2022 was a strong year for character-driven films even if most came from overseas. Watching over 125 movies this year we worth it after finding some of the hidden gems of the year. Now that I have dug through all the trash, we begin 2023 with the best films of 2022. Most people reading this will be unfamiliar with a few of these movies so I suggest you check them out as they are worth the watch. Character Studies, foreign films, Americana, and narrative films led the pack in this year’s best of so let’s start with #10.
As someone who was a major fan of the old-school 1980s/1990s NBA and personally can’t stand what the NBA has become in 2022, “Hustle” is genuinely one of the best films about the ins and outs of the league that I’ve ever seen. Sandler gives one of the strongest performances of his career as his character builds a relationship with a prospect with a massive upside but lacks discipline. The film is packed with real NBA players either playing themselves or characters based on themselves which gives the film an extra layer of authenticity to hang on. “Hustle” is a solid window into how life in the front office of the NBA actually works which makes the movie one of the best sports dramas in the last few years.
9. Seoul Vibe
‘Seoul Vibes’ has all the makings of a big-budget Summer movie. Many films struggle with balancing the tone of having a campy entertaining group with the more serious dips in the storytelling but the best part about this film is its cast. The group is blinded by the riches of the criminal underworld. Style and Fashion are two big elements of the story showing just how consumed with American culture South Koreans were during the time. 80s hip-hop and fashion are on full display throughout the film making for a cool aesthetic. The film is very nostalgic without making 80s retro the central theme. Seoul Vibes is one of the best films of the year and one of the most downright entertaining films of 2022. Seoul Vibes is a film that could be the start of a franchise if its cast keeps the same mojo in the future.
Pearl is a story about the dangers of obsessing over fame and the cost of attaining it. We have seen many young girls glamorize the idea of becoming a star and many will destroy their lives in an attempt to become famous at any cost, and the story of Pearl is no different. Mia Goth is a standout in the movie with her twisted and sympathetic performance as a small-town girl who just wants to escape. Goth brings to life one of the best character studies of the year but gives a performance that is over the top in presentation but grounded in reality. Tandi Wright gives a great performance of Pearl’s mother who is a loving but stern mother who pushes her daughter too far off the edge by depriving her of a life outside the home. Pearl is a film that may muddy the waters of an existing trilogy but as a standalone film, it is one of the films the US has released this year with a closing monologue that is worth the price of admission.
It takes a strong man to make a difficult decision, it takes an even stronger man to deal with the fallout of his decisions. Sometimes life requires impossible choices but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to be okay with the decisions you make. The beautiful thing about this film is that it could have easily taken the route of being just another run-of-the-mill terrorist movie about a guy whose evil for the sake of being evil. But ‘Decibel’ is so much more than that, the film creates a multitude of character motivations based on one tragic event that is slowly reviewed throughout the course of the movie. The selling point of the film is a Madman with a sound-activated bomb but the bomb is just a distraction from the real story. ‘Decibel’ is well written, the characters are well thought out, and the film hits you with a very emotional 3rd act that leaves you sympathizing with everyone involved leaving a lasting impression on you when you leave a theater.
In the year 1592, two navy admirals from opposing fleets engaged each other in battle. Yi Soon Shin (Park Hae-il) leads the Korean navy fleet while Wakizaka (Byon Yo-han) leads the invading Japanese fleet. “Hansan: Rising Dragon” is an absolute spectacle of a movie. The film’s three-part act is clear and defined. The final act of the film is where we get to the spectacle, a massive all-out war on the sea that is visually engaging and stunning for audiences. Not to mention that the scale of this battle was done with a budget of only 24 million dollars American. The production values of “Hansan: Rising Dragon” are stellar from its CGI, choreography, and cinematography. “Hansan: Rising Dragon” Is an all-around Stellar film and is certainly a top pick for the year.
5. Old Man
‘Old Man’ combines everything that I love about the art of filmmaking. A small-budget film that doesn’t rely on a blue screen to keep an audience entertained. A handful of actors put the focus on storytelling and character work to sell a film. How do you make an entertaining film using the minimum given to you? ‘Old Man’ answers that question with flying colors. ‘Old Man’ is one of the best psychological horror films of the last few years. A film that doesn’t rely on jump-scares to engage its audience focuses on storytelling and character progression. The film is barebones filmmaking at its finest. Stephen Lang’s performance is phenomenal as an unstable yet emotionally broken old man who isn’t fond of visitors. The bread and butter of this movie is the famous dialogue between the two characters, dialogue that slowly reveal the bigger story at play, keeping audiences engaged. A low budget doesn’t mean low quality and “Old Man” is a brilliant film that tackles the topics of loneliness, sanity, and guilt.
‘Infinite Storm’ will take many by surprise. Watching the trailer won’t do this film justice. This is not the typical movie with a protagonist, antagonist, and climax. Instead, the film is a story of emotionally damaged people trying to cope with everyday life. ‘Infinite Storm’ is a barebone film that excels with a limited cast and excellent filmmaking techniques. The performance of Naomi Watts is the central focus of the film that follows her in her day-to-day life in her small mountain town. The film is nearly a pure character study that replaces dialogue with the slow progression of her internal struggle. The cinematography adapts to the physical state of Pam in a way that first-person vision from a third-person perspective. Visually capturing the effects of ice, freeze, and pain goes a long way in selling the story without dumbing down the content of the movie. Infinite Storm is a cinematic experience and a must-see for 2022.
‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a near-perfect movie. With Tom Cruise as the producer, the film spares no expense on making this film as authentic as possible. This is a film that was delayed for years in order to perfect the high octane stunts and visuals and the extra mile in effort pays off. Real aircraft, real actors, and real stunts that are so impressive, you might think that you are watching a Mission Impossible movie. The cast is spectacular from top to bottom. Despite pushing 60, Cruise is still Maverick. Cruise played his role to perfection with unrivaled respect for the character and the source material. The younger cast plays their roles well given the limited screen time they have with Glen Powell being the standout with a next-level arrogant level of charisma. A lot has changed since 1986, Top Gun: Maverick takes full advantage of the upgrade in technology not just in its vehicles but in filmmaking as well. Tom Cruise may be an insane perfectionist but without him, we wouldn’t have gotten what amounts to one of the best films in 2022.
A young Korean woman going postal in a giant bulldozer in a fashion that would make Marvin Heemeyer proud? “The Girl on a Bulldozer” which is one of the most fascinating character studies I have seen in quite some time and it one of the best film to come out this year. “The Girl on a Bulldozer” lives on the performance of Kim Hye Yoon who plays a very nuanced protagonist. Under anyone else’s lead, this would be a character that would work the impatience of the audience rather than have them sympathize with her. Kim Hye Yoon’s performance of a teenage girl who has been forced to deal with the harsh reality of growing up and taking the workload of responsible far bigger than someone in her age range can handle makes her a very complex character. Life comes at us hard but “The Girl on a Bulldozer” is just the captivating mystery film we need in the current age of cinematic creative bankruptcy.
The #1 movie of the year comes from the country of India. The overwhelming majority of Hollywood films and television that are produced today are created by a handful of multinational corporations who only see the quality of the product as a small mark on their bottom line. RRR redefines what it means to be a cinematic Epic Movie. This is a film that has everything you can possibly ask for in a movie. The film is over the top, action-packed, has great storytelling, attention to detail, and a wonderful cast of characters who played their roles of perfection. RRR is a home run for one reason and one reason only, it is the one thing movies today aren’t, fun. RRR has an intense level of passion put into the filmmaking aspects behind the camera. A movie that only cost 75 million dollars to produce, is able to pull off impressive visual stunts that American films such as Thor: Love and Thunder couldn’t pull off with nearly 300 million dollars put behind the budget. RRR Is a one-of-a-kind film and a loud patriotic tale that is the type of movie that will hopefully inspire American audiences to demand better from their filmmakers.
2022 ‘Best of’ Honorable Mentions: