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Top Ten Films of 2022

January 22, 2023


These annual lists are never easy. I toil over them and still lament the ones I couldn’t fit into the Top Ten of the year. There are certain films I still have to catch up with, but at some point the list must be compiled and posted and that’s it. Recently, I was reminded why such lists are necessary. It’s not because my opinion is integral, but rather because there are some out there who think that 2022 wasn’t a very good year in film. Well, they’re wrong and I hear that every year. Composing and sharing such lists will not only prove them wrong, but also steer them in the right direction. But then again, it’s all subjective and every list is arbitrary.

A Top Ten list doesn’t encapsulate a year in film, but rather highlight the films that made a lasting impression on specific viewer. These are the films I talked about the most, the ones I watched more than once and the ones I recommended. These are ones that wowed me, moved me, and reminded me of cinema’s potential to rise above our previous viewing experiences and surprise us.

Three of the films on my list are ones I had the pleasure of discussing at the After Hours Film Society at the beautiful Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove, Illinois. I’ve been a regular host at these events and it’s been a joy to engage with audience and discuss films with them immediately after viewing. It’s always a fruitful discussion and I am continuously grateful for the opportunity to lead such discussions.

This past year saw certain sequels succeeding with audiences, like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water”, both of which were highly entertaining, rewatchable, and better than expected. Cruise reaffirms why he’s still considering a “movie star” and James Cameron again proves that his visual art is still far superior than his screenplays. Both of those would make my 11-20 list, if I made one. Still, when it comes to aviation movies, I was more impressed with J. D. Dillard’s “Devotion” starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell (who also starred in “Top Gun: Maverick”), which retells the comradeship between naval officers Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner during the Korean War.

I have to say, the theatrical releases in 2022 from Marvel Studios were disappointed. “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” didn’t have enough of director Sam Raimi’s touch for my taste and “Thor: Love and Thunder” suffered from too much of director Taiki Waititi. That being said director Ryan Coogler had his work cut out for him with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It was a valid attempt, but even that sequel tried to include too much. It became pretty clear that the Marvel Studios offerings thrived on the small screen with shows like “Ms. Marvel” and “She-Hulk” really honoring the tone of the source material.

There are definitely films that almost made this list, that I would consider to be Honorable Mentions, such as: “Emily the Criminal”, “Resurrection”, “Nope”, “All Quiet on the Western Front”, “The Quiet Girl”, “Barbarian”, “Turning Red”, “Fire of Love”, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grand”, “Bones and All”, “After Yang”, “The Northman”, “The Batman”, “The Woman King” “The Menu” and “The Outfit”. But, bottom line, there has to be ten films in the top. If I was to search for any commonalities in my selections it could be found in my top five below…three of which revolve around friendship between two males, granted at different ages, times, and places. That’s not at all intentional. It just turned out that way.

Like last year, I am fortunate to be joined by my friend Mark Lester, who has thankfully contributed his own ten films. It’s great to not go out at this all on my own. Without further ado, here’s our list as it stands, right now…







To say that remakes and sequels are a dime a dozen is an understatement. Yet, even with at least one remake I am aware of of the original Best Picture winner (one of the first), the newest version of All Quiet on the Western Front has the distinction of being released in a time where we are used to seeing the horrors of war. Even with that, director Edward Berger’s version of a young man (Felix Kammerer) and his friends experiencing war is not at all subtle in its depiction of all out battle. It is brutal, grisely, unfair blunt. Horrifying, unimaginable. This timely movie reminds us that war, at the end of the day (for lack of a better word) sucks. Shout out to my friend Russ who was the first to recommend this film. (Netlfix)

David J. Fowlie – AFTERSUN

One of the most impressive feature-length debuts of the year came from Scottish writer/director Charlotte Wells, who delivered a father/daughter tale that is both touching and haunting. Told in an unconventional manner that combines old-video footage, memories, and dreamscapes, Wells introduces us to a divorced Scottish father, Calum (Paul Mescal) and his preteen daughter, Sophie (Frankie Corio), as they take a holiday in Turkey back in the 90s. It all seems idyllic and reminiscent of the way we remember fond family trips, as the pair lounge their days away by the pool and occasionally go sight-seeing, but there are cracks that begin to show. Something is brimming under the surface between them and Wells gradually allows us to piece together what exactly that is. We eventually learn this is essentially a memory piece, as a thirtysomething woman (Celia Rowson-Hall) can be seen reflecting and quite possibly navigating through pain and grief in her own way. Probably the best part of the film is how much trust Wells puts in her two main actors and indeed us as viewers. It’s certainly a reminder that as we age we often have a better understanding of our past. (in select theaters)






Mark Lester – NOPE

Very few current directors can draw a basic crowd with their name alone (Nolan comes to mind). It seems that Jordan Peele maybe closer than I think, thanks to his more recent hit Nope. Even in the monster/sci-fi genre, he brings his elements of unique horror to the table, as well as drawing out powerful performances from the subtle Daniel Kaluuya and (especially) the firecracker that is Keke Palmer. Very few modern day horror films look as beautiful as Peele’s do. The tagline on the film is “What’s a bad miracle?”, and I agree with the miracle part of it. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 

David J. Fowlie – TÁR

It’s absolutely insane to think that writer/director Todd Field has only directed three films. Granted, they’ve all been great, but his last one, “Little Children” was sixteen years ago! Thankfully, “Tár” was released in 2022 and it stars Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, a fictional composer and conductor, whose own intellect, expertise, and entitlement leads to her downfall. It’s a commanding force-of-nature performance from Blanchett, playing a character with a powerful albeit overwhelming presence that we don’t have to be on board with. It’s clear that her actions are wrong in more ways than one, but it’s nevertheless an enthralling experience to watch as she unintentionally and inevitably unravels her life. Field astutely examines a female authority figure’s #MeToo-ish reckoning, forcing an examination of privileged preeminence, and a necessary look at current “cancel culture” that is more complicated than it is that easily resolved in our 24/7 social media cycle. Field takes Blanchett and her fantastic costars (Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, and Sophie Kauer) on a mesmerizing ride that at times feels like a fantasy, leaving viewers to wonder what exactly is real and what is in this tyrannical and brilliant character’s head. There are indeed some intriguing theories on this film out there and means there’s more going on here than what you see upon your first viewing. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 






Mark Lester – BONES AND ALL

Twenty dollars is a lot to rent any movie, period. Still, my friend Kenneth was stern in his recommendation that the price was worth renting Bones and All. He was right. Luca Guadagino’s film is a sort of coming of age youth romance set in the 1980s with Taylor Russell (from Waves, my favorite film of 2019) and Timothée Chalamet as young souls trying to find solace in each other while also running from past mistakes. Oh, and they are also cannibals. That may turn some off, but the scenes, while gory, show them as not bad people so much as people with a disease. A sickness that they have to live with. It hit my tastes rather well. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 


When I saw “Everything Everywhere All At Once” back in April, it was clear that here was the better movie about multiverses (sorry, Kevin Feige and Sam Raimi) that came out in 2022. If there was ever a movie that warranted multiple viewings, this is it. Considering how much is ambitiously crammed into the sci-fi action dramedy written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”), one will simply be overwhelmed (in the best sense) upon initial viewing. There’s a wonderfully infectious madness injected into the stories here, but there’s also a good amount of emotions on hand that we can relate to, as we learn of the past and present of a certain married couple (wonderfully played by Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan), as well as what their future could’ve been. The two leads are supporting by a splendid supporting cast, like Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu, and James Hong, in a story where everything bagels, hot dog fingers, and googly eyes are aplenty. The extraordinary movie lives up to its title, but it is is truly a deserved showcase for Yeoh and a welcome comeback for Quan. I’ve come across folks who love it, but I get a kick out of the people I’ve talked to who hated it just couldn’t get on board with its looney and kinetic tone. So be it. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 






Mark Lester – RRR

Yet another shout out is in order to a friend (let alone leader at my church) for this film recommendation by the name of Michael. Even at three hours, RRR is some of the most over the top movie making I have seen in some time. The story of two extraordinary warriors of equal power, one can see how this movie could be mistaken as just another Bollywood style film (there are two dance sequences.) Yet it is more than just the dancing and the literal throwing of tigers and motorcycles. It is about (like another film coming up soon) unspoken respect and brotherhood. Oh, and archery with grenades on the arrows. (Netflix) 

David J. Fowlie – RELATIVE

With his fourth feature, “Relative”, Chicago-based writer/director Michael Glover Smith has made his best film to date, while continuing to offer stories of real people and allowing viewers to see more of the Windy City than the landmarks typically seen in formulaic montages. Focusing on a specific family, Karen Frank (Twin Peaks’ alum, Wendy Robie) and her husband, David (Steppenwolf Ensemble veteran, Francis Guinan), a retirement-age couple who are expecting the return of all of their adult children for a long weekend get together to celebrate the college graduation of their youngest son, Benji (Cameron Scott Roberts). There are revealing discussions and surprising announcements that they must figure out how to navigate in a short timeframe. Smith eases us into introductions that feel natural and seamless as relatable characters resonate in an authentic manner. His stellar ensemble cast, which include great turns by Clare Cooney and Melissa DuPrey, playing a couple on uncertain ground, haunting work by Emily Lape, and scene-stealing work by Heather Chrisler and Elizabeth Stam. The captivating film has been making its rounds on the festival circuit since last summer, winning multiple awards, and is still going strong. With the help of talented actors, Smith gives us characters we want to spend more time with and certainly remain in our hearts long after viewing. (in select theaters) 





Mark Lester – THE NORTHMAN

I am having more and more admiration for Robert Eggers with each film he makes. While perhaps not as popular as Jordan Peele, Eggers’ vision is as singular as they come, which is on full display in The Northman. The story of one man named Amleth (an anagram of Hamlet) seeking revenge for the murder of his father, this film is almost going to 11 on the visceral scale (Alexander Skarsgård seems nearly possessed). I have not felt this much testosterone come from the screen since 300. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 

David J. Fowlie – BENEDICTION

One film that snuck up and surprised me was the latest from English filmmaker Terence Davies and considering he has such an impressive body of work, I don’t know why I had such a response. “Benediction” take a look at WWI veteran and poet Siegfried Sassoon (played by Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi as younger/older versions), who received acclaim for his literary anti-war stance, lamenting the senseless loss of an entire generation of men. Considering we see Sassoon at different stages in his life, “Benediction” also becomes a fascinating look at how homosexuality is perceived by society and a man who must reckon with who he is. One would be woefully incorrect, if “Benediction” is just considered as another British biopic about someone seldom known by the general public. This is a story that is superbly directed, written with noticeable wit, and impeccably acted (with Lowden delivering his best performance to date), but most of all offers a rhapsodic portrait of a life that experiences melancholy, trauma, and beauty with a shining dignity. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 







No character this year comes close to being as more adorable as the titular character of Marcel the Shell with Shoes on. He simply is looking for the rest of his family that was lost in an unfortunate sock drawer incident. I am not too familiar with the film shorts that inspired the film, but the main character is almost Chaplin-esque in how universally relatable he is. Even if I am not one who watches 60 minutes. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 

David J. Fowlie – HAPPENING

Based on the memior by Nobel Prize-winning author, Annie Ernaux, “Happening” comes out at a time when its subject matter feels more important and relevant than it ever has…unfortunately. The story may take place in 1963 France, but it feels like it could happen now, as we follow Anne (a luminescent Anamaria Vartolomei), a promising university student who pregnant and alone, having to face difficult decisions on her own, making her situation all the more challenging. The story never gets preachy or political, but instead French director Audrey Diwan (who co-wrote the screenplay with Marcia Romano and Anne Berest) simply take Anne’s perspective in a quiet and reflective manner, leaving us to greater understanding of a woman’s choice and health, not to mention society’s attitude towards both topics. With a tone of both intimacy and dread, “Happening” stands out as a film that understands that certain fundamental rights are timeless. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options) 







Perhaps you have heard of this one? In a year of sequels, no other film came close to living up the its predecessor than Top Gun; Maverick. In fact, it is most likely a better movie than the original, something that has not happened since The Dark Knight in 2008. Covid postponed this movie (as well as many others) for some time, but the wait was worth it. I know a fair amount of people who (understandably) are not fans of Tom Cruise. I am still doing what I can to tell them this movie is good enough to make them forget their feelings toward him. That alone is saying something. (avail. on Blu-ray and on Paramount+) 

David J. Fowlie – RRR

The viewing experience which was by far the most fun when I saw “RRR” for the second time, surrounded by an uproarious sold-out audience at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago this past fall! I had already seen the three-hour-plus epic at home, because it’s been on Netflix since last May, but this was THE way to see it and understand the fandom that has developed around S.S. Rajamouli’s cinematic achievement. They are truly sights to behold in this rousing story that combines insane action, hilarious comedy, tender romance, and intense thrills – from a ripped, shirtless man running through the jungle and narrowly avoiding a midair collision with a hungry wolf and an angry tiger to an amazing rescue sequence involving a sinking raft and a train car engulfed in flames, and I haven’t even gotten to the infectious dance scene that will get anyone pumped up. It makes sense that
“RRR” rightfully stands for “Rise, Roar, Revolt” as it takes place in 1920 during the British Raj as two legendary freedom fighters, Komaram Bheem (a dashing N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (the charismatic Ram Charan), become fast friends and turn the tide against the oppressive British rule. And that’s one of the most compelling and memorable qualities of “RRR”, the fact that surrounding all the impressive visuals that Rajamouli offers us, at the heart of it all is an earned and understandable bromance. It makes you want to throw your best friend on your shoulders and run right through life’s challenges together.







The only movie I was able to revisit, The Banshees of Inisherin is one of the saddest comedies of recent years. Okay, that might not be the best of selling points, especially since it is still filled with a distinctive charming warmth only someone like writer/director Martin McDonaugh could provide. All the actors are sublime: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan are all certain to be Oscar nominated in the next few weeks. So will McDonaugh for screenplay and director. Also, hopefully Ben Davis for the Cinematography. Personally, I am wanting some kind of trophy for Jenny the donkey. (avail. on Blu-ray, HBO Max & rent/buy options) 


Hopefully, it won’t take writer/director Martin McDonagh another fourteen years to reunite actors Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, a trio that originated in “In Bruges” back in 2008. McDonagh takes the black comedy that worked so well in that film and brings it and his two leads to “The Banshees of Inisherin”, telling a poignant, relatable, and uncomfortable tale about friendship. The ultimatum that is presented between the two long-standing drinking buddies (played impeccably by Gleeson and Farrell) seems simple enough initially, but it’s what comes before or it and definitely after it that provokes reflection. There are funny moments in this tale (many involving Jenny the donkey), set in 1923 on a fictional Irish isle within earshot of the waning days of the Irish Civil War, but what permeates is the melancholic life of repetition that plagues those who live on Inisherin (which is beautifully shot by cinematographer Ben Davis), which can be seen in two great supporting performances by Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. Farrell gives an award-worthy performance here, conveying emotions that feel new and confusing for his simple character. One can understand the perspectives and responses that these friends communicate, we may have even felt them in our own lives before, even if we don’t fully agree with the character’s actions.






You remember in the first Harry Potter film, when he has to race on his broomstick and catch one key in a room full of other keys going at supersonic speed? That is the equivalent of me trying to find out my thoughts of Everything, Everywhere, all at Once. I hope that comes through as a compliment. This is one of those movies that may be straight up impossible to understand the first viewing due to its pure zaniness. It defies description what happens (when was the last time you saw an emotional scene involving hot dog fingers, or the villain fighting with sex toys?) It was the first time in some time I remember hearing another audience member say they couldn’t breath due to laughing so hard (I am sure the mix up of Raccoons and Ratatouille helped.) The come back story of Ke Huy Quan has been beyond inspirational, and MIchelle Yeoh has her best shot at an Oscar after a very stellar career. If it weren’t only for one other performance…

David J. Fowlie – BROKER

If you’re familiar with the work of Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda, then you’ll know that each new film is a treat. He does a tremendous job of inhabiting his films with complex people who always feel real and free from any formulaic characterization (see “Shoplifters” and “Like Father, Like Son”, gifting his actors with roles that allow them to convey a great deal of genuine humanity in settings that you would typically not expect to find such humane actions. “Broker” follows a handful of characters on the margins of society in modern-day South Korea, two of whom, Ha Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho, “Parasite”) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won, “Peninsula”), have a side hustle selling orphaned babies on the black market, hoping to find the right rich couple willing to adopt. It provides a loving home for the child and some cash for them to share. One rainy night, a baby is left just outside the church they volunteer at, leaving the young one just outside the baby box designed for abandoned children with a note that says the mother will return the next day. Moon So-young (Lee Ji-eun) does return and decides to get in on the duo’s side business and make sure her child is adopted by parents she approves. The story turns into a road trip with the trio meeting with different prospective parents, while unknowingly being followed by two detectives (played by Lee Joo-young and Bae Doona), who’ve been tracking such illegal activity. All of these characters will find out something unexpected about the people they are with or following and as viewers take in “Broker” our expectations will be subverted as Kore-eda veers away from any darkness that we’d typically see in such a story. With these characters, Kore-eda reminds us that every one of us has a story that’s both unique to them and relatable to others and that just by spending time with them, we can escape any snap judgments we may have of others. (in select theaters) 





Mark Lester – TÁR

No film in 2022 has been on my mind more so than Todd Field’s Tár. His first film in over a decade (plus my only five star of the year), I’ve heard many a people have been thinking that the titular character is a real person. She is not, but that just proves what a force of nature Cate Blanchett is in the performance of 2022. A friend of mine, Tyler, said it best when he said she could be the long distant relative of the J.K. Simmons character from Whiplash (granted, she does not hurt anyone physically in the film.) I have been itching…ITCHING to see it a second time, because I know I have only scratched the surface. Toward the end of 2022, Sight & Sound did their ten year tradition of the 100 greatest movies of all time, and while Tár may not be in the same breath of those films, it is the one that has the most potential. (avail. on Blu-ray and rent/buy options)

David J. Fowlie – CLOSE

I didn’t see as many films as I’d like to have seen at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival, but I’m glad I saw “Close” in a packed theater, knowing very little what it was about. That last part is key, since one should go in cold to Belgian writer/director Lukas Dhont’s tender and heartbreaking coming-of-age drama. Considering how the story unfolds, it’s a challenge to determine how much to share. Dhont focuses on the intimate friendship between two thirteen-year-old boys, Léo and Rémi (played with raw authenticity by Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele, respectively) who spend every day together during one long summer, but when the school year begins that closeness is challenged by the peers that notice and comment on their friendship, often with cruelty and ignorance. Dhont captures the quiet purity that two boys can experience in a close friendship and how devastating it is when it’s suddenly taken away. Nothing is resolved or definitively answered as the characters must suddenly contend with a tragedy. The actors who play the two mothers (Léa Drucker and Émilie Dequenne) are fantastic, especially Dequenne, who plays a character who must deal with her own grief while also being supportive to those around her. “Close” was awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival last spring and is one of those films that had a late December release with a wider opening here in the States on January 27th. Check it out, but do go in cold. (coming soon) 




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