wells'
The Banshees of Inisherin - One simple decree of freedom from a friendship sets off a devastating microcosm of the Irish Civil War. The friendship at the core of this funny and thoughtful film by Martin McDonagh features two great performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. This is McDonagh's best film with his humorous dialogue sharper than ever. Deeply sad and cynical, the film still manages to find some brightness in the increasing mess these two men create.
Bones and All - Director Luca Guadagnino mixes his two modes of storytelling, romance, and horror, into a truly moving and thrilling film. While the film works as a cannibal love story, it offers a deeper read on addiction and generational trauma. Taylor Russell lights up the screen as Mare, a young woman left on her own to discover her urge to eat human flesh. When she meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet), they go on a road trip filled with horrors that bind them together. Mark Rylance as Sully, an older "eater", gives one of the year's most chilling performances.
Everything Everywhere All At Once - The best multiverse film ever and it is not a Marvel film. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert throw every rule out the window to create a spectacle of bodily humor, wild sci-fi, inventively hilarious action, and heartfelt human drama. The film lives up to its name in the way it has everything. Michelle Yeoh gets to flex every acting muscle she has here and the return of Ke Huy Quan to the screen is one of the year's best stories. Accessible and yet strange and defiant, the Daniels have created a modern classic.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio - Who thought we would get two adaptations of this classic tale of a wooden boy who comes to life? Even less predictable is that one of them would be a soulful, urgent reimagining that breathes new life into this old fable. Del Toro creates a visually stunning film about mourning, pain, and fascism. The whole thing works so well as a culmination of del Toro's beliefs, interests, and talents. All of these themes have been present in his work but here are so deeply felt as to make one see this familiar story in a whole new light.
Nope - Jordan Peele levels up with Nope by creating his first blockbuster, one as ambitious and dense as the influences the film wears on its sleeve. What starts out as sci-fi morphs to full-on horror in its second half. Peele curdles the joy of the Spielberg gaze by making an allegory for the ways in which Hollywood sucks people up and eats them. The side story involving Gordy, a chimpanzee who stars on a TV show is the most chilling thing in any movie all year. The entire cast gives strong performances but Keke Palmer as Em is a standout. She is effortlessly funny and engaging, ensuring she will be a star to come.
The Northman - Robert Eggers' Viking epic may be flawed but it is the swing-for-the-fences filmmaking I want to always be funded by big studios. There were a few films this year of similar panache (Babylon or Bardo) but The Northman was my favorite. This is largely due to the wonderful visuals Eggers conjures up combined with several alluring performances. The film is like a moving painting on the side of your weed dealer's van and I mean that in the best possible way.
RRR - Who would have guessed that S.S. Rajamouli's epic RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt) would become such a success this year? The Telugu-language film is a delicious mixture of outlandish action sequences, anti-colonialism, and dance sequences. At the core is a genuinely infectious bromance. The film is arguably cheesy but it is all made with such skill and enthusiasm that it is hard not to be won over by it.
Tár - Here is such a curious and carefully observed film about a conductor whose control, power, and brilliance lead to her downfall. Todd Field directs the film with insight and empathy showing the complex nature of the zeitgeist it explores. Cate Blanchett's performance is a tour-de-force. She commands the screen immediately and even as we learn some awful truths about her, we are still interested in this complicated character. The film could have been a simplistic look at cancel culture but instead forces the viewer to deal with the realities of brilliance and privilege.
Vortex - Gaspar Noé makes brutal, punishing films. They are usually filled with violence, sex, and drugs. Vortex has none of these elements. It follows an elderly couple as the wife begins to suffer from dementia. Noé's use of split-screen here works brilliantly as these two partners separate in so many ways due to the illness. Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun give terrific performances in the lead roles. This is a one-time film that deeply affected me for days and is the most emotionally mature thing Noé has ever made.
Honorable mentions: Glass Onion, Prey, Barbarian, Mad God, Pleasure, Emergency, Moonage Daydream, X, Pearl, Top Gun: Maverick, Women Talking, Jackass Forever, The Innocents, Resurrection, Decision To Leave, After Yang, Bad Axe.