We’re past the halfway point of 2022, so it’s time to think about the great films that have made it easier to get through this year. The movie industry has been giving us wild stories about growing up, losing loved ones, and being a jackass in general, as well as stories about love, which is what keeps us going.
When taking stock of what’s come out this year, we have to look past some of the most flashy summer’s best films and focus on the ones that hit us hard and stayed with us. Yes, this summer has been full of big-budget spectacles like Top Gun: Maverick, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Jurassic World: Dominion. But for a movie to make our list of the best films, it had to be more than just big, full of stars, and nostalgic. It had to be new, exciting, and memorable.
1. Turning Red
Sorry, Buzz Lightyear, but this delightful and a little bit crazy coming-of-age fantasy is by far the best-animated best film of 2022 (so far). Turning Red is like the Pen15 of the Pixar universe. It’s about a 13-year-old girl named Mei Lee, who is an obedient daughter, a loyal friend, and a boy band fangirl. When she’s stressed out, she turns into a giant red panda. Since she is 13, this has happened to her often. But with the help of her best friends who will stick by her no matter what and her loving (but bossy) mom, Mei will find her way through the fur to who she really is.
This fun adventure, which celebrates Chinese culture, the beauty of Toronto, and the goofy glory of the early 2000s, has a personal touch from director Domee Shi. Turning Red is sure to please everyone, whether you want a touching story about women helping each other, a severe but funny look at puberty, or a hilarious ode to the fictional boy band 4*Town. Plus, it has some of the year’s best songs.
2. Jackass Forever
Johnny Knoxville and his group of well-known idiots got back together for a fourth installment of the most excitingly childish stunts we’ve seen since… well, since Jackass 3D. Alums like Steve-O and Chris Pontius, who had been through a lot but still had bright eyes, brought along some impressive (and impressively game), new friends, like Alia Shawkat, Tyler, the Creator, Eric André, and Machine Gun Kelly. Under the direction of Jeff Tremaine, they had to deal with a scorpion that liked to look good, a coffee cart that was set up to explode, and more shots of the junk than any prestige picture could ever have.
The jolly jackassery in Jackass Forever is reason enough to enjoy it, but this collection of silly pranks and stunts is also held together by an intoxicating sweetness. Jackass has always been about a group of friends who don’t take anything seriously, not safety, not life, and especially not what it means to be a man in the United States. On top of all the crazy antics and the warm welcome back into this crazy brotherhood, Jackass Forever showed that our love for Knoxville has aged just like the silver fox himself.
3. The Fallout
After Yang and Marcel, the Shell with Shoes On are the two best films about loss that came out in 2022. But this dark comedy written and directed by Megan Park is the best of the bunch. The Fallout starts with a school shooting, and then it follows two teenage girls who barely knew each other before they hid together in a bathroom stall to stay alive. As the weeks go by, they find it hard to deal with the constant loss, anger, and uncertainty, but their growing friendship helps them get through it.
Even though this idea is pretty dark, Park makes it funny without making fun of the terrible things that happen with guns in America. We’re tied closely to smirking Vada (played by the captivating Jenna Ortega) and sensitive Mia (Maddie Ziegler), and we’re told to find humor in the fact that life goes on even after a tragedy that rocks the world. Classes resume. Your little sister learns TikTok dances. Even though Vada’s heart is broken, she starts to like someone. People hurt and get better. Park makes a story of survival and self-discovery out of all the chaos that is bravely funny, startlingly sad, and completely unforgettable.
It’s too bad. I wish you luck, In the United States, Leo Grande was only released digitally, which is a shame because this sweet, sex-positive two-hander deserves more attention. Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack do great jobs as Nancy, a retired teacher who has never had a satisfying sexual experience, and Leo Grande, the charismatic sex worker she hires to change that.
The way director Sophie Hyde and writer Katy Brand handle Nancy and Leo’s interactions is a pleasant surprise, especially when they talk about Leo’s work. Almost the whole movie takes place in one hotel room, where Nancy and Leo talk about their lives in a way that is both surprising and natural. Nancy struggles with how she feels about her body and her sexuality, while Leo’s carefully crafted persona falls apart when people ask him about his family. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a great movie that is funny, deep, and sad all at the same time.
5. Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of the best films of 2022. It has a little bit of everything, from a touching story about a mother and daughter to a hilariously silly story about a one-hit wonder to a romantic scene with hot dog fingers to a huge battle with butt plugs. It’s the strangest and most amazing movie on this list. It wowed critics and audiences alike, generating buzz for months and getting rave reviews. It also broke a box office record and became A24’s highest-grossing movie to date.
Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka Daniels). Michelle Yeoh plays her most exciting role yet as a mother who jumps from one universe to another to save all of existence, but especially her daughter who is on the edge (Stephanie Hsu). This crazy action-comedy has more fun with the idea of the “multiverse” than Marvel ever could. It throws audiences into wild alternative worlds with glee and arms them with strange weapons and jaw-dropping fashion, all while Yeoh, Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, and Jamie Lee Curtis give wild, captivating performances. Everything Everywhere All at Once is full of heart, humor, and total chaos. It’s not only a lot of fun, but it’s also a necessary release from a world that’s too much to handle.
6. Marry Me
We can’t stop thinking about Jenny from the Block when we see Jennifer Lopez, and it’s not just because she’s back with Ben Affleck. JLo has been making our hearts skip a beat with her real-life, throwback romance and with her latest romantic comedy, Marry Me, which is very silly and sweet. It’s less of a “boy meets girl” story and more of a “pop diva meets charmingly uncool single dad” epic, much to the delight of his brave daughter (Chloe Coleman) and a bulldog who steals the show.
The crazy idea that these two strangers get married on stage in front of millions of fans on a whim is just the first thing that makes this cute comedy stand out. From there, director Kat Coiro made us fall in love with high-glam fashion, catchy pop songs, and charming scenes where the characters got to know each other. But the best part is how well Jlo’s swaggering beauty and Wilson’s breezy charm work together. To quote my own review, “To put it simply: Surprising, sexy, and smart, Marry Me isn’t just a charmer, it’s one of the best romantic comedies of the last ten years.”
The rush of fear I felt while watching Fresh, a comedy thriller by Mimi Cave, on a Friday night while my best friend was on a first date, is probably not going to be topped for years. I started watching the movie without knowing anything about it. Earlier that day, I saw a promotional photo of Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones, two actors I love, standing together in a supermarket. Just from that, I thought Fresh would be about a couple who meet in the fresh produce section and fall in love. I was kind of right, but the “meet cute” quickly turned into a “meat cute.” Confused? Likewise, I was.
It turns out that Stan’s character Steve is a cannibal, and Edgar-Jones’ character Noa is his latest victim. Fresh went from 0 (sharing cotton candy grapes in aisle 1) to 100 (splitting spaghetti and human meatballs) in minutes, and I wasn’t ready. Scenes in the truly unhinged dating horror story are so crazy that I couldn’t help but scream-laugh. The title card appears after 30 minutes, so you know it’s going to be a wild ride.
8. True Things
The first film directed by Harry Wootliff placed a romantic comedy situation in an environment where happy endings were uncommon. The sequel, based on a novel by Deborah Kay Davies, maintains a similar blend of heart-pounding passion and unfiltered modern realism. Ruth Wilson plays a tired benefits office clerk who is rescued from her mundane existence by Tom Burke’s dangerously alluring character. True Things is a clever and sensual reflection on the lies we tell ourselves about the people we believe we love, replete with intimate, dreamlike close-ups.
9. Top Gun: Maverick
Even those of us who were not fans of the 1986 film Top Gun had to accept that when Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) returned to the US Navy’s top fighter pilot school, the resulting blockbuster was heartfelt, exhilarating, and nearly flawless. So… how do you develop a successful sequel to a movie that was released more than three decades ago? Simple, in fact. Whether it’s a slow-burning relationship or a supersonic aerobatic performance, you bring back every feature that people may recall from the original, but make sure that every single one of them is 10 times better.
In Audrey Diwan’s eloquent and heart-wrenching story of Anne, an ordinary college student in France in 1963 who wants an abortion but can’t get one, the past is a model for the present. Anne knows that becoming a mother would ruin her future, so she doesn’t hesitate to get illegal help. The detailed scenes show how hypocritical the medical establishment is and how cruel society as a whole is. Diwan’s slow, steady style matches the heroine’s quiet determination. He stays away from preachiness and melodrama, even as Anne races against time to get to an exciting end. Happening is one of the most artistic and moving best films of the year. It also has a lot to say about society.
11. The Northman
“A widescreen rallying call for cinema in the age of streaming.” So, read Time Out’s admittedly pretty breathless review of Robert Eggers’ brilliant, bloody Viking epic when it hit (smashed into? ransacked?) theaters in April. But the sentiment is still true because, in an age where streaming sites are becoming more popular, The Northman is a good reminder that the biggest, boldest cinematic visions are best seen on the biggest screen possible, which, unless you live in an IMAX, won’t be in your living room.