The 2022 Reveal Subscriber Poll
In our inaugural reader poll, our paid subscribers offer their ballots and their commentary on the best films of 2022.
We started this newsletter in late September 2021—my first piece was on Restrepo and the 20-year war in Afghanistan, Keith’s was on the little-seen David Chase gem Not Fade Away—and thanks to your generous support, we’re committed to keep growing this community well into the future. (Just do the math on our current Sight & Sound Top 100 project, which we’re visiting every three weeks. That alone will take us nearly six years to complete.) Since 2022 was our first full year in operation, we wanted to revive an idea that I had back in 2006 at The A.V. Club and introduce a Reader’s Poll to see where our paid subscribers stood relative to our lists. We also wanted to hear your voices, too, and many of you took the time—in some cases, a lot of time—to write about your favorite films of the year and other related topics. The document in which I cut-and-paste comments for consideration on this piece runs over 13,000 words long, so our apologies in advance if some or all of your words didn’t make the cut. We’re grateful for all your contributions and humbled that you would share your passion with us. I have lots of notes on the poll results, and, of course, lots of commentary from the participants, so let’s get to it!
The Top 10
1. Tár (239 pts, 72 ballots)
2. Everything Everywhere All at Once (213 pts, 61 ballots)
3. The Banshees of Inisherin (201 pts, 58 ballots)
4. Aftersun (185 pts, 49 ballots)
5. The Fabelmans (150 pts, 49 ballots)
6. Decision to Leave (131 pts, 47 ballots)
7. Nope (95 pts, 33 ballots)
8. After Yang (77 pts, 29 ballots)
9. The Northman (65 pts, 19 ballots)
10. RRR (65 pts, 22 ballots)
Significant others: Top Gun: Maverick (64 pts), Crimes of the Future (51 pts), Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (48 pts), Babylon (28 pts), Turning Red (27 pts), Women Talking (26 pts), Barbarian (22 pts), Pearl (21 pts), We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (20 pts).
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• The voting system for this poll was as crude as possible, mostly to keep the tabulation manageable for someone who majored in Comparative Literature. Voters were simply asked to submit their Top Five and points were rewarded accordingly, with #1 getting five points, #2 getting four, etc. A more sophisticated system—like the Skandies poll my friend and colleague Mike D’Angelo puts together every year—allows for more flexibility in point allotment, so you can register your passion for a given work more forcefully (or not), but that’s beyond my capabilities for now. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting the passion readers felt for a given film, which would slightly reorder the final results. Again, the math on this is crude: Divide the number of points by the number of ballot appearances and you get the average ranking on each film on those ballots.
By that metric, the most beloved film by far in poll was Mad God, special effects maestro Phil Tippett’s forever-in-the-works stop-motion horror experiment, which you can currently stream on Shudder. Alas, Mad God only appeared on two ballots, but both had it at #1, as befitting an achievement this singular. As for the films that actually made the Top 10, the average score would reorder them thusly: Aftersun (3.77), Everything Everywhere All at Once (3.49), The Banshees of Inisherin (3.46), The Northman (3.42), Tár (3.39) The Fabelmans (3.06), Nope (2.97), RRR (2.95), Decision to Leave (2.78), After Yang (2.65). These margins are awfully slim, but there’s enough of a gap between Aftersun and other nine that a big takeaway from the poll should be: “Hey, you should really check out Aftersun.”
• Aftersun also happens to be the only film in the Top 10 that didn’t get reviewed (or, in the case of RRR, long-form essayed) in the newsletter, even though it was #1 on Keith’s Top 15 list and #2 on mine. But readers also deviated from us significantly on Everything Everywhere All at Once, which made the #12 spot on Keith’s list, but missed mine completely, even though I’m a fan of the film on balance. I will say that it’s been a long time—well before the pandemic shut things down—since I’ve seen a public audience respond so strongly to a film. I saw it on a typical sleepy Sunday night at the Landmark Of The Damned here in Chicago and the mood was as supercharged as a festival screening. People who like that film tend to love that film. In other evidence that we may not be turning The Reveal into a hive mind, neither The Northman nor RRR made our Top 15 lists, and you’d have to go five films deep on the Honorable Mentions to get to one (Turning Red) that did.
• Scanning down the ballots a little, we can hand out a few small-sample-size awards here: Turning Red for Best Animated Feature, Barbarian for Best Horror Film (just edging out Pearl and We’re All Going to the World’s Fair), All The Beauty and the Bloodshed (16 pts, 7 ballots) for Best Documentary, and Confess, Fletch! (6 pts, 3 ballots) for Best Three Subscribers We Have.
• Of the 10 Oscar nominees, four made The Reveal list: Tár, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Banshees of Inisherin and The Fabelmans. Most of the other nominees got a generous smattering of votes here, including honorable mention titles like Top Gun: Maverick and Women Talking, and to a lesser extent, Avatar: The Way of Water and Triangle of Sadness. Elvis, on the other hand, appeared on only a single ballot, and All Quiet on the Western Front was shut out entirely.
• Half of you spelled The Fabelmans as The Fablemans. I would shame you had I not submitted a piece recently to The New York Times that repeatedly referred to The Banshees of Inisherin as The Banshees of Inishirin. (If you’re going to be wrong, always be wrong consistently!)
Now to your commentary:
ON THE WINNERS
Portrays the conflict between the demands of celebrity and the abuse of power it invites better and more thoughtfully than the many many films that have tried to do that before. — Bob Koester
I’m not sure what there is to say about this film that hasn't already been said by people much smarter than me, but what an absolutely riveting, nervy, complicated piece of work. It inspired some of the best conversations I've had this year, stuck in my head for weeks, and left me without easy answers. I need to revisit it, but after one watch, I feel pretty confident calling it a masterpiece. — Alex Schneider
Everything Everywhere All at Once
This movie has never left my head since I saw it. Every minute a thrill ride and every jump cut and new idea astonished me. Much like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, it felt like having your skull cracked open and the next 50 years of animation poured into it. EEAAO is the future of filmmaking brought back for us to see. — Tom Speelman
The Banshees of Inisherin
After going back and forth between the top three movies on my list, I settled on Banshees as my favorite because the melancholy existentialism of Martin McDonagh's depiction of a friendship irrevocably falling apart so neatly aligned with my mood in 2022. Even though the movie's not about the pandemic, the concluding sentiment that some things break and can't be fixed resonated with me in a year when the U.S. at least seemed so determined to return to “normal” life. The lines “Maybe you were never nice,” “How's the despair?,” and “You're all feckin' boring!” have basically been running through my head in a loop over the past three months (at least whenever Justin Hurwitz's Babylon theme isn't stuck there). — Angela Woolsey
As [Charlotte] Wells’ film never breaks free from feeling like a child’s memories, so too does Wells’ direction feel fragmented, as if our emotions distort our recollections and keep us from accessing the truth. That Wells has used cinema as a means to search through a memory in hopes for a child to better understand her parent is a triumph of direction. — Brad McDermott
It is a collection of moments filtered through one’s memories (and old video footage) that grapples with the reality that we cannot ever truly know our parents. Not until it culminates in a sublime music-driven finale does the weight of its emotional impact register—and then linger for days after. — Jared Gores
Decision to Leave
A film custom-made to appeal to me: An exquisitely structured plot built around a central mystery that’s ultimately not as important as everything going on around it; a nod to maybe the greatest film of all time (Vertigo); wonderfully restrained performances from the two main leads; a film built around small details and gestures that slowly gain in meaning and resonance. And it’s one of the best looking films of the year. What’s not to love? — Jamsheed Siyar
At its best, science fiction (or speculative fiction, if you prefer) is less a genre than an approach, a way of looking at the world through a new prism. In the case of After Yang, Kogonada takes that prism and shows us that everything everywhere all around us has a buried history that we will never be able to fully understand, no matter how hard we try, but that still informs and undergirds every interaction we have. — Bill Shunn
ON THE ALSO-RANS
Sarah Polley has assembled maybe the pound-for-pound best set of roles and performances by women that I’ve ever seen in a single film: Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, and Jessie Buckley are each given a platform to excel, but a half-dozen other supporting characters ranging from children to grandparents are given remarkable space to deliver soulful, rich, lived-in depictions of women making choices momentous and small, internal and interpersonal. — Chris (a.k.a. “DarkImbecile”)
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Knives Out was my favorite film of 2019, so it was probably inevitable that its follow-up would make an appearance on my list. Thankfully, Glass Onion does not disappoint – it’s a “lighter” and perhaps broader mystery romp, but it is just as smartly constructed and excellently performed (by an entirely new cast of characters, aside from Daniel Craig’s returning Benoit Blanc). While lacking some of the depth of the social commentary of its predecessor, the caper still has a lot on its mind, and its reveals and takedown of the ultimate culprit is immensely satisfying. — Aaron Maurer (a.k.a. “Santos L. Halper”)
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Watched this one on my laptop in a college library in the midst of Senior Project writing, which may be the best way to view it. As someone who spent many a teenage minute browsing /r/nosleep I was always going to love this one, but what I find most striking is in the aspects of performance Casey (Anna Cobb) frequently puts on. The past decade or so has encouraged us to put so much of ourselves out there, but this is a reminder that we never really know who someone is on the other side of the screen. What stops this from scaremongering is that it suggests that's maybe not such a bad thing in the end. — Devan Super
Damien Chazelle turns the early years of Hollywood into a three-hour party, complete with deliriously catchy music and quiet, melancholy interludes. I was on board pretty much the instant Margot Robbie crashed onto the scene and left the theater practically levitating. If there's any magic in movies, it's conjured by the collaboration between artists who are totally in sync with each other, as Chazelle, composer Justin Hurwitz, and editor Tom Cross are here. I loved feeling both like I had no idea what was going to happen next and like I was in the hands of people who knew exactly what they were doing. — Amy Woolsey
Babylon is a work of pure maximalism, containing every scene you could ever think of, every tone under the sun, and every bodily fluid known to man. Its constant buzzing with motion; its desire to pack every frame with detail, gags, and bacchanalia; that's all kept in control by Chazelle's perfect sense of rhythm. Every scene has a musicality to it, rising to a frenzy before exploding on a hard stop and resetting to crescendo all over again. Whether that's exhausting or exhilarating is up to the viewer, but a wild swing that's willing to provoke such strong reactions is a cause for celebration. — Antonio Whitehead
Although I really loved All the Beauty and the Bloodshed and Fire of Love, Sr. was the most impactful documentary I've seen probably since Sarah Polley’s Stories we Tell. The combination of intergenerational trauma/impact; the exploration of family and art and how compatible they are (reminiscent of themes in The Fabelmans); the exposure of an radical but lesser known filmmaker in Robert Downey Sr.; and the ever-changing meta-narrative of a camera crew observing family in an effort to create something was so moving, inspirational, and thought-provoking. — Noah Schuettge
BONUS CONFESS, FLETCH! CONTENT
The best response to a simple dish perfectly cooked is “more, please.” — A.R. Moxon
THE REVEAL AWARD FOR OUTRAGEOUS DEDICATION TO THE ART OF CINEMA
I rented out a luxury apartment building’s screening room to screen RRR for nearly twenty of my friends because I am so passionate/unhinged about this movie. — Andrew Truong
Mad God fans represent! Who's my partner in crime out there?
Honored to be quoted! Thank you!