Best New(ish) Movies I Watched in 2022

I rarely see movies in the theater anymore and instead wait until new releases are available for streaming, so my reviews of “new” movies are not so “new.” It sometimes takes me a year or two to catch up. There are still a lot of 2022 movies I want to see (look for those on next year’s list). I’ll break this year’s list into tiers, Tier-1 being the best and Tier-5 being the worst. The movies in each tier are sorted alphabetically as it’s pointless to rank equally great works of art over each other. One is not better than the other—they are just different. (Check to see where movies on this list are currently streaming.)

Tier 1: Cinematic Masterpieces

After Yang (2021) – Directed by Kogonada

This is a science fiction film about a family with an adopted daughter from China who get a “Chinese” android robot (Yang) to be her older brother and help care for her. But Yang breaks down, and the father (Colin Farrell) scrambles to try to fix him. It is one of the most realistic near-future movies I have ever seen, a prophetic vision of a world that could actually exist. There are so many brilliant details of worldbuilding, from the clothes (which look weird, but of course people will wear weird clothes in the future), to the way people casually use and interact with the robot, to odd neighbors who have clones, to the iPhone-like nature of buying and repairing humanoid robots, to having plants inside your self-driving car, to discovering hidden spyware inside your robot. The story itself was emotionally powerful, dealing with love, relationships, memory, identity, and what it means to be human. The young daughter was adopted from China but is being raised in America, while her robot brother was designed to look Chinese and programmed with fun facts about China, but both question if they are truly Asian. The acting was fantastic all around, from Farrell, to the young daughter, and Yang the robot—or “techno-sapien.” The movie reminded me a lot of Spike Jonze’s Her—and not just because of the future hipsters with mustaches. It’s a mostly positive vision of the future, though there are still problems. After Yang is a true work of art. This is the first film I’ve seen by Kogonada, but he is definitely a director to watch.

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (2022) – Directed by Richard Linklater

Another surreal rotoscope film from Linklater (like A Scanner Darkly), full of nostalgia about a kid growing up in the Houston suburbs during the 1969 moon landing.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) – Directed by Martin McDonagh

Another dark comedy from the writer/director of Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges. This has a sort of absurd-sounding inciting incident of a friendship between two grown men ending, but it is taken seriously and gets quite dark—but with lots of comedy throughout. McDonagh is a master of blending comedy and drama. Collin Farrel has turned into one of the best actors working today as he continues to choose interesting roles.

The Card Counter (2021) – Directed by Paul Schrader

I guess they do still make movies like they used to—or Paul Schrader does, at least. This film is about a disgraced Army vet who took the fall for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, now grinding a living on the road as a gambler playing low-stakes blackjack and poker. It could fit in seamlessly with the great cinema of the 70s, like Schrader’s classic, Taxi Driver, which he wrote the script for. And like Taxi Driver, the ending is dark and bloody.

The Green Knight (2021) – Directed by David Lowery

A visually-stunning, mind-expanding retelling of the Arthurian legend of Gawain and his quest to defeat the ‘Green Knight.’ But this is not your typical medieval adventure. It’s arthouse King Arthur, a deeply philosophical tale about morality, mortality, and honor. Frankly, I’m shocked a movie this good about this subject matter with a budget so high could be made in modern Hollywood. A24 (who also produced After Yang and the next film on this list) is a beacon of hope for the future of movies.

The Lighthouse (2019) – Directed by Robert Eggers

The Lighthouse is a hypnotic descent into madness. The film follows two men who work alone on a small rocky island to maintain a lighthouse for what was supposed to be four weeks, but they become stranded there longer. How long? No one knows. Throughout the film, you are not sure if one of them is going insane, or the other is, or both of them are—or if you yourself are going insane. The exquisite black-and-white cinematography adds to the monotonous and disorienting effect. The Lighthouse is a modern masterpiece, and director Robert Eggers is a young filmmaker to watch. His latest Viking epic, The Northman, is high on my to-watch list but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Pig (2021) – Directed by Michael Sarnoski

The premise seems kind of silly, so I was expecting a crazy mailed-in Nic Cage performance, but this was actually an Oscar-worthy Nic Cage performance (like Adaptation). Pig is set in the unique world of high-end restaurants, chefs, and the “truffle trade.” A former famous chef (Cage) with a dark past lives alone in the woods with his pet pig, a truffle finder. When his pig is stolen, he goes on a quest through the Portland restaurant underworld to find it. Again, the premise sounds absurdist, but it is taken completely seriously (though there is dark comedy throughout).

Tier 2: Great Films

Adult Swim Yule Log aka The Fireplace (2022) – Directed by Casper Kelly

What starts as an ASMR video of a yule log fireplace with Christmas songs playing turns into a deranged night of dark comedy and cosmic horror. Things get crazier and crazier as the film progresses in mind-blowing fashion.

The Batman (2022) – Directed by Matt Reeves

This is the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight. And Paul Dano’s Riddler is the best Batman movie villain since Ledger’s Joker. I loved the noir serial killer murder mystery modeled after David Fincher’s Se7en. I am sick and tired of superhero movies in general—I gave up on watching the Marvel movies—but Batman is the one superhero that, when done right, can be a step above the rest. And Matt Reeves did Batman right.

The French Dispatch (2021) – Directed by Wes Anderson

Another Wes Anderson classic, in the form of a group of short films centered around a newspaper in France.

Gaia (2021) – Directed by Jaco Bouwer

An arthouse eco-horror set in the African jungle with a Ted Kaczynski-type character and humanoid mushroom monsters.

In Fabric (2018) – Directed by Peter Strickland

A slick horror movie about a haunted dress.

The Innkeepers (2011) – Directed by Ti West

An eerie ghost story about overnight workers at a haunted hotel.

Lamb (2021) – Directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson

A unique Icelandic movie about… well, I don’t want to spoil anything. The less you know, the better.

Lords of Chaos (2018) – Directed by Jonas Åkerlund

I knew nothing of the true story behind Mayhem, the Norwegian black metal band from the 90s, but the movie was equally fascinating and disturbing. Though people who do know the history say the filmmakers distorted much of the facts (that is the problem with “true crime movies” which I wrote about here).

The Menu (2022) – Directed by Mark Mylod

A deliciously messed up horror movie about a vengeful chef, with a side of dark comedy.

Nightmare Alley (2021) – Directed by Guillermo del Toro

This is a remake of a classic film noir from 1947 (which I have not seen), but it’s not a typical detective mystery—though there is crime, cons, and mystery throughout. The story follows a man (Bradley Cooper) with a dark past who joins a carnival then begins to learn how to be a mentalist, becomes successful doing his own show, then works with a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchette) to do private readings for the super-wealthy. I won’t spoil what happens from then on, but the ending was quite dark and twisted in a perfectly poetic way. I thought this film was better than Del Toro’s The Shape of Water which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017.

Operation Avalanche (2016) – Directed by Matt Johnson

A faux documentary about the possible faking of the moon landing. It follows CIA agents making a fake documentary to try to find a Soviet mole at NASA. Then they learn that NASA can get to the moon but does not have the technological ability to land on it. So the CIA agents film a video to fake the astronauts landing on the moon. Operation Avalanche presents a plausible theory about how the moon landing could have been faked with only a handful of people from the CIA and NASA being in on it (not Stanley Kubrick, though he unwittingly helps out and appears in the movie.) As for whether Apollo 11 actually landed on the moon? I don’t know. It’s one of those classic conspiracy theories that may be impossible to conclusively prove or disprove. As you begin to investigate, the rabbit hole goes so deep it never ends.

The Power of the Dog (2021) – Directed by Jane Campion

A mesmerizing psychological drama/western. There is not a lot of plot, but it’s a fascinating character study.

Spiderhead (2022) – Directed by Joseph Kosinski

I can’t understand why this movie got such poor reviews. It was made by the director of Top Gun: Maverick, based on a short story by George Saunders, with an A-list cast, and a mind-bending sci-fi plot about convicts in a future prison who test new drugs for a pharmaceutical company. My only guess is Marvel fans were disappointed to discover it wasn’t a Thor/Spiderman crossover.

Starfish (2018) – Directed by A.T. White

After watching as many movies as I have (which is well into the quadruple digits) you tend to become jaded with most movies and want to see something new and different. Well, Starfish is definitely that: new and different. It’s the kind of movie that I was thoroughly captivated by while watching, then at the end thought, “WTF did I just watch?” I still don’t understand what exactly happened in the movie, but I enjoyed every second of it.

Tier 3: Merely good

All My Friends Hate Me (2021) – Directed by Andrew Gaynord

An unnerving horror/comedy about a guy spending a weekend at a mansion with his old friends.

Barbarian (2022) – Directed by Zach Cregger

Barbarian is three-fourths of a great horror film. It began grounded and eerie but became too bombastic and preposterous by the end. Though it was still a wild ride that I enjoyed.

Black ’47 (2018) – Directed by Lance Daly

A bleak and violent film set in Ireland during the famine, similar to a revenge western in tone and style. Instead of a “Spaghetti Western,” it’s a “Potato Western.”

Broadcast Signal Intrusion (2021) – Directed by Jacob Gentry

An interesting noir mystery with elements of horror. It’s a period piece set in the late 90s about a guy investigating odd videos that someone hacked to interrupt TV broadcasts that were possibly related to murders. It’s the type of film that will leave you with more questions than answers.

Bullet Train (2022) – Directed by David Leitch

Snatch meets Speed meets Kill Bill…on a train.

Crimes of the Future (2022) – Directed by David Cronenberg

I was looking forward to seeing this new sci-fi/horror film from David Cronenberg, and there were interesting aspects, but the body horror was too disturbing and the plot too incoherent for me to fully enjoy.

Free Guy (2021) & The Adam Project (2022) – Directed by Shawn Levy

Two sci-fi action comedy movies starring Ryan Reynolds, directed by Shawn Levy. Neither were great but they were fun entertainment. Free Guy was more original in its premise of a videogame NPC becoming self-aware, while The Adam Project had a traditional take on time travel. Both films suffered from weak one-dimensional villains.

Last Night in Soho (2021) – Directed by Edgar Wright

This was entertaining to watch and I quite enjoyed it up until the end when it fell apart with the final twist. Edgar Wright is a talented director, but perhaps not the best writer (he co-wrote the script). I at least applaud Wright for taking a bold risk with the ending. Better to try something big and fail than settle for safe and boring.

The Pale Blue Eye (2022) – Directed by Scott Cooper

I wanted to like this murder mystery featuring Edgar Allan Poe a lot more. It’s a great premise (and the portrayal of Poe is entertaining) but the unfolding of the mystery was muddled, and it felt like one twist too many at the end. It wasn’t a bad movie, I was just slightly disappointed because it could have been so much better with a tighter script.

Ride the Eagle (2021) – Directed by Trent O’Donnell

A heart-warming dramedy starring Jake Johnson.

The Scary on Sixty-First (2021) – Directed by Dasha Nekrasova

An inventive low-budget occult conspiracy horror/thriller directed by, co-written by, and co-starring Dasha from the Red Scare podcast. It has the vibes of Roman Polanski’s apartment thrillers such as The Tenant. Slight SPOILER: It is about two female roommates who move into what turns out to be one of Jeffery Epstein’s former apartments in Manhattan. They begin to act strangely as they become possessed by the ghosts who once lived in the haunted apartment.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) – Directed by Tom Gormican

A fun meta comedy about Nic Cage playing Nic Cage. It started fantastically, but by the third act the movie turned into too much of a generic action thriller—which they comment upon in the film, but that does not excuse it.

Tier 4: Flawed but entertaining

Centurion (2010) – Directed by Neil Marshall

A mediocre action movie about a group of ancient Roman soldiers, spoiled by historical inaccuracies and anachronistic modern sensibilities. (It was actually old enough to be on this list, but I forgot I watched it last year, probably because it was such a forgettable movie.)

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022) – Directed by Akiva Schaffer

I remember watching the cartoon when I was a kid, though I don’t remember any details of the show because it was so long ago. But this was a fun meta reboot, mixing animated characters in the real world like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, centered around a noir mystery plot like that movie too, and is full of nostalgic 90s references (like my novel Trick or Zombie Treat).

Death on the Nile (2022) – Directed by Kenneth Branagh

A mediocre murder mystery set in Egypt, based on the Agatha Christie novel.

The Deep House (2021) – Directed by Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury

A decent low-budget found-footage horror movie about scuba divers exploring a sunken haunted house underwater in a lake with some Lovecraft references. Not the highest production quality, but I respect the dark ending.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) – Directed by Jason Reitman

Though I loved the original Ghostbusters, I was not interested in seeing another reboot of the franchise after the disappointing 2016 film. I was skeptical another good Ghostbusters movie could ever be made. But then this movie got good reviews, and I am a fan of writer/director Jason Reitman, so I gave it a chance and was pleasantly surprised. It has a smart funny script (like all of Reitman’s movies) with likeable characters—Phoebe especially. I quite enjoyed the first half of the movie (which felt like an indie drama/comedy), but the second half got too formulaic with big extended action scenes, then the end got too cheesy and sentimental with superfluous cameos.

Side note: It’s ironic how Finn Wolfhard can play a teen in the 1980s (in Stranger Things) and a teen in the 2020s (in Ghostbusters: Afterlife), and wear the same clothes with the same hairstyle, yet neither is out of place. Everything old is new again.

Kimi (2022) – Directed by Steven Soderbergh

A Hitchcockian mystery/thriller, Soderberg’s modern take on Rear Window, involving an Alexa-like device. It was really good until the very end when it basically turned into Home Alone.

Lightyear (2022) – Directed by Angus MacLane

This has nothing to do with Toy Story, is basically a sci-fi thriller with a plot similar to Interstellar. It ends up being too adult for kids and too kiddy for adults.

Metal Lords (2022) – Directed by Peter Sollett

A decent coming-of-age comedy about a high school metal band, like a watered-down comedic PG-13 version of Lords of Chaos.

Nightbooks (2021) – Directed by David Yarovesky

A decent family horror/fantasy about a kid telling scary stories to appease an evil witch.

The Night House (2020) – Directed by David Bruckner

The first two acts were an eerie subtle horror story, but the final act got too hokey.

Nobody (2021) – Directed by Ilya Naishuller

A competent though formulaic action movie. It received a lot of hype when it first came out, but I was underwhelmed. I don’t understand this trend of turning average joe old guys into action heroes. Where is our modern Arnold? It should be The Rock, but as opposed to Colin Farrell, Dwayne Johnson has terrible taste in choosing roles.

Old (2021) – Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

An intriguing premise—about people trapped on a tropical beach where they age rapidly—with a classic M. Night twist ending (though I did predict the twist). It’s not a great film (a bit over the top at moments) but it’s an entertaining thriller—as long as you don’t think too hard about it, as there are several plot holes and contrivances.

Save Yourselves! (2020) – Directed by Alex Huston Fischer & Eleanor Wilson

Millennial hipsters from Brooklyn face an alien invasion while staying at a mountain cabin in upstate NY.

Ultrasound (2021) – Directed by Rob Schroeder

A mind-bendy low-budget sci-fi mystery.

Tier 5: Disappointing

Antlers (2021) – Directed by Scott Cooper

A disappointing horror/mystery.

Buddymoon (2016) – Directed by Alex Simmons

A forgettable buddy comedy set hiking in the woods.

Demonic (2021) – Directed by Neill Blomkamp

An interesting premise blending sci-fi tech simulations with demonic possession, but the potential was wasted. I would say Blomkamp is a one-hit-wonder director, except I didn’t even think District 9 was that good, it was overrated IMO.

Glass Onion (2022) – Directed by Rian Johnson

The plot was too contrived and the characters too caricatured. It is another entry in the popular new sub-genre of rich people making expensive movies about how terrible rich people are—but this was not as good as The White Lotus or The Menu (I’ve yet to see Triangle of Sadness or Tar).

Bonus Tier 1 for Documentary Films:

Theaters of War (2022) – Directed by Roger Stahl

A documentary about how the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the CIA influence Hollywood movies with propaganda that paints the US military and CIA in a positive light. The DoD only approves and cooperates (via funding and providing access to military equipment such as tanks, helicopters, battleships, and fighter jets) with filmmakers who take their notes and edits to change the movie and sometimes change reality itself, whitewashing history to make themselves look better as they did in Black Hawk Down and Argo. The military and CIA also pitch Hollywood producers with movie ideas they’d like to see made to improve their PR perception. Some anti-war movies are still made without any funding or help from the military, but there are countless movies from the past that were never produced because they were denied cooperation with the DoD. One of the suggestions from the documentary that I’d like to see happen is a PSA before such films (or in the post-credits), informing the public that the movie received funding and/or creative input from the DoD or CIA. This is currently not required. It was only through FOIA requests from investigative journalists that the DoD/CIA/Hollywood connection was discovered. And it was just that single journalist who bothered to investigate this at all. Most of the media is happy to look the other way.


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