Movies & TV / Columns

The Top 10 Films of 2022 (So Far)

July 20, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Top Gun: Maverick - Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell Image Credit: Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

Top 10 Films of 2022 (So Far)

Welcome, one and all, to part two of my Movies Mid-Year in Review for 2022! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas, and today we’re back looking at the best films of the past six months. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right into it!

Last week I began my Mid-Year Review by looking at the worst films of the year so far. While there have obviously been some very bad movies released so far in 2022, we have to give credit to what a good year it’s been too. Horror is perhaps at its highest collective point yet in its current rise, blockbusters are back in force with some raging successes, and the post-pandemic prominence of streaming services have even seen a renaissance of mid-budget movies, a genre that Hollywood was previously in the process of abandoning because they didn’t have good theatrical profit models. 2022 sees the industry getting back to normal more than ever, and that’s allowed several gems to see release. So let’s dig into it and count down the shiniest of those gems that arrived from January to the end of June.

Caveat: My criteria for inclusion is pretty simple: if a film was released in US theaters in any remotely significant capacity, or if it was a high-profile and marketed release on VOD or a major streaming service, then it was eligible. I don’t include films that are purely straight-to-video and may have a star or two but is essentially being shoveled out to reap in some profit on some name value. 2020 examples of this include The Requin (Alicia Silverstone) and Brazen (Alyssa Milano). There’s obviously some wiggle room on some of these and people may debate if some films are really “high-profile releases,” but that’s why it’s my list.

The only other caveat is that try as I might, I have not seen everything that was released yet this year, especially factoring in streaming services. The films that I have thus far missed that could have possibly qualified based on reputation are Belle, The Worst Person In the World, Cyrano, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, and Cha Cha Real Smooth. For those curious, I have seen a total of 82 films that have been released in 2022 so far.

Just Missing The Cut

The Sadness
King Knight
All The Moons

#10: Hellbender

Image Credit: Shudder

I’ve been watching a lot of horror in 2022. Listen, this year being what it is, it’s cathartic. But also, it helps that the genre has been on such a roll for the last few years. And that’s thanks to little indie gems like this. The Adams Family (not the one with Gomez and Morticia) have proven to be one of their most fascinating moviemakers that have arrived on the scene in the last few years. And this witchy tale of a young woman developing her powers and dealing with dark secrets is one of the more potent and impressive coming-of-age horror movies in recent memory.

It can’t be overstated how impressive it is that the family of four was almost entirely responsible for the film, outside of the visual effects. That includes some gorgeous cinematography from director John Adams and lead star Zelda Adams (who co-wrote with John’s wife and Zelda’s mother Toby Poser that draws you in with the natural surroundings and a quiet, ominous mood. The film’s on-screen work rests on the capable shoulders of Zelda and Poser, who give compelling performances as the daughter and mother whose close relationship hides lies as Zelda’s Izzy comes into her own. The script co-written by John, Toby, and Zelda and perfectly captures that essence of a young person coming of age, both from the youth’s perspective and that of the parent, and the trippy visual effects deliver in a big way when it’s time for them to come out.

Ultimately, even if you aren’t somehow wowed by what you’re seeing on the screen (and it won’t work for everyone), this is a triumph that should inspire other filmmakers to make their own movies. But it’s not just about that; it’s also just a well-made and touching film that manages to be intimate and personal while still hitting all the genre sweet spots and feeling vast within its Catskills setting. It’s new high in the Adams Family’s fast-rising career and makes me extremely excited for whatever they do next.

#9: The Outfit

Image Credit: Focus Features

I love a good crime thriller. Give me a twisty, turny plot centered on someone in over their head who has to find their way out alive and free, and I’m generally game. And Graham Moore’s The Outfit fits that description to a T. Moore is best known for his script for The Imitation Game, but this is his directorial debut, and he proves that he has quite an eye for capturing the essence of suspenseful, engaging drama. It doesn’t hurt that he brought on a top-notch cast for this 1950s-set story of a cutter (not a tailor!) who gets caught up in a gang war, headlined by the incomparable Mark Rylance as the aforementioned cutter Leonard Burling.

Rylance may not be a name that immediately comes to an average person when thinking of film stars, but just about everyone has seen him and loved his work in one movie or another. He takes center stage here and brings us through this film’s twists by drawing us in and putting us on Leonard’s side, which becomes essential when things really start to get hairy. Moore’s scripting talents are on full display with simple but solid characterization. Meanwhile, behind the camera he takes time to dole out the movie’s surprises and relies on his cast — which also includes Zoey Deutsch in a film that finally deserves her and Dylan O’Brien who is also thankfully taking on better roles — to carry the quieter moments. They’re all up to the task.

If we’re being honest, The Outfit is pretty basic thriller filmmaking at its core. But it’s so solidly based in fundamentals — including its knowing use of suspense and twists so sudden they’re likely to induce vertigo — that it’s really hard not to get swept up to go along with the ride. Even as the film slightly overstays its welcome, Rylance keeps us invested and Moore gets to stretch his directorial wings. The Outfit is an absolute joy within its genre, and a movie that speaks well to Moore’s future at the helm.

#8: Turning Red

Image Credit: Disney/Pixar

I was not quick to jump on the Turning Red train. It’s not that I didn’t have some interest in it; it’s Pixar so of course I was interested. But March was a busy month, and it was just one of those movies that passed me by. I caught the “controversy” around this film’s supposedly inappropriate content (Mention of menstruation? Kids being disobedient? GASP!), but I didn’t get around to actually watching it until fairly recently. And I was delighted by it. I am well aware of the refrain that this movie “isn’t relatable outside of teenage girls,” but try telling that to the 45-year-old guy who found himself tearing up a bit at the climax.

Pixar may not be having the year that they usually have (see: Lightyear), but they got off to a hell of a start with Turning Red. The Domee Shi-directed film about a young Chinese-Canadian girl in Toronto who falls prey to a family curse is a wonderfully animated coming of age film told in trademark Pixar style. The movie looks delightful, taking a slightly different tone to its animation that plays well, and is filled with fun characters brought to life by its talented voice cast. Shi co-wrote the film with Julia Cho and used her own real-life experiences growing up in Toronto in the film, which gives it a real authenticity that mixes well with the humor and fantastical elements.

To be fair, I can see why the film might not play as well for everyone. It is a specifically targeted story, but like most coming-of-age films those experiences can translate quite effectively across the spectrum of people. Not all of us can relate to the specific experiences of a young girl undergoing the changes that come with growing up. But there’s also a lot here about letting go of the things you’re afraid of, the pressure of generational expectations, and finding out who you really are. It’s all wrapped in an incredibly entertaining package that veers just to the side of some of the traditional Pixar tropes, making this a standout in their mostly impressive catalog.

#7: The Fallout

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Fallout is, among its many other strengths, an argument for streaming services. I don’t think it’s wild for me to suggest that Megan Park’s powerful teen drama never would have done much of anything in theaters. It’s not a crowd-pleaser, nor is it a film that captures a particular theater-going demographic. And yet, it’s a potently made and vitally important movie for 2022. It was perfect for a streaming service like HBO Max to pick up where it could find its audience. Elevated via fantastic performances by Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler, this film about the aftermath of a school shooting hits all the right notes in balancing a very tricky tone while also never losing sight of its subjects.

There are a lot of films that have tackled the difficult topic of school shootings, though many (not all) of them have focused on the killers. That isn’t The Fallout’s goal; we learn barely anything about the perpetrator. Nor is it interested in making pat political statements about the topic. Instead, Parks focuses her camera on Ortega’s Vada and Ziegler’s Mia as they (and their friends & families) deal with the grief, trauma and survivor’s guilt. After an exceedingly difficult to watch early scene in which Vada, Mia and Niles Fitch’s Quinton hide in the bathroom during the shooting, the film sets out to show how these kids handle their trauma — and notably, how there’s not one answer for it. Parks imbues the film with a tone that shifts wildly between sorrow, terror and humor, and it never once feels false.

Ortega has had a breakout year in 2022 to date between this movie, Scream, Studio 666, and more (we’ll get to that other one). She’s clearly a talented star on the rise, and The Fallout is unequivocally her best performance thus far. She pairs up very well with Ziegler, who has rebounded from last year’s Music with roles in West Side Story and here. And the supporting cast (including Fitch, Lumi Pollack, Shailene Woodley, and Julie Bowen) are perfectly on point. The Fallout is one of the most difficult watches of the year, but it’s also a very rewarding one that deserves all the praise it gets.

#6: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Image Credit: Utopia

When looking for body horror in 2022, most people are probably going to consider David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future the foremost example thus far. But for my money, that honor belongs to We’re All Going to The World’s Fair. I first had the opportunity to watch this while covering Fantasia Fest last year and I was immediately struck by how well this unnerving, fascinating picture combined surreal body sequences with psychological drama and coming-of-age elements to create an unsettling and thought-provoking look at the effects of isolation on us in the internet age. It’s quite a timely topic for many, many obvious reasons, and it’s brought to uncomfortable life by director Jane Schoenbrun and star Anna Cobb.

Schoenbrun displays quite a deft touch with this film, which follows a lonely and withdrawn teenager named Casey who delves into a spiral provoked by her participation in an urban legend-turned-online RPG of sorts. Cobb’s performance as Casey is compelling and often heart-wrenching, to the point that it’s shocking to realize this is her feature film debut. Schoenbrun explores the concepts of identity and connection through the internet and in both positive and negative ways, keeping the viewer as in the dark as Casey about the true intentions behind the screens particularly as a second character contacts her and forms a connection. Schoenbrun also explores the idea of gender dysphoria, imparting onto Casey (and thus, through Cobb’s performance the viewers) a real sense of what it can feel like.

The film is a slow build, told through a mix of ScreenLife sensibilities and more traditional photography as Casey watches other people’s physical changes from playing the game while undergoing her own changes. It’s a canny choice that allows Cobb to endear us to the character and makes the subtle horror of her progression quite unsettling. The minimalist approach is augmented with some stellar sound design and a few creepily creative approaches of the online game itself. This film isn’t for those who prefer their horror big, loud, and faster paced, but for fans of bold, psychologically unsettling drama it resonates as one of the most quietly disturbing and affecting films thus far in 2022.

#5: The Northman

Image Credit: Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features

Robert Eggers hasn’t failed me yet. The man behind The Witch and The Lighthouse moved mostly away from his slow burn horror comfort zone for his first real big-budget effort, and while the results may not have paid off financially, they hit the mark from a viscerally entertaining standpoint. Eggers puts his hefty $70 million budget to good use in this telling of the legend of Amleth, which itself was the inspiration for Hamlet. Alexander Skarsgård hasn’t generally had his proper chance to shine on the big screen (remember The Legend of Tarzan?), but he makes the most of his opportunity here and embodies the titular prince who seeks revenge for his father’s murder, only to find the vow more complicated than he imagined.

It goes without saying that Skarsgård looks the part to play a Viking warrior, but he also rises to the occasion as an on-screen presence. Amleth is often little more than a force of nature, driven by his need to fulfill his duty to his dead father, but Skarsgård is able to give us a glimpse of the man underneath. He also matches up very well with the rest of the cast including Nicole Kidman as his mother, Claes Bang as his uncle, and Anya Taylor-Joy as the sorceress who he allies with. The only major flaw this film has is how it underuses Taylor-Joy’s character but even then, it’s hard to be too angry at that considering everything else on the screen.

Eggers is overindulging himself here, but he does it in the best way. He treats us to thrilling sequences both mystical and grounded, and stunning shots of the harsh environment. It’s a lot, but in Eggers’ world that just means there’s a lot to enjoy. Sure, the story is familiar (we all know Hamlet) but the particulars here make all the difference. Whether it’s the grounded but stylized look at how vicious life is in the era or the fantastical moments featuring seers, Valkyries, and undead knights it’s always exciting and interesting. While it’s a major stylistic change from the slower burn of The Witch, it’s Eggers through and through and a piece of filmmaking that didn’t easily leave my head after seeing it.

#4: X

Image Credit: Christopher Moss/A24

It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen Ti West at the helm of horror. West’s last entry in the genre was the stellar 2013 found-footage film The Sacrament, and since then he’s kept himself mostly busy on television. It’s nice to have him back though, because X is his crowning achievement to date. As I mentioned above, we’ve seen a lot of good horror as of late and much of it has come from A24, but the studio tends to lean more into slower burns that prioritize style and mood over scares. They changed their tune and then some with this slasher film, a throwback movie that is filled with great performances and West’s sharp stylistic touches.

It would be easy to dismiss this as “Texas Chainsaw Massacre if it had a budget,” but it’s so much more than that. Sure, it follows a group of city folk into the rural area of Texas where they run afoul of killers, but for one these are characters that you actually like. Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, Scott Mescudi, Jenna Ortega, and Martin Henderson all bring their porn cast and crew to life in charming ways, making these potentially awful characters endearing and even quite likable. Even the least likeable character, Owen Campbell’s director RJ, has his chances to shine.

Meanwhile, West is clearly having a lot of fun as he throws his stylistic touches in from the clever use of framing to switch aspect ratios early on to the stutter cut at a crucial scene, and a glorious use of blood-as-lighting in one of the early kills. There’s more to this movie than just kills — it’s a sex-positive story that also touches on aging and being unable to let go of the past — but you don’t even need to get deep into those ideas to enjoy what’s on the screen. This was one of the happier surprises for me and in a year that saw a disappointing Texas Chainsaw Massacre release, it was nice to see West step in to save the day. I’m highly anticipating the prequel that has already been filmed and can’t wait to hear when we might see it.

#3: The Batman

Image Credit: Jonathan Olley & Warner Bros.

There is a relative dearth of superhero movies in my top mid-year 10, and that’s not necessarily because they’ve been bad; I quite liked Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, for example. It’s simply that other films and genres have been doing fairly well in the first six months of the year. Still, there’s one that stood out above all the rest to claim a spot in DC’s The Batman. This film had all the elements to go wrong, too. It was in development for what seems like forever and went through multiple changes (several involving Ben Affleck’s decision to step away from director and writing, then starring, in it). It also was in the works during DC Films’ major shift in its philosophy after the failure of Justice League.

Given all of that (and some other things), it would not have been a surprise to see The Batman fall short. Instead, Matt Reeves took his idea of a younger Batman early in his vigilante career and turned it into a compelling, sprawling yet well-paced exploration of the character from a new viewpoint. Reeves has proven himself as a fine writer and director, but he outdoes himself with his vision of Gotham City which manages that balance between being very familiar but also quite unique from previous versions. The story manages to touch on multiple points of important Batman lore while also providing an engaging and fairly focused story, featuring a terrifying iteration of Riddler and compelling characterizations of Batman, Catwoman, Penguin and others.

Essentially, just about everything about this movie hits the spot. Robert Pattinson leads the way as a different look at the Dark Knight than we’ve typically seen, still consumed by pain and figuring out who he needs to be. Zoe Kravitz gives us what is, for my money, the best Catwoman we’ve seen in live-action to date and the rest of the cast nails it from Paul Dano as Riddler to Andy Serkis as Alfred, Colin Farrell as Penguin, and Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordan. The visuals are breathtaking, and the action scenes are viscerally exciting. That this all clicks so well and provides us with a new take of a character seen time and time again is a credit to Reeves’ vision, and I am certainly looking forward to the sequel and the Penguin spin-off series.

#2: Top Gun: Maverick

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Speaking of films that had no business being as good as they were…listen, I’m a fan of the original Top Gun. I think it’s one of the heights of 1980s blockbuster action. But it’s also very much a product of its time and a movie that never once cried “I need a sequel.” And it certainly didn’t feel any more like it needed one 30-plus years later when we learned that this follow-up film was in development. It would be generous to say that long-delayed legacy sequels have a spotty record; sure, we have Creed, Blade Runner 2049 and T2: Trainspotting but we also have Independence Day: Resurgence, Tron Legacy, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and many others. This just didn’t seem to be a movie that anyone was really asking for or wanted.

And yet, now Top Gun: Maverick is one of the highest-grossing films of all-time and one of the best movies of the year thus far. They pulled that off by setting the blueprint for how to do a legacy sequel right. Maverick is the rare example of these films that manages to find the balance between respecting and honoring its history and forging a new story and forward momentum that isn’t overly beholden to the past. The script from Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie (based on a story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks) contains all the cameos and callbacks you would expect, but it also uses them in ways that seem natural and don’t get in the way of the story. More to the point, they enhance the story and make our hero Maverick’s journey more emotionally resonant. In the meantime, it has a strong story that can stand on its own and give its cast of young and older performers plenty to do.

It also doesn’t hurt that this is Tom Cruise in one of his best performances. Cruise gets too much criticism as an actor, but it’s fair to say he’s played very similar roles over the years. Here we’re able to see him add some weight of years to one of his most famous characters and he shines. He also brings a great dynamic with the rest of the cast, most notably Miles Teller as Rooster and Jennifer Connelly as an old love interest of his. But the key thing about Maverick is that while it’s not the deepest or most complicated story, it does what it does almost perfectly in every moment. The jet fighter and action sequences are thrilling, the touching scenes are emotionally resonant, the humor is just right. Sometimes being one of the best movies of the year doesn’t need a lot of twists and turns or incredibly deep themes. You just need to be a popcorn movie done more or less to perfection, and that’s what Maverick is.

#1: Everything Everywhere All At Once

Image Credit: A24

The hype around Everything Everywhere All At Once is something we haven’t seen in a film like this for a long, long time. In fairness, that’s not a totally accurate statement because that would imply there has been a film like this before, and there really hasn’t. Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan have created what is, it’s almost an understatement to say, the most unique and wild movie of the year and there’s no reason it should work as well as it does. But then again, this is the directing duo responsible for Swiss Army Man, the 2016 Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano pic largely known as “the farting corpse movie” which was similarly both bizarre and wonderful. The Daniels have a track record of making great films from wacky concepts, and Everything Everywhere All At Once is the pinnacle of that notion.

To be clear, I am mystified as to how they made this all work as well as it did. The story here (also written by The Daniels) is all over the place and to call it “idiosyncratic” would be a wild understatement. But the duo is not only able to tie several disparate genres and themes together, they do it with impossible smoothness. This jumps from black comedy and martial arts to sci-fi and surrealism at the drop of the heat, and yet it never feels jarring — at least, not in a way it isn’t supposed to. And in the process, it touches on everything from nihilism and family generational tensions to relationships, identity, the Asian-American experience and more.

It’s a stunning achievement, made somehow almost mainstream by the constant humor that hits its marks, the inventive action sequences, a spectacular visual palette and superlative performances. Michelle Yeoh carries this movie on her back, but she gets ample support from the likes of Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, and James Hong. This is a bizarre, hilarious, exciting and heartstring-pulling cinematic experience that has not left my head from the day I saw it. There are still five-plus months left of the year, but I would legitimately be shocked if Everything Everywhere All At Once wasn’t my favorite of the year by the end because the bar is impossibly high.

And that will do it for this! Thanks for following down my journey of the worst and best of the year so far. Nave a good one and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at! JT out.