The year 2022 saw a strong lineup of films released. As award season comes and goes, it’s important to look back on the year and consider what great works made a lasting impact. Some new voices were brought front and center, and some old voices proved their continued relevance. Genres were bent, with stories about the complications of family particularly exceeding expectations. From a master swordsman who happens to be a talking cat to a depressed father trying to make the most out of his relationship with his daughter, these are the ten best films of 2022.
Honorable mentions go to “RRR,” “Triangle of Sadness” and “Nope” who, in a weaker year of movies, would easily slide into the top 10.
10. “Decision to Leave” (Park Chan-wook)
A twisted romance between a detective and the suspect he’s investigating for a murder staged as a rock-climbing accident. Like most of director Park Chan-wook’s previous films, a perverse beauty lurks just below the surface of an atypical crime story. In this film, that beauty mostly comes from what might be the most stunning cinematography of the past year, which effortlessly conveys the distorted perspectives of the main characters of the film.
9. “Fresh” (Mimi Cave)
While far from the most polished film from the past year, “Fresh,” a horror-comedy starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan, is one of the most entertaining. A rom-com setup goes awry when it turns out that the charming man’s true intentions are to kidnap the women he woos and use them for meat to send off to cannibals. The film shines in its ability to turn such a dark and twisted concept into a wildly fun and often hilarious ride that never takes itself too seriously, but always knows exactly what it's doing.
8. “The Northman” (Robert Eggers)
All that needs to be said in order to really sell “The Northman” is that it's a mystical viking rendition of Hamlet. But underneath this flashy high-concept shell is an enthralling and beautifully shot narrative that displays the brutality of war in a manner equally awesome and horrifying. Though its high-octane thrills are relentless, they’re never so excessive that the movie becomes bland. “The Northman” is a wild adventure that you would never want to be on, but absolutely love to watch.
7. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (Joel Crawford)
“Top Gun: Maverick” might have been the most lauded film about an aging hero coming to terms with the fact that their best days are behind them (while having to confront the most important mission of their career). But “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” also fits that description and is more impactful. Unlike the “Maverick” which relied far too heavily on worn-out tropes, this new adventure of the sword-wielding feline first seen in “Shrek 2” brings an enriching breath of fresh air into a franchise that so desperately needs it. The beautiful, hyper-stylized animation brings life to a children’s story that’s not afraid to ask big questions about life and death. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a surprisingly heartwarming film that is also just incredibly fun to watch.
6. “TÁR” (Todd Field)
This eponymous film chronicles the fall of Lydia Tár, a fictional composer revered as the first female conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. The film never leaves Tár’s sight, and the relationship the audience develops with her is strange. The film will initially leave you in awe of her musical brilliance, but from the very beginning there is a sense of darkness underneath — a darkness that slowly creeps into the main stage of the film and then completely envelops it. Behind it all is the captivating performance of Cate Blanchett, who fully embodies the gravitas that comes with a character like Lydia Tár. It’s often hard to be sucked into a movie entirely about a character that you hate, but “TÁR” gradually eases the viewer into the twisted world of this savant composer in such a way that it is impossible not to be entranced.
5. “Barbarian” (Zach Cregger)
A horror film for the ages that keeps the audience guessing at every moment and never disappoints with its resolutions, “Barbarian” is not necessarily unique in what it does but is groundbreaking in the way that it does it. You’ll think you know exactly what this film is going to be in the first 30 minutes or so — and then comes a cut that changes absolutely everything. It’s after this moment that “Barbarian” finds its stride, blending jump scares with surrealist humor. The film isn’t so much a horror-comedy hybrid as it is simultaneously a horror movie and a comedy that, like an optical illusion, can flip back and forth with nothing more than a change of perspective.
4. “Broker” (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Hirokazu Kore-eda, the Japanese master of family dramas, makes his first foray into the ever popular world of Korean cinema and just nails it. The story follows baby brokers — black market adoption agents who sell babies that have been abandoned — who get wrapped up in another crime that is just as serious as the one they are already committing. But leave it to Kore-eda to find a way to make this story about child abduction and murder an emotionally resonant and heartwarming tale about breaking free of familial traumas and learning to start anew. Powerhouse performances from leads Song Kang-ho and Lee Ji-eun are at the heart of the film and anchor it to something deeply human and powerful.
3. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)
There’s nothing much about “Everything Everywhere All at Once” that hasn’t already been said, but it isn’t a bad thing to keep singing its praises. A film about laundry, taxes and kung fu has never hit on such a deep, emotional level before. As the title may suggest, a whole lot happens in this movie, and it’s happening in multiple vastly different dimensions — yet all the chaos is centered around a singular relationship between a mother and daughter. Everything from butt plugs, rocks and hot dogs for fingers are crammed into this movie, but miraculously, it all kind of makes sense and is all the better for it.
2. “The Banshees of Inisherin” (Martin McDonagh)
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is based around one very simple idea: What if two best friends break up because one of them decides he just no longer likes the other? In the strange, off-kiltered, semi-fictional Ireland that writer-director Martin McDonagh constructs, this idea is fleshed out to its fullest potential with a cast of characters that range from loveable to despicable. The film is the funniest of the year but is far more than just a comedy. It contains the best ensemble cast of the year with particular standouts from Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon, who effortlessly convey humor, hopelessness and everything in between. All of this, supported by some delectable Irish fiddle playing and a loveable donkey named Jenny, makes “The Banshees of Inisherin” come just shy of being the best movie of 2022.
1. “Aftersun” (Charlotte Wells)
A film as much about what isn’t said as what is, “Aftersun” — the stunning debut from director Charlotte Wells — is a transcendent cinematic experience that sticks with you long after the credits roll. It’s far from a straightforward narrative, with the story of a father on vacation with his daughter told through fractured memories and salvaged home video footage. The film places you in the perspective of 11-year-old Sophie, played masterfully by newcomer Frankie Corrio, as she can’t quite make sense of the inner turmoil afflicting her father Calum, in a near-equally phenomenal performance from Paul Mescal. There’s not a shred of insincerity plaguing this film, with every emotional moment being painfully natural and every character seemingly snatched straight out of the real world. It’s the littlest moments, from an awkward karaoke performance to a game of pool, that all come together to form an emotionally haunting film that is far more than meets the eye.
Finn Kirkpatrick is an arts & culture editor. He is a junior from Los Angeles, California studying Comparative Literature who likes to review movies and other things of that sort.