The Ten Best Movies of 2022
As the new year begins, I’d like to take my hat off to 2022. I graduated. I graduated! And the amount of movies I saw in that second semester--when my nose was like a block away from the grindstone--was crazy. What a year for movies that was. As Cully Cooper, my Reel Live co-host, can attest, every month there was something incredible dropping. From the shockingly great Scream reboot right off the jump, to box-office juggernauts, Top Gun: Maverick and the long-anticipated Avatar: The Way of Water, this year had no shortage of stories the world was excited to see. Even on the indie side, household names were being born: Jenna Ortega and Mia Goth found mainstream prominence in the X series (the former--I need not tell you, college student--is already slashing her way to icon status headlining Netflix’s Wednesday Addams series) and Everything Everywhere All At Once stamped its flag in the ground as perhaps the defining movie of Generation-Z, as if it were as easy as breathing. On top of these films--these two films that might only come out once in a generation--another might have impressed me even more from an historical perspective. Damien Leone’s Terrifier 2 may well be the microbudget hit of the decade--just like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project were before it. Never before has a sequel to a VOD sleeper-hit such as Terrifer been… not only openly crowdfunded, but also found itself going toe-to-toe with every October release and staying there until it was ready to leave. It was downright inspiring seeing something so niche and repulsive up there. That’s the future of movies to me. Not streaming services, but the harnessing of the internet to give people the choice of what they want to see.
But as much as I’d like to say that any of these movies made my favorites list this year, I must disappoint the lot of us. A year this good begged me to look below the surface and watch as much as humanly possible. I watched an obscene number, people. Upwards of 100. So this prior smattering of titles should serve as a list of “Honorable Mentions,” though I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the brilliant Funny Pages, which touched me greatly as someone who loves comics and anything disgusting; Stanleyville, which felt tailor-made for weirdos; Prey, which was a very creative twist on a formula I embarrassingly loved already; Vengeance, a solid comedy/mystery; and Barbarian which is one of those new favorites that’s going to be so fun to watch with people who’ve never seen it before.
Without further ado, here’s my favorite movies of 2022.
10. Do Revenge
So many people are clicking away right now--but those people haven’t seen Do Revenge. Maybe you’ve seen the little Netflix poster, or flipped past it in the “Teen Movies” category... but how could this movie be better than Everything Everywhere?! Well, first of all, it’s just my opinion, and secondly, this movie is simultaneously both the finest teen movie in recent memory and also a send-up of the genre operating at Scream-level. I kid you not, man. This is it.
The socialite main character trying to get into Yale (and it is always Yale, isn’t it?) and survive teenage politics at a preppy institution has never been a sympathetic heroine to me, but the assumptions I gleaned from its trailer were satisfyingly correct: this movie knows how horrible the archetype really is. Knowing its heroine is a bad person gives Do Revenge a clever leg-up. The issue becomes smartly not, “how does she overcome some trite adversity during her senior year?” and instead “how does she spin an actual traumatic experience into self-betterment?” And that may sound like I’ve blown the whole movie, but the way Do Revenge sticks this landing is hilarious, tense, touching, and unpredictable. Everything the film seeks to do it does, and does so with flavor and a wholly up-to-date spirit. The plotting is ace, the soundtrack is ace, and the casting is incredible. Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke have great chemistry as our two Strangers on a Train-esque co-conspirators; Austin Abrams’ Max Broussard is a teen-movie villain for the ages; and Sarah Michelle Gellar even takes inspiration from Henry Winkler’s bit part in Scream to become the new one-time teen-icon cum torch-passing principal. Move over, Booksmart. This is how it’s done.
HBO Max is going to be remembered as the only streaming service, really, that was any good. They’ve got the crowd-pleasers, sure, but they also seem to very much care about film. Case in point, Steven Soderbergh's Kimi, which dropped on the service in January to relative acclaim and to minimal fanfare, and still the movie was released (legally) on DVD. It’s a shame that not many eyes were on it though, because it’s as solid a thriller as they come and in any other year it would likely be higher. As a divine piece of social commentary, Kimi doesn’t talk down to its viewer--and as a contemporary thriller, it is one of few films I can think of that not only addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, but also utilizes the setting of the lockdown to craft a nailbitingly suspenseful yarn. Angela (a perfectly cast Zoe Kravitz) was an agoraphobe before the world locked up, so now she’s screwed. She lives in an apartment in the city and spends her days logging hours as a worker for an Amazon-like company listening to commands made to Kimi (the film’s Alexa stand-in) and correcting Kimi’s responses to said commands, or she does, anyway... until she hears a murder. Soderbergh clearly has a passion for every story he takes on, and how he manages to keep you on the edge of your seat during this one--a narrative that unfolds almost-entirely in one studio apartment--is bonkers. One little woman becoming a billion-dollar company’s target isn’t a story I’ve seen done before, and I think it’s because it would take a deft mind to even think of how that woman could turn the tables. It’s not an easy thing to fathom in today’s culture and with today’s technology. The dismantling of a corporate entity trading on the NASDAQ seems downright impossible, but as Kimi proves, all you need is more smarts than the people who own you.
8. All My Friends Hate Me
Sometimes my hobby of renting movies digitally for six dollars pays off. There are so many great films out there that are never released in theaters, and All My Friends Hate Me is a must-see for anyone who loves their comedies on the uncomfortable side. The set-up is simple: Pete has just returned from a humanitarian venture in Africa to spend his birthday weekend with a group of friends, and over the course of this weekend, through a series of misunderstandings and blunders, he starts to get the impression that they all hate his guts. It’s a brilliant movie--and a textbook example of a great script salvaging the most innocuous idea. Tom Stourton is fantastic here--Pete's a wonderful guy, by all accounts--and Barbarian’s Georgina Campbell is (as always) great too. But this isn’t your standard British comedy. It’s not dry, it’s not awkward… it’s claustrophobic and nasty. It’s described as a Comedy/Horror movie, and though I might not go that far, this should give you some idea as to what you’re getting into. You’ll laugh, but your throat will seize up. You’ll get goosebumps and maybe even hives. This film rams you so deep into Pete’s shoes that your toes will curl and you’ll wonder if you ever knew anything. It’s ninety minutes of unbearable anxiety, which I say because I know that this isn’t a movie for everyone. For those who love to be uncomfortable though… this is one of the absolute best.
Here’s a general criticism for the film-review community: Jordan Peele is not the only Black director to ever do horror, and implying so is detrimental to the creators of stories by Black directors who don’t have his name to fall back on. It may have been easier for Miriama Diallo to make her film, Master, after Get Out’s success, but by comparing it to the films of Jordan Peele, critics have burned the movie worse than a thousand Rotten reviews could. It’s got a 37% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s pushing the 4-5 range on IMDb. It’s not trying to be a Jordan Peele copy. Diallo’s film is darker. Significantly more mature, and more gut-wrenching than any Peele has done or would want to. It’s a miserable movie--a scary one with an ambiguous script and a twist I’m still thinking about. Regina Hall is one of my favorite actors, and her role here as Gail Beckman is another hard-won feather in her cap. The woman just keeps killing it, and with hardly any recognition (perhaps this one even proved detrimental) but it’s cool as hell that she is always going for it. Maybe Master is a ghost story. Maybe it’s not. That’s by design. What we do know is that it’s a story of microaggressions and how these compounding incidents can grow into something altogether less “micro”. On top of that though, it’s just freaky. It’s very open to weirdness (my favorite) and veers rather often into post-Lynch surrealism and nasty, nasty subtex