The Top 10 Films of 2022

It was a year of creativity and surprises at the cinema, but one movie took the throne early and held it all year long.


As a legendary Pirates broadcaster would say: We had ’em all the way.

I typically discover my favorite film of the year late, thanks to the surfeit of awards-bait offerings that hit theaters and streaming services when winter arrives. This year, however, one film so thoroughly distinguished itself early in the calendar that nothing could threaten it. My top pick among the 100-plus new movies I’ve seen in 2022 arrived, established itself as something special and marched straight through the competition.

In fact, my silver and bronze medalists have been fixed in place for nearly as long.

That doesn’t mean, however, that 2022 was a weak year in movies. Instead, I find myself reflecting on the number of pleasant, unexpected surprises that arrived this year — from blockbuster sequels that surpassed their predecessors to lingering works grown from the most humble of premises. As the movies change and evolve, there are undeniable growing pains (particularly for the still-beleaguered theatrical exhibition industry), but creativity always seems to win out.

Before I count down my favorites, though, a handful of honorable mentions, representative of this strong and varied year in film. All are very close to the Top 10, and might well have made it if I had taken a second look. I’d heartily recommend “Babylon,” “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” “Bones and All,” “Bros,” “Close,” “Elvis,” “The Fabelmans,” “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” “Mad God,” “The Menu,” “Nanny,” “The Northman,” “Prey,” “Turning Red” and “Women Talking.”

  1. “Living”

I thought that “Living,” starring Bill Nighy as a man with only a few months to live, would be another depressing drama to throw on the pile of nihilistic auteur cinema. Instead, it’s an affirmation of … well, living. Nighy gives an Oscar-caliber performance as his character chooses not to go quietly but instead follow his heart and whims as the clock runs out. The story in this soft remake of Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” is often subtle but ultimately powerful.
How to See It: Currently scheduled for a Pittsburgh premiere in late January.

  1. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Marvel’s films set in the mythical, aspirational nation of Wakanda are the franchise’s undisputable high-water mark, bearing both powerful storytelling and a singular artistic vision often missing from many comic-book properties. “Wakanda Forever” quite nearly achieves the level of its instant-classic predecessor by making the bold, unwavering choice to reflect honestly on grief and death as the audience mourns the loss of actor Chadwick Boseman and the characters cope with the loss of King T’Challa.
How to See It: Now playing in theaters.


  1. “Pearl”

This is certainly the first time that both a film and its sequel — read on — have appeared on my Top 10 list. Filmed simultaneously with the slasher masterpiece “X,” Ti West’s golden-age terror “Pearl” is one of the finest origin stories in horror history. Mia Goth gives one of the year’s best performances (she should be Oscar nominated, but the voters are quite literally too scared) as a country girl with dreams of stardom and a vicious violent streak; her climactic monologue is a master class in film acting.
How to See It: Available to rent via digital on-demand services.

  1. “Decision to Leave”

There’s a good old-fashioned mystery at the heart of Park Chan-Wook’s “Decision to Leave.” A wealthy man has died mysteriously, found at the bottom of a cliff; his wife is a suspect, but the detective on the case is falling for her. The film’s beauty, though, is in the way its loneliness and longing creep into you — a feat achieved as much through masterful command of setting and mood as any plot point. The Busan of “Decision to Leave” isn’t a happy place; you’ll wish you were there all the same.
How to See It: Available to rent via Apple TV+ or the streaming service MUBI.


  1. “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”

The most charming and relatable character of the year — of many years — is a seashell wearing bulky tennis shoes. Born out of a series of cutesy YouTube shorts, “Marcel the Shell” captured the whimsical comedy of its source material while finding a depth of emotion and poignance few viewers could’ve expected. It’s hilarious, yes, but it’s also the tearjerker of the year. (And they sell tiny models of Marcel, which I can personally say are an everyday mood booster.)
How to See It: Available to rent via digital on-demand services.

  1. “The Banshees of Inisherin”

What a collision: Some of the most gorgeous natural vistas in the world with an utterly bleak, ultimately hopeless story. Martin McDonagh’s virtuosic “Banshees of Inisherin” follows the violent demise of a friendship — from harsh words to mild dismemberment — on a remote Irish island. You’ll marvel at the breathtaking scenery as you consider the bleakest aspects of the human condition. It’s by no means a fun night at the cinema, but it’s absolutely worth your time, especially for the perfect performances from Colin Farrell, Kerry Condon and Brendan Gleeson.
How to See It: Now streaming on HBO Max.

  1. “Avatar: The Way of Water”

I walked into the long-delayed sequel to “Avatar” with nothing but trepidation. Three-plus hours with the big blue folks? Why would I want that? Once again defying expectations, James Cameron answered: Because “The Way of Water” is the most technologically marvelous experience in cinema history. Any narrative shortcomings are washed away by 3D visuals so advanced that the brain can’t help but forget that it’s watching a screen and not objective, fantastic reality. See this on a giant screen or don’t bother; it’s meant to be a marvel.
How to See It: Now playing in theaters.


  1. “Nope”

Jordan Peele doesn’t miss. “Get Out” has proven to be one of the best works of the century to date; his sophomore effort, the underrated “Us,” was a sneaky masterpiece. And the grand, spectacular “Nope,” at once a reflection on the ravages of Hollywood and a surprisingly potent adventure flick, is a visionary work that will only gain in esteem as viewers revisit it. In a year of stunning visuals, have we seen anything as haunting and memorable as … well, I suppose I still won’t spoil it. If you haven’t seen “Nope,” you’re missing a wild ride.
How to See It: Now streaming on Peacock.

  1. “X”

The best slasher film in years — decades, really — begins as a particularly fun example of the form. A gonzo film crew heads into deepest Texas to make a dirty movie, only to meet up with a particularly unsavory elderly couple (and a nearby alligator). Somewhere around the seemingly incongruous performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” however, it becomes clear that this film’s waters run deep; underneath the sex and violence, “X” is a story about age, anger and regret. No wonder the story expanded almost instantly with “Pearl” and is set to continue with another film coming next year; there’s an awful lot beneath the seedy surface of this farmhouse.
How to See It: Available on Blu-Ray and DVD and to stream for Showtime subscribers.


  1. “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

The title gets it right. What is contained within this multiverse-trotting adventure? Family, friendships, love, ambition, despair, loss, pain, marriage, parenthood, depression, joy, hope, hot-dog fingers and a raccoon gourmand. In a just world, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” would break the all-time Oscar record. Every aspect of the film, from its brilliant performances (Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis are sublime, and there are a dozen notable supporting players) to its every-detail-perfect production design are worthy of praise. Somehow, though, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is more than the sum of its parts — even though each individual part is perfect. There’s genuine magic in this movie, the kind rarely seen. It’s perfect.
How to See It: Available on Blu-Ray and DVD and to stream for Showtime subscribers.

Categories: Sean Collier’s Popcorn for Dinner