Jacob Hall's Top 10 Films Of 2022

2022: pretty rough year for humanity, pretty darn good year for film! I've yet to meet anyone who could survey the past 12 months and honestly claim they became better off because of them, but I have seen with my own two eyes that the movies were great. And maybe it was because the news headlines were bleak day-in and day-out, but I was pleasantly surprised that many of those great movies were pieces of pure entertainment, wide releases from major filmmakers that didn't just meet expectations, but surpassed them with grace and top-notch craft. When I sat down to assemble my top 10 list of 2022, I did not expect it to be so full of crowd-pleasing blockbusters, but anything else would've been a dishonest list. These were the movies I needed in 2022, and I'm glad they came into my life.

And before you ask: "Elvis," "Babylon," "Bones and All," and "Decision to Leave" were all tied for eleventh place. 

10. The Batman

The best superhero movie of 2022 is also one of the best superhero movies ever made. Director Matt Reeves' take on the Dark Knight is moody, darkly funny, drenched in noir, and unafraid to take its sweet time and luxuriate in its dark, weird, sprawling world. A lot of moviegoers wondered if we actually needed yet another Batman movie, but it turns out that the Caped Crusader remains the most adaptable of the costumed heroes, a character who is as complex and malleable as the variety of artists who fall under his spell. "The Batman" is terrific entertainment, but Reeves knows that the best Batman tales are really about the time in which they're told, and this a movie about suffocating in the space between untouchable, corrupt institutions and deranged, wrongheaded insurgents. No major 2022 release better captured the sheer panic of modern life quite like this one.

9. Barbarian

In a year that was dominated by a seemingly unending line-up of incredible horror movies ("Smile," "Deadstream," "The Black Phone" and many others were considered for this list), "Barbarian" proved to be the most pleasant and shocking surprise. The kind of horror movie that benefits from knowing as little as possible going in but also proves even more effective on a second viewing when you can see the pieces moving into place with such care that it's no wonder you were so taken aback the first time, Zach Cregger's darkly funny and brutal examination of safe spaces and the insidious underbelly of the American home is a delirious trip that is sure to discombobulate even the most seasoned horror fan. Freely rotating between gross-out nastiness, stomach-churning dread, and audience-pleasing wildness, "Barbarian" is the total package and the announcement of a new important name on the modern horror scene.

8. The Fabelmans

Hey, this Steven Spielberg fella makes pretty good movies, huh? For the first time, the greatest living filmmaker truly turns inward and the largely autobiographical "The Fabelmans" is a sweet, sad, and specific look at why artists create art, and how our personal baggage will forever sit on our shoulders — we just need to find a way to carry it. Although Spielberg can't help but make a rousing, funny, emotional movie full of characters we love and moments that make us cheer (those filmmaking sequences!), this is The Beard at his most introspective, crafting moments of such stunning specificity that they can't help but feel torn straight from reality. Spielberg brings the same attention to detail to his own childhood that he brings to his biggest blockbusters, and the results are like stepping into the skin of a stranger who also feels like someone you have known your entire life. Naturally, it culminates in the best ending of 2022, a sequence so sublime that it's impossible to not want to watch the movie again. Everything hurts, but would we create things that matter if it didn't?

7. Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

What if you took a legendary story about with an often-unacknowledged and sinister undertone of "conformity at all costs" and inverted it to be a tale of rebellion, individualism, and the power to change others rather than change yourself? Director Guillermo del Toro's mesmerizing take on "Pinocchio" is one of the most beautiful movies released in 2022, a stop-motion marvel that is never not incredible to look at. But its real power lies in the subversion of its material. By moving the story to 1930s Italy, the film positions itself squarely as an anti-fascist fable in an era when we need that more than ever, and tells the story of a puppet without the hindrance strings surrounded by men who are under the control their own brutal masters. It's the kind of head-slapping metaphor that makes you wonder why no one thought of it before in the countless other times this story has been told. Rarely has an old story felt so fresh, so new, so relevant, and so damn alive, and by the time the film redefines what it means for the title character to become a "real boy," you'll be weeping too hard to think straight.

6. Top Gun: Maverick

There's something to be said about a movie that is so effortlessly entertaining while being constructed with such craft and care. A decades-late sequel to "Top Gun" shouldn't be one of the best movies of the year, but here we are: "Top Gun: Maverick" is a bold, handsome, brilliantly entertaining reminder of what a Hollywood blockbuster can accomplish. It's a simple story told well. It's a cast of attractive, charismatic people creating characters we want to watch. It's action scenes choreographed and staged with such nerve that they demand to be seen on the big screen several times. "Maverick" isn't necessarily breaking new ground (and no one expects it to do that), but it's such a perfect example of what happens when a major motion picture is produced entirely by people who, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, actually give a s*** about their craft and their audience. I will watch this movie 50 more times.

5. Glass Onion

Since Rian Johnson's "Knives Out" arrived in 2019, I have watched the first Benoit Blanc mystery too many times to count. It has emerged as a comfort watch — a brilliantly told whodunit anchored by a delightful cast and Daniel Craig at his absolute best. The fact that all of that applies to "Glass Onion," a film that I like just as much as the first one, suggests that I will have the sequel on repeat for the foreseeable future, too. Johnson has found a formula that just plain works: a darkly comedic mystery carried on the shoulders of a brilliant rotating ensemble, anchored by Craig's increasingly entertaining Blanc, swirling around a core of social commentary that lends the frothy proceedings a vicious bite. Benoit Blanc, one of the great characters of 21st century cinema, is the southern fried moral crusader we need, and the fact that Rian Johnson is already working on a third film is the best kind of good news.

4. Nope

No one is making movies quite like Jordan Peele, who uses the horror genre to exorcises America's bleak soul. Like "Get Out" and "Us" before it, "Nope" is a razor-sharp satire that cuts deep, a cinematic attempt to remove the rotten flesh around a never-healing wound no one wants to talk about (in this case, the human capacity to embrace tragedy and pain as entertainment). But Peele isn't an arthouse filmmaker, even though he has the radical mind of one. He's here to entertain, so he explores these demons via a wildly entertaining sci-fi horror movie about a Black family who trains horses for the movies trying to get footage of the UFO that has been terrorizing their property. The results are terrifying and thrilling and reminiscent of the very best of Steven Spielberg, another filmmaker who can't help but crank out masterpieces that simultaneously please the crowd and spark the mind. Here is a filmmaker who speaks the language of cinema so fluently that you can just get lost in the many parts, which have no right to click together as well as they do.

3. RRR

There was no bigger, wilder surprise in 2022 than "RRR," director S.S. Rajamouli's three-hour action epic about the power of bromance in the face of colonialism. Playing like history reimagined as a lunatic comic book, the film's astonishing action and goofy humor is what gets you in the door — but it's the surprising earnestness that wins you over. This is a movie that's as outrageous as any "Fast and Furious" film, but it's built around an emotional core so sound that you can't help but fall in love with the characters, even as they're engaging in jaw-dropping action scenes that make most Hollywood movies look anemic in comparison. It's safe to say that you probably haven't seen anything quite like this movie before, and that when the fastest three hours in human history are over, you'll probably be annoyed that most films aren't "RRR."

2. The Banshees of Inisherin

Writer/director Martin McDonagh has been exploring the nearly invisible line between comedy and misery since "In Bruges," but "The Banshees of Inisherin" represents him at his most brutal and his most empathetic. Pitch-dark comedy and raw devastation intermingle in every moment of this endlessly watchable but undoubtedly painful exploration of a broken friendship, with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleason offering up the best work of their careers as two lifelong buddies who find themselves at odds and create chaos in their isolated Irish community. Filled with endlessly quotable lines, unforgettable acts of cruelty, and a sometimes unnerving understanding of every character no matter how dark their path gets, this is the kind of movie that asks you to stop wallowing in loneliness and self-loathing by laughing loud enough to stay afloat. Few films have better understood and reckoned with despair.

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

I was lucky enough to attend the world premiere of "Everything Everywhere All at Once" at the SXSW Film Festival, where I reviewed it and awarded it the first 10/10 I have ever given a movie in over a decade of working in this industry. I still stand by that review, even after multiple viewings, and feel that the latest film from the directing duo Daniels is the best American film in years. This is a masterpiece of kitchen sink filmmaking, of artists throwing everything at the screen and watching, miraculously, as the results feel as anarchically cohesive as an actual human soul. A blend of science fiction and action, of big ideas and low comedy, "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is the antidote to the modern landscape, a movie about how everything is a big, impossible mess, and the only solution is to be kind in the face of it all.