2022 has been yet another great year of cinema. It was actually my first full calendar year of covering films, so I feel legit writing this list. Some films have been great (as you’ll see on this list), and some have been not so great (looking at you, Men), but I’m just so excited to share a list of my 10 favorites of the year. Again, these are my favorites and not the best of the year, per se (though I’d argue that my number one is the best film of the year). You’re likely going to have a different list, and that’s okay! Let us know what your picks are in the comments or on Twitter!
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
A Chiara, Breaking, Downton Abbey: A New Era, EO, Moonage Daydream, Official Competition, See How They Run, The Fallout, The Menu, The Woman King
Note: This list is made up of films that were released in 2022 in the United States. However, I did omit The Worst Person in the World — which easily would’ve been in the top five — given that I was fortunate enough to see the film last year ahead of my “best of” list.
25. Definition Please (Netflix)
Sujata Day’s directorial debut is a shining example of how to handle mental health in film. Also, a shoutout to the director for using suburban PA as its backdrop. I’ve interviewed Day on two occasions now, and between those conversations and Definition Please, the future is bright and her American Pie film should bring a fresh take to a stale franchise.
Definition Please is streaming on Netflix.
24. Scream (Paramount)
In all honesty, upon the first watch, I was not a big fan of Scream (2022), a “requel,” as they would call it in the film. The original Scream and its sequels are some of my favorite films ever, and the fifth installment felt too close to the original and the Force Awakens-like handling of the original cast just fell flat. That said, Jenna Ortega should be the face of the franchise moving forward, and Booksmart breakout Mason Gooding also shines here. Just sprinkle in more Neve Campbell in future installments and I’ll be good. On to “Ghostface Takes Manhattan.”
Scream is streaming on Paramount+.
23. Cha Cha Real Smooth (Apple TV+)
This year’s Apple TV+ Sundance darling is unlikely to win Best Picture as CODA did a year ago, but Cooper Raiff’s latest feature is endearing and seems to have been completely forgotten since its debut on the streamer.
Cha Cha Real Smooth is streaming on Apple TV+.
22. The Eternal Daughter (A24)
Tilda Swinton is one of Hollywood’s best-working actors, and boy does she work. It feels like she’s in a movie a month, but her latest, Joanna Hogg’s gothic drama The Eternal Daughter, sees her pull double-duty as both a mother and daughter staying at a hotel filled with memories of the mother’s past. Swinton’s fantastic, and this surely makes up for the misfire that was George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing from earlier this summer.
The Eternal Daughter is available to rent.
21. The Outfit (Focus Features)
Mark Rylance’s 2022 will likely be remembered for his performance in Bones and All, but The Outfit is truly his best performance of the year sandwiched between two hollow performances in Don’t Look Up and the aforementioned Bones and All. Oscar-winning scribe Graham Moore (The Imitation Game) transitions beautifully to the directors’ chair with The Outfit. The film takes place in 1950s Chicago and follows a tailor (Rylance) who’s involved with the mob. The film also stars Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien and Johnny Flynn — who deserved better after the horrid David Bowie biopic Stardust. The film’s stageplay-like quality further highlights Moore’s superb writing ability.
The Outfit is streaming on Prime Video.
20. She Said (Universal Pictures)
A thrilling journalism drama, She Said is 2022’s most important film and is absolutely one of the year’s best films. There’s authenticity — they filmed in the New York Times’ real offices — and care about the way that the horrible subject matter is portrayed, and Carey Mulligan once again shines in an Oscar-worthy performance.
She Said is available to rent.
19. Turning Red (Walt Disney Studios)
Domee Shi’s short film, Bao, terrified me when I first saw it when it played before Incredibles 2 four years ago (who wants to see their mother eat their child?). That said, her feature debut, Turning Red, is one of the best Pixar films ever and any “controversy” surrounding the film is just overblown. Too bad it never got a proper theatrical release.
Turning Red is streaming on Disney+.
18. X (A24)
What better 2022 success story has there been other than Ti West and Mia Goth’s ascension by way of the X franchise? What began as a seeming throwback to the 1970s classic slashers a la Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th has become one of the horror genre’s most exciting revelations. I do prefer X over Pearl — which is more of a drama until its end — as a megafan of the genre it was harkening back to. Plus, once hell breaks loose, X is one of the most fun films to watch in recent memory. My date to the screening was so tense that she didn’t move a muscle until the credits rolled. Maybe that’s why things didn’t work out…
X is streaming on Showtime.
17. The Northman (Focus Features)
Robert Eggers is one of my favorite filmmakers because of his first two feature films, The Witch and The Lighthouse. His third (and most ambitious) film didn’t disappoint and The Northman is a shining example of big-budget filmmaking that retains class and elegance.
The Northman is streaming on Peacock.
16. Triangle of Sadness (Neon)
I missed all of the press screenings and press days for Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winner, Triangle of Sadness, and boy, I am disappointed. Featuring one of 2022 cinema’s most hilariously grotesque scenes, Triangle of Sadness effectively satirizes the affluent in a way that makes it glaringly obvious that Glass Onion only peeled a few layers back of similar subject matter. I”m honestly shocked at just how divided the reaction to this film has been.
Triangle of Sadness is available to rent.
15. Ticket to Paradise (Universal Pictures)
2022 was the revival of the rom-com, and Ticket to Paradise cleared the competition. George Clooney and Julia Roberts share fun chemistry and plenty of bickering, and Kaitlyn Dever shines once again on the heels of her Emmy-nominated performance in Hulu’s Dopesick. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but it’s a fun 100 minutes at the movies — and sometimes, that’s all we need.
Ticket to Paradise is streaming on Peacock.
14. Cyrano (United Artists Releasing)
I’ll be the first to admit, when I first saw the trailer for Cyrano, I was overly enthused at the prospect of watching it. However, it blew me away from the arrangement of the music, the performances and all of the below-the-line work.
Cyrano is streaming on Prime Video.
13. Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios)
The only thing holding back Avatar: The Way of Water is that it came out too close to the end of the year. I’ve had ample time to fully process the rest of the films on this list, but what I can say is that The Way of Water is the best theatrical experience ever. I never thought I’d see another 3D movie again, but now I cannot wait to see all of the Avatar sequels in HFR 3D.
Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters now.
12. Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)
Another one of 2022’s notable “requels” is Top Gun: Maverick. Tom Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” to teach a new group of young bucks the ropes. Miles Teller and Glen Powell lead the stellar young ensemble and this was the second-greatest theatrical experience of the year behind the previous entry on this list. And no, Maverick did not only make the list because of that beach scene.
Top Gun: Maverick is streaming on Paramount+.
11. Vengeance (Focus Features)
Perhaps I can see how some of B.J. Novak’s directorial debut, Vengeance, can turn some off; the protagonist is a stereotypical New York millennial with a podcast, and the burlesque satirizing of the South can oftentimes be reduced to calling them “gun-loving racists,” but there’s something about Novak’s style that really works for fans of him. If you’ve read his stellar book One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, you’ll be more than prepared for what’s to come in his directorial debut.
Vengeance is streaming on Peacock.
10. Bullet Train (Sony Pictures)
I’m honestly shocked at the divided reaction that Bullet Train has received. As someone who grew up on Bruce Lee action movies, it was a joy watching a variety of lively characters kick each other’s ass for two hours. The simplicity of its plot may somehow get more convoluted than necessary, but it’s a rare star-studded, big-budget action flick that works. David Leitch is just a national treasure.
Bullet Train is streaming on Netflix.
9. Resurrection (IFC Films)
What better selling point for a film is there than Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth? Hall is coming off a year that featured one of her best performances in The Night House and her sublime directorial debut with her adaptation of Passing while Roth is one of the greatest living actors. Resurrection is an anxiety-ridden time as Hall’s character becomes increasingly paranoid about the intentions of Roth’s showing back up in her life. The final shot puts the cherry on top of Andrew Semans’ latest film.
Resurrection is streaming on AMC+.
8. Bodies Bodies Bodies (A24)
While not quite the horror film I was told this film was, Halina Reijn’s sophomore directorial feature, Bodies Bodies Bodies, worked largely due to its stellar cast. Shiva Baby breakout Rachel Sennott and The Hate U Give’s Amandla Stenberg really stand out in this large ensemble that also includes Pete Davidson, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders and Lee Pace. Its atmosphere is claustrophobic and tense and the film features some great laughs and commentary on Gen Z’s collective savior complex.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is available to rent.
7. Broker (Neon)
“Don’t have a baby if you’ll abandon it,” is one of the first lines spoken in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film, Broker. The film follows a young mother (played wonderfully by K-Pop star IU, or Lee Ji-eun) who decides to go along with two brokers (played by Song Kang-ho and Gang Dong-won) as they attempt to find the perfect suitors for her newborn child. As opposed to Return to Seoul, which gave the perspective of the adoptee, Broker shows the other side of adoption and the perspective of the mother who gives up her child. It’s a beautiful film that can be quite cathartic for adoptees like myself that have long searched for their birth parents.
Broker is in select theaters now.
6. Emily the Criminal (Roadside Attractions)
Aubrey Plaza’s career-best performance was deserving of its top placing on the Netflix charts upon its arrival on the streamer earlier this month. Emily the Criminal is indie filmmaking at its best and resonates all the more when you’re a recent college graduate (maybe Emily did have a point).
Emily the Criminal is streaming on Netflix.
5. Decision to Leave (Mubi)
Park Chan-wook’s latest is a romantic mystery that twists and turns at a deliberate pace. The film knows what it’s doing, and it sprinkles enough erotic tension between the two stellar leads — Tang Wei and Park Hae-il — to keep you hooked. It does require full attention given its pacing and jumps between time periods, but it’s a rewarding watch with one of the best endings of a film that 2022 has to offer.
Decision to Leave is streaming on Mubi.
4. Hit the Road (Kino Lorber)
There have been some stellar directorial debuts this year — this list features a number — but none except for the top of this list are as confident as Panah Panahi’s film, Hit the Road. It’s truly shocking when watching Hit the Road that this is a directorial debut. Another slow burn that slowly reaches its boiling point, Panahi’s film tugs on all of the heartstrings and leaves you in tears when the credits roll.
Hit the Road is streaming on Showtime and Paramount+.
3. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
The fact that Everything Everywhere All at Once has seemingly gone from beloved instant classic to overrated “film bro” Oscar bait in recent months is heartbreaking. Then again, why trust the views of Twitter? The Daniels’ latest film is just so entertaining and a multiverse film done right. Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu are amazing, but it’s Ke Huy Quan in his return to acting that blew me away. The fanny pack scene is still my favorite of the year.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is streaming on Showtime and Paramount+.
2. Petite Maman (Neon)
I spent a lot more time than you’d probably think deciding whether or not the penultimate entry on this list would make it. The internal debate between going off of Oscar eligibility or 2022 US releases was tricky, but ultimately, I wanted to give Céline Sciamma’s film its due which is far more than a mere mention in the “honorable mentions.” If you read what Petite Maman is about — I won’t do so here for the sake of potential spoilers — you’d likely expect a typical sci-fi flick to ensue. Instead, you have a storytelling vehicle usually reserved for the sci-fi genre that is used to tell one of the most emotionally-gripping stories of the year. Only one other film made me pull the tissues out this year to the same degree that Petite Maman did, and I cannot recommend it enough. They simply don’t make filmmakers like Sciamma anymore, nor do many other filmmakers make films like Petite Maman.
Petite Maman is streaming on Hulu.
1. Aftersun (A24)
I knew from the moment that the final shot of Charlette Wells’ feature-debut Aftersun hit the screen, it was something special. For around 100 minutes, I was soaked up in this holiday between a father and his daughter. Paul Mescal was great, sure, but the newcomer Frankie Corio blew me away in my favorite performance of the year. (give her the Oscar, you cowards!). I had the great fortune of speaking to the young blossoming star and remember this when she wins an Oscar someday: She may not have won her first major award at the Gotham Awards, but she’ll be holding gold someday. I’ve now seen the film four times and still get tears in my eyes from the point when “Under Pressure” comes on until the very end. It may be a small-scale film that rarely expands outside of the walls of the resort where Mescal and Corio’s characters stay, but it packs one hell of a punch.
Aftersun is available to rent.