Looking Back: Alex's Top 10 Favorite Films of 2022 - Laundry & Taxes
by Alex Billington
January 16, 2023
"Of all the places I could be, I just want to be here with you." Another year, another Top 10. After watching over 400 films throughout 2022 (always logging everything on my Letterboxd) it's time to share my final selection of My Top 10 Favorite Films of 2022. I try to watch as much as I can and give myself time to catch up with any extra films at the end of the year, but my favorites can come from anytime in 2022. The one that stuck with me all the way through the year was Everything Everywhere All at Once - I really believe it's an all-timer, on the same level as The Matrix in terms of its technical innovation and dynamic storytelling. I went to see it four times in theaters and I knew that nothing would knock it off the top spot. A few of my other faves are from the many film festivals I attend all year. Whatever really grabs me, connects deeply with me, brings out the emotions, and impresses me visually is usually what I fall for above all else.
For the previous year's Top 10 of 2021 list, topped by Ben Sharrock's Limbo, click here (+ 2020 here). Also check out my selection of Favorite Movie Posters from 2022 featuring a look at some of the best movie art.
A few notes: this is a list of my favorite films, not the best films of the year, these are the ones that I love for my own reasons and I'll try to explain why with each one. As always, I wish I had so much more to time to watch/rewatch films, and see every last film that played in 2020, but that's impossible so this is just what I decided to run with. Also - my film selection is based on the date when I originally saw the film at a public event, including film festivals (Venice, Sundance) or public releases limited or otherwise. This is not based on only films released in 2022, but the ones I experienced in 2022, and is a good representation of the best cinema has given us, in my opinion. I'm always a bit shy to share these picks, but they really are films I love.
#1. Everything Everywhere All at Once directed by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Everything Everywhere All at Once is an irrefutable masterpiece. This is one of the best films of the entire decade - yes, seriously. Not a single flaw in it. There are at least 4 iconic fights in this (or more?!). No matter how many times I watch them I'm still in awe by how fantastic and fresh they are. The fanny pack fight rules. Her first "I know martial arts" breakout moment is exhilarating. The singing + riot shield fight is glorious. The butt plug battle is hilarious. And the "fighting with love" showdown at the end on the stairs is so beautiful. I especially enjoy how even the stunt team is part of the cast, showing up again and again in each fight. I could go on and on raving about every last detail in this film, everything about it is perfection. The entire cast is superb - Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, Stephanie Hsu as Joy, Ke Huy Quan as Waymond, James Hong as Gong Gong, and Jamie Lee Curtis as the crazy tax lady could all win Oscars and I'd be completely satisfied. It was an especially exhilarating experience watching this in theaters, every single time the audience was so caught up in it, and that made it even more endearing. EEAAO is THE film of the year.
#2. Decision to Leave directed by Park Chan-wook
It's the most adorable love story in a film in 2022! These two! They're meant for each other! I loveeeeeeeee this film so much. It's gorgeous. It's really wonderful to watch Park Chan-wook start to express his more sentimental side, even in the midst of a few brutal murders, this film is so sweet. Tang Wei and Park Hae-il giving two of my favorite performances of the year as two of my favorite characters of the year. "Am I so wicked?" "Am I such a pushover?" Ohhhh my. Watching it for my second time (at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival), I noticed ALL of their cute little glances and touches and moments and flirtations and everything between them. Sparks flying across stakeouts and police stations and interrogations. And it's still so sad in the second half because you just want him to figure it out and realize he loves her too before it's too late. All this just makes me heart race faster watching them try to reconnect! Hae-jun and Seo-rae, you two rascals. I absolutely adore this film and I am extra happy it's ending up on many other critics' Top 10 lists from 2022.
#3. Godland directed by Hlynur Pálmason
This phenomenal film from Iceland is a must watch in theaters on a big screen. Utterly sublime slow burn anti-religious / anti-colonialism filmmaking on a grand scale. Mesmerizing and captivating and fascinating. On top of everything else visual in this breathtaking film, there's a terrific score by composer Alex Zhang Hungtai that fits perfectly with the somber, grueling mood of the story. It is a tale of failed faith and one man's fall from grace, but it's also a saga about the glory of this planet, the extraordinarily special land that we get to live upon and travel upon. We must learn to respect it in order to not succumb to its harshness and indifference towards humanity. Even though it is a slow-paced, arduous film that not everyone will have the patience for, it is an unforgettable journey. Truly amazing filmmaking by Hlynur Pálmason, I'm looking forward to whatever he makes. It also has one of my favorite characters - Ida, played by the director's own daughter Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, who steals every scene she's in. And it has the best movie dog of 2022.
#4. TÁR directed by Todd Field
How did Todd Field unleash this work of cinematic art upon us after 16 years since his last film?! TÁR is brilliant, utterly brillaint. One of the best modern screenplays delicately covering how "both things are true" and diving deep into the endlessly debatable art vs artist discussion. Every scene can be analyzed for hours and hours. It's filled with layer upon layer upon layer of conversations; about who Lydia Tár is, what she represents, how her downfall is brought on by her own mistakes, how power corrupts, how artists let hubris ruin them. It's obvious to anyone who watches that Cate Blanchett is one of the best actors working today, and this towering performance deserves to win ever last acting award (just give her the Oscar). I absolutely think the Kubrick comparisons are spot on, every single frame of this film is meticulously crafted with every little detail in the background meaning something. Even after watching it a second time, I'm still trying to analyze every scene and figure out what Field is saying beyond the main story of her downfall. What a film.
#5. The Whale directed by Darren Aronofsky
I'm a sucker for Darren Aronofsky films, so it is no surprise this won me over. I was crying at the end, completely overwhelmed with emotions, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since the world premiere at the 2022 Venice Festival (here's my review). Everyone should be talking about Brendan Fraser and his monumental performance in this. I want him to win the Oscar. His emotion is so deep, so pure, so honest, that it's hard to even believe there's an actor hiding beneath all those prosthetics. I really hope that everyone who watches The Whale is moved by Fraser's performance, as this is the compassion and understanding he wants people to nurture from this story. The people who are rejected and shunned by society for looking or acting or being different are often those with the greatest sense of empathy for others. They have an ability to look deeper, to see what is really in someone's heart and soul, to judge them not by how they look on the outside but who they are within. This is a lesson we can all learn, and this film will take you on that journey.
#6. Athena directed by Romain Gavras
A spectacular film in every way. The opening is an all-timer, and the rest of it is nerve-wracking brilliance. I love a good revolutionary film and this is one of the best ever made – I'm not afraid to say it. It's the first time in a while watching a film that I think "I have no idea how the hell they shot this scene" I am just in awe. Were all those fireworks real?! How did they get everyone in sync for each take?! This has mindblowing cinematography, nonstop intensity, so much zeal & spirit baked into every frame. Netflix should've released it properly in theaters and given viewers time to go watch it and be blown away, but I'm glad it's available for everyone to watch any time they want. The vigorous pacing is so gripping it almost feels like a theme park ride, where your heart races until it's over, but in this case it's a 97 minute theme park ride with fire and smoke and special effects galore. All this is topped off by a riveting, powerful score by Gener8ion. The politics of it are debatable, though I admire the Greek tragedy structure – everything else is extraordinary.
#7. The Batman directed by Matt Reeves
In Reeves We Trust! I watched all three hours of this movie three times in the theater early in 2022. Even if the movie runs a bit long and could be tightened up in the third act, and even if it's the same kind of Batman story (Gotham's criminals vs this flawed vigilante) we've seen before in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, it's still a riveting and awesome cinematic experience. There are a number of sequences that I can watch over and over and still be in awe: Batman breaking out of the police station, the car chase with Penguin, the final fight on the catwalks in the Garden. This is full-on, epic blockbuster movie-making and I am all about it. Matt Reeves is a visual mastermind, he cares as much about the experience of watching the movie as he does making sure it's a great script telling a compelling story. Robert Pattinson is solid, figuring out his footing as the story plays out, as he's not supposed to be the most confident Batman yet. My favorite characters are Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman and Colin Farrell as Oz, who's probably the best villain in any of 2022's films.
#8. Close directed by Lukas Dhont
Perhaps the most "beautiful" film of 2022. Even with an aching heart, the beauty of it is still so profound. This premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival (here's my review) and will finally be opening in theaters in a few more weeks, though I still consider it a 2022 film. I've been waiting to get the album of the score by Valentin Hadjadj, as it might be my favorite moody score in any film last year. This was my Cannes pick for Palme d'Or, I still believe it should've won over Triangle of Sadness. It has stunning cinematography from DP Frank van den Eeden (I wrote in my review that "I just wanted to spend the rest of the day (or week) in this world, exploring the fields and forests of Belgium"), and remarkable performances from Leo and Rémi (Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele) along with the entire cast of kids and adults. The film tells a very emotional story that will reach deep into every last person that watches it, and I really hope it connects with audiences. I often find myself thinking about scenes of them running through the flower field.
#9. The Eight Mountains directed by Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch
How dare they make a film that tries to and successfully captures the indescribable grandiosity of life?! How dare they film such a gorgeous, ambitious story right up in the mountains and not on a set?! How dare they make such an unforgettably moving film about friendship and nature and the paths we take in life?! How dare they play with my heart like this?! The Eight Mountains is an extraordinarily humble, exceptionally profound, deeply touching story about two Italian friends who grew up in the mountains. It is such a distinct honor to follow them, to watch them grow up, argue, fall in love, experience life, build a home together, and find their place on this planet. I wanted to spend more time with Pietro. I wanted to keeping following his story, learn about what's next in his life. The use of Daniel Norgren's songs (and vocals) throughout this film is perhaps the most inspired & perfect use of existing tracks as a score in a film since the Sufjan Stevens songs in Call Me By Your Name. Listening to these tracks while writing this final recap is causing me to get all emotional again, the same that happens when I listen to the songs of CMBYN. I love this film so much.
#10. The Menu directed by Mark Mylod
Instant favorite, as outstanding as I was hoped, as commentary about the idiocy of snobby, wealthy society today. I'm so happy more and more people are watching and enjoying this film. Yes, it's totally my kind of script, right up my alley so to say. But it also delivered, in every sense, the kind of meal I was hoping for and ended in just the right way. Sometimes we all must sit and have a meal together and be told we're actually the asshole. And I very much appreciate how it's a delicious takedown of fancy food culture - obsessing over micro-crap this and that, and tiny portions of whatever is fancy and expensive (but not entirely satisfying), while not really realizing food is about having a satisfying, tasty, wholesome meal. The satisfaction one can get from watching a film that carefully and intelligently tears down, tears open, and skewers rich people is incomparable. Mark Mylod's The Menu is a sly, extra sharp satire that isn't afraid of offering dry-aged humor in addition to spicy commentary. I'm happy to return for another meal at Chef Slowik's Hawthorne.
BONUS! Good Night Oppy directed by Ryan White
I watched this space exploration documentary twice in a row back-to-back in the fall, and it was a magical experience both times. One of the best movies in years that completely inspires anyone to explore what's out in space and travel into space. It's a rejuvenating cinematic experience, not just a another talking heads doc, something else entirely. The reason that Good Night Oppy is so extremely watchable is because it's such an entrancing, visually engaging documentary that beautifully dips into so many wholesome stories of all the people who worked on making something extraordinary happen. It may even change some lives if the right person watches it at just the right age. It's also an exciting reminder humans are still doing incredible things at NASA, even if we always don't know it, they're working hard to make the next amazing discovery. We should all take this passion to heart, and recognize that we can achieve anything we want - no matter how impossible it seems. The right minds, with the right attitude, can take us farther than we've ever been.
More Favorites - Runner Ups: Mimi Cave's Fresh, George Miller's Three Thousand Years of Longing, Brett Morgen's Moonage Daydream, Jalmari Helander's Sisu, B.J. Novak's Vengeance, Dan Trachtenberg's Prey, Sara Dosa's Fire of Love, S.S. Rajamouli's RRR, Zach Cregger's Barbarian, and Saim Sadiq's Joyland.
I could discuss all of my favorites endlessly, so if you ever want to chat about cinema, just ask me something about any of them. You can always find all of my ratings and additional thoughts on every film I watched in 2022 on my Letterboxd profile. There were a few important films I did not get the chance to watch last year due to time constraints, as usual, but I still try to catch as many films as possible that critics rave about. I am always watching new work throughout the year, craving unforgettable experiences - films that connect deeply. If you have extra questions or thoughts about my Top 10 picks, please get in touch: @firstshowing. Now let's continue assuredly onward into 2023 with hopes of discovering many more unforgettable movies.
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