CLEVELAND, OH — The movie industry showed signs of recovery this year, but left plenty of room for growth. Box office revenue is up about 50 percent during 2021, but it’s still down 38 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Only 19 films have grossed more than $100 million in North America in 2022, compared to 29 in 2019, according to Box Office Mojo.
Part of the reason is that fewer movies are being released in theaters. Many moviegoers are still reluctant to return to theaters and Hollywood, in turn, has been reluctant to walk away from Marvel’s latest release, a big budget sequel, a critically acclaimed horror flick, or a potential awards season.
The result was a decidedly safe and even mediocre year in movies, one that included such offbeats as an Adam Sandler movie cracking my top 20 and a movie I originally rated “rotten” almost creeping into my top 10. It looks a lot different if you saw potential contenders on Oscars like “The Fablemans,” “TAR,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” and “The Menu” now.
But until then, here are the 25 movies I watched this year, in order.
Noticeable: This list does not include films released exclusively to streaming outlets such as Disney’s “Fire Island,” “A Christmas Story Christmas,” and Disney’s “Pinocchio.” Features shown at local film festivals were not included either.
Marilyn Monroe’s life has been reduced to stylized shock porn in an exploitative, depressing, and gross film.
• Review: Blonde chooses style and shock over substance and truth in Netflix’s Marilyn Monroe biopic
I’m still waiting for a great movie based on a video game. Instead, we got the “National Treasure” version.
• Review: Tom Holland’s Uncharted video game-inspired adventure is good, I think
23. “Marry Me”
If not for Julia Roberts and George Clooney later in the year, Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson might have killed the romantic comedy genre with this lackluster film full of cliches devoid of any originality.
• Review: J Lo’s 2022 Marry Me movie, “Marry Me,” isn’t “Notting Hill”
22. “Where the giraffes sing”
What could have been a masked mystery movie has its aspirations to be a swampy version of Carolina from To Kill a Mockingbird foundered.
• Review: Where the Visitors Sing is a compelling mystery that tries to do a lot
21. “The Bullet Train”
Need proof that Brad Pitt can make anything watchable? Look no further than this silly action movie.
• Review: Brad Pitt saves the action-packed but problematic ‘Bullet Train’
The Adam Sandler movie bar is so low that regular movies like this basketball drama look better than they probably are.
Dakota Johnson and Henry Golding elevate this boring Jane Austen romance with a modern feel.
18. “Thor: Love and Thunder”
A rare miss from director Taika Waititi.
• Review: “Thor: Love and Thunder” is a love story disguised in bizarre superhero movie form
17. “Easter Sunday”
Call me biased but I found Jo Koy’s love letter to his Filipino roots warm and funny.
• Review: “Easter” is a funny, sad, and overdue celebration of Filipino American culture
16. “Jurassic World: Dominion”
The supposed final movie in the Jurassic Park/World franchise is a big, glorious mess…and I enjoyed every minute of it.
• Review: “Jurassic World Supremacy” is oddly satisfying
15. “Ticket to Heaven”
I didn’t want to like him, but no one is immune to the collective charms of George Clooney and Julia Roberts.
14. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”
The scariest and most visually interesting entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.
• Review: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is Marvel’s greatest movie yet
13. “The Gray Man”
The Russo Brothers delivers everything you could want from a big-budget action movie.
• Review: “The Gray Man” is an action-packed spy game from Cleveland’s Russo Brothers
12. “Light Years”
Funny and inventive but also possibly the saddest Pixar movie since “Up.”
• Review: Fun and full of heart, ‘Lightyear’ is the prequel to ‘Toy Story’ we never knew we needed
11. “Don’t Worry Baby”
Come for the mid-century modern setting and behind-the-scenes drama, stay for the shocking twist.
• Review: “Don’t Worry Baby” isn’t the train wreck all the bad publicity has been referring to
The movie is so literally so dark you’ll probably fall asleep at some point and miss some Robert Pattinson giving one of the best Batman performances ever.
9. “White Noise”
Noah Baumbach’s ambitious adaptation of the rather popular Don DeLillo novel is all over the place. But I’d watch anything with Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig as an ’80s couple.
• Review: White Noise, shot in Cleveland, is an entertaining mystery of a disaster movie
• Related: This is where (almost) White Noise was filmed in Northeast Ohio
No movie surprised me more than BJ Novak’s debut.
• Review: “Revenge” is a smart, edgy, and unlikely love letter to a Texan
7. “The Glass Onion: Knives Exorcise Mystery”
Rian Johnson’s witty, funny narration doubles as Elon Musk’s gritty takedown you never knew you needed.
6. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
• Review: Marvel’s “Black Panther” sequel is an emotional journey back to Wakanda
5. “Avatar: Waterway”
James Cameron is at the top of his game, combining stunning visuals, stunning action scenes, and beautifully bad dialogue.
• Review: James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ is a visual masterpiece that has to be seen to be believed
I’m still peeling the layers of Jordan Peele’s old-school sci-fi thriller Invasion.
• Review: Jordan Peele cements his status as Hollywood’s new master of suspense with ‘No’
Austin Butler stars as the King of Rock and Roll in this epic biopic from Baz Luhrmann.
2. “Everything everywhere at once”
The most original movie of the year.
1. “Top Gun: Maverick”
Tom Cruise made us feel the need for speed and so much more in this sequel to the 36-year run.
• Review: “Top Gun: Maverick” might take your breath away
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