My Top 5 Non-Sci-Fi Films of 2022
Once again, it's never been a better time to be a geek and a film buff. But I'm ready for a change. So here are my end-of-year top picks outside of Sci-Fi…and the results may surprise you!
In 2016 I wrote up a list of my favorite Sci-Fi films of 2016. And then again in 2021. But this year, I thought I’d mix things up a bit. After a string of disappointments earlier in the year as a Sci-Fi & Comic Book movie fan, I was feeling rather burnt out. And I’d soured on Disney+ shows as well and didn’t even bother with Star Wars: Andor when it first came out. (Thankfully that proved to be a major turnaround and breath of fresh air for the franchise!)
While I’m glad things did seem to pick up later in the year (and I plan to record a podcast soon with some of my top picks in genre film and television)—for now and with no further ado, let’s roll with my five favorite non-Sci-Fi films of 2022!
5: Where the Crawdads Sing
I wanted to see this movie the moment I first heard of it as I’m a massive fan of Daisy Edgar-Jones. Her role in Hulu’s Normal People was electrifying. However, this movie proved oddly controversial upon its release, and thus due to some of the negative buzz I didn’t bother seeing it at the time.
I regret listening to the naysayers! I love this film. (And so do the audiences apparently, critics be damned.) Once again her performance is stellar as the “marsh girl” recluse Kya, but she’s joined by an equally compelling younger counterpart in the form of past Kya, played by Jojo Regina. I’ve become a huge fan of “environmental” movies (aka movies where the outdoor environment is as key to the storytelling as the human characters themselves), and Where the Crawdads Sing really delivers on this front. It’s a part of the world I don’t normally have much interest in personally—but after watching this film, I too want to live in a cabin in the depths of the marsh!
This is a sad story in many ways, yet even with some of the sordid twists and turns it takes, I overall found it to be deeply hopeful and thought-provoking. It meant a lot to me well after I’d seen it, which is why it enters my list at number 5.
4: She Said
I’m a sucker for a good story about the journalistic takedown of the corrupt powers that be. Inject this directly into my veins! Movies like Spotlight and Bombshell, The Big Short, and others all about the efforts of insiders to expose the rot at the top…I’m here for all of it.
She Said is an excellent newcomer to the genre, all about the explosive New York Times reporting on chronic sexual harassment and subsequent coverups at the hands of notorious Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. I honestly don’t get why this film didn’t receive a lot more buzz than it did, because these events played a major role in the #MeToo movement and proved a moment of reckoning for Hollywood’s good-ol-boys club.
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor were fantastic in their roles, and it was a real delight to see Samantha Morton appear as one of the principal whistleblowers in the story. I thought the directing and editing was very well done (and I genuinely disagree with comments that the movie was slow or bland or not “exciting” enough), and the score by Nicholas Britell was frankly too good. (He’s also the mastermind behind the equally outstanding music of Star Wars: Andor.) For fans of social justice in all its myriad forms, this is a movie not to be missed!
Much like what I said about the landscapes in Where the Crawdads Sing, I know a movie is really something when it makes me care about subject matter which heretofore I wouldn’t have given the time of day.
Disclaimer: I don’t like Elvis’ music, he’s not my King, and honestly nothing about “Elvis!” fandom appeals to me in the slightest.
But by the end of Elvis, not only did I want to learn more about the life of Elvis Presley and listen to more of his music, I wanted to travel to Las Vegas and see a really good Elvis impersonator perform and imagine he was indeed the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 1970.
Austin Butler is insane as Elvis Presley in this movie. He might even be a better Elvis than Elvis. This is Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison territory, and perhaps tops even Rami Malek’s quite excellent stint as Freddie Mercury. I love every minute of this frenetic and action-packed movie, and even the weird role screen icon Tom Hanks plays in the film grew on me considerably by the end. Elvis comes in at a solid #3 on this list, highly recommend.
2: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
I freaking love Knives Out. It’s one of my favorite murder mystery movies of all time. Rian Johnson hit it out of the park, and solidified himself as a consummate writer/director at a time when his “street cred” wasn’t all that high after the contentious events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
When I first heard that Netflix had backed a truck up to Rian’s door and unloaded a nosebleed amount of money to get him to build them a “Knives Out franchise”, I was hesitant. Knives Out was simply great, all on its own. Why sully its top-drawer reputation with a questionable string of made-for-streaming sequels?
I couldn’t be more wrong. Glass Onion is a revelation. I had attempted to see it in the theater during the short release window Netflix provided, but it didn’t work out. I wish it had, because I am over the moon with how good this movie is. Every frame, every comical drawl by Benoit Blanc, every reveal, every exchange between the memorable characters in this perfect ensemble cast, every sweeping drone shot of the Grecian islands…Chef’s. Kiss.
But even more incredibly, how could Rian Johnson have known back in 2020 when he wrote the script to Glass Onion that the top story in bussiness & tech in 2022 would literally be the absurd antics of an insanely rich tech mogul whom everyone used to think was a stable genius but now in fact turns out to be just another fucking right-wing idiot?
The perfect movie at the present moment. Glass Onion. Go see it on Netflix.
1: The Banshees of Inisherin
I’m so glad I got to see this movie in a movie theater. It wasn’t a large audience, but the people who were there were vocal. We laughed…a lot. We cried. We gasped. It was a ride, one I remember vividly. I even remember the nighttime walk back from the theater to my home, thinking intensely about the movie I’d just seen.
The Banshees of Inisherin. Is it a metaphor for the horrors of civil war and how it drives men apart and pits neighbor against neighbor? Is it a metaphor for old age and the desire for your life to have “meant” something through the longevity of recorded creative expression? Is it a metaphor for the growing banalities at the heart of traditional island life when the modern world beckons just over the water? Is it simply a bonkers tall tale about some colorful characters on a remote island off the coast of Ireland a century ago which takes all of the tropes of stories about “Irish country folk” (getting drunk at the pub, dangling legs over dramatic seaside cliffs, milking the goats, the long-suffering colleen who rejects all the village lads to their utter chagrin, the violent cop, the trad music jam band, witty philosophical banter about the most trivial of pursuits, comical side-characters not quite right in the head, breathtaking vistas of the moody landscapes of the Irish west, mystical old hags with creepy laughs) and turns them on their ear?
This smart, subversive, freakishly-well-acted film elevates the genre, and I’m still not even quite sure what genre it’s in. In that sense, it’s thoroughly modern. It winks at the audience constantly, because it knows we know the story is absurd, and we know that it knows that we know it’s absurd, and it knows that we know that it knows that…well, you get the picture.
And if you haven’t yet gotten the picture, go watch The Banshees of Inisherin—in theaters if you can, or streaming on HBO Max.
There were a few films I initially hoped would make the cut, but ultimately didn’t. Nevertheless they’re excellent movies to watch.
Enola Holmes 2 was a big hit during family night and my kids’ top pick for 2022. I think I liked it even better than the first one.
Causeway on Apple TV+ was very well done, and a welcome comeback for Jennifer Lawrence. I hope in this new era of her career she stays away from the glitzy or shock-and-awe roles she became known for and plays some “smaller” roles like this one. It suits her (and I mean that in the most positive way possible).
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent…I had such high hopes going into this movie. While I’m not per se a massive fan of Cage or his “nouveau shamanism,” I nevertheless thought this movie would be a trip. And it was? Kinda? Sorta? Maybe? I don’t know. Not all of the jokes landed, the direction was a bit too pedestrian, and the plot was just a tad too convenient. But the onscreen bromance between “Nick Cage” and Javi (played by Pedro Pascal) was real. And I loved that. So I’m definitely glad I saw the film, but a bit saddened it didn’t make it’s way to my top 5.
So there you have it folks: My Top 5 Non-Sci-Fi Films of 2022. What are yours? Let me know on Mastodon what you thought!
P. S. What was my favorite movie of the year overall in any genre, you may ask? Stay tuned! 😎