The end of the year is here, meaning it’s now time to definitively celebrate the finest movies that made their way to the multiplex and the art house. Over the past twelve months, moviegoers have been gifted with a bounty of great blockbusters, indies and documentaries, proving that filmmakers are continuing to find new ways—both big and small—to entertain, excite, and enlighten. No matter their budgets, scale, or subject matter, each of our selections had something to offer the adventurous cinephile, be it shining a light on today’s hot-button issues, reinvigorating traditional genres, or illuminating facets of the infinitely complex human condition. They are, in short, our picks for the best films of 2022.
10. Blade Runer 2049
It took 35 years to get a sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic. Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up was worth the wait. Chock full of the same lush visuals, existential crises, and Harrison Ford scowls as the first, it rebirthed the magic of Scott’s original and pushed it forward into a new generation. It wasn’t perfect, but considering the myriad pitfalls that are possible in sci-fi, its mere existence is a downright miracle. Dreary dystopia never felt so good.
9. Thor Ragnarok
Of all the mini-franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Thormovies have always been the biggest wild-card. Some people love ‘em, some people find ‘em … well, meh. They were a necessary bridge to the outer reaches of the galaxy, but they didn’t always have the swagger of Iron Manor the gang’s-all-here appeal of the Captain Americafilms. Thor: Ragnarokproved the God of Thunder didn’t really need any of those things. Imbued with delightfully warm humor thanks to director Taika Waititi, and a surfeit of attitude thanks to Cate Blanchett’s Hela and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Ragnarokwas the most rocking Thoryet. Not everyhero loses his power when someone cuts off all his hair.
8. Wonder Women
First things first: Wonder Woman was a really good time at the movies. Gal Gadot could not be a better embodiment of Diana Prince and Patty Jenkins directed the hell out of the superheroine’s first theatrical feature. But what was really great about Wonder Woman as a phenomenon was just how big it all was. After years of female superheroes never getting their due on the big screen, scores of fans showed up to see one lasso the bad guys and save the world—hero shotand all. The film went on to earn more than $820 million at the worldwide box office, making it the highest-grossingsuperhero origin movie ever. It was a lot of money—and also a lot of proof that audiences wanted female-led comic book movies all along.
Bong Joon Ho’s Okjais many things at once: a rollicking kid’s fable about the bond between a young South Korean girl (An Seo-hyun) and her genetically enhanced super-pig (named Okja); a satiric critique of the corporate food industry; a wacko comedy about transcending cultural boundaries; and a fantastical adventure full of kidnappings and chases, buoyed by over-the-top performances from Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, and culminating with a Times Square spectacular and a Holocaust-esque trip to the slaughterhouse. Most of all, however, it’s the year’s most exhilaratingly idiosyncratic work, indebted to the spirit of both Steven Spielberg and Hayao Miyazaki, and energized by the distinctive signature of its director. Vacillating between mirthful, madcap and morose on a dime, Bong’s latest—about the heroine trying to reunite with Okja after the animal is reclaimed by the conglomerate that created her—is both all over the place and yet assuredly coherent. Whether viewed on a big screen or via Netflix (its exclusive distributor), it’s a wondrous whatsit unlike anything you’ve quite seen before.
6. Baby Driver
A music video trapped in a heist movie, everything about Edgar Wright’s latest was meant to get pulses racing. Car chases, whip-smart dialog, and the kind of soundtrack that’ll make you build a raft of new playlists, it was the perfect shake-off-the-blues summer movie. It even turned locker-door crush object Ansel Elgort into something of an action star as the movie’s titular steering wheel jockey. Baby Driveris, on the page, about a young kid trying to drive his way out of a mob debt, but really it’s about that perfect moment when life syncs up to the soundtrack in your head, or on your headphones. Apple couldn’t have paid for better product placement.
5. Lady Bird
With 2015’s Brooklyn, Saorsie Ronan rose to the top of her generation’s leading-lady pack; with Lady Bird, she reestablishes that illustrious position. In actress-turned-writer/director Greta Gerwig’s autobiographical coming-of-age drama, Ronan is Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a Catholic high school senior who longs to escape her stultifying lower-middle-class Sacramento environs for East Coast college life. Set in 2002, her story is one of romantic ups-and-downs—with both Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet playing romantic suitors—and familial tension, the latter felt in her strained relationship with her prickly mother (a phenomenal Laurie Metcalf). Narratively speaking, there’s nothing Earth-shattering here, but Gerwig’s script has a razor-sharp sense of time, place and the roiling emotional turmoil of its protagonist, whose attempts to carve out a mature identity are authentically messy. A sterling supporting cast (also featuring Tracy Letts and Lois Smith) further bolster this distinctly drawn tale, although it rests on the able shoulders of Ronan, whose fierce and funny embodiment of Lady Bird is downright irresistible.
4. The Big Sick
Funniest Rom-Comedy of the year. Story – Kumail is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father
3. Get Out
Written and directed by Jordan Peele, this suspenseful film works as both a horror movie and social satire as dark as anything Jonathan Swift or Joseph Heller wrote. The theme in American politics this year has been about attempts to silence dissenters by calling them liars, hindering their vote and telling them they can’t kneel during the national anthem. Get Outaddresses that theme in a frightening and memorable way.
2. The Post
The magic combination of Steven Spielberg and historical dramas pretty much never fails, and The Postis no exception. A tick-tock about the Washington Post‘s decision to publish stories based on the Pentagon Papers after the Nixon administration slapped The New York Timeswith an injunction for its own reporting on the documents, Spielberg’s movie could not feel more of-the-moment in the age of “fake news” accusations. Editorial decisions aren’t always the most adrenaline-producing scenarios, but thanks to strong performances from Meryl Streep as Postpublisher Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee it moves with a swiftness that never loses its rhythm. The news never seemed so real.
Christopher Nolan (Memento, Interstellar) is still playing with bending time to tell a story, this time recreating the improbable rescue of hundreds of thousands of trapped Allied soldiers by a fleet of brave civilians on private boats. The film never glorifies war, but rather details the savage desperation for survival contrasted with the demands of duty. However, despite its undeniable impact, the film disappoints a little in its decision to not include the many people of color who were also fighting at Dunkirk. By not showing the numerous soldiers from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and India, the film continues the tradition of marginalizing their significance in the war effort.