The Best Movies of 2022 (and the Five Worst)

By Christian DiMartino

One thing I like about doing a year in review thingy is that it serves as a document of where my taste was at this point in time. I won’t lie though: often times I place a movie in my top spot, and some time down the road, my opinion changes. Not always, but sometimes it takes a little time for me to realize which movies I truly cozy up with. Take last year for example. I gave Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story the top spot, because it was an immaculate piece of filmmaking that transcended its expectations. A year removed, you know which movie I find myself returning to? Janicza Bravo’s Zola. That was probably the most fun I had at the movies in 2021, outside of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and I find it imminently rewatchable.

In terms of 2022, I do get the sense that my favorite of the year (no spoilers) will be one to stay. Because every once in a blue moon, I find something that I become obsessed with. If Mare of Easttown had been a movie, that would’ve been the best of 2021. But no, this year I found a movie that will be an all-timer for me. That’s not to say it will be for everyone else. Which leads to my next point: who am I to declare what is the best? I didn’t see every single movie of the year (I saw like 135 or so). So it should be said that maybe this list isn’t of the best. But rather, the ones that I personally responded to the most.

2022 was a weird movie year. But I won’t tell you it was a bad one. It was just weird because there were many weeks where it seemed that they just weren’t releasing anything, unless it was to a streamer. A concept I still cannot wrap my head around: if you can make money off of something, why wouldn’t you? I digress. I say this was a good movie year because, well, I just don’t really seek out the terrible quite the same. I used to make it my goal to watch EVERYTHING, and girls, who has the friggin’ time?

Mind you, I did see some duds, and will be making note of them here today. But I feel like a lot of the garbage that came out this year, if there was any, was on a streaming service. There was this one with Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Hart in track suits that I heard was horrendous. Years ago I would’ve pounced on it for the sake of writing material. This year… eh. I went through stretches of writer’s block, my sister died, and again, who has the time? That said, I did my best to seek out the best ones. I didn’t see all of them, particularly international features. It’s not too late, I suppose (though for the sake of this essay, alas, it is). But I enjoyed a good amount of the ones I did see, and in some cases, some of these movies have lingered with me long after parting ways with them. So I guess before I gab on any further, here were my personal favorites of the year. Chances are, feathers will be ruffled. But I gotta be me.

10. Babylon: So I neglected to review Damian Chazelle’s big, loud, disgusting, and divisive Babylon, but chances are, about half of the people reading this will jump ship immediately. If you were to tell me that you despised this film, I can’t say I’d argue with you. Because it is relentless; a sprawling, nightmarish fever dream of a movie that practically screams at you for three hours. BUT… this is the kind of movie I respond to. It’s the work of a guy who had the opportunity to put everything on the screen and take the mightiest of swings (with, not to mention, production values that are pretty astonishing). It’s large, messy, and utterly tasteless. But it’s damned proud of it, and frankly, so was I. Some years down the road, there’s going to be a “Babylon was good” reclamation project, and you heard it here first, folks (Now Streaming on Paramount+).

9. Elvis: Here’s another one that’s a little polarizing (it’s Baz Luhrmann, who has always divided people), but this one has a little higher of an approval rating. Elvis is another case of a filmmaker throwing relentless razzle and dazzle at you for nearly three hours. Yet what I found so refreshing about Elvis is that, perhaps for the first time in Luhrmann’s career, the film is the perfect marriage of material and Luhrmann’s style. This isn’t some ripped from Wikipedia movie like Bohemian Rhapsody; Luhrmann did what he does best with (quite literally) the life of Elvis Presley, a figure so legendary and almost mythic at this point that it warranted a spectacle this large. Large, and dazzling to the eye and beautiful to behold. Is this one also long and messy? Sure is, but it’s also really entertaining. What really makes it sing though is Austin Butler (my vote for Best Actor), who truly knocked my socks off here (Now Streaming on HBO Max).

8. Nope: The jury appears to still be out on Jordan Peele’s Nope. It did decent business over the summer, but a large number of people responded to it with… well, see the title. I… am not really sure why. Here is an exciting filmmaker with huge ideas, working on the his largest canvas to date. It’s a film that lingers in the mind long after you see it, not just because of the way its beautiful cinematography etches its way into your brain, but because of what the film is aspiring to achieve, and the way it achieves it. This is Peele at his most ambitious so far, giving us much to chew and dwell on, while also proving that Get Out was no fluke. Like Babylon, it’ll be one of those that will be reclaimed in a few years time, if it hasn’t already. There is stuff here that is pure, breathtaking awesomeness. We nominated Blonde and Empire of Light for an Oscar, but left Nope with nothing. To that, I say… well, the title (Now Streaming on Peacock).

7. Avatar: The Way of Water: Sure, the dialogue was clunky at times, and sure, Spider was kind of weird. But James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water took my breathe away, melted my eyes and left my jaw on the ground a plethora of times. I mean, what else can you really ask for from a filmgoing experience? This is one of the most gorgeous experiences I’ve had at a movie since… well, Avatar. You gotta hand it to the guy: he really did the damn thing. He waited 13 years, aimed even higher (if that’s possible), and made yet another one of the most successful films of all time. It’s an awe-inspiring, stunning spectacle where you certainly get your money’s worth. If you didn’t see this in IMAX 3-D, your loss bruh (Now Playing in Theatres).

6. The Banshees of Inisherin: How far can kindness really get you? It’s one thing to be a genuine, caring person. But at the end of the day, how far is that really getting you? The conflict at the center of Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin, a hilarious film seeped in melancholy, is compelling because we get a firm understanding of both of its characters, which also causes debate. We can understand why Brendan Gleeson’s Colm might grow tired of his friend, Colin Farrell’s Pádraic. Pádraic is nice but kind of a simpleton without much to contribute to the conversation. He leads a nice, peaceful but somewhat bland existence. Colm, getting up there in years, abruptly calls it quits with him because of this, the lack of substance, and sometimes, people grow apart. But it’s Colm’s demeanor and his approach that frustrates Pádraic, whose peace has seemingly been feckin’ disturbed for no reason. McDonagh’s film is funny, but also undeniably dark in the way that has become a McDonagh specialty. Also a specialty is the way that his material is always a great match for his performers, with each of these performers (Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister Siobhan in particular) doing some of the best work of the year (Now Streaming on HBO Max).

5. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio: The story of Pinocchio is… pretty weird. I can see why so many filmmakers have wanted to take it for a spin (Robert Zemeckis also did it last year and… woof). Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is very much what you expect from the title: this IS Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio. It’s also easily the best rendition since the 1940 Disney classic. It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s grim (sometimes shocking in its audacity), but it’s also a complete beaut; the work of a master filmmaker truly getting to bring his glorious vision to the screen. This film scratched a really stunning, weird itch. I ate it up, and it features an ending that is among the year’s most effective (Now Streaming on Netflix).

4. Aftersun: Another one I neglected to review, but mostly because the first time I saw it, I didn’t quite know what I made of it. I knew that I liked it, but I felt that maybe I hadn’t grasped it. That maybe I wasn’t in the right headspace, or maybe I didn’t know what I was watching or how I should’ve been watching it. The second time I visited Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, I got it. This is a deeply sad, beautiful film. Wells’ film is a semi-autobiographical story of a trip to Turkey with her father (Paul Mescal) when she was in her teens. She dwells on the memories as an adult and reckons with her lack of understanding of him. There are images and moments in this film that are truly heart shattering, and this has got to be one of the finest, subtlest depictions of depression you’ll come across. Aftersun is a work of beauty, and if you’re not on the Paul Mescal hype-train, hop aboard.

3. The Fabelmans: I actually see The Fabelmans as a solid double-billing with Aftersun, as both films come from filmmakers reckoning with the memories of their parents. In the case of The Fabelmans, it comes from Steven Spielberg, who has not only made a film about his parents, but about his family, about the hardships they faced, about the hardships he faced, and how all of it led him to be the absolute master that he is today (if you’re unaware of the story of Spielberg’s parents, the roots of their story is evident in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, and Catch Me if You Can, to name a few). The film itself is one that both broke my heart and warmed it. It’s clear that his upbringing has influenced so much of his work, even in films that he himself didn’t write. But also, the way in which he’s continuously wrestled with the memory of his parents is something that has haunted so much of him for so long. The Fabelmans is melancholy, if in particular because of the Michelle Williams character and the obvious. But Spielberg also infuses the film with warmth and humor, while he also continues to remind us that he’s probably the best. It’s so honest and moving, and it becomes a richer text the more you dwell on it. This was certainly something that he needed to get out of his system, and what might’ve been a catharsis for Spielberg proves to be, in its unique way, a pure delight for us.

2. Top Gun: Maverick: Let’s be honest with ourselves: even if Top Gun: Maverick doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture (which I’d argue it probably should), it basically won the year. I like to believe that I, personally, have a high approval rating. Mine pales in comparison to Top Gun: Maverick, and… can’t argue. Joseph Kosinski’s film is one of the true achievements of the year and for a plethora of reasons. He managed to take a beloved movie from decades ago, and recaptured what worked so well about it while also improving upon it. In ways, waiting this long to make a sequel works to its benefit from an emotional standpoint (the scene with Val Kilmer is truly moving), but also in terms of the filmmaking. This is one of those films where you watch it and constantly ask yourself just how they did that. Most of all though, the magic of Top Gun: Maverick rests on the fact that it gives you literally everything you want, just the way you want it. It’s a truly satisfying film, and a remarkable, astonishing thrill ride. It’s what you go to the movies for, and in an age of lackluster sequels, Top Gun: Maverick is a complete diamond. One last thing… I know a number of people who have doubted Tom Cruise over the years. I’ve held on. Tom, bud, we’ve proved them wrong (Now Streaming on Paramount+).

1.Tár: Árt. As mentioned above, all those paragraphs ago, every so often I find something I become obsessed with. This year it was Tár, which is Todd Field’s triumphant return 16 years after Little Children. In those 16 years, he went up a level. Tár is a masterpiece; the year’s best written and directed film. For a little over two and a half hours, Field takes us on a journey that poses questions, provides answers, poses more questions, and yet leaves us thrilled and intrigued to make what we can of them. Does Field feel empathy for his subject? He has a lot to say here and he’s saying it so eloquently, but, what is the true mission statement? This is a fascinating character study, almost Kubrickian in its filmmaking structure and style, of a woman who is an absolute musical genius but a horrendous human being. Her journey is written in such astonishing specificity and precision that we assume we’re watching a biopic of a real person. In Field’s neatest trick, well… Lydia Tár might not be real… but due to the meticulousness and the the symphony of talent in front of and behind the camera… now she is. Suffice to say, believe everything you’ve heard about Cate Blanchett’s performance, which is the best of many years and truly must be seen to be believed. I feel as if I have been in charge of this film’s Oscar campaign since October. Will it be enough? Well, leaving the film many months ago, I stated, “it’s far too cool and interesting to win Best Picture.” Your move, Oscar (Now Streaming on Peacock).

The Rest of the Best (A-Z, ish)

  • Ambulance: Michael Bay did his Michael Bay thing… and it was hugely enjoyable and entertaining, with a soul.
  • Barbarian: Gross, bizarre and nutty… and mighty entertaining and I saw it twice in four days. Lotta fun.
  • The Batman: Far and away the year’s best comic book movie, and proof that DC might not be dead weight.
  • Bodies, Bodies, Bodies: This one got overlooked. A fun parody of people my age that took my mind off of my sister’s death. Was happy to have it.
  • Everything, Everywhere, All At Once: The frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar and I have it in the teens… not going to age well. Delightful, impressive, funny, wacky film. Really dig it, but 20 minutes too long (*cough* “You have Babylon and Avatar in the top 10 dumbass!”).
  • Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery: I would just like to state that seeing movies in movie theatres… something I enjoy. This is part of the reason why, glad I went.
  • The Menu: Y’all can keep Triangle of Sadness. I’ll order off The Menu instead.
  • Moonage Daydream: A gorgeous, electrifying documentary about David Bowie. Honestly, the David Bowie part speaks for itself.
  • The Northman: This was probably my #11. Maybe if I’d revisited it, I’d have saved myself from the lashing I’m going to receive for Babylon.
  • Pearl & X: Cheating? Sure. But I love both movies, but for different reasons… but about the same. Mia Goth is a queen and could’ve easily gotten Ana De Armas’ Oscar nomination if the Academy wasn’t so up its own arse.

The Worst

5. Blonde: Hey! Speak of the devil. Okay, that’s unfair. Ana De Armas is one of two redeeming qualities in Andrew Dominik’s abhorrent three hours of misery porn masquerading as a movie called Blonde. She is doing objectively fine work in material that is thankless and limited; the role that she has can only be given so much to do, when all the character really experiences is torture. The other redeeming quality is the cinematography, which is beautiful. Otherwise? Yeah, it’s about unwatchable. Dominik’s film, largely based on fiction, just seemingly wants to punish Marilyn Monroe for… reasons? Jackie and Spencer were fairly depressing films as well, but they at least managed to give their subjects hope and humanity. Blonde is three hours of wallowing in the mire, and by the end of it, if you make it that far, you will have learned nothing.

4. The Son: Heartbreaking, but certainly not for the reasons intended. Florian Zeller’s The Father is one of the best films of the last few years. The Son might be one of the worst, in that the film sets fire to itself early on and the fire only spreads. This ill-conceived, pretty disastrous drama that borders on The Room in terms of writing, direction, and tone, feels as if it were written and directed by 1950s aliens who decided to take a stab at “that whole depression thing.” The actors, most of which are pros, do what they can, but it all rings so false, and it’s all so forced and obvious, that it’s truly a shock that this comes from the same creative team as The Father. If you’re curious to see an absolutely star-studded calamity, have at it.

3. Black Adam: Alright so, I like superhero movies when they’re good. Black Adam, like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, would’ve been a lot better if it was good. I choose to drag that film through the mud with this one because both films, for two hours, felt like a hellish contraption that wouldn’t let me get the f**k out of the seat for two hours. Honest to God, I felt absolutely nothing at Black Adam, which is headlined by Dwayne Johnson, who I like and I always want to like his movies. This film was two hours of noise. No real effort was put into investing agnostics, or, well, anyone. I sometimes wonder, when I don’t respond to a comic book movie, if it’s the film’s fault, or mine. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood… or, perhaps, it was crap. TBD.

2. The Bubble: As a filmmaker, Judd Apatow is often criticized for making films that are way too long. I’m usually pretty lenient, because his films are usually pretty funny and he writes characters so well that even if they’re played by Pete Davidson I can get invested. Which leads me to The Bubble, which is not only an entry in Cinema Del COVID (something I find endlessly annoying), not only is its story unengaging for that fact… but it’s also way too long, I don’t care about any of its characters. The real damn of it all? It’s not funny, so therefore it’s unacceptable. This is Apatow painting with a bit of a broader brush than he’s used to; I frankly expect this more from Adam McKay or something. And… it really doesn’t work. It stars a lot of people that I like, probably filming in a real lockdown. Don’t give a s**t. And maybe this would all be slightly more accessible if it was, say, 80 minutes. This runs two hours. Sorry to burst your bubble Judd, but, nope. Maybe, hopefully next time.

1.Morbius: It is, indeed, Morbin’ Time. Alright, so if I’m being honest, there were some real duds that didn’t get recognized here. Some of them may have been even messier than Morbius, which is a bold claim. The problem with Morbius is that it is so empty and devoid of personality, it pretty much received a John Doe tag upon its arrival. That this film made over $70 million, despite the shite, reviews, is a testament to just what nerds will see (I see every comic book movie on the big screen and even seek out the awful… and even I didn’t go). Perhaps before this film was hacked to death in the editing room before two years of COVID, there was something of interest and substance. Perhaps there was a cool, edgy story in there. Lord knows they could’ve made one out of a friggin’ vampire living in the Spider-Man world. The movie I saw… yeah, none of that. This is a terribly written and directed film that contributes nothing. There’s no passion behind the filmmaking, there’s no actual vision… it’s actually, most likely, what Martin Scorsese was talking about, except theme parks are actually fun. Morbius isn’t even really a “so-bad-it’s-fun” deal. It’s just bad, and it features the worst after credits sequence I’ve ever seen. That right there is the true display of the lack of f**ks given.


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