We conclude with a rundown of my favorite films from 2022. We’re not looking for the greatest or even necessarily the best-made movies, we’re looking for the films that were just plain fun to sit through. Let’s get to it!

Best Superhero Movie

Taika Waititi knows how to make a great time at the movies, and I had fun sitting through Thor: Love and Thunder in spite of that film’s numerous flaws. We also got DC League of Super-Pets, another movie that turned out to be more legitimately funny and heartfelt and action-packed than it had any right to be.

If this was a list about the “greatest” films in the genre, I’d probably give it to something like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which did a stellar job of further opening up the world of the MCU even if the plot meandered and got off track a few times. Though I might say The Batman was a better movie, in which Matt Reeves and company successfully delivered an iconic take on Batman for a new generation. (Also, Michael Giacchino turned in my favorite score of the year, hands down.)

But this is the “Wild Rides” list, where fun is the most important factor. And going purely by fun, I’m giving this one to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The comedy and the cameos were all greatly enhanced by Sam Raimi’s trademark sense of humor, ditto the ingenious action set pieces. It certainly helps that the film successfully delivered a film on a multiversal scale with only a two-hour runtime. A film that delivered an innovative sense of fun without compromising the personal drama, this one deserves way more love than it’s gotten.

Best Comedy

I’m sorry to say that most of the year’s comedy offerings weren’t really for me. I wasn’t over the moon about The Bob’s Burgers Movie, primarily because I’m not a fan of the original show and that’s the audience the film was made for. The Lost City and Ticket to Paradise were both enjoyable enough, but they were much more effective as romance flicks than comedies. Jackass Forever delivered more of their usual quality, and I’m sorry I never got around to writing up a review for Jackass 4.5 because it added so much to the main feature.

I was all ready to name Jackass Forever the year’s top comedy. And then Spirited happened.

You know I’m a sucker for any film that effectively blends multiple genres, and I have tremendous admiration for a film that can be a good musical on top of everything else. It’s a great Christmas movie, it’s got stellar music and choreography, the plot and premise are a marvelous “Christmas Carol” riff, and it’s funny funny funny right up to the last frame of the end credits. At least two thirds of the film is just Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell pushing each other deeper and deeper into their respective wheelhouses, and it’s a joy to watch. Good stuff.

Best Romantic Comedy

Again, Ticket to Paradise and The Lost City deserve mention as admirable entries in the genre. And of course we can’t forget Rosaline, a cute little YA parody of “Romeo and Juliet”.

But 2022 was quite noteworthy for how many gay romcoms we got — I didn’t even get around to all of them. Bros was easily the most high-profile example, though that mostly had to do with Billy Eichner raging like an asshole after the film underperformed at the box office.

Anyway, I honestly preferred Fire Island. Funny, stylish, sexy, and heartfelt, this was a deeply enjoyable “Pride and Prejudice” riff that successfully used the Jane Austen classic as a template for a sizzling hot modern LGBTQ+ romance.

Best Action Movie

Whoo boy. I know I keep saying it, but we got a lot of great ones to choose from this year.

Of course Top Gun: Maverick is the action film that got all the headlines this year. And rightly so, it’s the sequel to Top Gun we never knew we needed and that movie singlehandedly shot Paramount back to relevance. Even so, we can’t forget Ambulance, the thrill-a-minute two-hour car chase that marked a new peak for Michael Bay’s trademark style of action cinema. And of course there was Violent Night, which came out of fucking nowhere to become a new alternative holiday staple.

Things were pretty darn good on the streaming side as well. Netflix came out with The Adam Project and Day Shift, both of which were admittedly flawed products yet more than fun and well-produced enough that I’d welcome a sequel to either one. But Prey outdid them both because somebody finally figured out that dropping a Predator into some other time and place in history is a slam-dunk concept how the high-flying fuck did it take us 35 goddamn years to get this movie?!

Of all the wonderful and worthy action films we got this year, I’m giving the top prize to RRR. Why? Because this movie opens with a protagonist beating back a literal army of hostiles with his bare hands, all on his own, and the filmmakers keep on finding new ways to top themselves from there. Every fifteen minutes. Like clockwork. For over three goddamn hours. This movie goes hard enough to make John Fucking Wick look like a lightweight, and it kept on bringing me over-the-top spectacle like I could never hope to see in any other movie — always a winning combination for any action flick.

Buckle up, everyone. We’re finally getting to the horror films and thrillers, which I’ve had to divide into three separate categories because we got so many great ones this year.

Best Standalone Horror

Yes, I know The Black Phone has a sequel in development. Until such time as that sequel is actually put into production, I don’t care. It works damn well as a standalone film, an elegantly crafted work of survival horror.

We also got Smile, an inventive and spellbinding mental illness allegory with the most genuinely terrifying jump scares I’ve ever seen in any movie. And then of course there’s Barbarian, a film with so many unspeakably fucked-up twists and turns that the film was borderline unpromotable and fans had to discover it through superlative word of mouth. Can’t forget NOPE either, a breathtaking Jordan Peele joint that offered fantastic thrills with countless layers of social commentary and psychological fuckery.

All four are excellent and admirable films, worthy to be listed among the year’s best. But I’m giving the top prize to Barbarian, simply because I don’t think I saw any other movie this year that did more with less.

Best Franchise Horror

This was the year when Halloween Ends brought the Laurie Strode/Michael Myers saga to a definitive end with a serviceable yet uneven final entry. We also got the Hellraiser (2022) relaunch, which turned out to be surprisingly good.

But of course the real surprise came from the one-two sucker punch from Ti West. With X and Pearl, we got two movies — going on a trilogy! — that offered surprisingly deep commentary about the passage of time, the conflict of old and young, and the relevance of retro cinema. The top-secret production and runaway success of both films was a landmark accomplishment of the year, but by my own made-up rules, I can only choose one.

So it is that I’m going with Pearl, because if the sequel hadn’t done such a great job of sticking the landing, we wouldn’t even be talking about either film. Moreover, while Mia Goth’s double-role in X was a spellbinding part of a much greater ensemble, her lead performance in Pearl is some next-level shit. X brought the slasher horror, but Pearl was unsettling and unpredictable in a way that demands placement among the year’s greatest.

Best Feminist Thriller

I went easier on Don’t Worry Darling than most, but all the tabloid bullshit makes it really hard to defend that picture. Anyway, See for Me turned out to be surprisingly more potent as a feminist work and as a whip-smart thriller, with an added bonus of visually-impaired representation.

But the clear winner here is Fresh, the only film this year that made me honest-to-god sick to my stomach. As a feminist movie, as a work of survival horror, as an examination of toxic masculinity by way of goddamn cannibalism, it’s remarkably innovative and goddamn horrifying from start to finish.

Best Wild Ride

As I’ve said before, I’m always looking for the film that blends multiple genres into something greater than the sum of its parts, most especially for my top picks of the year. I wish I could put Everything Everywhere All at Once on the top of both lists, but no, that’s my choice for Best Masterpiece. Spirited is a strong contender, but it’ll have to settle for Best Comedy. What other movie this year could deliver more excitement and innovation across more genres than either of those two?

Step forward, Mr. Nicolas Cage.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent has wonderful action scenes, a thrilling hostage plot, and it’s gut-bustingly funny from start to finish. It celebrates Nic Cage’s work, complete with loads of references and in-jokes and cameos for the fans to appreciate, yet the film does all this without coming off as overly self-indulgent or pandering. Nic Cage makes fun of himself in such a way that everyone — himself, the filmmakers, the audience, EVERYONE — is in on the joke. This film is an exceptional work that perfectly balances so many different moving parts, a bona fide miracle. Easily the most fun I had in a movie theater all year.

Onwards and upwards to 2023!


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1 thought on “Movie Curiosities: The Wild Rides of 2022

  1. Some great picks here. I’m glad you managed to avoid giving more than one first place winner to the same movie.
    .
    The Batman was probably the best live-action cinematic Batman movie since The Dark Knight. Spirited is a fun entertaining musical. I still need to see Everything, Everywhere, All at Once since it’s gotten a lot of good reviews.

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