2022 saw audiences slowly but surely venturing back out to theaters worldwide, giving the movie industry a much needed bounce back after the covid pandemic shut things down the prior two years. Q4 titles like Avatar: The Way of Water and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever continue to score at the box office into the new year but it was Top Gun: Maverick that soared above all others in terms of ticket sales. I watched 200 new releases last year; these are my 10 favorites:
- Everything Everywhere All At Once (streaming on Showtime and available to buy)
This bizarre and brilliant tale of a mother and daughter struggling to reconnect through parallel universes evokes Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness by way of Kung Fu Hustle. Director duo The Daniels expand on the manic style they showcased previously with Swiss Army Man and deliver something comparatively more ambitious and emotionally rewarding. Michelle Yeoh is outstanding but it’s Ke Huy Quan, returning to the acting spotlight after an extended absence, who steals the show.
- Fire Of Love (streaming on Disney+)
A documentary about two French scientists researching volcanoes may not spark initial interest but this is much more than just your average NatGeo doc. Volcanologist couple Katia and Maurice Krafft spent their lives getting up close and personal with volcanic activity and acquired awe-inspiring footage in the process. Miranda July’s alluring voiceover narration and Nicolas Godin’s accompanying music score make this a sublime ode to humankind’s ceaseless curiosity.
- After Yang (streaming on Showtime and available to rent/buy)
Kogonada’s follow-up to his Indiana-set debut Columbus is another meditative and restorative story about how to move on when a family member suffers a life-threatening setback. Colin Farrell stars as a father seeking to repair his daughter’s robotic companion and grappling with existential quandaries along the way. This is small-scale science fiction brewed with notes of pensive understanding; think A.I. Artificial Intelligence by way of Tokyo Story.
- Turning Red (streaming on Disney+ and available to buy)
Pixar concludes their unintentional trilogy of direct-to-Disney+ films with another inspired and charming coming-of-age fable. Rosalie Chiang voices a thirteen-year-old girl who, one day, begins to suddenly transform into a red panda when she gets overwhelmed. Inspired by the magical masterworks of Hayao Miyazaki, director Domee Shi explores the pangs of puberty with whip-smart humor and visual verve.
- Flux Gourmet (streaming on Shudder and available to rent/buy)
Writer/director Peter Strickland continues his streak of singular and strange films that blend absurdist comedy with giallo fascinations. Following an art collective that derives psychedelic soundscapes from food preparation, this is a razor-sharp satire about when keeping it avant-garde goes wrong. A running joke from Game Of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie about how to properly use flanger effects pedals made me feel seen more than any other movie moment last year.
- Glass Onion (streaming on Netflix)
It’s no enviable task to follow up a whodunnit as cunning and clever as Knives Out but writer/director Rian Johnson not only delivered a sequel at the level of its predecessor but perhaps even higher. Daniel Craig returns as cajun-seasoned detective Benoit Blanc, whose new case involves a murder during a private island party thrown by a tech billionaire. Trying to stay ahead of the film’s myriad twists and turns turned out to be one of the film year’s biggest delights.
- Hit The Road (streaming on Showtime and available to rent/buy)
Iranian writer/director Panah Panahi’s first feature has the assuredness and wisdom of a seasoned storyteller. Telling the seemingly simple story of a mother and father transporting their oldest son across country lines with their youngest in tow, this is a road trip movie that beautifully depicts unshakable familial bonds. Impeccable camerawork and stunning location work make this a journey well worth taking.
- Ambulance (streaming on Amazon Prime and available to rent/buy)
Michael Bay fires up his fleet of drone cameras and unexpectedly dispatches the year’s most exhilarating action spectacle. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II star as step brothers-turned-bank robbers who hijack an ambulance and hold two first responders hostage in process. 15 movies into his career, Bay channels genre greats like Michael Mann and Tony Sony to rustle up his high-octane masterpiece.
- The Banshees Of Inisherin (streaming on HBO Max and available to rent/buy)
After Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, writer/director Martin McDonagh delivers another sharply-penned tragicomedy about a small community shaken by two people seemingly past the point of reconciliation. In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunite as a pair of longtime friends whose relationship is abruptly threatened. McDonagh has written brilliant scripts before but thanks to lush cinematography off the coast of Ireland, this is also his most visually captivating film so far as well.
- Tár (streaming on Peacock and available to rent/buy)
Todd Field’s psychological drama about a revered conductor attempting to overcome a personal scandal was the most complete and engrossing cinematic experience I had last year. Cate Blanchett has given plenty of excellent performances in the past but her work here is the finest of her laudable career. Like the titular force in Citizen Kane, Lydia Tár is a towering figure whose tale of unraveling is filled with such vivid detail that we can’t help but be drawn in upon first watch and inevitable rewatches.
Reprinted by permission of Whatzup