2022 has been a very good year for movies so far. The unusual bump in quality may be because of the flood of releases coming in after the delays caused by the pandemic, but that does not stop this year’s slate of movies from being any less impressive. From horror to comedy, blockbusters to indie fare, Vikings to multiverses, 2022 has offered a lot from all types of movie fans. These are the best of the year so far.
RRR is a movie of moments above everything else, so much so that the gonzo moments of spectacle have clouded some from acknowledging how contrived the dialogue can be for much of the feature. Too much of RRR, especially when it comes to the conversation with the love interest, feels amateurish and contrived. They sometimes are frighteningly similarly to the quid pro quo exchanges found in Netflix originals, where almost all the words are expositional and meant for an audience far dumber than anyone who would be watching this movie.
But the moments that do work in RRR are marvelous. RRR is the rare ballsy action flick that doubles as an absurdly well-choreographed musical. Its opening fistfight is just as thrilling as the free-for-all dance battle. This is all the more impressive considering how these scenes are woven in between a uniquely tuned movie bromance and a whole thesis on colonialism and revolt. RRR could seriously use trimming and a more subtle script that does not overdo virtually all of its plot points. Yet, the big moments its fanatics dwell on as well as the irresistible charm of its leads make it a vital film for the first half of 2022, even if it will not stand as one of the year’s best by the end.
Navalny is likely the leading candidate for documentary of the year so far, and it should be. It is a lean piece of filmmaking that is both a successful portrait of a daring political figure constantly under threat of death, and a rather provocative form of investigative journalism.
The ride it provides to viewers is typical for a muckraking documentary, but that does not keep any of its reveals being any less astounding, with the phone call of course being an absurd accomplishment for such a small team to realize. Its investigation into the plot against Navalny is timely and well-paced, with not a single piece of footage really seeming out of place. A deeper look into the character and quirks of Navalny would have set this apart from other documentaries like it, but it remains a more than solid example of no-nonsense filmmaking.
8. The Northman
If The Northman strays more from the Hamlet formula, it could have skyrocketed up this list. Eggers is as good as ever here capturing era-specific dialogue and giving it a melodious flow. It is the rare film, not unlike a Coen feature, where merely listening to it is a delight because of how noticeably fine-tuned the script was. And The Northman is likewise no slouch to look at either. The cinematography tracks our hero across various painting-like vistas, most notably the inside of a volcano.
The Northman, like a surprising amount of the best films this year, also doubles as a great action film. It bathes in the brutality of its action and carries over that aggressive energy to virtually the whole plot. Many have described it as the most metal film of the year and that is more than a fair characterization. It is a testosterone fueled rage fest dominated by sword fights, grimaces, and battle cries. It could benefit from a main character with more depth and less exposition, but it still is a top tier.
7. Top Gun: Maverick
Maverick’s praise may be a tad overblown. The actual target and Hangman’s rescue attempt are just eerily similar to A New Hope’s trench run, the newcomers are severely underwritten, and the lack of a clear enemy is both confusing and robs the audience of someone to root against. The film has more problems than some will let on, but I would be lying if it still does not deserve to be called one of the best of the year.
The obvious acclaim is properly directed towards the flying. It is insane what the actors had to go through. Their faces contorting from the G-force, mixed with the sound design from the theater leads to an often-visceral experience at the movie, a triumph for the art of moviegoing itself. The final action scene is nothing short of a phenomenal set piece, with just the right length, direction, and momentum shifting between heroes and villains. But Maverick is a little more than that.
It also is a very well done legacyquel that pays homage to the original without feeling cheap and expands on the story in a simple yet compelling way. And it also is a thoughtful reflection on Cruise himself, this relic of a man refusing to quit and providing entertainment for audiences despite his age. It is a pretty darn good popcorn flick that should make all fans of the movies happy that it is succeeding.
A weak lead acting performance aside, Scream was as an elite January film to kick off the year in film. It successfully captured the meta spirit of the original and was as acerbic as Craven. Its takes on fandom and elevated horror do not always ring true but when they land, you get something as brilliant as that opening scene.
Scream’s opening sets the stage for what the whole movie sets out to be, a bitter and playful look at the current horror landscape but also a delightful slasher. It has the all the jumps and violence the first one offered but in a new, oh so bloody coat of paint. It is not revolution like the original Scream, but it is the first time in a while where the franchise feels like a competent balance of hilariously overdone slasher encounters, and ultra-self-aware dialogue exchanges.