The 30 best films of 2022 ranked, and don't try to fight us on this

The 30 best films of 2022 ranked, and don't try to fight us on this

From intimate drama to daring horror—and, of course, high-flying spectacle—it's been a Tár-rific year for cinema

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AV Club’s best films of 2022: Tár, Turning Red, Top Gun Maverick, RRR, Barbarian
(Clockwise from left:) Top Gun: Maverick (Courtesy Paramount Pictures), Barbarian (20th Century Studios), Turning Red (Disney/Pixar), Tár (Courtesy of Focus Features), RRR (DVV Entertainment)
Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

What are the takeaways from cinema in 2022? If our annual ranking of the year’s best movies is any indication, it’s that prestige filmmaking flourished in a wide array of genres: profoundly intimate drama (from The Inspection to Decision To Leave), daringly original horror (from Nanny to Barbarian) and—because we were all desperate to return to cineplexes—dazzlingly ambitious spectacle (Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way Of Water, and RRR). You could say another trend is that tiny or simple moments felt epic this year (from the everything bagel in Everything Everywhere All At Once to the devastating zingers in The Banshees Of Inisherin), whereas epics themselves felt empty (this was not, as this list suggests, the year for great summer blockbusters). Which title came out on top? Without further ado, here are The A.V. Club’s 30 most superlative films of 2022.

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30. Barbarian 

30. Barbarian 

BARBARIAN | Official Clip | In Theaters September 9

Writer-director Zach Cregger’s first solo feature defies horror conventions while simultaneously using them to deliver one of the year’s best experiences in a theater. Barbarian has more on its mind than just being a twisted, contained fright fest about the misadventures of a young woman (Georgina Campbell) who gets trapped in a double-booked rental house. Said house, by the way, is owned by a Hollywood bigwig and alleged rapist (Justin Long) and is located in a decaying Detroit neighborhood that’s home to, well, you wouldn’t believe us if we told you. Part of the fun is finding out for yourself, as Barbarian gets unpacked like a Russian doll full of dread and nightmare fuel. [Phil Pirrello]

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29. Living

29. Living

LIVING | Official Trailer (2022)

Reimagining a classic from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa has been done successfully before (see: 1960’s The Magnificent Seven or 1966’s Django). But rarely have they been done as powerfully as in Living, South African director Oliver Hermanus’ reworking of Kurosawa’s 1952 drama, Ikiru. The update, which unfolds in 1950s London, was written by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains Of The Day). Ishiguro and Hermanus effectively tee it up for Bill Nighy, who gives a heartbreaking performance as Mr. Williams, a soul-dead corporate paper pusher trying to do a tiny bit of good in the world after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film’s elegant staging and exquisitely crafted script belie its enormous amount of feeling. In stillness, Nighy conveys the regret of a man who’s spent a lifetime taking no chances until his hour is almost (ahem) nigh. Co-starring Tom Burke and Aimee Lou Wood, Living is one character’s deeply moving answer to the question, “what makes life meaningful?” [Mark Keizer]

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28. Catherine Called Birdy

28. Catherine Called Birdy

Catherine Called Birdy Funny Moments | Prime Video

Catherine Called Birdy is in some ways an atypical Lena Dunham production. Instead of a portrait of a modern millennial woman, it’s the coming-of-age tale of a young girl in medieval times. Yet the reasons why this has long been a passion project for Dunham are obvious. Like all of her heroines, Birdy is an imperfect, irrepressible girl at a complicated intersection of power and privilege, someone who dreams of rising above the status that society has set out for her. Fresh, fiery, and funny, Bella Ramsey is perfect for the role, surrounded by a charming supporting cast that includes Billie Piper, Andrew Scott, and Joe Alwyn. Dunham does an excellent job balancing lightness and gravity in her adaptation of Karen Cushman’s novel, highlighting the perilousness of womanhood (a timeless theme) while maintaining a robust sense of humor. Most excitingly, the film proves what Dunham is capable of as a creator when she unleashes her imagination and explores new horizons. [Mary Kate Carr]

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27. Nanny

27. Nanny

Nanny - Featurette | Prime Video

Visually striking and deeply emotional, Nanny takes a very vulnerable and empathetic approach to the American immigrant experience. Nikyatu Jusu’s directorial debut follows Aisha (the exceptional Anna Diop), a woman from Senegal who heads to New York City to work as a nanny for the daughter of a rich white couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector). Virtually brand-new to America, Aisha uses her job to save money and build a life for herself while re-examining the one she already has. Nanny intimately invests in Aisha’s journey by never shying away from how challenging it is to grow in a world that limits growth for immigrants like her. It’s a moody, interior drama that resonates long after the end credits roll. [Phil Pirrello]

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26. Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

26. Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE | “Power of Intimacy and Pleasure” Featurette | Searchlight Pictures

Movies about sexual awakening usually don’t revolve around 55-year-old women. Nor are they as charming, body positive, and gently inspiring as Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. An unsurprisingly fantastic Emma Thompson plays Nancy, a retired schoolteacher who hires a sex worker named Leo (Daryl McCormack) to help her achieve her very first orgasm. Before that can happen, Katy Brand’s dense but fleet, playful but insightful script has Leo and Nancy in a verbal tennis match as the former tries to break down the fears and insecurities of the latter—until there’s nothing left to do but delight in the sexual pleasure that no woman, especially those of a certain age, should be ashamed to want. This lighthearted but serious-in-intent study of sexual repression and empowerment is for anyone who’s ever been unhappy with their body or too embarrassed to pursue their own sexual fulfillment, which is to say, all of us. [Mark Keizer]

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25. Fire Of Love

25. Fire Of Love

Fire of Love Trailer | National Geographic

Could this year’s most romantic love story truly be found in a nonfiction film about a pair of real-life French volcanologists who spent a lifetime sharing their zeal for this most dangerous of natural vistas? Anyone who’s seen Sara Dosa’s visually dazzling Fire Of Love is likely to think so. Composed of mostly archival footage shot by Katia and Maurice Krafft through their decades-long work together and narrated in soothing tones by Miranda July, this award-winning documentary is a stunning portrait of twinned fiery passions. Doubling as a nature doc, Dosa’s chronicle of the Kraffts’ groundbreaking work may be tinged with tragedy, but it brims with such eye-catching cinematography that you can’t help but succumb to the pleasures the couple (and Dosa) find in volcanic eruptions all over the world. [Manuel Betancourt]

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24. Prey 

24. Prey 

Prey | It’s Coming Clip | Hulu

The Predator franchise gets a new lease on life in Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey, a prequel set in 1719 in the Northern Great Plains. When her home is threatened, young Comanche warrior Naru (Amber Midthunder) defies the expectations of her tribe by battling against a creature from the sky. Prey extends the lore of the Predator franchise while also offering a fresh perspective in its choice of lead and reverence given to Comanche culture and language. As the best Predator movie since the original, with its genuine sense of tension, creative action sequences, and gore, this is a reminder that sometimes going for a smaller, more intimate, and character-driven installment is exactly what long-running franchises need to find their footing again. [Richard Newby]

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23. Funny Pages

23. Funny Pages

Funny Pages | Official Trailer HD | A24

Funny Pages is an inspired, coming-of-age black comedy full of hard truths that it, refreshingly, never shies away from. Written, directed, and edited by Owen Kline, Funny Pages centers on breakout star Daniel Zolghadri’s high schooler Robert, whose aspirations to be a cartoonist clash with his suburban life. Once he leaves home to pursue his dream, he encounters a series of mini-nightmares that his new friend, a former low-level artist named Wallace, helps him navigate. Kline finds biting humor and poignant commentary in Robert’s misguided (but relatable) quest to find who he is or, at least, who he doesn’t want to be. The end result is an excellent, fresh addition to this tried-and-true genre. [Phil Pirrello]

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22. Pearl

22. Pearl

Pearl | Official Trailer HD | A24

With Pearl, writer-director Ti West both embraces and elevates what horror movies can do, in a way that further solidifies his standing as one of the best things to ever happen to the genre. A prequel to West’s other terrifying 2022 venture X, Pearl tells the bloody and tragic origin story of its sexually charged, identity-starved title character, played by Mia Goth in a performance that makes her worthy of Movie Star status. By mining Pearl’s history, a violent (and at times intentionally Grindhouse-y) cautionary tale about the dangers of suppressing one’s desires, carnal and otherwise, West taps thematically rich veins in ways that few of his contemporaries have ever explored. In doing so, West and his collaborators have made one of the year’s best films. [Phil Pirrello]

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21. The Woman King

21. The Woman King

THE WOMAN KING Clip - Preparing for Battle

This year, Gina Prince-Bythewood delivered a Black historical epic that audiences have been waiting for. Centered on the 19th-century Agojie, a women-led warrior unit who protected the kingdom of Dahomey, The Woman King tells the story of General Nanisca (Viola Davis), who leads her warriors against Portuguese slavers. In a Hollywood landscape where so many films focused on Black history are about Black trauma, and the lives led as slaves, it is important and necessary that we also have a film like The Woman King that shows the fight against slavery from the perspective of Black women. With strong supporting performances from Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu, and John Boyega, along with beautifully choreographed action sequences, The Woman King is a success story that Hollywood would do well to learn from. [Richard Newby]

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20. Turning Red

20. Turning Red

Pandas Unite / Nobody Like U (Reprise) (From “Turning Red”)

Turning Red, Pixar’s animated coming-of-age tale about a 13-year-old girl who finds herself uncontrollably turning into a red panda when she gets emotional, is a broadly relatable idea filtered through a very specific lens. The authentic cultural touchstones of Meilin’s Chinese-Canadian heritage are present in every scene, yet the story speaks to everyone who’s been through that awkward time of life. While Mei (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) struggles to navigate her evolving self-image, her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) has a hard time letting go of the child she thought she knew. As is to be expected from Pixar, the animation detail is top-notch—Mei’s red panda form is so fuzzy you want to reach through the screen and hug her. It would probably have looked even better on the big screen, but for some reason Disney decided to send it straight to Disney+, somewhat undercutting any praise the studio might be due for giving a platform to diverse and innovative creators like writer-director Domee Shi in the first place. [Cindy White]

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19. Triangle Of Sadness

19. Triangle Of Sadness

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS - Official Trailer - In Theaters October 7

Two models have a lovers’ quarrel. A luxury cruise devolves into explosions of vomit, and worse. A shipwreck. From the twisted mind of writer-director Ruben Östlund comes Triangle Of Sadness, his follow-up to Force Majeure and The Square, a film that links these disparate acts into another cock-eyed skewering of the one percent. On top of one of 2022’s most unforgettable sequences—a symphonic crescendo of seasickness that audiences can’t help but feel in their own guts—Östlund deserves recognition for the bonkers yet believable performances he elicits from his actors: Harris Dickinson and the late Charlbi Dean as shallow influencer types, Zlatko Burić and Woody Harrelson as drunks debating capitalism, and especially Dolly De Leon as the last act’s tyrannical survivalist. [Jack Smart]

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18. Women Talking

18. Women Talking

WOMEN TALKING | Official Trailer 2

Do nothing. Stay and fight. Leave. Such are the three choices facing the women of an isolated Mennonite colony who find themselves at a breaking point. Too many of them cannot bear the sexual violence that’s become a normalized part of their everyday lives; yet facing the husbands and brothers and fathers who unleash their anger and frustration on them will surely come at a price—be it spiritual or earthly. The heady and evocative conversation that Sarah Polley’s quietly devastating Women Talking stages is a thing of beauty, a rallying cry for women’s empowerment that nevertheless makes space for both tenderness and conflict. With a stellar ensemble led by a beatific Rooney Mara, whose face captures the painful power of sisterly grace, and a righteously indignant Jessie Buckley whose body ripples with pent-up anger, Women Talking is nothing short of a triumph. [Manuel Betancourt]

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17. All The Beauty And The Bloodshed

17. All The Beauty And The Bloodshed

ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED - Official Trailer

Laura Poitras, the documentarian previously best known for her feature on Edward Snowden, crafted one of this year’s most emotionally affective works with this year’s Golden Lion winner, All The Beauty And The Bloodshed. The documentary traces the life of groundbreaking photographer Nan Goldin, from her suburban nightmare of a childhood to her impactful activism work against the omnipotent Sackler family. The film pulls at many strings in Goldin’s life: Her fraught adolescence, early career as a photographer, romantic relationships, sex work, involvement in the counterculture of ’80s NYC, her AIDS activism, her P.A.I.N. activism, and death after death experienced in her lifetime. The result conjures a swirl of grief, rage, and heartache over what could have been. In Poitras’ careful hand, a film about a lot of things becomes a film about resilience, being relentlessly yourself, and holding the bastards accountable. [Gabrielle Sanchez]

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16. Babylon

16. Babylon

BABYLON | Welcome to Babylon Featurette (2022 Movie) - Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Tobey Maguire

Let’s see if encapsulating why Damien Chazelle’s Babylon belongs on a “best of 2022” list can be done in 150 words or less. The setting: Los Angeles in the 1920s. The plot: An eclectic group of filmmakers and other industry types tries to weather Hollywood’s transition from silent to sound films. The characters: aspiring starlet Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), starstruck climber Manny Torres (Diego Calva), silent era icon Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), cabaret sensation Lady Fay Zhu (Li Jun Li), a gossip journalist (Jean Smart), a trumpet virtuoso (Jovan Adepo), and, briefly, an eerie mob boss (Tobey Maguire). The verdict: Babylon is so sprawling, so spectacularly ambitious, and so technically impressive with long-take logistics alone, that even if you conclude the whole epic is a mess rather than an opus, that’s by Chazelle’s design too. His Hollywood is a big, beautiful behemoth, and getting swept up in its wake proves irresistible. [Jack Smart]

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15. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

15. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery | Exclusive Clip | Netflix

Epic sci-fi, bonkers horror-comedy, and of course high-flying spectacle were the main reasons 2022 became the year audiences dared to return to the cineplex. But for a beautiful, all-too-brief week in November, a different genre film arrived to remind us there are other ways to make moviegoing an edge-of-your-seat experience. At my screening of Glass Onion, Rian Johnson’s return to the Benoit Blanc-verse, that phenomenon was literal; audience members were upright in their chairs, exclaiming with panicked delight at—spoiler alert—the movements of a drop of hot sauce. If you have no idea what I’m talking about and have yet to experience the pleasures of this most scintillating of murdery mysteries, I envy the fact that you get to watch Daniel Craig and Janelle Monáe scheme against rich buffoons for the first time. [Jack Smart]

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14. Bones And All

14. Bones And All

BONES AND ALL | Theatrical Trailer

Luca Guadagnino’s cannibal love story, an adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ novel, explores the horror and beauty of love and survival, and whether both are attainable for outsiders desperately hoping to find their place in a country that longs for normalcy. When Mare (Taylor Russell), a young woman with the insatiable urge to eat human flesh, meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a young man with the same affliction, the two travel across the backroads of America in search of her mother while being followed by a child-minded cannibal, Sully (Mark Rylance) in search of companionship. A travelogue steeped in Americana, Bones And All feels like Terrence Malick’s Badlands meets Stephen King. It uniquely blends horror and romance in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the stakes or genre commitments to either. [Richard Newby]

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13. The Inspection

13. The Inspection

The Inspection | Official Trailer HD | A24

The Inspection isn’t a perfect movie, but there are times when it feels like it’s tantalizingly close. In his feature directorial debut, Elegance Bratton’s very personal story about a young gay soldier subverts the familiar tropes of military dramas that center on a lost soul whose enlistment helps them find whatever they are searching for—most often themselves. For his variation, based on his own life, Bratton tells a timely, emotionally honest, and heartfelt tale that threads a compelling narrative around inspired thematic tentpoles. The movie tackles how hard it is for many to accept who they are in the face of society and its institutions’ expectations. Gabrielle Union gives a career-best performance as Inez, the mother of Jeremy Pope’s conflicted Ellis, who is as unpredictable with her moods as she is raw with her estranged son. Their relationship is the broken yet beating heart of this story as The Inspection explores the vitality of empathy in a world that could sorely use some. [Phil Pirrello]

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12. After Yang 

12. After Yang 

After Yang | Official Trailer HD | A24

One of the year’s earliest knockouts came in the form of Kogonada’s After Yang, set in a not-too-distant future where we invite A.I. humanoids into our homes, our lives, and our families. Colin Farrell leads the film as tea shop owner and father Jake, who wakes up one day to find the family’s “techno-sapien,” Yang (Justin H. Min), unresponsive. At first, Jake and his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) cling to the inconvenience of Yang’s absence, before the true feeling of loss creeps in, particularly for their young adopted daughter (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja). As it becomes clear Yang will not be returning to the family, Jake begins to dedicate himself to learning about his pseudo-child’s life—and what that meant for him. From there, After Yang slowly blossoms into a story about the importance of the smallest moments in life, and a rumination on loss and kinship. [Gabrielle Sanchez]

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11. Murina

11. Murina

Murina – Official U.S. Trailer

From the dreamy coast of Croatia comes Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s debut film Murina , a coming-of-age story starring Gracija Filipovic in her debut feature role. Though Murina marked a lot of firsts for the people involved, the Martin Scorsese-backed work is a stunning, restless film about the trappings of adolescence, and the inherent desire for independence. Filipovic’s unruly Julija contends with her abusive household by spending time near the ocean, donning a signature blue one-piece with a spear in hand (for catching eels, of course). The cinematography work by Hélène Louvart (The Lost Daughter, The Beach Of Agnes) brings the visual aspects of Murina into striking focus, casting sunshine over the foreboding tale. [Gabrielle Sanchez]

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10. Marcel The Shell With Shoes On

10. Marcel The Shell With Shoes On

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On | Official Clip HD | A24

Extending the story of a tiny, kind mollusk, Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate gave the once-viral sensation Marcel The Shell his own full-length feature, crafting one of the year’s most touching and humorous films along the way. While Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is cute by nature (it’s a small talking shell with sneakers on for crying out loud), the film offers a potent message on the importance of finding ways to move forward through loss and change, as clinging to the past prevents the building of a brighter future. It’s a hard lesson for anyone, making Marcel The Shell fit for everyone—despite the childlike demeanor of the main character. It’s a rare slice of comfort and charm that’s not trying to be anything other than itself. [Gabrielle Sanchez]

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9. Corsage

9. Corsage

CORSAGE - Official UK Trailer - In Cinemas 26 December

As she approaches her 40th birthday, Empress Elisabeth of Austria sees her world shrinking. She detests the royal duties that come with her title and has no way of attracting her own husband into bed. She aches for more but cannot find ways to satiate such meager wants without losing herself in the process. With a wondrously fierce performance by Vicky Krieps at its center, Corsage follows a year in the life of the Empress as she wrestles with her melancholy and her grief. Capturing a malaise that despite its 19th-century trappings remains wildly modern and timely (how much agency can a woman have over her own life, her own body, her own future?), writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s film is a sumptuous achievement, a beautifully adorned window into a woman’s increasingly claustrophobic inner life and the leaps (!) she’s ready to take in order to avoid her preordained fate. [Manuel Betancourt]

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8. Avatar: The Way Of Water

8. Avatar: The Way Of Water

Avatar: The Way of Water | New Trailer

James Cameron has done it again. The Way Of Water improves on the first film in nearly every way. Set years after the events of the original, the sequel finds Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), along with their children, on the run after Quaritch (Stephen Lang) returns in an Avatar body and begins hunting them. The spectacle of it all is obviously a major draw; the unmatched mo-cap, effects work, and 3D enhancement are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s a fully immersive environment with underwater sequences designed to make audiences hold their breaths. But as impressive as all of that is, it’s The Way Of Water’s simple yet universal story of family, fear of loss, connection, and faith in an era where we feel increasingly isolated that makes the film emotionally resonant. There’s a sincerity exhibited in this triumph of a film that is deeply necessary right now. [Richard Newby]

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7. Decision To Leave 

7. Decision To Leave 

DECISION TO LEAVE | Official Trailer | In Theaters & Now Streaming on MUBI

Everyone who saw Decision To Leave in 2022 raved about the film. That’s what tends to happen when audience members cross paths with the great Park Chan-wook, who’s less a storyteller than a seducer, whose films, from Joint Security Area to The Handmaiden, have given us intoxicating theatrical experiences, and who surely will continue to reign as one of South Korea’s most audacious auteurs. Decision To Leave, perhaps the year’s most romantic yet also most fucked-up film, works largely because of the pitch-perfect performances of Tang Wei as a newly widowed woman and Park Hae-il as the detective investigating her husband’s murder. By the time its tension-releasing conclusion arrives, we’re as obsessed as Park’s character—one of those edge-of-your-seat experiences where we take comfort in the feeling we’re at a great filmmaker’s mercy. [Jack Smart]

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6. Top Gun: Maverick

6. Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick | NEW Official Trailer (2022 Movie) - Tom Cruise

Among Tom Cruise’s recent run of character-driven blockbuster fare, Top Gun: Maverick is arguably his best. Working with co-writer (and frequent collaborator) Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski take a deep dive into the “danger zone”—past the surface-only thrills of Tony Scott’s iconic first film—and mine Maverick’s past as the hot shot pilot struggles to forge a future that’s about more than feeling the need for speed. “All the feels” is what the filmmakers find and, in turn, compel the audience to experience as they enjoy more than just an action movie with really great cinematography and even better editing. It’s a movie about fathers and sons, about the sacrifices men like Maverick make so that we don’t have to. Top Gun: Maverick effortlessly threads its thematic ambitions around white-knuckle action set pieces that drag you to the edge of your seat by the heartstrings. Sequels don’t get much more satisfying (or rewatchable) than this. [Phil Pirrello]

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5. The Fabelmans

5. The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans | Official Trailer 2 [HD]

The self-mythologizing nature of a screened nostalgia has long been a staple of Steven Spielberg’s filmography. It makes sense then that he would turn a fictionalized take on his own childhood and upbringing (penned alongside none other than frequent collaborator Tony Kushner) into a meditation on how filmmaking helped the once-budding director come to understand himself and his family. But while The Fabelmans may, on its surface, appear to simply be a gorgeously realized slice of postwar autofiction, Spielberg’s latest is also a probing self-examination of what it means to see the world through cinematic eyes—whether that be through sun-dappled homemade family movies, ambitious Boy Scout projects, or even school-sanctioned senior assignments. As dazzling and entertaining as any of the filmmaker’s early projects yet filtered through the mature lens he’s lent to his 21st-century work, this family drama is anything but familiar. [Manuel Betancourt]

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4. RRR

4. RRR

Jr. NTR’s Entry Scene | RRR (Hindi) | Netflix India

If you thought Everything Everywhere All At Once was cuckoo bananas, wait till you get a load of the Telugu-language Indian action-adventure RRR. S.S. Rajamouli directs the holy hell out of this CGI-loaded insanity fest that, as far as we can tell, is about a British military officer in 1920s India who teams up with a tribal leader and revolutionary to save a young girl. That’s only a sliver of the plot but it’s enough to propel three hours of high-energy dance numbers, frenetic chase scenes, daring rescues, and outrageously entertaining stunts that defy gravity mostly because they’re all done in front of a green screen. Not that we care, because RRR is a colorful, crazed, quicksilver delight. Packed with culturally specific political intrigue and Tollywood characters that most U.S. audiences never come across, RRR is one of 2022’s must-watch movie experiences. [Mark Keizer]

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3. The Banshees Of Inisherin

3. The Banshees Of Inisherin

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN | “Sit Somewhere Else” Clip | Searchlight Pictures

I just don’t like ya no more.” How is the year’s most devastating line of dialogue so simple? How does the friendship break-up in The Banshees Of Inisherin have higher stakes than any austere drama or apocalyptic sci-fi-fantasy? Only writer-director Martin McDonagh, his singularly bleak (and quintessentially Irish) sense of humor, and his powerhouse duo of returning collaborators Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson have the answers. Even wilder to think about, because we at The A.V. Club think about such things, is that another line may just tie for year’s most devastating: Barry Keoghan’s delivery of “Well, there goes that dream” to Kerry Condon is so acutely felt it’s essentially self-immolation. [Jack Smart]

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2. Everything Everywhere All At Once

2. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once | Love Bomb | Official Clip HD | A24

Who won the battle of the multiverses this year? A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once may not have come close to matching the box-office success of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, but come September only one of them was still playing in theaters, and it wasn’t the film from Marvel. These days it’s rare to find people still talking about a movie a month after its release, let alone nine months later, but Everything Everywhere refuses to follow the conventional rules of filmmaking. This extraordinary film seemingly came out of nowhere last spring and proceeded to dominate pop-culture conversations for the remainder of 2022.

Directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as the Daniels, threw everything they could think of at the screen (and sometimes on a bagel), creating a visual spectacle that challenges the audience as we follow the characters through one bonkers alternate universe after another. The eye-popping production design and technical tricks are just window dressing, though, for a deeply emotional story about generational trauma and the yin-yang balancing act of a life fully lived. Michelle Yeoh shows off her range and versatility in the lead role, landing comic beats as deftly as she lands punches and kicks. Co-stars Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis all rise to meet her at her level. Thanks to the life they breathe into this film it hasn’t left us yet, and probably never will. [Cindy White]

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1. Tár

1. Tár

TÁR - Official Trailer [HD] - In Select Theaters October 7

Todd Field’s opus about the eponymous conductor whose intellect, expertise, and eventually entitlement leads to her downfall is not merely the best film of the year, but the one that epitomizes its zeitgeist (and the conflicts within it) better than any other. Cate Blanchett’s force-of-nature performance is so commanding that you might almost forgive Lydia Tár for the excesses of her position and the power she wields over everyone in her life; she manages to be powerful and persuasive even when she’s wrong—or outright villainous. But Field’s examination of a female authority figure’s #MeToo-ish reckoning forces an examination of privileged enclaves, and a necessary complexity on cultural boogeymen like “cancel culture” that cannot—and should not—be easily resolved. Even at the film’s end, her borderline tyranny is inextricable from her undeniable brilliance, which is why Tár is a symphony whose notes will—and must—be revisited, debated, and discussed for years to come, long after its initial, mesmerizing thrall has taken hold. [Todd Gilchrist]

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