The movies are kind of back? After filmmaking was ravaged by legitimate concerns for cast and crew safety, pandemic protocols, and studio delays, 2022 brought a breadth of excellent films, the quality of which hasn’t been seen since at least 2019.
Before we get to the list, here are five runners-up (in no particular order): Barbarian; Jackass Forever; Kimi; The Menu; RRR.
10. Women Talking: After an isolated group of religious women is serially raped by the men in their community, they take their fates into their own hands. They can forgive the men, stay and fight for their place in the community, or set out on their own. What follows is a group of women exercising agency for the first time.
9. After Yang: Set in the near future, After Yang centers around a young family coping with the death of their pseudo-family member and live-in android. It’s a poignant, grief-stricken family drama and the first of three(!) Colin Farrell performances to make the list.
8. Pinnochio: Guillermo del Toro found something new in his retelling of Pinnochio, a story that has been adapted for film 24 times. GDT’s version features the most awe-inspiring stop-motion animation I’ve ever seen, a plea for individualism over obedience (take that, Disney’s 1940 classic!), and existentialism at its most beautiful.
Come for del Toro’s twisted fairy tale visuals, stay for Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of a fascist monkey whose name translates to “garbage.”
7. The Batman: As someone who has been in the bag for the caped crusader for a very long time, Matt Reeves’ Dark Knight delivered everything I want in a Batman movie: atmosphere, detective work, and sexy-ass encounters with Catwoman. The movie is also responsible for one of the year’s most unforgettable and subversive scenes, with 20 seconds of pulse-pounding build-up before an unexpected climax. Robert Pattinson’s Batman is brooding, compassionate, and, often, the butt of the joke. When’s the last time we could say that about the protagonist in a blockbuster?
6. The Fabelmans: Remember what I said about Reeves directing one of the year’s most subversive scenes? That’s because 76-year-old Steven Spielberg directed the year’s most subversive with the last shot of The Fabelmans. I cackled in delight as the credits ran.
Spielberg hasn’t made a movie that I’ve liked since 2012’s Lincoln. I’m elated to say that changed with this nuanced self-portrait.
5. Nope: Oddly, the year’s most Spielbergian movie probably came from Jordan Peele. On top of serving as the perfect companion piece to Close Encounters, Peele’s unique blend of popcorn sensibilities and auteur vision have made for obvious comparisons to Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock. Nope has both aliens and larger questions about how Black artists have been treated by Hollywood. Recommended.
4. Decision to Leave: South Korean master director Park Chan-wook is one of the best in the world at eliciting feelings. In the past, he’s grappled with vengeance, betrayal, and deception; in Decision to Leave, Park’s gorgeously shot cat-and-mouse murder mystery, it’s the yearning between his detective and prime suspect.
3. The Banshees of Inisherin: Writer/director/playwright Martin McDonagh is known for black comedy. Banshees maintains McDonagh’s signature humor while finding an authentic soul. It’s his best piece of writing yet.
2. Aftersun: Charlotte Wells’ debut film feels like the work of a 20-year professional. Based on experiences from her childhood, Aftersun follows an 11-year-old girl, Sophie (Frankie Corio), and her father (Paul Mescal) on vacation in Turkey. Childhood idealism collides with the real world before Sophie’s eyes as she begins to observe her father as a real person, flaws and all. A nostalgia-tinged lens gives Aftersun an ethereal quality that will stick with you well beyond its brief runtime.
1. TÁR: Every few years, a movie comes along that perfectly encapsulates the current era or its hot-button issue. The Social Network, Parasite, and now TÁR. As the culture wars rage on, we’ll always have Lydia Tár.