20 – Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
This unexpected dark comedy (?) tragedy (?) knocked my socks off. I was constantly surprised by where this story took us. The acting was incredible – an absolute tour de force from the entire cast.
When we saw this, I needed a full cake and hangout session with my friend to decompress before I was able to begin understanding how I felt about this movie.
Whatever confusion my heart and brain felt, I was obligated to do some serious number juggling (sincere apologies to The Green Knight and Raya and the Last Dragon) to get this to my top 20 because it needed to be on this list.
19 – My Old School (2022)
This is a compelling documentary about the weirdest case of fake identity I have ever heard about.
This movie was clever, honest, and theatrical without being “too much”. The use of Alan Cumming was brilliant, the animated features were hilarious and set a great tone, and the archival footage a perfect contradiction to the foibles of memory.
It feels like the best version of a bunch of old friends gathering together telling a shared tale. Tight and fast-paced, this movie is an absolute joy hiding the real humanity of a broken human underneath.
18 – Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)
What a bright spot of a movie! Marcel’s tiny stature hides a huge heart – truthful musings on noticing the small things, life, death, and seeking ways to help others even when we ourselves are hurting.
There is so much honesty and joy in this movie. Watching it is like a hug for your heart.
17 – The Lives of Others (2006)
With a wild tone shift from the movie above, this taut, gripping political thriller is an incredible encapsulation of the fear of just living life under an authoritarian environment.
The writing in this movie was absolutely perfect – a slow moving disaster unfolding in front of us. I couldn’t look away.
16 – Ex Machina (2014)
This movie had me guessing from the opening scene. This Turing test on steroids was so compelling, I just couldn’t look away.
I didn’t love the use of stereotypically beautiful female bodies as props, but otherwise this movie was exceptional.
￼15 – Parallel Mothers (2021)
The setup and delivery of this film is magnificent, and Penélope Cruz’s performance is perfection. She is moving without being maudlin, tough without being unreachable, fully human and fully flawed, but so human.
This movie deals so well with the conflicting themes of womanhood, status, and grief. There are so many themes tied up in such a nuanced story.
I drop this a little lower than Volver in the list only because I feel like Volver tells a tighter story, but Parallel Mothers encompasses more ground.
14 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The cinematography and stunt choreography in this movie was beyond incredible. Despite being parodied everywhere and by everyone, this movie absolutely holds up.
Visually stunning, with beautiful, rich scoring, this movie takes what could be a typical plot and makes it an incredible journey.
13 – Rear Window (1954)
I’m late to the game, but this tightly wound movie holds together decades later. Despite every movie that has come since, this film holds it’s own, not just as a relic of something that was once great, but still a really exceptional movie on it’s own merit.
The pacing and the constant raising of stakes in this film means you are engrossed from the very first moment. You can’t help but feel the fear and terror of a safe space being made unsafe.
12 – Dark Blue World (2001)
As someone with a Slovak background, of course I biased towards this film. However, even without my family heritage, this is an incredible war story.
The lost history of so many veterans is revealed through truly honest and human storytelling, coupled also with incredible arial shots. A feat of visual storytelling that is heartfelt and real.
11 – CODA (2021)
One of the most common criticisms levelled at this movie is that it is formulaic. I (obviously) don’t feel that this is a fair critique, CODA is warm, beautifully told, and centres deaf people in the centre of their lives as whole, fully realized people.
The use of music and scoring throughout is absolutely beautiful, and that scene near the end (if you saw it, you’ll know) had me openly weeping tears of joy.
10 – Midnight Special (2016)
Our movie buff who owns the local rental store recommended this as part of our New Year’s Eve watch fest – he said it was a unique movie and every stage would take you to another conclusion.
It’s a strange, tense, rolling movie that defies definition.
9 – 3 Idiots (2009)
This movie is a wildly popular Bollywood film, which means a longer time commitment than some films, but it is absolutely worth it to get to the end.
The emotional turns this movie takes are breathtaking. Heartbreaking stories of young people pushed too far – wanting to be themselves but lost in pressure from their schools or their families. Laughable, light romance. At the centre of it all, the love and friendship of three young men.
There are so many stories layered in this movie, and all of them are critical to achieving the balance of humour and tragedy. Give yourself a treat and book time to watch this movie.
8 – Anomalisa (2015)
I can’t tell you why my heart wanted this movie to be so high up on the list.
It’s weird with a tiny cast. It’s winding, it’s dark, and it’s not for everyone. It’s incredibly awkward in portraying the incredibly awkward moments of humanity, loaded on top with mental instability. From a technical standpoint, it is incredibly challenging film (and the second stop motion on this list!).
There’s something about this tiny film that punches way above it’s weight in script and voice acting, with visuals that stuck with me for days. I can’t explain it, but it’s something.
This isn’t a movie for everyone (especially if you get squeamish during awkward sex scenes), but if you can move past that, this movie is utterly compelling.
7 – The Iron Giant (1999)
Surely, surely this movie couldn’t be as good as the internet lore surrounding it.
Well surely as the sun rises, this movie was better than that. To reduce me to laughter and tears, occasionally simultaneously even though I had seen the ending many times, that’s amazing.
This film is incredible. Watch it.
6 – Volver (2006)
I watched Volver and Parallel Mothers quite close to one another so I assumed I would have to knock one of the two off this list.
To have them both in the top 20, it should speak to how incredible both these movies are.
Volver is a perfectly crafted family drama that focuses on the dark skeletons in the closet, while finding every opportunity to make you laugh. A difficult balance as it contains incredibly difficult subject matter, but heartwarming and endearing at the same time.
5 – Belfast (2021)
I’m not someone who typically enjoys black and white movies that could have been made in colour – perhaps I am just a gauche millennial I am too accustomed to bright colours, but it rarely hits me as the right choice.
But this movie, black and white and all, made me rethink that stance.
This movie does not flinch at it looks at the violence the young protagonist faced. But without glossing over the nasty bits, this movie is committed to searching for the joyful moments, and focusing on the things that really matter.
4 – Flee (2021)
This movie is so much bigger than itself, but is at it’s heart, the story of one human, and his family.
3 – Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
I was pleased to read that disability advocates felt that this movie was a good representation of a hero with disabilities. So often movies with people with disabilities present them as objects for people to learn something from
But the heart of this movie is treating a person with a disability as a person. To encourage them to follow their dreams, to support those dreams without constantly telling them they cannot. And the magic that comes along the way if the pursuit of those dreams.
2 – Nine Days (2020)
File under: movies that made me weep endlessly.
It begins with death. Heartbreak, and what comes next. It’s not the story of grief or life and death that you have seen before.
It’s the universal, wholehearted encompassing pain of life – and all the beauty within.
A full throated yell of a love letter to life, the arts, and who we can be, and a gentle whisper to love who we are not.
You’ve seen this all before and you’ve never seen anything like it.
Watch. This. Movie.
1 – Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
Have we spoken at all this year? Then you’ll know my feelings on this movie.
At it’s core, this is a movie about a mother and daughter rediscovering their relationship and their love for one another. But it’s just so much more than that.
Somewhere between nihilism and absurdism, family drama and fantasy, this movie takes on the core struggles of life without flinching. It is so strange and alien, but somehow, so human and honest. And it is the best multiverse movie I have ever seen.
“The Only Thing I Do Know Is That We Have To Be Kind. Please, Be Kind. Especially When We Don’t Know What’s Going On” – Waymond
It has been a great joy and comfort this year to find movies that made me laugh, made me think, and made me feel more connected to the stories of others. And ultimately, isn’t that what great films are all about?