The 10 Best Movies of 2022 (that Actually Make You Feel Something)


I am a largely unemotional film critic. In college, one of my female friends asked me for relationship advice because I was “emotionally cold.” My wife may describe me as emotionally stunted. I get confused (or have pity?) when people say they get teary eyed or outright cry at movies. That’s a foreign, and weird, concept for me (one exception is the ending to Lion, it gets me every time). Movies don’t make me sad.

But what I do look for in movies–and what I’ve noticed my preferences have shifted to more and more in recent years, especially amongst a dearth of truly great “traditional” award contenders–is the feeling I get when I watch them. When I walk out of the theater as the end credits roll. As I turn off my TV.

I’m not talking about what makes me sad or happy as much as what gets me excited. What moves me to the edge of my seat. What makes me sweat. Uncomfortable. Scared. Unsettled. Or sometimes, what just made me experience a true sense of fun. Entertainment. Joy.

So yes, I do experience emotions. But very few of the traditional award contenders gave me these emotions. Look at TÁR, an exceptionally well made movie with a fantastic performance. I respect it tremendously. But I felt very little while watching it. The Fabelmans? A nice film by a master filmmaker but hardly resonant.  Women Talking? All I felt was boredom.

But I’m not here to bash the movies I didn’t like. I’m here to present the 10 best movies of 2022. The 10 movies that made me feel something different from the rest. Here they are:

RRR

10. RRR

Currently streaming on Netflix
At three hours long, this Indian action epic is arguably overstuffed. But man is it stuffed with some of the wildest, zaniest, colorful, go-for-broke action, drama, romance, bromance, and, yes, dance sequences you’ve seen in a long time. It makes you
feel a sense of exhilaration, an appreciation of the passion and energy captured on camera. Sometimes movies just wear their hearts on their sleeves (or in this case, their muscles), and RRR is one of those movies. 

Hustle

Currently streaming on Netflix
This direct-to-Netflix Adam Sandler basketball drama didn’t interest me in the slightest when it was released; it took a friend for work (i.e. not a film critic) to encourage me to give it a shot. There may not be anything extraordinary about
Hustle as it more or less sticks to the tried-and-true underdog sports formula, but what it does it does very well. Featuring another strong performance by Sandler, Hustle is an easy one to love, at least for us regular folk.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Currently streaming on Paramount+
This movie is 30 minutes too long and wears out its welcome by the end. Despite that,
Everything Everywhere All At Once is the boldest, most energetic movie of the year. Packed with clever if not downright ludicrous ideas (a whole subplot tied to the Pixar movie Ratatouille, really? And hot dog fingers?), Everything Everywhere is weird, funny, action-packed, unpredictable and downright entertaining. And if you watched it in a packed theater like I did, you would have felt the energy pulsing through the crowd.

Speak No Evil

Currently available to rent
Much of the year I’ve resisted admitting to myself the truth about
Speak No Evil: yes, despite being utterly bleak and laying claim to one of the most depressing endings of the last decade, it is also one of the best movies of the year. There have been a lot of great horror movies this year, but none made me feel so anxious and unsettled as this one. I usually only put movies on this list that I’d watch over and over, but I get a knot in my stomach when I even contemplate the idea.

The Fallout

Currently streaming on HBO Max
Unceremoniously dumped on HBO Max this January,
The Fallout is nonetheless a gripping exploration into trauma, grief, and recovery. Starring Jenna Ortega (Wednesday), the movie is amazingly accessible given its subject matter–a mass school shooting. Speaking of feeling, the emotions felt during the shooting sequence leaves you breathless, even though the worst of it [thankfully] occurs off screen.

Pleasure

Currently streaming on Showtime
“Pleasure” is a
feeling largely absent from this deceptively well-lit drama that follows a young Swede as she ventures into the American porn industry, making tremendous sacrifices to achieve stardom and success. The movie does make you feel an increasing sense of unease as this brutal story unfolds, however, culminating in a highly unpleasant quasi-rape scene that is anything but pleasureful.

Thirteen Lives

Currently streaming on Amazon Prime
If there’s any movie on this list that tries its hardest not to be emotional, it’s Ron Howard’s surprisingly effective true-life thriller
Thirteen Lives. But a movie that methodically depicts the incredibly complex and harrowing 2018 Thai cave rescue (also brought to life in last year’s terrific documentary The Rescue) was inevitably going to give you the feels no matter what. Devoid of almost any melodrama, Thirteen Lives still manages to pull you to the edge of your seat and get you to hold your breath, despite already knowing the outcome.

Glass Onion

Currently streaming on Netflix
Very few theatrical releases this year left me buzzing as I walked out during the credits. Ironically one of them is the Netflix movie
Glass Onion (I saw it in theaters). An improvement over the overrated Knives Out in every way, Rian Johnson delivers with a highly entertaining, funny, and clever murder mystery full of actors willing to take their outrageous characters to the limit. This movie is a direct injection of fun.

The Northman

Currently streaming on Amazon Prime
Gritty, brutal, and cinematically captivating,
The Northman is one powerhouse of a viking revenge film. Made by a filmmaker (Robert Eggers, who helmed the incredible The Witch) who operates on another level from most other directors, The Northman not only looks the part but makes you feel it–you can feel the anger, the intensity, the devotion to detail. It’s an experience that reverberates through your soul.

Top Gun: Maverick

Currently streaming on Paramount+
Speaking of experiences, there’s
Top Gun: Maverick and only Top Gun: Maverick. I’d been warily excited to watch this one since before the pandemic, pumped for the nostalgia infusion but concerned a sequel could deliver nothing more than that. But boy do Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski achieve liftoff and then some. Brimming with energy and superior action, tapping into that Top Gun nostalgia while not relying on it, Top Gun: Maverick is a movie that makes you feel alive. 

After watching this movie, I walked out of the theater with approximately 15 friends and family members. The reaction–amazing–was unanimous and the whole group was just buzzing. You could feel the electricity. And for that reason, without question, Top Gun: Maverick is the best movie of 2022.

I normally don’t list Honorable Mentions because I feel it’s cheating (you’re top 10 has suddenly turned in a top 20, and what’s the fun in that?), but I will note that I could have swapped in the bottom of this list with several… ahem… honorable mentions, including Cha Cha Real Smooth (Apple TV+), All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix), and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix). Even Bodies Bodies Bodies, one of several extremely fun horror movies released this year, and the incredibly funny Jackass Forever, were in play.

View a full list of my 2022 reviews ranked to some degree from best to worst.

By Erik Samdahl



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