This has been quite the year for cinema, starting with critically acclaimed hits in January during Sundance all the way until awards season, which is currently in full swing. We here at Black Girl Nerds are excited to share with you some picks of what we consider the best films of 2022 from a select group of our esteemed film critics.
From big-budget comic book films to independent flicks, our team provides a short list of our favorites and why these selections have resonated with us so much this past year.
Jamie Broadnax’s Best of 2022
The Woman King
I had the pleasure of screening the world premiere of The Woman King at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, and this movie did not disappoint. Viola Davis delivers the greatest performance of her career in this epic story, and the movie provides a fully fleshed-out story that deals with physical and emotional conflict. There’s a B-plot involving General Nanisca (Viola Davis) dealing with her own inner demons, which parallels perfectly with the film’s inciting incident. Some of the best fight choreography I’ve witnessed on celluloid takes place in this incredible adventure. Beautiful performances, an impactful story, and the pacing keeps you invested throughout the 2 hour and 14 minute run time.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Say what you want about the absence of T’Challa or any other controversies surrounding the making of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, no one can deny that Ryan Coogler handled his film with care and grace. As I mentioned in my review, it was most certainly a love letter to Chadwick Boseman. My expectations were that this would be a different film from any other Marvel movie, and because I set my expectations that way, not only was I not disappointed, I was impressed at how so many characters were seamlessly woven into the plot without it feeling clunky. Angela Bassett gives one of her most gut-wrenching performances; oftentimes you wonder how she had the will to get through those scenes knowing what we know about Chadwick. The movie is heartfelt, magical, and breathtaking. We may never see another Marvel film like this again because of how personal it was, but I appreciate how carefully it was crafted and made into a phenomenal piece of entertainment.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Give this movie all of the awards. Seriously. I was late watching this film as I missed my opportunity to see the premiere at SXSW this year. Better late than never.Everything Everywhere All At Once is the complete package. Outstanding performances, gorgeous cinematography, intense action sequences, seamless editing, and the makeup and costumes were spectacular. It felt like a lucid fever dream watching it and my only regret is not experiencing this film in a theater, as I can only imagine I would likely go into sensory overload taking in everything this film has to offer. I’m happy to announce that it is a contender for Oscar’s Best Picture, and hopefully this movie will earn several trophies during awards season. When it comes to making quirky and compelling films, A24 rarely misses.
Cassondra Feltus’ Best of 2022
X and Pearl
A24 does it again. The first two films in Ti West’s horror trilogy are refreshing additions to the genre. X is a classic 1970s-era slasher with an unexpected genre blend of the grittiness of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the allure of Boogie Nights. Mia Goth plays the budding adult film actress Maxine Minx (love the name) and the pitchfork-wielding Pearl terrorizing the pornographers on her property. West immediately followed up with Pearl, the whimsical origin story of X’s geriatric villain. As a young Pearl, Goth plays a farm girl with dreams of becoming a dancer, prone to many screaming fits that are equal parts hilarious and frightening. Mia Goth deserves more recognition for all her performances, but Pearl in particular shows the wide range of emotions she can convey underneath a painful smile.
It’s hard to express how much I love I have for Barbarian without giving away details. It’s best kept under wraps because this is one of those films people say to go in knowing nothing. The plot twists are too good, and I love that the previews didn’t prepare me for what Zach Cregger had in store. One thing the film has going for it is that the three leads aren’t archetypal horror characters. Georgina Campbell plays a smart horror movie heroine who (figuratively speaking) doesn’t run up the stairs while being chased by a masked killer. We’re suspicious of Bill Skarsgård’s character from the get-go because we associate him with his terrifying performance as Pennywise. The trailer barely shows Justin Long, but the legendary Scream King delivers as always.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was grounded and dark, but Matt Reeves’ Gotham city might be the bleakest I’ve seen. When I first saw the trailer, I thought, “This is how I like my Batman. Sad, reclusive, and socially awkward.” Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne isn’t the billionaire playboy we usually see. He’s always been a tragic character, but Pattinson elevates Bruce’s overall depressing demeanor. He’s timid, intense, incredibly sullen, and definitely isn’t smooth when it comes to interacting with the aloof seductress Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz). Paul Dano’s Riddler isn’t a giddy villain who loves fun brain-teasers. He’s a Zodiac-like serial killer with an online following of disturbed individuals. All the characters still have that cartoonish, over-the-topness at their core, but the overall tone of The Batman is closer to Seven than your typical Batman movie.
Wayne Broadway’s Best of 2022
Bodies Bodies Bodies
Under confident direction by Halina Reijn, a superb screenplay by Sarah DeLappe, and pitch-perfect improvising provided by the stellar cast, A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies might be one of 2022’s best films that likely won’t end up on many year-end lists. Of course, this year saw many highs in drama and mixed-genre films like Everything Everywhere All At Once and The Banshees of Inisherin, and those films deserve the accolades they will surely receive come awards season. But, for the more unsung heroes, those in the often neglected horror and horror-adjacent genres, I must say this: 2022 was a banner year for frightful films, and Bodies Bodies Bodies may have been the flagship. The comedy, the suspense, the legitimate mystery seemingly made for Gen Z’ers that doesn’t condescend to them — it works fantastically. If you haven’t seen Bodies Bodies Bodies yet, do yourself a favor. The performances alone are worth the price of streaming.
Ralph Fiennes has played many villains — orally fixated serial killers, sadistic SS officers, even magical mass murderers — but none seem to have the casual charm and, dare I say it, sympathetic qualities elicited by his antagonistic chef Julian Slowik. This may be why, in the Adam McKay-produced pitch-black comedy-horror film, Slowik has been able to cultivate a cult of personality around him, one that becomes, well, just a regular cult. It’d be a crime to spoil this film; suffice it to say that Anya Taylor-Joy acting opposite Fiennes brings the same nervous-yet-composed energy she brought to 2016’s Split, another acting tour de force for its two leads. This film satirizes big money, big egos, and leaves the audience with a big appetite for more. The trailers don’t do the film justice: rather than being a bland duplicate of The Most Dangerous Game, The Menu has a flavor all its own.
Orphan: First Kill
What can I say? This B movie is an A plus. On paper, this film should not work. It’s a made-for-streaming sequel to a marginal hit from over a decade ago. We know where the story and its main antagonist ends, so why should we care? How Orphan: First Kill deals with these issues is similar to how Child’s Play 2 did: it knows we know all about its villain, so it dispenses with suspense. Like the second film in the Chucky franchise, the sophomore effort of the Orphan series lets us observe Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) in all her campy ways. She hacks, slashes, tortures, and connives her way into a family’s home, posing as their long-lost daughter. That her adoptive mother Tricia (Julia Stiles) has a secret of her own only adds to the fun. The last time Fuhrman played Esther, the actress was a 13-year-old who was certainly up to the task. Now that she’s in her twenties, however, she brings a knowing, seasoned sophistication to the role. It should be preposterous that we watch a 24-year-old pretending to be a 31-year-old pretending to be a 9-year-old, but Fuhrman, supported by a cheesily fun script and a solid cast, makes us believe and beg for more. Orphan: First Kill may not be one of history’s great films, but it’s one of 2022’s best.
Jeanine T. Abraham’s Best of 2022
Thandiwe Newton should get the Oscar for playing Sandra Guidry in God’s Country. Without a doubt, this is one of the best films I’ve seen and is now placed right up there with GoodFellas and The Color Purple as one of my all-time favorite films. God’s Country is a physical representation of the red-hot rage Black women feel but are never able to show. College professor Sandra Guidry lives in an all-white town while working and being the sole caregiver to her mother. The film picks up as Sandra is just back to work at the university during the holidays while grieving her loss. When she simply tells two white hunters no when they ask to hunt on her land, the situation slowly escalates to the point of no return for the hunters and Sandra.
God’s Country is a work of art for our time. Every single actor in this film is spot on, and the audience is allowed to lose themselves in the story. As co-writers, Shaye Ogbonna and Jullian Higgins craft a script that uses dialogue sparingly, elegantly showing rather than telling, which allows us as viewers to fully invest in the story as we watch the characters make unfortunate choices and deal with the consequences of their actions.
Newton’s performance is sublime. She puts it all on the line, truthfully embodying the conflicting facets of what it means to be a Black woman alone in an all-white town and daring to demand to have the same basic rights as a white man in America. In God’s country, we are all supposed to be the same right? Citizens with equal rights? Well, this film reflects a truth that Black people know all too well with an ending that so many of us felt was a moment of catharsis. God’s Country allowed me to experience a world where justice is pure and those who mess around with people they shouldn’t be messing around with get what they deserve. Felt good.
Descendant, directed by Margaret Brown, is a stunning documentary that must be seen. The story begins in the early 1860s when Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Irish-American slave trader, bragged to a group of his friends that even though the Trans-Atlantic slave trade had been abolished and was illegal, he could traffic people from Dahomey, West Africa (now called Benin) to the mouth of Mobile Bay, Alabama, river and sell them to buyers and enslave them. Meaher hired a boat called the Clotilda, did the dirty deed, burned the boat, and sank it to hide any evidence.
This film is a masterpiece. As a filmmaker, Margaret Brown uses color, movement, music, and archival footage that brings the story to life with a devastating beauty not usually seen in documentary film that enhances the narrative. In each frame, she documents the descendants of the Clotilda with truth and reverence as their devastating history unfolds.
Descendant doesn’t shy away from the impact, and consequences of slavery in America connected to generational wealth, environmental equity, who still holds power, and how those in power continue to use the descendants of the Clotilda as economic resources. When slavery was abolished, the Africans kidnapped on the Clotilda were all able to settle on land that eventually was called Africatown, where they built their community and thrived, only to have the descendants of Meaher continue to use their systemic power to exclude and profit off of them.
We always hear about the wealth gap and income inequality, but what Descendant reflects is exactly how corrupt the American system has always been and continues to be. At the same time, Descendant doesn’t frame the Africatown community as victims. No, this film inspires the viewer to remember the past in order to do your own part to fight for equity in the future and leaves you with a feeling of hope. Every single person involved in this film is a modern-day hero.
Sissy mixes satire, humor, and horror, creating a devious take on social media influencers and the wellness world.
Cecilia is a wellness influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers, and her social media is filled with color, but IRL, her existence is beige. When she randomly reunites with her childhood best friend Emma at the pharmacy and is invited to her hen’s night, it seems like old times. But joy turns to terror when Emma invites Cecilia to her bachelorette weekend with their mutual grade school friend Alex.
Let’s face it, kids can be cruel, and Sissy creates a grotesque take on the long-term impact of middle school bullying. Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes’ script is fantastic. The perfect blend of humor, satire, and straight-up horror that makes you think. People who bully who they perceive to be weak and nerdy should really think twice about their actions.
Aisha Dee’s performance as Cecilia is ingenious. At points, she is openly vulnerable, but when the need to defend herself arises, she’s able to pivot into a brutally funny take-no-prisoners survival mode realistically. Everything Cecilia does makes sense in her mind, and it’s refreshing to see certain characters have to deal with the negative consequences they create for Sissy through their bullying. Placing a wellness influencer who is all about love and light in a horror/comedy film is hands down perfect.
As an audience member, I had no idea where this film would go. Each situation escalated with surprises that had me guessing and on the edge of my seat all the way up to the end. Give yourselves permission to enjoy Sissy. You’ll be glad you did.
Check out our Worst Films of 2022 list!