The Top 10 Movies of 2022 (and the worst)

As a member of both the Critics’ Choice Awards and the San Diego Film Critics Society, I am required to vote on the best movies and performances of the year. Last week when I was talking with a few critic friends of mine, they were complaining it was a weak year for movies. I remember during Covid, when hardly any movies were being released, I still had enough to compile a Top 10 of the year. It’s funny how people always like to say about movie critics: “They don’t like anything” – and yet each year I have 10 movies I loved. Most critics love movies, we just get tired of cliches, tropes, or five Marvel movies a year. I’m a bit tougher than some of the other critics, who seem to be dazzled by all the artsy movies that are almost always overrated. This year, that list would include: “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “The Whale,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “TAR,” “Avatar,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and “Nope.” All of which I was really looking forward to, had some great scenes, but were ultimately disappointing. I’ll get to the movies that really disappointed me in a bit, but how about the movies that thrilled me? My list of the year’s best. 

10. THIRTEEN LIVES. I’m still amazed that the kid who played Opie and Richie Cunningham, has become such a great filmmaker. It helps that he got Joel Edgerton (from my favorite movie of 2008 – “The Square”), Viggo Mortensen (from my favorite movie of 2018 – “Green Book”), and hey…Colin Farrell who isn’t chopped liver (his performance in “The Banshees of Inisherin” is good, the movie just let me down).

9. SPIRITED. I get so burned out on Christmas movies (and not just because I’m Jewish). They’re usually cheesy. This Ryan Reynolds/Will Ferrell take on Scrooge, with Octavia Spencer and lots of singing, warms your heart. And makes you laugh your a** off!

8. EMPIRE OF LIGHT. Two local film festivals showed this movie that has another incredible performance from Olivia Colman, who is Britain’s answer to Meryl Streep. It’s a love letter to cinema, and does that better than the much more heralded Fabelmans

7. VENGEANCE. B.J. Novak went from “The Office” to writing, directing, and starring in this incredible, low-key comedy. Ashton Kutcher has an interesting role, and there’s a fun John Mayer cameo that starts the movie brilliantly. It’s a shame this didn’t get more attention, because it’s terrific. I guarantee you no other critic will put it on their Top 10 list. 

6. THE OUTFIT. It’s funny to think that Sylvester Stallone’s less talented brother Frank, was so upset that German actor Mark Rylance won the Oscar (“Bridge of Spies”) over Sly (“Creed”). I’m guessing even Frank will love his performance in this, as well as in “Bones and All.”

5. ON THE COUNT OF THREE. I was watching SNL when Jerrod Carmichael came out of the closet. I didn’t even know who he was, but he wrote and starred in this, with J.B. Smoove and Tiffany Haddish who both play against type, wonderfully. After my review, Henry Winkler (who has a small role), sent me a note saying I was a great critic and “the real deal.” The friggin Fonz gave me a compliment! But that’s not why this dark comedy about suicide is on my list.

4. CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH. I’m not a fan of Dakota Johnson, and her character is sometimes hard to take in this. From the younger writer/director Cooper Raiff, who gave us a great movie “S#!% House” a few years ago. I hope he gives us these touching comedies every few years. They’re wonderful.

3. EMILY THE CRIMINAL. Aubrey Plaza plays against type, struggling to pay her bills, and going into a life of credit card crime. It’s one of those smaller pictures about criminals I end up loving (like the Safdie brothers movie “Good Time” five years ago).

2. CAUSEWAY. Jennifer Lawrence plays a war veteran dealing with PTSD who becomes friends with a mechanic played by Brian Tyree Henry. Two amazing performances, in a gentle, touching character study.

1. THE SURVIVOR. With a great cast that includes Danny DeVito, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Magnussen, and John Leguizamo…it’s the lead role played by one of the best actors working today – Ben Foster. It’s a true story of a boxer (who once fought Rocky Marciano), who when locked up by the Nazis, was forced to fight other Jews to the death. Directing legend Barry Levinson gave us this gem. Bring the Kleenex. 

Honorable mentions go to: “The Good Nurse” (another true story), “Bones and All” (another great Mark Rylance performance), “Death on the Nile” (a murder mystery that was better than “Glass Onion”), “Spoiler Alert” (a sad comedy), and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” (it’s always nice when you can put Nicolas Cage on a “best of” instead of “worst of” list).

Unfortunately, it’s an awful lot easier to come up with the worst movies of the year. I won’t waste your time telling you what they’re about. I had to waste two hours of my life for each movie watching them, and another hour coming up with reviews. The last thing I want to do is devote more time to these disappointments.

10. THE 355. It was one of the first movies I reviewed of 2022. Four very talented women, playing assassins, in a crappy movie. I wish they would have attacked the screenwriter.

9. GASOLINE ALLEY. Great Rod Stewart album, horrible movie. Luke Wilson and Bruce Willis, in one of many bad films he did for a paycheck, before retiring with his disorder. I feel bad he has that, but worse that he and his management team decided to get quick paychecks subjecting audiences to garbage like this.

8. PURSUIT. Emile Hirsch and John Cusack in a film about a hacker and a drug cartel, and lots of shooting.

7. PANAMA. A great Van Halen song, a horrible movie. The description of the movie above, is about the same as this (side note: why do we still accept Mel Gibson doing movies?).

6. BOB’S BURGERS MOVIE. I laughed a total of two and a half times, but then, I’m not a fan of the TV show either.

5. MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON. I’m a huge Jenny Slate fan, but this character she does, just didn’t work on the big screen (despite all the critics praising this film).

4. THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Taika Waititi is a big talent. I loved “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” and “What We Do in the Shadows,” both made my Top 10 lists in the years they came out. He tried too hard for the laughs with this, and it didn’t work.

3. BODIES BODIES BODIES. It was Bad, Bad, Bad. People being murdered at a party. And Pete Davidson; enough said.

2. THE FABELMANS. It’s weird putting this on the list, since most critics are putting it on their “best of” lists. Only a handful of scenes worked for me, and I expect more from Spielberg.

1. WHITE NOISE. I would have rather sat listening to white noise than watching this movie. The cast is solid, and writer/director Noah Baumbach has done two movies that have made my “best of” lists in the past (“Marriage Story” and “The Squid and the Whale”). 

Dishonorable mentions go to: Sundown, Moonfall, Pursuit, Infinite Storm, The Devil You Know, Babylon, and Bullet Train (the only thing I liked about that is, again, Brian Tyree Henry).

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