My Highly Subjective List of the Best Movies of 2022

It’s getting to be a bit of a drag for those of who like going out to the movies to see quality releases. Forced by finances, art theaters are devoting a chunk of their screens to big dumb Hollywood dreck. And many movies lucky enough to get a big-screen debut are quickly shuttled off to a streaming service. Nonetheless, I was able to cobble together a list of my favorite films from last year.

10) Decision to Leave What begins as a fairly standard detective story/neo-noir from Korean writer/director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) slowly builds and builds — plot-wise, emotionally, psychologically — to the level of a Shakespearean tragedy.

9) White Noise Noah Baumbach does an impressive job adapting Don DeLillo’s beloved satirical novel for the screen. Consumerism, media sensationalism, the medical establishment, and blended families all get skewered in a tale perfect for our pandemic times. Not much plot but lots of fun and smart laughs.

8) The Batman Robert Pattinson — leading a very strong cast — is terrific as tortured soul Bruce Wayne, and the filmmakers choose a wise path by placing the story in a realistic world with actual problems. (Imagine that!) Don’t worry, there’s plenty of cool action too. The result is, in my opinion, the best superhero movie in recent history.

7) Barbarian I don’t know if this is the first AirBnB horror flick, but I like the modern touches here, including a #metoo’d actor, police profiling, and more. Writer/director Zach Creggers takes reliable horror tropes and smartly shakes them up a bit. Cleverly constructed, scary as shit, and occasionally very funny, Barbarian kept me guessing.

6) Crimes of the Future At age 79, David Cronenberg has delivered perhaps his most f’ed up movie ever. Human evolution has sped up, with people growing new organs within and without themselves that have unclear functions. Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux are lovers and performance artists, making spectacle of these mutations for hipster crowds. Viggo is terrifically messed up, and Kristen Stewart is a delight as a government lackey fascinated by his world. Also there’s a cop story in here somewhere.

5) Funny Pages Owen Kline — son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates — has written and directed a self-assured feature debut which is by turns funny, sad, disturbing, and offbeat. And very Jersey. It’s a coming-of-age tale for Robert, ready to leave his comfortable home and high school in Princeton and pursue his gritty underground-comic dreams in Trenton. (WFMU and the Princeton Record Exchange also get nods.) Things don’t go exactly as planned for Robert, and people are strange when you’re a stranger, but it all allows him to grow.

4) Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Paired with co-director/animator Mark Gustafson, del Toro gives us not only the clearly best family film of the year, but one of the overall best as well. Del Toro smartly picks and chooses from different versions of the Pinocchio tale, while also inserting his own twists, notably setting the story in early fascist Italy. (Even a wooden boy understands that Mussolini is a clod and war is for suckers.) The movie is flat-out gorgeous, and the voice talent is top-notch — Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Christoph Waitz, Tilda Swinton, Ron Perlman, and especially Ewan McGregor as a certain charming cricket. But ultimately this is a story of fathers and sons, friendship, and the course of life itself, leading up to an incredibly heart-filled conclusion.

3) Moonage Daydream We perhaps didn’t need yet another David Bowie documentary, but director Brett Morgen found his own road in by focusing on identity — how Bowie thought of himself, and how he presented himself to the wider public. Morgen, with full access to the Bowie archives, follows his through line via incredible concert, interview, and news footage. Sit back and be transported.

2) The Banshees of Inisherin We start out with a funny, ultra-simple tale, with a rural Irish island playing as much of a part of any of the characters. It’s played out by a powerhouse cast: Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as the feuding friends leads, and also Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. Things eventually take a darker turn (as things have been known to do), and we end up with an exploration of friendship, responsibility to others versus responsibility to ourselves, and nothing of short of the search for meaning in life itself.

1) The Fabelmans Steven Spielberg puts aside the sharks, space aliens, and big easy heart-tugs, and finds magic in his very own American suburban story: a boy growing up wanting to make movies. He tells it all — family strife, bullies, anti-semitism, girls, and that strong allure and safe haven of a camera — with humor, compassion, humility, well-earned insight, and an undeniable mastery of filmmaking. A perfect movie with an absolutely amazing ending.

Honorable mentions: Montana Story, Smile, Jurassic World: Dominion, The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Worst movie: I had high hopes for Confess, Fletch — and hopes for Jon Hamm getting a movie series — but I confess that this was boring and too far-fetched.

New releases I saw this year: 32 (including 4 foreign films from 2021 not included in last year’s ratings: the excellent Happening, the very good The Worst Person in the World and Hold Me Tight, and the pretty good The Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy)

My best-of lists from: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017/16, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

You can check out all my movie reviews by clicking here.

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