Updated: Jan 22
By Derek May:
It's been a while, I know, since we presented our annual wrap-up grading the entertainment quality of the year—but we're back now!
I felt a particular compulsion to post my thoughts against given the widely varied selections I'm seeing across the net. I'm not so much posting in contradiction of anything but more to give our readers a more eclectic curation of what is out there. Tastes naturally vary, and certainly I've made an attempt to see as much as I could. But what I present here, as from my admittedly subjective opinion, is what I hope sparks you to either give something a chance you might not have considered OR to save you some precious time on those not worth it.
Please check out the lists below and see if one of your favorites to love or hate made the cut.
And be sure to also check out the Best and Worst in Television 2022.
#1 - Everything Everywhere All at Once
Not just the best movie of the year but one of the best ever made. That’s right. The title isn’t hyperbole; this film isn’t just an everything bagel, it’s also baked to delicious perfection. An absurd, comical, tragic, beautifully heart-wrenching fairy tale about relationships, understanding, and the complexity of human connection told with a masterful assemblage of delicate interwoven storylines. It’s science-fiction at its best and the definitive multiverse story to date (looking at you, Doctor Strange).
#2 - The Woman King
It would be reductive to simply equate this with the likes of Gladiator and Braveheart, though the shared attributes and accolades are well-deserved. But this is truly its own story, told in its own way. From the impressive balance between hardcore warriorship and supportive sisterhood to the uniquely African obstacles that still translate universally, this film is a powerhouse of dramatic narrative wrapped in an endlessly engaging cloak of badassery and compelling characters. A true epic spearheaded by multiple Oscar-worthy performances, this is a film that should stand strong for the ages.
#3 - The Banshees of Inisherin
This dark comedy is an intriguing analogy of civil war, brilliantly portraying how such small and seemingly arbitrary choices can sow divides that may never heal. Colin Farrell proves yet again his ability to disappear into a character, while Brendan Gleeson masterfully balances humor, sympathy, and resolve for another of their stellar pairings. Watching their friendship dissolve into bloody animosity is as compelling as it is relevant.
#4 - Avatar: The Way of Water
James Cameron certainly took full advantage of the luxury of time to get his long-awaited sequel right. While certainly building on the back of its predecessor, The Way of Water carves its own path, keeping everything that worked originally and expanding it into new and interesting territories, literally and figuratively. Responding to some of the criticisms of the original, we spend more time developing both old and new characters and exploring themes with a subtler touch. The visuals are truly breathtaking (especially in 3D), but it’s the humanity explored with nary a human to be found that makes this a true beauty.
#5 - The Batman
After more than 80 years and countless incarnations, Matt Reeves manages to give us a depiction of the Dark Knight we’d yet to see fully realized in live-action. The noir thriller delivers a slow-burn throughout its achingly moody investigation, allowing audiences to see the World’s Greatest Detective actually detect, pitted against a worthy and relatable foe surrounded by some of the best versions of the Rogue’s Gallery thus far (minus that Joker cameo). As grounded as it’s ever been, you feel the grit in the characters as tangibly as any Gotham soot.
#6 - RRR
The saturation of praise for this Indian epic drew me to it, and while the three-hour runtime required choppy viewing, this lavish spectacle did not disappoint. A curious mix of superhuman action, historical commentary, tragic drama, and lighthearted farce (with a few Bollywood numbers thrown in), RRR somehow manages to keep the focus on the ever-complicated friendship between Ram and Bheem, two of the manliest, most unstoppable badasses ever to fall in brotherly love. And really, it’s their unabashed affection (something you’d never see as blatant in the West) mixed with their dogged determination to accomplish their missions with god-like prowess that makes this a challenge to audiences about the meaning of manhood. As grand as any Marvel movie and intimate as any corset drama, this may do for Indian cinema what Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did for the Chinese.
#7 - Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio
There are no less than three different adaptations of Pinocchio this year, but Guillermo Del Toro’s stop-motion masterpiece is the one with something new to say. Taking liberties with the original story while honoring its essence, GTD crafts an exploration of love and loss that is achingly poignant. Unafraid to put Geppetto’s anguish on full display or Pinocchio’s flippant disregard for death, we are provided with a journey through every facet of life alongside a heaping spoonful of good-vs-evil commentary. The animation is also some of the most intricate and detailed in quite a while, helping infuse with aged tale with a modern freshness.
#8 - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The sudden loss of Chadwick Boseman not only stunned the world but obviously drastically altered one of the most highly regarded franchises in cinema today. Turning tragedy into art is never easy, especially when trying to appeal to a billion cinema-goers around the world, but somehow Ryan Coogler managed to do just that. While it may not be as narratively streamlined as its predecessor, this sequel makes up ground with plenty of honest moments of grief and rage, and how those feelings can change the course of lives on both small and large scales. The balance of grandeur with intimacy is deftly handled, and the film ends up meeting the challenge of expectations while staying true to itself.
#9 - Goodnight, Oppy
This sweet, emotionally charged doco challenges the viewer not to fall in love with a pair of plucky rovers marooned on our far-off planetary neighbor. As effective as the film is in documenting the harrowing journey and ultimate end of these robotic adventurers, it takes equal care with their human creators and caretakers. The sincere bonds formed, sometimes across a generation, are developed with tact and grace. This is not just a well-told story about Herculean efforts to explore the unknown but about the human component that makes it all worth doing.
#10 - See How They Run
A delightful and hilarious twist on the old-school whodunit, this film delivers all the nuance of an Agatha Christie murder mystery with a fresh, comic twist. The period setting provides a familiar noir-sh backdrop, but the characters are decidedly modern without ever feeling anachronistic. Each actor knows their role in the ensemble, crafting an air of theatrical comradery between the actors. Vibrant, funny, and compelling til the end, it’s an underappreciated gem among this year’s jewels.
• Bullet Train
• Glass Onion
• The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
• Top Gun: Maverick
• Moonage Daydream
• Emily the Criminal
• Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
#1 - The Munsters
Couldn’t make it past 30 minutes of this bargain-basement adaptation. I’d call the acting, writing, cinematography, and directing amateurish, but that’s both too kind and an insult to aspiring filmmakers who could have done better with a cell phone and a high-school cast.
#2 - Blade of the 47 Ronin
A couple of interesting action beats can’t save this silly pseudo-sequel. The Reeves-led 47 Ronin was one of the worst/borderline-insulting adaptations ever produced, so why anyone would want to revisit that in a modern setting with bland actors (aside from Ana Akana doing her best with next to nothing) and an even sillier premise is beyond me.
#3 - Morbius
There are plenty of people decrying the oversaturation of comic book films, debating their artistry and dismissing their value, and it’s movies like Morbius that conspire to prove their point. A trainwreck from start to finish, it’s only saving grace might be to convince Sony to leave Marvel in the hands of Marvel.
#4 - Fistful of Vengeance
A vain attempt to continue a disappointing and seemingly cancelled series, this follow-up to Wu Assassins should have been left on the curb. The convoluted story is really just filler between action beats, with the characters seemingly every bit as lost as the actors playing them. Iko Uwais has the physical skills but lacks the presence or charm to lift this out of the D-movie bin.
#5 - Moonfall
Nothing about this movie makes sense. Seriously. And while that’s not always necessary for a popcorn disaster spectacle, if you don’t care whether the characters live or die, then all the pretty chaos in the world won’t keep butts in the seats. Do better, Halle. Do better.
#6 - Death on the Nile
Not half as clever it is purports to be, the film desperately tries to convince us we’re having fun when really it’s dead on arrival.
#7 - The Lost City
I really wanted to like this one. Radcliffe as a silly villain, Bullock back to her comedic roots, Pitt as a cool mercenary . . . But for a film trying to capture the magic of Romancing the Stone, it clearly has no clue WHY that film worked. Schlocky set pieces, convoluted plot points, and juvenile humor implode what could have been a fun little romp.
#8 - Blonde
While Ana de Armas is magnificent in the role, three hours of nonstop, abject misery and abuse does not make for an enjoyable viewing experience. While we feel for poor Norma Jean, this much dour nihilism is not a pill today’s audiences are ready to swallow.
#9 - Amsterdam
A meandering assemblage without a clear storyline, this collection of vignette’s can’t quite decide what it wants to be. The stellar cast (particularly Bale and Robbie) can’t elevate it out of the mire, and director Russell seems more interested in testing out interesting angles on beautiful people than telling a coherent story.
#10 - The Bubble
There are several genuinely funny moments here, but ultimately the satire gets lost in favor of the next low-hanging joke. The impressive cast seem to be the only ones truly having fun, as what really could have been a clever roasting of Hollywood ends up just burning itself.
Derek May, of San Antonio, TX, is Editor-in-Chief and occasional writer for Flapper Press. He has written nearly 50 movie reviews for movieweb.com and completed 13 original feature film and television screenplays, many of which have been winners or finalists in such prestigious competitions as the Walt Disney and Nicholl Fellowships, the Austin Film Festival, and the Creative World Awards. He served as a judge for 10 years for the Austin Film Festival and Texas Film Institute screenplay competitions. His latest project has been the highly acclaimed stop-motion animation fan series Highlander: Veritas, which released its second season in July 2022.