Here we are! It took most of the first month of January to get here, but I am finally at the top ten movies I watched for the first time in 2022.
Having met my goal of 300 movies in 12 months (I actually hit it in 11) for SWO Productions, I am WAY off that pace for the first few weeks of 2023! I have no intention of watching that many again, but it was a great experiment last year.
Enough of that, though… let’s see the best of the best!
10. Children Of Men
This is almost cheating; I definitely saw Children Of Men on DVD back in the 2000’s. But here’s the thing: I didn’t like it, barely paid attention to it, and couldn’t remember anything about it. So I think that counts as a new watch because I had nothing to offer if you had asked me about it before this year.
On a technical level, this is spectacular. Great acting, perfectly executed extended take shots, wonderful cinematography. It is genius in how it is made. Those one-take shots alone… definitely something I appreciate much more now than I did in 2006 or 2007. I didn’t notice those as much then, but the aspect of how much goes into them wows me now.
The story is the story; it’s kind of a shrug. Dystopian future. Hopelessness. Everyone is terrible except our protagonist, who seems like a dick but turns remarkably selfless and heroic. The plot is nothing to write home about.
Luckily, pretty much everything else about this very much IS something to write home about.
Okay, let’s get the bad out of the way: The ending to this movie is so sugary and maudlin and overwrought. It takes everything the viewer can and has pieced together from the story and then whaps you HARD over the head by spelling it all out while sappy string instruments play over it all. The last 5+ minutes here are so damn unnecessary and assume the viewer is a moron.
I also think the movie by cheating a bit in how it shows you things before it really should, BUT that is kind of the theme of the whole thing, so it is cheating, but it’s cheating in a way that fits its own mold. It’s thematic cheating! So I GUESS I can allow it, even if I don’t like it.
Okay, aside from that, you are left with an alien invasion movie that barely cares about the aliens at all. It’s a story of humanity and loss and hopefulness and tragedy and predetermination and connection. And instead of worrying about the actual alien and human contact, it’s about the part of every alien movie that gets skipped over in 3 minutes: how we learn to figure out what they want from us.
It just really hits, and once it got me engaged (it did take a while… the movie starts glacially slowly), I was all the way hooked.
I know this might be unpopular because people LOVE Denis Villeneuve, but I think the STORY is far better than the DIRECTION here. But I did love the story. It’s so unique and has such marvelous twists. So I’m okay with that.
8. Grave Of The Fireflies
Holy god, this movie is torturous. It just wants to tear your soul out, rip it in half, and then make you watch as it runs it sideways through a shredder. There’s nothing pleasant or hopeful here. From the studio that brought you Totoro, here comes a movie about how life is hell and humanity is monsters!
Nothing ever gets better here. It starts off horrible and just gets worse. But it’s so necessary. This is a “War Is Hell” movie that doesn’t tell that story from the aspect of the soldiers. Instead you see how society and innocent people suffer because of it.
This is so powerful. It has stayed with me all year since I watched it in January.
7. Bloody Hell
This was just an absolute joy of a horror-comedy romp, with Ben O’Toole turning in a Bruce Campbell-lite performance, a smart and funny story, and a really interesting conceit of our protagonist having a bit of a screw loose.
The story is of Rex, a former military man who thwarts a bank robbery… but for his tactics in doing so, is sent to prison for 8 years. Upon release he decides to get away from it all, but ends up finding something so, so much worse. The way the movie doles out the bank robbery story is a lot of fun. The present day nightmare in which he finds himself really seems to be hopeless. It’s great!
One of those gems you find on Shudder while just hoping to dig up something watchable. I’m really glad we came upon this!
6. Muppets’ Christmas Carol
I watched just a ton of Christmas movies this past December, and I’m usually not that thematic. But it just kept happening. A lot of them have made either this or the New Releases Of 2022 list.
Having watched Muppets Christmas Carol for the first time… it’s possible it’s my new favorite Christmas movie of all time. You combine the timeless greatness of the Muppets with the timeless greatness of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, and you get this: an… EXTRA timeless EXTRA classic? I don’t know for sure, but it’s phenomenal.
5. Die Hard
I also watched Die Hard around Christmas time, whether you consider it to be a Christmas movie or not, I was asked to be on another podcast to discuss this for the week of Christmas.
And YES, I KNOW: I’ve never seen Die Hard before?! How can that be? Like… I might have seen it when I was a little kid, but that’s it. It’s definitely not a movie I’ve seen since my age had multiple digits. I know I’ve seen Die Hard With A Vengeance and Die Harder! Though, again, I was very young for each of those. I saw Die Harder at the drive-in with, I think, Batman 1989.
Anyway, Die Hard may actually be SLIGHTLY overrated as an action movie (on a purely action front, it’s no T2: Judgment Day, but I guess… what is?), but the longterm payoffs to moments and references, Willis’ iconic portrayal, and some tremendous dialogue all elevate this to its rightful place as a legendary flick.
What a surprisingly delightful find on Shudder this was.
Creepy and funny and engrossing. It’s more situationally humorous and quirky than out and out comedic, but I laughed out loud several times. The movie does go full gonzo in the third act, but that’s more on the direction the story goes than a full tonal shift. It all seems to be building to one type of horror, and then it switches everything up. With the very best kind of zaniness.
This is a REALLY strange pick to be in the middle of Die Hard and the next three flicks, but what can I say? It was a hidden treasure!
3. Schindler’s List
The greatest story of redemption in human history, Schindler’s List sees Liam Neeson play the real-life Oskar Schindler, a self-centered businessman who looked outside of himself and saw what was going on around him in Nazi Germany. And then he risked everything to do what he could. It’s remarkable. It’s humanity at the very best at it can be.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. Parts of this one kick you in the soul as bad or worse than Grave Of The Fireflies. But it also has a much more uplifting note to end on.
2. Saving Private Ryan
I’m not a war movie guy. I’m just not. And that’s why I never saw Saving Private Ryan before. It’s not my genre.
On a purely technical level, this movie is borderline perfect. It looks amazing, and the intensity in the two key war scenes–the storming of Omaha Beach and the climactic defending of the bridge–is unlike much I’ve ever seen before in cinema. The character moments are shot differently from the war moments, and it effects how you feel as you watch it. It’s amazing how this was made, and it really just seals Stephen Spielberg for me as the most technically capable director in cinematic history.
The character stuff more or less works. The mystery with Tom Hanks’ mysterious past didn’t really do much for me, but Carpazzo trying to save the kid (OF COURSE Vin Diesel wants to save a FAMILY), and the terror of the translator guy are great. There are some surprising deaths sprinkled throughout because, you know, it’s a WAR and people DIE. You get attached to these people, and then you see them suffer some horrible fates. Again: that’s war.
I was really prepared to think this was overrated and not as impressive as I had heard. It wasn’t without some trepidation that I finally put it on this past year.
Well I was wrong. This movie is intense, and I was 100% invested and engaged from almost the word Go. Gripping and exciting and emotional, it’s weird that this movie ended up being everything it is cracked up to be. After a decade of hearing how superb this was, I watched it and just thought “Oh, well all that was well-deserved”.
I do feel the need to watch it again to fully understand the loop that Kobb and Saito find themselves in at the beginning and end. But for one watch, I was hooked on this. Fantastic flick. I apologize for not watching sooner.
And That. Is. It. Out of the 120+ movies I watched for the first time in 2022 (again, not counting 2022 new releases), these were the cream of the crop.
It’s really nice to have finally covered so many of these blindspots and rounded out my movie viewing resume. I’m assuming you’ve seen most of these (maybe not Bloody Hell or HouseBound, and if not, check those out!), so I ask: what do you think of these? And what were the best movies you saw for the first time in 2022?
Until next time… take care!