Associated Press film writers Jake Coyle and Lindsey Bahr’s picks for the best movies of 2022:
1. “Aftersun”: Rarely does such a delicately crafted tale pack such a wallop. Charlotte Wells’ breathtaking feature debut, starring newcomer Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal as an 11-year-old girl and her father on vacation in Turkey, is such a keenly observed accumulation of detail and feeling that you hardly notice the undertow of heartache that will, in the end, absolutely floor you.
2. “Belle”: Though it was a hit in Japan, it was easy to miss Mamoru Hosoda’s glorious anime back in January, when it arrived in North American theaters. It’s a dazzling blend of “Beauty and the Beast,” a girl’s wrenching battle with grief and self-doubt, and possibly the best movie ever made about the Internet. It’s a lot, maybe too much, but “Belle” reaches the most beautiful of climaxes.
3. “The Banshees of Inisherin”: Martin McDonagh’s latest is a lean fable that throbs with existential conundrum. It plays out between a quizzical Colin Farrell, a doom-laden Brendan Gleeson, an exasperated Kerry Condon and a much-cherished donkey. What else could you possibly need?
4. “Decision to Leave”: The Korean master Park Chan-wook marries a police procedural and romance, and the twisty noirish results are at turns delightful and devastating.
5. “Descendant”: Margaret Brown’s expansive, ruminative documentary reverberates with history and stories passed down through time. The central incident is the discovery in Mobile, Ala., of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive on U.S. shores. But Brown’s roaming, wide-lens film is most powerful for the way it captures the community of Clotilda descendants — a contemplative and compelling cast of characters — as they weigh slavery’s present-day legacy.
6. “No Bears”: Jafar Panahi may be the most vital and courageous filmmaker in the world right now. The Iranian writer-director has been banned from making movies or traveling since he was arrested in 2010 for supporting protesters. Yet Panahi has, ingeniously, continued to find ways to make thoughtful, playful, defiant films that reflect his predicament while slyly capturing the Iranian society around him. “No Bears,” which dramatizes Panahi making a film along the Turkish border, is one of his best. It’s grown only more piercing since Panahi was jailed on a six-year prison sentence earlier this year. In one bleakly stirring moment, Panahi stands on a darkened borderland, contemplating fleeing.
7. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Nope”: In a movie world where spectacles often come with little within, both of these films were absolutely brimming with ideas and images. You could call the Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert film and Jordan Peele’s latest opus overstuffed. But their sheer cinematic abundance made them nourishing, vibrant exceptions. Much the same could be said of James Cameron’s equally visionary “Avatar: The Way of Water.”
8. “ Lingui, the Sacred Bonds “: Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s film is one of the year’s most tender mother-daughter portraits. Rihane Khali Alio and Achouackh Abakar Souleymane star in this extraordinarily vivid tale, set in the outskirts of present-day N’Djamena, of abortion, motherhood and female solidarity.
9. “The Fabelmans”: Steven Spielberg’s natural mode as a filmmaker might not be introspective. He’s not historically been one to phone home. And while that awkwardness can sometimes be felt in his movie memoir, there are many scenes here unlike anything he’s ever shot before, and among his very best.
10. “Kimi”: A great benefit of the so-called “pandemic movies” is that they were made fast, loose and of-their-moment. This year, many filmmakers — maybe as a result of all that time shut in — released inward-looking films. Often better were the ones that more directly dealt with the pandemic reality around us. Steven Soderbergh’s fleet-footed thriller starring Zoë Kravitz as an agoraphobic tech contractor deftly channeled the times into a riveting little pop gem.
Also: “Compartment No. 6,” “Till,” “One Fine Morning,” “The Cathedral,” “The Woman King,” “Saint Omer,” “Apollo 10½.”
1. “The Banshees of Inisherin”: Martin McDonagh’s film is a sharp, funny and utterly devastating work about the end of a friendship on a small Irish island. Colin Farrell uses his wonderful brows (and acting chops) to ensure ultimate heartbreak as his world and sense of self crumble and rot. But it’s the ensemble — including Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan and on down — who imbue this deceptively simple set-up with gravity and depth.
2. “Tár”: Todd Field’s brilliant, restless “Tár” reminded me how much I love movies (and tricked me into believing that I was some kind of scholar of classical music for a few hours). Cate Blanchett is transcendent in bringing this flawed genius to life, challenging the audience to consider big questions about power, status and art. It is demanding but immensely rewarding cinema that is not easily defined, which is perhaps why audiences aren’t taking a chance on it in theaters (which is a mistake).
3. “Women Talking”: Sarah Polley’s film hasn’t even been released to the general public, and it’s already considered “divisive,” which is one of the best reasons to seek it out. Aren’t you curious which side you’ll be on? I’m one who was spellbound by her heady, spiritual vision of a group of abused women in an isolated religious colony questioning their reality and wondering if life could somehow be different than what they know.
4. “Aftersun”: In a year full of autobiographical films from very famous names, it was one from an unknown that made the biggest impression. You don’t have to know anything about Charlotte Wells to get wrapped up in “Aftersun,” an inspired and fully realized memory piece about an ordinary vacation some 20 years prior that will leave you in pieces (which is somehow possible even when “Macarena” is also stuck in your head).
5. “Saint Omer”: A young woman is on trial for the death of her 15-month-old daughter in this haunting French courtroom drama, a tremendous debut feature from documentarian Alice Diop that upends your notions of what the genre can be in its examination of trauma, the immigrant experience and expectations of motherhood.
6. “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”: This is the kind of romantic confection that’s a bit of an outlier on a list like this, but that’s why it’s here. Anthony Fabian’s film about an English housecleaner and war widow (Lesley Manville) in the 1950s who saves up to travel to Paris to buy a couture Christian Dior gown is a balm — heartwarming without being schlocky, reverential of high fashion artistry but critical of its exclusionary ways, and just a supreme delight.
7. “Kimi”: Sorry, “Top Gun: Maverick.” You were very entertaining, too, but Steven Soderbergh’s “Kimi” was my favorite popcorn experience of the year — a taut, paranoid thriller with a modern, Alexa/Siri-inspired spin on the overheard crime scenario of “Blow Up,” with a sharp performance from Zoë Kravitz, who can even make an agoraphobic shut-in extremely cool.
8. “Murina”: There is rot beneath the punishingly beautiful, sun-soaked Adriatic setting of Croatian filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s sublimely menacing debut feature about a 17-year-old girl who is starting to question the ingrained misogyny around her. The family dynamics are as rocky and dangerous as the picturesque backdrop.
9. “Corsage”: Beauty, waistlines, aging, celebrity, duty and desire haunt Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Marie Kreutzer’s intricate and interpretive portrait of a dynamic mind and soul who’s been stifled by her position and myriad traumas. Vicky Krieps is perfect as the deliriously subversive Sissi.
10. “White Noise”: The supermarket dance to LCD Soundsystem’s “New Body Rhumba” might not come until the very end of Noah Baumbach’s Don DeLillo adaptation, but there is a dazzling rhythm to the entire epic, from the controlled chaos of the overlapping dialogue to the hectic choreography of a family making breakfast. But maybe the most surprising thing is that behind all the wit, the style, the commentary on American society and the banal, and the profound in the everyday, there is a real emotional weight, too.
Also: “Happening,” “The Eternal Daughter,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Fire of Love,” “Catherine Called Birdy,” “EO,” “Cyrano.”