I’m warning you now. This Top 15 Films of 2022 list does not contain Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar 2, or anything Marvel. This isn’t a knee-jerk anti-crowdpleaser thing. I enjoyed a lot of that stuff, but these 15 movies really spoke to me! –Justin
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Ridiculously fun, incredibly touching, with fantastic performances from Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu. It takes the Edgar Wright model of couching an overblown, high-concept plot in a heartfelt human-sized story and perfects it.
The wildest and most wonderful experience I had in a movie theater was witnessing the maximalist insanity of this Telugu-language action-comedy-melodrama epic (it’s currently on Netflix, dubbed in Hindi with English subtitles). The audience clapped, cheered, and howled; if people were feeling a little less self-conscious, I’m sure they would have started dancing.
Ti West paid tribute to ’70s grindhouse and porn early in 2022 with the entertaining X, but his mock-Technicolor prequel is the real revelation. More of a spooky character study than a typical fright flick, Pearl gives Mia Goth the room to deliver a bravura performance as a psychopath coming into her own.
4. Glass Onion
Rian Johnson returns with another Benoit Blanc mystery that veers gently away from Agatha Christie territory toward something more twisty and self-conscious, in tribute to the Stephen Sondheim-Anthony Perkins-scripted The Last of Sheila. Janelle Monáe stands out in a strong new ensemble of potential suspects and victims.
5. The Fabelmans
While box office is no indication of quality, I am super bummed this flick has been doing so poorly. It’s the first new Steven Spielberg film I have downright loved in roughly three decades (last time was 1993, the year of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List). If audiences are staying away because they think this is just a navel-gazey self-portrait or a treacly tribute to “the power of movies,” that’s even worse. This semi-memoir is more about the pain and idiosyncrasy of being obsessed with cinema and how it damages relationships as much as it draws people in. It’s heartfelt, without being bland and superficial.
6. Triangle of Sadness
An epic of perfectly modulated cringe comedy with an amazing gross-out centerpiece. That’s all I’ll say.
7. Petite Maman
A gorgeous cinematic short story from the director of Portrait of a Lady on Fire. What if you and your mother could be childhood playmates? This gentle fantasy looks at the relationship between mothers and daughters with quiet eloquence.
Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda traveled to France for his last flick, The Truth, and this time around he’s in South Korea, working with the star of Parasite. Song Kang-Ho plays the “father” of a chosen family on the outskirts of the law, not unlike the makeshift clan of Kore-eda’s Oscar-nominated Shoplifters. This time, the fake family is looking to sell a small baby to the highest bidder, with police detectives (including Cloud Atlas‘s Doona Bae) trailing behind. Kore-eda’s knack for humanistic character-driven drama is reminiscent of peak Ingmar Bergman, and Broker is another standout work.
9. Confess, Fletch
Greg Mottola and Jon Hamm’s revival of the classic Gregory Mcdonald character, made famous onscreen previously by Chevy Chase, flew under a lot of folks’ radar. What a shame. Mottola and Hamm pulled off the seemingly impossible task of paying tribute to the dry, sarcastic tone of Mcdonald’s comic mystery books while also providing a bit of broad slapstick for the Chase fans in the house. It hits the same cozy-mystery buttons as The Rockford Files and Columbo, but with better jokes.
10. Three Thousand Years of Longing
Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton star in George Miller’s exquisite and strange follow-up to Mad Max: Fury Road. A tribute to mythology and storytelling that is impressive in its ambition, even if it doesn’t totally work 100%. I love it for its boldness anyway.
11. Decision to Leave
Two words: Tang Wei! The stunning lead of Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution delivers another jaw-dropping performance as a woman embroiled in a murder mystery or two. Director Park Chan-Wook delivers on the mood and the brain-teasing moral quandaries, even if the film gets a li’l unwieldy and seems to squirm away from him by the end.
Remaking a classic like Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru sounds like a dicey proposition, but the script by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and direction by Oliver Hermanus side-step a number of potential landmines with grace and elegance. The film is being pushed as a showcase for Bill Nighy (Love Actually, About Time), and he deserves all the accolades coming his way. His performance as a bureaucrat with terminal cancer is properly world-weary and just sentimental enough without feeling like BS Oscar bait. Sex Education‘s Aimee Lou Wood shines as the young woman who offers Nighy a friendly lifeline.
13. The Northman
Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) crafts a big and bold Icelandic epic with a stacked cast and plenty of eye-popping visuals.
14. Official Competition
A delightful piss-take about the pretentiousness of “serious” actors, movie stars, indie-darling film directors, and the money men who keep the entertainment business going. Penélope Cruz does a brilliant job bouncing off the energy of costars Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez, but Irene Escolar steals her scenes as a sexy nepo-baby actress.
Jordan Peele offers his own thoughts on the entertainment business in a creature feature where a giant eye-like alien comes to consume anything and everything in its line of vision. In other words, showbiz will EAT YOU UP!
Honorable mention: Jackass Forever
Watching this film was the hardest I laughed in a theater in years. If only for bringing back some post-COVID-lockdown normalcy and joy, this movie deserves acknowledgment.
Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.