NEW YORK (OSV News) — Throughout 2022, Hollywood continued its efforts to rebound from the drastic effects of the pandemic. The number of films being widely released has not yet returned to pre-COVID levels, and much of the year saw only movies of mediocre or inferior quality arriving on screen.
Yet more recent months have brought several productions of note as studios prepared to vie with one another during the awards season. Along with fact-based dramas and fare distilled from comic-book lore came a second helping of Downton Abbey’s period elegance and a memorable cinematic memoir from Steven Spielberg.
Below, in alphabetical order, are capsule reviews of the Top 10 films of 2022 as selected by the media reviewing service of OSV News. Unless otherwise noted, the OSV News classification of each is A-III — adults and the Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
In “The Batman,” the iconic crimefighter (Robert Pattinson) teams with a police lieutenant (Jeffrey Wright) and the Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) to thwart The Riddler (Paul Dano) who has targeted a series of Gotham’s corrupt politicians for assassination. Director and co-writer Matt Reeves’ darkly powerful reboot of the DC Comics-based franchise is rich in moral complexity and striking performances.
The sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” bids farewell to the protagonist of the 2018 original (played by the late Chadwick Boseman), the sovereign of the imaginary African nation of the title, and introduces an antagonist (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) with whom both the deceased king’s mother (Angela Bassett), who now reigns as queen, and his scientist sister (Letitia Wright) must contend. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler uses this Marvel Comics-derived epic to explore how a sense of solidarity can steer characters away from aggression and the desire for vengeance and point them toward peaceable cooperation.
Screenwriter Julian Fellowes once again weaves his magic with “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” the second film adaptation of his landmark ITV and PBS television series. As the titular grand manor plays host to the cast and crew of a silent movie, its director (Hugh Dancy) falls for the married elder daughter (Michelle Dockery) of the estate’s owners (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) who, together with the clan’s tart-tongued matriarch (Maggie Smith), have temporarily decamped to the French Riviera. Director Simon Curtis’ film affirms marital fidelity even in the face of neglect and celebrates the reconciliation of once-antagonistic relatives. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Director and co-writer Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama “The Fabelmans” is an emotionally lavish delight. Set in the 1950s and ’60s, the movie recounts the childhood and adolescence of a lad (Gabriel LaBelle) whose determination to become a filmmaker is supported by his artistically inclined pianist mother (Michelle Williams) but dismissed as impractical by his dad (Paul Dano), a gifted engineer. Vivid characters and sharp writing are blended with pitch perfect acting in a thoroughly winning recipe.
In “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” the world’s greatest detective (Daniel Craig), the protagonist of the 2019 comic whodunit to which this film is a worthy successor, travels to the island retreat of an eccentric billionaire (Edward Norton) who plans to stage his own fake murder so that an ensemble of his old friends (most notably Janelle Monáe and Kathryn Hahn) can spend a weekend solving the fictitious crime. But the stakes are raised dramatically when a real homicide is committed and long-standing conflicts among the guests are brought to light. Writer-director Rian Johnson has crafted another sophisticated, rollicking piece of entertainment well calculated to divert grown-ups.
“Nope” is a menacing sci-fi horror film from writer-director Jordan Peele, in which a brother-and-sister team of Hollywood animal wranglers (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) interact uneasily with unseen but distinctly hostile aliens. Though it’s not a good fit for casual viewers of any age, Peele’s parable about the yearning for a fresh start, as well as the grasping greed that lay beneath the apparently heroic surface of the Old West, is an ambitious and striking production. The OSV News classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
In the dramatization “She Said,” Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the investigative reporters whose 2017 New York Times article brought to light Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s long-rumored pattern of sexual harassment. Working from Twohey and Kantor’s 2019 bestseller, director Maria Schrader depicts the dogged determination of the newswomen, the courage and resilience of their victimized sources and, ultimately, the power of journalism to reveal wrongdoing. (R)
“Thirteen Lives” is director Ron Howard’s absorbing chronicle of the heroic rescue effort undertaken in the summer of 2018 to free 12 Thai schoolboys and the assistant coach (James Teeradon Supapunpinyo) of the soccer team on which they all played after the group became trapped deep inside a mountain cave system. As a trio of expert divers (Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton) spearheads the against-the-odds operation, screenwriter William Nicholson’s script sets an understated tone and touches on themes of cooperation, self-sacrifice and ingenuity.
The compelling dramatization “Till” recounts the brutal 1955 murder of a 14-year-old Chicago resident (Jalyn Hall) who was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he ran afoul of vicious racists. The film centers on his relationship with his devoted widowed mother (Danielle Deadwyler) and the courageous actions she undertook in the wake of his death that transformed her personal tragedy into a landmark event in the modern struggle for civil rights. Deadwyler’s intensely emotional performance makes director and co-writer Chinonye Chukwu’s movie a searing, yet ultimately uplifting, experience. It’s also a resounding affirmation of humane values founded on Christian faith. The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a rousing sequel to the 1986 blockbuster in which the first film’s protagonist, a Navy fighter pilot (Tom Cruise), is ordered by his superiors (Val Kilmer and Jon Hamm) to tread unfamiliar territory by becoming an instructor to a new generation of trainee aviators. As he tries to build a team and complete a dangerous mission, he butts heads with one of his charges (Miles Teller) and is distracted by the reappearance of an old flame (Jennifer Connelly). The upshot is inspiring entertainment on a grand scale, with dazzling aerial acrobatics, a stirring musical score, first-rate acting and the occasional heart-tugging interlude. Possibly acceptable for mature adolescents.
John Mulderig is Media Reviewer for OSV News.