Top 15 Films of 2022 – Allen’s Picks
2022 proved to be a transition year for the movies. As Covid restrictions lifted and audiences returned to theaters, studios faced the challenge of deciding what films get wide releases while reserving others for streaming platforms. The result was confusion – should a person make the effort to go out and experience something on the big screen, or should they wait for the eventual home release a few weeks later? Tentpole, big budget blockbusters continued their reign in theaters. Meanwhile, other movies not beholden to existing IP gained traction through word of mouth. Sadly, several quality releases got buried under a sea of streaming choices. This situation is still in flux, and it will be interesting to see how the industry adjusts (or doesn’t) in the next year or two.
With that said, the movies remain. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that this year was a bad one for cinema. In fact, I would argue that there is never a bad year for movies, because there are always excellent options – from every studio and from every corner of the globe. This year is no exception. There has been such an abundance of good movies that it’s overwhelming. Those that say “There aren’t as many good movies anymore” have no idea what they are talking about. Although my personal list of the top films of the year is relegated to 15, that number could have easily stretched to twice that amount. The temptation to expand my list was stronger than it has ever been before.
As per tradition, I start off with listing my Honorable Mentions. All of these deserve your time and attention. If you were to ask me again later down the road, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these move into the starting rotation:
The House, The Fallout, The Tinder Swindler, KIMI, Hard Hit, Scream (2022), No Exit, Fresh, Turning Red, Jackass Forever, You Are Not My Mother, Apollo 10.5, Ambulance, Spiritwalker, X, The Outfit, The Batman, The Bad Guys, Stanleyville, The Survivor, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, The Northman, Emergency, Fire Island, Top Gun: Maverick, Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, RRR, Hustle, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Mad God, Watcher, Official Competition, Rise, Endangered, The Sea Beast, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Resurrection, Baby Assassins, Prey, Breaking, Nope, Confess, Fletch, See How They Run, Saloum, Fall, Elvis, Speak No Evil, Emily the Criminal, Entergalactic, God’s Country, Deadstream, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Triangle of Sadness, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Barbarian, Hold Your Fire, Wendell & Wild, Descendant, Causeway, The Woman King, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, Navalny, Bad Axe, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Broker, Thirteen Lives, The Wonder, Holy Spider, Bones and All, Good Night Oppy, The Inspection, Till, Armageddon Time, Funny Pages, Sam Now, Sweetheart Deal, Sr., The Eternal Daughter, God’s Creatures, EO, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Women Talking, Living, My Father’s Dragon.
See what I mean? Just an embarrassment of riches. And with all that, there are still countless others I likely missed out on.
Anyway, let’s take a look at my favorite films of 2022.
A biting satire that not only examines the culture of southern Baptist mega churches, but the toxicity of power. Characters claim to be messengers of God but are obsessed with their own wealth and privilege. Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown deliver excellent performances, oscillating between laugh out loud funny and heartbreakingly sad. They navigate writer/director Adamma Ebo’s mockumentary-style narrative with pitch perfect delivery. The two play a married couple who will not accept the status they once possessed slipping through their fingers. As they say: Pride comes before the fall. In this instance, that happens in an extreme way.
Park Chan-wook has a knack for taking familiar setups and twisting them so that we get caught by surprise. Decision to Leave begins as a traditional noir mystery, but as things unfold, we get tossed into a tale of obsession and double crosses. Evoking Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), the film follows detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il) as he investigates the death of a businessman. The trail leads him to the dead man’s widow (Tang Wei). The mystery takes a life of its own as Hae-jun’s fascination with the woman increases. With creative use of cinematography and editing, Park Chan-wook places us into the mindset of his characters. With themes of vision, communication, and human connection, the film takes the structure of a whodunit and turns it into a tense psychological drama.
Life does not need to be figured out by 22. Writer/director/star Cooper Raiff’s coming of age tale is equal parts funny, sweet, and insightful. Its central characters all face a crossroads, and the narrative argues that each decision does not need to dictate the entirety of their journeys. Mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned, and that’s totally ok. Dakota Johnson delivers one of the best performances of her career, playing a person stuck between the possibilities of youth and the obligations of being a parent and spouse. Coming of age movies are a dime a dozen, but Raiff puts his own unique spin on the material. He creates something that feels fresh and new, told with the maturity and confidence of a veteran filmmaker.
The total amount of footage we see in Three Minutes: A Lengthening amounts to barely enough time for your average movie trailer. And yet, director Bianca Stigter has done something truly remarkable here. Taking a snippet of a 16mm home movie, Stigter slows time down, dissecting every frame to create a tapestry of a Polish village on the doorstep of World War II. Every face, building, doorway, and signpost has a story to tell. With the use of cinematic techniques, we get an impression of what this community was like before it succumbed to the evils of war. It’s as though the lives that were lost were given an opportunity to reach out of the darkness, like spirits waiting to be heard. Not only is Three Minutes the best documentary of the year, it is one of the most haunting viewing experiences of recent memory.