Top 10 Movies of 2022

After a barren 2020 release calendar and disappointing 2021, I’m happy to report that 2022 was an incredible year for movies.

Although I saw fewer movies than I usually do, I had a difficult time compiling this list, as some truly great movies didn’t make the cut. Feel free to yell at me for these omissions. Yet to me, the joy of cinema is that you probably have a very different list than mine. These are the movies that most resonated with me, and I can only hope there are 2022 movies that also moved you.

Now, enough with the sappy preamble. Here are my favorite movies of 2022.

10. The Banshees of Inisherin

Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

The Banshees of Inisherin begins with a simple question: Why did these two men stop being friends with one another? However, as the film progresses, the answer to this question becomes increasingly thorny, eventually confronting the deepest struggles of being human. It’s a devastating movie.

Despite this, it’s imbued with Irish sensibilities and a dark sense of humor that will have you laughing through the tears. Nowhere is this more evident than in Colin Farrell’s performance, whose simple furrow of an eyebrow is enough to break your heart and piece it back together again all in one go.

9. Barbarian

Photo credit: 20th Century

There are few greater thrills than watching a movie and having no clue what will happen next. This sensation lies at the core of Barbarian, a gnarly horror film that revels in redefining itself every twenty minutes. Beyond the ambition of its structural and tonal shifts, there’s a level of confidence behind the camera that lets you know you’re in good hands, even as a terrifying basement descent is followed by… well, you’ll see.

I’m not sure the film’s shock value or social commentary will fully withstand repeat viewings, but in a way, I don’t care; seeing this with a packed audience was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon.

8. AmbuLAnce

Photo credit: Universal

AmbuLAnce — yes, I’m going to capitalize the LA — is Michael Bay at his most Michael Bay. Depending on your taste, this is either a glowing recommendation or a scathing critique, but for me it is undoubtedly the former. I really could not ask for anything more from a dumb blockbuster. It takes a relatively straightforward plot, stretches it to 140 minutes, and somehow keeps it entertaining by introducing the likes of unexpected surgery scenes and long forgotten friendships.

With a camera perpetually in motion, the movie — almost quite literally — feels like a nauseating ride that you can’t get off. It’s simply exhilarating to watch. The whole film contains a manic energy that never eases up on the gas pedal. Central to this is Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives a deranged performance in which every line reading put a massive smile on my face. In conclusion: this movie rules.

7. Nope

Photo credit: Universal

As if we needed a reminder, Nope cements Jordan Peele as one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. Here, he uses a blockbuster canvas to deliver a commentary on spectacle that is an absolute spectacle to watch, leaning into — and cleverly subverting — our familiarity with sci-fi imagery. The scale of the project allows Peele to flex his talent like never before. There are multiple sequences in this that are executed to a tee, bolstered by a camera that invites you to get lost in the clouds above, even as their wailing sounds seem to have escaped from the depths of Hell beneath you.

It’s a high-wire act of genre fusion to balance sci-fi, horror, and the western, yet Nope passes with flying colors. While its structure may not be as tightly woven as that of Get Out or Us, its ideas are more interesting, exposing the exploitation of Hollywood and the legacies it erases from film history. For as messy as Nope may be, I dare somebody to find another blockbuster with images this memorable and commentary this profound, all while wrapped up in the package of a fun crowdpleaser.

6. Top Gun: Maverick

Photo credit: Paramount

Somewhere on a remote island, there is a lab where people have spent years trying to chemically engineer the perfect summer blockbuster, and Top Gun: Maverick is the end result. There isn’t a single minute of this movie out of place. It perfectly establishes its stakes — both physical and emotional — with its heist film structure, ensuring that when the final mission arrives, we’re strapped all the way into our seats, holding on for dear life. And man, are we ever. It’s a fantastic piece of action filmmaking, driven by the sensation that we are watching real stunts, all of which remain geographically coherent to the viewer; I can’t begin to fathom the wizardry of editing this movie.

As a sequel, it manages to be reverent toward the original while paving a new path forward. Not enough credit can be given to Tom Cruise, who is the heart of a movie that reminds audiences no plane — or movie, for that matter — is worth anything without the person piloting it. There really couldn’t be a more fitting movie to save movie theaters.

5. The Fabelmans

Photo credit: Universal

This is about as good as you would expect from one of our greatest living artists making a film about his childhood. Decades into his career and years after his parents’ death, Spielberg reflects on his use of filmmaking to seize control of his personal life, even as it comes at the expense of his relationships. Don’t expect The Fabelmans to blindly celebrate movies and its own director; it’s a vulnerable confession from a man who views his talent as both a blessing and a curse, allowing him to manipulate reality to please his audiences, even if he remains burdened and isolated by the truths he hides from the screen.

Crucially, The Fabelmans works independent of this Spielberg angle; it’s much more a family drama than it is a movie about movies. In its final stretch, it essentially becomes a coming-of-age film, culminating in a prom night which is one of the funniest and most moving scenes of 2022. It’s simply a delightful movie from top to bottom.

4. The Batman

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

I’ve never felt more indifferent toward superhero movies than I do now. However, while watching The Batman, I’m reminded of what these movies can be when there is genuine artistry in front of and behind the camera. Drenched in rain and bathed in darkness, Gotham becomes fully realized as a city, with a sprawling detective story acting as our vehicle to explore its hidden corners.

And who better as a detective than an angsty, brooding Batman? I adore this interpretation of the character as an eyeliner-wearing, journal-taking weirdo who is still refining his methods, while also grappling with his own personal legacy. Placing him within a film that’s a cross between Se7en and Chinatown couldn’t be more fitting. Although the film occasionally loses its grasp on its central mystery, it’s difficult to care when it’s such a pleasure vibing in this world and basking in the film’s visuals. I easily could have watched another three hours of this.

3. Babylon

Photo credit: Paramount

Here’s a bold prediction: Years from now, Babylon will be considered among Damien Chazelle’s best films. Although it has been trashed by critics and audiences alike, Babylon is a misinterpreted beast of a movie, driven by its excess but defined by its humanity. In our journey through the extravagant parties of 1920s Hollywood, we experience the grandeur of this lifestyle, while also bearing witness to the broken souls desperate for purpose amidst the madness. This sadness lurks beneath the surface in every scene of Babylon. The film’s brilliance is in this dichotomy between excess and reality, as its characters choose to avoid truths, with every dark or tragic moment immediately followed by something as trivial as a conversation on ice cream toppings.

Much like Nope, this is a movie about movies that celebrates spectacular images, while also indicting the industry that produces them. It’s a damning depiction of exploitation in Hollywood, ultimately asking the question of whether it’s all worth it for the joy movies bring audiences. Yet despite all this, Babylon is a thrill to watch. It’s a brisk three hours that, armed with an electrifying score from Justin Hurwitz, delivers no fewer than six scenes which I want played on a loop until the end of time. Chazelle has never felt more confident — or more bold — behind the camera, and it’s a joy to see him cash his clout on a movie as massive and unrestrained as this.

2. RRR

Photo credit: DVV Entertainments

No movie this year contained the sheer amount of movie that RRR did. A thrilling action film, a brutal recounting of colonialism, and — at the center of it all — a joyous tale of friendship, it’s an experience that presents a world in which anything is possible in any given scene. We would only be so lucky if American films dispensed with attempts at realism and self-awareness, instead opting for RRR‘s mentality of, “What is the coolest or most unfilmable thing we could present to the audience?”

However, RRR shouldn’t be reduced to its over-the-top nature. It’s one thing to conceive of wild moments; it’s an entirely different feat to execute them with the nearly mathematical precision that director SS Rajamouli does here. Whether it be a dazzling musical number or a ridiculous action scene, Rajamouli has an unparalleled ability to craft images that feel epic in the truest sense of the word. Even at its most absurd spectacle, the film remains grounded in the friendship at its emotional core, lending stakes and heart to every moment. This is a singular piece of movie magic that is truly one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen — even after six viewings and counting.

1. Tár

Photo credit: Focus Features

When Tár first premiered to rave reviews, I was worried it would be the 2022 critical darling that leaves me completely cold, with little to offer beyond its lead performance. Oh, how wrong I was. Ever since I saw it in October, Tár has lived in my head, and I don’t foresee it leaving anytime soon. This is a fascinating character study that provides no definitive answers to the audience. By withholding judgment on Lydia Tár — a fictional conductor so fully realized you could swear she was a real person — the film allows you to decide how much sympathy should be extended to its protagonist, while also probing modern issues in a way that avoids easy conclusions. Its ambiguity is a brilliant stroke from writer and director Todd Field, who demands his audience’s attention at every turn, while rewarding them with rich details that can be analyzed any which way.

Lydia Tár acts as our gateway into the esoteric world of orchestral conducting. I say gateway almost quite literally, as we remain firmly rooted in her perspective throughout the film. I’ll try my best to speak in general terms, but this pays dividends in how information is revealed to the audience, and also how the pacing — or tempo, if you would — changes throughout the film. Tár assuredly unravels itself, with a deliberately alienating first hour paving the way for a rather conventional third act, but one that’s highly subjective in how we’re placed within Lydia’s mind. For as unreliable as Lydia may be in her control of the narrative, we still see the pretentious world of orchestra politics in all its snobbery and corruption. There is a fly-on-the-wall element as we observe dense conversations, and also the casual manner in which every relationship is transactional in one form to another. That an environment this specific can feel so universal and riveting to watch is a feat that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

And then there’s the Cate Blanchett of it all. I try my best not to indulge in hyperbole; for anybody who scours through this blog, you’ll see enough embarrassing proclamations to understand why I’ve since tried to tone my praise down. However, I’ll make an exception here: this is an all-time performance. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen somebody so thoroughly dominate the screen. She perfectly embodies the hubris and snobbery of her character, yet she sings most in the moments where we see fleeting glimpses at a humanity or insecurity that may or may not be there. I wouldn’t dare spoil it, but there is a pivotal scene where we see her watching something — you’ll know it when you see it — and her reaction has been etched in my brain ever since. It’s in this moment that Tár cements itself as my favorite movie of the year, and then by the time we get to the film’s mic drop ending? Well, now I’m looking at a new all-time favorite.

Honorable Mentions (Listed Alphabetically): Aftersun, Avatar: The Way of Water, Dual, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Jackass Forever

Most Overrated: Crimes of the Future, The Whale, X, Triangle of Sadness

Didn’t See: Prey, All Quiet on the Western Front, Women Talking, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Kimi, The Woman King, White Noise, Hustle, Bones and All, Smile, Don’t Worry Darling, The Eternal Daughter, Cha Cha Real Smooth

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Movies of 2022

  1. You asked us to yell at you for any omissions, so.., James Cameron didn’t work his ass off for a decade to end up in your Honorable Mentions.

    On a more serious note: great work, Ben.

    Liked by 1 person

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