2022 MOVIES RANKED

2022 brought us a mixed bag of movies. Though I’ve seen many opinions from people I trust and respect claiming otherwise, I feel quite strongly that 2021 was far superior. 2021 had far more masterpieces and a bit firmer middle pack of movies. Perhaps 2022 had a few less reprehensible movies (and it still had plenty), but I’m not sure I would say the heights of 2022 ever quite reach some of the heights of 2021, despite there being quite a few strong films (this is no 2020, after all). I saw 50 original movies from 2022 and ranked them accordingly. Obviously, I’m just one guy and simply watching movies isn’t my career (yet!), so of course I wasn’t able to see EVERY movie, but I feel pretty confident I hit most of the big and notable ones.

I’ll denote a few I missed here, in alphabetical order:

A MAN CALLED OTTO

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

BARDO, FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS

BEAST

BROKER

BROS

CAUSEWAY

CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH

CORSAGE

THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER

EO

FIRE ISLAND

GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO

JACKASS FOREVER

MY POLICEMAN

THE PALE BLUE EYE

PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH

PREY

SMILE

THE SON

TURNING RED

VIOLENT NIGHT

WATCHER

WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY

And I missed every single Marvel/DC/Superhero movie that was released, of course, because I tried to respect myself in 2022. I’m sure I’m still missing a few decent movies, though.

Anyway, I had a mostly delightful time watching around 30 or so of the movies from 2022 and I managed to see almost all of them in theaters, the way movies are meant to be watched, so that was great. Even when a movie is bad, I usually always cherish any time I can sit down in a theater chair and hear Nicole Kidman explain to me the magic of going to the movie theaters (she’s right, for what it’s worth!) and I look forward to doing it again constantly in 2023. For now, though, here’s my ranking of the movies of 2022, in order and in tiers! Enjoy!

THE “UNFORGIVABLE” TIER

50. BULLET TRAIN dir. David Leitch (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Netflix)

Is Brad Pitt worried he’s going to stop being offered projects for some reason or another that he agreed to make this? Wonder what’s going on there!

I’m the idiot for having went to see this, but I thought, “Hey, Brad Pitt is a movie star and it’s got a few good actors. It’ll probably be inoffensive!”

It was not inoffensive. I became more stupid for having had watched it. Career-worst performances from many talented performers, namely: Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Brian Tyree Henry. Joey King further proved she’s an abhorrent actress, as well. As bad as the previously listed gentlemen are, they at least are competent in their roles; King actively makes every scene she’s in significantly worse, and the scenes are already putridly bad to begin with. An absolute abortion of a movie. Inconceivably bad and never fun. We are still, as a culture, artistically paying for the crimes of Ryan Reynolds and the emergence of DEADPOOL. Shoot this movie into the sun.

1/5

49. MOONFALL dir. Roland Emmerich (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

One of the dumbest screenplays I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. The movie starts out bad and gets worse as it continues. It eventually gets so moronic that it becomes somewhat entertaining (?), but ultimately, it never becomes good, let alone even passable.

This would’ve maybe been fun if I was hammered. Though, it earns an extra half-star for the viewing experience, which was in the largest IMAX theater in the country with a few of my friends, belligerently scream-laughing at the stupidity occurring onscreen, much to the displeasure of everybody around us. It’s a Roland Emmerich disaster movie that was released in early February; it was never going to be any good.

1.5/5

48. AMSTERDAM dir. David O. Russell (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

The reoccurring bit with all the movies in this tier is that they all suck; AMSTERDAM is no exception. David O. Russell extracts the worst performance of Christian Bale’s career out of him and somehow makes Margot Robbie as charismatic as John David Washington (that is to say, not at all charismatic). John David Washington, always wooden, has never been more of a lifeless husk than he is here. De Niro is fine, I guess. So tepid and incomprehensible. David O. Russell, an auteur you are NOT.

1.5/5

47. THE WHALE dir. Darren Aronofsky (available to watch in theaters)

Insanely grotesque stuff! Sad Brendan had to get himself into that fat suit every single day to finally earn people’s respect!

There is a scene in THE WHALE where our protagonist, the titular whale, the 600-pound Charlie (Brendan Fraser), who is eating himself to death due to the loss of his gay lover, is driven to such extreme rage that he begins eating any and everything that he can. He stacks two giant slices of pizza on top of each other, drizzling them with ranch, before devouring them in six seconds flat. He makes a sandwich of plain Doritos, smashing the Doritos with his fist to make the food palatable, before ravaging the sandwich quickly. He makes light work of multiple candy bars, until he gets sick and passes out. Though it isn’t meant to be funny, it’s probably the most I laughed at a movie this year.

This is a terrible movie and certainly the cruelest film I watched all year, littered with horribly overwritten and hacky dialogue and performers debasing themselves left and right. Unfortunate that this is being hailed as the big Fraser comeback. He deserves better than this. Hong Chau does her best to make this monstrosity work, but she simply can’t. Sadie Sink also makes a valiant effort but is saddled with some of the worst dialogue of the year. Fraser is fine, I guess, but also wholly embarrassing. This is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, but… I’ll never forget that pizza scene. One of the most bizarrely hilarious moments in any film ever. So, I guess that’s something.

1.5/5

46. SHE SAID dir. Maria Schrader (available to rent on Amazon)

Letting a woman direct a terrible, paint-by-the-numbers, Wikipedia-page-brought-to-life movie about a historically significant and traumatic event for many women is not the feminism some may think it is! Terrible movie. Tensionless because we all already know where the conclusion is heading. There needed to be a passage of at least ten years (or more) before this movie was made. We didn’t need a Harvey Weinstein movie in 2022 and we especially didn’t need one that had Zoe Kazan delivering some of the most inert and obvious dialogue ever put to screen. Maybe the worst opening twenty minutes of any movie from this year. This one flatly reeks.

To quote my girlfriend, “This movie was filmed like a tampon commercial.” Just stream Kitty Green’s 2020 film THE ASSISTANT, instead, please!

2/5

45. EMPIRE OF LIGHT dir. Sam Mendes (available to watch in theaters)

One of the most embarrassing efforts of the year. Everybody involved with this abomination should be ashamed, outside of maybe Roger Deakins (who provides the movie with a beautiful image or two), Trent Reznor (who composes a compelling tune here and there), and Michael Ward, who was terrific in McQueen’s LOVERS ROCK and ends up giving the only acceptable performance here, despite a truly bewildering text to work with. I hope he can find better work in the future. Olivia Colman, one of our finest actresses… why did you sign on for THIS?!

The film embodiment of the white woman protestor from 2020 holding a sign that said, “I LOVE ❤ BLACK DICK SO YOU WILL HEAR ME SPEAK!”

2/5

THE “I-FORGOT-I-WATCHED-THEM-THE-NEXT-DAY” TIER

44. THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT dir. Tom Gormican (available to watch on Amazon or stream on Starz)

*Thinking about Epic Meal Time videos here*

Fun movie if you’ve been regularly keeping up with Epic Rap Battles of History since 2010. Feels so dated, so tired. Happy that Nic Cage was able to make something he was probably (maybe?) passionate about, but it doesn’t serve him at all. My time was simply too valuable for this, despite it being made competently enough. Actively felt like it was a three-hour long movie, too. I genuinely forgot I watched this within 20 minutes of it finishing.

2.5/5

43. SEE HOW THEY RUN dir. Tom George (available to watch on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

The first 15 minutes of this were cute enough, but boy, does it get old fast! Really underwhelming Sam Rockwell performance (would’ve maybe been a better choice for him to play his character as clumsy and bumbling, as opposed to drunk and apathetic, perhaps?), despite Saoirse Ronan trying her damndest to make this one work. She’s good, but she’s one of the only saving graces here. More Adrien Brody would’ve also helped, but, unfortunately, he’s only onscreen for around 20 or so minutes.

Introducing Agatha Christie as a character in the final act of a dumb murder mystery is so stupid that I almost must admire it. Audaciously dumb decision!

2.5/5

THE “OSCAR HOPEFULS THAT WERE WEIRD AND/OR BAD AND SHOULD NOT BE NOMINATED FOR ANYTHING” TIER

42. BONES AND ALL dir. Luca Guadagnino (available to rent on Amazon)

Just watch a Terrance Malick movie or something!

Few movies pissed me off more this year than BONES AND ALL. There are worse movies I watched, but few made me as angry as this one did, given how my peers and people I respect talked about it and given the undeniable talent of all the artists involved. It starts out quite promising through the first act, but quickly grows tiresome. Luca Guadagnino makes Taylor Russell (one of the only redeemable parts of 2019’s awful WAVES) look incredibly amateurish and wastes a momentarily interesting performance from Timothée Chalamet, too. Mark Rylance gives one of the most bizarre performances of his career. It’s honestly so baffling that I sort of like it, despite him buzzing at a different level than everybody else in the movie and finishing the film as a tired cliché instead of a somewhat interesting enigma.

If you’re going to make a scary/gory/weird cannibal movie, then make that. If you want to make a teenage romance about wayward souls traveling the Midwest, then make that. Trying to make both and attempting to slide in and out of both genres instead of picking a lane to work in often tends to not be fruitful. Somehow, I end up not at all creeped out and I also find myself utterly bored by the “romance” I’m supposed to be invested in. Tough.

2.5/5

41. MEN dir. Alex Garland (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Showtime)

I’ll be the first person to say that I think Alex Garland’s EX MACHINA is one of the finest films of the last decade. I also greatly appreciated his miniseries DEVS and adore his 2018 film, ANNIHILATION. And yet, I found MEN to be sickeningly mediocre. Jessie Buckley is an excellent actress (that loves to star in movies that nobody watches!), and she gives her best effort in trying to carry this, but the material and ideas here are so paper-thin and perfunctory that it essentially doesn’t matter.

A couple of grotesquely interesting visual sequences here, but it’s difficult to really say MEN is worth much discussion. After multiple successful projects, I suppose Garland finally had to make his version of LAST NIGHT IN SOHO. Eh.

2.5/5

40. DON’T WORRY DARLING dir. Olivia Wilde (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

Florence deserves better than this, frankly!

The movie isn’t good (it’s the STEPFORD WIVES or BLACK MIRROR meets GET OUT from the director of BOOKSMART), but it is sort of fascinating in its mediocrity and it’s something I have thought about a few times since seeing it, so maybe there is something there? It’s completely flat and boring and nobody is doing a particularly great job or a particularly horrible job (Styles is mostly weak, especially in his yelling scenes, but I’ve also seen much worse before. The panning he was getting was a bit overblown) but living in that middle “eh” category is the most damning thing I can think of.

This is also the safest work of Pugh’s career. Florence is one of our generation’s most gifted young actresses, but this just really wasn’t doing it. Chris Pine seems to be having fun. Olivia Wilde just isn’t a very talented director and should probably stop being given money to make movies. This had a fun/disastrous press tour, though, which made going into this at least slightly more interesting than some of the other movies in this tier. Wish the movie was half as enjoyable as the press tour!

2.5/5

39. GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY dir. Rian Johnson (available to stream on Netflix)

For my money, 2019’s KNIVES OUT is one of the 15 best films from that year. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s fun and a wonderful star-making turn for Ana de Armas. The sequel, GLASS ONION, is a far FAR cry from the original. This murder mystery simply takes too long to get going and it isn’t interesting enough for most of the runtime once it does get going. It doesn’t help that the killer is also fairly obvious, in my opinion. The film is structurally poor, and the last sequence is shot terribly, too. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought Rian Johnson was more talented than what he showed us here.

Strong enough performances from Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, and especially Janelle Monáe, but like, who cares? This is fine enough to watch with parents or have on in the background, but beyond that? I don’t know. Maybe it would’ve been really fun in a packed theater, but unfortunately, it was only in theaters for a week, so I missed that opportunity. Better luck next time?

3/5

THE “DON’T THINK IT’S ACTUALLY GOOD BUT I ENJOYED IT NONETHELESS” TIER

38. TICKET TO PARADISE dir. Ol Parker (available to rent on Amazon)

When Clooney goes ISO like 2017-2018 Houston Rockets James Harden, this one actually works

This movie is NOT good. Kaitlyn Dever continues her impressive streak of being in movies with terrible screenplays and here, she unfortunately has the worst material to work with; She does not have the faculties to manage said material. She’s pretty awful. But… I also believe in the power of movie stars and the importance of having actors and actresses we deeply care about and want to watch; that’s absolutely what Julia Roberts and George Clooney are and give us here.

The plot is predictable (Clooney and Roberts are divorced but have to team up to help their daughter from possibly making a romantic mistake like they did) and nothing about the movie looks good (it looks like a cheap travel ad, mostly), but man, when Ol Parker just lets Clooney or Roberts go ISO and cook, it almost works, and at worst, it’s kind of charming. One standout scene comes from Clooney, late night in a bar talking to some random character. The lighting almost resembles that of a real movie and the movie stops trying and is stripped of all its stupidity and just lets Clooney be a movie star and I thought, “This is what movies in 2022 are missing.”. Not good, but glad I saw it, nonetheless.

3/5

37. BODIES BODIES BODIES dir. Halina Reijn (available to rent on Amazon)

In the worst season of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan said, “Not making a decision is a BIG decision.”; that’s all I could think of during Halina Reijn’s BODIES BODIES BODIES. “Do you want to be a comedy? Do you want to be a horror movie? Pick one! You’re not skilled enough to balance the two!” Living in the middle is where art goes to die when made by middling creatives!

It’s exactly as the trailer made it look. It’s kind of goofy at moments (and it flies by quickly, too, thank god!), but far too indecisive about what kind of movie it was. It has a tiring script that will probably feel dated in five years, but oh well. Rachel Sennott and Pete Davidson were good. Maria Bakalova, the most talented person in this, was utterly wasted. Amandla Stenberg was fine. The rest of the cast was whatever. I did laugh hysterically when, after one of the character’s was killed because the group thought they were the killer because they were “acting aggressive and were a vet”, it was revealed that they were a VETERINARIAN, not a military vet. So utterly dumb that it got a hearty chuckle from me.

3/5

36. THE REDEEM TEAM dir. Jon Weinbach (available to stream on Netflix)

This absolutely didn’t need to be made… but because Michael Jordan’s sensational THE LAST DANCE was a smash hit (because the Bulls were cultural icons and Michael Jordan was one of the biggest stars in the world, mind you), we’re going to get these little unnecessary sports documentaries for the rest of our lives! Did we need a documentary about the 2008 Men’s Olympic Basketball team and how they overcame not winning gold in 2004, only to come back and win it in 2008? Not at all. Was it affecting in moments (albeit, with some clear-cut emotional manipulation due to the loss of Kobe Bryant)? Sure.

Not upset I watched it, but probably not a very good or, frankly, necessary documentary. Probably a fine watch if you’re a big basketball fan. RIP Gigi and Kobe forever, though. Dude was so electric.

3/5

THE “SOME ADMIRABLE QUALITIES BUT ULTIMATELY COMES UP SHORT FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER” TIER

35. THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING dir. George Miller (available to rent on Amazon)

Not quite my tempo!

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, the last project from George Miller, is on the shortlist for best film of the 2010s and is comfortably the best film of 2015 for me, so I was excited about this, despite some trepidation upon seeing the trailer. Ultimately, it just doesn’t work, even if it’s wonderfully crafted and obviously handled with care. Miller uses a romance (that’s never for a second believable) between Tilda Swinton and a djinn played by Idris Elba to convince audiences that storytelling is vital for humanity to continue carrying on.

It starts out interesting enough for the first act but quickly peters out until it becomes almost annoying. And then in the final act, everything feels insanely rushed and not enough time is given to flesh any of the moments out. It’s not a bad movie, but it just comes up short.

3/5

34. AFTER YANG dir. Kogonada (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Showtime)

AFTER YANG is a tough, albeit decent, film. It’s a movie about Colin Farrell’s young daughter’s beloved android companion malfunctioning and breaking down, causing Farrell to desperately try to get him repaired, all while reconnecting with his wife and child.

I haven’t seen Kogonada’s debut film, COLUMBUS, but I know some smart folks who love it, so I went into this eager to see the hype, and… I don’t know, it’s fine!?!? At moments, it’s tender and affecting and at other times, cloying and saccharine. There are a couple of fairly interesting ways in which Kogonada shoots this and the performance from Farrell is good enough, but in all honesty, there just may not be enough here for a full feature-length film. It’s also trying to do a LITTLE too much thematically, almost muddying the stronger elements of the story. At least the final act of the film is the strongest one. It’s not bad, but I was hoping for more.

3/5

33. EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE dir. Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Showtime)

A still from a film that many are claiming is one of the greatest masterpieces of this century!

I can’t believe this stupid movie has been the center of so much attention this year. I liked this movie a lot more when I first saw it and people hadn’t yet begun to make liking it the center of their entire personalities. It’s a fine, fine, fine movie. It has two terrific lead performances (Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who would be my pick for best in the film) and then two performances that are okay enough, if not, a bit annoying (Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu, who has the hardest job here, but isn’t always up for it). It’s another movie about multiverses (these movies should stop being made, probably) and familial trauma and the power of love, but my god, if there aren’t a million childish, stupid jokes ripped straight out of 2012 comedy littered throughout this one.

It’s fine. It rips off IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE well enough at times and emotionally manipulated me into tears in the last act (off the strength of the Yeoh performance, mostly), but I don’t know… people act like this is the best movie they’ve ever seen and all I can ask is if they have ever seen any other movie ever? It was executive produced by the Russo brothers, the men responsible for most of THE AVENGERS movies, which makes total sense when you think about it. It looks ugly and has terrible comedy spliced throughout, just like those movies. There is some cool fight choreography at moments, though. The joke about the ”Everything Bagel” is easily one of the worst jokes of the year and the writer who came up with it should be tarred and feathered.

Excited for this to win Best Picture!

3/5

THE “HARMLESS FUN NOT TAKING ITSELF TOO SERIOUSLY” TIER

32. DEEP WATER dir. Adrian Lyne (available to stream on Hulu)

Look, this is a shelved sex-weirdo murder movie from Adrian Lyne starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas that got made while they were dating. The script is quite subpar (EUPHORIA’s Sam Levinson is credited for it, so this should come as no shock), but it isn’t trying to be anything that it wasn’t marketed as: It’s a big dumb movie where Ben Affleck keeps getting cucked by Ana de Armas and every single time he does, he enacts his revenge by murdering those involved with her. Everybody is slimy and nasty, and Ana de Armas looks unbelievable.

It was also refreshing to see actual movie stars having (simulated) sex onscreen! With how sanitized and puritanical the film industry has become, it was refreshing to see two hot people be hot! In fact, the movie probably should’ve gone farther, in that regard. Mostly though, it was exactly what I wanted out of the movie, so as the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but be somewhat pleased.

3/5

31. PEARL dir. Ti West (available to rent on Amazon)

Mia Goth doing her best to cover up her Looney Tunes sounding dialect! Good performance.

The weaker of the two Ti West films this year. It has some qualities that I find quite compelling (love the production design and colors, Mia Goth continues to show she’s got the chops, etc), but overall, it felt just a bit superfluous. It isn’t terribly made, and you get in and out quick enough, but it’s certainly something I haven’t thought of much since seeing it. It’s a “horror” movie that isn’t really ever for a moment scary, which for my money, is the point of horror! It’s got a fun style, with its old-timey feel and lovely colors (so many movies are dull looking nowadays, so the burst of color here is quite refreshing), but that’s probably not quite enough to elevate this beyond anything other than average.

Mia Goth has proven to be quite the actress, both with this and X. She’s better here than in X, despite the one out-of-context clip for six seconds of her screaming that is making the rounds on Twitter. Ti West definitely thinks he’s smarter than he is, and I’m not quite sure this deserves another entry into the franchise, but both of the first two films made a bunch of money, so it will undoubtedly get made, and honestly, I enjoyed X quite a bit and this enough, that I’ll go see it. Also, fun to see a horror movie shot almost entirely during the day. Not often you see that, but it was nifty.

3/5

30. CONFESS, FLETCH dir. Greg Mottola (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Showtime)

They could make a new CONFESS, FLETCH every year and I would no-doubt watch it. It was a light and breezy, great way to kill 100 minutes. Jon Hamm was effortlessly enjoyable trying to uncover the mystery of who framed him for the murder committed in his home. The lead character, Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher, played by Hamm, is so utterly watchable that it’s simply a delight. I don’t really have much to say about this because I genuinely just shut my brain off for 95 minutes while watching it, but it’s the type of movie that doesn’t ever really get made any longer; it isn’t deep, it isn’t crazy, and it’s never pandering. But it’s certainly a good enough time! I never felt like I was being talked down to by the writer/director Greg Mottola and I enjoyed a wonderfully slimy turn from Kyle MacLachlan. It was very middle-of-the-pack for the year, but I would also watch 10 of these movies in the future!

3/5

29. HUSTLE dir. Jeremiah Zagar (available to stream on Netflix)

Hermangomez and Sandler, clearly a lover of hoops!

It’s another Adam Sandler basketball movie! It came from Netflix (it looks like it, most of the time). Sandler is a down-on-his-luck sports agent trying to fix the Philadelphia 76ers! It’s filled with like, five different sports movie cliches and yet, it still manages to mostly work. It’s never trying too hard, to its credit. Sandler, following the best performance of his career in UNCUT GEMS (we’re disregarding HUBIE HALLOWEEN here), again proves he can be really terrific when he actually gives a shit. He’s empathetic and a bit weary, wearing his heart on his sleeve. It’s good and committed work. NBA player Juancho Hermangomez, while not being a gifted actor by any stretch, warms up as the film goes on and is more than acceptable as one of the film’s heroes. He’s much better as an actor than he is at playing basketball, at least!

And fellow NBA player Anthony Edwards is legitimately revelatory as his onscreen rival! He’s chewing up scenes, just reveling in being a heel. He’s only onscreen for about 15 minutes, but he pops off the screen. It’s a wonderful villain performance that you could tell Ant took some joy in filming. Solid editing, strong score. Overall? Pretty decent movie!

3/5

THE “OSCAR HOPEFULS THAT WERE WELL MADE BUT ULTIMATELY OVERLONG AND/OR TOO DULL BUT WILL STILL BE NOMINATED” TIER

28. ARMAGEDDON TIME dir. James Gray (available to rent on Amazon)

This is a really frustrating movie because it has all the bones of a great film but just falls short. It’s essentially the tale of director James Gray’s childhood in the 80s right before and shortly after Reagan is elected. You see him, a young boy in a Jewish family, struggle with adolescence and fitting in. Anthony Hopkins delivers another otherworldly performance in what feels like a string of hits for Hopkins in his old age. He’s comfortably the best part of the movie. The father of the family is played by the remarkable Jeremy Strong, who gives a genuinely bizarre performance that feels like he’s committing so hard to the bit that it at times can almost come off as cartoonish and goofy, even borderline offensive (it’s not, but it ALMOST is), despite him having a really powerful second act moment and a pretty excellent final scene. The always likable Anne Hathaway plays the mother of the family, and though I think she gives an earnest and well-intentioned performance, she could never pass as a Jewish mother in one billion years. Still, the adults are mostly all good-to-superb.

The children, namely, two, are where the movie prove to be more insufficient. Michael Repeta (the child playing Paul, the stand in for James, the director) and Jaylin Webb, his young black friend, are certainly not the most seasoned or gifted actors, but at many moments I found their friendship tender enough that I was mostly able to ride with them, but I also found the Obama-era 2011 white savior politics of the third act to almost derail the whole thing. An exploration of white guilt (even Jewish white guilt, which is different than standard white guilt and can prove to provide  some interesting ideas) through a movie where you recall the time you screwed up and left your black friend out to suffer the consequences of both your actions just doesn’t completely work for me. And Jaylin’s character, Johnny, is just too thin, flimsy, and, at times, stereotypical, that it undermines the whole thing. Still, I found the movie just sweet enough and grappling with enough interesting ideas that it kept me engaged. It’s okay, but it could’ve been really strong if executed differently. There are many comparing this to GREEN BOOK, and while I maybe understand the sentiment, I think that’s a very unkind and not generous reading of this film. I think it’s aiming to ask some questions and clumsily stumbles around a decent bit, but it certainly isn’t deeply problematic. But also, I’m just some white guy, so maybe you can take my read on this one with a grain of salt!

3/5

27. WOMEN TALKING dir. Sarah Polley (available to watch in theaters)

The woman sure are talking in this feature! Reads more like a stage play at times than an actual movie (this will be a smash on Broadway in four years, mark my words), which may instantly help somebody determine whether this may be for them or not. A group of Mennonite woman in 2010 discover that the men in their colony have been raping and abusing their bodies in the middle of the night and then blaming it on evil spirits and they decide to take action, back and forth for the 104-minute runtime debating as to whether they should stay in the village and forgive the men, kill the men, or leave the village forever. There are many well-acted (albeit, mostly one-note) performances from the women, namely from Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and Sheila McCarthy, but the writing is rather heavy-handed oftentimes. Ben Whishaw, the only man in the film, essentially, is doing a little too much every single time he’s onscreen, but whatever.  Also, quite bewildering that Frances McDormand is in this. Though, usually excellent, she’s miserably bad here!

The worst part about this movie is the color gradient, though. It’s awful. The whole film is grey and ugly and devoid of color. Do you get it? Do you understand? Life can be bleak, and a life ruled under the thumb of patriarchal societies can feel soul-sucking. Do you get it? Terrible decision, even if I suppose I can understand what director Sarah Polley was going for. The first 20-minutes had me genuinely nervous, and I’m not sure the voice over ever QUITE justified itself, but around a quarter of the way through, the movie mostly won me over and I found it to be affecting enough. I’ll never watch it again for the rest of my life, but it has some qualities that are worthy of praise, surely.

3/5

26. THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN dir. Martin McDonagh (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

They’re doing good enough work, I just wish I cared!

I am completely baffled by this being a lot of people’s Film of the Year, to be frank! It’s a good film, about one man (Brendan Gleeson) deciding he no longer wants to be best friends with another man because he wants to focus on making music and unfortunately, his friend has been holding him back from doing that due to his friend’s mediocrity. That friend, played by Colin Farrell, relentlessly tries to fix their relationship; it’s well-crafted, competent, and performed mostly quite well and the writing is interesting enough (even though, it is a tad overwritten and probably more suitable for the stage), as it usually is with Martin McDonagh projects, but I find the directing to be quite lacking. I would love to see a world where McDonagh lets other people direct his writing. If that isn’t going to be happening any time soon (and I doubt it will), perhaps he should just keep writing for the stage. Farrell is good (he isn’t Best Actor at the Academy Awards good, even though it sounds like we may be heading there, but he’s doing strong work), as is Gleeson. The two standouts here, for me, though, are Kerry Condon and Barry Koeghan. I found the movie always at its most interesting when they were onscreen, Koeghan especially, who is a delightful little freak.

The movie peaks around the 60-minute mark with a late-night confrontation in a packed pub and it never quite reaches that height again. A good movie until it becomes less good. It’s fine and will win six Oscars and I’ll only think about it when I think about movies that won too many Oscars in four years.

3/5

THE “SHOCKINGLY QUITE ENJOYABLE” TIER

25. AMBULANCE dir. Michael Bay (available to rent on Amazon or stream with Prime Video)

Despite most people on Twitter adoring Michael Bay, my only real experience with him are his TRANSFORMERS movies, so I’m decidedly NOT in on Bay, but I went to AMBULANCE anyway, because of very positive word of mouth from people I trust and because of Jake Gyllenhaal and… it didn’t disappoint! Perhaps it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was 100 minutes of a high-speed ambulance chase and insane drone shots while Gyllenhaal delivered the most insanely coked-up performance of his career. Fun action to see on the big screen, and overall, an enjoyable time at the movies!

3.5/5

24. EMILY THE CRIMINAL dir. John Patton Ford (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Netflix)

Scamming never looked so good!

I went into EMILY THE CRIMINAL with genuinely no expectations. I caught it in theaters right at the end of its theatrical run, per the recommendation of a friend whose opinion I trust, after he said, “It doesn’t rewrite the genre, but Aubrey is good and it’s never insulting!” And to his credit, he was correct! Aubrey Plaza plays a woman being ground down to dust due to capitalism and student loan debt that she can’t pay off because she has a minor felony, which forces her to take a terrible catering job that she can never find security in. She then makes a change in her life and enters a life of crime (fraud, namely) and excitement ensues!

The movie is exactly what it sounds like. Audiences are given a genuinely terrific Plaza performance here (she’s quietly been on a string of impressive performances the last few years) and SONS OF ANARCHY star Theo Rossi does an admirable job, going toe-to-toe with Plaza for much of the film. It’s a crime-thriller with grounded and smart performances and a sturdy enough script to get the job done, even if the last act peters off a bit and doesn’t finish quite as strong as the rest of the movie. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this one and am grateful I got to catch it on the big screen!

3.5/5

23. THE WOMAN KING dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood (available to rent on Amazon)

The thing that most stuck out to me watching THE WOMAN KING was that Lashana Lynch was absolutely dynamite. Viola is good, per usual, but her career has started to remind me a bit of Streep’s; always an undeniable talent and presence but often taking roles that feel designed to garner award nominations as opposed to delivering performances that are supposed to resonate long after the film finishes. Great sound design and smartly choreographed action sequences. Feels a little longer than it needs to be, but there isn’t much that needs to be trimmed, either. Was a genuinely great movie to see in IMAX. This wouldn’t have had nearly the same effect at home, whereas something like EMILY THE CRIMINAL can work just as effectively being streamed.

This isn’t one I’ve thought about too much since seeing it, and one I wasn’t even that excited about going to, but it ultimately won me over and now I think of it with relative fondness whenever I am reminded of it. John Boyega smokes this, too. Dude’s an absolute beast. Need to get him in some bigger mainstream projects that aren’t a Disney product.

3.5/5

22. X dir. Ti West (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Showtime)

Kid Cudi being in this is SO fruity.

The better of the two Ti West projects from this year! Legitimately fun and sleazy horror and also quite sexy at times! Great elevator pitch: A group of young people trying to get in on the porn industry right before it blows up leads to a jealous, creepy, old lady across the street being bothered that she no longer has any sex appeal, which prompts her to start killing everybody! That’s a clever idea for a horror movie, even if I’m not sure Ti West doesn’t have rocks for brains. Mia Goth is strong here (she’s better in PEARL, probably, but that’s more of a character study for her, personally) and Jenna Ortega really continues to deliver as a young up-and-coming Scream Queen. She gives my favorite performance in the film. The “Don’t Fear the Reaper” bit is so redundant and obvious that I initially groaned but then accepted and enjoyed it because, man… what a great horror film song.

More sex scenes in movies! More nudity, male or female! Movies are more interesting when the camera is exploiting everybody. I was upset that I had to see Kid Cudi hold a guitar in this movie, though, because it reminded me of one of the worst albums of the 2010s, SPEEDIN’ BULLET 2 HEAVEN. Overall, good movie that I went into with little expectations and had a great time with!

3.5/5

21. SCREAM dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett (available to rent on Amazon)

As a big fan of the SCREAM franchise, this had maybe the most concerning trailer of 2022, looking far too self-serious and embarrassing. Thankfully, seeing this in a relatively packed Dolby theater with an audience that was appreciative and engaged with what they were watching (in January, no less) was quite wonderful. Yes, it has a few moments that are a tad too embarrassing, though not because the movie is miserably self-serious, but instead far too meta, but as a whole, it works better as a legacy sequel than the majority of legacy sequels from huge franchises the last few years (not counting MAVERICK here or last year’s MATRIX sequel).

It’s certainly the most amusing “scary” movie of the year, but it also manages to have some genuinely stomach-turning kills, far more so than any of the previous SCREAM movies. In this entry, the kills are genuinely gnarly and tough to watch at times. I’m not squeamish or disturbed too frequently, but there are a couple of moments here that had me a little shook! And it manages to balance the tones of comedy and horror pretty effectively, too. The returning players from the previous entries bring their best efforts (David Arquette, in particular), and the new cast has a few strong players, namely, Jack Quaid, Melissa Barrera, and especially Jenna Ortega. Overall, I went in with LOW expectations and was grateful I made the trip. Movie sounded great and provided me with some laughs. Hard to complain!

3.5/5

THE “NOT FAR FROM BEING GREAT, ALSO NOT FAR FROM BEING VERY MEDIOCRE” TIER

20. TRIANGLE OF SADNESS dir. Ruben Östlund (available to rent on Amazon)

Rest in peace, Charlbi Dean (left). Tragic loss.

I saw this vacation satire about gender dynamics and class warfare in a packed theater with a responsive audience and found myself laughing quite a good deal, even if it’s the least subtle movie I watched this year (and, maybe ever)! As a satire, it’s pretty toothless and inert (anybody with a brain isn’t going to be blown away by any ideas this movie tries to purport), but for some reason, I still found myself enjoying this a good deal! I get why people don’t like it, but I was entertained for much of the movie, so I was willing to let a lot of the obvious class-commentary and ham-fisted ideas about gender roles and wealth slide. It’s definitely too long, by about 20 minutes, but each act is interesting enough in their own distinct ways (each act is completely different from the one that comes before it), so I suppose the runtime wasn’t too much of a hinderance. Probably peaks with the second act and goes VERY off the rails (both tonally and as a story) in the third act for a brief time, but by the end of the movie, I found the third act to also work quite well and actually found it rather necessary. Probably the grossest movie I saw in theaters this year, too!

I feel very confident after watching this that Harris Dickinson is going to be everywhere. I think he’s about to blow up and become a pretty highly-regarded B-list actor. Very watchable actor and enjoyable performance. It’s also quite a shame about Charlbi Dean’s passing. She’s good here, certainly giving one of the strongest performances in the film. There was a lot of potential with her and the sudden loss of her life shortly after the film’s premiere was quite tragic. 

3.5/5

19. KIMI dir. Steven Soderbergh (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

Every time I think about the underrated movie from 2022, KIMI is the one I’m drawn to. It came out EARLY in the year (I always laugh when I recall it came out less than a year ago), but it’s one that’s pretty undeniable in its craftmanship. Most of this is due to its director/cinematographer/editor, Steven Soderbergh, and his brilliant and restrained technical formalism. When Soderbergh came roaring onto the scene in 1989, he was already very quickly one of the most gifted, boy-genius filmmakers alive, undoubtedly always the smartest guy in the room. Since then, he’s gone on to craft some of the finest films of the last 30 years, and, in the last half decade, has relentlessly churned out solid entry after solid entry into his filmography with a workmanlike speed. He’s never not working and never not creating (this came half a year after 2021’s strong NO SUDDEN MOVE). Here, Soderbergh creates his version of BLOW UP/THE CONVERSATION/ BLOW OUT and mixes in just the right touch of REAR WINDOW, for good measure.

This stars Zoe Kravitz as an agoraphobic tech worker in the midst of the COVID pandemic who discovers evidence of a violent crime but is met with resistance from her company when trying to bring it to light. Kravitz is wonderful, full of spunk and chutzpah and an appropriate amount of quirky mania. She’s onscreen for nearly every minute of the movie and is never not bringing it. I’m usually very anti-films being about technology and fervently against movies being set during the COVID pandemic, but Soderbergh manages to justify the heavy inclusions of both. He’s just that good. Not perfect, but a few expertly shot action sequences and a strong back half makes this worth checking out.

3.5/5

18. ELVIS dir. Baz Luhrmann (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

Austin Butler gunning for the Best Lead Actor Oscar!

Perhaps the most bewildering movie I watched this year that I think is mostly good! Yes, it’s probably 25 minutes too long, and yes, Tom Hanks is giving, quite frankly, the strangest and most incomprehensible performance of his entire career (it’s so truly baffling that I almost end up liking it by the end), but boy, the 50+ minutes we get of Austin Butler performing songs as Elvis Presley is about as electrifying and exciting as anything I’ve seen in theaters this year. The Butler performance alone is worth the price of admission and makes this one worth seeing. It has all the stylistic quirks and flourishes of every Baz Luhrmann project ever (so going into it, you should already know if you’re going to hate it or not), which I mostly like. I don’t know if it’s a GREAT visual style, but it’s at least a distinct visual style, which counts for something in 2022.

It’s not too far from being a very average movie, but Butler is such a rockstar that he elevates it into a quite watchable territory. I’m not too pleased with the Best Lead Actor nominees for the Oscars this year, but now that Austin Butler is nominated, he’s probably the guy I’m pulling for.

3.5/5

17. THE MENU dir. Mark Mylod (found on HBO Max and Amazon)

I think people may have truly lost it when they looked to Mark Mylod’s THE MENU for meaningful commentary about class! This is a legitimate crowd pleaser about a psychotic, murderous chef and a bunch of annoying rich people trapped on an island with him in his restaurant.  It’s mostly stupid and mindless and completely enjoyable, too! The movie breezes by! Anya Taylor-Joy is always an absolute treat to watch (she’s playing things one note here, but it’s a note she plays quite well), Ralph Fiennes is chewing up all of his dialogue, and Nick Hoult is relishing in being a pathetic little cockroach of a man. The writing isn’t all that terrific, but I also didn’t go into this thinking I was getting any meaningful leftist theory, so I wasn’t disappointed.

I think, too, that movies that make a light comment or two about class don’t inherently always have SOMETHING to say. Sure, this movie is probably anti-capitalist to some degree (barely), but I also think that’s a very generous read on a movie that I don’t feel thinks it’s all that smart and certainly isn’t trying to rub in our faces it’s intelligence. I think this is a movie that knows it is kind of dumb and is leaning into that, which makes it enjoyable! Being self-aware can make for enjoyable art. Also, sure, a chef is certainly in a different class than the people that they were serving in this movie, but it isn’t like a legitimate chef isn’t in a VERY different class than the typical line cook. Ralph Fiennes’ character here is just as much a part of the higher class as the people he is serving. This movie isn’t THE BEAR, not for a moment. I’m not seeing the read that many are seeing here. Good movie, but really not much going on in terms of commentary, like some have suggested, and you know what? That’s fine with me! Movies don’t have to be making any grand statements to be good. Oh, well. I’m at least happy Hong Chau is finding consistent work.

3.5/5

THE “INCREDIBLE THEATER EXPERIENCE AND SOLID MOVIE THAT I’LL PROBABLY NEVER WATCH AGAIN” TIER

16. THE BATMAN dir. Matt Reeves (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

Elite chemistry from Pattison (left) and Kravitz (right)

THE BATMAN genuinely feels like it came out forever ago. Whenever I think about it, it feels like something that came out in March of 2020, but alas, it did not. Thankfully, it was a genuinely riveting watch, seen in the biggest IMAX theater in the nation. It looked gorgeous (at least, as gorgeous as any movie in this genre can look) and had a distinct visual style, too. Matt Reeves, director of THE PLANET OF THE APES movies, can shoot an action scene, for sure. It was also nice to just completely forgo the origin story aspect of a superhero, finally. There wasn’t a single person watching this movie who wasn’t familiar with the backstory of batman, and if there was, they were at least familiar with the iconography of the character. Rob Pattinson does a fun and unique spin on the character, making him a weird little freak who doesn’t know how to communicate with any normal humans, which was refreshing. And his costar, Zoe Kravitz, as the Catwoman, was about as sexy as anybody was in any movie this year. Incredible performance from her, bringing something to these movies that is always SORELY missing (sex appeal and humans acting like they have blood pumping through their veins when they see other beautiful people). Great buffoon like performance from Colin Farrell (who really had himself a year, huh?) as the Penguin and the always sturdy Jeffrey Wright was solid as Lt. Gordon, as well. 

As far as criticism goes, it is unfortunate that so many of the most exciting moments from the movie were COMPLETELY spoiled by the trailer (which was everywhere and impossible to avoid leading up to the release). It also absolutely feels its runtime. It probably didn’t need to be a whopping 177-minutes. Maybe 155? The third act just doesn’t match the previous two. It ends a little unsatisfactory (not bad, but doesn’t match the heights of the rest of the movie). And I never appreciate one movie using the ending to set up a whole giant BATMAN cinematic universe, but such is every superhero movie nowadays, so I can’t be too surprised. Strong movie that I don’t think about much and am always shocked when I realize I have it this high in the rankings, but overall, it has some exciting action and is shot well-enough. Will I ever watch it again? Probably not. But it was a good time, nonetheless.

4/5

15. THE NORTHMAN dir. Robert Eggers (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Prime Video)

If there is something director Robert Eggers is going to do, it’s make the most 4/5 movie ever. He’s three for three, up to this point! When I first saw this in May I was pretty bowled over by it, finding it to be a genuinely impressive technical achievement, possibly due to the fact that there had been so few truly great films released up to that point in the year. Since then, I haven’t often thought about THE NORTHMAN, but whenever I have, I’ve always thought, “Man, that was pretty decent!” The story is a simple Viking revenge tale that follows Alexander Skarsgård, as well as Anya Taylor-Joy, Claes Bang, and Nicole Kidman in a deeply immersive experience. Eggers spends the runtime masterfully ramping up a constant tension and feeling of dread in a fully realized world. The screenplay is sparse, yet appropriate, but the atmosphere and mood of the piece are so wonderfully created that it becomes easy to just sit back and sink into the story.

Skarsgård brings his A-game, snarling and huffing with delirious fury, but there is always a quiet pain underlying every vengeful move he makes. Anya is performing some incredibly challenging work and elevating the material to blisteringly high heights. Nic Kidman gives probably her strongest performance in a half decade, at one point delivering a genuinely maniacal and impossible to forget witch-like cackle. It’s frightening and memorable. The production design is quite superb, and the costuming is smart, as well. It probably could’ve had 15 or so minutes shaved off the length (it may work better as a clean two hours); this is most felt in the first act, where the pacing is just a tad bit off, but overall, THE NORTHMAN continued to solidify Eggers as one of our strongest young auteurs.

4/5

14. BLONDE dir. Andrew Dominik (available to stream on Netflix)

Ana de Armas with a transcendent performance as Monroe

When I exhaustedly exited the theater after finishing Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name, a fictional biography of the late Mariyln Monroe, I was convinced I had just watched a misunderstood masterpiece that was wrongfully reviled and, in fact, should’ve been considered one of the three best movies of the year. I’ve since cooled on the latter stance, but I still remain convinced that BLONDE was wrongfully maligned and is in fact, at least, a very difficult nightmare that is mostly always fascinating, even if it doesn’t always work. Few films have left me so breathless and incapable of looking away from the screen. It’s both vulgar and grotesque at times, yet completely astonishingly beautiful, particularly in terms of lighting and photography.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe is revelatory, doing tremendous and deeply resonant work, even if some of the material she has to work with doesn’t lend her as much nuance to emotionally play with as viewers may desire. It’s the performance of her life, up to this point, and one worthy of filling up every moment of the screen. I understand the criticisms of this movie and can justify anybody giving this a 1/5 just as easily as I could a 5/5, but I just feel, as somebody who has always HATED the standard biopic, I found it so refreshing to be given a completely insane (fictional) take on somebody’s life that was interesting and not just standard and safe Hollywood fare. Does it work all the time? No, not even close! This is a messy film, but it mostly succeeds because Dominik, a master craftsman, has a stupendous visual language that will never result in a trite or cookie-cutter creation. At least this comes from an auteur with an undeniable vision that he’s committed to. I also think the cruelty of this is completely overblown. It is torturous (as celebrity and fame often prove to be), at times, but there are also plenty of tender and genuinely gentle moments (I think of Adrien Brody, her relationship with the boys in the first act, her costumer caring for her in the third act, etc). Maybe there is nothing new or groundbreaking being explored about sexuality and fame and trauma, but the craft is so relentless, I almost don’t care. The fetus stuff and JFK sequence are some of the most jaw-droppingly psychotic and deranged stuff I’ve ever seen put to screen that I almost have to kind of respect it. The “Daddy” bit does grow tiresome, though. Good nightmare movie that I admired a lot that I’ll never watch again!

4/5

THE “A DAMN FINE TIME AT THE MOVIES” TIER

13. BARBARIAN dir. Zach Cregger (available to rent on Amazon or stream on HBO Max)

BARBARIAN was one of the movies I went into this year completely blind with no expectations. I saw it the second week it was out and became interested in it just because of such overwhelming positive word-of-mouth, as well as unexpected box office success. Thankfully, the reputation and positive press was more than deserved! BARBARIAN was one of the most shocking movies of the year, fully realized and confidently directed by first time horror filmmaker Zach Cregger. As with most horror movies, it’s best to go into this one completely blind. It isn’t a slasher, but maybe closer to a monster movie, but still not quite that, either. Cregger shows unbelievable skill at evoking frightening moods and building tension. Apart from that, Cregger is quite adept at realizing when he’s starting to run out of storytelling rope, deciding instead to completely knock down the house of cards he’s built to start over in fresh and unexpected ways that never feel tired or overlong.

Terrific work from the film’s lead, Georgina Campbell, who easily carries the film on her shoulders for much of the runtime. Cregger gets a really clever performance out of Bill Skarsgård, too, who’s quietly the MVP of the movie. You never really know if he’s trustworthy and well-meaning or a deeply disturbed individual and the movie plays upon that for as long as it can manage without losing the audience. And Justin Long, who I had no idea how he would fit into the movie through the first act, gives probably the most depraved (and twistedly funny) performance of 2022. Long is acting utterly unhinged, like a complete sicko, that leads to quite a few riotous sequences. Wonderful production design. The house the movie takes place in for the majority of the runtime is a more than suitable location and feels like a character unto itself. Maybe a bit overrated by some this year, but a truly good movie that was greatly enjoyed by the audience I saw it with. I’ll be looking forward to Cregger’s next project with legitimate excitement.

4/5

12. CRIMES OF THE FUTURE dir. David Cronenberg (available to rent on Amazon or stream on Hulu)

He’s a very good listener!

I love David Cronenberg movies. They’re typically horrific, deeply cold, and detached, sometimes with a jet-black, wry sense of humor, usually exploring the nightmare that technology poses to society, and, in particular, the human body; CRIMES OF THE FUTURE is no exception, though, this late entry into Cronenberg’s filmography is perhaps not as ghastly or disturbing as most Cronenberg projects. That’s mostly fine, because it happens to feature one of Cronenberg’s warmest and most affectionate (at least, as affectionate as a Cronenberg movie can be) scripts to date and staggeringly strong performances from Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, and especially Kristen Stewart, who does career-best work here.

The film is centered around celebrity performance artists, Saul (Mortensen) and Caprice (Seydoux), who publicly go under the knife (often in some deeply erotic ways) for their performances, purposefully showcasing the metamorphosis of their organs and flesh in avant-garde ways. They eventually get wrapped up in a plot to shed light on the next potential phase of human evolution. It’s bonkers in a wonderful way. It’s also deeply funny in the glibbest way imaginable. Obviously, not laugh-out-loud funny, but I was constantly smirking all movie to myself. It also features one of the sexiest scenes in any movie from the last five years. Cronenberg should be heralded for bringing back eroticism to the big screen, as well as coining the phrase, “Surgery is the new sex!”. Great stuff.

4/5

11. WHITE NOISE dir. Noah Baumbach (available to stream on Netflix)

This is like if Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg combined to make INHERENT VICE, which means it’s a pretty great movie. I’m a sucker for movies where every single character talks like an alien put on planet earth trying to blend in with normal humans, to be honest. I’m also a sucker for Noah Baumbach, who I’d say has proven to be quite the writer/director at this stage in his career, and for all of his collaborations with Adam Driver. Baumbach’s adaptation of the 1985 Don DeLillo novel of the same name is a sprawling film, covering ideas about the pervasiveness about tech, consumer culture, atom bomb anxiety, uncertainty with authority, and the fear of death. The film starts strong and carries that for much of the movie, despite the pacing getting a little wonky in the third act. Driver is doing his strongest work since his last Baumbach feature (though THE LAST DUEL comes close) and all of his scene work with Greta Gerwig (who I’ve typically enjoyed, despite not being too high on FRANCES HA). There is a big confessional scene between the two of them at the start of the third act that they both absolutely nail.

Baumbach is a fascinating director because he almost never manages to hit a home run, but he constantly gets on base, typically hitting a double or better. He’s a really consistent director who I’d probably reckon has no true masterpieces (sort of like Wes Anderson) but has an undeniable trademark style that has always clicked with me and generally always proves to be effective. The colors in this are great, especially in the grocery store! The final sequence, too, left me grinning cheek-to-cheek. The Hitler-expert stuff was a hoot, too. More auteurs should be given 100 million dollars to just light on fire however they want. Awesome movie.

4/5

10. MASTER GARDENER dir. Paul Schrader (not available anywhere at this moment)

White supremacy has never looked this peaceful!

Leave it to Paul Schrader to make his third movie in five years about a troubled but reformed man that journals in dimly lit environments. Here, Joel Edgerton, giving the performance of his life, plays Narvel Roth, a former white supremacist neo-Nazi who has long abandoned the ideology and has attempted to find redemption for his past by becoming a horticulturist that tends to the Earth and the ground with love, handling the plants and the dirt with the utmost care. His world is turned upside down when Maya (the impeccable newcomer, Quintessa Swindell) joins the staff at the home Narvel is the master gardener for and begins to pursue him. The obvious chemistry this duo has pops off the screen and is genuinely moving. Schrader, a master in his own right, never passes moral judgement on his characters, but simply presents facts and asks audiences if they are able to forgive his character for his past transgressions. Edgerton looks world-weary, weathered with droopy features and a face that looks endlessly exhausted, though devoted completely towards his path of redemption. Sigourney Weaver also appears here, churning out a rock-solid performance as the boss of Narvel and owner of the residency that Narvel gardens at. She’s going a bit against type, though completely in control and confident at every turn, resulting in one of Weaver’s best performances in years.

MASTER GARDENER is having trouble getting distributed right now, probably because most studios are hesitant to take on a project with such controversial, albeit thought-provoking material, so there is no promise that anybody reading this will be able to watch it anytime in 2023, but it certainly was one of the most fine theater experiences I had all year, particularly the Q&A afterwards with Schrader (who is every bit as amusing as his internet presence would suggest), Edgerton, and Weaver. It will eventually inevitably get discoursed to death, but movies grappling with morally difficult men will always work for me, and the trope of atonement seeking is maybe my favorite trope in all of art. This also may sound stupid, but the sequence with the “flowers” (you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about if this ever gets a wide release) was one of the most beautifully done sequences of the year. The type of sequence that left me teary-eyed and wanting to levitate out of my chair. Wonderful film.

4/5

9. AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER dir. James Cameron (available to watch in theaters)

A few years back, when it was announced that James Cameron was planning on making four more AVATAR sequels, as somebody who had never seen AVATAR (2009) and no interest in seeing it, I found this idea to be somewhat nauseating. However, as somebody who recently watched AVATAR (2009) for the first time and was absolutely floored by the beauty and artistry of that true-blue blockbuster, I was eager to see what AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER would bring us and it must be said: Anybody who doubted big Jim Cameron, even for a second, was an absolute fool! THE WAY OF WATER rules in every conceivable way. It’s well-crafted spectacle cinema that’s grossed over 2 billion (!!) dollars in a little over a month, which is always cause for celebration.

The stuff Cameron is putting onscreen is simply breathtaking. At times, this is far-and-away the best movie I’ve seen all year. The action soars, the colors blister off the screen in deliriously lovely fashion, and the story beats always feel earned. At times, it can also feel a tad bit overlong (it’s 192 minutes, for what it’s worth) and a little too much like a videogame. That isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t excel in every way that most modern blockbusters typically fail to, because it does (the movie never looks ugly or cheap or like it was done by underpaid VFX workers praying that the empire of the mouse house doesn’t fire them), but it also isn’t a perfect movie. I slightly prefer the original, just because the intro to Pandora and the initial immersion into the world is a tad more compelling than the return to the world, but there is some genuinely visceral filmmaking going on here. It’s best to be seen in IMAX 3D, though I’m sure it’s magical in almost any format. Incredible third act. Cameron’s playing all the hits here but man, are they good hits! The movies really might be back!

4/5

8. BABYLON dir. Damien Chazelle (available to watch in theaters)

Damien can do no wrong in my book, for what it’s worth!

Yes, this is flawed and certainly an imitation of better movies (BOOGIE NIGHTS, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN being the obvious comparisons) but Damien Chazelle, despite what many have tried to convince me of, is one of our finest young working directors and has officially gone 4/4 in terms of quality. BABYLON tells the story of ambition and excess in the early years of Hollywood, particularly the era where silent films transitioned into “Talkies”, or movies with spoken dialogue. It’s about the old stars and regime aging out of relevance and losing their luster and new stars exploding onto the scene. Mostly, it’s about Hollywood and the film industry, and how, usually, it will chew you up and spit you out in the blink of an eye. It stars Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and newcomer Diego Calva, as well as a myriad of quirky character actors and actresses.

Robbie is doing superstar stuff here, giving a fearless, depraved, and nearly ugly performance, bursting with energy like a locomotive train hellbent on crashing off the tracks. For my money, it’s the second-best performance of the year from a woman. Robbie is the brightest star of our generation, despite a somewhat odd career to this point, and this movie showcases her talents in a way she’s never showcased before. Brad Pitt is kind of on autopilot, doing a mix of his and DiCaprio’s characters from ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (you can almost feel like this role would’ve been DiCaprio’s if he hadn’t just starred in OUATIH). He’s good, because he’s Brad Pitt and a movie star, but he’s also appropriate because he’s charismatic and his star is obviously starting to fade. His performance moves deeply inward as the film goes on and concludes with a rather poignant ending. And Diego Calva truly holds his own next to these two, going toe-to-toe with both of them. He’s a great vessel for the audience to operate through, a true fish-out-of-water character who finds himself in a wild adventure he had no idea he was getting into and despite the danger, finds his proximity to power just a bit too fun to relinquish any of his control.

The third act does jump shark just a bit and truly becomes a retread of BOOGIE NIGHTS (with a deeply unseemly cameo from an underrated actor doing boorish work) and the movie certainly thinks that it’s sexier and crazier than it actually is (Damien Chazelle is probably a huge geek, so he may not have a true grasp on how to film debauchery because he’s never lived it), but the camera moves in such impeccable fashion and so swiftly that I can look past it. The ending about the power of cinema and movies as our greatest artform is done in such a boldly galaxy-brain-type fashion that I couldn’t help but admire it and be swept up by the spectacle of it all. I’m a Chazelle truther, sure, but this rules. The power of cinema is a mighty thing!

4.5/5

THE “GENUINELY MASTERFUL” TIER

7. NOPE dir. Jordan Peele (available to rent on Amazon)

Simply can’t stop thinking about this one. Dan is one of one!

The movie on this list that has quietly risen the most since I’ve seen it, and probably one of the ones I think the most about, too. Genuinely can’t wait until I can watch it for a second time. It’s a sci-fi blockbuster that feels like if Spielberg made a TWILIGHT ZONE episode for two hours. A technical and formal masterwork from the mind of one our most talented young auteurs, Jordan Peele, combining the iconography of American westerns, sci-fi, and horror alike to make one of the most rip-roaring and genuinely exciting movies of the year. Some completely arresting and captivating imagery all throughout and littered with impressive sequence after impressive sequence (the Gordy stuff is so good). This may be Peele’s most well-crafted film, from a technical standpoint, and it’s refreshing that he finally made a movie that isn’t about SOMETHING, but instead is just a great romp. Of course, it’s about Hollywood, the treatment of animals, digital vs analog, being a black creative, and the difference in being an observer and a creator, but you could watch the film and pick up on none of that and still have a rollicking good time. Not as good as this movie, but it’s probably Peele’s JAWS.

It also features a couple of superstar performances from Dan Kaluuya (our most talented young actor alive), Steven Yeun (maybe our most talented young supporting actor alive), and Keke Palmer! Kaluuya doesn’t quite match the work of his performance in the aforementioned GET OUT, but he comes damn close! It’s a quiet, absurdly subtle performance, comprised mostly of low grunts, nods, and eye movements. He isn’t monologuing anybody to death or crying or gaining 100 pounds to get noticed. He’s just keeping his head down and performing with absurd steadiness. Yeun is perhaps underutilized but makes every second of his performance worth it. Few make the most with as little screentime as Yeun right now. And Palmer is the one who has been getting the most buzz out of everybody! She took me a second to warm up to, but once I did, I was so with her. So confidently and charismatically performed. But in the end, all I can think about is the final sequence, which features some of the most perfectly beautiful filmmaking of the year and how Dan Kaluuya is a once-in-a-generation type of talent. We have to appreciate him while we can.

4.5/5


6. AFTERSUN dir. Charlotte Wells (available to rent on Amazon)

AFTERSUN is the most emotionally evocative film I’ve seen this year. First-time writer/director Charlotte Wells pens a semi-autobiographical heartbreaking portrait of a messy and oft beautiful relationship between a divorced father and his young daughter on a simple vacation. It stars Paul Mescal as “Calum”, the father, and Frankie Corio, making her acting debut, as “Sophie”. The two of them make for a tremendous onscreen pair, both characters imbued with an aching melancholy and longing sense of woe. Calum is not a perfect father, by any stretch, but he adores his daughter and wants to be the best he can for her. Sophie is young and curious yet deeply quiet and trying to be the strongest version of herself around her father. Mescal is otherworldly here, delivering a tremendous performance filled with pent-up pain and love. He is deserving of every ounce of praise he has received so far and more. Frankie Corio is just as formidable, operating with a level of tenderness and humanity that is near-impossible to find out of young green actors.

Wells shoots this film like Frank Ocean records music (particularly, BLONDE’s “White Ferrari”): As scattered fragments of winsome memories and moments of torture, alike. Nothing ever feels totally crystal clear, as far as the big picture goes, but the details are all there, hyper-realistic almost to the point that it feels like a transgressive and invasive act observing them. The whole film builds to a cathartic final sequence that is maybe the most intensely dazzling moment of any film from 2022. No movie has left me sobbing like AFTERSUN. Since watching it, it has stayed buried around the deepest corners of my mind, like an aged polaroid or an old film reel. It’s rare to see young directors make such emotionally assured films but Charlotte Wells came out firing on all cylinders. This is one that should not be missed.

4.5/5

5. THE FABELMANS dir. Steven Spielberg (available to rent on Amazon and watch in theaters)

Utter movie magic right here!

2022 was a great year because, as stupid as it sounds, it was the year I officially saw the light and started to sing the praises of Steven Spielberg, as opposed to frequently maligning him (and George Lucas) for the degradation of cinema. My beef with Steven had lasted for a little over a half-decade but in 2022, I finally acknowledged that I was an idiot for having ever thought that. I’m happy to now be on the right side of history. Spielberg is one of our all-time greats. This was already obvious to everybody, but in case it wasn’t, his autobiographical feature, THE FABELMANS, only further cemented his status as a legendary auteur. It’s about the life of young Sammy Fabelman (the stand-in for Steven as a child) and his parent’s messy divorce as he went through adolescence, all while discovering the magic of filmmaking. It stars Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy, with Paul Dano and Michelle Williams playing the parents of Sammy, Burt and Mitzi Fabelman, as well as strong supporting performances from Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch.

The stuff Steven does with a camera is simply stupendous. There’s a reason he’s been one of the great filmmakers for nearly 50 years. The cast is uniformly strong, too. Michelle may be doing just a BIT too much at times, but it’s also a difficult role to pull off. Paul Dano, one of our consistently underrated actors, delivers probably the strongest performance in the movie and some of the most compelling work of his career. Hirsch comes in and almost steals the movie in one scene, as does the cameo performer in the final scene, who I will not spoil, but was an utter shock and delight. Rogen is solid, despite it being a tad underwritten as a role. Young Gabriel LaBelle really showed me something as the film’s protagonist. His Sammy is totally watchable, and even when the film takes a heavy left-turn into teen coming-of-age high school drama in the third act, he manages to make it work, despite the fact that the film should’ve probably collapsed. Spielberg is great. Sure, he’s overly sentimental and a bit cheesy at times, but when you’re a complete master of your craft and can shoot a picture like that, you can kind of get away with anything.

4.5/5

4. TOP GUN: MAVERICK dir. Joseph Kosinski (available to rent on Amazon and watch in theaters)

He’s willing to die on camera for us, for the sake of our entertainment! Respect Tom while we have him!

Nothing surprised me more than how incredible I found TOP GUN: MAVERICK to be in 2022. This comes from somebody who had no true attachment to the original TOP GUN (a movie I think is fine, but nothing more). A movie far less concerned with military propaganda than it is concerned with the iconography of movie stars and America as a declining institution. Tom Cruise, perhaps our last truly great star (there are debates for Leo, Denzel, and Pitt, but it may just be Cruise), comes out of nowhere and damn near saves blockbusters here! A movie filled with unbelievable and genuinely thrilling action, practical effects and stunts at every time, and a devotion to providing audience members with an unforgettable experience. Props to the young guys pulling their weight, too (Glen Powell and Miles Teller both are in top form), the Kilmer cameo left me beside myself, and the movie had me in tears four or five different times. The romance subplot doesn’t REALLY work, but the rest of the movie is so impeccably done that it almost doesn’t matter.

Tom Cruise’s whole ethos being that movies are a valuable and important artistic medium that should be handled with care, celebrated as spectacle, and ultimately matter to culture and society was enough to move in the way almost no other blockbuster of recent memory managed to do. An otherworldly sick sequel. One of the finest films of 2022. An utter delight. Pure movie magic. Blockbusters forever.

4.5/5

3. DECISION TO LEAVE dir. Park Chan-wook (available to rent on Amazon and to stream on Mubi)

Best onscreen chemistry of the year!

Park Chan-wook’s latest Korean-language film somehow manages to slightly top his last feature, THE HANDMIADEN, which I adore. It’s a film about a horrendously down-bad detective assigned to a case where a beautiful woman is a suspect for a serious crime. Even with his trepidation about the suspect, Seo-rae, and his MARRIAGE, he ends up falling head-over-heels for the suspect, despite his underlying feelings that she may not to be trusted. As with the best Park Chan-wook movies, the women are cunning and beautiful, and this movie follows suit. Tang Wei as “Seo-rae” is a marvel, looking as ravishing as she seems duplicitous. As the detective responsible for investigating the murder, Park Hae-il as “Hae-joon” is perfect as the lovestruck sap. He’s a perfect balance between charming and pathetic. The chemistry between these two is magnetic and palpable, despite the film never truly indulging in it that often psychically. Most of the work that is done between the two of them is from looks alone.

Park does some expert-level stuff with his camera here, per usual, getting off some of the most insane shots of the year. In a just year, this would be one of the five nominations for Best Cinematography at the Oscars. The camerawork is dazzling. Camerawork hasn’t left me in such awe since last year’s WEST SIDE STORY (done by Spielberg, so understandable). There were at least ten different moments that left my jaw agape from a seamless transition or unexpected way of framing a shot. Superb editing and score, too. It’s also, like KIMI, one of the few modern films that makes tech feel both cool and also integral to the story. It’s use of implementing technology in the movie is fairly unique for a modern movie and its use was much appreciated. There are almost no complaints with this one. It’s perhaps BARELY overlong, but the ending is also so pitch-perfect that the length feels earned. Incredible film.

4.5/5  

2. RRR dir. S. S. Rajamouli (available to stream on Netflix)

Dudes rock so hard! What a picture!

Comfortably, this was far and away the most fun I had watching any movie in 2022. I saw it in a packed house full of an incredibly enthusiastic and appreciative audience, predominantly comprised of Indian viewers supporting it and it will forever remain one of my most cherished theater experiences. RRR, an Indian Telugu-language revolution-epic is 187 minutes of propulsive and heart-pounding action featuring two best friends rebelling against the oppressive British Raj and is filmed in such a dynamic and exciting way that, frankly, it puts all recent American action cinema to shame. There are seven or eight major action set pieces that seem impossible to top, yet, as the film goes on, each sequence only manages to surpass its predecessor. Aside from the absurdly terrific action, the movie is stuffed with dynamite acting, particularly from the two leads (N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan), that is both emotionally affecting and consistently amusing, as well. The dance sequence “Naatu Naatu” is easily one of the most head-spinningly exciting moments in cinema this year and that song, having recently been nominated, should rightfully win an Oscar for Best Original Song this year.

This is a joyous film, one that I feel confident will become considered a future classic after some time passes. Not only is it absolutely bonkers that director S. S. Rajamouli was able to pull off some of the stunts that he did, making the best blockbuster of the year, it’s also in contention for one of the two best films of the year, as well as a contender for one of the strongest films of the DECADE, early as it is. There is something here for everybody, I would reckon; I couldn’t recommend it more.

5/5

1. TÁR dir. Todd Field (available to rent on Amazon and in theaters)

Performance of the year. Film of the year.

Todd Field’s TÁR is the film of the year. It features the finest acting performance of 2022 in Cate Blanchett as the titular Lydia Tár. Blanchett, somebody I’ve always respected from afar more than I’ve been pulled in by her work, delivers the performance of her career, operating with a bold gusto and piercingly cold confidence akin to a wrecking ball. I get Cate now. This is a drama about a renowned fictional orchestra conductor and her past misdeeds, both personally and professionally, haunting her. It’s billed as a drama, and it is, but it’s quite comparable to a horror film. It’s a movie about the ghosts of the past terrorizing somebody who probably deserves it. Tár never proabbly realized as she was being transgressive in the past that she would ever have to deal with any of the consequences of her actions. Through the course of 158 minutes, we watch as Lydia Tár’s public and personal meltdown occur. It’s like a car crash that you can’t look away from. It’s raucous and thrilling but almost entirely unpleasant. Nina Hoss and Noémie Merlant provide suitable supporting performances (Hoss, especially) depicting people in Tár’s life that were subjected to her tempers and madness.

It’s a movie about a tortured soul experiencing deserved damnation once the chickens finally come home to roost. It’s a movie about art vs artist, power dynamics and gender, cancel culture and so much more. It’s impeccably written and acted and has a uniquely fascinating underlying sense of supernatural dread all throughout the movie, too, despite it obviously being grounded in reality. When I watched it for the first time, I found the final 15 minutes to be appropriately nightmarish and unsettling. It was the correct ending, but it was also tough to stomach. On second viewing, I found it to be completely hilarious and perfect. It has the best ending of the year. It has the best acting of the year.

It is the best movie of the year.

5/5

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