As 2023 begins to kick into gear, it’s essential to look back at what made the previous year so great. Before readers move onto another year of new and exciting releases, Taste of Cinema will once again discuss the highlights from the previous year. This list specifically focuses on the best science fiction films from 2022.
Below, you’ll find the ten best sci-fi movies from last year. As always, there’s a solid mix of introspective arthouse releases and all-out blockbusters. The amount of variety should, in theory, help readers find something worth watching.
10. Crimes of the Future
It’s wild to think that David Cronenberg, a director so closely associated with body horror, took a twenty-three year break from the subgenre. Sure, it’s not like he was out directing flops, but let’s be honest, Eastern Promises is a massive departure from things like Videodrome and The Fly. Though countless directors have tried to replicate Cronenberg’s visceral style, few have been able to get it right. That’s why Crimes of the Future was such a big deal prior to its release.
Cronenberg’s return to body horror is, unsurprisingly, the best kind of grotesque nightmare fuel. The scattershot storytelling might rub some viewers the wrong way, but it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. This is quintessential Cronenberg. It’s a movie that generally prioritizes haunting imagery and methodical suspense, often at the expense of a cohesive narrative. Theoretically, this should be a major problem, but given Cronenberg’s talents, it’s easy to ignore the narrative missteps because, deep down, it’s much easier to just enjoy the ride.
9. Something in the Dirt
Throughout the years, directing duo Moorhead and Benson have developed a small but loyal following. Films like The Endless and Spring earned strong reviews thanks to their heady themes and naturalistic dialogue. Given the consistently convoluted storytelling in their filmography, their work has been polarizing, but generally speaking, reactions continue to be positive.
Something in the Dirt, the latest full length feature from the two, is just as ambitious as you’d expect. It’s filled with numerous ideas, and at times, this can interfere with pure enjoyability. In other words, the film isn’t always exciting to sit through. That being said, it has a central message that’s easy to appreciate and a pair of leads who elevate the overstuffed narrative.
8. Brian and Charles
This methodically-paced sci-fi comedy doesn’t exactly open with a bang. On the contrary, Jim Archer’s directorial debut sneaks up on you. Early on, viewers meet Brian, a lonely inventor living in a small Welsh town. The obsessive tinkerer, who spends most of his time home alone, eventually finds a way to bring his long-awaited robot companion to life. From there, we meet Charles, and for the next thirty minutes, we learn about the quirky robot’s various intricacies.
The opening act is pleasant, but it rarely makes an effort to actively keep viewers emotionally invested. However, as the runtime progresses, viewers quickly learn that this slow buildup serves a very important purpose. As we watch the relationship between Brian and Charles grow, we become increasingly invested in their friendship, and as result, we become increasingly dependent on their wellbeing.
Okay sure, maybe a lot of movies do that. Brian and Charles isn’t exactly groundbreaking in its methodology, but the use of pathos proves to be an essential ingredient regardless. This is largely because it provides viewers with two immensely likable characters. It’s easy to root for the pair of protagonists because they’re so well-written and so full of life. Even if Brian and Charles doesn’t break new ground, it certainly finds a way to get viewers attached to its unlikely duo.
7. Avatar: The Way of Water
It has been over ten years since the release of Avatar, and since then, blockbusters have changed dramatically. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has continued to influence big-budget action movies, resulting in things like the DC Extended Universe and the Monsterverse. While there have been plenty of gems since the release of Avatar, it’s nice that, 13 years later, Cameron is still capable of making films that are certifiably his own.
Avatar: The Way of the Water is exactly what you expect. It’s a sweeping technical achievement with an engaging, albeit fairly simple, story. Like all of Cameron’s filmography, it celebrates excess. The daunting runtime, lavish visual effects, and enormous cast of characters won’t surprise anyone familiar with the director’s work. Luckily, that feeling of familiarity generally stands out as a positive.
Basically, this is a worthy follow-up to the highest grossing film of all time because it feels like such a natural next-step. Rather than attempting to replicate the formulas established by today’s blockbusters, Avatar: The Way of the Water is just a bigger, better version of its predecessor. The visuals are more impressive, the characters have more depth, and the story is more ambitious. This is exactly what it needs to be.
That might not be enough for the people who criticized the original, but that doesn’t matter. Cameron’s goal wasn’t to convert the naysayers because, frankly, he didn’t need to. He knew that sprucing up the previously established formula would work out in his favor, and he was right.
After so many failed attempts at revitalizing the iconic franchise, Prey finally pushes the Predator franchise forward. It turns out that, rather than piling on excessive amounts of convoluted lore, the series simply needed to deliver slick action scenes featuring a likable protagonist going up against the iconic extraterrestrial species. See, Prey isn’t particularly complex; it’s just a well-made movie that does everything it sets out to do.
Trachteberg’s prequel takes the franchise all the way back to 1719. Viewers are introduced to Naru, a wannabe hunter who idolizes her brother’s prowess. As warning signs begin to foreshadow the appearance of the Predator franchise’s titular monster, Naru’s hunting skills become an essential life-or-death skill. Thus begins an hour of pulse pounding excitement.
Prey’s well-choreographed battles are great on their own, but they’re accompanied by a terrific leading performance. Amber Midthunder doesn’t portray a throwaway space marine; she’s a charismatic protagonist through and through. Her charm goes hand-in-hand with practically everything else, resulting in an entry that very well could be the best in the series.