2021 was seen by many as a sort of leap year when it came to most forms of entertainment. Due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many productions on movies, television shows, and even video games were halted or slowed significantly. In 2022, many of these productions began ramping up, and with it came a flurry of incredible content, running the gamut in genres and styles.
With so much to experience this year, here’s some of my favorite movies, TV shows, and games, in no particular order.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
On its surface, Everything Everywhere All at Once seems like a wacky comedy about a trip through the multiverse. Just like its plot, however, the film is extremely layered, and takes you through a story rich in what it means to be a family, as Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) gets to experience all the different lives she could have lived. Filled with an incredible cast and featuring some surprisingly emotional moments from a film of its nature, it’s no surprise that Everything Everywhere All at Once has already become A24’s most successful film.
Any time a video game, or any piece of entertainment, has extreme build up to it, it’s usually hard for the product to live up to its own hype. Elden Ring bucked that trend, however, delivering something that will stand the test of time as being one of the best games ever made. Taking combat cues from titles like Bloodborne and Dark Souls and merging it with the freedom of a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Elden Ring immediately became a hit, with its demanding combat and alluring world lending itself perfectly to losing yourself in the game. Add to that the cultural phenomenon that the game became, and you have the perfect ingredients for the best game of 2022.
I think one of the best things a movie could do for anyone is to leave you thinking about it for long after you’ve seen it, and Tár does just that. Todd Field’s (Little Children, In the Bedroom) first film in more than a decade is easily his best, and tells the story of Lydia Tár (played perfectly by Cate Blanchett), a composer-conductor and EGOT, whose life and career begins to crumble around her. From an acting standpoint, Blanchett is so good that it often feels like you’re simply watching the real story of Lyda Tár unfold. From a filmmaking view, Field manages to turn a dialogue-heavy film into a well-paced, immaculately detailed, and at one point surprisingly scary project that has every right to be called a masterpiece.
The White Lotus Season 2
The first season of HBO’s The White Lotus introduced us to the fictional hotel chain, as well as an incredibly chaotic story of the many vacationers staying there. While Season 1 of the series was a satirical takedown of the wealthy and their many indulgences, Season 2 takes the premise and expands it even further, featuring a cast that somehow manages to top the incredible performances in the first season. Delving deeper into the themes of class, sex, money, love, and more, creator Mike White has once again managed to wrap a murder mystery up into something so much more.
The Worst Person in the World
Technically, The Worst Person in the World could be counted as a 2021 release, although since its theatrical release in the United States didn’t come until February, I’ll be counting it here. Joachim Trier’s fifth film (and the third entry in his “Oslo Trilogy”) is an excellent look at yearning, mortality, what it means to be unfulfilled, and searching for your place in the world. Telling the story of Julie (played by Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve), a woman on the verge of 30 and struggling to figure out her place in life. Reinsve delivers an incredible performance, perfectly encapsulating the many pitfalls and uncertainties that come with growing up.
God of War: Ragnarök
God of War: Ragnarök had a large image to live up to. 2018’s God of War not only reinvented the series as a whole but delivered an incredible story about a father struggling to connect with his son. Somehow, Ragnarök manages to deliver a stellar sequel that does just enough to make a name for itself. Unlike the first game, Ragnarök is much more action-oriented, focusing on a narrative that deals with a team of people trying to prevent the end of the world. At its core, however, the game is still very much about the father/son dynamic, now with multiple fathers dealing with the sins of their past and not letting it affect their future. Combined with the tight and distinctly brutal combat of God of War, Sony’s Santa Monica Studio has once again delivered a game you have to experience.
Apple TV+ may be known best for the hit comedy series Ted Lasso, but lost in the shuffle of 2022 was one of the best debut seasons of television of any year, in the form of Severance. Telling the story of a group of employees who willingly severe their minds to work at a shady company, Severance quickly unravels into a captivating thriller, complete with tense pacing, an incredibly unique style, and standout performances from a star-studded cast. The finale of the first season, especially, was a masterclass in building up tension into a shocking conclusion and left me wanting more the second the credits began rolling.
Cult of the Lamb
In what is possibly the cutest game about running a demonic cult, Cult of the Lamb stars the player as a lamb who gets sent back from the dead following a ritualistic murder. From there, you’re tasked with building up a cult, taking care of them, and also managing how they go about their day-to-day lives. While that might not sound like the most fun, Cult of the Lamb‘s combination of roguelite dungeon-crawling and management sim just works, all while featuring a cast of characters that ooze personality, thanks to the game’s easily lovable art style.
Perhaps the most underrated show on this list, The Bear didn’t make many waves when it originally premiered on FX on Hulu in the middle of the year. Since then, however, the series has become a breakout hit, and for good reason. The Bear tells the story of Carmy Berzatto, a classically trained chef who returns to Chicago following the death of his brother to take over the family-owned Italian beef sandwich shop. What follows is a surprisingly emotional tale about family, trauma, addiction, and grief, as well as the chaotic and at times downright dangerous nature of working in the food industry.
Decision to Leave
Park Chan-wook is a legendary filmmaker, so it should come as no surprise that his latest film, Decision to Leave, is yet another standout film of the year. Unlike other films like Oldboy or The Handmaiden, however, Decision to Leave is a much more subdued film, simply telling the story of detective Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) as he investigates Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei), the wife of a recently deceased man. As the movie unfolds, what starts as a simple investigation eventually turns into a tale of romantic obsession between the two, with both Park Hae-il and Tang Wei delivering all-time performances (Wei, specifically, should be included in more award conversations than she is). From a filmmaking standpoint, Park Chan-wook is once again a master of the craft, as every shot in this film feels expertly placed and leaves you wanting to go back and rewatch just to see what you may have missed. It might not be what fans of his are expecting, but it is another stellar entry in an already impressive resume.