2022 was supposed to be the year that movies came roaring back to life, and in some ways it almost was. On the business side of things, multiplexes were starved for content and arthouses suffered outside of New York and Los Angeles — where films like “Tár” and “The Banshees of Inisherin” exploded out of the gate, only to fade as they expanded across the country — while a late-career triumph from the most commercially successful filmmaker in American history offered a poignant reflection on the relationship between art and commerce as it underperformed at the box office.
And yet, “Top Gun: Maverick” proved that the masses could still be tempted by the promise of new (or refurbished) spectacle, while the astonishing success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” confirmed that younger audiences are eager as ever to champion stuff that speaks their language.
But if it never quite felt as if the movies staged a comeback as satisfying and complete as, say, the one imagined for them in the final minutes of Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” that’s largely because they hadn’t really gone away in the first place. Indeed, many of the year’s best films conspired to affirm the enduring durability of what only the movies can offer.
“Jackass Forever” proved that what worked in 2002 still works in 2022, “RRR” had audiences roaring aloud as if they feared (or fantasized) that Ram Charan was going to burst out of the screen like the Lumière brothers’ mail train, “Triangle of Sadness” invited us to laugh at the rich together for the semi-affordable price of a movie ticket, and Netflix’s crowd-pleasing “Glass Onion” — in its brief theatrical run — ironically made the year’s best argument against an all-streaming future. Worth noting: Of the 25 films on our best-of list, 22 of them opened exclusively in theaters, while only Andrew Ahn’s “Fire Island” eschewed any sort of big screen release.
That phenomenon stretched far beyond the multiplexes, as “Saint Omer” affirmed the singular power of cinema’s gaze, “Resurrection” exhumed the ghost of mid-budget cable thrillers with a sick-fun twist, while documentaries like “Descendant” and “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” illustrated how the past is always present, even when powerful forces might wish that it would stay hidden. In that light, it seems fitting that our number one film of the year should be so unstuck in time, especially as it brims with the promise that cinema’s tomorrow is every bit as bright as its yesterday.
As voted on by the entire IndieWire staff (a process that explains the omission of polarizing standouts like “Elvis,” personal favorites like “Hit the Road” and “Armageddon Time,” and preach-to-the-choir masterpieces like “Crimes of the Future”), these are the 25 best movies of 2022.
Christian Blauvelt, Ryan Lattanzio, Jude Dry, Proma Khosla, and Robert Daniels also contributed to this list.