Vince Mancini’s Favorite Movies Of 2022

I guess the first thing I need to address here is why this year’s list has 13 movies. The answer is that I started out with a list of 10, and then I started writing little blurbs for each of them, and as I was finishing the little blurbs I’d end up remembering some other movie that probably belonged on the list just as much if not more. And at that point, what was I going to do, waste a perfectly good blurb? No way, man, these blurbs are worth their weight in gold. Much better to just have a list that was more than 10, I thought.

I’m American, after all, and what the hell do we care about base-10 systems? A gallon will have eight pints, foot will have 12 inches, and a mile will have 5,280 feet, just because we felt like it. We wipe the mud spatter off our Truck Nutz with base-10 systems. We make it hard for ourselves because we can; suck at math because it’s our right to.

I digress, but this was arguably a harder year to come up with a list of the best movies than most. Whereas awards season usually stirs up a lot of passionate feelings, this year didn’t really have a Three Billboards (the acclaimed movie I couldn’t stand) or a Death Of Dick Long (the underseen masterpiece I can’t shut up about), or even a Moonlight/La La Land dead heat among greats. Mostly it had a lot of solid B pluses, including one from the Three Billboards guy (McDonagh movies just hit differently when the characters are actually Irish).

There were also an abundance of coming-of-age tales, either semi-autobiographical or set in the time and place of the director’s adolescence. A few of them were overhyped or just plain bad, but mostly they were… pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. That made for mostly pleasant theater experiences, but also for a lot of movies that didn’t really stand out in my mind come list-making time.

And “standing out in my mind” has always seemed like a good base criterion for what I end up declaring a “best movie.” Memory is a pretty good arbiter of innovation, especially in this era of endless content. Then again, remembering a movie from two weeks ago is a lot different from remembering one from January, which is why studios rarely release a movie they have awards hopes for before September.

Which is to say, the process is admittedly flawed. The important thing to remember is that it’s still a list. People like list. List good. No refunds!

13. Top Gun: Maverick


Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Written by (a basketball team’s worth of dudes).

I really debated putting Top Gun: Maverick on this list, especially since people who saw five movies this year are apparently so adamant about it. I had fun watching it, but honestly I think it’s a B+ movie at best. That being said, every time a friend asked me “should I go see Top Gun in the theater?” my answer was an unequivocal yes. I wasn’t saying that to people about Empire Of Light or The Fabelmans (not that anyone even asked me about them anyway).

I don’t know that Top Gun: Maverick is a great movie, content-wise, but as a theatrical experience it’s easily top 10. Fast jets are cool! I don’t think it goes much deeper than that, but I also don’t think it really has to.

12. Deep Water


Directed by Adrian Lyne, Written by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson.

Did I put Deep Water on this list just so I could include this image of Ben Affleck looking like a sad, horny cuckold? …Maybe. It’s hard to look at that picture and not want to put it on your year-end list.

I don’t know if I would say that this Affleck/De Armas-starring adaptation of Patricia Highsmith was great, but it was certainly delicious, and sometimes delicious is almost as good. It’s been a long time since anyone made this kind of movie, a trashy yet classy, unabashedly horny sex thriller that wasn’t jammed full of exhausting plot twists. It was sexy and funny and kind of weird and constantly made you wonder if you were laughing at it or laughing with it.

I didn’t even know that I’d missed this kind of movie until Deep Water came out — which was back in March, by the way, and I still feel like I remember most of the plot. There are movies that I have to Google to remember what they are, and sometimes I do that and find my own review. And yet, here I am, remembering with shocking clarity that Ben Affleck’s character likes to eat the butt and raises snails.

Talk about a red herring! You spend the whole movie wondering what this guy’s angle is on the whole loving-snails thing, and it turns out Patricia Highsmith (who wrote the book it was based on) just really liked snails. I love a movie that’s just kind of weird for no special reason (especially if it also has butt-eating).

11. Jackass Forever

Jackass Johnny Knoxville
Paramount Pictures

Directed by Jeff Tremaine, Written by the Jackass Gang.

Was Jackass Forever as good as the other Jackass movies? No, it wasn’t, but a slightly inferior Jackass product is still miles better than most movies. It’s hard to explain now how good it felt to have Jackass back when it hit theaters in February. Even with COVID protocols robbing the crew of some of their best formats (Jackass was always a man-on-the-street show as much as it was a stunt show) it felt really good to watch a bunch of aging skate bros hit their dicks with hammers again. Jackass was always a “good hang” as much anything else, and it came out just when it seemed like people needed a good hang.

I don’t know that I can watch Johnny Knoxville concuss himself too many more times, but I’m all for evolving the concept to fit 50-something dudes, such as in the scene when Preston Lacy shits himself because he tried to eat Indian and Cuban food in the same day. I’m happy to see that less-extreme Jackass. I’m Johnny Knoxville, and this is trying to carry a stroller up stairs in the dark!

10. Beavis and Butt-Head Do The Universe

Beavis And Butt-Head

Directed by Albert Calleros and John Rice, Written by Mike Judge, Guy Maxtone-Graham, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and Ruben Lee Martinez.

Am I going to be thinking about the 2022 Beavis and Butthead movie six months from now? Will I be quoting it with my friends? Did it make me rethink the way that I approach life? Probably not (though I have always liked nachos and trying to score).

That being said, if I’m being honest with myself, watching Beavis and Butt-Head chuckle at words that kinda sound like sex parts was easily one of the most enjoyable experiences I had at the movies this year. I wrote about this in my original review, but in a weird way I think a Beavis and Butt-Head movie was more necessary in 2022 than it was in 1996.

Comedy seems to ask so much of us these days. It wants to be political, it wants to reference current events, and sometimes it even needs us to know who “the main character of Twitter” was that one time. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but most jokes in 2022 required us to be paying attention to so many different things. This at a time when everything seems to demand so much attention that no one could reasonably be expected to have any left. Comedy lately has been all “more, more, more.” To use a musical analogy, maybe Beavis and Butt-Head is a cyclical reaction to that, like punk rock, that cuts away the fluff and proves that you can do more with less.

Beavis and Butt-Head asks and requires so little of us. It only really has like three jokes, and yet they always seem to work. TV executives and movie studio heads always seem to want to greenlight the next Friends — comedy about young attractive people who are sexy and cool and ambitious and aspirational. Beavis and Butt-Head says, in essence, hey, you know what’s funnier? A couple of dumb losers who never score.

And give Mike Judge and his writing team a little credit, they walked a tightrope here, managing to address the fact that some of Beavis and Butt-Head’s antics would be received a little differently in 2022, without making the tone of it grrrr, these coddled snowflakes can’t handle REAL HUMOR anymore, like virtually every other comedy throwback from the 90s. There’s a decent chance that actual, grown-up versions of Beavis and Butt-Head would’ve become redpilled before now, but thank God for time travel plot lines and the magic of cartoons never having to age. Would that we were all cartoons. Maybe Tom Cruise is a cartoon.

(Also, and I realize I’m belaboring this blurb now, but Beavis and Butt-Head is a nice throwback to the days when cartoons were voiced by the creators and/or voice actors. This is always so much better than a star-studded cast of celebrities using their real voices! Bring back voice actors for cartoons.)

9. Emily The Criminal

Emily The Criminal
Roadside Flix/Netflix

Written and Directed by John Patten Ford.

If you’re anything like me, you were a little underwhelmed by Aubrey Plaza’s character arc on White Lotus. Even as someone who enjoyed the show overall, the entire storyline felt lazy and underwritten. Who even are Harper and Ethan? An annoying tech couple? That’s it? We don’t know how they met, what they do, or why they married each other? And their main character traits are being sullen and disinterested? UNSUBSCRIBE.

None of that is really Aubrey Plaza’s fault and one need only watch her in Emily The Criminal to prove it. Imagine a student-loan debt-saddled Uncut Gems and you have something like this tight, white-knuckle thriller, starring Plaza as a budding outlaw in writer/director John Patton Ford’s feature debut.

There are a lot of films out there about how hard it is to be poor in America, but a realistic victim doesn’t make for as compelling a protagonist as a lot of indie directors think. Being sympathetic alone can only take us so far. Characters more toward the edge of human experience tend to be more interesting, and that’s Emily. Her hard luck story is believable enough, but it’s how she responds that makes her so watchable — in harrowing depictions of various crime schemes that are intense in a way that never feels like cheating. Ford has a delicious cynicism toward institutions that reminded me a little of Andrew Dominik’s Killing Me Softly, another nasty little fuck you of a movie. But a true criminal travels beyond sadness to find opportunity in pessimism, and that’s Emily’s journey in a nutshell.

8. Vengeance

Vengeance Boyd Holbrook BJ Novak
Focus Features

Written and Directed by BJ Novak.

Every once in a while I’ll be listening to podcasts and this ad will come up, for a show that promises to “dissect the true crime genre,” and find out “what it is we love about it, and what does our love of true crime say about us!” or something to that effect.

Every time I hear it I think how I can’t imagine wanting to listen to that or even imagine the type of person that would. Isn’t being interested in lurid things like murder fairly self-explanatory? It’s like masturbating, we all know how ridiculous it is and how absurd we look doing it and we still do it anyway.

I guess is what I’m trying to say is that the podcast world, this instinct to turn everything into a dissection or a serialized thinkpiece was ripe for a send-up. BJ Novak’s Vengeance, in which he plays an obnoxious New York podcaster who goes to Texas to investigate the death of a hook-up he barely remembers, accomplishes this remarkably well. You can sense that Novak has this kind of love-hate relationship with podcasts in general and NPR specifically, skewering it mercilessly even as he reveals a deep familiarity with all its patterns and tropes (plus a Teri Gross cameo!).

Ashton Kutcher showing up as this kind of Dustbowl svengali, full of spooky wisdom (and ulterior motives) is one of the surprise performances of the year (which makes a little more sense when you realize that Novak’s first showbiz job was on Punk’d). The other clever thing about Vengeance (I still hate the title) is that it doesn’t just dissect podcast tropes until they disappear, it actually uses them to craft a comedy thriller that plays on some of the same appeal. It’s one of this year’s hidden gems.

7. The Northman

the northman
focus features

Directed by Robert Eggers, Written by Robert Eggers and Sjón.

Robert Eggers to me is the movie director equivalent of a heavy metal guy who never breaks character. He seems to have a vision and then go for it relentlessly, without ever worrying about softening it or watering it down for the masses. People will respect that kind of purity of concept, even if they don’t entirely understand it.

This year, the director who resurrected a dead dialect for The Witch and filmed Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe going gradually insane inside a lighthouse gave us an 8th century Viking riff on Hamlet (Alexander Skarsgard’s character is named “Amleth,” which should’ve been a clue). You’d think there’d be a finite limit on how many times one can watch Alexander Skarsgard grimace and flex, but in a weird way I think The Northman actually helped me understand Shakespeare, all while functioning as the perfect origin story for the kind of people who invented Norwegian Black Metal.

The Northman is this grand goth spectacle with a story that moves like music and characters who are as much fable and myth as they are people, recognizably human but slightly unknowable and awe-inspiring, like old testament gods. Which is also the perfect use for Nicole Kidman, who doesn’t really read as “normal, every day human” anymore, no matter what outfit you put her in.

It also gave us the line “Fjolnir is fortunate that a woman’s tide is the only blood that flowed inside his house tonight.”

Obviously, that’s going on the list.

6. Babylon


Written and directed by Damien Chazelle.

Arguably the most derided of awards season movie genres is the “love letter to cinema,” one of those press tour talking points even more common than “at its heart, it’s really about family” and “the city of New York is like another character.”

Yes, entertainment industry folks can’t stop congratulating themselves, but Hollywood is also the thing Hollywood is most qualified to write about, so why shouldn’t they?

Babylon is very much a movie industry product mythologizing the movie industry, a movie that in theory I’ve already seen at least three times already. And yet it was three hours long and never bored me once. How did Damien Chazelle do it?

I think partly it’s that while Babylon is certainly a love letter to “the cinema,” it doesn’t put “cinema” on a pedestal. Quite the contrary, in fact. This is a movie that features an elephant doing a big diarrhea right on the camera lens in the first two minutes, all as a lead-in to cocaine orgy where a naked fat guy is getting peed on by a starlet downstairs. The prestige!

Certainly, it could just be that this reviewer has a healthy appetite for perversion and scat, but it’s also a fresh angle. Chazelle’s “love letter to cinema” is compelling where so many others aren’t because he doesn’t try to sanitize cinema’s central appeal: it’s spectacle, first and foremost. It’s big and stupid and silly and it’s not necessarily our desire for Art that draws us to it. A lot of times it’s sex and drugs and elephant poop and Margot Robbie fighting rattlesnakes. Chazelle elevates cinema by dragging it back to the gutter.

5. Pleasure

Sofia Kappel as Bella Cherry in Pleasure

Directed by Ninja Thyberg, Written by Ninja Thyberg and Peter Modestij.

Last year I had a lot of porn and porn-adjacent movies on my year-end list, to the point that I named it a “horny year of cinema.”

Pleasure, Ninja Thyberg’s tale of one fresh-faced Swede’s erotic explicit journey to the top of LA’s porn industry starring Sofia Kappel, would’ve fit right in. In most ways it did, seeing as how I actually saw it last year. Yet a shuffle between distributors kept it on the shelf for the general public until May of this year. It was originally set to be released by A24, but then Neon got it, reportedly due to a disagreement over final cut.

A24 can at times feel like a more radio-friendly version of Neon, and Pleasure in a lot of ways feels like a more explicit version of A24’s Red Rocket (which was also great). Red Rocket, for instance, didn’t open with a closeup of vulva being shaved or have nearly as many shots of erect penises, so you can imagine that one being an easier sell.

Yet I’m glad Ninja Thyberg stuck to her guns because Pleasure‘s explicitness is necessary. You can’t treat the porn world with matter-of-fact frankness without being frank. No prosthetics and no artfully placed props.

Where both Pleasure and Red Rocket both share an ability to depict the potential horrors of porn without demonizing porn itself, it makes sense for the one told from a female perspective to be less conceptual and feature more body-horror. Pleasure is unique in its ability to feel both fantastical and entirely realistic, deliberately lurid yet also humane and relatable. It’s also probably the only movie in history ever to feature a scene depicting double anal sex that could be described as “heartwarming.”

They almost certainly won’t get any love for it, but both Sofia Kappel and Chris Cock deliver nuanced, multi-leveled, genuinely vulnerable performances. The word “brave” gets thrown around far too often in relation to actors, usually the famous ones playing disabled scientists or women with chronic fatigue syndrome, but I think roles that require closeups of your genitals legitimately qualify.

4. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once Ke Huy Quan

Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Daniels).

Everything Everywhere All At Once seems like precisely the kind of movie film Twitter would overhype to the point that it becomes annoying. Mostly it is that kind of movie, but you understand the hype when you watch it. Directors Daniel Kwan and Scheinert take the multiverse concept right up to the edge of being hypermanic and a little too cute (and I’m one of the people who thought their debut feature, Swiss Army Man was maybe a little too cute) but just when it’s about to go off the rails it turns heartfelt and genuine. (It was the rocks scene. The rocks scene brought me back.).

Much has been made of the way the Daniels took actors (Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh…) who had been used in utilitarian and maybe sort of disposable roles in the past, and actually gave them something to do. The same way they actually treated the multiverse concept as more than just an excuse for a team up. But for my money, my favorite detail is that they stumbled upon the song “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” as a motif, and when they went to clear the music with the songwriter, the original songwriter got so excited about the concept that he recorded a bunch of different versions of it specifically for the movie, which you can hear them playing in the different universes.

That willingness, both to choose the pitch-perfect song to evoke a sense of uncanniness and deja vu, and to go buck wild with it is, what makes the Daniels so exciting to me. They also made a $20 million movie look like it cost $100 million.

It seems like every so often, someone writes a piece about A24, making fun of them for being culty or niche or hip or an ideal punchline for a joke about self-identified cinephiles (trying to make a movie studio seem cool, how dare they!). While I appreciate the joke and won’t be buying the branded tote bag, A24 took a movie-nerd movie starring Michelle Yeoh and the guy who played Short Round and turned it into a legitimate hit. This in a year when even Spielberg movies were bombing. Maybe they deserve the credit.

3. RRR

rrr movie
Variance Films

Directed by SS Rajamouli, Written by S.S. Rajamouli, Vijayendra Prasad, and Sai Madhav Burra.

I’ve seen so many movies these past few years that felt like the kinds of movies I, as a movie lover who grew up on bombastic action movies from the likes of Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal, Shane Black, et al, was supposed to love, and I hated them. They bored me to tears. Bullet Train? Snooze. Nobody? No thanks. The Gray Man? No way, man. The action sequences in movies like Black Adam and Thor: Love And Thunder felt like things to fast-forward through, not relish.

With all due respect to Ambulance, I had neared the point of existential crisis over this. Are all action movies this boring now? I was starting to feel like that episode of South Park where Stan turns 10 and everything he used to love turns to shit (literally). And then I saw RRR, S. S. Rajamouli’s most expensive and third-highest grossing Indian film ever. RRR reminded me why big, stupid movies are fun. Every blockbuster director should study it.

Is RRR a chauvinistic, thinly-veiled paean to ultra-nationalism? Yeah, probably. So is Top Gun 2, and roughly 87% of American action movies. But RRR‘s stated villains are the colonial British, and if they’re not fair game for action movie villainhood I don’t know who is. Themes aside, RRR simply looks like fantastic, an over-the-top visual spectacle that one simply can’t stop watching. It’s three hours long and I (an avowed long movie hater) was practically squealing with glee the entire time.

At one point while I was watching it, my 9-year-old stepson and my nephew walked in. These are kids who are basically glued to screens 24/7 and never pay attention to anything for more than five minutes. They both walked in, stood behind the couch for a beat, and then, with mouths agape and barely blinking, eventually sat down and watched the rest of the movie. My wife did the same thing.

RRR has this mesmerizing effect, and to some extent, everything else I say about it is irrelevant. In the same way that the funniest joke is the joke you can’t explain the mechanics of, the purest cinema is the kind that captivates in a way that transcends any discussion of themes, plot, performance, etc. (not that RRR is without great performances). RRR is the purest kind of movie; raw, uncut spectacle, in a way that feels like cheating (this is also true of the Jackass films). It made action movies great again.

2. The Menu

Hong Chau the menu

Directed by Mark Mylod, Written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy.

Shortly after The Menu was released, it became the central example in an Esquire essay entitled “Eating the Rich Shouldn’t Be So Satisfying,” with the subtitle, “The Menu, Triangle of Sadness, and Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, while clever roasts of the wealthy, ultimately end up pandering to their audience.”

Further down, writer Max Cea writes, “The movie (…) paints its characters as caricatures of the wealthy. (…) The guests are punching bags that are all too pleasing to hit. But after all the cutlery has been cleared? You may be left with the sensation that the film spent its efforts smacking air.”

I saw a few versions of this criticism going around, and without getting into a debate about over-pandering or whether poking fun at the rich should or should not be “easy,” I feel compelled to point out that “eating the rich” is not what the movie is about. The Menu, which even Cea notes is clever (sharpest dialogue of anything released this year, it should’ve been a lock for screenplay nominations) is about an unhinged acclaimed chef, played by Ralph Fiennes, who has brought together this group of, yes, unlikeable rich people, to his own private restaurant island in order to punish them. Or at least, to include them in his grand finale.

If The Menu was about eating the rich, Fiennes’ character would be the hero. He’s not. He’s merely an artist who has become embittered by the fact that he has climbed the mountain of artistic success only to find that, at the top, the only people who can afford to engage with his work are the very rich. Most of whom are, yes, detestable, and not really who he set out to work for. Suddenly I’m reminded of Dave Chappelle bringing Elon Musk onstage.

The Menu explores the limitations of for-profit art, which is neither a simplistic take nor a pandering one. It describes a dilemma artists have faced since at least the Rennaissance, and the fact that it’s possible to enjoy The Menu for the razor-sharp joke writing and knockout performances (Hong Chau in particular), without “getting” it is a testament to its quality.

The Menu is not about “dunking on the rich.” That just happens to be one of they many things this great movie does well.

1. Funny Pages

Funny Pages

Directed by Owen Kline, Written by Owen Kline.

There are significant swaths of the population who have simply gotten out of the habit of going the movies. They (mostly rightly) assume that the kinds of movies they’re interested in just don’t get made anymore. And then on the rare occasions when those kinds of movies actually do make it to theaters, the audience for them just isn’t there; they’ve gotten out of the habit of going, and they’re no longer in the places where they would hear about them anyway.

In a different era, Owen Kline’s offbeat, oddball comedy gem, Funny Pages, could’ve been the kind of unexpected, breakout comedy hit Napoleon Dynamite once was. Instead it got a simultaneous streaming and limited theatrical release, and as far as I can tell, no one really heard about it. Which now leaves me in the lonely position of critic-screaming-about-how-good-a-movie-you’ve-never-heard-of is. People tend to assume these kinds of films are going to be some Very Serious, Very Important foreign dramas about artists being sad, usually correctly.

All I can say is that I too normally hate the kinds of movies film critics love to praise in year-end lists (three-hour dirges about dour Romanians going to get an abortion, say), and Funny Pages is decidedly not that. In fact, it’s kind of the anti-that. It’s an anarchic, 86-minute romp full of pimply weirdos drawing disgusting cartoons that feels like an R. Crumb comic strip come to life. Imagine Napoleon Dynamite had been made by tri-state area comic book store gremlins instead of deadpan Mormons from Idaho and you get something like Funny Pages.

Yes, Funny Pages was made by newly-coined “nepo babyOwen Kline, (son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates). But if all nepo babies made art as off-kilter as Funny Pages, no one would complain about nepo babies. In the same way that RRR sort of jumps off the screen as a big budget spectacle, making things like plotting and theme almost secondary if not irrelevant, Funny Pages is the kind of comedy that makes normal setup/punchline kind of obsolete. It has punchlines, but it’s funny (sometimes funnier) before them, basically on a frame-by-frame level. And whereas most nepo babies cast their gorgeous, impeccably groomed, sexually available nepo baby friends in their movies, Funny Pages has a cadre of weirdos it feels like Kline found at a garage sale, who all look like adult Garbage Pail Kids. Including one of the greatest, single-serving supporting actor turns of the year from a man cnamed “Stephen Adly Guirgis.”

While the tone of Funny Pages is best exemplified by the mouthfeel of “Stephen Adly Gurgis” (a Pulitzer Prize winner in addition to a guy with a funny-sounding name!) it’s not just weird for weird’s sake. There’s something genuine about protagonist Robert (an excellent Daniel Zolghadri) and his outright contempt for his upper middle class parents who have done nothing to warrant it.