My Five Favorite Movies of 2022

From the mainstream to the (very) independent, here are one critic’s choices from an understatedly great cinematic year

Another year in movies is coming to an end—and in semi-spectacular fashion, if you happen to be a fan of Avatar: The Way of Water. As ever, though, some of the year’s best cinematic offerings came not from the Hollywood mainstream, but from comparably obscure corners of independent and international cinema. That was true even before COVID, and that remains true now.

Here are five of my favorites from a rich year:

5. Turning Red

Domee Shi’s animated adolescent allegory was about more than an Asian teenage girl’s coming-of-age. Its central conceit, of a person cursed to turn into a red panda whenever she gets too excited, expressed a fundamental aspect of our shared humanity: the need to find ways to keep intellect and emotion in harmonious balance. That this delightful and resonant film went straight to Disney+ instead of getting the wide theatrical release it deserved is both a sign of the new normal and a crying shame.

4. Tár

The subject of Todd Field’s film—the fall from a grace of an acclaimed, pathbreaking, yet power-hungry and unprincipled orchestral conductor and composer—naturally drew the lion’s share of attention, keying as directly as it does into timely societal concerns. But Tár is much more interesting as a fantastically immersive, even at times disorienting character study than as a mere think piece about “cancel culture.” And whatever you might think about its social commentary, there is no doubt about the titanic nature of Cate Blanchett’s performance, a typically virtuoso feat of drawing her audience into her character’s inner mysteries even while dazzling you with impeccable surface technique.

David Cronenberg’s first film in eight years (since his underrated 2014 film Maps to the Stars) also feels like a culmination: a typically unflinching, disquieting summary of the interpersonal, social, and visceral concerns that have obsessed him over the course of his singular career. In imagining a society in which people’s evolved inability to feel pain has led some to go to extreme lengths for new sensations, Crimes of the Future offers a fascinating dystopian vision that will leave you puzzling out its mysteries long after its unsettling-yet-strangely-erotic final fuzzy video frames.

2. In Front of Your Face

The ever-prolific Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo had three films released in the U.S. this year (Introduction and The Novelist’s Film were the other two), but In Front of Your Face was as the best of them. Through the chronicle of an aged actress (Lee Hye-young, herself a veteran performer who had mostly receded from cinema screens until this film) returning to her home country and contemplating her past, present, and too-short future, Hong was perhaps confronting his own mortality through this, one of his most direct, beautiful, and moving films.

1. Il Buco

Michelangelo Frammartino’s beguiling blend of documentary and fiction is half a detailed re-creation of the 1961 exploration of the Bifurto Abyss in the southern Italy caves of Pollino, half a mystical meditation on country life clashing with encroaching modernity. In a cinematic landscape polluted by the expensive artificial CGI landscapes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Il Buco reminded us that the most wondrous images can be found in the world we all live in, if we care enough to look.

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Kenji Fujishima

Kenji Fujishima is a writer and editor based in New York City. He has previously written about film for publications including Village Voice, Slant Magazine, and Paste, and about theater for TheaterMania.

One thought on “My Five Favorite Movies of 2022

  • December 22, 2022 at 10:26 am
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    A well-written piece, thank you. I was psyched for Crimes of the Future, and in the end I didn’t find it a chore to watch as I did Cosmopolis. But all too often Cronenberg gets me more excited for what he promises than what he achieves.

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