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The 10 Best Films of 2022
The 10 best features with a US theatrical or streaming release in 2022.
On the last day of 2022, I’m faced with the same inevitable conclusion that creeps up on me every single year: there’s way too many fecking movies to watch. Even while Hollywood remains neck-deep in Marvel muck, the positive is that cinema remains very much alive (because most of it is not related to Hollywood, although there’s always a pleasant surprise or two).
Even still, with too many films left to see, films which may or may not have the power to completely change the complexion of the list you’re about to sift through, I’m joining the bandwagon before the clock strikes midnight with my picks for the 10 best feature films of 2022.
The rule I’m used to when making these lists is to include only movies with a theatrical US release in the calendar year, so I’m sticking to that.
But first, a definition…
A movie that strays as far away as possible from the beaten path, avoiding the cardinal sin of art - obviousness.
A movie that teaches you something new, makes you feel a strong feeling or two.
A movie that allows the politically-untainted tentacles of cinema to wrap themselves around you and immerse you into an entertaining story.
A visually-captivating, thought-provoking transportation and, with any lucky, transformation.
The 10 Best Feature Films of 2022
Ten honorable mentions well worth your time: EO, Top Gun: Maverick, Tár, Barbarian, Crimes of the Future, Nitram, Confess, Fletch, The Northman, Avatar: The Way of Water, Compartment No. 6.
10. The Batman
“They think I am hiding in the shadows, but I am the shadows.”
Taking its cues from the likes of Seven, Zodiac, The French Connection and Klute, The Batman is raw, visceral, and drenched in darkness by incessant rain. Matt Reeves and his A+ crew have answered the Bat-Signal with one of the best solo Batman films to date.
This is Bruce Wayne’s shadow-self in a gritty detective story first and exhilarating action film second. The ensemble cast is perfect, but it’s the look, feel and sound of the film that makes the experience an unforgettable ride.
Get rid of all superhero films forever, I say, just leave the bat alone.
9. The Worst Person in the World
“I feel like a spectator in my own life. Like I’m playing a supporting role in my own life.”
Renate Reinsve’s Cannes-winning performance is one of the year’s very best in Joachim Trier’s quarter-life-crisis tale of a young woman’s relationships and search of self.
With an exceptional screenplay full of magical, organic moments that feel all too real, The Worst Person in the World is a tragi-comic slice-of-life film with an everlasting aftertaste that pulls all the right strings.
8. Flux Gourmet
“It’s your use of the flanger I want to discuss.”
”What’s a flanger?”
I’m convinced that Peter Strickland is the most uniquely creative mind working in movies today. Flux Gourmet transports you to the strangest of settings – an institute for culinary and alimentary performance – with colorful characters (led by a remarkable Fatma Mohamed) and acerbic wit.
The result is one of the most captivating 2 hours you’ll spend with a film, filled with flatulence, hilarity, and passive-aggressive arguments about flangers.
7. The Whale
“Do you ever get the feeling that people are incapable of not caring?”
The Whale won’t be this list’s last example of how today’s professional critics can completely misread a film. Brendan Fraser delivers the greatest male performance of the year as a 600-pound man who is overflowing with love for everyone around him but has none left for himself.
An intimate story of redemption with biblical overtones that only a singular director like Darren Aronofsky can bring to life. Believe the audience on this one.
Read my full review of The Whale here.
“Bravery is only cowardice in extremis. At the root of bravery lies terror, and the fear of fear.”
Terence Davies brings his signature smooth, sophisticated directorial embrace to the story of Siegfried Sassoon, one of the most notable First World War poets to have lived. Like sipping on a sherry by a crackling fireplace, the poet’s private life and utter contempt for the banality and cruelty of war is brought to remarkable life by Sassoon’s own poetry, Davies’s masterful approach and Jack Lowden’s unforgettable performance.
Watch out for that ending, it’s a killer.
5. The Eternal Daughter
“I had all sorts of memories here. And they, you know, they’re all still alive.”
Joanna Hogg follows up her wonderful semi-autobiographical and true-to-life The Souvenir movies with a deep dive into genre. The Eternal Daughter is an eerie ghost story where the ghosts are memories haunting the gothic interiors of a gorgeous and appropriately-creaky Welsh hotel.
Tilda Swinton brings her forever-interesting micro expressions to the dual roles of mother and daughter, helping to create an utterly absorbing and wholly cinematic journey that’s all the more powerful for feeling just as personal as Hogg’s previous films.
4. Decision to Leave
“The moment you said you loved me, your love is over. The moment your love ends, my love begins.”
Park Chan-wook is a critical darling, but for whatever reason I’ve failed to connect to most of his post-Oldboy filmography. Until now. Decision to Leave is an absolute masterclass of cinematic storytelling; a Russian doll that’s a film noir in a murder mystery contained in a romance within a comedy within a tragedy.
Most of all, the blood to the film’s heart is pumped by cinema for this story can only live on the screen.
3. The Quiet Girl
“Many’s the person missed the opportunity to say nothing…and lost much because of it.”
Move over, Avatar: The Way of Water, and make way for the most beautiful-looking film of 2022. Colm Bairéad’s feature film debut hides a planet-sized heart within its hushed and impossibly intimate story of a young, reserved girl who spends a summer with a caring older couple. Shot in 4:3 aspect ratio and framed in breathtakingly gorgeous compositions, this quiet movie shriveled me up into a raisin.
Not since The Elephant Man have I cried so much, or so loudly.
“In the movies they chop you all to bits. Cut, cut, cut. It’s a jigsaw puzzle. But you’re not the one to put the pieces together.”
The most hated prestige film of the year is the most audacious piece of art in disguise. Blonde is a mightily misunderstood near-masterpiece that will no doubt outlive all the projected criticism directed at it. The harsh truth – and it is harsh because the film is a gut-wrenching horror in many ways – is that Andrew Dominik directed a brilliant, unflinching excavation of a traumatized psyche.
It’s a cerebral meta-mindfuck about culture and the spectator’s gaze featuring a kaleidoscopic range of techniques that reinvent the blur between art and life, and the best female performance of the year by Ana de Armas who seemingly sold her soul to the Devil and gave it her all for the part of a lifetime.
Read my full essay on Blonde here.
1. The Banshees of Inisherin
“Some things there's no moving on from. And I think that's a good thing.”
Martin McDonagh’s follow up to 2017’s brilliant Three Billboards is even better for being the funniest, smartest, most watchable, most entertaining, most endearing, and most recommendable film in 2022.
I will wager that you are bereft of heart and soul if you watch The Banshees of Inisherin without laughing or cracking a smile at least a dozen times and feeling the butterflies of watching a masterpiece full of meaning at least half as much. It’s the best ensemble acting of the year, led by a faultless Colin Farrell; the best screen dialogue you’ll hear in 2022 delivered with impeccable comic timing; and at its center an allegorical tale about friendship and conflict with a message that’ll stay with you for the rest of your life if you let it.
Quite obviously, the best fecking film of the year.
Bring on 2023. May it be full of reflected wonder, both dark and light.
Happy New Year!
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Films that could impact this list in the future that I haven’t had a chance to see before publishing this article include: No Bears, The Cathedral, Happening, Ahed’s Knee, The Son, The Girl and the Spider, Vortex, Holy Spider, Apollo 10 1/2, Speak No Evil, Till, Neptune Frost, Living, Kimi, and many more I’m sure…