the 10 best films of 2022

The 10 best films of 2022

From a purely pleasurable cinematic experience to an ecstatic music biopic to a documentary about art and rebellion to the return of masterful body horror, our favourite movies of 2022 reflect a strange and amorphous year for cinema, one that felt untethered and out of time.

It’s hard to imagine that just a year ago, movie theatres were closed, and we were still under curfew. How could that be the same year that “the slap” happened at the Oscars, Tom Cruise saved the theatrical experience and cinema lost its greatest artist, Jean-Luc Godard? 2022 was a strange and amorphous year that felt untethered and out of time. While many films embraced the themes and conditions of the pandemic, many others that were produced and finished before and during the effects of COVID-19 felt as if they belonged to another universe. 

The death of Godard inspired a lot of personal reflection. Who will pick up the mantle to imagine a new cinematic future? Will cinema, as we know it, have to die for the medium to grow as an art form? Though I love all the movies I’ve included on my list, I struggle to argue that the majority of them challenge the medium in a way that is rigorous and new. Though hardly the only criteria for imagining great cinema, we overvalue comfort over risk when looking at the popular arts. 

The future of cinema likely won’t look very much like its past. The tide has turned, and the multiplex theatres have less space for intimate dramas or riskier ventures. Still, in their place, smaller cinemas can showcase films and filmmakers who push boundaries and re-imagine new cinematic futures. While it’s easy to complain about Disney’s hyper-dominance, many other options are available to cinephiles in a city like Montreal. Great cinema is alive and well.

I watched over 200 releases from 2022, representing a small fraction of the great films I could watch this year. As always, the list only includes films screened in cinemas or at a festival in Montreal, which means some of my favourite films of the year, like Saint Omer and R.M.N., will have to wait for next year’s list. 

Honourable mentions: Tchaikovsky’s Wife, Barbarian, The Souvenir: Part II, That Kind of Summer and Viking.

The 10 best films of 2022

10. Jackass Forever

Jackass Forever best films 2022
Jackass Forever, directed by Jeff Tremaine (The 10 best films of 2022)

It might sound silly to liken a kind of vulnerability to watching grown men do a “cup” test, aka throwing various objects at each other’s crotches to test the strength of a cup. Yet, there’s no honest explaining the enduring appeal of Jackass. While there are new additions to the team, the core group first introduced on MTV in 2000 is now approaching their 50s. They still do tremendously stupid things on screen, and they still manage to entertain. Disgusting, absurd and cringe, it all feels so palatable because of the deep sense of camaraderie between them and this willingness to be so exposed on camera. The laughter that runs through all the sketches invites the audience to do the same and a strange reassurance that everything will be alright. As for purely pleasurable experiences in 2022 cinema, Jackass Forever is nearly impossible to beat. 

9. Bones and All

Bones and All best films 2022
Bones and All, directed by Luca Guadagnino (The 10 best films of 2022)

Maren is the new girl in a new small town. She’s invited to a sleepover, but her strict father will never let her attend. In the dark of the night, she escapes from the trailer and follows the powerlines to join her new friends. Lying under a table with another girl, they grow close. There’s a strange intimacy at play, a hunger shared between them. Out of nowhere, though, the scene erupts in unexpected violence. The events of this night change Maren’s life forever; she moves (again), her father abandons her and she soon meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet), someone like her. A film of needle drops and silences, Bones and All channels the intimacy of existing outside the norm as danger flickers around the edges of the frame. This ever-present danger threatens their peace and stability. While there are many ways to read the film, as a parallel about addiction or disease, it is most fundamentally about loneliness and finding in another person a brief respite from complete solitude. 

8. The Banshees of Inisherin 

The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin, directed by Martin McDonagh (The 10 best films of 2022)

Set on an imaginary island off the coast of Ireland, two friends, Pádraic and Colm, separate after one decides to abandon frivolity and focus on his music. Pádraic, a simple-minded but kind soul who loves animals, can’t make sense of his friend’s abrupt change, so he needles him until Colm threatens to chop off a finger every time his old pal disturbs him. The immensity of the green hills and grey skies adds a mythological touch to the film’s theatricality as the two men battle over what it means to live a good life. As a civil war wages on the shores of the mainland, the characters are pitted in their senseless battle, which will eventually lead to violence. In the main roles, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson capture a worn and weary friendship that feels so embodied and lived in. The desperation of their quests comes to a head as violence grows increasingly inevitable. It’s a film that has a sharp and refreshingly stupid sense of humour but also a deep well of pathos and tragedy.

Read our full review of The Banshees of Inisherin

7. The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans new movies November Steven Spielberg review
The Fabelmans, directed by Steven Spielberg (The 10 best films of 2022)

Steven Spielberg hits an unexpectedly personal register with The Fabelmans, a film loosely based on his childhood. Spanning the first two decades of Sammy Fabelman’s life, the film opens after our young protagonist goes to see his first-ever movie. His parents tower over him, arguing over art and science, the two competing (and eventually complementary) obsessions of Sammy’s life. Then again, as The Fabelmans reveals, Spielberg has always mined his obsessions for the screen: distant fathers, aloof mothers and unconventional heroes. With a striking depth of colour and texture, The Fabelmans captures three distinct American landscapes with rich detail: New Jersey, Arizona and California. The backdrop of these states provides an imaginary set for the imagination of a budding cinematographer who moves from wintry interiors, desert westerns and, finally, teenagers frolicking on the beach. It’s an intimate film that attempts to revive the past as an act of grace and forgiveness. 

Read our full review of The Fabelmans

6. Crimes of the Future

Crimes of the Future review David Cronenberg
Crimes of the Future, directed by David Cronenberg (The 10 best films of 2022)

Filmed in the yellowed backstreets of Athens, Crimes of the Future feels like two worlds colliding: the hopeful weight of our democratic ambitions and the depressive reality of our inevitable, poisoned futures. In this dystopian landscape, most people no longer feel pain. Surgery has become a new form of entertainment, and some humans regularly grow unknown “organs” that may be tumours or harken a new evolutionary direction for the human species. Director David Cronenberg builds on familiar themes of bodily alienation and transgressive desire with his signature dry sense of humour. As the introduction of microplastics irreparably changes human bodies, one of the great body-horror imaginations tries to envision what that might hold, for better and for worse, for our futures.

Read our interview with director David Cronenberg.

5. Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave, directed by Park Chan-wook (The 10 best films of 2022)

The camera zooms into the windows and from one timeline to another. The delectable genius of Park Chan-wook is his ability to draw out the erotic potential of the moving camera as much as the fleeting glance between two potential lovers. With Decision to Leave, a thriller about a detective falling for a woman who may or may not have murdered her husband, he creates a world of sensual textures and the total awfulness of the natural world. There are so many fits of hunger and lust in this film. How our mind wanders when we’re in love or lust seems to inform the strange and dreamy rhythms of the editing that sometimes offers up the end of a scene before we ever see the beginning. More than anything, Decision to Leave feels playful and comic, despite its obsessive thread; a movie that sees the danger in desire but, rather than wallow in the pain it may cause, embraces its transformative potential to change the course of your life. 

Read our interview with director Park Chan-wook

4. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

all the beauty and the bloodshed review
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, directed by Laura Poitras (The 10 best films of 2022)

In a year where everything felt hopeless, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed suggested that community and organization still have power. A portrait of the artist Nan Goldin’s life and work, Laura Poitras’s film also focuses on the here and now, particularly Goldin’s work to bring down the Sackler family, who spearheaded and profited from the opioid epidemic and who have long used their artistic philanthropy as a cover for their crimes. The film highlights art’s dual power: a community builder and a community destroyer. The insidious strain of the art world upholds the power and helps them whitewash their actual influence as they profit off the creative work of others. A compelling and, at times, harrowing portrait of where the personal, creative and political meet, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed should be essential viewing for anyone interested in art and pharmaceuticals. 

Read our full review of All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.

3. Elvis

Elvis new movies to watch in June
Elvis, directed Baz Luhrmann (The 10 best films of 2022)

In Elvis, everything happens all at once. Baz Luhrmann’s ecstatic style, which often feels tacky and cheap, is perfectly suited to the towering figure of the King. In one way or another, in most of Elvis Presley’s life, the film captures a sense of the chaos and magic of his arrival — from his disruptive hip-swinging causing orgasmic passions in the audience to settling on his laurels, becoming a kitsch second-rate movie star before indulging himself to death in an unending Vegas residency. Cleverly, the film frames the entire experience through Presley’s controversial manager, Tom Parker, who takes credit for Elvis’s incredible rise, and none of the blame for his devastating fall. This device might be divisive, but it offers essential context and underlines how industry and business undermine, burn out and flatten creative instincts and inspiration. 

Read our full review of Elvis.

2. Nope

Nope, directed by Jordan Peele (The 10 best films of 2022)
Nope, directed by Jordan Peele (The 10 best films of 2022)

Nope stands out as something different in a year that readily embraced and deconstructed cinematic mythmaking. The film follows a Black family that has been involved in the movies since its earliest moments. Now, however, they are struggling. After the “miraculous” death of the family patriarch, the seams are starting to fray. OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) has been forced to sell many of their horses to a neighbouring ranch that doubles as an amusement park inspired by the owner’s past as a child star. Everyone in the great desert is increasingly terrorized or inspired by a great floating disc that is appearing more and more frequently. A grand entertainment experience, the film nonetheless pauses to reflect on the nature of spectacle through various lenses, addressing the intersection of stereotypes, exploitation and trauma as a vehicle for audience satisfaction. It is a rich text that only continues to unravel with more time and viewings.

Read our full review of Nope

1. TÁR

best films of 2022
TÁR, directed by Todd Field (The 10 best films of 2022)

In Todd Field’s long-awaited cinematic return, TÁR, there are several scenes of Lydia Tár, a famed music conductor, running through the streets of various cities. As with everything she does, her posture is upright as she pushes herself to the limit. In one scene, Lydia makes an offhand comment about her figure, “if I can keep the fat off until next month.” Francesca responds, “You never gain weight.” As the film goes on, these runs are likely intended to maintain the strict lines of her figure and turn towards the horrific, interrupted by distant and unidentifiable screams. In a film filled with many great scenes, this one keeps returning to me, perhaps because it represents a turning point for Lydia’s control. As a character, Lydia believes that genius is above scrutiny and reproach, only to find herself embroiled in a scandal as her abuse leads to a young woman killing herself. With her humanity closing in on her, the careful orchestration of her life falls apart. The film’s deliberate rhythms become increasingly discordant, unpredictable and destabilizing. 

TÁR stands out in the American film landscape as a film that is incredibly deliberate in its creation but remains within the realm of ambiguity. Long conversations unfold in the back of cars, where what goes unsaid is more important than what is. In scenes of incredible technical dexterity, sequences like Lydia Tár “teaching” a masterclass at Julliard, tones vary from tense, electric, comic and explosive. The same scene plays out, edited, for YouTube. An infuriated Lydia feels like her words were taken out of context, but seeing the full thing unfold, the reality was far more prickly and dismissive. Few films in recent years have captured the destabilizing impact of the overwhelming sense that reality itself is crumbling; yet, Field attaches that feeling to a character who is, at best, complex and, at worst, reprehensible. 

Read our full review of TÁR.

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