Exclaim!'s 20 Best Films of 2022
Published Dec 02, 2022Horror and cinematic events reigned supreme in 2022. For the first time in what has felt like a long time, movies dominated conversations outside of film circles. Tom Cruise's gamble to keep the much-awaited sequel to Top Gun away from streaming services paid off in spades. Big names like Steven Spielberg and Jordan Peele returned to our screens with spectacle, and the Predator franchise returned with a vicious bang (albeit on Disney+).
And it wasn't just Hollywood that made a splash this year. Bollywood epics, South Korean thrillers and the feckin' Irish all showed up with explosions, deceit and incredibly dark humour. Not to be outdone, Canada's homegrown talent put to film some of the year's best. With their directorial feature debuts, Domee Shi and Nyla Innuksuk brought a Toronto fever dream and Baffin Island preteen life into our homes. Releasing her first film in 10 years, Sarah Polley tackled gender roles and a woman's place in this world with a moving return.
The movie industry certainly looks different today than in the before-times, but if 2022 is anything to go off of, the movies are officially back — and we couldn't be more excited. Here are Exclaim!'s best 20 films of the year.
20. Fire of Love
Directed by Sara Dosa
Fire of Love isn't a story of love so much as it is a story of obsession. Married volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft will stop at nothing to get the perfect shot, and, like a cross between the explorers of old and the daredevil influencers of today, they risk their lives by visiting active volcanoes around the world. They seemingly made peace with the fact that their vocation would kill them (which, spoiler alert, it did), but the footage they left behind is staggering in its terrifying beauty.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Another stab at the Predator franchise, Dan Trachtenberg's 18th-century Prey has something for everyone — at least those who are comfortable with an R-rating. Gore and violence aside, the Disney product adheres to its distributor's winning formula: a fierce female protagonist on the cusp of adulthood carves out an identity for herself against the bidding of her male counterparts, when an extraterrestrial force presents her the chance to use her cunning to overcome its otherworldly combat skills. The film is shot gorgeously in Calgary, and would go on to become a vessel for lead actor Amber Midthunder to land herself on Variety's 10 Actors to Watch for 2022.
Directed by S.S. Rajamouli
In this 1920s Telugu-language epic centred on the fictional history of two Indian revolutionary freedom fighters, the opening credits arrive after 45 breathless minutes. Within this cinematic preamble, viewers are exposed to sneering colonial child abduction, shirtless tribal guardians screaming at tigers, an impeccably moustachioed officer single-handedly clubbing back hundreds of rioters, and a daring bridge rescue involving horses, motorcycles and exploding trains. Yet these scenes barely scratch the surface of RRR's three hours of dizzying spectacle, stretching gleefully from outlandish action to musical dance battles to bromance comedy and back again with reckless abandon.
17. The Northman
Directed by Robert Eggers
This savage Norse epic earns its R rating fair and square. There's enough grunting and codpieces in this ancient tale to please Conan, and enough betrayal and palace intrigue to make Shakespeare proud. With flames and decapitations and dazzling starry nights, the stark visuals are alluring and vicious throughout, as we take in the Scandinavian landscapes and fantastic sights like a mystical ascent to Valhalla or Björk portraying an eerie witch. It's both brutal and beautiful.
16. Turning Red
Directed by Domee Shi
As Domee Shi's debut feature film, and Pixar's first solely directed by a woman, Turning Red reads like a love letter to girlhood — a subject that, despite its potency, remains criminally unexplored. Where '90s exemplar Buffy metaphorized high school tribulations with monster battles, or fellow Canadian production Ginger Snaps made werewolves a symbol for menstruation, Turning Red deftly presents the consequences of puberty as becoming the monster (in this case, a giant red panda) thanks to a family curse that only affects women. Set in 2002, the narrative remains nevertheless timeless, while deliciously pandering to millennial nostalgia, even if the sunshiney-rainbow presentation of the setting does sort of feel like a eulogy for the golden era of early-2000s Toronto.
15. The Menu
Directed by Mark Mylod
Mark Mylod's sharp and incendiary satire perfectly captures the milieu of the fine dining world by boldly slicing through the pretension and condescension that fuels it. Utilizing the medium to its fullest, The Menu brings forth some of the most inventive gags in recent memory, making the appetizer just as fulfilling as the entrée. Add in a dash of Oscar-worthy Ralph Fiennes, and Mylod's latest is a wickedly delectable experience worthy of a Michelin star.
Directed by Zach Cregger
The disturbing Barbarian is now available to stream on Disney+ — and while that really just comes down to who owns what, the movie itself reflects that out-of-left-field attitude. It's one that benefits from knowing as little as possible. Suffice to say, its three central performances and smart screenplay allow the material's commentary to shine without tipping over into obnoxious "elevated horror." And while its gore is neither overhyped nor overdone, its scariest moments are also bloodless, courtesy of actor Richard Brake.
13. Women Talking
Directed by Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley's film takes place in a Mennonite community in 2010, as the men in the community sexually assault the women in their sleep. The women try to decide if they're going to leave, stay and fight, or do nothing. Women Talking is captivating, as the phenomenal ensemble cast took my breath away with their incredible performances. It's not an easy watch, but it's an important one that will stick with you.
12. Triangle of Sadness
Directed by Ruben Östlund
Director Ruben Östlund has made a career out of Palme d'Or-winning satires of the privileged and wealthy, and Triangle of Sadness might be his most savage yet. Centring on a group of super-rich guests and staff aboard a luxury cruise, including a celebrity couple on the rocks, a Russian oligarch shit-seller, and a socialist philosophy-spouting Woody Harrelson among them. Triangle of Sadness holds absolutely nothing back. It's elegantly written and, at times, shockingly, hilariously disgusting.
Laura Di Girolamo
Directed by Todd Field
In TÁR, Cate Blanchett plays a "U-Haul lesbian" and one of the greatest living composers. Lydia Tár is a fascinating artist and feels so real that it's almost inconceivable that she's fictional. She's incredibly flawed and the film challenges its audience to gauge the limit they'd go to root for her. Even if you're unfamiliar with the world of classical music, Blanchett keeps you interested. It's surprisingly funny, leans into horror, and surprises with the unexpected.
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