I had never been a huge theatergoer, but that all changed last year. It’s easy to see why I changed my habits since 2022 was filled with an embarrassing number of amazing movies. Still, a great film can resonate no matter the screen, and half of my list wasn’t viewed at a theater. There were many special films that just barely missed my list, such as Turning Red, Escape From Spiderhead, The Menu, Clerks III, Barbarian, and Nope, which all provided cherished watching experiences.
Anyhow, let’s take a look at 10 movies that made 2022 a memorable year.
Music biopics often have the same tragic end and story beats, which is why Walk Hard was such an excellent parody of them. However, Baz Luhrmann is never going to do something the standard way, and God bless him for that. Elvis has a brilliant style and using the toxic relationship between Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker as a framing device is nothing short of brilliant because it tells its focused story in a distinctive way. Austin Butler also gives a transformative performance that will be hard to top.
9. The Banshees of Inisherin
I certainly couldn’t leave The Banshees of Inisherin off me feckin’ list. The other day I saw a tweet comparing what happens here to the drama of high school girls, which perfectly sums it up. So much of the movie boils down to the core of conflict for conflict’s sake, being unable to move on, and the emptiness that one can feel when contemplating life. It’s more than a bit of a bummer, but there’s a real beauty captured in the sorrow here.
8. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero
I’ve been a Dragon Ball fan for most of my life and was at the right age for Gohan’s journey to resonate the most with me. While it’s been great seeing him put fighting on the backburner in favor of being a loving father and husband, it’s been a long-running story that this lack of focus made it so that he never realized his full potential. However, Super Hero brilliantly flips that notion on its head as it turns out that Gohan’s love for his friends and family is exactly what he needed to reach that next level. Because of this, I finally got the payoff to a story I’ve been invested in for decades.
7. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
No movie had me laughing harder or with such frequency as Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Playing the absurd straight was the only way to make this movie work, and it’s perfectly fitting that a movie about a parody musician is a parody of biopics. There are a number of great performances here, but it’s really Daniel Radcliffe’s intensity that makes the movie a rewatchable treat.
6. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Pinocchio is truly a visual and technical marvel that is worth celebrating, but it’s the humanity at the heart of the story that stuck with me the most. The childlike joy of the wooden miracle and the film itself is such a reminder of how much of a gift life is. I never failed to laugh whenever the boy would declare that he loves an object and then ask what it is immediately afterward. That sort of purity is infectious. While the movie goes to some spectacular places and has some incredible scenes, it’s the small moments between Geppetto and the acceptance of his new son that really make it special.
5. The Fabelmans
A mark of a great movie is when it sticks with you after release, but few have stayed on my mind constantly like The Fabelmans. From its exploration of art and sacrifice to how Steven Spielberg doesn’t shy away from his family’s own messiness while still finding beauty within it, there is so much about the movie that is worth reflecting upon. The entire cast is a delight, especially David Lynch in the film’s final scene, which wonderfully brings to life Spielberg’s often-told story of meeting John Ford.
If I were to list off my 10 favorite film moments of the year, probably half of them would be from RRR. There’s a certain earnestness in all that it does, no matter how ridiculous, and that’s exactly why it can tell this serious tale of oppression and freedom while balancing great musical numbers and over-the-top action scenes. It’s a true delight, and I’m glad it has found its way into the global consciousness since I’d be lesser without it.
3. Top Gun: Maverick
It feels like there are fewer movie stars than ever, but Tom Cruise still lights up the screen and commands your attention. It’d be easy to make this purely a play at nostalgia, and sure, there are plenty of callbacks and connective tissue to the original, but Top Gun: Maverick goes above and beyond with its breathtaking action sequences and an interesting story set in the dying days of dogfighting. It’s absolutely everything a summer blockbuster should be and more, providing the best thrills and spectacle of 2022.
Plus, if you don’t get emotional seeing Maverick and Rooster embrace at the end then you don’t have a heart.
2. Everything Everywhere All at Once
Excuse the coarse language, but I feel recounting this experience best sums up the wild ride that is Everything Everywhere All at Once. At the end of the movie, I was left crying in the movie theater and was thinking about what I had just seen. Behind me, another moviegoer loudly said, “Well, that was retarded.” The emotional whiplash of how its artful presentation had fully resonated with me and not at all with him gave me a hearty chuckle. That’s the magic of cinema.
1. Avatar: The Way of Water
I had never seen Avatar until its rerelease earlier this year. I walked out of the theater giddily excited for The Way of Water, which wound up surpassing my already high expectations. There are so many amazing moments worth mentioning, but the friendship between Lo’ak and Payakan is what really struck a chord with me. The two outcasts finding each other plays out beautifully, and it all wonderfully factors into the movie’s climactic moments. The fact that the year’s biggest blockbuster has nearly an hour showing the wonders of aquatic life and an alien bonding with a whale is beyond rad and makes me hopeful for the movie industry.