I’ve never done this before. I usually put out end of the year movie lists. It’s how I built the foundation of this blog and the routine I’ve stuck to year in, year out. I’ve toyed with doing a halfway list before, but I’ve never had enough to fill a top ten by summer.
Lo and behold, 2022 has been a MIGHTY year for movies so far that I find myself still buzzing high. (The fact that most of these movies are available to stream now is insane.) Whether these will make my eventual year-end list remains to be seen. I’ve been having such a good time that I just wanna stop and stare for a sec. This may be the year where I finally budge on my usual slot of ten, who knows!
These are my favorite movies in the first half of 2022.
10. JACKASS FOREVER
I needed the laugh. If 2021 was like playing peekaboo at the theater, then February 2022 was when I finally felt comfortable going to the movies whenever I damn well wanted to. Having largely been away from cinemas for a year and a half, me and mine went RUNNING to see the Jackass boys on the big screen.
In the scheme of things, Forever is rather tame. Jackass 2 & 3, by comparison, are far rowdier and ambitious. This, of course, comes with the median age of the group—partly saved by younger newcomers this time around. Forever has more gross out gags than anything and a tremendous amount of dick punishment that my cinema-starved soul appreciated nonetheless. I’m betting this will be the first casualty once I get serious about my year-end favorites, and I say that without snark. Knoxville’s cannon stunt and (what looks to be) final bull stunt were worth seeing in the theater. Like I said, I just needed the laugh.
I was lukewarm on this movie in January but I’ve come around to it. Turns out I’m a sucker for movies when somebody says, “It’s happening again.” Things are going awry in Woodsboro again, and final girl Sidney Prescott finds herself ensnared in the killer cycle once more. The trick to this legacy sequel (“re-quel” is stupid, just say LEGACYQUEL) is the weaponized casting of a whole buncha fresh
meat faces in an entirely new era of horror to bat against. “Elevated horror” gets put on the grill of a Comedy Central Roast special, while toxic fandoms get the brunt of the third-degree burns. Scream 5 boasts a mighty kill count in that regard. Where once I thought only the first Scream was essential, I am a firm believer that we need Scream to keep the genre and the popular culture at large in check.
8. DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
It’s been tough trying to figure out what exactly I want in a Marvel movie post-Endgame. Turns out, Sam Raimi’s return was all I needed to get excited about this superhero enterprise again. I say that knowing full well Multiverse of Madness is MESSY. It’s the first of the MCU movies to tie-in things that happened in the Disney+ sector, and boy does this new interconnected model need more workshopping. Even a veteran director like Raimi can’t wrangle the MCU’s overlapping tapestry. And yet, his patented zooms and canted angles had me spellbound. When things got spooky – Raimi’s whole trademark – that was the movie I came to see. Multiverse of Madness is about 40% a horror movie, and that 40% rips and rules. Wanda gets to be Carrie unleashed – the final girl who’s had it up to here, while Benedict Cumberbatch gets to carve out his own comic book schtick outside of RDJ’s shadow. The mystic side of the MCU finally feels sinister and, ahem, stranger than hell. The sheer visual factor of Raimi’s verve makes all the difference. When a previously dead character emerges from the grave Evil Dead-style, I grinned like a madman.
Raimi, you are not in director jail anymore, you are free.
Whether Belle counts as a 2021 or 2022 movie, I’ll leave for another time. All I can tell you is that this movie turned my eyes into mist. Anytime Belle sang, I got choked up. Kylie McNeill’s voice (in the English version) is straight up enrapturing. The internet is incoherent noise, we all know this. But every once in a while, there’s a connection. Belle ingeniously uses the familiar beats of Beauty and the Beast to tell a story about rediscovering yourself in the social media age instead of remaking a popular storybook romance, and the tender metaphor at its center is all the better for it. (Also: HOW COME NOBODY TOLD ME THIS WAS LOW-KEY A DIGIMON MOVIE???) I didn’t think I had an appetite for anime anymore. Suddenly, I’m wondering what else I’ve been missing.
6. THE LOST CITY
I keep thinking the rom-com is dead then Sandra Bullock comes back around to ensure the genre’s survival. Bullock and Channing Tatum are an Olympic duo exuding so much damn charm to melt your face off. Save your age-gap discourse, I fell head over heels watching these two fall over each other in the jungle. Everybody’s looking for the next big thing to captivate moviegoers; sometimes all you need is the right pairing of stars. Sure, The Lost City wears its Romancing the Stone influence on its sleeve, but I assure you that’s a feature here, not a bug. Come for the Spielberg and Zemeckis nostalgia, stay for the winning romance and increasing buffoonery. I know Bullock set a “no sequels rule” following the disaster of Speed 2, but I sincerely hope she reconsiders.
5. THE NORTHMAN
A $90 million Robert Eggers movie sounds like a dream. There’s no way he did this without making a deal with the devil. Or perhaps the gods came through for once with a chariot from valhalla. Eggers’ knack for idiosyncratic detail and total authorial control of the camera are all on immersive display here. This may just be a glorified revenge movie, but it’s the raddest revenge movie since Gladiator— just trade the Oscar-worthy speeches for more growls and chanting. Alexander Skarsgard was born to play a Viking, and Anya Taylor-Joy continues her cinematic streak of looking weird and scary at the same time. The Northman is the Elder Scrolls movie I didn’t realize I always wanted: meandering side quests, NPCs guiding the way, plus raids and stealth missions to pass the time. There’s a sword that can only be drawn at night, I shit you not, and a final boss fight at the fiery gates of hell. $200 million Eggers movie next, pleaseandthankyou.
The ‘90s called and they’re back, babyyyyy. Michael Bay’s candy-colored maximalism is a balm in a blockbuster era no longer about a director’s vision anymore, but about the next 10 years of “content.” Sirens blaring, cars rip-roaring down alleyways, and explosions popping off in the gauntlet of American capitalism; Ambulance is the rare throwback that actually goes back to the bare-bones action picture. Like Bruce Willis in a building, or Sly Stallone taking on an army, Ambulance is a one-sentence pitch taken to the extreme. A bank heist goes wrong and becomes a hostage situation at high speed. Jake Gyllenhaal mainlines cocaine, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eiza Gonzalez prove their status as bona fide stars. Bay, for all of his visual flair, isn’t just aiming for spectacle so much as the jugular. When a country can’t take care of its veterans, meanwhile police get to play army on the city streets teeming with homeless, then it’s a free-for-all. Bay doesn’t bat an eye. The American dream is dead, and the only way out of the system is through.
3. TURNING RED
Each year there’s one animated movie that my daughter and I go apeshit for. Turning Red is that movie. We watched this TWICE the day it dropped on Disney+ because we were laughing so much at one gag that we missed the jokes that followed. Mei’s larger than life personality, her equally hilarious friend group; the anime eyes, the boyband nostalgia, and all things furry panda. Turning Red is the hardest I’ve laughed all year so far. And it’s not just funny, it’s soulful and poignant. I love this trend of animated movies where there are no external villains, but intergenerational conflicts and cycles of emotional suppression to deal with. The design of Mei’s mother Ming as someone halfway between a kid eager for friends and an embittered, joyless adult hit me in ways I did not expect. When Ming tells her daughter, “the farther you go, the prouder I’ll be” thereby breaking the cycle, I became a human puddle. Though I strongly believe Pixar should steer clear of sequels, I wouldn’t say no to Turning Redder. 4*Town 4 lyfe.
2. THE BATMAN
When Justice League and the Batfleck fizzled out in 2017, I was of the opinion that the Caped Crusader should be shelved for a while. The current superhero monoculture can leave you jaded like that. Then a noir-y, grimy gem like The Batman comes along and has you eating crow, or bat. I pledged allegiance to RPatz Bats after the first 10 minutes. Pattinson treats the Batsuit less like a way to channel the character’s anger and more like his final form. I thought 1994’s The Crow was what a moody, emo superhero looked like. (Journaling and Nirvana are all that were missing, as it turns out.) The mood board of this movie alone is immaculate. The French Connection, Chinatown, Se7en; throw in some Manhunter, top it all off with Zodiac. I’m all for Dano’s Riddler, Farrell’s Penguin, Kravitz’s Catwoman, and especially the way the Batmobile goes VROOM. Lesson learned, my Batsignal shall never waver here on out.
1. TOP GUN: MAVERICK
I was sure in my 4th round of The Batman that it’d be my current favorite of the year. But I did not heed the cinematic power of Top Gun: Maverick. I forgot there’s no betting against Tom Cruise. (In my defense, there have been a lot of movies since the last Mission: Impossible.) I might frequently wax poetic on here about messaging and subtext, but the one thing I’m insufferable about is the full-tilt roller coaster experience of watching a movie. It’s the simplest and seemingly most passive thing in the world. Even someone like me forgets that movies can move you, immerse you, or make you feel like you’re home. Top Gun: Maverick feels like an old friend: familiar, so much to catch up on, and oh so bittersweet. This is what we talk about when we lament, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” Maverick is old school in its beats and setup, and blazingly modern in its execution. There’s no going back to Star Wars trench runs or a man flying in a cape unless they’re doing that shit for real. Reader, when “The Man, the Legend” plays as Mav and Rooster land on the carrier, that’s CINEMA.
I may sound naïve considering 2022 is far from over, but if you only see one movie in theaters this year, it better be Top Gun: Maverick.