These days, it’s a testament to the greatness of a film when it lures us out of our indoor retreats. A handful of movies achieved big milestones at the box office this year —for one — without sacrificing high cinematic standards.
Then there were the smaller-budget films making big waves, namely. This multilayered kaleidoscope of a film combined crafty filmmaking, moving performances and a wildly creative narrative to earn its place as one of the best films of the year, if not the the best.
Let’s not ignore those stories that might’ve drawn more eyeballs while streaming in homes after shorter stints in theaters. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio was a later entry this year, but boy did it bring home a tour de force triumph of stop-motion animation.
Without further ado, here are the movies CNET editors picked as their best of 2022.
Glass Onion isn’t on Netflix yet, but it’ll be streaming before the end of the year, on Dec. 23. The Knives Out sequel, once again written and directed by Rian Johnson and starring Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc, involves an unexpected death that occurs when several guests are gathered at a billionaire’s over-the-top residence on a Greek island. I saw the smart, funny and surprising flick during its limited run in theaters in November and couldn’t get over how good it was. I can’t wait to watch again (and scan for clues) when it hits Netflix.
There have been so many versions of grimy old Gotham City in movies, but none has drawn me in quite as much as writer-director Matt Reeves’ take — I felt dazed after watching it. The Batman is designed to make you feel uncomfortable from the opening shot, and it’s exactly what I needed in a superhero movie.
Instead of serving some wider cinematic universe, this movie draws into its intense world of mobsters, corruption and serial killers. Colin Farrell gobbles up the scenery, John Turturro exudes sleaze, and Paul Dano’s Riddler has clearly been watching Seven.
Crucially though, Robert Pattinson is electric as a vigilante teetering on the edge, with his Batman radiating danger like no other cinematic interpretation has before.
Turning Red didn’t come out in 2022, did it? There’s no way I’ve seen a movie that many times and it only came out this year. But yes, as the parent of a 3-year-old, I’ve seen this Pixar coming-of-age animated movie many, many times, and it’s still a joy. The story of a preteen girl discovering she’s cursed to turn into a giant, fluffy, chaos-causing panda, it’s a hugely relatable and funny tale of adolescent angst, unbreakable friendship, boy bands and ancient magic. My daughter calls it The Red Panda (as in “Daddy, can we watch The Red Panda?”). Oh, go on then. At least it’s not Frozen.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Despite the mammoth success of its precursor, this inevitable sequel had the deck stacked against it — not least because of the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman.
Instead of replacing Boseman, though, or giving us a generic Marvel blockbuster, director Ryan Coogler delivered a gorgeously rendered treatise on grief and how it can cause us to lash out — or shut down. Having lost both my mother and father in the past two years, and a dear friend just last month, I was stunned by how deeply it touched me.
And by how you could make a superhero movie about such things.
Having an action-packed superhero franchise movie fronted by women of color was just a delight. And as a longtime Marvel Comics fan, I can say that the film’s fleshing out of the Sub-Mariner and the Atlanteans grounded them in a way the comics never could. Namor as the embodiment of Quetzalcoatl was a stroke of genius, and matched the organic multiculturalism in the afrofuturism of the Wakandans.
This Australian film, streaming on Netflix, is a spare, perfectly paced psychological thriller inspired by a heartbreaking real-life crime. It stars English actor Sean Harris as Henry Teague, a man suspected of abducting and murdering a teenage schoolboy. Australian actor Joel Edgerton is an undercover cop tasked with getting the truth out of Teague years later. That happens via an elaborate police sting that recruits Teague into a fake drug-running ring, promising a hefty payout and a place for the jobless drifter to belong.
The movie explores the uneasy bond between Teague and Frame, as well as the formidable burden and cost of keeping one’s true identity a secret, as both men do. It haunted me long after I watched it.
Many Jane Austen fans — Janeites — were mightily disappointed with the latest version of Persuasion, with some reviewers calling this sort of modernish take “a disaster” and others criticizing the choice to update the original (and admittedly brilliant) text to appeal to those who might not be into 19th century dialogue. I get it. I’ve read all of Austen’s works and seen every film and TV series, including the very well-done BBC adaptation of Persuasion in 1995.
But you know what? I enjoyed Dakota Johnson’s cheeky take on Anne Elliott and the way she broke the fourth wall to share her funny, poignant innermost thoughts. I can still see in my mind’s eye the moment when Captain Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis) regains his lost love, his face capturing his surprise, longing and happiness. And I thought Anne’s self-absorbed younger sister Mary was spot on.
Yes, this is less than a faithful retelling of Austen’s last book, but we have enough of those already. I’m going to agree with reviewer Holly Thomas who called the film “brilliant” because it gave Janeites something to rant about — and the curious a chance to glimpse the genius of Jane Austen.
About halfway through my theater showing of Top Gun: Maverick, my wife leaned over and whispered, “This is just porn for middle-aged men.”
And you know what? She was right. And you too do you know what? That’s it awesome.
Top Gun: Maverick is basically porn for middle-aged men. I should know: I’m a middle-aged man, and watching another middle-aged man turn back the clock and show these know-it-all whippersnappers how to get things done, amid some of the best action scenes I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road, was exactly what I needed to get my ass back in the cinema.
Top Gun: Maverick is a throwback. It’s a kick-starter to an entire industry. It’s also an incredibly well made allegory for the death of the movie star and a perfectly drawn metaphor for Tom Cruise’s entire movie career.
It’s also the best action movie of the year. Easily.
Although Everything Everywhere All at Once is technically a multiverse movie — joining Doctor Strange 2 and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse — it’s nothing like either. In the case of Doctor Strange, it’s even better than that. Everything Everywhere All at Once offers kung fu action, absurdist humor and existential despair in a movie without a clear equal. There are some great performances from Jamie Lee Curtis, Michelle Yeoh and The Goonies’ Ke Huy Quan, who is now enjoying a long-overdue comeback. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get a great idea for a Halloween costume.
Guillermo del Toro rarely disappoints, and his take on Pinocchio is no exception. Making this more than just a kids’ story, del Toro unfurls a trademark moving gothic fairy tale rooted in what it means to be alive. With significant deviations from the story we all know, and memorable new creature creations, including skeletal rabbits and an ethereal wood sprite, this version of Pinocchio might just be the very best — not least because it keeps the astonishing art of stop-motion animation alive. A must-watch. Warning: You will shed a tear at least once.
Emily the Criminal might not be a perfect crime thriller, but it’s a pretty excellent example of a low-budget indie making the most of its clever concept and stellar central performance. Aubrey Plaza plays Emily, a college graduate crippled by ever-mounting debt. In a world caving in on her, she’s tempted to take on different, not totally legal, means of making money. See Plaza fully step into her dramatic actor shoes in this surprisingly action-packed, tension-laden thriller.
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