Bern’s Favorite Films of 2022
This past year was a capital “B” big year. The general public, for better or worse, decided life would truly resume, which meant all kinds of exciting things: more travel, more family, more friends…and more movies. Gone were the hours you could spend catching up on all the content you may have missed over the course of your lifetime. But while those hours were fleeting, streamers and theaters began to fill with a vast array of new stories, more diverse than ever before. What made it more difficult, and I’ll speak from personal experience, is that all of those plans that had been put on hold over the past few years also resumed, creating an unavoidable vacuum where there simply weren’t enough hours in the day. Despite all that, I finally got around to planning a wedding, started my own business, ran a half-marathon, and still managed to catch a good few handfuls of the best films 2022 had to offer.
Now, I definitely did not match my cinematic inhalation of previous years, which was to be expected in the chaos of last year. But what did become unexpected, even to me, is that in this smaller collection of films (although, 85+ films ain’t nothing), I couldn’t bring myself to cut this “top 10” list to anything shorter than 15 films. I’m usually a sucker for rules, even when they’re self-imposed, but as the past month closed, I realized I was in a regulation conundrum. So, this list grew to house more top films than any one of my lists that have come before. Each of the forthcoming films feels integral to the structure of this collection, and by extension, the structure of who I was in 2022. This past year was grand, and so is this list.
15) Damian Chazelle’s Babylon
As an avid La La Land lover (and apologist, when necessary), Damian Chazelle always piques my interest, and he did not disappoint with Babylon. Set on the backdrop of so many films that have come before (even Chazelle’s own), Chazelle presents the familiar story of how the film industry transitioned from silent pictures to the talkies. What could have easily come across as a repetitious tale is made new by Chazelle’s labyrinthian story structure and the performances by Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and relative newcomer Diego Calva. (Bonus points for yet another wonderful turn by the captivating Jovan Adepo for all you Leftovers/Watchmen fans.) Babylon carries the audience, ultimately, through a quarter of a century of the belly of the industry beast and begs the question: is the love of cinema worth it? In Babylon’s case, the answer is always yes.
14) David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future
Similarly themed to Babylon in the sense of sacrificing for one's art, Crimes of the Future questions how the human race will evolve both physically and creatively as we reach new heights of depravity and backdoor consumerism. Painted in tones of brown and black, Crimes of the Future juxtaposes the living, breathing Earth against its inhabitants' dismissal of nature, constantly striving for the next new manufactured oddity. Led by the ever-compelling Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, and Kristen Stewart, Crimes is more mood than anything, but it's an intelligent, sentient mood that makes you question the very nature of our own reality.
13) Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood
Speaking of realities, have you ever been so deeply affected by a historical event in your childhood that your memory of said event begins to warp with your own involvement? In Apollo 10 ½, Richard Linklater revisits his own memories as a child raised in the Houston area during the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The events of Apollo 10 ½ aren’t necessarily 100% autobiographical, but Linklater’s goal is to capture that feeling of childhood where life is ahead of you, with 100% possibility at your fingertips, just before you’re grounded by adult responsibilities and sensibilities. Animated through Linklater’s stylistic rotoscoping, Apollo 10 ½ looks absolutely beautiful and begs the audience to revisit their own childhoods, in whichever style they see fit. (For more on my thoughts on Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood, read my review here.)
12) Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream
“Don’t fake it, baby, lay the real thing on me/ The church of man, love, is such a holy place to be/ Make me, baby, make me know you really care/ Make me jump into the air// Keep your ‘lectric eye on me, babe/ Put your ray gun to my head/ Press your space face close to mine, love/ Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah” (“Moonage Daydream” David Bowie)
For the 140 minutes spent in Morgen’s 2022 documentary, Moonage Daydream, one is able to press their space face as close as possible to the space invader that was David Bowie. A documentary both intimate and otherworldly, Morgen’s use of repetitious sight and sound contextualizes Bowie’s artistic journey through this world while also honoring his alien nature. An artist that never seemed quite human, Bowie can tend to be an enigma, but Morgen manages to get a few steps closer with his abstract approach to his subject. This is one worth seeing for fans of music and film alike. (Again, to read more of my appreciation for this doc, check out my review here.)
11) Noah Baumbach’s White Noise
Something that always makes a film more enjoyable for me is when my husband, Heath, has a damn good time watching it, and White Noise is a damn good time. Not having read the Don DeLillo 1985 novel on which the film is based, the trailer does well to not spoil the journey you’ll go on while watching Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and Don Cheadle navigate a mid-80’s, midwest, post-intellectualism mecca. As to not delve too far into White Noise’s many exciting chapters, let the film take you on a journey of purpose, despair, and community: the story promises we all have more in common than we think. (Paired with a delightful score by Danny Elfman, also make sure to stick around for LCD Soundsystem’s “New Body Rhumba” ending credits: the best ending credits of the year.)
10) Kogonada’s After Yang
On the flip side, easily housing the best opening credits of the year, the science-fiction driven After Yang opens with a diegetic voiceover: “Welcome, families of four, to our monthly dance-off.” The families, all different characters from the film, face the camera in their various homes, and proceed to compete in said dance-off as long as they don’t miss any dance moves, hoping to not get eliminated. At the end of this segment, Yang (the fourth member of the family, a robotic child adopted by the main couple to keep their other, younger adopted child company) suffers a malfunction, sending this family of four into a state of unrest. After Yang is a meditation on identity, similar to Kogonada’s previous film, Columbus. (I’m from Indiana, and my sister currently lives in Columbus, so Kogonada’s complicated love letter to the architectural city holds a special place in my heart.) The science-fiction aspect takes a back seat, however, and is but a lens through which to examine cultural, familial, and legacy ties. It’s the first of three Colin Farrell performances appreciated in this list (as he plays the patriarch, Jake), but it’s no less special than the other two.
09) Matt Reeves’ The Batman
I’m of the mind that there’s really not a bad Batman movie in the bunch (save for the Ben Affleck-helmed Batman films, as I’ve never seen any of his entries, and most likely never will). But outside of those, every flavor of Batman can scratch a different itch. Matt Reeves’ The Batman manages to scratch ‘em all. Gadgetry, action, mystery, comedy, and hints of romance; this film has style in spades. Stepping into the cowl for the first time, Robert Pattinson toes the line between depression and activism in a way no other Batman has in the past, using a juxtaposition that truly sends home the message that this bat is truly just a fucked up kid, living in a fucked up place, with more money than he knows what to do with. All of this is only magnified by Reeves taking that character development and sticking him in, quite possibly, the coolest interpretation of Gotham City to ever be realized. Marking the second appearance of Colin Farrell on this list, as the Penguin, Pattinson is also joined by an inquisitive Jeffrey Wright as Detective Gordon, and an enigmatic Paul Dano as a contemporary Riddler (just to name a few), all of which take this film to another level. Just as with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, I’m extremely excited to see what Reeves has in store for his Bat franchise.
08) Phil Tippett’s Mad God
Coming in late to the Mad God cult is better than never. Originally debuting in 2021 (but going wide in 2022), some of my colleagues (the brothers Kolodjieski) included this film on their respective 2021 lists, and they were absolutely correct in doing so. Famed animator, Phil Tippett, took 30 years to work on Mad God, giving the film a quality of existing outside of space and time. Not necessarily following a linear path, the audience is treated to a series of vignettes where you see various characters toiling in hellish, visceral landscapes leading to God knows what. As a whole, the story is a complex and devastating nightmare, but the ride is so very rewarding. Not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for everyone, Mad God rewards those who are interested with a deeper appreciation for all of Tippett’s work before, whether that be in films like Star Wars or his visual effects in the Twilight franchise. This is God-tier work.
07) Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone
Not a week after publishing my list of favorite 2021 films, I had the pleasure of catching You Won’t Be Alone as one of my virtual Sundance screenings. I had a feeling then (which may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy) that it would stay the distance to end up on this list, and I was right. YWBA tells the tale of a young Macedonian girl who is transformed into a witch and is forced to reconcile her stolen youth with her newfound powers, all the while trying to find her place in the world. Nevena, the young witch, slowly learns the rules of her new identity through trial and error while Maria, the old witch, grows more and more envious of Nevena’s curiosity and trusting nature of humanity. A witch story told in an all new way, YWBA is a captivating exploration of nature vs. nurture. If thought-provoking, subtle horror is your bag, this film is for you. (For a brief write-up on this and other Sundance films from 2022, check out my article.)
06) Guillermo del Toro’s Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (had to)
Never a stranger to stories about what it means to be worthy of love and grace, Guillermo del Toro has done it again with his masterpiece, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. Not to be confused with the myriad of Pinocchio tales told last year (especially my second favorite, the Pauly Shore clusterfuck, Pinocchio: A True Story), GdT’s Pinocchio takes the story you’re most likely familiar with but enriches nearly every aspect with more pathos and worldbuilding…which ultimately makes it a more “believable” story. All versions of the Pinocchio story are morality tales, but most of them seem to be plagued by the “because I said so” parental lesson rather than an actual instructional on why truth, knowledge, compassion, and integrity are all virtues to aspire to. And on top of the beautiful story, the film is also stunning. Similarly to Mad God, del Toro has been working on his Pinocchio for over a decade, and you can absolutely feel the love for its story in every frame. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, ever so kindly, renders all other Pinocchio tales obsolete.
Before diving into the top five slots, I first want to shout out some amazing dual (and in some cases, trial(?)) performances from last year that aren’t seeing recognition on this list elsewhere: Aubrey Plaza in Emily the Criminal, The White Lotus and Spin Me Round, Daisy Edgar Jones in Fresh and Under the Banner of Heaven, Alexander Skarsgård in The Northman and Atlanta, Ethan Hawke in The Black Phone, The Northman, and Moon Knight, and Mia Goth in X and Pearl. But more than anything, I want to applaud Causeway, Bullet Train, and Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry, and The Menu and The Whale’s Hong Chau on their incredible turns. These films may not have made the list, but these two performers were some of my favorites of the year.
05) S. S. Rajamouli’s RRR
Taking an imagined friendship between two real-life Indian revolutionaries, RRR provides *almost* the most fun you could have while watching a film in 2022. The two leads, Ram Charan as Alluri Sitarama Raju and N. T. Rama Rao Jr. as Komaram Bheem, are quite possibly (and I say this upon deep reflection) the two coolest male protagonists I’ve ever seen on screen together. Everything they’re asked to do in this film is awesome, and I know that doesn’t sound like an intellectually critical analysis of this film, but it’s undeniable: RRR is just a dope time. It also happens to be a great semi-historical lesson into just how terrible the British rule in India was, which is something that is obviously known but isn’t something that gets publicity as often as it probably should. Additionally, if it weren’t for White Noise, I would be saying that this is the coolest closing credits of 2022. RRR definitely follows through on the hype and I was pleased to see just how many Americans got behind this revolution as well.
04) Jordan Peele’s NOPE
My admiration for NOPE grows with every passing day while Jordan Peele continues to deliver on his dissection of what it means to be Black in America. This time, reclaiming the Western genre, Daniel Kaluuya’s Otis Haywood Jr. and Keke Palmer’s Emerald Haywood (as OJ and Em, respectively) are seeking to claim the American gold they’re owed; in this case, the gold is “the impossible shot” of the mysterious UFO that has been devastating their western homestead. A film historian’s paradise, NOPE uses classic Western iconography and recontextualizes it for the modern age, resulting in a new Western classic. Peele literally took the reins and managed to make a science fiction film and a Western film (of which both can sometimes feel dated over time) feel timeless. (If you’d like to listen to Robby Anderson and me geek out about NOPE, check out this Hot Take.)
03) Jane Shoenbrun’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Time will tell if Shoenbrun’s debut, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, holds strong at number three in years to come, but for now, I can’t imagine it anywhere else. What was captivating to me about this indie “horror” is how dynamic and fresh it felt while also feeling unsettlingly familiar. As mentioned above, I grew up in a rural Indiana town, and as such, I’m familiar with the painful ache of wanting something, anything more than your isolating circumstances. Not to say that that isn’t a universal feeling of youth, but WAGttWF taps into a very specific and dangerous type of yearning, one in which the seeker opens themselves up to be susceptible to anything…or do they? In WAGttWF, protagonist Casey joins the “World’s Fair” challenge, which is a MMORPG where participants join the challenge by performing a video ritual and subsequently report any “symptoms” from joining. These symptoms can be anything, as you can make the game as real or as fake as you like. But are any of these symptoms actually real? Or are they all in the heads of the participants? Is this an artistic collaboration, or is it possibly a traumatic and dangerous hazing ritual that preys on those trapped in their loneliness? Told mostly through Casey’s video diary entries, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair understands those deep, dark, creepypasta-esque corners of the internet like the back of its hand. If you’ve lived in those corners, this one’s for you.
02) Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All At Once
Out of all the films on this list, I’m thankful to say that Everything Everywhere All At Once needs the shortest write-up. If you haven’t heard of the magical healing powers of EEAAO at this point, you must have been living under a rock. (*This is the most fun you could have in a cinema all year.) EEAAO has everything you could ever want in a film, and so so so much heart and sweetness that it feels like it might just give you a heart attack. It’s perfect. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis (special dual shoutout for Halloween Ends!), under the tutelage of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, have created characters that will never not be referenced for both their comedy and instruction on how to better understand your fellow man, whether that be your family…or your tax lady. EEAAO insinuates that every timeline in the metaverse holds relevance and importance, but we should all consider ourselves lucky to be living in the best one: the one where this film exists.
01) Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin
Immediately following seeing The Banshees of Inisherin, I remarked that it was my favorite film of the year so far, and here we still are. Martin McDonagh has struck again, but this time I think he’s at his all-time best, alongside an all-time lights-out Colin Farrell performance as well (third win here on this list for Mr. Farrell, and with Barry Keoghan along for this ride as well - I see you there, ya Joker). Add in the reunion with Brendan Gleeson, an emotional connection with Kerry Condon, and an amazing ensemble cast and you’ve got yourself a perfect film there, you do. My favorites of the year always spark an emotional connection with me, and I know I speak frequently of “As a…” and “From my experience…” but this type of story resonates with me on a deeper level, as it goes straight to the genetics of my origin. I might not be super close to my Irish heritage, but my surname and my Catholicism speak volumes for how much I identify with growing up within religion and beginning to question your place in the world, which is happening in a very disquieting way here for Farrell’s Pádraic and Gleeson’s Colm. Banshees is doubly pleasing for its versatility in how its story is read: do these characters exist in the real world or is there something otherworldly about Inisherin and its inhabitants? No matter, it’s all beans when it comes to just how deep the knife goes separating Pádraic’s and Colm’s friendship. Told with a dry wit and hilarity that can only be described as Irish, but still maintaining the reverence and emotional heft that comes with deeply loving your brethren, Banshees is just the type of comedy to warm your heart on a cold winter’s night. (If you need extra convincin’, you can listen to a riveting discussion on the film here.)
And so it goes dear reader, another list down, with another already in the works. Cinema sleeps for no man, and a pleasant 2023 to you and yours. Life resumes.
Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes.