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The Beat’s Best Movies of 2022

It’s been a long year of movies and from big blockbuster hits like Top Gun: Maverick to indie darlings like The Banshees of Inisherin, we’ve got more than enough reasons to go to the movie theaters. The Beat staff got together to bring you just some of our favorite movies of 2022. Whether they be quiet, thoughtful dramas or action adventures, these are the stories that captured our hearts this year.


Aftersun dir. Charlotte Wells

Aftersun

Sophie and Calum, a father and daughter, are spending a holiday at a Turkish resort. Director Charlotte Wells’ feature-length debut has a loose structure, which makes the unifying of its plot threads at its conclusion catch you off guard and hit you with an emotional haymaker. Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal, who play Sophie and Calum respectively, have great chemistry and are fantastically subtle in this story about parent-child relationships and the often-unseen uncertainness of young parents. — Aaron Halls

After Yang dir. Kogonada

After Yang

It feels like the year of Colin Farrell, but whereas Pádraic and Penguin are two dramatic characters on opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s Farrell’s more quiet performance as Jake in Kogonada‘s After Yangthat hits particularly hard. After losing Yang (Justin H. Min), their household android, Jake, his wife, and his daughter must live through the mourning period of losing a member of the family. Through trying to fix Yang, Jake sees the world through Yang’s eyes. Kogonada weaves a quiet, understated story full of emotion, in a world that is a sleek future that hasn’t completely lost its heart. Sci-fi stories about robots always have a sort of cold, callousness but After Yang captures the struggles of a family while also exploring the complex questions of life. — Therese Lacson

Avatar: The Way of Water dir. James Cameron

Avatar: The Way of Water

It’s hard to say at which point Avatar: The Way of Water went from “Oh this might not be too bad” to “I would kill someone to ride a real tulkun” but after years of production James Cameron has managed to prove his many, many doubters wrong with his second installment of the Avatar franchise. While it still is full of the heavy-handedness that the first Avatar had, returning back to Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri’s (Zoe Saldaña) life was actually full of new things to love. Particularly, Cameron introduces a family for Jake and Neytiri that offers depth to both of their characters.

Laughable lines like, “I see you,” hold stronger implications when spoken from a father to a son, and Cameron manages to walk the line between National Geographic documentary and Michael Bay-esque action sequences. Not everything is perfect about Way of Water, but at the end of the movie, if James Cameron had popped out from behind the screen and said he had another three hour sequel for me to watch right that minute, I’d run to the bathroom and settle down for more. — Therese Lacson

The Banshees of Inisherin dir. Martin McDonagh

Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin is the kind of break-up tale that is so common but so rarely portrayed on screen: the dissolution of a close friendship. Mining its comedy from life’s darkest trenches, The Banshees of Inisherin also finds its most profound melancholy in the banal. This adept combination of comedy and tragedy is reminiscent of A Serious Man from the Coen brothers, and it’s what makes Banshees sing. That, and the chemistry of its actors. Colin Farrell delivers one of the best performances this year, having perfected the art of awkward characters.

Farrell’s child-like vulnerability makes it hard not to take his “side” in the aforementioned breakup, but Brendan Gleeson’s turn as Colm gives us enough insight to understand that this is a man who is not OK and who needs to make a change with his life, however hard it might be for others to accept. Throw in Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan’s supporting performances, as well as a handful of the most affecting animal characters I’ve seen in years, and you have a powerhouse ensemble. — Hannah Lodge

The Batman dir. Matt Reeves

Credit: Warner Bros

I’ll be honest, it took the trailer showing Robert Pattinson as a moody, Nirvana-listening Batman to instantly win me over to Matt Reeves’ The Batman long before I ever saw the movie. But, thankfully, the hype was not misplaced. Reeves manages to fully capture the detective nature of Batman while giving us a new look at Bruce Wayne, one who isn’t the charismatic businessman and playboy, but instead a hermit with under-developed emotions and a desire for vengeance. It helps that not only is Reeves’ Gotham aptly gothic and rain-soaked, but his supporting cast is firing on all cylinders.

From the unrecognizable Colin Farrell as Penguin to Zoë Kravitz‘s sleek Selina Kyle to Andy Serkis delivering a strong and stern Alfred, nothing feels quite as exciting coming from DC as this film. Everything can be reworked with the DCU now that James Gunn and Peter Safran are at the helm, but let’s leave The Batman alone. (Yes, I know it’s not part of the DCU but can anything really be trustworthy when it comes to Warner Bros?) — Therese Lacson

Barbarian dir. Zach Cregger

Barbarian

Okay, it’s no Fabelmans or Tár, but there was something addictively thrilling about every twist and turn that played out with Zach Cregger‘s Barbarian. To go too in-depth with the plot would give away the best twists of the story, but suffice it to say that Georgina Campbell plays a young woman named Tess who comes to Detroit for a job interview. She ends up at an Airbnb that’s apparently been double booked with a man named Keith (Bill Skarsgård). The story jumps timelines, jumps around protagonists, and unravels at an unhinged pace toward the end of the movie, leaving you questioning who is the real villain of the story. With the shocking reveals and twists, Barbarian is an instant classic horror movie that was made to be watched in a group. — Therese Lacson

The Big 4 dir. Timo Tjahjanto

The Big 4

Fans of martial arts action movies have had a great selection of them as of late. One of the best in recent years is Indonesian director Timo Tjahhanto’s The Night Comes for Us, a dark and gritty action flick that features brutal choreography and an intense emotional core. His latest film, The Big 4, doubles down on this, but it pulls away from the darkness to lean more into comedy action. The story follows a group of vigilantes that are split apart by the death of their leader, a man who literally adopted each one of them and trained them in the art of killing bad people. The leader’s daughter insists on finding those responsible for her father’s death, which leads to a family reunion and a whole lot of creative violence.

The result is an immensely fun romp filled with fists, blood, laughs, and tears brought together by Tjahhanto’s now signature fight choreographies and focus on the dangerous things family bonds can be built on. The Big 4 bets on its extremely lovable characters to carry the story and it succeeds on multiple levels, among them a sniper called Jenngo (Arie Kriting) that treats his rifle Siska with the same love he has for his family (well, maybe a bit more). As far as action films go, The Big 4 is one that filmmakers would do well to borrow from. Best of all, things are left wide open for an explosive sequel. — Ricardo Serrano

Decision to Leave dir. Park Chan-wook

Decision to Leave

How has it been 6 years since Park Chan-wook last released a film? Needless to say, Decision to Leave did not disappoint. The basic thrust is that a detective (Park Hae-Il, who you might remember as the is he/isn’t he killer from Memories of Murder) is tasked with investigating the murder of a mountain climber, and the prime potential suspect (played by the mesmerizing Tang Wei) is the victim’s widow. They begin to fall for one another, and it goes in all kinds of twisty directions that I dare not spoil… but if you’ve seen a few Park movies, you know flipping a genre on its head is his MO.

And while Park has always been a bit indebted to thriller pioneers, specifically Hitchcock, this may be where that influence is most profoundly felt…which given this is the man who made Stoker, is really saying something. The entire time, with every new piece of information added, and the haunting vision of obsession creeping ever closer to the fore of our protagonist’s psyche, all I could think was “this is Park’s Vertigo”. In any other year, that would be more than enough to top my list, but it’s 2022 after all. — Kyle Pinion

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers dir. Akiva Schaffer

Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers

This is the Mulholland Drive of animated/live action hybrid films; the Pulp Fiction of Disney Afternoon; the Roger Rabbit of the ‘20s. Chip (John Mullaney) and Dale (Amdy Samberg) have had a falling out; their star power long faded, Dale has undergone “CGI surgery” to make himself more three-dimensional as he does the has-been convention circuit. A mystery – the disappearance of their cheese-loving buddy Monterey Jack – reunites them after 30 years and takes them on a journey into their own history, as all great Hollywood mysteries do. But the movie also looks at the fleeting nature of fame, the power of animation, and the grotesqueries of Ugly Sonic’s teeth.

A sharp meta-comedy that resurrects the cult cartoon – that was itself a reimagining of two mischievous chipmunks into rollicking adventurers – reveals that the wheel of dharma spins on, a universe of endless potential reimaginings. This movie won an Emmy for “Best Original Movie” – an award once reserved for the highest falutin’ of faluters back in the pre-streaming days of TV. Its critical and popular triumph is vindication for every latchkey millennial kid who watched cartoons. — Heidi MacDonald

Everything Everywhere All At Once dir. The Daniels

Image via A24

It would be quite simple for me to say that Everything Everywhere All at Once hit hard for me because I am also a Chinese-American who grew up with Chinese immigrant parents who suffered through money issues, marital problems, and the burden of running their own business. But beyond my own emotional connections to this familiar story, the magic of Everything Everywhere also lies in its pure wackiness.

From butt plugs to sausage fingers to talking rocks, The Daniels not only throw everything and the kitchen sink, but they toss the whole damn house at Everything Everywhere and how they managed to weave these stories together into something coherent and also deeply emotional is a testament to their skill in storytelling. Pair that with the superb acting chops of Michelle YeohKe Huy QuanJames Hong, and Stephanie Hsu and there is something over-the-top but irresistible about this sci-fi multiversal movie turned family drama. — Therese Lacson

The Fabelmans dir. Steven Spielberg

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical take on his own adolescence (along with regular collaborator Tony Kushner) is, on paper, the most indulgent thing imaginable. But when one takes into account that Spielberg is probably one of two, maybe three directors literally anyone off the street knows; the idea that he’d produce a dramatization of his family, upbringing, and burgeoning love of cinema makes all the sense in the world. After all, Spielberg is an IP unto himself. That The Fablemans is as good as it is, begets its own cinematic miracle. The latest from the master of populist cinema is easily his best film in 20 years and arguably sits comfortably in the top 5 of his work overall.

An instantly absorbing slice of cinephilia, Americana, and retroactive self-reflection. And it just gets more and more powerful as it goes – particularly as it settles into “Sammy Fableman’s” high school years and hearkens back to the kinds of coming-of-age stories that Spielberg and his contemporaries made their bread and butter on their way to building media empires. Two hours of pure joy, I nearly found myself welling up with tears of happiness…something that almost never happens to me. An essential piece of cinema, and one of the best things I’ve ever seen. — Kyle Pinion

Gangubai Kathiawadi dir. Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Gangubai Kathiawadi

An Indian crime drama loosely based on a true story, expertly shot and lit that it gives a new noir feel, and with a fantastic performance by Alia Bhatt in the title role. The story follows a small-town girl sold into sex work and rising through the ranks to control her destiny and the destinies of those around her is superbly delivered. Since its February cinematic release and April Netflix debut, Gangubai Kathiawadi has that key ingredient that, for me anyway, has made it my film of 2022 – it has been stuck in my head the whole year. — Dean Simons

How to Blow Up a Pipeline dir. Daniel Goldhaber

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

My first experience with the work of Daniel Goldhaber, but in the lead-up to TIFF where I happened to catch this, the buzz around his (and co-writers Ariela Barer and Jordan Sjol’s) adaptation of the academic work of the same name was palpable. Based on the word of mouth, I expected an enjoyable thriller, but I didn’t expect a literal 21st-century version of Sorcerer. Backed by a propulsive electronic score, Goldhaber and team tell the story of a group of young climate activists who, after connecting over the internet and other means, decide to strike against the oil industry by strapping explosives to a pipeline in rural Texas.

The film details their step-by-step plan and execution of the same, while at specific points, flashing back to each character’s past, how they found themselves at odds with the oil industry, and what brought them to take part in this larger group. At just a little over 100 minutes, it is a lean film and hits like an absolute freight train – not only in its larger political message of direct action and sabotage as the strongest means of creating change but also in its group composition.

These aren’t all left-leaning Twitter users, but instead, you have college-age activists, someone who has literally lost a family member due to the impact these industries have had on the environment, a Native American man who has grown disaffected with the passive nature of the efforts he’s taken part in to date, and even someone who might be seen as traditionally right-leaning joining the cause due to the encroachment of eminent domain. The filmmakers’ broader point is relatively simple, the environment and how its degradation impacts us isn’t a right or left issue, but a human one. And while there were a number of films shown during the festival that one could call progressive, this was the only time I walked away thinking “these guys are the real deal”. A movie with good politics not made by multi-millionaires, imagine that. I’m so delighted to hear Neon picked it up for distribution and it should be available for everyone to see and experience in 2023. Don’t miss this one, guys. — Kyle Pinion

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On dir. Dean Fleischer-Camp

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

With Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp take their successful viral webseries to the big screen to charming effect. Styled in a mockumentary format, the film follows Marcel, a small talking shell who lives with his grandmother, Connie. Heartfelt and cute are not the first qualities you think of in a movie distributed by A24, but here you’ll find a touching film with themes of the value of connection and community. — Aaron Halls

Neptune Frost dir. Saul Williams & Anisia Uzeyman

Neptune Frost

Poet Saul Williams and playwright Anisia Uzeyman have made a resistance movie, dystopian sci-fi musical, afro-futurist art, many things overlapping, a dream, Neptune Frost. A secret, magic place — Africa — is where a rebel coltan miner (Bertrand Ninteretse) stands to inspire the people, and an intersex hacker (Elvis Ngabo and Cheryl Isheja) plugs them into the power. This is their love story, but all lovers and spirits, workers and students, are drawn to it. Freedom.

Williams’ score blends a spoken word musicality with powerful Burundi rhythms and an industrial electro sound, aetherial gloss. Cedric Mizero’s costume design is a magnificent blend of concrete and base and fantastic and rarefied. Outfits that seem cyberpunk are traditional styles of the coltan miners, fashioned from the technological waste that their blood and labor powers. Yeah, this movie just popped the top of my brain and electrified what was inside. — Arpad Okay

The Northman dir. Robert Eggers

The Northman

When it comes to weirdness, Robert Eggers finds his place in weird historical settings that are full of Gothic aesthetics and unique bizarreness. His loose adaptation of Hamlet in the form of The Northman has all of those hallmarks. Eggers blends Norse mythology with blood, guts, and gore, centering the story around Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), who witnesses his father’s death at a young age and vows to avenge his father after escaping from his home. The Northman never shies away from the violence and brutality of Vikings, leaning completely into blood sacrifice and paganism. 

Claes Bang is his Claudius stand in with Nicole Kidman as his mother and Gertrude. Including characters like Anya Taylor-Joy‘s pseudo-Ophelia who acts more as his accomplice than a love-sick crush or Willem Dafoe‘s Yorick-turned-wise-fool, and you have a movie that deserves far more than it deserved when it came to financial success. — Therese Lacson

Pearl and X dir. Ti West

Pearl

The slasher genre is still desperately lacking in female slashers. Director Ti West, though, tried to rectify this with two slasher movies, X and Pearl, released in 2022. X, the first one to be released, is about a tight-knit group of people that rent out a cabin owned by a homicidal old couple to shoot a porno deep in Texas. Pearl, released later, is about the origins of the woman who lives in the house the porno filmmakers would eventually come to shoot their film in, an ambitious musical-loving farmgirl-turned-killer called Pearl (Mia Goth). West, who both directed and wrote the two films, created a new horror giant in Pearl, portrayed as an old woman in X and as the younger version of her in Pearl.

What elevated her into horror icon status, though, was Mia Goth’s stellar performance, which also saw her play main porno actress Maxine in X. Goth turned her face into a canvas for horror in both movies, exploring every inch of it, every crease and wrinkle, to give audiences an intimate portrayal of Pearl’s emotional state. Goth turned in a terrifying performance that earns her a spot among the very best in the slasher genre, and we still have the third part of the trilogy, MaXXXine, to look forward to in the near future. — Ricardo Serrano

Pinocchio dir. Guillermo del Toro & Mark Gustafson

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

Of the trinity of Pinocchio movies released in the same year, the stop-motion animated film is hands down miles above the rest. Granted it’s no competition, but master filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson along with a team of incredibly talented animators breathe new life into this adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s classic tale that’s simultaneously the biggest departure from, yet the truest in spirit, to the source material All of del Toro’s directorial themes and trademarks are all on full display— insect imagery, Catholicism, political commentary, casting Ron Perlman and so much more. Despite a few expected story beats inherent to any Pinocchio adaptation, del Toro still manages to pull a few surprises for the audience including me finding myself close to tears near the end. — Taimur Dar

Prey dir. Dan Trachtenberg

Prey

After numerous attempts to resuscitate the Predator franchise, I don’t think anyone could have expected that the key would be a back-to-basics story set in the early 18th-century Great Plains. As discussions of female action heroes return to the forefront, Prey’s Naru as played by Amber Midthunder offers a refreshing break from the problems and cliches that have plagued other projects and presents a multidimensional character. Moreover, it presents themes of race and gender roles without being heavy-handed or suffocating the audience with lessons. Praise must also go to the filmmakers for their commitment to accuracy in capturing the period on film as well as portraying the Comanche including releasing a full Comanche language dub. — Taimur Dar

RRR dir. S. S. Rajamouli

RRR

If you could craft a recipe for a movie I was destined to hate, two of the essential ingredients would be a) a musical and b) a 3-hour runtime. I’m as surprised as anyone, then, to find RRR in my top 10 films of the year. Set in the confines of an action saga, RRR feels like a precise blend between a historical epic, a vibrant musical, and a superhero film. In all of these areas, RRR excels by being immersive and magnificent; from the production design and raging score to the bright visuals and thrilling action sequences, RRR is probably the most gripping film I’ve seen that manages to hold onto the viewer for its entire runtime. Much like Everything Everywhere All at Once, RRR proves that you don’t need big-name intellectual property to build evocative and thrilling superhero films. — Hannah Lodge

Sissy dir. Hanna Barlow and Kane Senes

Sissy

Capturing the present moment in horror is quite an endeavor. It requires not falling victim to a regurgitation of sentiments and arguments we tend to hear or read on a daily basis. It also requires not spouting out blunt and simplistic criticism of the topic under question. In other words, it shouldn’t come off as the equivalent of an angry tweet. Hanna Barlow and Kane Senes succeed in jumping over these pitfalls, and then some, in their influencer horror movie Sissy, a movie about a mental health advocate who reluctantly reconnects with an old friend and an old bully.

The movie is anchored on the performance of Aisha Dee, who plays Emma (the titular Sissy). Her bottled-up anxiety and absolute fear of her real life being at odds with her social media image turn the horror both inwards and outwards, a balance of contradictions that make this movie feel genuine and urgent. It’s funny, bloody, and necessary. One of the cleverest horror movies of the year. — Ricardo Serrano

TÁR dir. Todd Field

Tar

The subject of cancel culture is so rife with landmines, it’s a surprise to see anyone tackle the topic at all, let alone see someone do it as effectively as Todd Field does here. In Tár, Cate Blanchett does what she does best, exuding power and dominance from an icily calm exterior in one of the most commanding performances of the year. The bluntness of her performance is fueled by the delicate and nuanced script from Field, who doesn’t come at the subject with a simple thesis. The film raises the straightforward questions of our age: Can you separate the art from the artist, for example? But Field is more interested in exploring the effects of shifting power dynamics, and how they interact with his characters, rather than providing a simple moral or guidance. — Hannah Lodge

Top Gun: Maverick, dir. Joseph Kosinski

Top Gun Maverick

I am generally pretty skeptical of legacy sequels, and when it comes to the Navy propaganda that goes hand in hand with Top Gun, I expected a fun romp but nothing serious walking into Top Gun: Maverick. And while I don’t put it at the top of my list for best movie of 2022, it’s hard to deny the magic that Joseph Kosinski weaves with Maverick.

Whether it’s the use of Val Kilmer in a pivotal scene with Tom Cruise‘s Maverick, or a well-placed beach montage, or a seemingly impossible mission that only gets more impossible when it goes wrong, there’s no denying that Top Gun: Maverick was one of the year’s best action movies. It proves that, yes, sometimes a dose of machismo and jet fuel can be a good thing. But, everything in moderation. I’m certainly not clamoring for the Top Gun Extended Universe. — Therese Lacson

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