What were the best movies of 2022 released in cinemas, streaming services, or topping the most popular film festivals? Get your coffee, tea, wine, or any other drink of your preference, make yourself comfortable and start filling in the 2022 watchlist!
The last twelve months exceeded the previous two when the pandemic hit the filmmaking industry hard. Many studios moved the big premieres for 2021 – such as Dune (2021) or No Time To Die (2021) – but there was no shortage of blockbusters premiering in 2022.
Also, it’s been much more challenging to pick the best 20 movies this year. The competition was tight, and we sadly had to leave many great films on the shortlist. That being said, there are still three or four pending movies that might grab themselves a last-chance seat, so be sure to come back in a month or two.
Without further ado, let’s look at the best films of 2022.
When it seemed that defeatism was there was left for found footage horror, Joseph and Vanessa Winter lifted the spell through Deadstream (2022).
The film follows a fallen-from-grace YouTuber Shawn Ruddy, who quite obviously hints at Logan Paul, and who also happens to plot an ingenious scheme to skyrocket back to the trending list. Shawn installs himself in a haunted mansion and turns it into a live stream.
Where Deadstream (2022) excels is the perfect balance between comedy and horror, spiced up by witty criticism of the world of influencers and their vanity. Shawn’s fans make him more agitated, and while pushing the boundaries of shoving himself in front of danger, he also becomes pitiful proof of how empty and second-lasting is today’s fame.
#19 Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (2022) lulls its audience from the first frame and maintains its pulling force effortlessly. Few films have the power to glue so hard, although Linklater doesn’t deploy an artillery of plot twists, spectacular action pieces, and whatnot.
On the contrary, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (2022) casts the spell of absolute absorption through the means of unhurried storytelling and working out a fantastic trick of making the audience feel deep nostalgia about things many of us didn’t experience. I’m not American, yet Linklater made me reminisce my childhood as if I lived in the same Houston suburbs as the characters in this animated film, dusting off the classics such as Donovan’s Barabajagal or Riders In The Sky by The Ventures and passionately observing the Cold War.
Talk about the power of immersion, right?
#18 Triangle of Sadness
Ruben Östlund garnered my everlasting love for The Square (2017).
While Triangle of Sadness (2022) isn’t on par with his bittersweet look at one unhappy museum curator from Stockholm, it’s still goddamn great.
Triangle of Sadness (2022) arms with sharp criticisms, a luxury boat filled with rich people and poor people aspiring to riches, but also lots of human feces, vomit, tears, and screams, all mashed up into one nitroglycerine cocktail that Ruben Östlund shakes purposefully.
He goes full-on both ways. When the world’s supposed to look sumptuous, it does – the naked men are like Greek sculptures, the served dishes are definitions of food porn, and so on. Hideousness arrives with equal glory, though, presenting itself both on the surface and also on the inside. Everyone’s selfish and convinced about their own unique value, which Östlund brutally butchers while always taking shrewd notes of the tipping balance between beauty and ugliness. Naturally, he also ornaments this societal study with hilarious characters in bizarre situations that draw us out of our comfort zone.
We have finally buried the hatchet with Alex Garland. What a great feeling that is.
Men (2022), a gripping folk horror with polarizing tones of feminism, relationship abuse, grief, and patriarchy-obsessed society, earned its spot among the top scary films of 2022. Garland’s horror follows Harper (Jessie Buckley), who recently lost her husband after a cumbersome relationship. Healing won’t be easy, but Harper’s decision to clean her mind in a remotely situated cottage sounds too perfect to be true. On one fatal stroll in the woods, Harper wakes up a vengeful entity that begins to haunt her.
Matching the outstanding visual horrors of Annihilation (2018), Alex Garland opens Pandora’s Box, where Rory Kinnear’s face gets a CGI makeover in a variety of creepy characters. Although Men (2022) features a few jump scares Garland bets on an atmosphere of an overwhelming siege, an abusive breach of privacy seen as the threat of men that weighs heavily on Harper’s mind.
- How Alex Garland created a body horror extravaganza in the third act of Men (2022)
- Exploring all the hidden meanings and symbolism of Men (2022)
Oh boy, wasn’t 2022 the year of revival for many dying cinematic relics?
Tom Cruise got to sit in the cockpit again, and Predator – following the many travesties done to its name – celebrated its perhaps best turn since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s jungle brawl. What made the original film so compelling was its surgical approach to building tension and focusing solely on the clash of two beasts – one from this planet, one from the other.
Prey (2022) also strips the concept of a thriller to an absolute minimum. Dan Trachtenberg brings us Naru, a Native American protagonist with a relatable drive and a lot of heart and zeal to prove herself among her tribesmen. In the opposite corner stands an extraterrestrial armed with warfare tech from the future and a narrow-focused mission to hunt.
Prey (2022) teems with barnstorming combat choreographies, filmed exquisitely and with plenty of gory details to satisfy horror-seeking viewers. Its plot backbone works incredibly well – sometimes, it takes a battle with a Predator to gain the respect of your brothers and sisters.
#15 Top Gun: Maverick
It’s relatively safe to assume that no one craved a follow-up to Tom Cruise’s love story, which got just the right amount of toxic masculinity, bare-chest men playing in the sand, and scenes shot at sunset. But what Joseph Kosinski achieved in Top Gun: Maverick (2022) surpassed any possible expectations because the director understands the gravitas of the relic he’s toying with.
The sequel cherishes the original’s most cringe-worthy and obsolete parts and does so with heartfelt sympathy and nostalgia. It’s not here to either mock or milk the predecessor. Top Gun: Maverick (2022) cements the everlasting stardom of Tom Cruise, for whom the return to the pilot’s cabin feels genuinely exciting. Everything about this film is light years better than the original – the modern technology makes the flight sequence riveting; the story exists in perfect harmony with Tony Scott’s film but also adds the much-needed emotional substance to the characters.
It’s everything that blockbuster movies should be these days.
#14 Soft & Quiet
No other movie this year has shaken my human core like Soft & Quiet (2022) did. The plot documents the events surrounding a group of white supremacists who one day meet up in a local town vestry. A Sunday gathering of a few white women takes a disturbing, outrageous turn as they channel their hatred toward defenseless victims. Director Beth de Aráujo opts for the most verbatim style possible, throwing the audience into the film without cuts and sticking to the events as closely as one would be.
That’s her secret recipe – injecting the audience with powerlessness as we are forced to sit through the birth of a despicable act, moving like a speeding train with no brakes. Each bad decision brings consequences, and the main characters – vile, rotten, and terrifying – are stuck in a perpetual loop of decadence and evil. Out of many films that dealt with outbursts of violence with racism as the leading underlying cause, Soft & Quiet (2022) kicks hard enough to leave you with an emptiness that desperately needs to be filled – with empathy and something that will, at least partially, fix this broken world.
#13 After Yang
I am still waiting to see Banshees of Inisherin (2022), which I hope will find its spot in my top 2023. But Colin Farrell’s renaissance begins with After Yang (2021), a sci-fi film as soft as a breeze and poignant as the most beautiful of tales. Kogonada’s direction makes every moment genuine and thoughtful; every word spoken weighs as if life depended on it.
And yet it’s not overly self-serious, thanks to the grounded work of Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, and Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja – an eclectic family from the future, whose problems with cultural heritage, belonging, and mutual understanding are the standard language for the past and the present too.
When I watched Klondike (2022) at Sundance Film Festival in January, I could not possibly predict the impact and timely symbolism that Maryna Er Gorbach’s drama would have. Commenting on the events surrounding Crimea’s conflict in 2014, the Ukrainian director shows an odious and senseless war from the perspective of victims whose only way out is to accept the torture, the humiliation, and the destruction, all in the hope of somehow surviving.
We follow a couple living near the Russian border who refuses to simply abandon their home. Gorbach’s film oozes a nihilistic aura, but there’s also the spirit of unity in pain and the urge to stand up to the invader. That unbreakable will carried the Ukrainian nation throughout these last months of Russian crimes, and Klondike (2022) captures it in the role of Oksana Cherkashyna. The actor’s final sequence – a paralyzing mix of horror, drama, and inhuman tenacity- eventually turns Gorbach’s film into a masterpiece.
It’s not easy to watch, but given the political situation – Klondike (2022) should be watched, spoken about, and kept as a warning sign.
- Our favorites from Sundance Film Festival 2022
#11 God’s Country
God’s Country (2022) has gone under the radar, and it’s one of these American indies that should be called out and appreciated.
Thandiwe Newton flexes her muscles in this tight thriller from director Julian Higgins and stars as a professor who lives remotely near the entrance to a national park. One day, a bunch of marauders disturbed her peace – hunters who do not see her as one of their own. Escalation follows, and what begins as a simple premise of a revenge tale eventually morphs into a film about alienation and social ostracism in extreme measures.
While many stories about seeking justice revolve around the sense of justified retribution, God’s Country (2022) seeks answers for the roots of solid apprehension-turned-hostility that often has no explanation. What terrifies the most – is the triviality of the quarrel ending in a catastrophe. Yet, also the keen eye of Higgins, who extrapolates one incident into any kind of inner circle, thus telling a universal story that could happen anywhere in the world.
#10 Mad God
Phil Tippett’s insane stop-motion animation took over thirty years, but the wait was beyond worth it.
Packed neatly in around ninety minutes, Mad God (2022) collects a series of loosely tied plots to depict a world without a higher power. Laced within the threads of this gorgeously looking, disturbing canvas are tons of biblical references, metaphors, and philosophical disputes concerning religion, the meaning of life and pain, and other themes alike.
That may be a challenging watch to some – since Mad God (2022) contains no dialogue and a lot of gruesome, nauseating gore – but those willing to stay will find Tippet’s visionary piece highly rewarding.
- Our take on the complex symbolism of Mad God
Baz Lurhmann’s explosive Elvis (2022) is a hippy trip that washes away any traces of a negative image of the king of rock’n’roll. It’s what Andrew Dominik missed by miles in Blonde (2022) – the love and admiration for its main character.
Portrayed by the unbelievably charismatic Austin Butler, Elvis lives again, in flesh and blood, with shaky hips, flawless stylizations, and unforgettable performances. It’s a mesmerizing rise-to-fame story but also a testament to the journey many musicians experience – all of the disappointments, stage fright, and constant ups and downs.
Lurhmann achieves a unique shape of Elvis (2022), one of a biopic that begs to differ from any other of its kind. It’s fast, like a speeding train, with a magnificent score that ranges from melodic classics to rearrangements of Presley’s variegated music styles.
#8 Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Sweet, poignant, and witty in equal measure, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (2022) talks about intimacy and sexuality from the perspective of two people who meet in a hotel room – a widow named Nancy (Emma Thompson), and sex worker Leo (Daryl McCormack). Katy Brand’s script fleshes out all sorts of appearance-related anxieties that inadvertently arrive as life becomes more of a memory than the future.
Emma Thompson’s impeccable performance has all the nuances the actress got us used to. Her courage adds a personal dimension – the acceptance of time and its stamp on the human body – which makes Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (2022) hit so close to home.
Equally brilliant is her counterpart, played by Daryl McCormack. As the titular Leo Grande, McCormack contradicts common misconceptions and hurtful stigmas concerning sex work. No other comedy this year felt so light-hearted and spirited while also touching on a sensitive topic with utmost subtlety.
Continue reading: What makes Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (2022) such a delightful gem from Sundance.
- Let’s talk about sex: the greatness of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Set against the backdrop of the Soviet Union’s collapse, January (2022) signs off as a love letter to the art of cinema, understood as both meticulous documentation of history and a creative process of capturing raw emotions on camera. Director Viesturs Kairiss follows an aspiring filmmaker, Jazis, as he navigates his cinematic education in the turbulent times of a boiling revolt in Latvia.
January (2022) discusses the responsibility of artists as storytellers and bards. Kairiss weaves the canvas with threads that either express the artistic urges of Jazis or see his struggle in fulfilling dreams when torn apart between love and the call of duty.
- January by Viesturs Kairiss explains how Soviet propaganda worked
#6 You Won’t Be Alone
The most admirable aspect of Goran Stolevski’s folk horror is that it escapes beaten paths. Set in the remote mountains of Macedonia in the 19th century, You Won’t Be Alone (2022) unravels a part-grisly, part-whimsical fable of what it means to be human. The story follows a young apprentice of a witch who learns the ropes of existing among villagers under various disguises.
The idea of body snatching gives Stolevski space for philosophical ruminations about one’s search for identity, while the journey’s also frequently gory and satisfying for horror fans. Stolevski’s also a gifted visual artist, judging from the extravagant camerawork that often brings Terrence Malick to mind. Consequently, You Won’t Be Alone (2022) is as elegant as it is poignant – an ephemeral creation of filmmaking extravaganza that immediately adds Goran Stolevski to the list of top modern filmmakers to follow.
- Horrors of being a human: You Won’t Be Alone
#5 I Love My Dad
I Love My Dad (2022) by James Morosini will make you cry for many reasons.
Firstly, it’s a tragic story of a sickening father who barges into his son’s life without mercy and devises an outstandingly bad-on-every-level plan to rebuild the lost connection. Worth mentioning is that this evil scheme involves catfishing. Catfishing his son. Yes, you got that right.
Now, the second reason your eyes will be wet is the unendurable amounts of cringe streaming from almost every film scene. Patton Oswalt, who plays the father, puts all of his charms to work, and they form a great trio with Claudia Sulewski and James Morosini, but it’s the script that smartly plays with the point of view to make the outcome far more cringe-y than one can imagine (and bear).
Morosini bases the story on his own experiences, making this film personal and thus horrifying. To think that even part of this story happened to someone is to have the basis of fundamental human relationships shattered into pieces.
So, I loved this film because it made me appreciate my Dad, and that’s the last reason that may make you want to shed a tear. Because in all of its bizarreness and tragedy, I Love My Dad (2022) reinforces the value of family – however ill it may sometimes be.
#4 The Whale
Remember when Matthew McConaughey basked in his glory in 2014 when the world’s already written him off? The list of Hollywood stars who got kicked out of their stairway to heaven is long and includes Brendan Fraser. But before I rave about Fraser, let me speak about the film as a whole.
The Whale (2022) by Darren Aronofsky has a lot to offer, marking his undeniable return to form. Direction’s sharp, precise and consistent at all times, the score by Rob Simonsen hums its nerve-wracking melodies in the background like a sleepless monster looming from afar, and the scenography – along with cinematography – abides by the rules of Aronofsky’s solemn storytelling.
All of it is great, but this story about the morbidly obese teacher – even with all these elements in place – wouldn’t be such a heart-wrenching punch without its actors. Brendan Fraser’s lifetime achievement is here. Fraser channels the pain of someone with a clock ticking above his head, unable to perform most mundane activities, and having to live in shame. Completing his performance are Sadie Sink and Hong Chau, whose turns as Fraser’s daughter and nurse encapsulate the torment imposed on those around the dying man.
The Whale (2022) is scary, for it shows both the feeble nature of humans and our indestructible determination – for better and for worse.
Matt Reeves carried an unimaginable weight to live up to the legend of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy – a task that fatefully overwhelmed Zack Snyder.
Reeves adhered to the comic book vision of Gotham City and the Caped Crusader, mustering an array of familiar villains against the backdrop of the world terrorized in fancy new, tech-savvy ways. Reeves’ script plays with modern fears in the same fashion that The Dark Knight (2009) did, and this decision pays off immensely. The Riddler’s every bit creepy (forget Jim Carrey’s looney take), oozing an aura of horror and twisted barbarism hidden behind a dark costume that’s very different from Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker (2019); however, also equally disturbing and grounded in modern days.
Supported by Collin Farrel’s surprising turn as Penguin and Zoe Kravitz’s heartfelt Catwoman, the collection of antagonists has the best nemesis in the flesh of Robert Pattinson. His portrayal of Bruce Wayne captures the more intense, untamed nature of the early days of the masked vigilante.
On top of it comes the brilliant music from Michael Giacchino and a nifty script that meanders between the grim alleys of Gotham.
- Check out the best fan posters of Joaquin Phoenix as Joker
#2 Marcel The Shell with Shoes On
Disguised as just another whimsical tale from A24, Marcel The Shell with Shoes On (2022) gives voice to one tiny mollusk with an elephantine heart. It’s the equivalent of a hug when the world around begins to collapse or a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day.
Director Dean Fleischer-Camp, who also co-wrote the film and stars as the interviewer of Marcel, catches glimpses of beauty in the dimension of now and today. Marcel, joined by his family and friends, discusses the importance of connecting to others and the need for gregariousness.
Since the two – Marcel and Dean – live under the same roof, we’re mostly witnessing a daily routine of an imaginary living shell that can appreciate the little things. Through these observations and often trivial truths about what makes us happy, Marcel The Shell with Shoes On (2022) becomes a transcendental film about appreciating what we have and living in the moment. Sounds like your daily dose of inspirational crap from Instagram or LinkedIn, but trust me on this one. When Marcel says it, it’s the like the coziest blanket, the most delicious hot chocolate, and your favorite movie watched with friends.
#1 Everything Everywhere All At Once
Sausage-made fingers? Check.
Pinky-finger power-punch? Check.
Googly eyes? Check.
One of the most creative, bizarre, bonkers, whimsical films in years? Also.. check. And the best film that blessed cinemas in 2020.
The Daniels – the duo of directors behind Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) – belong to the minute fraction of filmmakers for whom boundaries do not exist. Their follow-up to Swiss Army Man (2016) embraces every oddity that the two creators came up with, oozing confidence in every frame, inspiration, and concept that made the cut. The dramatic spine of the story – an Asian immigrant family on the verge of falling apart – is stupendously ornamented with energetic action choreographies, outstandingly colorful and vivid sets, costume designs, and a mood swinging between comedy and drama.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) delivers its title’s promise to its fullest. It is, indeed, everything everywhere all at once.
After making a name for themselves with A Swiss Army Man (2016) – the famous Sundance hit starring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse – the directing duo known as Daniels spread their wings in Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022). Fiercely helmed by Michelle Yeoh, it’s a film that bursts with eclectic energy, comprising a multitude of inspirations and zany ideas glued together by a never-stopping thrill ride of a script. At the heart of Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) flows a moving story about an immigrant family battling the generation gap and the inability to connect emotionally with the closest ones.
Daniels pulled off a unique piece of art – exhilarating, intelligent, and funny, yet inspiring and uplifting.
Here are the shortlisted films that didn’t make the cut (but are also great, and you might want to check them out – just click on the titles in bold to read the reviews): A Wounded Fawn (2022), Hatching (2022), Nitram (2021), Barbarian (2022), Linoleum (2022), To Leslie (2022), Chee$e (2022), My Love Affair With Marriage (2022), Something In The Dirt (2022), Nanny (2022), Nope (2022), Guillermo Del Toro: Pinocchio (2022), The Wonder (2022), EO (2022), Dual (2022), and Glass Onion (2022).
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