Best of 2022 is ComingSoon’s weeklong celebration of the entertainment that made this past year so memorable.
Well, kids, 2022 is now in the rearview mirror, and I must say, in terms of pop culture entertainment, the year mostly delivered. Sure, there was a slew of disappointments — Obi-Wan Kenobi, anyone? — but we also received some genuine classics in nearly every medium.
Without further ado, here are my favorite films, TV shows, books, CDs, and video games released in 2022.
Avatar: The Way of Water
It took 12 years, but James Cameron finally unleashed his long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Avatar. Whoa, boy, The Way of Water is an awe-inspiring cinematic achievement of the highest order. While it retains some of its predecessor’s weaker aspects — read: simplistic story, silly dialogue — the visuals and action are leagues better and easily trump anything that hit cineplexes this year. Seriously, this is mind-blowing cinema at its finest — a visual tour de force with heart-pounding action, tear-jerking drama, and some of the most incredible visual effects you’ll ever see. The Way of Water is one for the ages and easily my favorite film of the year. Kudos to composer Simon Franglen for retaining James Horner’s iconic score while branching into unexpected new directions.
God of War: Ragnarok
Forget Thor: Love and Thunder; the true battle with the Norse gods takes place in God of War: Ragnarok, which offers one of the most thrilling video game experiences ever produced. Following the same beats as its predecessor while deepening its characters and mythos, Ragnarok is a gritty human drama wrapped in a colossal-sized blockbuster replete with incredible set pieces, robust dialogue, and visual splendor aplenty. Sure to go down as one of the all-time great video game sequels.
Heat 2 (Audiobook)
I listened to plenty of audiobooks this year, but none were as provocative as Heat 2. Written by Michael Mann and narrated to dramatic perfection by Peter Giles (whose voice makes even the most trivial scenes feel epic), the story picks up where the original 1995 classic Heat left off and expands the characters portrayed by Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, and Val Kilmer in unique and exciting ways. I was already over the moon about the planned film, and the audiobook increased my excitement.
Top Gun: Maverick
Great balls of fire! Tom Cruise continues to treat audiences with the type of spectacle that dominated the marketplace in the 80s and early 90s. While Top Gun: Maverick certainly looks like a modern-day action film, albeit designed using incredible practical effects, the picture feels like a throwback to simpler times when the need for speed trumped all else. If anything, Top Gun proves audiences will turn out in droves as long as you show them a good time.
Dark, moody, and incredibly bleak, Matt Reeves’ The Batman stands as one of the best adaptations of our pointy-eared hero to date. The storyline about the Riddler taking down Gotham’s elite may be an obvious riff on David Fincher’s Seven, but the presentation nails the look and feel of the Caped Crusader like never before. The Batman is a graphic novel come to life and sets the stage for a thrilling new big-screen comic universe.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
A24 continues to defy expectations with its bizarre, albeit highly original content, and all but hit a home run with Everything Everywhere All at Once — perhaps the most original motion picture to hit the big screen in ages. Featuring terrific turns from Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and scene-stealer Stephanie Hsu, along with incredible direction from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, EEAAO delivers the goods in terms of spectacle (at half the price of your typical Marvel fare) but also provides a fascinating commentary on the modern family and eternal struggle between the old and new. Here we have a delectable piece of cinema that deserves all the accolades.
Andor – Season 1
Admittedly, it took me a while to get into Andor. I enjoyed the first three or so episodes but opted to wait for the entire series to hit Disney+ before I dove headfirst into the further adventures of Cassian Andor. I’m glad I took the plunge because Andor is the best Star Wars release since Rogue One — maybe even The Empire Strikes Back. Wisely grounding his action and characters, showrunner Tony Gilroy sidesteps the mistakes made by Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett and instead gifts audiences with a thrilling character study more interested in political machinations than poorly rendered action. So at this point, I say give Gilroy the keys to the kingdom.
House of the Dragon – Season 1
No TV show held my attention every week quite like House of the Dragon. Dark, enthralling, and full of political intrigue, fascinating characters, and intense violence, the Game of Thrones spinoff raises George R.R. Martin’s defunct franchise from the trash bin. House of the Dragon makes dragons and Targaryens relevant once more. Sure, the massive time gaps took some getting used to, and there wasn’t much of a payoff to Season 1, but count me in for the continuing adventures of this bat-shit-crazy Targaryen family.
Was there a film as brazen, weird, and raw as The Northman? While certainly not the most original film ever released, this Robert Eggers production certainly ranks as one of the more ambitious big-budget offerings in recent memory and works as a thrilling (occasionally frightening) tale of good ole fashioned revenge. Eggers spent a great deal of time and money transporting audiences to the past, and the results do not disappoint.
Amistad Expanded Score
La La Land Records spoiled film music fans plenty this year with great releases such as the expanded scores for James Horner’s Field of Dreams and The Grinch, along with re-releases of expanded/complete scores for Horner’s Braveheart, Jerry Goldsmith’s The ‘Burbs, Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man, and David Arnold’s Tomorrow Never Dies.
Still, my favorite of the bunch was the expanded release of John Williams’ largely forgotten score for Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. More somber than your typical Williams album, Amistad delivers the goods via two and a half hours of beautiful music spread over 2 CDs. A must-own for soundtrack collectors.
Better Call Saul – Final Season
The concluding chapter of Better Call Saul supplied everything I wanted and then some. Aided by incredible performances from Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn, creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould offered a slow-burn character drama that was equal parts harrowing and heartbreaking — a perfect prologue and epilogue to Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul deserves mention among the greatest TV shows of all time.
- The Fabelmans – Steven Spielberg’s powerful autobiography ranks amongst his finest films to date. Hopefully, this finds an audience on streaming.
- Violent Night – The Santa Clause epic we didn’t know we needed features a rip-roaring star turn by David Harbour.
- Spirited – I dug this lavish musical production starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. A fun spin on A Christmas Carol.
- The Guardians Holiday Special – James Gunn brings the Yuletide magic with the Guardians and Kevin Bacon.
- Nope – The third act flies off the rails, but Jordan Peele’s alien epic remains must-see entertainment regardless. I’ll never buy a chimp.
- Ambulance – Audiences turned their noses up at Michael Bay’s latest action extravaganza, but the pic is an exciting bit of adrenaline-fueled mayhem.
- X – A wildly graphic A24 production that perfectly captures the feel of an old-school horror flick. This is how it’s done, folks.
- All Quiet on the Western Front – Beautiful, poignant WWI drama with astonishingly realistic battle scenes.
- Hustle – Adam Sandler shows off his strong acting chops yet again in this entertaining basketball dramedy that has somehow vanished since its arrival earlier this year.
- A Christmas Story Christmas – Man, the holiday offerings were strong this season. Ralphie returns in a worthy follow-up to the 1983 classic.
- Moon Knight – The best thing Marvel produced this year gets kudos for trying something new and having the good sense to hire Oscar Isaac in dual roles.