Top Ten Movies of 2022

David Dylan Thomas
10 min readFeb 5, 2023

This year really surprised me. It started out seeming un-promising but very quickly delivered some of my favorite movies of all time.

10. The Banshees of Inisherin

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson sit at a bar in The Banshees of Inisherin

This would not normally be up my alley. I mean, I like Martin McDonagh’s work but I don’t exactly love it and I certainly don’t it to be funny. I mean, humorous, sure, but not LOL. But this one really is.

I mean, it’s a certian type of humor, but almost every other line and reaction to a line is fucking. hilarious. Granted, it still retains that very grim worldview that we’ve come to expect from his previous work — In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in particular—but this film gives us what I feel is his most tonally balanced effort.

Tremendous performances by Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan bring it all home.

9. Tár

Cate Blanchett conducts an orchestra in the film Tar.

Cate Blanchett deservedly gets awards buzz for yet another amazing performance in this incisive, troubling character study from Little Children writer/director Todd Field. I often wonder what would happen if Paul Schrader made a movie about a woman, and this feels like it. His films are often dissections of problematic men and the women in them are often idealized (subjectively viewed through their skewed protagonists’ eyes) so it’s refreshing (?) to see this same complex lens applied to a woman protagonist. What the film captures particularly well is the subtle but unmistakable ways people in power abuse that power, but also the self-destructive nature of that abuse.

8. The Fabelmans

It would be weird if a semi-autobiographical film from my favorite director didn’t make this list, but I had my doubts. He’s let me down before. But here Spielberg makes what I think could be one of his best films, certainly of his latter day career. Dealing with adult themes sometimes infantilized in his earlier work (while he still manages to subtly reference that work Easter egg-styel) he really grapples with notions of intimacy and the role the camera plays in both betraying and conveying privacy. And, in true Spielbergian fashion, he does it primarily visually. I still maintain that he’s the best living visual storyteller and this is no exception.

7. Prey

Amber Midthunder takes on an offscreen adversary in Prey

My favorite form of genre, especially now, is genre that both subverts some of the more problematic qualities of its genre, while still being an excellent example of that genre. Prey is a horror/action/thriller that subverts the notions of who gets to be a hero (in this case, an Indigenous woman in the 1700’s Great Plains) and the relationship between colonists and the targets of their oppression while also delivering the best Predator movie since the original (and in some ways correcting for the mysogyny of the original — I mean, there’s like literally one woman in the whole thing and a lot of her job is to be saved—which is not to say the original doesn’t do a lot of interesting work to subvert images of masculinity…you know what, we’re getting off track). Point is, Prey offers us one of the best action heroes in recent memory (and a pretty awesome canine companion) while mixing up the pattern for who gets to win.

6. Till

Close up of Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till-Bradley at a train station in Till.

Movies about Black history are often fraught with trauma, which is often the point—especially in an age where knowledge of that trauma is legislatively forbidden—but it’s important that that story not be traumatizing in and of itself. Which is a long-winded way of saying that the visual choices that director Chinonye Chukwu makes in her retelling of the story of Emmett Till, a boy who was murdered for whistling at a white woman in 1955 Mississippi and the efforts of his mother, Mamie Till-Bradley, to get justice are just as important as the choices Mamie herself makes in how to manipulate the press as a political tool to get that justice.

There’s a moment in the film where one of Mamie’s relatives feels she cannot look at the body of Emmett at a very deliberately open-casket funeral and Mamie says “we have to look”. And that’s the point of a lot of these films. It is not to re-traumatize but to allow for a witnessing.

Here the craft is in not showing the actual violence that led to Emmett’s mutilated body, but to show what Mamie showed, which is the body itself and, more importantly, the impact on the survivors or, as modern gun violence parlance might put it, co-victims.

It is also an important lesson in when to stop listening. There’s a moment where the woman Emmett whistled at is giving her own testimony meant to justify his brutal murder and Mamie, and the film by proxy, simply gets up and leaves. There’s an element of self care at work here that goes unnoticed in most activist cinema.

And on top of all of this we’re gifted by a truly unforgettable performance by Daneille Deadwyler in the lead and yes I am truly pissed she did not get nominated for Best Actress because holy shit does she deliver an Oscar-worthy performance.

5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The new Black Panther in a new Black Panther costume stands on a beach in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

There is another kind of Black cinema that we don’t see often but I think is critical to modern conversations about race, and that is speculative Black cinema. Here, Afrofuturism (with a healthy does of realpolitik) is on full display, but in service of telling stories about grief, a necessary component in the self-care described above.

But Wakanda Forever also folds in something new (at least in the cinema that I’ve seen) Indigeno-futurism. We see, in the society of Talokan, another society hidden from the world in reaction to the violence against Indigenous bodies, bodies now made more resilient and impenetrable to that violence as a result. And a rebuke to the idea of the Indigenous body as inferior. All of which to say it’s legit fun to watch yet another movie where Indigenous folk kick colonizer ass (more on that in a minute).

The trick that Wakanda Forever has to pull off is almost impossible. Not only does it have to be a sequel to one of the most successful (not just financially or critically but, imho, politically) films of all time, it has to do so without its beating heart and soul. Chadwick Boseman’s absence permeates the film, and that is why it works. It leans into that loss, making it a story of grief, one that the whole cast and crew was experincing and processing in the act of telling that story. But the story of Black grief is one that needs to be told. And the story of Black women coming together in the absence of Black men, often (although not in this case) removed violently from their community and leading (not to mention demonstrating their capacity to lead long before the men were removed in the first place) is a criminally undertold story, especially in genre cinema.

And there are any number of other great uses of imagery and theme to be unpacked (see this fantastic piece on the use of water in the film) but this piece is too long already.

4. RRR

Ram Charan and Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao Jr. in a dance number from RRR.

This film came, for me, out of nowhere. I’m just sitting there, minding my own business, and then Patrick Willem drops this video and it’s like “you need to go see this movie you’ve never heard of”. And then I hear it’s coming to one of my local theaters for a one-night only engagement and my friends are all like “no you need to see this in a theater RIGHT NOW!” And then I got and it’s like…during the intermission (cos that’s a thing here) someone shouts “THERE’S SO MUCH MOVIE IN THIS MOVIE!!!” and I’m like, yeah, that’s the best way to sum up this movie. And, at the end, after almost four hours, I’m like “IS THAT ALL!?!? I WANT MORE RRR!!!”

Yeah. It’s like that.

Imagine packing every action film you’ve ever seen and about half of all musicals and then throw in a shit-ton of anti-colonialism and you’ve just about got RRR. It is an indescribably big, loud, expressive, ridiculous experience that as much as (and frankly a whole lot more) Top Gun: Maverick proves that there is still a unique place for watching film in a theater with other fanatics.

Watch it streaming if you must, but if you can (and some places are still showing it once a month) see it in a theater with people who know.

And yeah, it’s worth noting that no fewer than five movies this year have major scenes of Indigenous folks absolutely kicking colonizer ass. RRR, Prey, Wakanda Forever, Avatar: The Way of Water, and The Woman King. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many movies depict that in one year (or two or three) and rather than write a whole think piece about it I’m just gonna say: About goddamn time.

3. Women Talking

Jessie Buckley and Judith Ivey look offscreen while sitting in a barn in Women Talking.

There are two kinds of movies I like in particular. Ones where a whole lot of action happens and it’s awesome and inventive. And ones where people sit around and talk and it’s awesome and inventive. This is the latter.

With an extremely high stakes premise for a conversation—a group of Mennonite women have to decide how to proceed in the face of ongoing sexual abuse of themselves and their children at the hands of men in their community before said men get back into town—the premise alone could make for gripping cinema, but the conversation that proceeds envelopes not only many different (and some unexpected) perspectives, but sheds and almost inevitable light on conversations we’re having today about sexual assault and the very nature of men and women sharing a society at all.

All of this buoyed by incredible dialogue and truly remarkable performances from Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, and Ben Whishaw, under the exceptional direction of Sarah Polley this becomes one of my favorite people sitting around talking movies of all time.

Oh, and not for nothing, but the way in which this film was made, with consideration for the fact that people had families and responsibilities and needs that meant shooting endless days for weeks on end was not gonna work (or, more to the point, was not gonna be tolerated the way it often is on largely male-oriented sets), is another point in its favor.

2. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Ed Norton stands in the foreground on a beach looking perplexed at something offscreen while Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, and Dave Bautista look on in the background in a scene from Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

I love when a movie can really capture the spirit of its time. And the nature of the mystery at the heart of this story (I won’t give it away) is a perfect summation of the illusions and selfishness that generate a lot of what makes us unhappy today. All in a way that allows for the fun and creativity that makes what I can now refer to as “these Knives Out mysteries” so much fun (a quality shared by its spiritual sister series Poker Face).

So I will let you discover what this onion has to reveal on your own, and then encourage you to do a rewatch, because it really rewards that. And all the usual kudos around wonderful casting (Janelle Monáe and Ed Norton are in particularly rare form) and scripting and direction.

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Michelle Yeoh stands in front of Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan defending them from some offscreen threat in Everything Everywhere All at Once

This is, quite simply, one of the best films ever made. I can point you to countless YouTube video essays as to why, but I can tell you what resonates with me in particular.

This is, as with Prey, both a subversion of genre (in this case action and particularly martial arts cinema) as well as an excellent example of it. Without giving too much away, the final “battle” uses martial arts techniques in a way that is truly unprecedented to make a completely different point about what an action film, or action scene, could be. And in a way that ties directly into the theme of the film, which is a hopeful one. A hope, though, that does not in any way dismiss the uncertainty or overwhleming-ness of the times in which we live.

It is also a relentlessly creative film. It will draw inspiration from whereever and make you feel about things that you should not be able to feel about, like rocks. Two rocks will make you cry. Just wait.

It also has SOMETHING TO SAY in a way that even some of my favorite films aren’t quite able to articulate. And it is a deep thing about hope and namely underestimating hope’s role in a complex world that will give you lots to talk about in a way that, again, action cinema is not quite always able to achieve.

It is also tremendous fun. It is also about cinema itself (with some wonderful cinematic shout-outs — my favorite being one to Wong Kar-wai). It is also made with an impertinent level of resourcefulness at the very heart of independent cinema. It is also full of career best and/or career making performances from the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It is also a wonderful rebuke to modern anti-Asian sentiment centering an Asian-American family in a prominent, complex depiction.

Yeah, there’s a lot of reasons it’s one of the best films ever made. And the number one on my list this year.

Honorable Mentions: Barbarian, Bad Axe, Turning Red, The Menu, The Woman King

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David Dylan Thomas

Big fan of treating people like people. Author, Design for Cognitive Bias. Founder, CEO, David Dylan Thomas, LLC. Speaker, Lots of Places.