by Carter James
2022 was an interesting year for film. Theaters finally opened back up, and the box office started to return to pre-COVID times. Based off the data from Box Office Mojo, the total domestic gross went from $4,861,041,470 in 2021, to $7,323,153,965, a 50.6% increase.
The year was great for blockbusters and independent films alike. It’s rare to see a film like “Top Gun: Maverick” be as critically well received as an independent film like “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and both become huge financial successes.
The quality of the films themselves, widely varied. There were many surprising films like “R.R.R.” and “Barbarian,” that pushed the boundaries of storytelling within genre films. Though there still were disappointing films like “Lightyear” and “The Grey Man”, which were uninspired and cynically corporate.
When I think back to what stood out the most in film this year, they were innovative, riveting, and heartfelt. Out of the 53 films I saw, these five films are what I consider the best of 2022.
5. “Cha Cha Real Smooth”
Cooper Raiff’s sophomore feature is one of the most relatable and delicate films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s rare to see a film that speaks to me in a way that it feels like it was made for me. The film captures the feeling of trying to navigate young adulthood and feeling lost within that search. While it is a very thoughtful and emotional film, it’s hilarious and has that indie coming-of-age feel.
Raiff knocks it out of the park as the writer, director and star of the film. What’s even more surprising is that he’s only 25. Dakota Johnson gives a stellar and nuanced supporting performance that isn’t talked about enough. Vanessa Burghart also does a phenomenal job for her first role and makes a huge leap in representation for ASD, autism spectrum disorder, within the industry.
4. “Decision to Leave”
Korean auteur, Park Chan Wook, crafted one of the most riveting and spellbinding films of the decade already. “Decision to Leave” is a stunning romantic thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat from scene to scene. Just when you think everything has been unraveled, you find out the string was never a part of the yarn ball. It’s a sharp and sleekly weaved together film brimming with intrigue and intimacy.
I was shocked from scene-to-scene by the sheer artistry at work. What made the film even better were the performances from Park Hae-il and Teng Wei, both of whom give arguably the best performances of the year. It is a true shame that this was completely snubbed from The Academy Awards.
Tár is a film that I’ve already reviewed, but it goes without saying it’s the best of the best for what 2022 in film has to offer. Cate Blanchett gives a once in a lifetime performance. Todd Field gives us the best writing and arguably best directing of the year. Every single technical aspect could be considered the best of the year.
What makes this film so special is the subtlety and precision of everything on display. Never did I think a character study would have the best sound design in a year where “Top Gun: Maverick” and “The Batman” came out.
2. “The Fabelmans”
Honestly, this is tied for best film of the year for me, and on some days is my favorite film of the year. “The Fabelmans” moved me in a way no other film this year could. Steven Spielberg is one of my favorite filmmakers and heroes. He’s the reason why I decided to become a filmmaker, and the story of his life is one that speaks to me on a level deeper than any other.
While it may seem like this is another “power of cinema” film, Spielberg grapples with that love for film and the plight of artistry itself, especially in relation to how it affected his whole family. The divorce of his parents has always been the driving force behind his career, “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” being directly influenced by it, but he finally comes to terms with the divorce in this film.
This isn’t some hazy, nostalgic recollection of cinema’s past or even a verdict on divorce, but a nuanced and touching reflection on the love of his family and understanding of his parents. Art is an all-consuming lifestyle that comes with a cost the deeper the passion grows.
1. “The Batman”
There are two sides to me. One loves film, and the other loves Batman. It’s been more than two years since the camera test for “The Batman” was released, and I haven’t shut up about the film since then. Not only is this the best adaptation of the Batman mythos, but arguably the greatest comic book film ever made. The gritty realism of the comics is used to bring a world full of personality and possibility for the future, this is also the first time Batman lives up to “the world’s greatest detective” title in live action, as all the detective work is now on screen.
This is not a superhero movie; this is a neo-noir full of life and personality. Bruce Wayne is a rageful and misguided young man that comes to terms with himself and what it means to be a symbol for city with no hope.
Co-writer and Director Matt Reeves does the impossible and pushes the superhero and blockbuster genre to new heights. Robert Pattinson cements himself as the best live action Batman. I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on this film and have seen it more times than I should have in a year. I don’t plan on shutting up about how masterful this film is until the sequel is released.