Another year has come and gone, and slowly but surely, movie box office numbers are starting to creep back up closer to what they were before the pandemic shuttered cineplexes in 2020.
Even so, plenty of moviegoers realized during that span that unless they're watching a blockbuster like Top Gun: Maverick or Avatar: The Way of Water, streaming a new release at home can be a fine cinematic experience on its own.
No matter how you chose to watch your movies, 2022 brought notable films everyone should seek out. Here are our favorites of the year.
1. The Banshees of Inisherin
Written and directed by Oscar winner Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), this tragicomedy reunites In Bruges co-stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two best friends living a simple life off the coast of Ireland. The story begins the morning one of the pair decides to abruptly end the friendship. Desperation and frustration overwhelm the men as one tries to grasp his loss, while the other embraces his newfound freedom. McDonagh's reflection on mortality and human connection is equal parts humorous, heartbreaking and strange.
2. The Fabelmans
Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) helms a coming-of-age narrative loosely based on his own childhood growing up in Phoenix and his aspirations to become a filmmaker. In a lesser director's hands, this kind of cinematic endeavor could be vulnerable to navel-gazing. However, Spielberg's gift of intimate storytelling — especially when the subject is as delicate and meaningful to its creator as this semi-biopic — captures all the emotion and magic of making movies.
3. Women Talking
Director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sarah Polley (Away from Her) compiled an impressive ensemble cast to tell an emotionally resonant story that speaks to the empowering spirit and the unwillingness to relinquish one's autonomy. Inspired by real events, the dialogue-heavy drama is set in an isolated, religious commune where a group of Mennonite women must decide whether they stay or leave after years of rape by the men of their ministry.
4. She Said
Based on the landmark Harvey Weinstein investigation by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the biographical drama directed by Maria Schrader (Unorthodox) is a multilayered and intense feature that demands an audience. The film underscores the work of meticulous journalists and the courage it takes for them to reveal both pervasive sexual abuse and the apathy displayed by those closest to the crimes. As Kantor and Twohey, Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan complement one another admirably.
5. The Wonder
Set in 1862, this psychological drama tells the story of "Lib" Wright (Florence Pugh), an English nurse sent to a rural village in Ireland to watch a young girl who has apparently not eaten in four months but appears to remain in good health. While some believe the situation to be divine in nature, Lib is certain it's not and goes to great lengths to reveal the truth. Haunting and atmospheric, director Sebastián Lelio's (A Fantastic Woman) film operates between faith and evidence.
6. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
The stop-motion animation starring a one-eyed shell named Marcel (Jenny Slate) is imaginative, charming and beyond adorable. There's a fluency and depth to director and co-writer Dean Fleischer-Camp's (Fraud) heartwarming tale about the importance of family and community, and it's delivered in a quietly beautiful way. There is more emotion in Marcel's one-inch frame than most movies have in an entire reel.
7. The Quiet Girl
When the neglectful parents of 9-year-old Cáit (Catherine Clinch) send her away from her home in rural Ireland to stay with distant relatives, the girl experiences love and affection she's never known. First-time feature filmmaker Colm Bairéad has created a touching drama filled with gentle moments and deep-seated poignancy.
Anchored by a powerful, Oscar-worthy performance by Danielle Deadwyler, the historical drama from director and co-writer Chinonye Chukwu tells the harrowing true story of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, and the civil rights advocacy she undertook after her 14-year-old son was murdered in Mississippi in 1955. Deadwyler's pain is palpable, and the film's insightful message on social justice rings true today.
9. The Menu
Director Mark Mylod (Succession) lays on the dark comedy as thick as a creamy garlic aioli in this tasty thriller. Things turn deadly when a group of people travels to a restaurant on a remote island where an enigmatic chef (Ralph Fiennes) has planned an interactive multi-course meal for them. With a diverse and talented cast sharing the screen time, it's devilishly entertaining.
Director Ti West's disturbing horror film begins and ends with the unhinged and genuinely scary performance of Mia Goth as the title character, a country girl in 1918 Texas who dreams of becoming a star and moving away from her controlling mother. Near the end of the movie, Goth delivers a terrifying eight-minute monologue that deserves praise. If The Wizard of Oz and The Shining had a devil baby, this would be it.