Decision to Leave Everything Everywhere All at Once

Superheroes, Psychopaths and Sequels: The Best Movies of 2022

December 24, 2022Ben MK

’Tis the season for end-of-year recaps, and for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the film industry seems to have mostly gotten back to business as usual. From low-budget indie dramas to multi-million-dollar blockbuster spectacles, moviegoers have been all but spoiled for content. And with streaming services like Disney Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime picking up the slack as they have been for the past three years, there's no shortage of titles for viewers to spend their hard-earned dollars on, no matter their favorite genre. As audiences are well aware, however, quantity doesn't always equal quality. Yet, despite the sheer number of movies released throughout 2022, ten films stood out as being worthy of being called the year's best.

Whether he's saving the world from an alien invasion or saving it from a global terrorist syndicate, Tom Cruise can always be counted on to deliver crowd-pleasing thrills. And in Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise is strapping in and pushing the throttle into overdrive, as he reprises his role of Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. Set three decades after the original, this supersonic sequel finds Maverick tasked with preparing a half-dozen hotshot pilots to carry out a dangerous — some might say, impossible — mission. But despite the insurmountable odds, it's his unexpected reunions with Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) and an old flame named Penny (Jennifer Connelly) that will have Maverick feeling the most apprehensive. Achieving that perfect balance between heartfelt emotion and explosive action, the result is sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. And though Top Gun: Maverick isn't flawless, only the most cynical of moviegoers would dare miss out on this top-flight blockbuster.

Whether it's Tim Burton's gothic take on Bob Kane and Bill Finger's classic creation, Joel Schumacher's colorfully inspired turns, or Christopher Nolan's more grounded trilogy, Gotham City's caped crusader has never been shy about reinventing himself. And with The Batman, director Matt Reeves continues that tradition, pitting the Dark Knight (Robert Pattinson) against some familiar foes — this time, with a crime thriller twist. Unlike previous movies, however, The Batman doesn't concern itself with grandiose, supervillain-esque plots. Instead, Reeves reimagines the story not so much as an outlandish comic book spectacle, but as a tightly-wound tale centering on the hunt for a serial killer. Suffice to say, Christian Bale may have come the closest to fleshing out Bruce Wayne's emotional trauma, but it's Pattinson who perfectly captures the psychological anguish of the role. And with a brand new Batverse on the horizon, the future is looking brighter than ever for the Dark Knight.

Whether it's the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the (former) DC Extended Universe, it seems that every single big budget tentpole these days has been carefully constructed to connect and crossover with everything else. But with Everything Everywhere All at Once, the directing duo known as the Daniels are aiming to turn the notion of the multiverse on its ear. Starring Michelle Yeoh as a stressed-out laundromat owner named Evelyn Wang who discovers her true destiny, the film sees Evelyn and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) battling for the fates of innumerable worlds, while their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) seeks to bring about the end of all existence. Ridiculously cartoonish and over-the-top, the result draws you in with its head-popping concepts and whiz-bang action. What's most surprising, though, is the heart-filled emotional wallop of the movie's final act.

Part procedural crime thriller, part romantic drama, Decision to Leave has Park Chan-wook once again demonstrating why he's one of Korean cinema's most influential filmmakers. In this tale of a woman suspected of killing her husband (Tang Wei) and the detective who falls in love with her (Park Hae-il), the multi-award-winning director behind such critically acclaimed thrillers as Joint Security Area, Oldboy and The Handmaiden takes viewers on a journey filled with its fair share of twists and turns, where the final destination is anyone's guess. At its core, however, Decision to Leave is simply a story of two people who find themselves in the right place at the wrong time. And while its juxtaposition of noir mystery and rom-com tragedy is indeed a tricky case to crack, in Park's hands, the result is undoubtedly a masterpiece worth investigating.

A heartwarming, funny and charming coming-of-age tale, Turning Red sees Pixar Animation Studios continuing to create films that not only feature cute and memorable characters, but also embrace and explore a diverse variety of narratives and viewpoints. The story of one girl's tumultuous journey into adolescence, the movie follows Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang), an overachieving eighth-grader who wakes up one morning in the body of a giant red panda. Quickly discovering that her situation can be both a blessing and a curse, Meilin must learn to keep her emotions in check, as any strong feeling can trigger her miraculous metamorphosis. From the prominent role that Chinese culture plays in the film to the nods to Canada's largest city, the result is guaranteed to become a new Pixar classic. But while it's quite possible to enjoy Turning Red based solely on these merits, it's as a story about the relationship between a mother and her daughter that this quirky animated adventure truly shines.

The gleefully gory prequel to X, Ti West's Pearl tells the story of Pearl (Mia Goth), whom viewers might remember as the homicidally insane senior citizen from the first film. This time, however, the year isn't 1979, but rather 1918, and Pearl isn't a decrepit golden-ager, but rather a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young woman with big dreams. Underneath all those innocent aspirations and doe-eyed, longing lurks something decidedly more twisted, murderous and sinister, however, and not even her parents (Tandi Wright and Matthew Sunderland), her sister-in-law (Emma Jenkins-Purro) or her favorite theater's projectionist (David Corenswet) will be able to escape her wrath. Evoking visions of The Wizard of Oz and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, what follows manages to set itself apart and surpass its predecessor. And with a third chapter titled MaXXXine on the way, fans of this burgeoning franchise can rest assured that there'll be plenty more blood-soaked carnage to look forward to.

An action-oriented tale about the real-life female warriors known as the Agojie and their trailblazing and stalwart leader, Nanisca (Viola Davis), Gina Prince-Bythewood's The Woman King may remind viewers of Black Panther's Dora Milaje, but this compelling historical drama proves just as gripping as any action spectacle the Marvel Cinematic Universe can produce. Set amidst the violence and turmoil caused by European slave traders in 1823 West Africa and also featuring strong supporting turns from Lashana Lynch, John Boyega, Sheila Atim and Thuso Mbedu, the movie's messages about slavery and female empowerment prove the most powerful, though. And while it's taken far too long for the Agojie's story to be brought to mainstream audiences, the lessons to be taken away from the film are just as relevant and poignant today as they were some two centuries ago.

The musical biopic genre has experienced a resurgence recently, with high-profile films like Elvis, Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody bringing the dramatized, true-life stories of legendary recording artists such as Elvis Presley, Elton John and Freddie Mercury to the big screen. Enter Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, a laugh-out-loud movie that promises to fill that void for all Weird Al fans, by showing how a young boy with a love for polka music grew up to be one of the world's most beloved celebrities, a bestselling music artist and a Grammy award-winner. Starring Daniel Radcliffe in the titular role, the film chronicles the pivotal events of Yankovic's life — but if you're expecting a conventional biopic that actually sheds some light on its subject, then you might want to check your expectations at the door. After all, most biopics usually contain a healthy dose of fiction anyway. Weird just takes that to the extreme, earning it a spot among the best in this very specific — and farcical — sub-genre.

From Jaws to Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg's films can always be counted on to leave audiences on the edge of their seats and to tug on their heartstrings. And with The Fabelmans, the 75-year-old director has crafted his most intensely personal and profoundly poignant movie ever, in this semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age drama about a boy and his love for cinema. Beginning in 1952 and unfolding over the course of roughly a decade, the film tells the story of Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), a Jewish teen obsessed with movies who begins to observe the once-close relationship between his mother and father slowly disintegrate. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, the result is an intimate journey into Spielberg's boyhood years that, while enlightening, is unlikely to change the way we look at the Hollywood icon. What The Fabelmans does excel at, however, is reaffirming the special power that films have to unite and uplift us.

With 2005's In Bruges, writer-director Martin McDonagh gave moviegoers one of the wittiest dark comedies in recent memory, thanks to the on-screen pairing of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Fast forward 17 years, and McDonagh, Farrell and Gleeson have teamed up once again for The Banshees of Inisherin. Set in 1923 on a small island off the coast of Ireland, the film follows Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson), two former best friends who quickly become the worst of enemies, after Colm announces out of the blue one day that he's no longer fond of Pádraic. What neither Pádraic, his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), nor the village idiot Dominic (Barry Keoghan), can fathom, however, is just how far this soon-to-be-bitter feud is about to go. A relatable — if not an over-exaggerated and patently comical — look at relationships and how dissatisfying, disappointing and downright infuriating it can be to not get the proper closure when they end, the result is simply fecking good fun.

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