Movies & TV / Columns

Stew’s Top 50 First Time Watches In 2022 (#30-21)

January 25, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Beverly Hills Cop Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

My sincere apologies to the 411Mania audience out there; for whatever reason, I wrote this and completely forgot to submit it, so #20-11 actually came out BEFORE this part of the list. That’s all on me! Hopefully you can still find it in your heart to forgive me and continue on from here!

We are back to running down the best 50 films I saw for the first time ever in 2022, and this is where things go from Very Good to Great, as we officially cross over from the 3.5 star movies to the 4 stars. Let’s see what they are!

30. Evil Dead

Prior to 2022, I’d seen Army of Darkness innumerable times. I had seen Evil Dead II at least, say, 4 or 5 times. I’d even seen the 2013 Evil Dead twice. But I’d never seen the original! Weird!

I rectified that by seeing Raimi’s surprise hit twice in the calendar year, so obviously I was a fan. For me, it’s clearly better than the 2013 outing, but also certainly inferior to either of its 80’s/90’s follow-ups. You can see the talent at work, but it’s just not quite… “there” yet, you know? The humorous aspects that would be become a staple of the franchise feel more accidental here. It has all the pieces, but they aren’t quite put together.

Even with that, it’s a really great low-budget horror flick for its era. Super inventive and not afraid to shock or gross out its viewers. Thank goodness it caught on so Raimi and Campbell could keep growing as stars!

29. Krampus

A lot better than I was expecting, Krampus starts off giving us a slew of stereotypical caricatures gathering together at Christmas, all for things to start going horribly wrong. And then we get a real Christmas miracle: the characters all become empathetic and act like genuine human beings. They outgrow their initial molds and every interaction they have feels earned.

The monsters–Krampus’ minions–are fantastic, and the story blends some early humor with late terror brilliantly. It’s a movie that just so subtly shifts as you watch it, and I appreciate that. I’m a big fan of Adam Scott and Toni Collette, too.

28. The Wedding Singer

This feels too high, but 2022 was the year I rediscovered how fun rom-coms can be, and the climactic airplane sequence brought me such joy, I really bumped this one up a little higher than it probably deserved. But hey, it left me smiling, which is all you can ask for.

I’m typically not a big Sandler guy. I watched Happy Gilmore for the first time this year and really found it lacking. Aside from The Wedding Singer, the only Sandler movie I rate highly is The Waterboy, which is this weird perfect Sandler storm for me that slays me from beginning to end.

Nothing about The Wedding Singer is as funny as Waterboy. It’s more heartfelt, sure, but the story is predictable as all get out. But aren’t most rom-coms? And that only bothers me if the arc is particularly insipid (Oh my god, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days) or the actors don’t feel invested. Luckily, the tale here is fun, and Sandler and Barrymore give it their all.

27. Palm Springs

How To Woo Stew With A Movie.

Step One: Make A Time Loop Movie.

That’s it. That’s the only step.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a time loop flick I didn’t at least borderline love. Groundhog Day is a nearly perfect movie. Happy Death Day is one of my 25 favorites ever. Edge Of Tomorrow is one of the few science fiction films I dig. Boss Level was absurdly fun.

This year I got around to Andy Samburg’s effort at one of my favorite genres, and SURPRISE! I loved it. It seriously feels like each of these movies does something a little bit different that latches on to me. Palm Springs, for instance, takes the concept and applies it to multiple characters who are all stuck in the loop, and we see the closeness and resentments that come from that. We also experience a much more grounded human element to what this would be like. You see what being in such an occurrence would actually do to someone when they aren’t evading a killer or saving the world or being Bill Murray.

26. Conspiracy

I had never ever heard of this one until a podcast buddy on Twitter recommended it to me. It’s a portrayal–based on actual transcripts that were found–of the meeting of top Nazi officers and government officials that led to the implementation of The Holocaust. Chilling stuff.

Here’s the frightful thing about Conspiracy: there are essentially “good” and “bad” Nazis at this meeting, and the movie kind of lulls you into cheering for the Nazis who DON’T want to just systemically eradicate the entire Jewish population of Europe. They just want to, you know, enslave them and take all of their shit. AND YET, in the face of what they are opposing, those are the heroes (such as it were) of Conspiracy. It makes you feel dirty, but also despondent because… you know, the Holocaust side won out.

This is just… People At A Table Talking: The Movie. But the acting and the tension built by director Frank Pierson make it gripping!

25. Crazy Rich Asians

Haha, at some point, I don’t even feel bad about all of the rom-coms I saw this year and enjoyed. Just embrace it! I’m a sap. Crazy Rich Asians is even less of a rom-com than it is a modern day fairy tale. A good-hearted young woman is swooped up by a rich heir and given the life every girl dreams of, even though there are minor obstacles between them and their love.

What worked for CRA was the cast. Stars like Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Constance Wu, Awkwafina, and more just put this ages-old story on their shoulders and carry it for its runtime. There is a lot going on, too, with Gemma Chan’s character’s arc being particularly notable amongst all the goings-on.

The resolution really worked for me, too, with Wu and Yeoh’s powerful confrontation over a game of Man-Jongg. So it’s flashy, charming, funny, and deeper than it should have been. Winner!

24. A Christmas Horror Story

Rom-coms and Christmas Horror, the latter of which you also see an inordinate number of on my Top Thirty New Releases list. This is basically Trick R Treat but for Christmas. It’s an anthology series about several disparate, but loosely connected thread lines in a small town called Bailey Downs. As with all anthology series, the problem is that some stories are inherently better than others. So, at times, just when you are getting into something, the story shifts to an aspect you care less about.

This is no different. The neat aspect is that each story is a different kind of horror. There’s a jump scare horror, a subtle, creeping terror story, a zombie arc, and monster tale. The jump scare one wasn’t really for me, and it felt like they spent a lot of time there. But I did like the others!

Oh, and this has a really superb ending I did not see coming, even though there are some clues sprinkled throughout.

23. Changing Lanes

Ah, here we go, this is something different! I distinctly recall this looking good to me way back in the early 2000’s when it came out, but I never got around to see it until this year. I had actually kind of forgotten it until I came across it looking for something good to watch.

The story here is of two men on separate paths in life until a minor fender bender forces them to meet. Neither man is really a bad person, but Affleck kind of acts like a dick because he was in a hurry. That causes this wildly escalating battle of revenge between the two. And the name Changing Lanes really parallels the story: every time right as one of them decides they have gone too far and wants to rectify everything, the other is raising the stakes and making everything worse.

It’s great tension as a viewer to watch these two decent men tear each others’ lives apart and wondering if they’ll both rise above it or be dragged down by their hate.

22. The Fifth Element

Milla Jovovich is the best part of this movie, and it’s not even because she’s attractive! I really got into her portrayal as Leelo, rambling on in another language and feeling confused and panicked. Quite enjoyable… and believable! Or wait, is Gary Oldman the best part of this movie? He has his weird accent and silly appearance, and he’s clearly leaning into the goofiness of everything around him. LOVED his death scene, too. He starts off so arrogant and then meets his fate, and Oldman sells it so well!

But no. The best part of the movie is Chris Tucker, who is just swinging for the fences here and acting as hard as any man has ever acted before. He doesn’t have nuance or tact, he just has EMPHATIC YELLING, and it brought me all of the joy.

Well, it’s one of those three. Three of my favorite acting jobs of the year, all in one film.

21. Beverly Hills Cop

Watching older, beloved movies always feels like a risky proposition. What if they don’t sit well with me and I have to be that guy saying “Oh, I did not really care for Beverly Hills Cop“?

Luckily, that was not the case here. BHC is as funny as advertised. I will say that as an action-comedy, it works much better as a comedy than an action movie. The action is just kind of… okay. But Murphy is a shining star in this role. It’s so easy to see how he became so huge in the 80’s. He makes the worst, most annoying laugh in cinematic history come across as affable!


There goes the middle part of this list! Come back when we cover #20-11! You’ll see me talk about more from Michelle Yeoh, more science fiction from 1997, and more time loop goodness!

Until next time… take care!