Looking back on 2022, I believe it will be remembered as one of the better years of the decade for film, with something for just about everyone. From huge blockbusters, to quiet, if explosive indies, to a huge influx of spectacular foreign films, and even small labors of love that premiered to disappointingly little fanfare, it seemed quality content was popping up from every corner, and in the spirit of that, it’s time to take a look at my personal picks for the best films of the year. Mind you, 2022 was such an amazing year for films, that quite a few films (including some heavy hitters like The Woman King, GDT’s Pinocchio, Eo, Close, and the Quiet Girl) couldn’t be fit in, so this list is sure to change in the coming weeks and months. Also important to note, as anyone who knows me, my tastes are weird, and don’t always fit down the barrel of the mainstream, so just know that just because a film doesn’t make it on here, it doesn’t mean I think it’s a bad film(or even that I didn’t like), nor does it mean that everyone is going to love everything on this list. These are just the opinions of a chaotic-good, anxiety-ridden 30-someting with access to a blog. Without further ado, let’s get on to the list.
20. The Batman
Hey, did you know Batman is known as the World’s Great Detective? Recent media could make you forget that moniker, but one person who didn’t forget is Matt Reeves. Presenting us with a Batman who’s every bit the brain as he is the brute, Reeves’ The Batman grounds the caped crusader in a Gotham that feels lived in and visceral. Not every step of narrative works 100%, and the Riddler here is a little far from most of his comic counterparts, but the script is tight and engaging and many of the performances are top notch, particularly Kravitz, who gives us the best Catwoman since Batman Returns. If Gunn and company have any sense they’ll keep these movies going for decades to come, as Reeves’ has the talent to create some intriguing works in the batman oeuvre.
19. She Said
Some stories are too important not to tell. The fall of Harvey Weinstein is one of those stories. She Said is full of gutsy performances and a solid script, and though it may not have the heft or flash that made something like Spotlight a hit, it still excellently captures the struggle of a handful of people trying to bring a very important to truth to light, and in the process becomes one of the most relevant films of the year. We can wish there was a little more polish, but at the end of the day the film accomplishes what it sets out to do in an engaging, if dry way, and there’s barely a step out of place on the performance side.
18. Bodies Bodies Bodies
If this is the kind of film Gen-Zs are going to make, bring it on. Reijn proves themselves to be a director to watch with this oddball, neon-soaked murder mystery, featuring a cast of Hollywood’s best up-and-comers and a soundtrack to die for. Vibrant, lived-in, and absolutely hilarious, the film may have been mismarketed, but when viewed as the glitzy who-done-it it was always meant to be, it works like gang busters. Even my relative dislike of Pete Davidson is not enough to turn me off of this, though that his presence is minimal is admittedly a plus.
17. Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
There are few things I love more than a high concept, and Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is one of the most unique things I’ve seen in some time. A low-budget, low stakes sci fi tale of a simple store owner and his time-traveling TV is able to accomplish so much in its short 80-minute runtime. It’s a film full of charm and wit, but what really impresses is how tightly it’s built. Time travel movies can easily fall apart without internal consistency, so one of the true delights of Beyond the Infinite is how strict the script is to keep its timelines in order, all the while never getting too lost in the science of it all, or getting too heady or philosophical, maintaining its lighthearted tone throughout. If you missed this one (and I’m guessing you probably did) give it a rental and thank me later.
16. You Won’t Be Alone
Did I mention I like big swings? Because this was basically a bat right upside the head. A moody folk horror about a body-swapping witch that’s brimming with atmosphere and philosophy, its about as far from the previous entry as possible, but its raw originality shines through just as brightly. Poetic and staid, its the kind of horror film that’s rare, enveloping you in its grotesque atmosphere, holding you fast even before you realize you’ve been grasped at all. It’s lugubrious tone and sedate pace may be off-putting to some (this is a film best enjoyed without distractions), but for those willing to be patient and let the film in, there are wonders aplenty in this mud and blood-soaked diamond.
15. Heathers: the Musical
Am I cheating? Probably, and this probably won’t be the last time a film on this list will appear that isn’t strictly a “film”. Since I first saw a local production of the musical a few years back, Heathers has become one of my absolute favorite musicals, with its poppy, witty numbers and clever expansion of the source material, and though this version makes subtle but important changes to the Off-Broadway version of which many fans will be familiar, on the whole this is a stunning reproduction of the show. It may not feature the polished production of Hamilton Live (but few things do), but it also features things like audience interaction that Disney’s musical hit didn’t provide. For something that you can watch right now for free, it’s astounding how good this is, and the fact that you aren’t already watching it is honestly embarrassing for you.
I can already hear your gasps. I’ve put it too high for the nay-sayers, and too low for the Peele-heads. Though I, like most others, adored Get Out, I found Us a bit of a step down, and so went in with slightly lowered expectations for Nope. When viewed on its own terms, Nope is an incredibly accomplished science fiction western that has quite a bit to say about the treatment of animals in the Hollywood machine, and how the pursuit of the biggest spectacle is leading the industry to dangerous places. Not all of its pieces click together quite as firmly as I would have liked, and the performances can be a tad uneven, but Keke Palmer once again proves an incendiary force of nature, and Kaluya’s low-key shy boy is a delight.
Ladies and gentlemen, Danielle Deadwyler. That this woman was not given even a nomination for the Oscar is a crime, as she gave one of the most devastating performances of the year in this horrific examination of a mother’s trauma and the malignant machinations of a nation in crisis. Till has never been more relevant than it is today, and I wish more people had seen it. It’s a very, very difficult film to watch, brutal and unflinching in its storytelling, but its also an important look at one of the most horrific incidents in US history.
12. Baby Assassins
I did warn you my tastes were weird, okay? I know you’ve never heard of Baby Assassins (if you have, hello, we’d probably be good friends). No, it’s not about killer toddlers. Yes, that’s two school girls shooting a man in the face in that picture. I could have used the cat girl photo, and then we’d both be embarrassed. One of the most charming and adorable films about hired killers you’ll probably ever see, Baby Assassins follows a pair of high school hired killers forced to live under the same roof by their handler. Soon thereafter, they run afoul of the yakuza, and what follows is a wild, adorable, awkward, sweet and bloody descent into the pains of both growing up and fighting several members of the yakuza. There’s very little like it, and I hope that the sequel (with the amazing name of Baby Assassins 2: Two Babies) gets here sooner rather than later.
11. Mad God
There are directors who notorious for taking time with their movies, but few have reach the lengths of Mad God, the feces- and blood-soaked stop motion nightmare from VFX legend (and if Jurassic Park credits are to believed, Dinosaur Wrangler) Phil Tippett that was 33 years in the making. Mad God is a nihilistic, disgusting, and exhausting trip into the darkest parts of the human experience, a slow descent into a hellish otherworld that’s a heartbreaking as it is heart-stopping. Mad God is a hard film to watch, in more ways than one, but one can’t help but step away in awe of the accomplishment. One hopes that Tippett continues down this road a director, and that it won’t take another 30 years to see his next great work.
That’s 20-11 in the bag! Stay tuned for the Top 10 coming soon!