Top 10 Films of 2022
What follows are Nathan’s picks of the best films of 2022.
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Premise: Set in 1923, two old friends (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) have a falling out when one of them abruptly ends the relationship.
Why It Made the List: Martin McDonagh’s storytelling is distinguished by a mix of humor and melancholy as well as a discernable spiritual anguish and The Banshees of Inisherin is the most effective combination of those qualities. Some of McDonagh’s earlier films, namely In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, were about characters responding to the violence of the world and their part in it. The Banshees of Inisherin explores something more ephemeral. Colm, played by Brendan Gleeson, is exhausted by the tediousness of life and he’s placed the blame for that on his longtime friend Pádraic, played by Colin Farrell. That yearning for a meaningful existence and frustration with the limitations of everyday life runs throughout the stories of the supporting characters played by Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. The Banshees of Inisherin features one of the best overall casts of 2022 with everyone in sync with the material and every character is given inner life and complexity. But Gleeson and Farrell are especially good in this film, bouncing off each other and conveying the sense of loss. The Banshees of Inisherin is fundamentally a breakup movie and in this case it’s not a mutual breakup nor is it about a good person leaving a bad person. This breakup is incited by panic over mortality. Life contains ineffable and unfillable gaps and the filmmakers dramatize the effort to fill those gaps with booze and love and art. The Banshees of Inisherin doesn’t offer easy answers but it does soften the harshness with humor. The movie is very funny but the comedy is always tied to tragedy that underlines the desperation of the characters. These people hurt each other and themselves because of their inability to cope with life and the conflicts between them have larger implications about how human beings treat each other; those broader suggestions are found in the shadows of civil war cast from the mainland. This film shows us something quietly uncomfortable but profound about our existence and manages to make us laugh through the tears as we see this abstraction rendered in heartbreaking human terms. That quality, brought to life through the great performances and witty script, makes The Banshees of Inisherin the best film of 2022.
Directed by: Todd Field
Premise: Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is a classical music composer at the top of her field and the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. A series of accusations unravel her career.
Why It Made the List: Tár is an extraordinary film in a number of ways. The story is set within the world of professional classical music and Tár immerses the viewer in that field, demonstrating an understanding of the artistic and commercial aspects of that industry. Tár is also a quietly confrontational picture. Recent years have seen a subgenre of MeToo stories centered on victims and efforts to expose wrongdoing in toxic workplaces. Tár takes a different approach, focusing on a person who has abused her power and the story unfolds from her point of view. Lydia Tár’s predatory nature isn’t evident at first but gradually becomes obvious and her actions are presented so matter-of-factly that we get the sense she doesn’t fully grasp the ethical implications. With this approach, Tár visualizes the banality of corruption. Cate Blanchett’s performance plays out that ambiguity. We can see the way she wields power and the preemptive calculations that enable her denial but Lydia Tár is not an obvious villain which allows her to get away with wrongdoing for so long. That gets to what is so challenging and so fascinating about this film. Tár does not excuse what this character has done but the film does pose a puzzle for its viewers, asking us to reconcile this conductor’s unethical behavior with her excellence in her field and to wrestle with whether her behaviors are professionally or artistically disqualifying. Tár’s immersion in the complexity of those problems make it one of the most interesting, subversive, and accomplished films of 2022.
Directed by: James Gray
Premise: Set in 1980, Paul (Banks Repeta) is a Jewish teenager living in Queens, New York with his extended family. His relationship with his friend Johnny (Jaylin Webb) is strained when Paul transfers to a private school.
What Works: 2022 saw the release of quite a few coming of age stories and in particular movies in which filmmakers reflected on formative periods of their life. The best of these was Armageddon Time in which James Gray allegedly drew from his own childhood experiences. This film is about more than just the filmmaker’s childhood. It’s about a fulcrum point in recent American history. In that respect, Armageddon Time is a political film but not in a way that is partisan or didactic. The movie is set in Queens in 1980 with the presidential race playing in the background. Paul, who is Jewish, attends a public school with his friend Johnny, who is Black. Their paths diverge when Paul is enrolled in a private school and race and class differences force a wedge between them. Like many coming of age stories, Armageddon Time is a moral drama in which young people face choices that determine their character. It’s also a story of family and community and what responsibilities we have to one another. The filmmakers want us to understand inequality and prejudice as a human matter first, and Armageddon Time dramatizes how these boys were shaped by the institutions and circumstances around them. But this film is as much about its characters and their circumstances as it is about the rest of us. This specific story of a particular family at a certain time functions as an origin story of contemporary America. It dramatizes the overlap of personal responsibility and social injustice in a way that is unsettling.
Directed by: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Premise: A middle-aged Chinese American (Michelle Yeoh) manages a laundromat and contemplates divorcing her husband (Ke Huy Quan). She’s contacted by a version of her husband from a parallel reality who reveals that she is the only hope to save the universe.
Why It Made the List: We’ve seen several multiverse movies in these past few years but nothing quite like Everything Everywhere All at Once. There is a lot happening in it but the film is primarily the story of a family and the way the meaning of our lives is often tied up in those relationships. Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn, a middle-aged woman stuck in an unfulfilling life and she thinks divorce is the way out. When Evelyn is drafted into a cosmic conflict that spans multiple realities she’s forced to reassess her life and to see her daughter and husband as more than just accessories to her own wish fulfillment. The role of Evelyn is catered to Michelle Yeoh’s strengths as a performer and she is great in this. Equally good are Ke Huy Quan as her husband and Stephanie Hus as their daughter. Quan and Hus are required to play multiple permutations of their characters while incorporating personality ticks that cut across each incarnation. The filmmakers couch this existential crisis within a wild martial arts sci-fi adventure with a heavy dose of slapstick comedy. The action set pieces are a lot of fun with goofy and offbeat details. That mix of action and humor distinguishes Everything Everywhere All at Once from other recent action pictures. But the set pieces are more than a stunt show. They serve a story purpose and act out the themes and conflicts. Everything Everywhere All at Once’s unique mix of humor, action, science fiction, thoughtfulness, and humanity make this a special film.
Directed by: Brett Morgen
Premise: A documentary about David Bowie. Presented as an extended montage, the film explores David Bowie’s career and his evolution as an artist.
Why It Made the List: David Bowie was a singular and unusual artist and so it’s fitting that Moonage Daydream is a singular and unusual documentary. Filmmaker Brett Morgen explores Bowie’s body of work by creating a cinematic dialogue between Bowie and the rest of the culture. Most of the footage is assembled chronologically which gives Moonage Daydream a discernable shape but the film eschews the typical narrative techniques of voiceover or talking head testimonies. What it does use are audio recordings of Bowie reflecting on his work and clips of archival interviews. The former plays as journal entries, giving us a sense of Bowie’s internal creative calculations, and the latter visualize the exchanges of ideas between the artist and the audience. That content is interwoven with footage of Bowie’s concerts and other cultural touchstones that create a web of connections. The sum is a depiction of an artist and how he interacted with the world, internalizing what was happening and then creating work that reflected his understanding of it. Unlike a typical biographical documentary, Moonage Daydream’s subject is both the artist and the culture, studying both and charting their shared evolution. The skill with which this montage has been assembled is masterful and its meaning is complex and elusive. A lot of documentaries are one-time viewing experiences but Moonage Daydream is so visually mesmerizing and so dense that it warrants multiple viewings, with each new screening offering new revelations. This is one of the most unusual and one of the best documentaries of its kind.
Directed by: Joachim Trier
Premise: Julie (Renate Reinsve) moves through her life at a whim, from one career path to another and from one serious relationship to the next. She breaks up with a long-term boyfriend and confronts uncomfortable epiphanies about her life.
Why It Made the List: A lot of storytelling and especially mainstream commercial filmmaking is about characters achieving their goals and thereby affirming the potential of humanity. The Worst Person in the World is a movie about a woman whose life is a carousel of rotating professional and personal interests and the pursuit of those goals causes friction, annoyance, and hurt among her colleagues, family, and lovers. Julie goes through a series of career changes and her professional transitions are matched by changes in her love life. Narrative tends to be focused and tidy in ways that are designed to hold our attention but also simplify life by cutting out the noise and complexities. The Worst Person in the World is not a meandering film but it does realize the messiness of life and finds the drama and comedy in it. The picture is distinguished by its frankness and honesty and complexity. The title of Worst Person in the World is somewhat facetious but the choices these characters make come with personal costs to themselves and to others. This gets to what that distinguishes The Worst Person in the World. No one in the movie is callous and these characters make choices that might be the right ones at the time but nevertheless hurt one another. At the same time, the filmmakers recognize the finiteness of life and the fact that we have to live with our choices. This picture is funny and heartbreaking and ultimately honest in a way that makes it one of the best pictures of the year.
7. The Survivor
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Premise: Based on true events. Jewish-American immigrant Harry Haft (Ben Foster) was imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp where he fought fellow prisoners for the guard’s amusement. After the war, Haft makes a living as a boxer and searches for the woman he loved.
Why It Made the List: Once in a while an established filmmaker can surprise with a film completely out of character with their body of work. Over the past decade Barry Levinson has been quietly making some very interesting and stylistically different films but The Survivor was radically different from anything Levinson has done previously and it is one of his best movies. The Survivor dramatizes the life of Harry Haft, a Holocaust survivor who became a professional fighter. The nonlinear narrative structure juxtaposes the past and present in ways that connect Haft’s wartime experiences with his later life and creates a vivid impression of the way he was haunted by trauma. The filmmakers use color and film stock in ways that delineate past and present and communicate the emotional meaning of the scene. Nearly thirty years after Schindler’s List, Holocaust dramas are no longer a novelty but The Survivor finds a unique approach to the material by focusing on complex issues of morality and identity. The Survivor is about what happened at the death campus and what Haft did to survive but it is also about the aftermath and what it means to live. That implicit question plays out in Ben Foster’s performance. Foster has consistently starred in intense and difficult material, conveying inner turmoil without becoming melodramatic. Foster’s performance in The Survivor is perhaps the best example of his talent. This is not only a story of physical endurance but also psychological and spiritual survival and Foster’s fierce performance and Levinson’s visceral style visualize that struggle.
Directed by: Ti West
Premise: A horror double feature. Set in 1979, X is the story of a group of filmmakers shooting a pornographic movie on a remote farm in rural Texas. Things go bad when the elderly homeowners realize what the crew is up to. Pearl is a prequel set in 1918. A lonely woman (Mia Goth) lives on an isolated farm while her husband is away fighting in World War I. She loves the movies and dreams of escaping her agrarian life.
Why It Made the List: 2022 continued the extraordinary output of horror films that fans of the genre have been treated to over the past few years. Filmmaker Ti West delivered a surprise double feature that was the horror highlight of 2022. X was set in 1979 and channeled the “porno chic” fad of that time as well as the slasher films of the period, namely 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 1976’s Eaten Alive. Pearl was set two generations earlier and features a visual style that recalls the Technicolor films of the classic Hollywood studio era, in particular The Wizard Oz. Each film is excellent on its own but together they form an overarching story that was bigger than the sum of its parts. These movies are about women’s desires and the need for validation and the way a cinematic culture ties women’s sexuality to their self-worth. That way lies madness which X and Pearl gleefully indulge in a way that is frightening and fascinating. The success of these pictures owes a lot to Mia Goth who plays the lead in each film, creating distinctly different characters but with a thematic throughline that ties the characters and the movies together. Goth’s performance in Pearl is especially daring and intense and her delivery of an extended monologue is one of the great dramatic moments in the horror genre. A number of recent films dealt with show business and the lure of the spotlight but none combined intelligence, filmmaking craft, and self-awareness in quite the same way as X and Pearl.
Directed by: Sophie Hyde
Premise: A middle aged woman (Emma Thompson) hires a male sex worker (Daryl McCormack). In the course of their sessions she confronts her insecurities and the disappointments and regrets of her life.
Why It Made the List: Sexuality has come back to American cinema and 2022 saw the release of Deep Water, Babylon, Fire Island, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. A lot of these films were romantic or erotic and sexuality was bawdy or excessive. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande explores desire and sexuality within an emotional and social context. Nancy is a widow whose sexual repertoire is thin and she wants to fulfill her fantasies with a young male sex worker named Leo. The success of the movie rests on actors Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack. The whole story plays out in about four scenes and most of the movie consists of them talking through the complexities of sexuality and desire and repression. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is remarkably streamlined while allowing for depth of character and theme. There is a lot going on underneath the performances and Thompson and McCormack bare themselves literally but also emotionally. The actors and the filmmakers keep up the nervous excitement while making every moment count. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande deals with its subject earnestly and avoids platitudes. The story touches upon the many aspects of women’s lives, namely their roles as a spouse, a mother, and a professional and suggests that some of these traditional roles might not be as satisfying as society insists. And while exploring the complexities of sexuality, the filmmakers acknowledge the limits of intimacy within certain kinds of relationships. This mix of intelligence, tenderness, and honesty make Good Luck to You, Leo Grande one of the best films of the year.
Directed by: Michael Bay
Premise: A remake of the 2005 Danish film. When a bank robbery goes sideways, a pair of criminals (Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) hijack an ambulance with a paramedic and a critically wounded police officer (Eiza González and Jackson White) onboard.
Why It Made the List: Michael Bay’s filmmaking career has had dramatic ups and downs but in 2022 Bay released one of his best pictures. Stepping away from the excesses of the Transformers series and the ugly politics of some of his other action movies, Ambulance is a breathless thriller in which Bay minimizes his worst tendencies and maximizes his strengths. The movie has all the signature Bay images: car chases punctuated by explosions, dramatic low angle hero shots of the central cast, magic hour lighting, and a perpetually restless camera. But Bay brings a discipline and focus to Ambulance that we haven’t seen in his other movies. The kinetic camerawork, relentless pacing, and tight framing keep the viewer on edge. The use of drone cinematography is masterful, not only in moving the camera but also creating visuals that would be impossible to achieve otherwise. Ambulance is streamlined storytelling while also allowing for character depth. Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza González play the kind of specialists who typically populate Bay’s films but they are presented with vulnerability and even compassion. Bay’s movies frequently fetishize law enforcement and the military but Ambulance takes a more nuanced approach, one that honors sacrifice and bravery but is also critical of America’s treatment of its veterans and the overwhelming militarization of law enforcement. As a result, Ambulance possesses a humanity that has eluded so much of Michael Bay’s filmography and then matches it with his aggressive style. The result is potent and fascinating, a drama of economic desperation in the framework of a Hollywood action vehicle.
What follows are films that were either runners up to the Top 10 list or other pictures that came out in 2022 that are worth mentioning.
All Quiet on the Western Front – A grim but well-crafted adaption of the classic novel.
Argentina, 1985 – An interesting and involving courtroom drama about the attempt to prosecute Argentina’s former military junta leadership for crimes against humanity.
The Batman – A little too long and unwieldy to make the top ten but The Batman proved to be one of the best Caped Crusader films and the best superhero film of 2022.
Bodies Bodies Bodies – Bodies Bodies Bodies is a sardonic Generation Z murder mystery that sends up the values and eccentricities of contemporary youth culture while telling a compelling mystery. The final scene is one of the best endings in movies of 2022.
Elvis – The story is mostly a run-through of Elvis Presley’s life but the production and editing are extraordinary.
The Fabelmans – A satisfying coming of age story and a thoughtful drama about cinema and the way life and art intersect.
Fire of Love – This documentary about volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft was the story of these people and their love for each other and their passion for the natural world.
George Carlin’s American Dream – Judd Apatow’s documentary on the legendary comic was one of his best films.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio reimagines a familiar story in a way that brings a mostly fresh perspective to the material and gives this film a soulfulness that distinguishes it among other versions.
Hellraiser – 2022’s Hellraiser is beautifully produced and as a reboot Hellraiser succeeds in reimaging the material and creating a new version that has an identity and integrity of its own.
The Innocents – The Innocents is a challenging and in some ways unpleasant movie but it is also extremely well crafted with a thoughtful script and great performances by its child actors.
Mad God – Phil Tippett’s passion project featured extraordinary stop motion animation.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On – A whimsical mix of animation and live action that evades easy categorization but offers a smart and appealing story with moments of insight.
The Menu – A bold black comedy with interesting commentary about cultural products, class, and consumerism.
The Northman – A brutal but beautifully made sword and shield film.
Prey – This Predator sequel was one of the better entries in the franchise.
Resurrection – An intense psychological thriller with a subtle but precise filmmaking style.
RRR – An extraordinary action spectacle.
Smile – One of the most accessible horror pictures of the year, Smile mixes scares with a metaphor of how trauma and depression haunt the afflicted.
Top Gun: Maverick – Among of the best of the legacy sequels.
Turning Red – One of Pixar’s better films.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – An enjoyable buddy action comedy with a meta twist.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story – A terrifically funny parody of celebrity biopics.
Good Buzz List
These are films that were released in 2022 and have strong word of mouth, and in some cases award nominations, but Nathan was unable to see them in time for the year end summary.
After Yang – A science fiction film about a family with a robot child. Colin Farrell’s performance has received a lot of recognition.
Aftersun – A drama about a woman reflecting on the memory of her father. Filmmaker Charlotte Wells has been praised for her directing and writing and actor Paul Mescal has been nominated for awards by film festivals and critics organizations.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – Laura Poitras’ documentary about artist Nan Goldin and her efforts to hold the Sackler family accountable for Perdue Pharma’s role in creating the opioid crisis. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed has been nominated for numerous awards and was named one of the best documentaries of 2022 by the National Board of Review.
Close – This Belgian drama about a friendship between two boys won the second-place award at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
EO – A Polish film that follows a donkey born in a circus as it encounters various people. EO was named best non-English language film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics. The film has been praised for its music score by Pawel Mykietyn.
Girl Picture – A coming of age story about three teenage girls over a course of three consecutive Fridays. Girl Picture won the audience award at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Great Freedom – A drama set after World War II about a man imprisoned for being gay. Great Freedom won the Un Certain Regard award at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Happening – An abortion drama set in France in the early 1960s. Filmmaker Audrey Diwan won the BAFTA award for Best Director and the film won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.
The Inspection – Based on the experiences of writer and director Elegance Bratton, The Inspection is about a Marine who faced homophobia in the military. The film has been nominated for numerous awards and was named one of the top ten independent films of 2022 by the National Board of Review.
Living – A British remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru. Actor Bill Nighy has been praised for his performance in the lead role as a civil servant facing a fatal diagnosis.
A Love Song – A romance starring Dale Dickey and Wes Studi. The film received positive reviews and was named one of the top ten independent films of 2022 by the National Board of Review.
The Quiet Girl – An Irish film about a girl sent to live on a farm for a summer. The Quiet Girl won the Best Feature Film award at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Irish Film and Television Awards.
To Leslie – Based on true events, the film dramatizes the life of a woman who won the lottery and squandered her winnings. To Leslie has been praised for the lead performance by Andrea Riseborough.
Women Talking – Filmmaker Sarah Polley’s feature film dramatized the true story of women facing sexual abuse in a Mennonite community in Bolivia. The cast was praised by numerous organizations including the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the Boston Society of Film Critics.
This is a list of some of the great performances in 2022, although not all of them were in great movies.
Armageddon Time – This coming of age tale is also the story of a family and it had a cast of great performers including Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Jeremy Strong, Anne Hathaway, and Anthony Hopkins.
Babylon – An uneven movie but Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Brad Pitt, and Jean Smart were game for the movie’s outrageous pitch.
The Banshees of Inisherin – This film features a great cast that included Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan.
The Batman – The standout performance is Colin Farrell as The Penguin.
Blonde – Not a great movie but Ana de Armas committed to an intense story and she recreated Marilyn Monroe’s iconic screen presence.
Bodies Bodies Bodies – This dark comedy features a great cast including Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, and Myha’la Herrold.
Bones and All – One of the best love stories of 2022 due to the pairing of Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell. The film also features a notable supporting performance by Mark Rylance.
Breaking – John Boyega, Selenis Leyva, and Nicole Beharie were all quite good and in-the-moment in this tense bank robbery thriller.
Confess, Fletch – John Hamm leads the film with a great comic performance but the movie also has colorful supporting performances by Marcia Gay Harden, Annie Mumolo, Roy Wood, Jr., and Kyle MacLachlan.
Disenchanted – Amy Adams reprises her role and does a good job in a not so good film.
Elvis – Austin Butler did a great job in the title role.
Emancipation – Will Smith and Ben Foster were quite good as an escaped slave and a slave hunter in this Civil War action film.
Emily the Criminal – Aubrey Plaza impressed in the title role as a woman led into a life of crime.
The Estate – This story of a family competing for an inheritance had a great cast including Toni Collette, Anna Faris, David Duchovny, Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Danny Vinson.
Everything Everywhere All at Once – This film has a terrific all-around cast including Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis.
The Fallout – Jenna Ortega impressed in the lead role as a high school student coping with the aftermath of a mass shooting.
Glass Onion – Daniel Craig reprised his role as detective Benoit Blanc and he was accompanied by a fun supporting cast including Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., and Kathryn Hahn.
God’s Country – Thandiwe Newton impressed in the lead role of this neo-western.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande – Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack were a great pairing as a middle-aged woman and a younger sex worker.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. – Not a great movie but Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown threw themselves into playing absurdly despicable characters.
I Want You Back – Charlie Day and Jenny Slate were a great match as a couple coming together over their recent breakups.
The Innocents – The cast of child actors were really good in this horror film.
The Menu – The whole cast was quite good with standout performances by Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Nicholas Hoult.
Resurrection – Rebecca Hall continued her streak of playing fascinating and troubled characters.
The Survivor – Ben Foster gave an intense performance as Holocaust survivor Harry Haft.
Tár – Cate Blanchett was terrific as a corrupt classical music composer.
Terrifier 2 – David Howard Thornton’s latest turn as Art the Clown has put this character in the canon of great horror villains.
Till – Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as Mamie Till-Mobley was the highlight of this movie.
Triangle of Sadness – This ensemble piece has standout performances by Woody Harrelson, Dolly De Leon, and Zlatko Buric.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – Nicolas Cage plays a fictionalized version of himself and he is well paired with Pedro Pascal.
The Whale – Brendan Fraser has been rightly praised for his work in this film. Sadie Sink and Hong Chau also contribute a lot to the picture.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story – Daniel Radcliffe throws himself into the title role and Evan Rachel Wood impresses as a parody of Madonna. The film is full of other kooky supporting performances and cameos, namely Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento and Jack Black as Wolfman Jack.
The Worst Person in the World – This film was full of complex and interesting characters played by Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, and Herbert Nordrum.
Bottom 10 Films of 2022
What follows are the very bottom of the cinematic heap for 2022.
1. The Bubble
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Premise: The cast and crew of a Hollywood special effects franchise gather in a hotel to make a movie while observing pandemic safety protocols. Isolation and egos derail the shoot.
Why It Made the List: Hollywood enjoys making movies about itself. Often that is an act of self-mythologizing by emphasizing the magic of filmmaking or reinforcing the perceived mystery and danger of show business. The Bubble is something else. It’s a bad inside joke intended to lampoon the excesses of Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking that ends up being exactly the kind of bloated, self-obsessed nonsense that it’s critiquing. The Bubble poses as a satire but it doesn’t really say anything about Hollywood or about the pandemic. The entertainment industry, franchise filmmaking, and pandemic safety protocols are certainly ripe for satire but this film doesn’t do anything smart or witty with them. The picture very obviously aspires to Christopher Guest’s For Your Consideration and Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder but The Bubble most resembles Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups movies. The overwhelming impression is that of a filmmaker fumbling his way through the project and not particularly caring if any of it makes sense. The Bubble is not funny, it’s not insightful, and it’s not ironic. This is just Hollywood self-absorption posing as satire.
Directed by: Keith Thomas
Premise: An adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. A girl with pyrokinetic powers (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) is sheltered by her parents. A government agency enlists a hitman (Michael Greyeyes) to find her.
Why It Made the List: There has been a recent boom in Stephen King adaptations, many of them good, but 2022’s Firestarter is among the worst of all King film adaptations. It is completely inept. Firestarter’s premise is one we’ve seen before but the filmmakers have no idea what to do with it. The story is incomprehensible and the characters don’t behave in a way that resembles human behavior. Firestarter plays like a collection of disconnected scenes that have been patched together. It’s neither scary nor suspenseful nor even coherent.
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Premise: A spin-off of Sony’s Spider-Man film series. Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) experiments with vampire bats in search of a cure to his genetic disorder. He develops a serum that gives Morbius superhuman abilities and turns him into a vampire.
Why It Made the List: With the exception of The Batman, the superhero pictures of 2022 were mostly tepid affairs. Morbius distinguished itself as one of the worst of these films in several years. This vacuous shell of a superhero origin story manages to make a vampire boring. Morbius rehashes familiar undead lore while robbing it of anything compelling. It’s not scary but it is sometimes unintentionally funny. The pacing is off, the visual style is all over the place, and the movie often looks silly. Morbius was intended to start a new franchise but it’s dead on arrival.
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Premise: A remake of Disney’s 1940 animated film. Woodworker Geppetto (Tom Hanks) creates a marionette of a boy (voice of Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). The puppet is brought to life but he must prove himself worthy of becoming a real boy.
What Doesn’t: Disney’s remake of Pinocchio is another example of the Mouse strip mining its legacy. The new film adds little to the story while sucking all the charm out of it. Along with 2019’s The Lion King, the Pinocchio remake exemplifies why live action and animation are not interchangeable mediums. But Pinocchio is so much worse because it is so sloppy. The digital effects look like computer animation from 2001. For a movie that is supposed to emulate live action Pinocchio looks like a cheap cartoon.
Directed by: David O. Russell
Premise: Based on true events. Three Americans (Christian Bale, John David Washington, Margot Robbie) meet in France during World War I and become close friends. Years later two of them are framed for murder and while attempting to clear their names they discover a conspiracy.
Why It Made the List: Amsterdam dramatizes the Business Plot, a real-life conspiracy to overthrow the Franklin Roosevelt administration in a coup d’état. It’s a fascinating historical anecdote that the filmmakers manage to screw up in virtually every way. The conspiracy plot is sloppy to the point of being incomprehensible. The moments that are supposed to be big dramatic payoffs come to nothing. The tone and performances are terribly misjudged and by the end Amsterdam plays like a Saturday Night Live sketch that has gone off the rails.
Directed by: Mark Williams
Premise: A freelance government operative (Liam Neeson) works for the FBI, bringing in undercover agents who have become endangered or lost their way. He encounters a young FBI agent (Taylor John Smith) who has knowledge of an assassination program.
Why It Made the List: For well over a decade, Liam Neeson has starred in action thrillers playing gun toting killers with a troubled family life. Blacklight may be the worst title in Neeson’s action oeuvre and that is saying something. The script makes no sense, the dialogue is execrable, the performances are mediocre, and the action is incompetently staged. Blacklight is a film in which characters chase each other around the city for no reason other than to cause carnage. It’s an empty, confusing mess of a film.
7. The Requin
Directed by: Le-Van Kiet
Premise: An American couple (Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper) vacationing in Vietnam stay at a seaside cottage. A storm washes the house and the couple out to sea where they are at the mercy of the elements and a few great white sharks.
Why It Made the List: There is an entire genre of enjoyably bad shark movies. The Requin isn’t enjoyable. It’s just bad. The Requin is never once believable with the characters floating on a green screen ocean while under siege by cartoon sharks. The acting by Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper is somehow less convincing than the special effects. The film is also really stupid. The filmmakers apparently don’t understand how things work on planet Earth. But perhaps worse than sloppiness or stupidity, The Requin is also really boring.
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Premise: An aimless man (Kevin Hart) is misidentified as an infamous assassin (Woody Harrelson). The two men form an uneasy alliance to solve a mystery and prevent a superweapon from falling into the wrong hands.
Why It Made the List: Netflix has produced a niche of empty imitations of Hollywood action films and The Man from Toronto was the worst offender of 2022. The filmmakers lazily reiterate the odd couple action film formula with neither wit nor showmanship. The story runs through a buddies-in-action checklist. Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson are cast as generic character types and they have no comedic chemistry. The action set pieces are bereft of style and rehash stunts seen in other movies. It’s all so lazy that it comes across contemptuous for the audience.
Directed by: Matthew Reilly
Premise: A soldier (Elsa Pataky) is assigned to an isolated military station that defends the United States against nuclear attacks. A group of terrorists overrun the base and it is up to a lone soldier to save the day.
Why It Made the List: Throughout the 1990s there were a lot of Die Hard imitators in which a lone hero must thwart a group of terrorists but few of those were as bad as Interceptor. The digital effects look cheap, the action is poorly staged, and the story is nonsense. But not content to just badly rip off Die Hard, the filmmakers also distastefully invoke the real issue of sexual harassment and assault in the United States military in a way that cheapens a serious issue.
10. Easter Sunday
Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar
Premise: A comedian (Jo Kay) with a burgeoning career reunites with his family for Easter. Career pressures and old family grievances come to a head.
Why It Made the List: It would be charitable to call Easter Sunday the equivalent of a television sitcom holiday special. Clearly that’s what the filmmakers were trying to imitate but everything in this feature film is inferior to a television program. Easter Sunday is a situation comedy without any humor. The jokes are lame and the plot consists of a bunch of uninspired hijinks. It also looks like hell as though the film was shot through the ugliest Instagram filter. The average network sitcom has better production values and more laughs than this.
Trends of 2022
A lot of Agatha Christie-style whodunits got released in 2022. Few of them were actually compelling mysteries but they often featured colorful characters and gave the cast a chance to chew the scenery.
See How They Run
Great Horror Films
The horror genre continued its impressive streak with a mix of original films and successful reboots and sequels. Theatrical horror releases also proved to be reliable performers at the box office.
A number of musical films were released in 2022 including dramas and documentaries. This area was uneven with a few films that were really good and others that were not.
Trauma was a recurring theme in movies of 2022. It was frequently found in horror but other genres got in on exploring this concept especially in historical contexts.
Comedies of 2022 weren’t so successful but there were several of the better titles featured wicked and dark humor.
Filmmakers adapted their own life stories to the screen in 2022.
Complex Female Characters
One of the underappreciated trends of 2022 was the number of films led by female characters who were interesting and complex. The movies often dealt with their sex life but in a way that was thoughtful and interesting.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Mack & Rita
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris