Opinion — My top five films of 2022

Andie Balenger

While a couple of big-name films have yet to be released, I can confidently conclude that 2022 has been an incredible year for moviegoers. Not only were there many highly anticipated films that blew me away, but several dark horses stole my heart this year as well. 

After spending too much time at my local theater, I have ranked the 33 new releases I saw this year from best to worst. Here are my top five.

5. “Pearl” directed by Ti West

Ti West’s “Pearl” is a prequel to “X”, another great 2022 release, that follows the dark life and inner psyche of Pearl (Mia Goth) as she tries to escape the mundane life on her family’s farm and pursue her dream of becoming a star. As the horror/slasher film progresses, we find that Pearl will do whatever it takes to make her way to fame.

“Pearl” is truly haunting, mainly in part to the insanity portrayed on-screen by Goth. Using a combination of facial expressions and tone, not to mention an incredible 9-minute monologue, Goth left me cowering in fear at the theater. Despite the terrifying nature of Pearl and the atrocities she committed, you cannot help but feel sorry for her throughout her plight for fame.

Outside of the film’s storytelling, “Pearl” was artistically beautiful. Similar to other A24 films, “Pearl” would often switch from vibrant scenery to extremely dark backgrounds. This creative choice was certainly intentional, depicting the duality of Pearl as a character and how quickly she can shift from sweet to sour.

If you are looking for a good scare, I highly recommend watching “Pearl”. To vouch for its eeriness, legendary Film Director Martin Scorsese described the film as “deeply disturbing.” Although it is not necessary to view “X” first, you will miss out on some great references and cheeky moments by skipping out on the first movie. 

We haven’t seen the last of Pearl either, because the final movie in the trilogy, “MaXXXine,” will be released in 2023.

4. “Top Gun: Maverick” directed by Joseph Kosinski

Picture this: An eagle is soaring through the air, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood is blasting at full volume and every dad in the country is crying during the opening credits of “Top Gun: Maverick” at your local theater. After waiting nearly 40 years for this moment, justice for American dads has finally been served.

Joking aside, I am totally aware that “Top Gun: Maverick” is lowkey propaganda and has the potential to recruit many people into the military. After the 1986 “Top Gun” film was released, there was an 8% increase in naval recruitment numbers. While correlation does not necessarily mean causation, this movie is no doubt going to get people more excited about operating fighter jets and whatnot.

And I relate to that sentiment. After seeing “Top Gun: Maverick” in the theater twice, two days in a row, I found myself thinking that I could be a fighter pilot. I had already picked out a call sign, Leap Frog, and I was ready to jump into action. 

What is so impressive about this film, however, is not its storytelling. Rather, it is the filmmaking process. 

The reason I have been obsessed with “Top Gun: Maverick” is because they used real fighter planes when shooting. While Tom Cruise has become pretty notorious for his commitment to performing his own stunts, he also required his co-stars to learn how to operate the fighter planes for this film.

This fact certainly influenced my viewing experience, because I could only think of the technical skills required by both the actors and the crew to create the many jaw-dropping shots and gut-wrenching moments in the film. This made the drama of the “Top Gun: Maverick” storyline much more intense, which allowed for a great viewing experience. 

So yes, “Top Gun: Maverick” is corny and several Tom Cruise moments make me unironically laugh, but the film is so incredible to look at that I can put the old man’s character aside just so I can gawk at fighter planes doing circles in the air.

3. “The Menu” directed by Mark Mylod

I feel like “The Menu” flew under many peoples’ radars this year, which is unfortunate considering that this movie is insane. 

With big-name actors like Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, I was ready to be entertained upon entering the theater. The film revolves around a group of rich individuals, except Margot (Taylor-Joy), who were invited to dine at a luxury restaurant on a remote island. The restaurant’s owner, Chef Slowik, is known for telling a story through his one-of-a-kind menus — which are always tailored toward the guests who will be dining.

The story of this meal, however, is a mockery of the elitist group and their pretentious take on food.

Before viewing “The Menu,” I was not prepared to witness one of the most upsetting horror films I have ever seen in my life. For some reason, it felt oddly real to me. Most modern horror films are so egregious that they come off as unrealistic, which dampens the fear factor.

But “The Menu” took something that everyone has likely experienced, consuming food at a restaurant, and made it haunting. There were several moments when I yelped in the theater and turned my face away from the screen. The anxiety regarding what was to come next was truly unsettling, and I turned to my friend on multiple occasions just to whisper “I can’t breathe.”

Beautifully contrasting the horror, however, were several comedic moments that had me laughing out loud. While I am a fan of horror films, it was extremely refreshing to have tasteful comedic relief. 

The comedy was not slapstick in any way. In fact, it was mostly dark humor that bounced perfectly off of the twisted nature of the film. Ralph Fiennes had several one-liners that made his horrifying character much more digestible. Towards the end of the film, you actually feel sorry for him.

Because I do not want to spoil anything, I implore you to see this film. It is incredibly original and left me and all of its viewers shouting, “Eat the rich!”

2. “Nope” directed by Jordan Peele

This may sound odd, but I oftentimes find myself loving films that I never want to watch again. For instance, Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” was an incredible film that gave me so much anxiety that I never want to put myself through that again. This can be said for Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” and “Midsommar” as well. Both are so haunting that the thought of rewatching them makes me uncomfortable, but they are phenomenal, nonetheless.

I could say the same thing for Jordan Peele’s “Nope.”  

I love Jordan Peele. I wish I could spend a day with his brain just to see what is going on up there. Despite taking inspiration from other films, Peele’s work always seems so original. His concepts are undeniably bizarre, and those who have seen “Get Out” and “Us” can attest to this claim. 

While “Nope” tells many stories, which all come together in the end like a beautifully wrapped present, we mainly follow a brother and sister — played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer — as they deal with what is believed to be extraterrestrial life in the skies. 

Now I am by no means a sci-fi fan, but this movie elevates that genre by taking the definition of extraterrestrial to an incredibly terrifying level. While the film later shifts to a more thriller/action feel, the first two acts of “Nope” left me physically ill with fear. There is one scene in particular that made me debate walking out of the theater to vomit — not out of disgust, but out of pure panic.

I was incredibly relieved when the film transitioned to its action-packed ending, which still leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat. Granted, this shift eliminates the aforementioned sense of fear that strangled me in the theater. But the way the story ultimately comes together completely makes sense and left me more than satisfied.

There is an underlying message to this film that has yet to be identified by critics. I still contemplate the potential meaning behind the film’s subplot — which I refuse to disclose here for the sake of potential viewers — but just know that “Nope” will keep you wondering for weeks after viewing.

1. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

In case you have not figured it out by now, I watch a lot of movies. When you have watched the number of movies that I have, you can usually compare one to another and point out several similarities, references and inspirations.

I do not believe there is a single movie, at least that I have seen, that is comparable to “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

While being audited by the IRS, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is informed by an interdimensional version of her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) that she needs to save the world from Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu) the film’s antagonist who is described by the creators as a “nihilistic reality warper.”

After discovering her “dimension-hopping” powers, Evelyn adventures through every conceivable inch of the multiverse to put an end to the destruction being caused by Jobu Tupaki, who turns out to be a deeply damaged version of Evelyn’s daughter, Joy Wang, from a different universe.

Can you keep up with that? 

While it may seem like a lot in writing (and on-screen) “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is expertly paced and spends a great deal of time explaining the intricacies of interdimensional travel to the point that it is impossible to get left behind. 

Beyond the storyline, the film tackles issues like generational trauma and the struggles of parenthood all while defining what it means to be alive. While these themes can be seen in hundreds of films, they are portrayed in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” with a heightened level of absurdity that truly makes it stand out from the rest.

Besides great casting, with every actor fully committing to the bizarre nature of their characters, the film looked phenomenal as well. Considering this is a film that revolves around traveling through the multiverse, I literally cannot imagine the number of sets and costumes that had to be designed to illustrate such an expansive concept. Along with the set design, the costume designers for this film crushed it. 

If you do not believe me, look up “Jobu Tupaki outfits.”

Overall, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” not only made me laugh hysterically, but it also made me sob like a baby. If this film does not perform well during awards season, I will throw the largest fit.