Top 10 Movies of Summer 2022

In a summer filled with superheroes, dinosaurs, animated family films, and Sundance festival darlings take a look at the top 10 movies of summer 2022. Did your favorites make the cut? See what was chosen as the best of the best.

Just like that summer is over. Where has the time gone? It feels like just yesterday everyone was anticipating the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It honestly feels odd to have a summer movie season back, after it was canceled in 2020 and had a delayed rollout through 2021. As is tradition the summer movie season kicked off with the release of a Marvel film, and after a strong few months, it appears the box office has slowed down with some lighter August offerings.

One of the most fascinating developments of this summer movie season was the diverse line up of films. In the first full summer back since the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the major studios spaced out their releases leaving a lot more room for smaller films to come in under the radar. There was room at the multiplex for a major film like Top Gun: Maverick alongside something like Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. Films aimed at older audiences like Elvis and The Black Phone managed to draw a sizable box office intake and were a strong indicator that audiences were back. It was a good summer to be back at the movies where there was something for everyone.

Ironically, despite this being the first full year theaters were fully back in business some of the best movies of the summer came from streaming releases. Part of this is likely do to these films entering development and being in production during COVID-19, but it feels like the previous summer movie seasons could have benefited from this years strong batch of streaming films. Some films like Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers and Prey feel like they could have been big theatrical releases just five years ago, and in a slower movie summer how these films might have faired at the box office had Disney released them.

But now with Labor Day weekend at hand, the summer movie season comes officially to an end. With that, this is a look at the best movies of summer 2022, released in theaters or on streaming.

10. Bodies Bodies Bodies

Release Date: August 5

The number 10 spot was a four-way battle between some really strong films. Just coming out ahead of The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Elvis, and Nope is Bodies Bodies Bodies. This horror comedy is a biting satire of Gen Z but also an empathetic examination. While there are plenty of jokes at the expense of these young kids, it is also one that feels very much like it is giving them a specific voice and point of view that is often missing from horror films. Horror movies are traditionally a young persons genre, and Bodies Bodies Bodies feels like a breath of fresh air just because it actually seems to be a movie made for its specific target audience the same way the 80’s slashers were for their time.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is in many ways a movie of its specific moment and time, and there is something special about that. How it will age remains to be seen, but right now it is a suspenseful and humorous piece that likely years from now will make viewers go “remember 2022?” Sometimes the best movies of the summer are the ones that take you by surprise, and there is probably no bigger surprise this summer than Bodies Bodies Bodies.

9. Night of the Coconut

Release Date: June 17

Certainly, it can be up for debate if Night of the Coconut, a Nebula exclusive, counts as a film or a season finale (which is what it’s billed as), but the project did feature a film premiere at a theater and has a category on Letterboxd so that makes it more than fair for consideration.

The epic conclusion to Patrick H. Willems’s popular story focused on Charl the Coconut he had been planting across his YouTube videos since 2020, Night of the Coconut works for long-time fans of Patrick H. Willems but also as a stand-alone small-budget sci-fi action comedy. It is interesting how the film was released the same year as two other multiversal films, Everything Everywhere All At Once and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but Night of the Coconut goes for a more absurd self-referential meta approach which in many ways gives it the vibe of a big budget high concept studio comedy with a laid back easygoing tone. The creativity mixed with just the sheer ridiculousness of the concept harkens back to high-concept comedies like Ghostbusters or Austin Powers (both of which Patrick H. Willems covered on his channel). It is hard not to marvel at the impressive feat of a filmmaker operating on a minimal budget but giving the project an epic scope. What could feel like just a bunch of friends hanging out making a low-budget film together (which this is), Night of the Coconut is an impressive calling card for everyone involved while also managing to be a clever satire about influencer culture and clout chasing and an examination of isolation in a post COVID world.

Also, there was not a single line of dialogue in a mainstream movie this year funnier than “It’s like Entourage, but with two Vinnies and no Turtles.”

8. Emily the Criminal

Release Date: August 12

After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Vertical Entertainment and Roadside Attractions acquired Emily the Criminal and set it as a late summer release. The film follows Emily (Aubrey Plaza), a young woman living in Los Angeles who is deep in college debt due to a prior felony conviction preventing her for getting a better job. She eventually takes part in a credit card scam, acting as a dummy shopper and getting involved in higher stakes transactions for larger payouts that lead her down a dark path. Emily the Criminal is a topical film, one addressing the fears and anxieties of a generation dealing with student loan debt. Plaza has really been working hard to redefine herself as a performer and Emily the Criminal, alongside Black Bear and Ingrid Goes West, shows that Plaza is one of the most versatile and dramatically talented performers working today.

7. A Love Song

Release Date: July 29

Summer movie season typically means big action spectacles, and while there was no shortage of that it is sometimes the smallest films that truly shine. That is the case with A Love Song. Directed, written, produced, and co-edited by Max Walker-Silverman in his feature directorial debut, A Love Song is a simple story of two widowed friends who spend the night together by the lake in the Colorado Mountains. The two leads, Dale Dickey and Wes Sudi, have been two of the best character actors working in Hollywood and it is great to see them both given lead roles, particularly as there are not many roles written for performers of this age.

A Love Song is a sweet, romantic, and also melancholy slice-of-life movie. Its beautiful majestic shots of the landscape, contrasted with the smallness of the human subjects, are both awe-inspiring and a reminder to the the viewer of just how short our time on this planet is and we need to make the most of it. This might be a simple tale, but it is gracefully told and well acted by two of the best actors working. It might be too early to be talking about the Academy Awards, but it would be a crime if Dale Dickey was overlooked for this performance.

6. Hustle

Release Date: June 3

While much hype was made about Netflix’s The Gray Man and social media was caught up in The Purple Heart, it was the streamer’s latest collaboration with Adam Sandler that stood out as their best film of the summer in the form of Hustle. Sandler stars as an NBA scout who discovers a talented Spanish basketball player (played by Juancho Hernangomez) and attempts to train him for the NFL draft, while also balancing the career he wants and looking out for the best interest of this young player.

Hustle really drives home just how good Sandler is as a dramatic actor, continuing a winning streak from films like Punch Drunk Love, Funny People, and Uncut Gems. It is a movie about basketball that can even appeal to audiences who aren’t that well versed in the sport because it is an engaging human story about following one’s dream. Hustle in many ways feels like the adult-oriented dramas that don’t get much of a chance to shine in theaters, particularly in the summer movie season, but was a pleasant surprise.

5. Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris

Release Date: July 15

Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris is delightful and that’s all I should really need to say. Every summer needs that feel-good movie, and Mrs. Harris is the film equivalent of a nice hug. It is infectiously joyful, subtly charming, and just overall a sweet story about a working-class woman who wants to do one nice thing for herself but can’t help but inspire and change people’s lives around her for the better. Similar to characters in movies like Paddington or Superman, Mrs. Harris inspires others around her to be better just by being herself.

Leslie Manville’s performance is the perfect mix of sweet and nuanced, where her smile hides a world of hurt yet she keeps moving forward. The whole film is filled with great performances from established stars like Isabelle Huppert, Ellen Thomas, Jason Isaacs, and  Lambert Wilson, to surprisingly revolutionary performances from Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, and Rose Williams. Not a single weak performance in this charming comfort film. There are apparently more “Mrs. Harris Goes To…” books and this is one franchise the world really needs but does not know it.

4. Lightyear

Release Date: June 17

We’ve already ran a review for Lightyear which you can read HERE. Lightyear sets out to create the type of movie that would have been Andy’s favorite movie, and it easily succeeds by making a straightforward clear cut science fiction adventure film drawing inspiration from the greats like Star Wars, Aliens, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dune, and Planet of the Apes. Lightyear might not be the studio’s most emotionally mature film, but it still manages to be a classic good-time blockbuster and a thoughtful examination of how time moves very quickly and it is best to enjoy our lives with the people we love instead of chasing what might have been.

Here is a great indicator of how much this reviewer in particular enjoyed Lightyear: This is the first movie I’ve seen in a theater three times since the COVID-19 pandemic. I could not get enough of this film and watched it again twice the week they put it on Disney+. While the box office indicates there might not be a sequel, Lightyear stands perfectly well on its own and likely will be revisited by younger Disney fans as a hidden gem the same way Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire found audiences.

3. Prey

Release Date: August 5

Prey was the latest film that we ran a review on which can be read HERE.

Prey is the Predator sequel that audiences have been waiting years for, and has now put the franchise back in the public spotlight the way no film has since the original. This feels like a miracle movie. It’s lean, mean, and simple. It knows to deliver on the goods of the Predator killing a variety of people in creative ways, but also manages to tell a moving story about one woman forging her own path in a world that has told her she can only be one thing. The Predator in 1719 isn’t just a clever change of location, but one where the title monster fits the historical aspect and ties into the film’s overall thematic richness. Prey manages to have more to say in just 99 minutes than some movies do in over two and a half hours, while also managing to deliver what is the most metal blockbuster since Mad Max: Fury Road. In the most simple terms: Prey rules.

2. Top Gun: Maverick

Release Date: May 27

Based on the box office for Top Gun: Maverick it is likely if you are reading this that you have seen Top Gun: Maverick at least once, if not gone back multiple times. There is no denying that Top Gun: Maverick is the movie of the summer, and Paramount’s decision to wait to release it for over two years during the COVID-19 pandemic might be the single smartest business decision in the studio’s storied history.

It certainly isn’t hard to see why Top Gun: Maverick has been a box office sensation. The action truly is a sight to behold and the film’s epic scope truly demands to be seen on a big screen. But it is more than that. The film has resonated with audiences on a much deeper level than spectacle. Top Gun: Maverick feels like a quintessential summer movie (it certainly helps that the film’s script basically boils down to ‘we all need to rehearse to pull off a real Death Star trench run’). It is a story of clear good guys, vaguely defined bad guys that don’t need much development so the movie can spend more time digging into the personal dynamics between the various members. It has classic pop songs, a bright gold summer hue, and features a feel-good ending where the good guys win and everyone gets a happy ending so the audiences leave the theater on the biggest high note.

While it certainly was not planned as this during production, the movie also became a fitting metaphor for the cinematic experience. At the beginning of the movie, everyone keeps telling Maverick (and basically Tom Cruise) that he is washed up and finished, a new age is upon them and the only way he is relevant is literally going back to Top Gun. This is broad enough to be read as the traditional action movie being replaced by franchise superhero movies or even the theatrical experience being threatened by streaming. However Top Gun: Maverick is there to remind audiences there is still a place for this type of entertainment and the power of the big screen.

1. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Release Date: June 24

From a movie with massive scope in Top Gun: Maverick to a film on the opposite end of the spectrum, Marel the Shell With Shoes On is small in many ways, from the lead character to runtime to its origins as originally a series of shorts. Yet despite the size of its lead character, the movie’s heart is massive. The film revolves around a young shell named Marcel (Jenny Slate), an anthropomorphic shell living with his grandmother Connie (Isabella Rossellini) in an apartment that is being rented out as an Airbnb where a documentarian resident begins recording Marcel’s life and helps him track down his lost family.

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On can be enjoyed as a family movie by an audience member of any age, no matter how young or old, because the film’s emotions are deeply human despite coming from a talking shell. While some older viewers might see the film’s big emotional moment coming, it still lands as an emotionally devastating blow. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is as much a roller coaster as Top Gun: Maverick, taking the audience on an emotional trip from laughing, crying, and then smiling so large. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is a gem of a movie, a real discovery, and one that will likely build up a larger collection of fans as the years go on. In a summer filled with great movies, from a variety of genres showcasing mighty superheroes, horrors from outer space, multiversal shenanigans, and grounded love stories it is this little film about a talking shell that is the best movie of summer 2022.