Aaron’s Top 10 Favorite Films of 2022 So Far

Aaron Neuwirth lists his favorite films of 2022 so far, featuring event films, indies, international features, and more!

I’m not sure how often we’re going to keep saying, “The movies are back!” but there has continued to be an expansion of available theatrical features since the shift that began in 2020. Once again, however, it’s not as though we’ve been lacking in great movies. 2020 and 2021 both have plenty of titles I’d encourage many to see, but here we are at the midpoint of 2022, and I’ve come up with a variety of features reflecting the best the year has had to offer cinematically so far. Within this list are films in the form of big studio efforts, indie fare, and international movies. Some were released theatrically, and others could be found on various streaming services. This list focuses on movies released from January to the end of June, not counting films screened over the past several months but have yet to be released.

Favorite Films So Far:
(Reviews Linked When Applicable)

10. Neptune Frost

An Afrofuturist story that is part science fiction, part social commentary, and part musical, writer/co-director Saul Williams is responsible for one of a couple of films on this list that deliver something unlike what I’ve seen in films. Defying traditional narrative structures, Neptune Frost is a fascinating look at African culture through a particular lens that dares to push beyond typical character arcs in favor of something more abstract yet engaging. Beyond just having the opportunity to see creative voices with limited means deliver something, this is a film that goes above and beyond by delivering an anti-establishment message through hypnotic visuals. It also supports my thought on why revisiting films can be a benefit when discovering what they can offer upon reflection. (Now on VOD)

9. Mr. Malcolm’s List

The latest entry on this list, but a really good one, I was very much taken by this delightful period romance. Serving as a sort of counter to the more cynical and darker films I’ve seen this year (some on this list), there’s a purity here to a story that manages to use its Jane Austen influences to deliver an era-specific, lighthearted tale. Noting the colorblind casting to further reflect the interesting dynamics that can be achieved with characters when thinking outside the box, this story of two best friends finding themselves in awkward opposition, given circumstances surrounding a picky suitor, has led to a film that works just as well as a hangout movie as it does a costume drama. (In theaters July 1)

8. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Keeping the thought of sweet-natured films in mind, A24’s latest venture into family-friendly territory continues to pay off with this winning comedy that blends animation with the concept of a live-action documentary. Based on a few short films crafted over a decade earlier, a full-length feature focused on a small shell with the personality of a curious little boy feels like an ambitious move, but creative partners Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate were up to the challenge. The results are a sweet-natured film that manages to fit in alongside features such as the Paddington films and WALL-E as far as combing a pleasant spirit with some adventure and a bit of melancholy. Of course, the fantastical element keeps the movie from ever feeling too dour, along with some well-placed gags to make sure the sense of fun remains a priority. (In select theaters now, wide release July 15)

7. Mad God

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that I can’t get some of the imagery from this wild, stop-motion animated film out of my head, but I can’t say that it doesn’t help make its case. Phil Tippett’s decades-in-the-making surrealist nightmare has finally reached audiences, and it is quite the trip to the underworld. Speaking to the darkest notions of how one could view society (and its eventual collapse), there’s still a weird sense of beauty to be found in the macabre, let alone a sense of originality, making this gruesome work unlike anything like it. For a film relying on this type of animation (with some other techniques deployed as well), the scale is impressive, but the impact of this visual presentation will undoubtedly get in anyone’s head. (Now streaming on Shudder)

6. Top Gun: Maverick

As I’ve noted a few times, the late Tony Scott made many films I like, but Top Gun doesn’t rank too high among them. With that said, I expect a level of quality from Tom Cruise films, so it was to my surprise just how impressed I was by Top Gun: Maverick. Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski truly found a way to step into and beyond the danger zone to deliver the goods to the audience. Thanks to creative filmmaking choices, a level of authenticity when it came to the aerial sequences, and some smart storytelling choices, this 36-years-later sequel is what Hollywood blockbusters should aspire to be. It’s pure, all-audience-friendly escapism that understands how to play with nostalgia while also showing theatergoers something new. (Now playing in theaters)

5. The Northman

With critical genre hits The Witch and The Lighthouse under his belt, director Robert Eggers was given a significantly larger budget to make an arthouse Viking epic. The results absolutely reflect Eggers’ sensibilities and what that money can get a filmmaker who knows what he wants. This may be a dark tale of revenge, but it’s a gorgeously shot feature, whether focusing on the bloody battles, the climactic volcano fight, or the one scene shot on a glacier because Eggers had the money to do so. With all that in mind, everyone came to play, as Alexander Skarsgård lends plenty of authority to his hulking protagonist while supporting work from Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke doesn’t go unnoticed either in this totally metal, bloody adventure. (Now streaming on Peacock)

4. Catch the Fair One

This gritty thriller does so much right that it’s a shame that the content reflects real issues regarding human trafficking, let alone the difficulties for Native American women. Star Kali Reis (who has a story by credit) delivers an excellent lead performance as a former boxer looking for her sister. The way this story plays out certainly highlights tragedy due to circumstance, but inspired directorial and writing choices allow Catch the Fair One to remain a compelling piece of work for its lean running time. (Now streaming on AMC+)

3. KIMI

I’m always happy when Steven Soderbergh swings around with a new film, whether relying on an ensemble and an expansive premise or something more low-key and light on its feet. KIMI falls into the latter category and does so with aplomb. Zoë Kravitz is right in the zone as a tech company employee who discovers too much about her shady employers, leading her into a modern-day take on a 70s paranoia film. Deliberately set during the pandemic and at a time when social justice is out in the open, Soderbergh uses the techno-thriller premise as a means to get creative with small spaces, as well as inventive chases. The level of professionalism from the filmmaker and his team shines throughout, allowing this genre film to deliver some killer commands. (Now streaming on HBO Max)

2. Everything Everywhere All At Once

At this point in the year, it’s basically a tie for first with this film and the next, but it’s no matter. The important thing – directors The Daniels put together a trippy interdimensional action film for the ages, and now having become studio A24’s highest-grossing film, I can only hope there is a serious award push for all involved. This especially applies to the film’s leads, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who bury themselves in these characters and come out with perfect balance throughout this high-wire act. Having to portray multiple versions of their characters is no easy task, but this is a film as emotional as it is action-packed, with a spectacular handle on the visual language to make this bold, ambitious piece of work reasonably simple to keep up with. All of that, and I haven’t even described the utter hilarity of this film, most notably Raccacoonie. (Now in theaters and on VOD)

1. RRR

What more can be said about RRR, the smash Indian Telegu-language sensation that has become a relative hit in America? Well, there’s a lot, because why not continue to spread the word? Already a candidate as one of the best films of this young decade, this movie has everything – action, drama, romance, comedy, and music (including one of the best cinematic dance battles ever). RRR is just pure, maximalist cinema. All the choices are big and bold, showing full-on stylistic decisions made by director S. S. Rajamouli. You rarely see this much life in a film of this size these days. Still, here we are with an international feature relying on incredibly talented stars (N.T. Ramo Rao Jr. and Ram Charan) to show how the power of friendship can be enough to take on the most dastardly of enemies in the wildest of ways. At over three hours, RRR takes commitment to start it up, but the film is a gift in the way it delivers on epic proportions. There’s practically no reason to stop once one gets started. (Now streaming on Netflix)

***

Runners Up (Alphabetical): After Yang, Ambulance, The Bad Guys, The Batman, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Crimes of the Future, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Emergency, Official Competition, X

Bonus – Favorite Non-2022 Films Seen For The First Time (Alphabetical): Anatomy of a Murder, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, Black Orpheus, The Cameraman, The Conformist, The Exorcist III, Irma Vep, Kansas City, King Creole, The Last of Sheila, Le Cercle Rouge, Leaving Las Vegas, The Mighty Quinn, Notes on a Scandal, Only the Brave, Paris Blues, A Patch of Blue, Round Midnight, Straight Time

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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