2022 was a great year for movies. How do I know that? Because I didn’t have to try very hard to make this list. You see, in a mediocre year for movies, the mainstream releases are a let down. Which means I have to go to the ends of the Earth to find obscure indie films and documentaries to satisfy my cinematic cravings.
This year, I could throw a rock and hit a great film. A great mainstream film at that. I didn’t have to go to any creaky arthouse theaters that smell funny. I could go to the multiplex and have a great time. (Note: Please support the creaky arthouse places too).
2022 was also one of the best years for Horror that I can recall in recent memory. I don’t remember ever putting this many horror titles on a top ten list. It was truly an embarrassment of riches… Or dare I say “witches”? So I apologize if this feels redundant. I swear to you, I do like other kinds of films too.
Honorable Mentions – Truly any of the below could have made the list. I actually feel bad putting them down here, but I did.
Avatar: The Way of Water
Bones and All
In a world where most comedies are DOA in theaters–if they even make it to theaters–it’s nice to see a funny movie with big stars and big production value. I know the mystery is the driving force of this Agatha Christie-inspired whodunnit, but I prefer the buffoonery over the brainteasers.
Writer/Director Rian Johnson has his fun with desperate influencers, men’s rights activists, and arrogant tech bros. Which couldn’t feel more relevant in a year where Elon Musk bought one of the biggest social media platforms in the world solely to embarrass himself.
The fact that a movie with butt plugs, hot dog fingers, and googly-eyed rocks is a major Oscar contender fills me with hope for the future of movies.
We must protect Ke Huy Quan at all costs.
I feel like everyone has forgotten this movie exists. It doesn’t help that Disney dumped Turning Red on Disney+ instead of giving it the theatrical treatment. Why is that? Is it because the main character is a pre-teen girl and not a space ranger? Is it because of its heavy use of Chinese mysticism? Is it because it’s set in 2002 and that period isn’t in vogue? (yet anyways).
Turning Red is a coming-of-age fantasy/comedy from animator Domee Shi about a boy-band obsessed 13-year-old girl in 2002 Toronto who turns into a Red Panda whenever she loses control of her emotions. An apt metaphor for puberty and for coming to terms with your identity, Turning Red is vibrant, funny, and full of heart.
Love the big anime vibes too. Ranma ½ anybody? Anybody?
That dance though.
There are annoying people that we put up with in our lives, but what if you decided you were tired of their bullshit and wanted them to leave you alone? Then, what if somebody made a movie about it? That’s what Martin McDonagh did and even with the film’s 1920s Irish Civil War setting, Banshees of Inisherin doesn’t feel any less relatable.
Banshee is a film about two friends falling out and even though one friend goes to the extreme to cut the other out of his life, you can still sympathize with both sides. Toss in some of McDonagh’s branded morbid humor and you got yourself a good stew going. A bitter Irish stew.
What if Ready Player One was good? Ha, I’m kidding. That one’s a guilty pleasure. Though I do believe Belle is a better execution of living a second life in a virtual world. It’s a shame Belle got swept under the rug outside of Japan. It’s technically a 2021 film but didn’t reach the states until the following January.
But Belle was a big hit in Japan and with good reason. The film is full of sumptuous visuals but isn’t all glitz and glamor. There’s an engaging story here about a shy girl who becomes a pop star when she logs on. Later, this online world is seemingly under attack by a presence known as the Dragon. “Who is the Dragon in real life? What does he want? Is he actually a bad guy?”
What really brought this one home for me was the fact that this isn’t a film that ends with a big battle or a beam of light shooting out of the sky. Rather, it’s a social encounter in the real world. A powerful moment between real people. This film looks like a party but I assure you it’s far more poignant.
I put off watching this film for so long because I assumed it was gimmicky found-footage horror bullshit filmed on a webcam. I was wrong. I was SO wrong. This is a beautifully photographed film that doesn’t really fit cleanly into any genre box. I don’t want to spoil anything about this film because if there was one film on this list I want you to go out and watch right now it’s this one.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair on the surface is a film about a teen girl (Anna Cobb) who decides to participate in a viral challenge called “The World’s Fair.” What the ARG game is exactly is vague but it supposedly has severe side effects on those who choose to play it.
On another layer, this film is about how we present ourselves via the internet. How we live our lives vicariously through the people we watch and obsess over on the internet. Anna Cobb gives a vulnerable performance heightened by a haunting score by Alex G. Debut films don’t get much better than this. I’m so excited for Jane Schoenbrun’s next project.
One of my all time favorite horror movies is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film has that classic 70s grain, the desolate locations, and a real fucked up sense of humor. Yet in eight additional installments, the series could never match that OG feel. That was until X. Which I remind you has nothing to do with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yet, it has the spirit of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
For almost two decades, Ti West has been quietly making horror classics. Hell, he could have hung up his knife after The Sacrament and it would still be a solid horror career. Yet, somehow in 2022 he managed to join forces with A24 and make the two best films of his career with X and Pearl.
What makes Ti West’s current output so good? Complete control over his craft. He’s restrained when he wants to be. Has a good sense of pacing and he knows when to be funny and when to for the jugular. It doesn’t hurt that he’s seemingly found his muse in newly anointed Scream Queen Mia Goth. If they keep this up? They’re gonna be fucking stars.
What a treat it was sitting down in the theater and having literally no idea what I was about to watch. If you never saw the original trailer, or followed the ad campaign, you would have assumed this was just a girl meets a creepy guy in an Airbnb thriller. Now we know (at least those who have seen it) that all of that was a ruse and the film is in fact way crazier than that.
And to think this came from former sketch comedian Zach Cregger. Sure, Barbarian is funny, but it’s also very scary and very disturbing. Cregger really tapped into his inner Sam Raimi and I’m excited to see his next horror project that he’s already touted as “way weirder.”
Jordan Peele has officially solidified himself as my favorite modern filmmaker. He has all the visual flair of Spielberg, all the intrigue of Shyamalan, and yet Peele has one skill neither of those filmmakers possess: Humor. Peele can weaponize humor and horror without lessening the effect of either and somehow still manage to wrap it around thought provoking ideas ripped straight from The Twilight Zone.
Nope is Jordan Peele’s Jaws. Now it’s not as good as Jaws… What is? But it captures a sense of adventure (and fear) that we don’t get in a lot of modern blockbusters. There’s an attention to detail in every idea, both visually and conceptually, tons of Easter eggs, memorable performances, and one of the scariest subplots I can recall. I didn’t trust chimps before this movie and now I definitely don’t.
I’m proud of my trilogy of Jordan Peele steelbooks and can’t wait to make it a quadrilogy. He’s the best in the game and what better way to recognize that then reward Nope with my prestigious top spot on this very prestigious website.