2022 was a pretty great year for the movies. We finally saw things return a little more to normal after suffering through the drought of 2020 and 2021. Plus, the quality of films released was outstanding. That’s not to say there weren’t a few duds (there definitely were but we’ll get to that momentarily). I went to the theater plenty throughout the year and saw 45 new releases, along with my usual ventures to visit returning favorites.
As is my tradition I have compiled lists for both my favorite films of the year, as well as my biggest disappointments. Since I like ending on a positive note, let’s start off with those films that did not live up to expectations.
I think my exact words after seeing this were, “Wow, was that stupid.” I won’t pretend that I was expecting a masterpiece but I was expecting a little more than what we got, especially considering how many Academy Award winners and nominees were in the film. I went into the film hoping to enjoy some mindless fun action and explosions but unfortunately I couldn’t even do that because the storyline was just too ridiculous, and the action so over-the-top.
This was another film I went into with very little expectations and just couldn’t come away feeling like my money was well spent, despite the LA setting and appearance of Jake Gyllenhaal. On top of yet another poorly executed action storyline, the shaky camera effects actually made me sick. It felt a little like Gyllenhaal was trying to step into being this generation’s Nic Cage with this flick so, perhaps that could be the one plus this movie has to offer.
As is the case with my past bottom of the year lists, there are a few titles on here that are more disappointing than bad films. This is one of those. I was really looking forward to this, as I am a big Baz Lurhmann and Elvis fan. I just thought there were a lot of missed opportunities. The story felt jumbled and inconsistent, the music never got the punches it deserved, and I could not get on board with whatever it was Tom Hanks was doing.
I wouldn’t have believed it possible for a Pixar film to feel so devoid of life and joy. The color palette is depressing, consisting of dull grays and desaturated neutrals. The story is overly convoluted and hard enough to follow for an adult audience, let alone the children for whom the film is intended. It hits so much more how much of a letdown this is when considering this is the same studio that brought us Wall-E, a film about a trash collecting robot that opens with a 45 minute dialogue-less section that is more captivating than this entire film.
There was so much here that should have made for a great film, David O. Russell in the director’s chair, a stellar cast, and a gorgeous production design. Sadly it all gets lost in a meandering story and overly stylized acting directions.
5. Don’t Worry Darling
This movie makes zero sense. The only worthwhile part of the experience is the gorgeous cinematography and Florence Pugh’s unreasonably perfect performance considering the material she’s given.
A simple concept is all a good horror movie needs to get started. In this case, what would happen if two people “accidentally” book the same AirBnB? The first act of this film sets about answering that question, and does so quite effectively. Both actors are believable and the mood is beautifully set for the next sequence of events. Unfortunately a good start is not all that is needed in order to finish strong, and therein lies the issue with Barbarian. It goes off the rails in the second act, begins strong again at the start of the third, and falls completely apart by the end. It tries to be something else in the middle rather than sticking with the idea that brought it, and in doing so completely loses focus and eventually its impact.
3. The 355
It should not have surprised me that a January release would end up being so disappointing. What should have been a fun girl power spy flick ended up being mind numbingly boring. The performances were all very stiff and no one seemed to get the memo that this was supposed to be a fun action film. Even the action that was there was overdone to the point of also being boring. This was the second film I saw in 2022 and it made me very nervous that it was setting the tone for what was to come. Thankfully it ended up being a fluke.
2. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
This is on my list purely for what it does to Wanda. I know there are plenty of fans that enjoyed where the storyline went but to me it seemed such a disservice to turn this character we have spent a decade with into a villain in the span of one scene. The rest of the plot relies on this one event and as such comes off as weak and contrived. I don’t accept the excuse of “this is what happens in the comics” because this isn’t the comics and we as an audience should require that the level of storytelling is elevated from its source material. I guess this is how fans of Game of Thrones felt about the Daenerys storyline in the final season but at least they had seven seasons leading up to it to get used to the idea.
How far the mighty fall when given too much creative control. That’s the biggest issue with Babylon. Damien Chazelle is clearly a talented filmmaker, and I’ve loved each of his previous features very much. Unfortunately here, at just over three hours, the film is overloaded with unnecessary sequences and tangents. As a result it loses what beautiful moments it does have to the unbearable weight of excess and debauchery that ends up on screen.
With the “worst of” list finished, let’s dive into the good stuff and get to my favorite films of the year.
10. The Menu
The brilliance of this film is in its execution. It has just the right amount of self-awareness and snark to not come across as too arrogant and indulgent. It does have a bit of commentary running through its veins but it doesn’t let that distract it from delivering a really fun experience supported by an outstanding cast.
This will likely be the main source of my Oscars rant this year. Ashton Kutcher deserves a nomination for his surprisingly poignant performance. The rest of the film is also wonderfully funny and insightful. Much like the previous film on the list it has something to say but doesn’t let it get in the way of also telling a clever story.
8. Top Gun: Maverick
In case anyone had any doubts, Tom Cruise showed us once again why he is a true movie star. In one of the rare cases, this was absolutely worth the extra two year wait. The action was incredible, the stunts breathtaking, and all of it supported by a solid story and great supporting performances at its foundation.
Had to have the two plane films back to back on my list. The reason this one gets a slight bump is the fact that it’s based on a true story. It’s the story of Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in the U.S. Navy, who helped turn the tide in the Korean War. Yet again at the heart of the film is a strong story, told with great performances. The amazing stunts and beautiful cinematography are just extra on top of that.
6. Bullet Train
This may have been the most fun I had at the theater this year. Unlike the other entries on my list there isn’t necessarily a strong plot at the center of this film but rather what makes the experience is the all-star cast, gorgeous production design, and excellently choreographed stunts.
It is rare for the first good film I see to remain on my top list until the end of the year but that’s what happened with Scream. It was my first film in theaters in 2022, the fifth in a series I love, and my most anticipated movie of the year. It lived up to all my internal hype, and continued with the tradition of the others in the franchise with its ultra insider commentary, which is all I really ask. I laughed out loud, was pleasantly surprised by the turns, and overall very excited to jump back into this world.
4. The Greatest Beer Run Ever
This film snuck onto my list despite being a streaming focused feature because it did have a limited exclusive run in theaters that I was able to take advantage of. Those that only saw it on Apple TV+ missed out on one of its biggest draws, it’s amazing cinematography. You just don’t get the full impact on a small screen. It is another war film based on a true story, this time about a kid from New York who goes on a beer run to cheer up his friends during the Vietnam war. It all comes together thanks to the excellent performances, particularly from Zac Efron as the lead but also Russell Crowe in a surprisingly subdued but effective role as the seasoned journalistic photographer.
3. See How They Run
Once again there was a Whodunit film that came out the same year as a Knives Out film that just did the job so much better. This one takes place in 1950s London and involves a cast of players in the wildly successful Agatha Christie story marking its 100th performance on stage, and that’s about to be made into a film. We get hilarious performances from Sam Rockwell, Adrian Brody, Saoirse Ronan, and so many more. Plus, the mystery was actually really clever.
2. The Fablemans
A semi-autobiographical story from Steven Spielberg about a young Jewish boy who learns to express himself through film while dealing with a slightly unstable home life. Was there any real doubt this would end up on my favorites list? It is interesting to watch what is a very personal story told through the lens of nostalgia brought to life by the very person whose story it is. It could have gone poorly due to the bias alone but Spielberg brings his unique touch and makes it heartwarming, emotionally moving, and laugh out loud funny all at once.
Set in 1979, X follows the ill-fated production of an adult film cast and crew as they attempt to create a low budget film in the guesthouse of a farmhouse in Texas. This had everything I love about the Horror genre, a simple premise executed brilliantly that relies on slow building tension for impact. And, as was the theme for most of my list, at its foundation is a strong plot with quality actors. It also has the added benefit of seeing an equally strong sequel released the same year. The only reason Pearl wasn’t on my list is because I feel that film rests entirely on Mia Goth’s performance, which will be part two of my Oscar’s rant this year. X, on the other hand, is a solid ensemble picture that ends up being a really good, creepy story.