The Best and Worst Films of 2022

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In 2022, I continued my quest to see at least one movie a day, every day. As 2022 ended, that streak stood at 770 days. I ended up seeing 520 total movies this year, but that number does include duplicates—for instance, I watched Prey and Greyhound three times each, and a bunch of movies twice. Still, those were the exceptions, and I did end up seeing 506 unique titles. 

I finished a long-running project to see every movie that had won the Academy Award for Best Picture. I saw every movie nominated for the Oscars this year (although a lot of those I saw in 2021), and if the various sites that predict nominations are at all correct, I’m well on my way to seeing all of the 2023 nominees already. 

I also had some fun and binged several series of movies: all 13 Star Trek movies, all 12 movies in the Alien and Predator series, all 5 Terminator and 5 Transformer and 5 Pirates of the Caribbean and 5 Final Destination and 5 Underworld and 6 Die Hard and 6 Jurassic Park/World and 3 Santa Clause movies. I watched a bunch of classic Ray Harryhausen movies and a bunch of the old Universal monster films, which were almost always fun (not to mention short).

But what about the movies of 2022? What were the best and worst of them? Well, first, a bit of a disclaimer about this list: I’m not a professional film critic. I don’t get advanced screeners of movies and I don’t attend film festivals. (Although, someday…) And thus, I’m limited each year to only seeing those movies that have actually been released to theaters and/or streaming services. So, my list of the top films of the year is going to omit some of the movies you’ll see on the lists by those professional critics, but honestly, what good is knowing that some dude thought a movie was great when there’s no possibility that you can see if for another 3 months? 

The 10 Best Films of 2022

10. Three Thousand Years of Longing. I get why a lot of people might not have liked this movie, but I found it incredibly moving, with great special effects, and a somewhat unique take on the Arabian Nights story. I also felt that Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton had a lot of genuine chemistry. Three Thousand Years of Longing can be rented on Amazon Prime and other services. 

9. Montana Story. I’m honestly surprised that this movie seems to be totally overlooked on almost everyone’s list, but its 87% positive rating on RottenTomatoes means that apparently a lot of people liked it a lot. Haley Lu Richardson—without a doubt, one of the best actresses working today—and Owen Teague are both fantastic as estranged siblings forced to deal with their past as their father lies dying in their childhood home. Montana Story is available on Showtime.

8. Till. Anchored by Danielle Deadwyler’s powerhouse performance—you’re certain to see her name a lot in the coming months as we progress through awards season—this phenomenal account of Emmett Till’s tragic life focuses primarily on his mother, as she endures unimaginable grief and anger. Pretty much everyone/everything in this movie is great, but Deadwyler alone makes the movie worth seeing. Till is likely still playing at a theater near you, but if not, it’s available for rental on Amazon Prime.

7. The Menu. Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy anchor this comedy/horror film about obsessive chefs, corruption, and the ridiculousness that the foodie community can so easily slip into. And while Fiennes and Taylor-Joy deliver the kind of top-notch performances you’d expect, the real stand-out here is Hong Chau as the enigmatic hostess of Fienne’s oh-so-strange restaurant. (In a sane world, Chau would be a shoo-in for a Supporting Actress nomination. We’ll have to wait and see.) The movie is tense and scary but knows exactly when to relieve the tension with just the right amount of humor. The Menu is now streaming on HBO Max

6. Good Night Oppy. Good documentaries are educational while still being entertaining. Great documentaries also hit you in the feels, and this story of NASA’s Opportunity rover, which operated for over a decade beyond its initial 90-day mission, does all three. It’s great seeing how a young woman, lucky enough to be picked to be one of the high school kids who watched Opportunity’s launch, grew up to be one of the lead scientists when the mission ended. It’s touching to hear the story of the man who originally conceived of our return to Mars and worked tirelessly against NASA bureaucracy to make it happen. But, of course, it’s the rover itself that steals the show, and even though you know from the start how it’ll end, seeing that final message from Opportunity is certain to leave you in tears. Good Night Oppy is available on Amazon Prime.

5. Pearl. If 2022 is remembered for anything movie-wise, it should be remembered as the best year in horror, probably ever. While Scream 4 revitalized one aging slasher franchise and another went out with a whimper (please oh please let Halloween Ends truly be the last one!), so many other great horror films graced cinemas: while the aforementioned The Menu is in my top 10, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies and Barbarian would absolutely be on this list if I extended it to 20. But one of the more surprising entries was X, an enjoyable little movie about a group who descend on an old couple’s farm to film a porn film (also an easy inclusion in a top 20 list). Even more surprising, though, was the movie’s prequel, Pearl. Set in the Depression, it tells the backstory of the old woman from and sets the stage for why she had some violent tendencies in that movie. Pearl is well written and directed, but without question what makes the movie work is the spectacular—and tragically certain-to-be-overlooked—performance by Mia Goth (who also played the older version of the character in X, along with one of the younger filmmakers). Pearl is available for rental via Amazon Prime.

4. Prey. Yes, another horror movie on this list. I’ve been a fan of the Predator movies for a long time, so I was pretty well primed to enjoy the newest entry in the saga, but I wasn’t at all prepared for it to be a truly great movie. Set in the early 18th century, the movie returns the series to its roots: a single alien hunter terrorizing a group of warriors. But this time, the human warriors are led not by an Austrian bodybuilder, and they do not come armed with machine guns. Instead, the alien meets its match in the form of a young Comanche woman, who relies much more on her wits and intelligence than her weaponry (but that said, her “knife on a string” is a pretty cool weapon). The only downside to Prey’s IRL story is Disney’s absolutely inexcusable decision to not grant it a theatrical release, thereby denying it an almost-certain Oscar nomination for its effects. Prey is available on Hulu.

3. The Whale. It’s pretty much a given that Brendan Fraser is going to get an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Whale, and it’ll be a well-deserved nomination. He’s in almost every minute of the movie, playing a morbidly obese man who is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter near the end of his life. It’s a moving story that avoids a lot of the cliches and pitfalls it could have so easily fallen into. It’s tough to watch at times, but it’s worth it. The Whale is playing in a theater near you.

2. Vengeance. True crime podcasts have come full circle, with Serial, the one that started the craze, seeing its subject released from prison at long last, to an Emmy-award-winning series making fun of the entire genre. (And while this is about movies, not TV, if you haven’t watched Only Murders in the Building, do yourself a favor and watch it.) Vengeance is a movie that is at times both aware of the potential for podcasts about human tragedy to be exploitative, but at the same time recognizes the humor behind New York personalities ever taking themselves too seriously. It’s funny and moving and powerful all at the same time, and it definitely deserved more recognition than it got. Vengeance is available on Peacock TV.

1. Glass Onion. While I think 2022 should be remembered for its horror films, what is likely to really make the film history books is the likelihood that, for the first time ever, three sequels are nominated for Best Picture. And while I enjoyed Top Gun Maverick and Avatar: The Way of the Water, neither is a truly great film. But Glass Onion, Rian Johnson’s follow-up to my favorite movie of 2019, is the truly stand-out movie of the three. And it’s not even really a sequel, any more than Death on the Nile is a sequel to Murder on the Orient Express. The only thread between the two movies is Daniel Craig’s stellar Benoit Blanc (who is, in my opinion, the single best original character in the last decade at least). Netflix’s head-scratching decision to market the movie as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is weird—“A Beniot Blanc Mystery” would have at least made sense—as was the studio’s decision to only play it in theaters for a week, thus denying it the chance to become the blockbuster it almost certainly would have been. But whether you see Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg in Edward Norton’s character, the movie is just a fun, well-constructed caper, the likes of which we just don’t get in movies all that often anymore (except, of course, in Knives Out). Here’s to hoping that Johnson and Craig keep making Benoit Blanc movies for a long time to come, if for no other reason than it’ll make deciding my top movie every three years or so a very easy choice. Glass Onion is available on Netflix.

The 10 Worst Films of 2022

10. Blacklight. One theme you’ll notice about most of the movies on this list: big-name stars. When I’m sitting through garbage like these movies, I genuinely wonder if people like Liam Neeson and Aiden Quinn, actors who have been in award-winning films, know they’re making something horrible while they’re doing it, or if the movie’s failings only become clear in retrospect. (At this point, Neeson has certainly done enough bad movies that he at least should be able to tell.) Regardless, this paint-by-numbers, take-no-risks action film about a retired CIA agent who just wants to go clean and raise his grandkids but can’t because writers Nick May, Mark Williams, and Brandon Reavis couldn’t come up with a single original thought between them is every bit as boring as it sounds. Watch The Grey Man on Netflix or, even better yet, the Jack Ryan series on Amazon Prime instead. 

9. Pursuit. If Neeson and Quinn can get paid for doing terrible movies, why should Emilie Hirsch and John Cusack miss out on the fun? Here a hacker has to race against time to save his wife from a drug cartel but also has to avoid getting caught by the relentless detective and no-nonsense cop that round out the cast of cliches. Watch Bullet Train on Netflix instead.

8. Operation Seawolf. Ok, neither Dolph Lundgren nor Frank Grillo is known for being perpetually overlooked in awards season, but much of the stuff they churn out is at least enjoyable. Not so with this sorry tale of the Nazis making one last attempt to use their remaining U-boats to launch an attack on the US mainland. Sounds like it’s been done before, right? It has, and much better. Grillo in particular phones in a performance by delivering every line with a “just give me those paychecks” attitude. Watch Greyhound on Apple TV+ instead.

7. Interceptor. This movie seemed to stay on Netflix’s fake Top 10 list for a lot longer than it should have, which I take to mean that they spent a lot of money on it, and even though they knew it stank, they needed to get the return on that investment. Of course, there should have been some adults in the room at some point to just point out that the movie was always going to be terrible and just pull the plug, but that isn’t really the Netflix style. Watch Air Force One on Netflix instead.

6. Falling for Christmas. Hailed as Lindsay Lohan’s triumphant return—marketing that suckered at least one person (me) into watching—will hopefully be a movie that gets forgotten quickly, allowing her to return in something that’s not so horrific. Whether it’s the cliched characters, the horrific effects work, or the wooden acting by everyone involved, this is a sappy Christmas movie that should have earned everyone involved a lump of coal in their stocking. Watch Hallmark’s Haul Out the Holly instead.

5. Triangle of Sadness. This tragicomedy is on many critics’ “best of” lists and on a whole lot of Oscar nomination shortlists, and I can’t begin to understand why. It’s entirely too long—you’ll feel every one of the 146 minutes of its run time—and is never once even slightly funny. Woody Harrelson should have known better. And it’s truly a tragedy that Charlbi Dean, an Italian actress who had hoped to use this movie to break into the American scene, died before it was released, depriving all of us on this side of the Atlantic to see what she might have been capable of doing if paired with a competent director and given a decent script. Watch Not Okay on Hulu instead.

4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I fully recognize the irony of calling 2022 the best year for horror and then having an equal number of horror movies in my top 10 and bottom 10. But remember that while I only included 2 in those top 10, several more would have easily made a top 20. But this reboot of the ’70s horror classic—I also watched the original film for the first time this year, and I have to say that I don’t get why it’s considered a classic, either—just fails to connect at every level. You go into a movie like this expecting a lot of gore, and it certainly delivers there, but otherwise, it’s a ho-hum slasher with an uninteresting villain and even less interesting protagonists. Watch Pearl on Amazon Prime instead.

3. Senior Year. Even though she seems to always play basically the same character, I enjoy Rebel Wilson’s movies more often than not. That’s why this retread of the “send an adult to high school” trope was so incredibly disappointing. It’s unoriginal and uninteresting, a deadly combination for any comedy. Watch Clueless on Paramount Plus instead.

2. Halloween Ends. The newest incarnation of the franchise that invented the whole “silent serial killer” genre started out so well with 2018’s Halloween, but it soundly jumped the shark in Halloween Kills and one can only imagine this movie only got made because they were somehow contractually obligated to make three films, even though they so clearly ran out of ideas about halfway through the second one. On paper, having Michael Meyers not even show up until halfway through the movie might have sounded good, but they definitely should have workshopped that some more. I’m glad that Jamie Lee Curtis is finally walking away from the franchise. Here’s to hoping everyone else will, too. Watch Halloween (2018) on Prime rental instead.

1. Blonde. Without a doubt, the most controversial movie of the year. There are some who still praise it, but that requires willfully ignoring the exploitative theme of the entire film. Missing an opportunity to give Ana de Armis room to truly embody Marilyn Monroe, director Andrew Dominik instead decided to base the movie on a novel that merely treats Marilyn as a perpetual victim. It’s truly a sad waste of de Armis’ talent, a sad way for many to be introduced to Marilyn, and a sad way to waste three hours of your time. And please don’t buy into the marketing hype that the NC-17 rating was anything other than exactly what the filmmakers wanted and hoped for—a way to generate some controversy in the hopes of getting people to ignore all of what’s wrong with the movie and watch it anyway. Watch Some Like It Hot on Prime rental instead.

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