The Ten Best Films Of 2022
A fine film year — and in an automated, social media short-attention span world these films about process, reflection, gray areas, ethics, justice and protocol really mattered
By Omar Moore
December 29, 2022
Well, 2022 was a fine film year — so many well-directed films during this Covid pandemic era emerged and made a mark. It was difficult to stick to ten films many of which had striking visual palettes, but somehow here, in reverse chronological order, is the list of ten films that were the very best and most resonant of 2022. In parentheses is the country the film was made and/or shot in, the film studio or company that released it, and the film’s director. The duration of every film is in italics.
10. WOMEN TALKING (USA; Orion/UA; Sarah Polley)
An evocative, real-time contemplation superbly adapted from Miriam Toews’s play by Sarah Polley, who also directs, “Women Talking” fascinated me with its methodical deliberation and dialogue. The drama shot impeccably by cinematographer Luc Montpellier centers on a group of women (a good cast that includes Judith Ivey and Rooney Mara) who have a dilemma as the risk of men attacking them violently increases. An urgent film that inspires better humanity and critical thinking. One hour 44 mins.
9. THE FABELMANS (USA; Universal; Steven Spielberg)
Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama is well-acted and thoroughly absorbing. Set over a 30-year period, “The Fabelmans” comprehensively depicts the trials and tribulations of a family in the western states of Arizona and California. This intimate film which tackles such serious and pervasive issues as anti-semitism, flies timewise and played so smoothly in a movie theater that your best bet is to experience it on the big screen rather than at home. A coming-of-age film about movies and the passion for making them. Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams and Paul Dano are all excellent as is Spielberg’s direction. Two hours 31 minutes.
8. THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (Ireland; Searchlight; Martin McDonagh)
Amidst the rustic and beatific splendor of Ireland lies a psychopathic and sadistic relationship between two men (played entertainingly by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell), lifelong friends in a small, close-knit town. Their banter comes from a rip-roaring razor-sharp screenplay by director Martin McDonagh, who crafts his best screenplay and film to date. Solid supporting performances from Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan and the remainder of the cast. Sumptuous cinematography by Ben Davis, production design by Mark Tildesley and Michael Standish and music score by Carter Burwell. Two hours 12 minutes.
7. ARGENTINA, 1985 (Argentina; Amazon; Santiago Mitre)
Based on actual trials of dictators and brutalizers in Argentina, Santiago Mitre’s riveting “Argentina, 1985” feels like a potent and suspenseful docudrama, toplined terrifically by Ricardo Darin as the lead prosecutor up against a near-impossible and daunting task. Featuring a crackling screenplay by Mitre and Mariano Llinas, “Argentina, 1985” is a procedural thriller and drama that keeps you on edge, percolating with the intrigue of a country riven with division over the politics of prosecuting a tortuous, bloodthirsty Argentinian junta that wreaked human havoc on a nation, to say the very least. Two hours 20 minutes.
6. THE WOMAN KING (USA/South Africa; Sony/TriStar; Gina Prince-Bythewood)
A film based on true events, “The Woman King” (see photo at top of this story) is a beautiful, galvanizing epic about the Agojie, an all-female fighting army in the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century who battle a rival group of male warriors who want to preserve the enslavement trade in Dahomey. Lush, vibrant and brilliantly directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood in her best filmmaking yet, “The Woman King” has one of the very best music scores of the year (Terence Blanchard) and the best ensemble cast of the year (Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim and John Boyega.) Two hours 15 minutes.
5. ONE FINE MORNING (UN BEAU MATIN) (France/Sony Classics; Mia Hansen-Love)
Un Beau Matin (“One Fine Morning”) is the latest and most layered entry by Mia Hansen-Love, whose drama about a Parisian single mother struggling with coming to terms with her father’s neurodegenerative condition while entangled with a married male friend is achingly adult and honest. Written tightly and precisely, Hansen-Love’s real life-like screenplay mines nuance, love, fear, parenting and aging, doing so masterfully. “One Fine Morning” sometimes feels like a fairy tale, but at its baseline is about how much saturation of emotion and roller-coaster feelings one can absorb. This was the most refreshingly adult film I saw all year. (French language with English subtitles.) One hour 52 minutes.
4. NOPE (USA; Universal; Jordan Peele)
A mysterious and wondrous cinematic experience that pushes the bounds of genre and definition, “Nope” was one of the best and expansive experiences I had in a movie theater this year. The ideas Jordan Peele introduces and the terrain he stages them on is bold, brilliant and sometimes perplexing. Best seen in Imax, this beautifully shot (cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema) atmospheric drama tackles American consumerism, celebrity, fame, the equine, sci-fi phenomena, filmmaking, the western frontier and Black cowboys, all in one fell swoop. Not only is “Nope”, which stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea, a finely tuned visual masterwork that keeps you guessing, it is Peele’s best and most original film so far. Two hours 18 minutes.
3. SAINT OMER (France; Neon; Alice Diop)
Saint Omer is the name of the courthouse where a trial for a woman who admits to killing her 15-month-old baby girl is held. The psychological and emotional tumult and competing narratives during testimony in open court forms the gestalt of this elegant and compelling film directed by Alice Diop. “Saint Omer” begins like a routine courtroom drama but ends differently, challenging perceptions, pre-conceived notions about guilt, innocence, reason and empathy. Diop gets fantastic acting from all of her cast, especially Guslagie Malanga, whose accused Laurence character is something of a Rorschach test for our own projections and feelings. Kayije Kagame plays a journalist covering the trial and experiencing her own personal conflicts and parallels. “Saint Omer” shows a woman’s fixed gaze speaks volumes and that things in life are hardly black and white. (French language with English subtitles.) Two hours three minutes.
2. NO BEARS (Iran; Kino Lorber; Jafar Panahi)
Filmmaker Jafar Panahi is presently in prison in his native Iran (he was arrested this summer), and he has often filmed his films in his country on the fly and in secret owing to the very strict line the non-secular Iran takes. The same is true of “No Bears”, which as is custom features the director playing himself in a fictional role, blurring the line between documentary and feature. “No Bears” chronicles Panahi navigating the customs of a village in Iran, being caught between two love stories, one forbidden the other fraught with tension, and at the center of a rumor that escalates. Watching “No Bears” is like walking a tightrope, and Panahi keeps the proceedings on a knife’s edge while coolly and effortlessly (seemingly at least) acting as himself so well and directing one of his best films. (Farsi language with English subtitles.) One hour 47 minutes.
1. TAR (USA/Germany; Focus Features/Universal; Todd Field)
TAR confounded and fascinated me every moment and every time I saw it in the theater (and that was seven times) and the feelings and obsession with Todd Field’s superbly crafted cinema hasn’t changed at all. Is Field’s film about the first female conductor at the Berlin Symphony Orchestra an optical illusion, an operation of Lydia Tar’s subconscious, the mechanics of an unseen character’s own story and unspoken feelings about Tar, or a dream of some kind? Furthermore, is Lydia Tar a real person? So many people who have seen this film scrambled to the internet to see if she is real. Cate Blanchett’s perfomance is real and the best of her career, as she plays an enigmatic character whose layers and complexities are that of any real-life human being. Key to this film are the things you hear or don’t hear, see or don’t see. Field’s screenplay is ingenious, as is Florian Hoffmeister’s camera work and Hildur Gudnadottir’s score. Nina Hoss is integral to the film as is Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Process is the name of the game, but whose film is this, and whose identity is it? I’ll stop there. So many questions, answers and gray areas. Simply put, you must see this film. (Occasional German language with a few English subtitles.) Two hours 38 minutes.
My feature-length audio commentary on TAR:
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order):
TOP GUN: MAVERICK
WHITNEY HOUSTON: I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY
EMILY THE CRIMINAL
BARDO: FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
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