The CBC’s Eli Glasner picks the 22 best films of 2022

After an extended hibernation, audiences flocked back to the big screen in 2022 to rediscover the pleasures of screaming and swooning in the dark.

Some directors created earnest love letters to cinema, perhaps a sign of the fragility of the movie going experience itself. But the films that rose to the top of my list were those that captured life in all its messy glory. 

Here are the movies that made my soul sing in 2022. 

22. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

The mere fact that this postmodern buddy comedy came from the Disney studio gives me hope. While watching the adventures of Chip ‘n Dale, my overriding thought was, “I can’t believe they got away with this.” Come for the voice work of Andy Samberg and John Mulaney. Stay for the battle between Batman and E.T. and poor, Ugly Sonic.

Where to watch: Disney+

21. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story 

Daniel Radcliffe and Weird Al. Who knew the British wunderkind and the parody music maestro would compliment each other so well? Weird isn’t a biopic, it’s the Mad Magazine treatment of Weird Al’s life. If you know the words to My Bologna, it’s a must see. 

Where to watch: Roku

20. The Gray Man

All right, I have a soft spot for quips. Give me a film filled with Ryan Gosling rattling off one liners and Chris Evans being his best bad guy since Scott Pilgrim. The Russo brothers made a glorious mess and blowed stuff up real good. 

Where to watch: Netflix

19. Kimi

A slinky mystery set in the age of Alexa, Kimi is a reminder of how good director Steven Soderbergh can be with a great story. It’s The Conversation meets Rear Window, with Zoë Kravitz as an agoraphobic who hears something she shouldn’t. Also one of the few pandemic-set movies that makes the most of the circumstance. 

Where to watch: Crave

18. The Fabelmans

The story of The Fabelmans is lumpy. It moves along in fits and starts, taking us from a young boy’s first encounter with cinema to his struggles in high school. But coming from director Steven Spielberg, telling his own personal story of awakening, there’s an unbelievable sense of earnestness. And that scene with John Ford? Ka-POW!

Where to watch: On Demand

17. Joyland

There are lines drawn between gender and class in Pakistan. Joyland is about what happens in the spaces in between. This groundbreaking movie from director Saim Sadiq brings us into a multigenerational Pakistani household. The crux of the film is a husband who falls into the orbit of a transgender dancer, but there’s much more to this story of family members trapped between duty and desire. 

Where to watch: In theatres or streaming in 2023

16. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Only director Guillermo del Toro would watch Disney’s Pinocchio from 1940 and instead envision a story about the fear of becoming a real boy. After a lifetime of dreaming about making his own version, del Toro’s tale about the wooden boy who couldn’t die is here. It’s a musical. It’s about fascism and control. It’s undeniably 100 per cent del Toro.

Where to watch: Netflix

15. Crimes of the Future

Canada’s dark horror daddy is going soft. Director David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future isn’t a horror film like The Fly or Videodrome, but rather a love story. One about numb, broken people doing twisted things to themselves and each other just to feel something — anything. I’m just happy we live in a world where Cronenberg is still following his droll, demented desires. 

Where to watch: On Demand and Crave

14. The Woman King

Forget Galactus. You want a gaze that destroys worlds? Call on the king, Viola Davis, who leads the Agojie, a seemingly unstoppable army of amazon warriors. Based loosely on actual African history, what struck me about The Woman King at first was the action. We’ve seen many films with stunning scenes of combat and bloodshed, but halfway through here, director Gina Prince-Bythewood starts to dismantle Davis’ implacable exterior, showing us the woman inside and the price she paid.

Where to watch: On Demand 

13. Turning Red

Say it with me: The specific is the universal. Turning Red is a film about a Chinese-Canadian girl who transforms into a giant red panda thanks to a family curse. With this film, Toronto’s own Domee Shi has created the most Toronto-specific animated movie since Hogtown’s brief appearance in Arthur Christmas. But behind the appearances of Daisy Mart and SkyDome is a thoughtful coming of age story about a daughter trying to escape her mother’s grip. That and the fictional boy band 4*Town make Turning Red a funny, furry triumph. 

Where to watch: Disney+

12. The Whale

There’s something about Brendan Fraser. This spark, a sense of curiosity, kindness and yes, a bit of that puppy-dog thing. It’s that undefinable quality that makes Charlie, the character he plays in The Whale, so watchable. To be blunt, it’s a queasy film to watch. Living a kind of self-imposed exile, Charlie wallows in sadness and frustration, but there’s another part of him that Fraser shows us — a man who’s desperate to change a life before his prison of a body ends his. It simply doesn’t work without Fraser. 

Where to watch: In theatres

11. Elvis

Let’s be clear, Tom Hanks as Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker is a massive distraction — a lumbering, cartoonish role which is also the unfortunate framing device for the film. But, if you can get past Hanks, you’ll be treated to Austin Butler achieving the impossible — an intimate, vulnerable take on one of the most iconic rock n’ roll figures of the 20th century. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the film is a sonic assault built around a once-in-a-lifetime performance. 

10. Babylon

Babylon is UNHINGED. When I first saw it, it was almost too much. This is a dirty, sexy, strange, drug-induced orgy of a film set in the roaring 20s and 30s, when Hollywood stumbled from silent pictures into talkies. The director is Damien Chazelle, who gave us La La Land. But Babylon is the anti-La La Land. It’s about the grimy, cutthroat game behind the pretty pictures. It’s about Black, Chinese and Latino talents battling for their break. It’s about Brad Pitt being Brad Pitt — charisma incarnate. Margot Robbie is equally incandescent. Oh, and there’s also elephant shit. Lots of elephant shit. I warned you. 

Where to watch: Opens in theatres Dec. 23. 

9. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is an improvised mockumentary stop-motion animated film about a talking snail shell with one eye who likes to watch 60 Minutes. It’s funny, heart breaking and so cute it should be accompanied by a doctor’s warning. An ode to courage, creativity and finding your way, even if you’re three croutons tall. 

Where to watch: On Demand

8. Tár

Cate Blanchett is so good I worry we take her for granted. She has this ability to become these crystalline creations, exquisite people of power and purpose. With Tár, she lures you into the life of Lydia, a peerless conductor of classical music. But then the surface cracks and she begins fall off the carefully constructed pedestal. To be frank, I’m not quite sure what I witnessed, only that I need to see it again.

7. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Every day that Twitter becomes more unhinged (like owner Elon Musk leaving his fate as CEO up to a poll) is a day that Edward Norton’s tech billionaire games master character becomes that much more prescient. Glass Onion is many things: a lark, the ensemble of the year and a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie. It’s also about the rich, the richer and the long, dark chasm between justice and the law. 

6. I Like Movies

Life is messy. Movies are often not. Open any screenwriting book and you’ll find formulas, arcs and diagrams. It’s why so many films feel like they’re written by artificial intelligence. The delicious irony of Chandler Levack’s feature film debut is that while it’s about a certain film bro mentality, it’s also the kind of insightful character study you’d think film bros would champion. I remain in awe of director and writer Levack for channelling her main character, Lawrence, who feels like someone so many of us know. Isaiah Lehtinen (who plays Lawrence) is the Canadian Julian Dennison, he just doesn’t know it yet. 

Where to watch: At the TIFF Bell Lightbox in January, opening across Canada in March 2023.

5.  Everything Everywhere All at Once

The directing duo known as The Daniels had a simple goal: to make the most fun movie to watch in a theatre that was also something nourishing. This is the result, the best film since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to explore the cinematic potential of parallel universes. EEAAO is many things — a film with talking rocks and floppy fingers — but the pulsating heart of it is a mother-daughter dynamic that is nothing if not universal. Take that Doctor Strange. 

Where to watch: On Demand

4. Women Talking

Women Talking sounds like the antithesis of drama. But the simplicity of the title belies the drama of an impossible choice faced by a gathering of frightened and angry women in a barn. I ended up watching Women Talking twice during TIFF, and what I remember most is the feeling of elation near the end. Wrestling all of Miriam Toews’ novel into a script is one thing, but working with this murderers row of acting superstars results in a film about women realizing their power.

3. RRR

Every time I see a clip from RRR I want to see it again. But then again, part of what imprinted this movie from India in my brain is how I watched it: at a local repertory theatre packed with fans of director S.S. Rajamouli, who were screaming, cheering and laughing. This dark horse for the Oscars is a masterclass in muscular filmmaking. While every Marvel film comes with the same cookie cutter approach, RRR has stunning animal-filled set pieces and the dance battle of the decade. 

Where to watch: Netflix 

2. The Banshees of Inisherin

“I just don’t like you no more.” Watch this moment in a film about a failing friendship and you can see Colin Farrell’s heart break in real time. Banshees has all the trappings of a period piece, but beneath the adorable donkey and idyllic rural setting is a story that speaks to today. It’s about the calcification of men’s hearts and what happens when we stop listening to each other. It’s a feckin’ masterpiece. 

Where to watch: Disney+ or On Demand

1. Nope

Nope is the kind of movie that grows richer with meaning every time you view it. There’s a richness, a careful consideration of thought, which you might miss at first because the damn thing is so propulsive. Director Jordan Peele took the “Spielberg shot,” those iconic film moments when characters look to the sky, and turned the entire concept inside out. Just like he did with our expectations of UFO hunting. Like all great films, Nope teaches you to see differently. The use of Corey Hart and Gowan are just the cherries on top.