Marcel and his grandmother grab some popcorn and a movie in Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. Courtesy A24 Films

Remember summer 2020, when we were all locked down and thinking that streaming services were going to replace theaters? Not so fast. Turns out the multiplexes still have their place, and even Netflix has a use for them. My list below has some streaming options anyway. Some of the movies were relegated to the honorable mention list only because they were too similar to other entries in the Top 10 — I tend to want this feature to represent a wide range. Anyway, be sure to check those out as well, and have a happy New Year.


1.) Marcel the Shell With Shoes On


My New Year’s resolution: to be more like Marcel. Probably you do, too. Dean Fleischer Camp’s series of YouTube animated shorts was charming, but it was on the big screen that they reached true greatness, as the doughty, ingenious talking seashell with pink footwear experiences bottomless grief and great joy in the Airbnb rental where he lives. If you hang onto Marcel’s capacity for wonder and his thoughtfulness in the face of a crisis, maybe you’ll enjoy his peaceful, easy feeling.


2.) Everything Everywhere All at Once

Who knew that a martial-arts movie could be the vehicle for the story of a parent learning to accept her gay child? And who knew you could kill someone with a dildo? The Daniels go overboard with the parallel universes, and somehow everything hangs together, just like the Chinese-American family at its center. To that, we raise a butt plug-shaped trophy.


3.) Tár

There were viewers who thought Lydia Tár was a real person and were outraged that the press and the establishment had let her get away with her predatory behavior. That’s a testament to Cate Blanchett’s performance and the way that writer-director Todd Field integrated his story into the real-life world of classical music. Of all the #MeToo movies, this is the best one largely because it deals with a fictional subject and comes at sexual harassment in an oblique way.


4.) Happening

Annie Ernaux has had herself a year, making her directing debut with her documentary The Super 8 Years and also *checks notes* winning the Nobel Prize for literature. On top of that, her 2000 autobiographical novel became Audrey Diwan’s film, which would have been excellent even if it hadn’t come out the same week that the Dobbs ruling leaked. The story of a French girl seeking an illegal abortion in the 1960s is told with harrowing truth.


5.) Nope

This year saw some terrific movies about how human beings exploit animals, chief among them Jerzy Skolimowski’s donkey drama EO and Andrea Arnold’s documentary Cow. However, Jordan Peele’s alien-invasion movie treats the theme with greater insight, sophistication, imagination, and humor than them and does it in a way that appealed to blockbuster crowds during the summer. This is criticism of Hollywood from one of Hollywood’s finest creators, and it’s awe-inspiring.


6.) The Banshees of Inisnherin

Maybe this offers up the comforts of the familiar for those of us who’ve seen Martin McDonagh’s Irish-set stage plays. It sure does feel like the filmmaker is back in his home territory as he recounts the story of a friendship gone stale. McDonagh adds some stunning visuals of the Aran Islands to his customary good writing, and Colin Farrell and Kerry Condon give the performances of their lives conveying the unquiet desperation of rural folk.


7.) Decision to Leave

Has Park Chan-wook finally given up his fixations on torture and S&M sex? That would be a mixed blessing, but it has resulted in this beautifully mature detective story in which explanations for everything around a rich abuser’s seemingly accidental death remain just tantalizingly out of reach. The Korean filmmaker’s direction is more self-effacing here than in his previous efforts, and his film emerges as a ravishing exercise in uncertainty.


8.) The Innocents

Kids acquire superpowers all the time in the movies, and this unnerving Norwegian horror film is clever enough to suggest that that might be a really bad thing. Rakel Lenora Fløttum is scarily alert as a 9-year-old girl who moves into a new apartment complex and finds herself amid kids with telekinesis and mind control who bring her severely autistic older sister into lucidity. That comes at a steep price as these social outcasts take terrible revenge on abusive parents and school bullies, leading to a life-or-death climax.


9.) The Fallout

Of all the movies that debuted on streaming in 2022, this relatively unheralded film from last January is the best. Megan Park’s school-shooting drama succeeds by going small and focusing on the psychological effects of one incident on a few students. The emotional beats are mapped with granular detail, and Jenna Ortega gives a career performance as a possibly gay girl whose trauma lingers with her through every other school shooting in this great land of ours.


10.) No Bears

Jafar Panahi has been in prison since the summer, along with many other Iranian filmmakers, including Mohammad Rasoulof, who made this list last year, who displeased the country’s theocracy. He was making great films long before he was classed as a troublemaker, and here he plays a character much like himself who sees art and politics collide while becoming embroiled in a small-town scandal and trying to direct actors remotely on a movie set in Istanbul. His son makes this list, too. (See: below.) #FreeJafarPanahi


Honorable mention: Kogonada’s futuristic meditation on grief, After Yang … Jim Archer’s irresistible found-footage comedy, Brian and Charles … Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s study of family trauma on a remote ranch, Montana Story … John Patton Ford’s ruthless modern noir, Emily the Criminal … David Cronenberg’s adapt-or-die fantasy, Crimes of the Future … Masaaki Yuasa’s genre-busting anime musical, Inu-oh … Carey Williams’ college comedy spiked with adrenaline and racial politics, Emergency … Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s sharply perceptive coming-of-age film, Murina … Panah Panahi’s secretly troubled Iranian car trip, Hit the Road … Phil Tippett’s demented stop-motion horror film, Mad God … Alli Haapasalo’s raunchy and sweet teen movie, Girl Picture … Colm Bairéad’s delicate portrait of an abandoned and found child, The Quiet Girl … Terence Davies’ devilishly witty Edwardian postwar epic, Benediction … Nicholas Stoller’s uproarious gay romantic comedy, Bros … Sarah Polley’s tense examination of mass rape and its aftermath, Women Talking … Ti West’s scarier-than-its predecessor prequel, Pearl … Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Filipino ode to cinema, Leonor Will Never Die … Matt Reeves’ anti-superhero movie, The Batman … Luca Guadagnino’s fragile outlaw teen romance, Bones and All … Steven Spielberg’s look back at his creative childhood, The Fabelmans.