My Top 10 Films of 2022

Here they are, my favorite films of 2022! Overall, I watched 168 movies, my largest total to date thanks to a summer movie club and the benefit of no hard-and-fast deadline (and relevancy be damned!). As in the past few years, I’ve counted films that had an original theatrical or streaming release in the United States in 2022. In any other year, a fair amount of my honorable mentions could have made my top 10, a testament to the strength of the year (and from every corner of the world).

As always, we begin with…

Honorable Mentions (in Alphabetical Order):

Bad Axe


Decision to Leave (Heojil kyolshim)

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Great Freedom (Große Freiheit)

Master of Light


Playground (Un monde)

Return to Seoul (Retour à Séoul)

Saint Omer

10. One Fine Morning (Un beau matin)

What appears to be a slice-of-life trifle basking in Parisian sunlight has a deep thread of sadness running through it, occasionally threatening to block out that sun. Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest stars a tremendous Lea Séydoux as Sandra, a single mom learning to reconcile her responsibilities to her family with her own needs. Haunted by her husband’s death and the looming threat of her father’s dementia, Sandra is constantly fighting against a world that careens onward, one that seems hardly to acknowledge the inherent wrongness of its changes. But Hansen-Løve renders this world with a gentle touch, making Sandra’s struggles not melodramatic but part of life’s fabric. It’s as much about the prospects of an affair with a married man (laudable in its restraint) as the chance for Sandra to play make-believe for her nieces and nephews. Hansen-Løve knows sadness doesn’t preclude chances for renewal, however simple or profound they may be.

9. No Bears (Khers nist)

Jafar Panahi’s latest middle finger to the Iranian government is sly, surprisingly tense, and deeply satirical, entrenching itself in small-town politics but drawing parallels to the wider world. His fifth (!) film since his ban from making movies, Panahi returns to meta-mode here playing himself, this time taking refuge in an Iranian border village as he directs remotely in Turkey. But when he runs afoul of local authorities, his allegiances are tested. Each of his choices begins to take on new weight as seemingly innocuous meetings with village elders linger with threat and unseen forces appear to encroach. Even the film he’s ostensibly directing seems to question his intentions, with his own characters challenging him directly through the camera lens. Panahi is mercilessly self-reflexive here, judging himself and his own film’s revolutionary power when there is still so much work to do and no sure means of doing it.

8. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Perhaps best known for her political documentaries, Laura Poitras delivers a moving and thoroughly researched portrait of American photographer/activist Nan Goldin. At first glance, the approach appears to diverge along two separate paths: a photoplay of Goldin’s work and life (complete with narration from Goldin herself) and a modern-day thriller as she seeks to hold the wealthy Sackler family accountable for their role in the U.S. opioid crisis. But as photography and footage come together, we see how Goldin’s latest exploits are part and parcel of the same grueling war she’s waged her entire life. The doc lets us take in Goldin’s work, and like the indelible images she captured, it proves testament to the truth of injustice for those who would deny it. Few films can capture an artist’s vital works in addition to their political consciousness, but Poitras manages both here, feeding both artistic and social furor.

7. You Won’t Be Alone

I went into Goran Stolevski’s supernatural film fully convinced I was in for some pitiless folk horror. Instead, I was blessed with a Terrence Malick-inspired odyssey (complete with wistful, whispery voiceover) about a “wolf-eateress” (shapeshifter) through the best and worst of what humanity has to offer. Even in its limited pastoral scale, it feels expansive, and the cinematography is lush and intimate, as if holding life up for careful inspection. Its supernatural elements are so deftly deployed (I gasped aloud at the subtlety of the first transformation), always feeling organic to the historical reality of this world. As our shapeshifter dabbles in multiple forms (a mother, a young man, a young girl, and even a dog), she finds both joy and pain, with the latter giving her more profound appreciation of the former. By homing in on a particular time and place, Stolevski offers us an unobstructed view of community and our place within it.

6. The Banshees of Inisherin

Martin McDonagh’s long-gestating play becomes his best film since In Bruges, once again indebted to the charms of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson even while unlocking darker depths to their personas. Chronicling a deteriorating friendship between Farrell’s Pádraic and Gleeson’s Colm, McDonagh makes this relationship not a steady decline but a dynamic decay, replete with shocking violence and unexpected moments of grace. McDonagh’s dialogue crackles here, with characters constantly challenging one another, revealing how people fix themselves in flimsy but nonetheless inexorable identities. The cinematography from Ben Davis finds a vast, abyssal emptiness in the rural landscapes, and Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan round out the cast, granting us alternatives to the central relationship and carving out dramas of their own. As the film slouches toward its inevitable, bitter end, McDonagh and his collaborators seem to ask us: Has the darkness only now descended, or has it always been here?

5. Everything Everywhere All at Once

With its Looney Tunes-level hijinks and manic flights of fancy through alternate universes, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s sci-fi caper seemed unlikely to say anything meaningful, let alone win the Oscar for Best Picture. Indeed, even Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn shares our disorientation as she attempts to navigate (and access) multiple realities. But the real magic trick the film pulls off is grounding all its purposeful convolutions (martial arts montages, hot dog fingers, raccoon chefs, telepathic rocks, what have you) in incredibly accessible and unimpeachably human stakes. It’s not afraid to traffic in the absurd or the lowbrow, but no matter how ridiculous the proceedings, this is ultimately a story of a family in disarray and the hope that remains for them. And while reconciliations are had, they are hard won, the product of Evelyn accepting who she was, is, and can still be. It’s a triumphant portrait of self-discovery, family bonds, and philosophical dialectics, all infused with heart and humor.

4. Hit the Road (Jaddeh Khaki)

Being the second appearance of a Panahi on my list (Jafar’s son, Panah), this road movie delivers what seems to be a shaggy ramble until it unfurls its emotions and deepens its enigmas. By keeping the central reason of the road trip to the Turkish/Iranian border a secret, Panahi ensures the tensions derive not only from this situation but also a rich family history. He and his cast find ways for characters to express their affections for one another without saying it directly, using one another as proxies or obfuscating their feelings through parable and anecdotes (even a humorous conversation about the Batmobile comes up). These coded interactions also allow Panahi to establish the tension between the intimacy of this family and the invisible (but omnipresent) antagonists that spurred this road trip in the first place. And for a film that has its share of humor and even celebration, it doesn’t end in the expected place, proof that one can only keep reality at bay for so long.

3. The Eternal Daughter

It’s amazing to watch this film slowly reveal itself, emerging from heavy fog and dark woods. As filmmaker Julie Hart and her mother (both played by Tilda Swinton) revisit an old estate where the mother stayed when she was younger, they find themselves surrounded by increasingly ghostly presences. Eerie without verging into scary, Joanna Hogg’s latest is a Gothic drama, small in scale but heavy in import. It asks how we pay homage to our loved ones in our art, how we complete their picture when they’re gone, and what responsibility we have to the past (especially when it seems intent on gazing back and judging us for our trespass). But it’s also refreshingly honest about the way people transform when filtered through the neuroses of our minds, which plays splendidly into Swinton’s double casting.  Hogg has such clear intention while leaving many a tantalizing mystery still hovering about the ancient manor house.

2. Aftersun

Another reckoning with our parental remembrances, Charlotte Wells’ remarkable debut seeks answers gleaned from memories and our own souls in an exquisitely heartbreaking examination of the past. Recalling a brief vacation to a Turkish resort with her father, Sophie tries to piece together not only who her father was but what his demons were, with Paul Mescal’s father both adorably doting and mysteriously burdened. Even the smallest moments are afforded a tender kind of scrutiny, as if a closer look might grant Sophie an ultimate understanding in retrospect. If only she could pull that thread a little farther, the film seems to say, leaving her to surmise (or fabricate?) what she can never know. Wells gives us a swirl of memory, both real and imagined, a pinwheeling mental image in constant flux. Sophie may never gain catharsis in the process, but that doesn’t mean building memories isn’t worthwhile, even inevitable, when it involves the people we love.

1. Tár

The first film from Todd Field in 16 years represents an inevitable, precipitous downfall, with all the pieces laid out beautifully from the beginning. But although the fall may be inevitable, the craft is anything but expected, with surreal waking nightmares and scenes of haunting immediacy. Blanchett is titanic as Lydia Tár, the passion and performative nature of her composer/conductor all wrapped up in one self-destructive package, occasionally disassembling so we might steal a glance at the “real” Lydia. As things go south very quickly, Field supports the proceedings with key formal devices, adjusting shot lengths to establish Lydia’s new reality and even dabbling in mysticism as Lydia finds herself in stark places that dissolve into eerie dreamscapes. It’s gripping, incisive, and surprisingly funny, a film for our times that feels free to explore its own wavelengths, as uncompromising and brilliant as its eponymous luminary.

And there they are. A phenomenal year for film, my tardiness notwithstanding. Expect my 2023 lists in another lifetime hence…