At this point, the “streaming services are killing the film industry” take is almost as tired as music fans declaring that “rock is dead.” Yes, folks are perhaps still more hesitant to go out to a movie theater post-pandemic, and studios are too hesitant to take a chance on anything that isn’t a Marvel movie or a horror film. But just like there are still countless musicians putting out excellent music that falls under the broad “rock” umbrella (albeit while existing outside of the Top 40 charts), movies as an art form aren’t going anywhere — you just have to know where to look for them.
Or then again, maybe you don’t. While 2022 featured a few frustrating examples of worthy comedies being buried on streaming services rather than being granted a wide theatrical release, it also offered a little reassurance that not every blockbuster has to be a superhero movie with the success of summer popcorn flicks like NOPE and Top Gun: Maverick. And of course, as always, there were plenty of compelling indie arthouse films to sink our teeth into as well.
Here at InsideHook, we don’t believe in ranking year-end lists; art is subjective, and you’re often comparing apples and oranges, so trying to determine the single “best” movie of any given year is a little silly. However, we’re more than happy to offer up a list of our personal favorites to hopefully point you towards a great movie you might have missed. With that in mind, we asked our staffers — as well as some of our most trusted film critics — to name the movies that brought them the most joy over the past 365 days, in no particular order, below.
The Banshees of Inisherin
It comes on like a comic violation of a social contract: What if one man decides to simply and succinctly cut ties with his supposed best friend, without any particular or personal animus between them? But Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin — his film that most closely resembles his bleakly hilarious work as a playwright — has more on his mind than social mores. Colm (Brendan Gleeson) forsakes the “dull” Pádraic (Colin Farrell) in part because he’s chilled by the prospect of leaving no mark upon the world from his modest perch on a tiny Irish island; this in turn unmoors Pádraic from his default gentility. Farrell, who gave an astonishing three of his best and most divergent performances in 2022 (the other two are in After Yang and — strange but true — The Batman), outdoes himself as a man trying and failing to offer practical solutions to existential problems. His performance perfectly matches the economy of McDonagh’s filmmaking, so assured and musically funny that it takes a while to realize he’s turning over an unanswerable but potentially terrifying question: Whether humankind’s capacity for higher thought might place us at collective odds with peaceful coexistence. — Jesse Hassenger
While Jordan Peele’s latest attempt to refresh the horror genre wasn’t met with quite as much box office success as Get Out or Us, I have a good feeling the alien thriller NOPE is the one we’ll all still be watching years, even decades, from now. How do I know this? Because during my moviegoing experience this summer, not only did his refreshingly original tale (a rarity today!) of a rogue UFO elicit many of the hallmarks of grade-A horror during the screening itself — audience members gasping, the unbearable suspense cutting off all popcorn nibbling and soda slurping as the climax approached — it received the greatest seal of approval: After the movie, when I was waiting for my wife to use the restroom, another guy who was waiting for his date kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye, finally blurting out, “Crazy movie, huh?” NOPE has plenty of blockbuster trappings (flying saucers! Huge set pieces! Blood raining from the sky!) but it’s the questions you’re left with after the credits that reveal its power. Is it about capitalism? Racism? Surveillance? The pitfalls of fame and celebrity? The intrigue was strong enough to break down the barriers COVID erected between strangers, at least in my experience, and it will keep viewers returning to this one again and again. — Alex Lauer
Everything Everywhere All at Once
First, and I cannot stress this enough, do not do what I did and watch this film for the first time on a plane. You’ll miss much of the visual splendor of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s beautiful and touching family drama that’s also a fantastically absurd multiverse tale. There’s nothing in the directing Daniels duo’s past (Swiss Army Man, The Death of Dick Long) that ever suggested they could craft a Marvel-worthy epic that also has really emotion — highlighted by Michelle Yeoh’s amazing turn as a Chinese American immigrant who owns a struggling laundromat and has sudden access to an infinitely weird number of parallel universes (e.g. including one with people who have hot dog fingers). — Kirk Miller
Top Gun: Maverick
As a human, Tom Cruise is somewhat of an unrelatable weirdo. As Maverick, even the second time around, he’s just about perfect and would have been enough to connect this sequel to Tony Scott’s 1986 film. But, since this is a blockbuster about fighter jets, friendship and freedom, director Joseph Kosinski opted to bombard his audience with callbacks to the first Top Gun, going so far as to get “Danger Zone” out of the mothballs. It could have been obnoxious. Instead, it just makes the mega-hit even more fun. — Evan Bleier
With the studio comedy all but on life support, it’s a sad sign of the times that a movie with even the most basic semblance of wit meets with starved audiences like manna in the desert. But Greg Mottola’s reboot of the gumshoe paperback series doesn’t make a discerning viewer feel like they’ve lowered their bar; if anything, the flurry of deadpan wisecracks, sly sight gags and conspicuously goofy supporting turns offset by underplayed ironies (you know, jokes) demands as much attention as the twisty, unexpectedly cathartic plot. Diverging from Chevy Chase’s smarmy take on the lead role, Jon Hamm plays detective I.M. Fletcher as an irresistibly rumpled smartass, his strong moral compass allowing for an insubordinate streak that gets the better of cops and rich losers. If this were the ’50s, or the ’70s, or maybe the ’90s, Hamm would be one of America’s biggest movie stars. And if this were a juster reality, this sleeper favorite would be the beginning of a star-making franchise, or at the very least given a fair shot by a studio invested in its success. — Charles Bramesco
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
When Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer Camp made a three-minute stop-motion animated video about a tiny, talking shell with shoes on back in 2010, they probably had no idea that it’d go on to rack up over 33 million views on YouTube and eventually result in this full-length feature film. And when I walked into the theater to see said film, I had no idea that it would feature a stunning performance by the legendary Isabella Rossellini (as, yes, a talking shell) or that it’d have me crying harder in the theater than any other movie I saw in 2022. The mockumentary follows our one-inch-tall hero (voiced by Slate) as he embarks on a mission to find his long-lost family, all while serving as caretaker for his elderly grandmother (Rossellini), who is starting to show signs of dementia and, we later learn, slowly dying. If you’re a fan of the original short, you can still expect a similar tone — lots of laughs and cutesy details about Marcel’s day-to-day life —but Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is an unexpectedly poignant look at grief and loneliness, packaged in a way that kids can understand but nuanced enough that adults will still be rendered weepy messes by it. — Bonnie Stiernberg
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Crimes of the Future
“I have unfinished business with the future,” David Cronenberg announced as he embarked on his first feature film since 2014. Cronenberg, who turned 79 this year, is the master of “body horror,” indelibly visceral high-concept riffs on the terror of being a consciousness trapped in a vulnerable sack of organic matter, and there’s plenty of that horror in Crimes of the Future: In a biological dystopia in which human bodies spontaneously grow strange new organs, body artist (and author surrogate) Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) faces the problems of aging, writ metaphorical: tumorous growths, trouble digesting. But in the playful partnership, in art and life, of Saul and Caprice (Léa Seydoux), Cronenberg also discovers a boundless, eternally youthful sense of wonder, pleasure and creativity. Long live his old flesh. — Mark Asch
Slasher pictures have always traded on youth, with batches of young people so often forced (and failing) to fight for their lives. X makes that struggle explicit in more ways than one. Ti West’s movie pits an amateur film crew setting out to shoot their own analog porno in a pre-video 1979 against the elderly owners of a farmhouse they’ve rented for the occasion. Rather than implicitly sneering at its protagonists for their recklessness or recoiling in pure horror over the elderly couple who bring about their doom, West recognizes the fleeting promise of youth alongside the invisibility that comes for all of us (but particularly women) as old age saps our bodies — but not necessarily our desires. Both ends of this cycle are embodied by Mia Goth, in a stunning dual role as ambitious burgeoning porn star Maxine and the wistful murderess Pearl (further explored in the companion film Pearl, released later in the year). This genre movie manages to be funny, sad, sexy and scary all at once; rare is the slasher that can accommodate Brittany Snow singing “Landslide” in split-screen with an old woman’s aching regrets while still delivering grindhouse gore. — Jesse Hassenger
The conversation around the highly anticipated return of director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) leaned heavily into the idiosyncrasies of The Northman’s creation, from Alexander Skarsgård’s fitness routine that led to his enormous traps, to the long takes beloved by many film geeks, to the story behind the casting of Björk, who hadn’t acted in a film in years. However, focusing on all of these external storylines does a disservice to the truly stupendous power Eggers was able to achieve in this Viking epic. Yes, I know, “epic” has been overused in modern movie parlance to the point of absurdity, but this film deserves its original heft. Eggers certainly gave himself a difficult task by attempting to craft a saga based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth, the direct inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but he was able to add a worthy story to that lineage by coaxing unforgettable performances out of leads and supporting actors alike (Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang) and marrying them with beautifully brutal cinematic stylings that combined the best of down-and-dirty shoots in Ireland and Iceland with the requisite hand of ethereal CGI. — Alex Lauer
Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, this film seemed to be released to simply serve as a perfect way to escape into some air-conditioning in mid-August. It was that — and perhaps a bit more. While Beast flirts with the so-bad-it’s-good category, it actually has some decent moments if you are simply looking to see Idris Elba punch a lion in the face in the name of saving his family. Pretty thin on plot but heavy on shots of the South African wilderness and fairly strong CGI, Beast is pretty much what it appears to be. Sometimes, that’s enough. — Evan Bleier
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
The hook of Laura Poitras’ shattering documentary — she follows activist Nan Goldin on a grassroots mission to flush the influence of the opioid-profiteering Sackler family out of the world’s great museums — short-changes the devastating historical scope of a film that mounts a more sweeping thesis on institutional neglect, death and art. In elegant associative edits, Poitras traces a line from the mass casualties inflicted by the avarice of today’s pill-pushers and the passive cruelty of the AIDS epidemic, then digs even deeper into Goldin’s past to find these patterns of structural hostility and avoidable ailment repeated in her own family. All of time blends into a single continuum of tragedy, with innumerable lives taken from the lively, weird, grimy, brilliant people most vulnerable to the callousness of the state. It’s a time capsule of a downtown New York scene long since vanished with a focus not on nostalgia but bitter ephemerality, mourning a culture along with the beautiful freaks that built it. — Charles Bramesco
On December 28, 1895, at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in the 9th Arrondissement of Paris, the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, inventors of the cinematograph, held their first public motion picture screening. On the program was L’Arroseur Arrosé (“The Sprinkler Sprinkled”), a 45-second short depicting a gardener watering plants. Behind his back, a young boy steps on his hose, blocking the flow of the water; when the gardener looks at the nozzle, the boy steps off, sending a stream of water into the face of the gardener, who then chases him down and gives him a spanking. Some 126 years later, humanity greeted the release of Jackass Forever, a film in which Dave England is doused by several gallons of pig semen and a heavyweight boxer punches Danger Ehren in the nuts. The film is accurately titled: braying, animal idiocy will always be funny. It is also poignant: As the silver-haired Johnny Knoxville, the bespectacled, be-dentured Steve-O and company age, they hand off many of the more dangerous stunts to a new generation of jackasses, fresh vessels for the eternal, humbling human comedies of pain and humiliation. It offers up — to quote Leonard Cohen — new skin for the old ceremony. — Mark Asch
It’s difficult to reveal too much about this horror-comedy directed by Mark Mylod (Succession) without delving into spoilers that’ll ruin the suspense, but you’re probably already familiar with the basic premise hinted at in the trailer: a world-renowned chef (Ralph Fiennes) hosts a group of 12 wealthy, obnoxious diners at his fancy restaurant on a remote island, and as each course is served, it becomes more and more obvious that his unwitting guests have actually walked into an elaborate murder-suicide. Everyone — entitled guests, the chef himself, his eerily obedient kitchen staff — will be dead by dessert. Naturally, there are some hiccups along the way, but we won’t get into specifics; it’s best if you go into it not knowing entirely what to expect. Just know that you’re in for a delightfully macabre satire that expertly skewers the upper class and fine-dining culture and almost winds up being funnier than it is scary. — Bonnie Stiernberg
In 1999, 11-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) takes a vacation in Turkey with her young father Calum (Paul Mescal), who she doesn’t see very often. They spend a few days together and apart, enjoying each other’s company, trying to learn a bit more about each other’s lives, and occasionally bickering. That’s about the size of Aftersun on paper: modest, quiet, uneventful. But this stunning feature debut from writer-director Charlotte Wells gradually accumulates power and widens its scope, as it becomes clearer that this long weekend is a memory for present-day Sophie — something she’s turning over in her mind as she looks through the old home videos she took. There are moments of heartbreaking tenderness between father and daughter, yet anxiety thrums beneath much of the movie; it has the immediacy and uncertainty of a vivid, realistic dream. Aftersun isn’t designed as a puzzle box, but its memoir-like narrative maintains a grounded sense of mystery, in the way that so many children and parents cannot fully know each other. — Jesse Hassenger
It’s not really fair putting S.S. Rajamouli’s crossover Tollywood phenomenon up against movies that don’t feature a guy throwing a motorcycle at another guy. An embarrassment of god-leveled ass-kickery (the unveiling of an animal attack squad is the “dream you never forget” that little Steven Spielberg’s mother told him about) keeps the three hours of this anti-colonialist/neo-nationalist historical epic galloping along, and just as American audiences got used to such more-is-more run times from the superhero-industrial complex. But the pathological entertainment impulse of Indian popcorn cinema, exploding with nimble musical numbers and rabid over-the-top violence and buoyant good vibes, still proved revelatory for the global audiences that turned this multiplex export into a standard-bearer for the subcontinent’s movie output. Though longtime devotees scoffed at the bandwagon-hoppers unaware that there’s a long, storied tradition of mind-boggling action filmmaking in the region, maybe this is the beginning of a brighter and more broadly conscious future in which we can all unite through the international language of ownage. — Charles Bramesco
Talk about jackass forever: in EO, a gentle, stoic donkey traverses modern Europe, persevering through a carnival of human folly, encountering circus performers and soccer hooligans and human traffickers and defrocked priests and taking it all in his wise, silent eyes. Sixty-two years into his film career, Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski is still finding ways to surprise himself and us, decorating this picaresque with drone shots, mood lighting, narrative detours, brazen and absurd jokes, and a curiosity about the cinema and the world that transcends the linear, or even the human. EEE-OOO! — Mark Asch
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