As usual a few rules: this list includes movies I’ve seen for the first time in 2022 who got their first public screening in the last three years and are over 45 minutes long. The order, like any similar list, is very arbitrary and subjective, I certainly like #22 more than #42 and that one more than #82, but I could easily switch them with movies placed around those positions.
I saw fewer shorts this year than usual, so I feel less comfortable making a longer list of them, but my two favorites were earthearthearth (Daichi Saito) and Wandering (Tsai Ming-liang).
100) Love Lights/Objectos de Luz (Acacio de Almeida, Marie Carré)
Acacio de Almeida is one of Portuguese film great cinematographers, and therefore of the world, on Love Lights, he and his co-director Marie Carré launch into an essay on lighting that doubles as an affective history of Portuguese cinema.
99) Baragaki: Unbroken Samurai (Masato Harada)
A classy samurai movie, revisionista but to a point, about the Shinsengumi which in this version seems involved in as much political intrigue and betrayals as a yakuza movie.
98) Aftersun (Charlotte Wells)
I think it is a little more dependent on needle drops than ideal, but there’s a specificity to its father/daughter relationship and on its plugging into memory that keeps it forceful.
97) Lingui: les liens sacrés (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
A dry, very controlled movie about resistant faces moving through a social space that can be punishing without the movie ever giving up to it.
96) When the House Burns Down/Quand la maison brûle (Nicolas Klotz, Elisabeth Perceval)
Another movie about faces and bodies of resistance, this one collected by Klotz/Perceval duo around the world and organized as a large painting that slowly gets richer.
95) Last Seen Alive (Brian Goodman)
Economic effective spin on The Lady Vanishes scenario as Gerard Butler divorced dad cinema. It would kill on cable if such a concept still existed.
94) Day Shift (J.J. Perry)
One of those movies that move between genres through a well designed world, but mostly an excuse for stuntman turned director J.J. Perry to show his facility shooting action.
93) Overdose (Olivier Marchal)
Olivier Marchal doing his best to keep the polar alive. As usual, his cops and criminals’ world has a lot of texture, and the violence comes into quick bursts.
92) Neptune Frost (Saul Williams, Anisia Uzeyman)
An afrofuturist musical. If this part of the list has many familiar well executed genre exercises, this one is surprising because its images are their opposite. At the same time, it also stands out for the filmmakers’ clever solutions among little resources.
91) Veneciafrenia (Alex de la Iglesia)
Alex de la Iglesia doing a Venice set giallo that unlike most attempts of rescuing the genre could pass for a good second tier one from the 1970s: mean, dumb and stylish.
90) Heard She Got Married (Charles Roxburgh)
I haven’t seen their other ones, but it seems filmmaker Roxburgh and his star/co-writer Matt Farley have been doing their regional low budget movies for a decade. This one is a very distinct paranoid thriller with musical interludes, kind like hearing an album by a very emotionally unstable artist with way too many resentments about the world around him.
89) The Autopsy (David Prior)
David Prior has a very good eye and when this medium feature made for DelToro’s recent horror anthology series reach its promised autopsy it becomes a model of simple unsetting horror short story and it gives F. Murray Abraham a great opportunity to use his overacting talents.
88) It’s a Flickering Life (Yoji Yamada)
Yoji Yamada at 90 saying goodbye to movies with a very emotive movie about his relationship to it. At the same time, very conventional and private. Populist filmmaking that could only belong to its auteur.
87) The Munsters (Rob Zombie)
A love movie about its forms, its characters, its tackiness.
86) Nana/Before Now & Then (Kamila Andini)
A restrained but very direct melodrama about the practical sacrifices made to survive history.
85) We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (Jane Schoenbrun)
About disappearing on a laptop screen not as an end of the world scenario but something of a given status quo.
84) After Blue (Dirty Paradise)/After Blue (Paradis sale) (Bertrand Mandico)
To believe and sustain a very private form of fiction.
83) Good Mother/Bonne Mère (Hafsia Herzi)
One survives in a country that always looks at you with a suspicious eye, with a hand that is not even remotely one of the best. It could be just another example of French social realism, but Herzi has a very good eye and she has an expressive partnership with her lead Halima Benhamed.
82) Thirteen Lives (Ron Howard)
It is a Ron Howard movie lost on Amazon Prime, so barely anyone notice, but Thirteen Lives turn the rescue from the Thai youth football team from a few years ago into one of those Hollywood movies about the precision and engineering of Hollywood craft and a very good one at that. Star Viggo Mortensen and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom do some great work.
81) Welcome Back, Farewell/ Bem-Vindos de Novo (Marcos Yoshi)
Fractured and completely unreconciled family drama about immigration in Brazil. A violent film composed almost entirely of home images.
80) Our Eternal Summer/L’Été l’éternité (Emilie Aussel)
Two French cinema traditions, the vacation and teen movie, disappearing into a haunted interior.
79) Wunderschön (Karoline Herfurth)
Finding the strength of intimacy through some very recognizable drama scenarios. A great cast has a chance to treat every small drama seriously and Herfuth keeps finding new moments of escape through it.
78) Great Freedom (Sebastian Meise)
The rituals of prison and the distance of time not only the distance of the main character’s arc, but mostly our own from him and an idea of desire as something subversive and libertarian ready to be punished. Franz Ragowski remains one of the best actors in the world.
77) History of Ha (Lav Diaz)
Like every Diaz movie an investigation about how a landscape can contain a whole national history of violence.
76) Living In Your Sky (Shinji Aoyama)
Shinji Ayoama’s death early this year remains one of 2022’s cinema greatest sadness. Living in Your Sky was the only feature Ayoama made in the last nine years of his life and it is exactly about this unresolved conflict between film escapist possibilities and the inevitable presence of death.
75) The Harbinger (Andy Mitton)
One of the few movies that knew how to locate and comment on the horror and desolation in the isolation of the last few years.
74) Extremo Ocidente (João Pedro Faro)
A soldier and a cannibal goes to dinner. Half George Romero, Half Pedro Costa, full Rio de Janeiro underground cinema with its inventiveness and desperate comedy. A movie about the city’s devastation and the imaginary it created.
72) The Battle at Lake Changjin (Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark, Dante Lam) (co-direction: Jianxin Huang, Halqlang Ning, Ju-chun Park) e Top Gun: Maverick (Joseph Kasinski)
Two great spectacles and models of nationalist kitsch.
71) Waiting for Bojangles/En attendant Bojangles (Régis Roinsard)
This year’s second best proudly artificial desperate romance starring Virginie Efira. That it takes place into a complete fictional world of its own makes the pain at its center sting more.
70) Resurrection (Andy Semans)
Two great actors, Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, locked in a sick power relationship.
69) Deadstream (Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter)
Goofy found footage streaming horror Evil Dead extended homage. Inventive with great gross low budget effects and barely a single elevated thought.
68) The Grandmother/La Abuela (Paco Plaza)
Apartment horror done with care by veteran Plaza from a simple but resonant allegorical scenario with a very effective inevitability.
67) Public Toilet Africa (Kofi Ofosu-Yeboah)
A journey through a space of multiple violences and resentments. It is Touki Bouki, but instead of Pierrot Le Fou’s freedom, the reappropriated first-world imagination is that of a revenge thriller, but what remains at stake is to take into account the same unresolvable colonial exploitation that includes the very “world cinema” market that the film insists on confusing.
66) Lost Bullet 2/Balle perdue 2 (Guillaume Pierret)
Netflix had a minor hit a couple of years ago with Pierret’s first Lost Bullet movie a clever play on low budget car chase and hand to hand action, so Pierret got more resources for part 2 and he makes the best of it.
65) Three Thousand Years of Longing (George Miller)
A little discursive perhaps, almost an academic exercise that slowly gets taken over by its fable about the pleasures and horrors of fiction.
63) Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots (Ryûhei Yoshino) and We Made a Beautiful Bouquet (Nobuhiro Doi)
Japanese mainstream cinema keeps making the best youth movies. These are two movies on discoveries and losses in the college days. Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots is about recognizing other people’s pain and We Made a Beautiful Bouquet on letting the passion cycle run its course and they are both lively, well observed and imagined.
62) The World After Us/Le monde après nous (Louda Ben Salah-Cazanas)
What if a Garrel romance takes place in our world instead of his. I’m not sure this fully works, but I’m happy it exists.
61) It’s a Summer Film! (Soushi Matsumoto)
Cinema is this wonderful place of Discovery Where everything is possible.
60) Mars One/Marte Um (Gabriel Martins)
To live and survive in Brazil while seeking that eternal promise no matter how many times things knock you over. Gabriel Martins and his four actors find so many contradictory feelings in that home space far beyond the tenderness the movie expresses.
59) Incredible but True/Incroyable mais vrai (Quentin Dupieux)
Quentin Dupieux has made a career of filming the most absurd and stupid comic concepts imaginable as straightforward as possible, and I think because this one takes this idea in a very direct way it is his best since Steak.
58) Detectives. Vs. Sleuths (Wai Ka-fai)
Johnnie To’s longtime creative partner plunges Hong Kong into a police-esque delirium of a city haunted by its own history of violence.
57) Deception/Tromperie (Arnaud Desplechin)
Arnaud Desplechin has always been one of the most literate filmmakers and he turns his Philip Roth adaptation into a question about adapting writing into film.
56) Adeus Capitão (Vincent Carelli) (co-director: Tita)
The cultural war against the indigenous tribes and its non-violent violence. The greatness of Carelli’s cinema lies in understanding the non-appeased place of his camera as a mediator through it.
55) The Tragedy of MacBeth (Joel Coen)
A movie about the filmmaker’s power to do whatever he wants, in this case paradoxically reducing Shakespeare to the driest drama, while keeping it as visually excessive as possible.
54) Saloum (Jean-Luc Herbulot)
An action horror hybrid from Senegal. A mythic violence contained in those places, very restrained until it explodes.
53) Pinnochio (Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson)
In some ways this animation reaches a lot of Del Toro’s desire to deal with the wonders of horror. He loves the images and fiction, but never quite had the taste for its consequences, so animation and a classic children’s story gives him the right distance from it and his spins on the famous tale are inspired.
52) The Killer (Choi Jae-hoon)
Korean filmmaker Choi Jae-hoon and star Jang Hyuk reunite after the terrific The Swordsman for another movie about finding as many setups as possible for Jang to kill a never-ending army of gangsters.
51) Follow the Protocol/Seguindo Todos os Protocolos (Fabio Leal)
When you want to fuck, but also follow every possible rule. The only necessary pandemic movie, every foible made horrifyingly funny and desperate.
50) A Radiant Girl/Une jeune fille qui va bien (Sandrine Kiberlain)
One of the many strong movies this year about the painful distance between youth and adult world. And there is something very resonant between the lively individual moments and the weight of history.
49) The Battle at Lake Changjin: Water Gate Bridge (Tsui Hark) (co-direção: Jianxin Huang, Ju-chun Park)
The first Lake Changjin movie was like a big military operation, this sequel is a little less so and Tsui excesses can break through more. It is a big patriotic spectacle, but it’s haunted by death and understanding sacrifice for the country still means what it says.
48) Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Anderson is too anxious a filmmaker to make a true relaxed movie, but around half of this is quite wonderful and there’s something to the idea of cinema serving as moderator for this relationship that remains a dual performance and the movie’s impossible to solve feelings about its desire to return to the past.
47) The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg)
And now something very much about turning this desire to film the past into a movie in all its complications and possible expressions. Film and its mirror, and it is very pointed, playful and funny.
46) Earwig (Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
Art horror about getting lost in the textures, the carefully lit faces and images the remain always a light heightened, bad vibes in the best sense.
45) Cantochão (Vinicius Romero)
The eminence of light and the natural world and their sometimes frightening weight.
44) Watcher (Chloe Okuno)
A horror movie about itself and its procedures. Fear of unknown places, of absence of power, of the idea that life has been rendered into movie terms. Very controlled by Okuno with a real good understanding of its foreign setting.
43) Brother and Sister/Frere et Soeur (Arnaud Desplechin)
If family neurosis is one of the major forces in Desplechin’s work, this one is so much a return to recognizable ground that the family has the same name as the one in A Christmas Tale. As always it is a matter of finding the right fictional form, in this case to create a private world for the siblings’ mutual resentment that is stronger because it is so impenetrable.
42) Shin Ultraman (Shinji Higuchi)
If so much current pop cinema desperately wants to make the absurd credible, this recent Japanese series is about how real world structure absorbs the absurd. Shin Ultraman has a dry matter of fact style that doesn’t ground the action, but highlights its unreal qualities. As if its imagination was too overpowering to be contained no matter how tight the structures around it try.
41) Matter Out of Place (Nikolaus Geyrhalter)
Like every Geyrhalter documentary it is a movie about reaching things and making them material. In this case, all the trash society doesn’t know quite how to process.
40) Vikram (Lokesh Kanagaraj)
A runaway train that is more impressive the more grandiloquent and excessive it becomes.
39) Inu-Oh (Masaaki Yuasa)
Musical transcendence by way of the most expressive animation.
38) La Pièce rapportée (Antonin Peretjatko)
“Someone with a Rolls Royce marries someone who rides the subway, in your opinion, who wins?” A wonderful class war comedy about stealing money from the worst people who ever lived.
37) Down with the King (Diego Ongaro)
I didn’t know I needed a movie about a rapper getting lost in a pastoral tale dealing with labor, physical and creative, but there aren’t many more rewarding recent movies.
36) Kind Hearts (Gerard-Jan Claes, Olivia Rochette)
Ethnographic cinema from where you least expect with a great deal of patience and respect for its young people, their worlds and desires, and a great awareness of how we will see it.
35) Dark Glasses/Occhiali Neri (Dario Argento)
Long after everyone had given up on him so comes Dario Argento with a little giallo about all the murders he staged through five decades and the wreckage it left behind.
34) Poet (Darezhan Omirbayev)
Of the weight and the consequence of extracting a point of view about the world. A movie of lost traces on the screen of a world that works towards erasing them.
33) Aristocrats (Yukiko Sode)
a 19th century comedy of manners is the best way of dealing with Japan’s social stratification. The incongruence made me think of Whit Stillman, but director Sode arrives at this absurd mismatch suspended on time in her own way. Leads Mugi Kadowaki and Kiko Mizuhara do some of the finest work I saw this year.
32) RRR (S. S. Rajamouli)
A little like Top Gun and The Battle at Lake Changjin a triumph of nationalistic kitsch with all the craft of the best industry apparatus can offer and the possible political complications that comes with it. The first half is some of the most pleasurable that cinema produced this year. Rajamouli has a mastery of the artificial digital image that few of his peers have achieved.
31) Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (Richard Linklater)
Less a nostalgic movie than a discourse about it and the appeal of this constant return by way of the kind of specific observation that Linklater has long specialized on.
30) Confess, Fletch (Greg Motolla)
Gregg Motolla and Jon Hamn have made an accessible, commercial comedy with no fat that no one except a dozen critics saw and we’ve spent the last few months complaining “and this is why American popular cinema is dead” and well it’s true. Very funny with a great performance by Hamn and strong supporting cast, filmed with care and taking its mystery plot seriously enough without heavy-handedness. I remember Kent Jones saying some twenty-five years ago that Hollywood had regressed from the genius of the system to the genius against the system, and this film expresses that very well.
29) Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg)
On the opposite side of the auteur aisle, David Cronenberg come back after a near decade with a movie about how hard it is for the artist to reach the world when even in the supposed highbrow circles it is stuck in a purgatory of business considerations. Somehow it is as funny as bitter.
28) See You Friday, Robinson/À vendredi, Robinson (Mitra Farahani)
The 20th century talks through technological messages lost in enigmas in the middle of a world that seems far and far away. Farahani made a very beautiful movie through these two more than veteran artists, Golestan and Godard, each very important in their own way, and of course its meaning has changed in the face of the later death, but it should not be limited to it.
27) Marx Can Wait/Marx può aspettare (Marco Bellocchio)
A family meeting around a ghost. Bellochio’s films have always been taken by the idea of family mythologies and their hidden pain and by dropping the layer of fiction and dealing very straight with his own he makes this even more felt.
26) Septet (Sammo Hung, Patrick Tam, Ann Hui, Yuen Woo-ping, Johnnie To, Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark)
Johnnie To has been working on this anthology with contributions from a series of major filmmakers from Hong Kong cinema’s greatest generation return to life on the city from the 50s till now. It is almost the last breath of a cinema that knows it has reached the end and it is the rare omnibus movie whose whole matters more than parts.
25) Onoda: 10000 Nights in the Jungle/Onoda, 10 000 nuits dans la jungle (Arthur Harari)
A man remains more than half of his life fighting an environment long after the world forgot his war. An engrossing immersive experience because it is so focused on the daily tasks and costs of his survival and fight.
24) The People You’re Paying to Be in Shorts (Jon Bois)
It starts from what should be a great curiosity that “the worst team in NBA history” happens to be owned by its most celebrated athlete to tell a story about the work grind of a useless job whose defeat come every day while nobody cares and your boss is a literal class traitor who only gets bothered when things get too embarrassing. Everything told without any of the resources one would expect from the genre.
23) Nobody’s Hero/Viens je t’emmène (Alain Guiraudie)
A sex farce about how unsatisfied libido fuels current forms of paranoia and resentment. Funny, absurd, tasteless and creative in that Guiraudie way.
22) Armageddon Time (James Gray)
A movie about gazes, that of the child looking at the adult world and of the artist looking back at his own experience that gets a lot out of the unsolved space in between them because it is about a certain horror of adult life. It is also a very tough movie about ideology, assimilation and how family can help make a lot of those ideas tolerable.
21) Fabian – Going to the Dogs (Dominik Graf)
Apocalypses from yesterday and today. Graf is a master storyteller here uniting Sternberg and Fassbinder to talk about endings, of the Weimar republic, but not only that and in the middle of it he also finds a lost film image.
20) Nuit obscure – Feuillets sauvages (Les brûlants, les obstinés) (Sylvain George)
Resistant bodies, symbolic, but never closed in themselves, that keep moving through a colonial and exploitative space that remains. A film made of an accumulation of life at a place taken by state violence, an accumulation that stubbornly never accepts pacifying the unacceptable.
19) Full TIme/À plein temps (Eric Gravel)
Almost as anxiety ridden as Uncut Gems, only it is about a single mom trying to keep her job and maybe finding a better one. One of the best movies I remember about getting stuck in traffic and also about hoping not to get noticed by your boss, so probably one of the year’s most universal movies. Laura Calamy remains one of the world’s most underrated actresses.
18) Will-o’-the-Wisp/Fogo Fatuo (João Pedro Rodrigues)
Desire and privilege through the filter of fireman queer erotica, so this is probably the purest João Pedro Rodrigues movie. Good musical numbers, great choreography, a wonderful eye for color and setting, funny yet pointed.
17) The Passangers of the Night/Les Passagers de la Nuit (Mikhaël Hers)
Utopias and failures in Miterrand’s France. More conscious in its constructions than Hers other films, perhaps because it is a film so dependent by this return to a past time and its distance. As always he is a master at giving his characters space and finding strength in those small gestures of keep going on a day-to-day basis. It has some interesting dialogue with Armageddon Time.
16) The Novellist’s Film (Hong Sang-soo)
Like almost all of Hong’s films this is very concerned with its fictional constructions, the gesture of turning experience into a tale, and more than most it is very attentive to how an accumulation of moments is transformed into the later.
15) The Fire Within: Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft (Werner Herzog)
Herzog goes to Kraffts archive with its impressive collections of nature in revolt images, to make an essay on film and its relationship/attraction towards death and danger.
14) Skinamarink (Kyle Edward Ball)
A room is a dangerous place full of dark alleys and mysteries. Skinamarink is a horror movie based on this idea, but he reaches the paranoia and threat through a collection of textural effects, light and shadow that exists outside of the genre’s usual expectations. A movie about rendering the known barely recognizable.
13) Pacifiction (Albert Serra)
Like every Serra movie, Pacifiction is a provocation, but it is his most immediate movie and its death ceremony far less conceptual. Far from that, its colonial bureaucrat remains very close to him and the fiction more of a self-annihilation gesture.
12) Both Sides of the Blade/Avec amour et acharnement (Claire Denis)
Love as a matter of negotiating violent body language. It is like Trouble Every Day, but without the need of mediating fantasy to suggest how those people will hurt each other and remain attracted/repulsed on screen.
11) XCXHXEXRXRXIXEXSX (Ken Jacobs)
Part of Jacobs’ series of films that goes back/animate old images through manipulation and extension, in this case a French silent erotic movie. Jacobs’ dirty movie in which sex becomes something sacred and ghostly.
10) Don Juan (Serge Bozon)
Don Juan is dismantled and haunted with Efira playing every woman around him. Bozon has mentioned the movie as a descendent of Luis Buñuel’s Mexican comedies about wounded machismo, and it is certainly one of the recent movies working along these lines that comes closest to bringing back Don Luis, with its fictional pulse of sick self-delusion.
9) Benediction (Terence Davies)
Men hurting each other because there’s no other way they can quite love each other. A suspended melodrama of regret and passive violence that makes great use of Davies’ gift for film remembrance and what he and his characters are willing to share and keep off screen.
8) The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg)
Very close to Gray’s movie, not only because of the many similar scenes, but in how it deals with the difficulty of demystifying their parents, only that instead of the political fable it takes the form of an unmediated Freudian nightmare. Cinema needs to lie because when it doesn’t, what it reveals is too painful. It is curious to see Spielberg at the end of his career in his most personal film come so close to his friend De Palma in the way the illusion of cinema and trauma go together and how exposing one only reveals more of the other.
7) Revolution+1 (Masao Adachi)
Masao Adachi has always been a blunt political filmmaker, here he makes a film about the assassin of the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a movie of inevitabilities, of political decisions that make its outcome sealed. It made me think a lot about Clint Eastwood’s 15h17 with all the socio-ideological distance that separates them.
6) Il Buco (Michelangelo Frammartino)
A cave and an eternal world. Film is a place of revelation even bigger the more images become concrete. Only in cinema can the sacred and material become one and the same.
5) Nope (Jordan Peele)
Cinema is an incredible spectacle because despite all you can throw at it there are few things more remarkable than knowing how to shoot a sky and its clouds. Peele’s film is about filmmaking as practice and spectacle and how their fascinations are inseparable, an anti-illusionist film that is deeply seductive because it foregrounds this gesture of looking at the top of the image above the landscape. Of how there’s a few things more incredible than Daniel Kaluuya riding a horse cutting through that space with the sky above it.
4) Dead for a Dollar (Walter Hill)
An act of recovering old forms. Walter Hill, at 80, makes the most unadorned western directed by a great filmmaker since he entered the industry some fifty years earlier. And I thank him very much for having the idea that among every possible actor the right person to play Randolph Scott in 2022 was Christoph Waltz.
3) Little Solange/Petite Solange (Axelle Ropert)
Axelle Ropert keeps making the best family movies because hers are the most painful. Little Solange is about the trauma of the end of the family unit, but above all the power structure inside it and how it is to be the person who has the least of it. And she keeps approaching drama as music as no one else currently manages.
2) Dry Ground Burning/Mato Seco em Chamas (Adirley Queiros, Joana Pimenta)
Like each of Adirley Queiros’ previous movies (co-directed this time by Joana Pimenta, who had already filmed his previous one), Dry Ground Burning is after locating a possible fiction to find breaks in a society of control, a fiction that can unite a popular imaginary with an ingenuity aesthetic of simplicity and no budget, there is in this a belief that from this meeting an imagination of resistance can emerge.
1) Stars at Noon (Claire Denis)
I find it curious that Stars at Noon and Dry Ground Burning complement each other in a certain way, even though the former assumes itself from the very first moment as a mystifying foreign gaze and the latter is a proudly regional film, because beyond the matter of displacement in the face of repressive political forces, it is a question of the strangeness of this impossibility of defining oneself in front of them and the anguish that this uncertain feeling carries. It is a film about clinging to another body because it is the only one available, about looking for a romance to escape into. I know I saw Stars at Noon about three months ago and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about this strangeness, this despair in the face of the incomprehensible, of everything I saw this year, it was the one that stayed with me the most.