It’s that time of year, where we celebrate the year that has passed with the movies that stuck in our minds. This year was fairly easy to find 10 movies I loved, and that’s in spite of seeing at least 200 films made before the 1970s (and/or that played on TCM). So, let’s not gild the lily further, here are my top 10 film discoveries of 2022.
Note: As mentioned above, the movies included here are either pre-1970 OR aired on TCM and thus are worthy of inclusion. Also, please don’t comment “X isn’t a ‘classic'” or however you might want to deconstruct the headline.
- Good Girls Go to Paris (1939) – A charming romantic comedy that gives Joan Blondell a true chance to shine.
- The Decks Ran Red (1958) – This isn’t a great vehicle to watch for Dorothy Dandridge; she does well with what she’s given. It is, however, an incredibly intense thriller with a (should have been) Oscar-worthy performance from Broderick Crawford.
- Shopworn (1932) – If this movie had committed to Clara Blandick trying to kill Barbara Stanwyck’s character, a woman who is dating her son, it might have made the 10. Regardless, this was an enjoyable entry in the “uncomfortably close moms” subgenre of films.
- The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) – Joan Collins is exquisite in the true life story of Evelyn Nesbit. The narrative is softened a lot for 1955—there’s reason to believe now the Nesbit/Thau murder was a story of sexual assault—but it has a gut punch of an ending.
- Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) – Thank you to Sheila O’Malley for putting this on my radar. The WEIRDEST movie you’ll probably watch, Elvis aside, with a dream sequence that’s pure nightmare fuel.
- The Trouble With Girls (1969) – Elvis’ last feature film is one where he feels very ancillary, but it has some solid jokes in it.
- Rachel, Rachel (1968) – Paul Newman directs a poignant film with an emotionally charged performance from his wife Joanne Woodward. Such a sweet, melancholy film that I doubt we’d ever make today.
- The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) – Speaking of movies that’d never get made today. Jack Benny plays an angel sent to Earth to blow the trumpet that ends the world. On top of that the villains are two fallen angels who enjoy living in a literal hell on Earth. This needs to be seen!!
- Cleopatra (1934) – Cecil B. DeMille crafts such an opulent, lush, and sexy take on the famous Egyptian queen. Claudette Colbert’s costumes are fan. tastic. I want to live in this movie.
- Chungking Express (1994) – Wong Kar-Wai makes one of the best romantic dramas of all time. The ending scene is one I think about at least once a week.
I’m a sucker for movies about making movies and if you watch one movie about the silent era this year make it this 1975 Jeff Bridges feature! Bridges plays a young man who winds up making silent era Westerns. Directed by Howard Zieff, who made my favorite movie of all time, My Girl, this is such an earnest, fun feature with Bridges at his best.
I’m not sure what I expected from this Alexander Mackendrick directed feature starring Tony Curtis as a man who, through a series of shenanigans, ends up being stranded in Southern California. It’s a sly little sex comedy that, weirdly, works best when Curtis himself just stays out of the way. Sharon Tate is utterly beautiful as Malibu. I can’t say why this movie has stuck with me all year, but I haven’t been able to forget it.
8. Sylvia and the Ghost (1946)
Much like my appreciation for I Married a Witch (1942), the French feature Sylvia and the Ghost was a similar fantasy romance, this time involving ghosts. Odette Joyeux plays the titled Sylvia who harbors a love for the ghost that presumably haunts her family’s castle. But when her family becomes committed to undoing Sylvia’s crush by hiring three men to play ghosts that’s where the fun begins. This doesn’t play like a Halloween movie, though it could be if you’re looking for something that’s romantic and playful. It’s a wonderful, swoony romance with a fantastical element I couldn’t help by smile through.
7. Scandal (1950)
This year I was committed to diversifying my films and watched nearly all of the Toshiro Mifune slate of films aired during his Summer Under the Stars tribute. I saw a lot of wonderful films for the first time, including Rashomon (1950) and the excellent I Live in Fear (1955), both of which could have made this list. But, in the end, I couldn’t stop thinking about this quiet little film from 1950. Mifune plays a man who arrives at a resort at the same time as a famous singer. The pair are romantically linked by a tabloid leading to the pair filing a lawsuit. But that’s actually ancillary to the story of three disparate people brought together this scandal, including a heartbreaking performance from Takashi Shimura, an Akira Kurosawa regular. Seriously, there’s a sequence in a bar that left me in tears. Kurosawa, man, he knew how to make a film that sticks with you.
I watched a lot of Sidney Poitier movies this year so don’t expect this to be the only time you see him on here. Poitier pulls double duty here as both director and star, telling the story of a doctor who falls in love with a woman dying of sickle cell disease. Is it standard inspiration romance, with a beautiful dying woman at its center? Yes. But Poitier and the lovely Esther Anderson have such phenomenal chemistry I didn’t care. Poitier is also incredibly playful here, going to a nightclub at one point. I’m so used to seeing Poitier have to be an overly upstanding gentleman and here it’s great to see him as a father and man trying to find love, have fun, and be normal. Such a fantastic romance.
Seeing this in a movie theater during the TCM Classic Film Fest this year was easily the funnest moviegoing experience I’ve had. When Joan Crawford’s venal Eva Phillips slaps a character across the face, the entire theater went “Ooooh” so loud! But you shouldn’t expect anything less from Joan, especially when she’s reteamed with Ranald McDougal who wrote her Oscar-winning turn in Mildred Pierce (1945). Queen Bee is no Mildred Pierce, but it’s fun as hell. Crawford plays Eva with a polish and excess that sets the tone for the likes of ’80s TV shows like Dynasty. Couple that with some wonderful side performances from the likes of Barry Sullivan and a pre-Friday the 13th Betsy Palmer and you have some 1950s movie magic here!
I could preface my appreciation for this movie with “It’s directed by Vincente Minnelli” or “it’s Elizabeth Taylor’s best acting performance.” But, honestly, I’m gonna say it’s because Richard Burton plays a priest and I’m a terrible Catholic. Honestly, this is one of the sexiest movies you’re likely to see. Burton plays the aforementioned sexy (and married) reverend while Taylor plays a free-spirited single mother. The two meet up when Taylor’s parenting is questioned and the rest of the movie is one horny scene after another. Seriously, this is a film where a large wooden statue of a nude Taylor is on display in every frame! This movie is the definition of thirst and I. am. here. for it.
I actually missed this at TCMFF this year so decided to catch up with it at home, and thank goodness I did. This movie made me sob! Richard Matheson—acclaimed sci-fi writer Richard Matheson—wrote the script for this utterly perfect romantic drama with Christopher Reeve as a man who travels back to the turn-of-the-century to find a woman in a portrait. I don’t even want to say more than that because you just need to experience both the level of detail to the time travel conceit as well as how utterly nuanced the romance is. Oh, and did I mention Christopher Plummer is in this playing a turn-of-the-century cad? You’re welcome!
I have Samantha to thank for this one because she put it on my radar during our Liz Taylor episode. But I doubt she expected me to absolutely fall deep in love with this EPIC feature. Seriously, it stars so many A-listers it’s enough to make you go cross-eyed, but for me it was all about the love triangle that is Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, and Louis Jourdan. Though, seriously, Louis didn’t stand a chance in hell. Burton is at his finest here and Liz Taylor is on equal footing. This is an epic soap opera that I have watched a few times since and never fail to get wrapped up in it.
Told you Sidney Poitier was going to show up again. This was Poitier’s attempt to craft a revisionist Western and damn does he succeed! He and Harry Belafonte (and Ruby Dee) are pure fire. This isn’t just a revisionist Western exploring how Black people traversed the West, it also does some unique things with the Indigenous characters even if they are, at times, problematic. This movie is equal parts action-packed, emotional, and a genuinely entertaining way of looking at the past through a marginalized perspective. A perfect movie.