The Best and Worst Films of 2022
By Danny Minton
Now that we are at the close of another year, I’ve heard so many of my friends declare that 2022 was yet another disappointing one for Hollywood. I disagree. But it was unusual. In most years, we would see several films released every week, and while many weren’t great, the law of percentages would usually win out and you could find a good one. But after Covid, we started seeing a great reduction in the number of films released Friday after Friday. If you follow my column, you would have seen that in many weeks, I just didn’t have anything new to review. That being said, while there were fewer films to choose from, there were many high quality offerings released throughout the year, as well as a number that were offered up by streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But overall, I thought this was a fabulous year for movies, providing one of my longest honorable mention lists I’ve ever had to create. And the Top 10 here should give you plenty to catch up on before you head back to work and school in early January.
1) Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (Streaming on Netflix). Ever since the first time I experienced this marvelous musical in London (I’ve seen it 4 times since in the U.S.), I’ve been in love with it. The story revolves around a neglected little girl (Alisha Weir) whose special abilities and talents allow her to overcome her obstacles as she takes on her family, her school and especially her evil principal, Miss Trunchbull (masterfully played here by Emma Thompson). I’ve been disappointed with countless musicals that have released throughout the years, but every once in a while they turn out just right, and this is one of those instances. The cast is perfect as is the direction by Tony Award winning director Matthew Warchus, who also directed the original Matilda on stage. It’s a marvelous experience that will largely go without taking home any trophies, due to a lack of promotion by Netflix. But don’t let that fool you. It’s a gem of a film that will leave you with a big smile on your face and a tear in your eye.
2) Everything Everywhere All At Once (Available on Showtime and on paid streaming). Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan (Short Round from Temple of Doom) lead this most eclectic of adventures through the multi-verse as a struggling couple who must try to put their family back together again while simultaneously saving the world. The brilliant screenplay works on so many levels that it transcends genre, delivering the biggest action movie, funniest comedy and most heart-warming family drama, all in one two-hour package. It’s fun almost to a fault, making it a blast to watch over and over again, picking up new and exciting moments you missed along the way. Picking up the most Critics Choice nominations this year, it is certain to be an Oscar front-runner in almost every category.
3) The Banshees of Inisherin (Available HBO Max and on paid streaming). This dark comedy by Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) focuses on a dissolving relationship between two lifelong friends, played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, from a small Irish community. Here, Gleeson wants to stop being friends while Farrell simply can’t comply, to his and his friend’s detriment and impending doom. The simple story is anything but as the complexities keep adding up, keeping you on your toes as you forget about trying to figure it out and just hope that the story ends on a decent enough note not to leave you miserable. But in the meantime you laugh and dread in equal measure. The film really excels in making you feel like you are part of the town, watching the events take place, hoping that things turn out okay, but knowing that you can’t do anything about it.
4) Tár (Available on paid streaming). Everything about this movie seems pretentious. The title, the running time and the opening hour make you wonder why everyone is talking about what must be just an art-house lovers film and certainly not for the average movie-goer. But stick around and you will unravel why so many love it and why this visionary tale from writer/director Todd Field is so remarkable. Cate Blanchett is absolutely perfect as composer Lyda Tár, a famous conductor for a major German symphony, who finds herself on top of the world, until her world starts to crumble beneath her feet. It is an unforgettable drama, filled with excitement and surprises you could never expect.
5) The Fabelmans (In theaters and available on paid streaming). In Steven Spielberg’s latest, he presents a semi-autobiographical look at his life and how he came to fall in love with movies, through the eyes of young man named Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) whose family and experiences shape him into the man he becomes and the pathway he wants to take in life. It’s not only a superb family drama, but an inspiring and lovely story as well, full of emotion and laughter.
6) Babylon (In theaters). I simply don’t understand the bad reviews and audience scores this film has gotten with its release this week, but I do feel that this is the kind of film that could come back and change people’s minds. La La Land’s Damien Chazelle shows us here a vision of Hollywood from its early days, with all of its decadence and danger. Starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie the film shows us a different world than most would expect, and I can only assume it is a more accurate portrayal than any that have come before it. It is more graphic than most can imagine, but it also comes across with a strong feeling of authenticity. And man the writing and direction are great here, with a terrific score by Justin Horowitz to boot. I believe that someday audiences will revisit this one and wonder why they panned it to begin with.
7) Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Streaming on Netflix). Netflix outdid Disney and Pixar in a huge way with a full slate of fantastic animated fare, with its flagship being this new take on Pinocchio by the master of horror, Guillermo del Toro. Set during WWII and focusing as much on Geppetto as the boy made of wood, the film presents a beautiful and heartbreaking story that at least matches the original Disney film, if not surpassing it. The stop-motion animation artistry on display here is perhaps the finest ever created and the story, while showing the familiar notes you expect, is both exciting and heartwarming.
8) Triangle of Sadness (Available on paid streaming). This year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes is this uber dark comedy that follows the guests on board a luxury yacht for the super rich (captained by an unhinged Woody Harrelson) that lands its guests fighting for survival on a desert island when things go horribly wrong. As much social commentary as it is laugh-out-loud comedy, the film attempts to disgust you with human behavior as much as it tries with vomit and sewage upon the yacht. Yes it’s revolting, but more importantly, it is also impactful and truly memorable.
9) Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (Streaming on Netflix). Perhaps one of the most overlooked films of 2022 is this adult-skewing animated film from Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater (Boyhood) which tells the tale of a young boy growing up in Houston during the space race in the late 60s and the impact it had on his life, all told with narration from Jack Black. It’s a nostalgia bomb for those of us with similar experiences that represents all of the magic that most remember from those days. But more than that, it’s an entertaining story that can be enjoyed by all ages.
10) Top Gun: Maverick (Streaming on Paramount+ and available on paid streaming). While Avatar and Black Panther are ruling the end of the year box office, Top Gun: Maverick was the real winner in 2022. Taking place decades after the first Top Gun, this film beats the storytelling and action hands down, providing a rollercoaster of an experience with a power that is hard to deny. And with a U.S. gross of over $700 million, audiences obviously could not get enough of it. I myself saw it three times in theaters and enjoyed it each time. While I still have problems with Tom Cruise as a person, there is no doubt that what he does as an actor puts him and his movies fson a different level.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): Aftersun, Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Phone, Bones and All, Elvis, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Hustle, Living, Prey, RRR, Spirited, Thirteen Lives, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Woman King, Women Talking
1) Morbius. Sony tried to jump in with one of their few remaining Marvel properties only to give us this incredibly lame vampire thriller that will hopefully not spawn a franchise.
2) Pinocchio. You would think that this live action Pinocchio from Disney starring Tom Hanks as Gepetto and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) would be an easy success, but this huge mess landed with a thud.
3) Firestarter. The original wasn’t great, so you’d think they would try to at least improve upon it, but horrible special effects and atrocious acting made us wish this Stephen King classic would have been left alone.
4) Jurassic World Dominion. Here lies proof that you can throw all the money in the world at a bad project and it won’t make it a good one. This embarrassing outing will hopefully finally shut down the park.
5) Blacklight. Liam Neeson can really be a great actor, but you’d never know it as he keeps making the same lousy film, over and over again, with the same bad results.