Published on January 10th, 2023 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Top 10 Films of 2022
We’re doing 2022’s Best of Film coverage differently this year; instead of a large panel of friends and critics, Craig Silliphant gives us his top 10 movies of 2022.
In past years, we assembled a crack team of movie-loving friends, industry people, and professional critics to each talk about their best and worst movies of that year. It was always a blast to see what people loved and hated but it was also a lot of work to compile. But we’ve decided to just do a more straightforward Top 10 (actually, a Top 26) as there were a number of great movies in 2022 worth looking at more closely.
And of course, our usual disclaimer about not all movies having appeared in our neck of the woods still applies, so I may not have seen something that could blow my doors off. There are also a few movies like Babylon or Empire of Light that are playing but we haven’t had a chance to get to. But as someone in the office noted, “You have to make the cut off somewhere if you want to get it out in January, because 2022 movies will still be trickling in well into 2023.” Good point.
Here’s Movie Geek Craig Silliphant’s Top 10 movies of 2022! (Followed by a link to #11 to #26).
10 – Vortex
French provocateur Gaspar Noé’s Climax is one of the best films of the 21st century, as far as I’m concerned. Vortex, his follow up, is a different kind of Noé movie. Instead of focusing on insane visuals and pointy-sticked storytelling, the visceral horror here is about human aging. The film follows an elderly couple — the wife is stricken with dementia. Noé is still forcing us to look at something uncomfortable, but it’s infinitely more relatable than what he’s usually concerned with. I would definitely not call this, “a good time at the movies.” But it’s doing what cinema should be doing — immersing you fully in a world so you care about the people that inhabit it. Making you think about things bigger than yourself. Making you feel something. So, it’s no fun, but it’s necessary. Here’s my full review of Vortex.
9 – Everything Everywhere All At Once
One of the biggest success stories of the year, the little movie that could. I say ‘little movie,’ but it was maximalist fare with everything but the kitchen sink jammed into it. Actually, I’m pretty sure I saw the kitchen sink flying around in there too. While it’s not perfect (it’s a little long and you sometimes do get lost in the murk), it’s pretty amazing. Plenty of laughs, lots of heart, and surprises around every corner. It was the real multiverse of madness this year.
Michelle Yeoh? More like Micheal Yeah! Jamie Lee Curtis has a small but important role that she absolutely crushes. And it’s awesome seeing Ke Huy Quan again! Here’s my full review.
8 – The Quiet Girl
Props to my man, Hank Cruise (as well as British critic Mark Kermode) for turning me onto this one. It’s a little Irish film about a 9-year old girl who is sent away from her family to live with a distant cousin. I saw several movies that I would call ‘humanist’ this year and this one that packed a wallop. While it’s a pretty minimal and straightforward story, it creeps in on you and you fall in love with the humanity of its characters. And by the end, in a way that is well-earned and not manipulative, you find yourself trying to hide the fact that you’re bawling your goddamn eyes out.
7 – Holy Spider
A stunning film from Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi (who is also directing two episodes of The Last of Us for HBO) about a journalist in the holy city of Mashhad. She is investigating a serial killer called ‘The Spider’ who claims to be ridding the streets of sinners by killing sex workers. The real terror set in for me when I realized it was based on a true story. The first half of the movie reminded me of a Michael Mann film like Manhunter (or perhaps Fincher’s Zodiac). The second half sort of spins into Law & Order territory (in a good way).
Holy Spider has been controversial because of its jarring violence in certain scenes, some going as far as calling it exploitive. I won’t say that it’s not exploitive — anything like this could rightly be called such. However, the film has a strong message about the misogyny in that place and time, especially when many of the community rallied behind the actual killer, both in the film and in real life. I’d argue that sanitizing these shocking acts would take away some of their power to bring us to rage over these crimes and the attitudes that followed. The violence may not be necessary to get that point across, but it definitely makes viewer sit through something that real women went through. And the end is downright bone-chilling.
6 – Tár
Cate Blanchett hands in a career-making performance (somewhere in the middle of a career full of excellent performances), playing a controversial conductor whose hubris is bringing her downfall. It works at its own pace, which is a nice way of saying it’s over 2 and a half hours and doesn’t mind taking its time getting where it’s going. While one could argue that the same story could be told in less than two hours, the film does a good job of enveloping you in its world. Very little feels superfluous.
It has things to say about cancel culture and white male canons of art, but it doesn’t try to shove an opinion down your throat either way. In a world where both sides of the political spectrum around identity politics and other topics want to view everything as black and white, Tár shows us the grey area in between, where real people live. It’s never too on-the-nose — in fact, sometimes you’re piecing things together when it doesn’t show you all its cards. After watching it, I recognized how brilliant it was, but I also felt like it was holding me at a distance. However, the movie kept rolling around in my head after, nagging at me, making me want to see it again now that I know where the story goes, to revel in some of its sumptuous design and character details. So, I’d say that’s a win.
5 – Aftersun
This A24 release about a daughter remembering a vacation she took with her father is so low key that I honestly kept expecting the other shoe to drop, for it to explode into violence or something. That doesn’t happen and that expectation was more on me than the film itself. It’s always engaging, but sometimes it feels like not much is happening. By the end, it’s clear that so many things are happening, bubbling below the surface, both for the characters and for the film itself. It all comes together to paint a lovely, but melancholy portrait of not only that father/daughter relationship, but also some of the struggles we carry with us — and the pain we see others carrying in quiet desperation. Another real humanist masterpiece for 2022.
4 – Top Gun: Maverick
It ain’t all about art films and pretention. Sometimes it’s Tom Cruise, fighter jets, and box office. I’m an unapologetic fan of the 1986 movie (I mean, I was in grade 6 when it came out, so I was right in the pocket). Sure, Maverick feels like a Force Awakens reboot/sequel that hits all the same beats as the first movie. But it’s big, fun escapism that takes you to a state of mind where you don’t have to think about pandemics and inflation and even real wars. Tom Cruise wins the year as the man who almost made us forget about his weird cult, thinking of him instead as the aging dog fighter who’s just trying to save the movies. This was a good time at the movies. Here’s my full review.
3 – The Batman
Most of the films on this list are here on their filmmaking merit. While this is an exceptionally well-made film, it is only ranking high because it’s my most personal entry on the list. Like many, I have been a fan of The Batman since I was a kid, so you could just keep making new Batman movies every year as far as I’m concerned (well, as long as Joel Schumaker stays the hell away from Gotham). I will not grow fatigued, which I can’t say about a lot of other superhero franchises.
Is this the best Batman movie? No. However, it felt to me like the Batman film that was most like reading a several-issue arc of the comic book. It’s one of the only three-hour movies I’ve seen recently that I felt justified its length, though your mileage may vary depending on how much you love living in the world of The Dark Knight Detective. Here’s my full Bat-review.
2 – Triangle of Sadness
Reuben Östlund is easily one of the most unique filmmakers out there right now, in a class with the best that international film has to offer. Triangle of Sadness starts out with a fashion model and his influencer girlfriend joining a cruise for the ultra-rich and from there it gets bonkers. Not everything works, but it takes so many fun twists and turns while it skewers class and rolls around in Östlund’s trademark socially awkward paradigms. Woody Harrelson is well-cast as the drunken captain of the ship. Triangle of Sadness won the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year. (2017’s The Square also won the top Cannes award and his hilarious masterpiece, Force Majeure, took home the jury prize at the Un Certain Regard sidebar). Probably not for everyone, but if you’re into this kind of thing, you’ll go bananas for it.
1 – The Whale
Several reoccurring themes on this list collide with The Whale; it’s an extremely humanist film but it’s also courted controversy. While I liked early Darren Aronofsky films, he hasn’t done much for me since maybe The Wrestler in 2008. While many people criticized his visceral approach with The Whale, I think that like Gaspar Noé this year, it was toned down by quite a bit compared to his previous work. It’s as subtle as you’re going to get from him, anyway.
Brandan Fraser plays a 600-pound man who doesn’t leave his apartment (in fact, this film was adapted from a play and it feels like it. It’s claustrophobic; even the aspect ratio is 4:3). He teaches an online course but leaves his camera off so his students can’t see him. He tries to reconnect with a daughter who hates him. You’ve heard the accolades for Fraser already — but I say, just bring a dump truck of Oscars and leave them on his lawn. His performance is powerful, optimistic, and heartbreaking.
Now, I want to be careful here, but let’s explore the controversies. There’s been debate about Fraser putting on a 300-pound fat suit, with detractors saying that an obese man should be playing the role.
Look, I’m perfectly happy to admit that I’m not sure I know enough to agree or disagree. But in terms of the fat suit, I see a lot of that black and white thinking again. Representation is important, but I’m not sure it applies here. I agree, for example, that a bunch of gay roles shouldn’t go to straight actors while the gay actors languish in obscurity and gay people end up watching the screen and not feeling represented in a movie about their own lives. But this isn’t the same situation. Fraser isn’t a svelt Eddie Murphy crammed into a Norbit costume. It’s hard to argue that they should have cast a 600-pound actor in the role. I don’t think it would have been responsible to do so in regards to that person’s health and well-being (I also wonder if they’d be insurable).
If your response is, “Well, then they just shouldn’t make the movie at all,” the only thing I can say is — politics and opinion should never dictate what art can be created. First of all, censorship is a very dangerous path. But more so, a story like this is at the heart of all art; it creates that education, awareness, and all-important empathy that we need to understand our world, to understand each other, to understand ourselves.
Some detractors are saying that the film is purposely reveling in disgust — that it’s Aronofsky saying, “Look! This man is disgusting! Look upon him and despair!”
I can’t tell someone how to interpret or feel about a film, but I can say that they saw a different film than I did (I wonder how many detractors actually saw the film?). What I saw was a brilliantly empathetic look at another human being in distress. I saw the opposite of the exploitation that some claim is on display. I was rocked to the core, emotionally. In fact, I can overlook some of the small flaws of the film because it did such a good job of pulling me in and putting me through an emotional wringer — while still bringing me out the other side believing in the beauty of our humanity.
Ultimately, if someone thinks it’s disgusting and that we shouldn’t be subjected to it, then I think that says more about them than it does the film itself. (“What’s in there?” Luke asked Yoda in Empire Strikes Back. Yoda replied, “Only what you take with you.”)
I’m putting this at number one, but admittedly, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it in a month or two. Will its power diminish after subsequent watches and I see more of its flaws? I think there are plenty of reasonable reasons to not like this film without clawing away at the sanctity of art. Maybe you don’t respond to the claustrophobia. Maybe you’ll think it’s maudlin (it is). My wife thought it was too miserabilist. Again, it is, but I think you need that depth of sadness to let the film’s optimism fully spread its wings. Reasonable people can still disagree about things without calling for the art to be burnt on a pyre.
So, it’s a controversial film and we’ll see if I’m still proud to hang it on my number one spot in six months. But today, I can say without hesitation that it was the most emotional time I spent at the movies this year. Where I walked out feeling like I had seen into the soul of humanity. And in a year with more than one movie that moved my cynical Gen X heart to tears, this one had the most boxes of kleenax needed to sop up the mess. And I hope that Fraser is well-rewarded at awards time.
But wait — there’s more!
There are a number of other great movies I saw this year, but I didn’t want to overwhelm this top 10. So you can read #11 to #26 here! Thanks for reading and I hope you saw lots of great movies this year, whether they’re on this list or not.
You can also read Richard Gary’s yearly list of DIY horror movies here. He eschews the idea of ‘best’ and ‘worst,’ so he just calls it his ‘favourites’ and ‘not favourites.’
And you can read one of our many music experts, Dave Scaddan, write about his Top 20 albums of 2022 here.