11 Movies That Were Better Than Expected In 2022

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Vote up the movies that exceeded your expectations in 2022.

2022 has been a solid year for movies as people began returning to theaters, but there's always room for some surprises and these are the movies that exceeded our expectations – both large and small.

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  • 1
    200 VOTES
    Prey
    Photo: Hulu

    The Predator has been done thoroughly dirty since he first growled and clicked his way through John McTiernan's 1987 action classic. He was dragged through three direct sequels ranging from “mediocre” to “outright bad” and he went up against the Alien in two half-baked Alien vs. Predator movies that did nothing to preserve either monster's dignity. Going into Prey, this series looked like a prime example of a franchise in which only one movie is even good, let alone great. And there was little reason to expect Prey to break the curse. It's a prequel (often a bad sign) and it went straight to streaming; not a good look when even AVP: Requiem had a big theatrical release.

    So imagine my surprise to find that Prey isn't just good. Prey absolutely rips. Rather than recreating skin-deep elements of original, director Dan Trachtenberg and company got down into the very marrow of what makes that first movie work like gangbusters, boiling it down even further and delivering a movie that feels simultaneously like a narrative distillation of and thematic elaboration upon Predator. This thing is a Predator movie deep down in its bones, not just because it has a Predator in it.

    Forget the franchise of it all, though, and the fact worth repeating remains: Prey rips. Even if you'd never seen the original film, this one is an efficient entertainment machine following hopeful Comanche warrior Naru as she encounters, evades, and ultimately faces an extraterrestrial hunter capable of beating the sh*t out of a bear with his bare hands. Amber Midthunder is incredible as Naru, Dakota Beavers lends pitch-perfect support as her older brother, and Dane DeLiegro imbues this Predator with ferocity and personality. The whole thing is chock full of effective setups you don't even notice until they pay off like slot machines, and the eventual mano-a-mano leaves you punching the air. And all that in just about 90 minutes.

    -Tucker DeSaulnier

    • Actors: Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Michelle Thrush, Stefany Mathias, Mike Paterson
    • Released: 2022
    • Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg

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  • Top Gun: Maverick
    Photo: Paramount

    Like many boys who existed in the late ‘80s and ‘90s and whose family was equipped with a prized VHS collection, I grew up on Top Gun. And like many boys who existed in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, I watched Top Gun years later as an adult and had the “Oh, yikes, this movie isn’t very good, is it” moment of clarity.

    It happens. This is not a knock on Tom Cruise - whose ability to carry that movie with bratty star power alone is even more impressive when you realize what kind of limp cinematic carcass he’s carrying. In any case, I still had muted expectations for Top Gun: Maverick. Not just because of my lack of reverence for the original, and not just because of director Joseph Kosinski’s maddeningly almost-there track record, but mostly because the Nostalgia Bucket from which film and TV studios now pull 99 percent of their ideas is so fundamentally poisonous. What was I supposed to expect from this legacy-quel but more of the same cheap, bankrupt nostalgia bait we’ve been getting fed for the last decade-plus?

    The miracle is that Top Gun: Maverick does all the pandering nostalgia tricks I would typically roll my eyes at - the near-identical opening, rhyming musical cues, constant hat-tips to its predecessor, entire scenes practically recreated from the original DNA, just scene after scene of pure “Remember that?” - and folds them into a richer, more entertaining movie. No, not movie - picture. I’m going old-school. Because in a time when the pictures have gotten small, Tom Cruise is doggedly committed to making them - keeping them - big, and special, and spectacular. He and Kosinski (with a hat tip to co-writer Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise’s most reliable collaborator for the last decade) took what was ostensibly a nostalgia cash-grab and made it into a classical, old-fashioned crowd-pleaser - and a truly fantastic one. And the irony is that, in doing so, they grabbed much, much more cash than most of the other nostalgia-bait hack jobs that only understand their existence in shallow sentimental terms. See? Actually caring about the product and not just the IP brand name actually can pay off.

    Maverick is not just superior to the original Top Gun but wildly superior. In terms of camera placement alone, its aerial sequences put the original’s to shame; Kosinski’s compositions have a greater sense of geography and a far greater beauty. There is more violence to every thrust, a more visceral sense of speed, and far more dynamic aerial choreography. It has Cruise at his movie-star best, a dozen memorable supporting characters, a committed physical authenticity that we rarely get in the CGI era, and of course the truly moving Maverick/Iceman sequence, a collision of unfortunate personal circumstance and genuinely thoughtful filmmaking whose emotional weight feels 100% earned and almost uncomfortably real. This movie is so much better than I ever thought it would be.

    Also, Jennifer Connelly, I mean good god.

    -Chris Bellamy

    • Actors: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell
    • Released: 2022
    • Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

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  • 3
    78 VOTES
    Fall
    Photo: Lionsgate

    One of the best trailers of the year is just a camera pointed at a radio tower, then it points up and follows that tower into the sky. And it keeps going up. And up. And up. Finally, we are 2,000 feet in the air with two women stranded on a platform no bigger than a card table. That’s it, and that’s all we need to know. The movie is called Fall, and it is a tightly packed, nerve-fraying survival thriller that came out of nowhere as one of the most invigorating surprises of the year. There’s a joke to be made somewhere about this film being made by the same team that brought us 47 Meters Down, about two women stranded in a shark diving cage deep under water, and I would make it if I weren’t too busy sweating and chewing my fingernails off from the tension in this film.

    While the obviously constant terror of whether they will fall from great height would be enough for an entertaining movie, what makes Fall special is that it is always ahead of the audience. How many times do we watch these kinds of movies and wonder, ‘Why don’t the characters do this?’ or ‘How could they have missed that?’ That never happens in this movie. The characters are smart, resourceful, and think of everything we might think of in this scenario. That’s what makes the predicament even scarier. There is no easy solution, and the movie never lets the characters off the hook. There’s only one way out of this mess, and it’s a long way down.

    -Anthony Barstow

    • Actors: Grace Fulton, Ginny Gardner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mason Gooding, Julia Pace Mitchell
    • Released: 2022
    • Directed by: Scott Mann
  • 4
    83 VOTES
    Hustle
    Photo: Netflix

    For nearly his entire career, it was safe to assume that you knew what you were going to get when you turned on a new Adam Sandler movie. Really, I can only think of Reign Over Me and Uncut Gems as films that have broken the traditional Happy Madison slapstick style. The latter, however, has changed a lot of people's perception on Sandler's ability to act. In fact, the 2019 drama directed by the Safdie brothers was considered one of the top snubs at that year's Academy Awards. 

    Fast forward to summer 2022, and Sandler is set to release his latest Netflix original film. Mind you, his slate of Netflix movies is largely full of disappointments such as The Ridiculous Six, The Do-Over, and Sandy Wexler, with an occasional decent product like Murder Mystery. With that being said, Hustle ended up being something entirely different. It had heart and conviction. Plus, it has been deemed as somewhat of a "basketball love story" by the superfans of the sport. Led by a combination of megastars such as Sandler, Queen Latifah and even Robert Duvall, plus NBA legends like Dr. J and Kenny "The Jet" Smith, this movie had everything a basketball lover could ever dream of. For everything this movie had going for it, the biggest surprise had to be the two lead athletes in the film; Juancho Hernangomez and Anthony Edwards. Hernangomez did an incredible job at showcasing the grind it takes to get to an elite level, while conveying the kind of emotion you can't often feel from trained actors. The star of the show was undoubtedly Anthony Edwards, who plays the primary antagonist on the floor during gameplay. His subtle trash talk adds so much flavor to the showcase moments of the film, and once again, for a non-actor, his dialogue is delivered perfectly. 

    The film is now being considered for award season, with some writers and movie reviews suggesting that Sandler could legitimately receive consideration in the Best Actor category, although he'll have tough competition with Austin Butler's portrayal of Elvis and Brendan Fraser's role in The Whale.

    -Paul Schaum

    • Actors: Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah, Ben Foster
    • Released: 2022
    • Directed by: Jeremiah Zagar
  • I’m a big Weird Al fan (being one of the 12 people to see UHF in theaters remains a badge of honor) and I enjoyed the trailer for this, but I did sorta worry in the back of my head that the movie itself would be a one-joke redux of Walk Hard, which already perfectly parodied grandiose musical biopics. But I watched it anyway, thinking it’d be a fun, light watch, and it’s just full of A+ jokes start-to-finish. It’s really goofy and unselfconscious, takes a lot of absurd big swings, is full of fun comedy cameos, and Daniel Radcliffe commits so hard to the lead role, it just absolutely forces you to be on its wavelength.

    I just can’t see anyone who’s a fan of Weird Al or Daniel Radcliffe or who just wants to throw on a slapstick-ey 90-minute comedy not getting exactly what they want out of this movie. I also laughed really hard at the ending and the end credits. Extremely low pressure recommendation!

    -Dan Hopper

    • Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Julianne Nicholson, Spencer Treat Clark
    • Released: 2022
    • Directed by: Eric Appel
  • 6
    85 VOTES

    Barbarian came out amongst a slew of other horror movies around Halloween, but instead of opting for the usual cheap scares Hollywood doles out every year, it brought viewers a chilling narrative told in three consecutive acts. It’s only until the very last act that the story falls into place like a demented, nightmarish puzzle, and you’re left staring at the screen in disbelief while “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes plays among the credits. Much of the delight of this film comes from going in blind, considering how much the trailers forfeited to give any information away. However, the scary movie star power of Bill Skarsgaard and Justin Long was enough bait to draw in audiences, and for good reason.

    Barbarian is not a typical horror movie. It constantly flirts with the fear of the everyday woman. It places our main character, Tess, in a situation every woman fears could turn awry, and we watch this carousel of female pain unfold through the perspective of three very different characters over different generations. As the mystery unravels, audiences learn that the real horror isn’t what’s hidden in the basement, but in most people’s daily lives.

    -Raelyn Giansanti

    • Actors: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake
    • Released: 2022
    • Directed by: Zach Cregger