There were plenty of great movies released throughout 2022, but the biggest theme running through the year is that almost none of them made money. The box office is still suffering from the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and nowhere is that clearer than in the results from the greatest movies of the year. Big event movies like Top Gun: Maverick and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever proved that audiences still enjoy going to the theater, it's just that they would rather see dramas from the comfort of their living rooms.
This means that we've never really had an Oscar race like the one we're about to have. Clearly, Top Gun: Maverick will unquestionably be a nominee for Best Picture, but the rest of the field is filled with box office duds. None of that says anything about the quality of the movies themselves. Audiences just didn't want to see Cate Blanchett play an artist with a crumbling ego for two-and-a-half hours. Steven Spielberg couldn't even get people interested in a movie about the power of movies. Thankfully, audiences did want to see Michelle Yeoh trip through the multiverse in the Daniels' mind-blowing Everything Everywhere All at Once, Jordan Peele bring horror to the desert in Nope, and Austin Butler do his best to bring Elvis back from the dead.
Another issue with this year's field is that few of the movies in the running for awards seem that uplifting. Even a comedy like The Banshees of Inisherin is sad. She Said is about that brief moment when it looked like predators would really be locked away forever, but since 2018, we've seen plenty of alleged predators walk free. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, the best documentary of the year, is an inspiring story of an artist trying to make sure the Slacker family pays a price for their role in the opioid epidemic, but even that ends with a dose of reality that only serves to make you angrier. Watching all these movies in rapid succession helps you understand why people stayed away. Hopefully, they will find viewers in the future though. One of the magical elements of movies is that they can come along at the right time for anyone. That might not help Hollywood's coffers immediately, but the audience wins eventually. With that in mind, scroll on for a look at my Top 10 movies for 2022.
'Babylon' (Damien Chazelle)
Babylon is an exciting, in-your-face movie that oozes ambition from director Damien Chazelle. It's divisive and way too long but anchored by wonderfully weird performances and humor. Chazelle presents a raucous look at the last days of the silent film era in the late 1920s through the eyes of Diego Calva's Manny Torres, a film assistant who rises to become an executive as the movie goes on. Margot Robbie gives one of the best performances of her career as Nellie LaRoy, the actress hoping to climb the Hollywood ladder. This is a movie for a niche audience, and how Paramount agreed to give Chazelle a mountain of money to make it will never make sense.prevnext
'All the Beauty and the Bloodshed' (Laura Poitras)
Moves should make you want to get up and react instantly. Laura Poitras' latest documentary, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, makes you mad and want to take down the Sackler family the moment the credits begin. The film centers on photographer Nan Goldin, whose work often focused on the LGBTQ community and the HIV/AIDS crisis. After almost overdosing on Oxycontin in 2017, Goldin founded the advocacy group PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and began holding museums accountable for taking donations from the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma.prevnext
'The Fabelmans' (Steven Spielberg)
Steven Spielberg just knows how to make good movies. While the trailers for The Fabelmans made it seem a little too saccharine with the "movies are magic" message, the film itself is a really good exploration of how difficult growing up can be when you are surrounded by rapid changes you can't control. The young Spielberg stand-in, Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) just happened to decide that being a filmmaker was the one dream he held on to as a constant through these changes. Spielberg/Sammy could have found magic in any other goal, he just happened to pick movies. (And if he really did pick another goal, we'd never have The Fabelmans.)prevnext
'Everything Everywhere All at Once' (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)
From the moment Everything Everywhere All at Once hit theaters, it was destined to be talked about for the rest of the year. There's simply no way to forget about Michelle Yeoh's performance or the miraculous comeback from Ke Huy Quan. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert proved with their first movie Swiss Army Man that they are not afraid to break any rules. Everything Everywhere All at Once is not about the magic of movies, but it might as well be because it's the only art form that allows for something like this to exist.prevnext
'Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio' (Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson)
In the same year Disney released a bungled live-action remake of Pinocchio, Guillermo del Toro finally brought his vision of Pinocchio across the finish line after over a decade of work. The end result is a visual masterpiece that pushes the art of stop-motion animation to a level unheard of before. Del Toro and co-director Mark Gustafson get to the heart of Carlo Collodi's biting political satire while never losing sight of the central relationship between the wooden puppet and his father Geppetto.prevnext
'Aftersun' (Charlotte Wells)
Aftersun was one of the best movies of 2022 that not enough people have seen yet. Charlotte Wells made her feature film directing debut with confidence rare in first-time filmmakers. She chooses to tell the story of Calum (Paul Mescal) and his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on vacation in Turkey. Calum is estranged from Sophie's mother and desperate to close the distance between himself and his daughter, who is more social than he could be himself. Anyone who watched Normal People on Hulu can see Mescal's talents, but his performance in Aftersun is realistic and heartbreaking. Corio is also an incredible find.prevnext
'She Said' (Maria Schrader)
She Said is a really strong newspaper drama that may have been about something far too fresh in audiences' minds to be a hit. (That sounds weird to say as All The President's Men hit theaters less than two years after President Richard Nixon resigned, and it was a box office smash in 1976.) The movie centers on Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey's (Carey Mulligan) New York Times investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The movie captures the mundane and frustrating parts of being a journalist. Maria Schrader's directing is not flashy, and she pulls great performances out from everyone, even those who have just one scene.prevnext
'Top Gun: Maverick' (Joseph Kosinski)
The original Top Gun is not great, but Top Gun: Maverick is awesome. It's a theme park ride of a movie, with dazzling thrills in the air. Tom Cruise's performance as Maverick this time is surprising because he's not playing himself. You can feel the weight of age as Cruise takes on the character for the first time in over 30 years. His scene with Val Kilmer might have been the most heartbreaking of the year. Jennifer Connely is also excellent as Maverick's love interest Penny. Hopefully, Cruise gets a chance to be in the Best Actor Oscar conversation. At the very least, he should be given an honorary award for his dedication to the movie experience.prevnext
'The Banshees of Inisherin' (Martin McDonagh)
Martin McDonagh returns to form with The Banshees of Inisherin, his follow-up to the 2017 awards magnet Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. McDonagh is the current leader of the dark, tragic comedy. With Banshees, he takes a very simple idea and explores how that could prove disastrous to everyone involved. One morning, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) decides he no longer wants to be friends with Pádraic (Colin Farrell) without explanation. That affects more than just the two of them. Farrell gives a heartbreaking performance, and one of the best of his career. It shows everything he is great at. (This was one of two great performances Farrell gave in 2022. His performance in After Yang is also wonderful.)prevnext
'TÁR' (Todd Field)
TÁR is one of the great character portraits we've seen in some time, thanks to an incredibly fruitful partnership between writer/director Todd Field and star Cate Blanchett. Her performance as the greatest living composer-conductor is marvelous. As the film unfolds, Lydia Tar finds herself crumbling under the weight of her scandals, and Blanchett's transformation is something only she can pull off this well.
Honorable Mentions: Women Talking, Avatar: The Way of Water, Fire of Love, Nope, Elvis, and The Inspectionprev