Best Movies of 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) has grossed over two billion dollars in the box office. By the time, it leaves theaters, it will likely be in the top-five films of all-time with the highest worldwide total. Director James Cameron will then have three of the top-five films after the first Avatar (2009) and Titanic (1997). It should be noted that the majority of Cameron's money was made internationally. In fact, 70-percent of the money made by Avatar: The Way of Water came from countries outside the United States, countries like France, Germany, South Korea and China. In fact, Avatar: The Way of Water is one of few Hollywood productions to get released in China.

For example, Top Gun: Maverick (2022) did not get released in China. That Tom Cruise vehicle is his first to cross a billion dollars overall. A lot of that money was made in the United Kingdom and Japan, but that film had a 50/50 split between the money made domestically and money made internationally. Top Gun: Maverick earned $718 million in the USA. It was by far the top domestic earner in 2022. It also paved the way for blockbusters to receive all kinds of awards and accolades.

Top Gun: Maverick was nominated for six Oscars at the 95th Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. It even got nominated for Best Picture, meaning Tom Cruise has gotten his fourth Oscar nomination and his first in the Best Picture category. The other nominees for Best Picture are All Quiet on the Western Front (2022), Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Fablemans, Tár, Triangle of Sadness and Women Talking.

In terms of the films on my list, I was particularly attracted to the numerous entries this year that spotlighted African-American history, particularly Black history that has been overlooked. A lot of films on my list reflected the struggle for equity and even justice that marginalized or minority people have had for decades. It's not all struggle. In a lot of these films are thrills and excitements. Shout out to On the Come Up (2022), which is one of Paramount Pictures' smaller releases, about a Black, female filmmaker, Sanaa Lathan, tackling rap music in a fresh way.

Best Theatrical Releases:

10. THE SEA BEAST by Chris Williams - Moby-Dick meets Godzilla vs. Kong. What could have been a typical seafaring adventure, animal conservation tale or even kaiju flick instead embraces topical and relevant themes and issues that elevate the material above your normal animated films. Like Turning Red, it focuses on a young girl of color, while also targeting the idea of royalty or authoritarian power, as well as misinformation. Coming off shows like The Crown and Harry & Meghan, it's a great counterpoint.

9. CALL JANE by Phyllis Nagy - Given that this past year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, this film couldn't have come at a better time. Yes, there have been films that have tackled the issue of abortion. Its story doesn't fall to cliché or stereotype and the performances of Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver range from empathetic to entertaining.

8. SPOILER ALERT by Michael Showalter - This is the best romantic comedy of the year. It's one of a few LGBTQ films of the year, and one of only two that got a wide theatrical release. The other was Billy Eichner's Bros (2022), which was more about how being gay is different, whereas this film is more about how at the end of the day, it's no different, especially when facing universal challenges, such as cancer. Other notable gay films include Badhaai Do (2022) from India and Mascarpone (2022) from Italy. None of those films though have the incomparable Sally Field.

7. SEE YOU THEN by Mari Walker - This is a film in the vein of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise (1995) of which there have been many, but this one is unique in that it centers on the relationship of a transgender woman. The film deconstructs what a trans woman could experience when examining a break-up prior to transitioning. It explores the difficulties a trans person can face, as well as what an ex-girlfriend can feel. It's superbly written and performed.

6. A SHOT THROUGH THE WALL by Aimee Long - An Asian cop shoots and kills an unarmed Black man in New York City. This film follows the aftermath. It calmly and steadily details what the cop might experience in the adjudication of that incident. It exposes racial tensions between Asian people and Black people.

5. EMERGENCY by Carey Williams - It takes racial tension and makes a comedy out of it. It's about two, Black, college students who find a White girl passed out drunk in their fraternity house. Their series of decisions that follow are horrifying and somehow also hilarious.

4. DESCENDANT by Margaret Brown - A documentary about the residents of Africatown, Alabama. They're the distant relatives of the survivors of the slave-ship, Clotilda. The film follows the search for the ship, which was burned and sunk just before the American Civil War. The real thrust is how the residents struggle with poverty and pollution from a nearby factory.

3. DEVOTION by J.D. Dillard - It tells the true story of Jesse L. Brown (Jonathan Majors), an Ensign in the U.S. Navy who was one of the first, African-American aviators in that military branch who died during the Korean War. It also details his friendship with Lieutenant Tom Hudner, a White naval pilot. Hudner is played by Glen Powell who was also featured in Top Gun: Maverick as the naval pilot "Hangman." Here, Powell isn't that brash and cocky character, but a more naive and sensitive one.

2. TILL by Chinonye Chukwu - It tells the story of Emmett Till, the teenage boy who was lynched, murdered, while visiting his cousins in Mississippi in 1955. Yet, what his mother, Mamie Till (Danielle Deadwyler), experienced in the wake of that is incredible and influenced the Civil Rights Movement from that year forward. Its issues are echoed today in things like the Black Lives Matter Movement or in cases, depicted in films like Gemmel & Tim (2022).

1. THE WOMAN KING by Gina Prince-Bythewood. The female army in the blockbuster Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) was inspired by the real-life Agojie who lived in West Africa in what was known as the Kingdom of Dahomey. This film, starring the incredible Viola Davis, tells the story of the Agojie and how one becomes a member of the warrior tribe and what's needed to stay a member, what one has to sacrifice. The film also reckons with the idea that the Dahomey were involved with the Atlantic slave trade. At least, it does so in a way that no other major motion picture has. With great supporting performances from Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim and John Boyega, this film is a triumph and lives up to the genre of historical epic.


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