From Top Gun: Maverick to Everything Everywhere All At Once, here are the best movies 2022 has offered.
After two tough years of the pandemic, moviegoers returned, if not as massively, to theatres in 2022, giving the year its fair share of blockbusters. (There’s a rebound in ticket sales but we’re nowhere close to the pre-pandemic levels. But that’s also because studios released lesser films released than in 2019, hampered by delays in production thanks to the pandemic). Matt Reeves’ The Batman, Tom Cruise’s throwback sequel to Top Gun, Marvel’s Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever, and Cameron’s much-awaited sequel to Avatar set Hollywood and the global box-office on fire. The hugely entertaining multiverse madness from director duo Kwan & Scheinert in Everything Everywhere All At Once was an unexpected smash hit. And in the OTT era, even the non-conformist viewers found easy access to profound arthouse dramas and original indie outings.
Beloved artists like Steven Spielberg, Park Chan-wook, and Guillermo Del Toro managed to live up to moviegoers’ expectations. However, the year’s biggest surprise came with Rajamouli’s larger-than-life spectacle RRR, which became an unprecedented hit in the United States. Quickly then, here’s our pick of the very best movies of 2022. Some of the films mentioned here might had a festival release last year, but released widely on streaming platforms only this year.
Without further ado, here are our top films of 2022:
Best Movies of 2022
1. The Fabelmans
Steven Spielberg’s endearing drama The Fabelmans is an autobiographical work, chronicling his childhood and early filmmaking struggles. Spielberg co-wrote the script with playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner. The narrative opens in post-World War II Arizona and follows Spielberg’s on-screen counterpart Sammy Fabelman. The episodic narrative tracks down the lighter and darker moments in the life of Sammy.
We observe Sam’s astonishment as he watches a film on a big-screen with his parents. It leaves a lasting impression on little Sammy. The film also depicts his parents’ relationship struggles, and the anti-Semitism Sammy had to endure while growing up.
2. Triangle of Sadness
Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund’s Palme d’Or Award winning The Square (2017) was a biting satire on the art world and bourgeoisie class. At the same time, the film demanded patience from its viewers to fully comprehend its mordant tone. However, Ostlund’s first full-length English language outing Triangle of Sadness has turned out to be a relatively more accessible and entertaining satire.
Divided into three chapters, it’s largely set inside a luxury yacht, which is full of lonely and self-centred rich people. The central characters are Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean), who are both models and influencers.
3. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
Pinocchio, the classic 1883 story by Carlo Collodi, has had numerous cinematic adaptations. But most versions boasted a light-hearted adventurous tone. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is darker and transplants the tale to Mussolini’s Italy. The stop-motion animated version, as usual, follows the adventures and struggles of the magical wooden boy Pinocchio, who is brought to life by toymaker Geppetto.
Pinocchio is one of Del Toro’s passion projects. Apart from painstakingly conceiving each frame of this stop-motion brilliance, Del Toro excels in balancing the joyous and melancholic tone. Overall, he offers a profound meditation on themes like life, family, altruism, and death.
4. Decision to Leave
Oldboy director Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave is a Hitchcock-ian crime/mystery which offers a layered portrait of twisted love. The film revolves around detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il) who investigates a business man’s mysterious death at the foot of a mountain. The primary suspect is the dead man’s young wife Seo-rae (Tang Wei). She has an alibi, but detective Hae-jun develops an obsession with the widow. Soon, the sleuthing reveals an astounding truth and a complex past.
Similar to the director’s previous film The Handmaiden, Decision to Leave keeps us on the edge through its clever twists and inventive cinematography. Tang Wei’s charismatic performance is a wonder to behold.
Todd Field’s Tár is a brilliant character study of a famous and egoistic classical musical conductor Lydia Tár (starring Cate Blanchett). The film opens at a high-point in the titular character’s professional career. She is a rare EGOT winner, i.e., winner of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards, and a Ph.D. from Harvard.
Tár lives with her partner and concertmaster Sharon Goodrow (Nina Hoss) and their daughter Petra. However, there’s much corruption and cruelty as we gradually peer into the gifted musician’s conduct and beliefs. Field’s deep dive into the Western musical world is anchored by Cate Blanchett’s stunning performance.
SS Rajamouli’s Indian-Telugu movie RRR has garnered international attention, thanks to a rousing narrative and fiery, adrenaline-pumping stunts. It is a historical spectacle, set in 1920s British India. The central characters Alluri Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaran Bheem (NT Rama Rao Jr.) are based on real-life Indian revolutionaries. However, Rajamouli spins a fantastical tale around these characters, imagining an interesting ‘what if’ scenario as they join forces to fight the British colonial regime.
The truly inventive and unforgettable aspects of RRR are the dazzling and massively mounted action sequences. Rajamouli delivers a crowd-pleasing spectacle which even mega-budget Hollywood films falter with nowadays.
7. The Banshees of Inisherin
British-Irish writer/director Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin is a beautifully-shot dark comedy about a feud between two men. The story is set in times of the Irish civil war in 1923 rural Ireland. Padraic (Colin Farrell) lives in the island town Inisherin with his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon). His lifelong friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) is a fiddler who plays at the local pub. One day, Colm decides that he’ll no longer be friends with Padraic. This gradually leads to a bloody dispute.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a touching portrait of faltering friendship. It highlights our vulnerabilities and insecurities as individuals. The island serves as a perfect metaphor to this tale of isolation. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson offer incredible performances.
Jordan Peele’s multi-layered horror sci-fi/mystery Nope revolves around a Hollywood animal trainer named OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya). After his father’s mysterious earth, he’s lost and left to run the family business with his sister Em. One night, OJ finds something spooking his horses at the ranch. It leads him to discover a mysterious flying object.
Similar to Get Out and Us, writer/director Peele uses genre narrative to zero-in on complex themes such as animal cruelty, racial disparity and environmentalism. Peele remarkably executes the suspenseful action sequences in the latter half. The scene-stealing comedic performance of Keke Palmer as OJ’s sister is the USP of the narrative.
9. All Quiet on the Western Front
German filmmaker Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front is an adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel on the Great War (1914-1918). The narrative revolves around young man Paul (Felix Kammerer), who like his country’s fellow young men romanticizes the ideas of war and patriotism. Paul lies about his age and commits himself after the ruler’s rousing call to arms.
What follows is a harrowing anti-war drama that showcases Paul and his friends’ excruciating struggles in the bloody trenches. All Quiet on the Western Front features great production design and cinematography which trap us in the grey and grim battlefield. The film also boasts a wonderful ensemble cast.
10. Argentina, 1985
Santiago Mitre’s rewarding courtroom drama Argentina, 1985 showcases an important chapter in Argentina’s modern history. In 1985, Argentina’s democratic government was fragile, and it was still recovering from the devastating effects of the authoritarian military regime. The country’s public prosecutor Julio Cesar Strassera (Ricardo Darin) is asked to prosecute nine military generals of the former regime for their crimes against humanity in a civilian court.
The narrative then chronicles the Sisyphean task at hand, as Strassera tries to bring together a group of brave young lawyers and prove the military junta’s campaigns of terror. Argentina, 1985 is a truly remarkable dramatisation of a historical event.
11. The Woman King
Gina-Prince Bythewood’s historical epic is inspired by true events that transpired in the West African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 18th and 19th centuries. The narrative revolves around Nanisca (Viola Davis), a fierce fighter and general of the all-female military unit, who protects the Kingdom. Nanisca and her recruits need to confront the warring tribes and European slave traders as they converge to destroy the Kingdom.
The Woman King features a complex storyline, captivating politics, and stunning performances. Davis, in particular, fires up the screen with her powerful physical presence. The film must be appreciated for dealing with a tragic chapter in history that’s not well-known.
Aftersun is the feature-length directorial debut of Scottish writer/director Charlotte Wells. The film focuses on the tender relationship between a father and his 11-year old daughter. Paul Mescal plays Calum, an unhappy man who’s broken up with his partner. However, he enjoys spending time with his pre-teen daughter Sophie. The film unfolds in a series of flashbacks as adult Sophie reminisces about her father. We witness the last pleasant memories of Sophie with her father during their Turkey vacation.
Aftersun is a nuanced, lyrical drama that captures the father-daughter relationship in the most touching manner. The plot is simple, but the emotions stay with us long after.
13. Avatar: The Way of Water
James Cameron returns with stunning visuals for his long awaited sequel to Avatar (2009). The Way of Water has a thin story that’s stretched out to three hours. But the lush and extraordinary world-building and the complex characterizations offer a satisfying experience.
Set more than a decade after the first film, Way of Water revolves around Jake Sully, Neytiri and their four children. Sully’s family is forced to migrate to the oceanic Na’vi clan as his old nemesis Miles tries to catch up with him. The spectacular use of 3D, especially during the immersive under-water sequences, is reason enough to experience it on a big screen.
14. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Glass Onion is director Rian Johnson’s second outing with eccentric detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). The detective is invited to spend a weekend at the Greek island owned by the egoistic billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Apart from a weekend of fun, Miles promises a riveting murder mystery game. The billionaire has also invited five other people.
Interestingly, Benoit Blanc is the odd one out, since he’s a complete stranger. And Miles confirms he never sent an invitation to Mr. Blanc. Soon, a real murder happens and Blanc uncovers a convoluted conspiracy without losing his wit and charm.
The original 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, featuring an all-star cast, was a huge box-office success. The sequels, however, were largely underwhelming. The disastrous 2018 Predator made us believe there’s no life left in the franchise. To everyone’s surprise, Cloverfield Lane fame Dan Trachtenberg’s prequel Prey proved to be one of the best monster horrors.
The fifth movie in the Predator franchise takes place in the year 1715, and follows Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young and determined Native American girl of Comanche Nation. Her skills as a warrior are tested when she comes across a technologically advanced alien hunter.
16. Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood
Richard Linklater is often known for his delightful and touching exercises in nostalgia. Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood is one such distinctive Linklater movie which warmly recalls NASA’s historic launch of Apollo 11. Linklater uses rotoscope animation to craft an intriguing ‘what if’ scenario, surrounding the memorable summer of 1969 in Texas. Schoolboy Stan is recruited by NASA officials to test out a lunar module that’s feared to be too small for adults to use. Stan clearly seems to be a stand-in for Linklater, and the filmmaker showcases what it meant to have grown up during the space age in American suburbia. Overall, it’s an exhilarating walk down the memory lane.
17. Everything Everywhere All At Once
The directing team of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert takes the multiverse craze to new, insane levels in this poignant story of a middle-aged Chinese immigrant. Michelle Yeoh brilliantly plays Evelyn, a Chinese-American woman who runs a Laundromat with her estranged husband, Waymond. Evelyn finds it hard to connect with her melancholic daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). All hell breaks loose when Evelyn is forced to confront a sinister villain travelling across different universes. Kwan and Scheinert take the concept of multiverse to earnestly explore themes of family, intergenerational trauma, and disillusionment. Interestingly, the outlandish narrative trajectory also touches upon the philosophies of Nietzsche and Albert Camus.
18. Great Freedom
Austrian filmmaker Sebastian Miese’s Great Freedom opens in 1968 West Germany, and largely revolves around the lean and scruffy Hans Hoffmann (a brilliant Franz Rogowski). Hans is incarcerated for homosexual acts under the infamous Paragraph 175 of the German law. Hans has been jailed various times because of the law starting from 1945, right after spending years in the Nazi concentration camp. The law was reformed in 1969, but it wasn’t abolished until 1994. Sebastian’s transfixing character study deeply examines Germany’s post-war history and the queer life long before decriminalisation. The non-linear narrative allows for gradual yet meticulous development of the character and organically packs in the relevant themes.
French filmmaker Audrey Diwan’s Happening is an adaptation of 2001 autobiographical book by Annie Erwaux. The book chronicles the author’s experience of trying to have an abortion in the early 1960s when abortion was illegal. Anamaria Vortolomei plays Anne, a literature student with the usual desires and curiosities of a youngster. But Anne is soon thrown into a desperate situation, where a woman’s bodily autonomy is denied by draconian laws. Audrey Diwan crafts Anne’s excruciating experiences through unforgettably intense imagery. The intimacy and care with which Anne is framed reminds us of Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Without any doubt, Anamaria delivers one of the boldest and most ingenious performances in the central role.
The most mundane, ordinary details, that a lesser, incurious filmmaker would forgo, are a thing of wonder in director Nagraj Manjule’s films. In fact, therein lies his uniqueness and singularity as a filmmaker. His intuitive storytelling in Jhund powered largely by a non-professional cast of actors breaks barriers, takes risks and in the process subverts how we’ve come to define cinema over the years. The film gives us countless moments to celebrate and savor the influence that the medium holds over us. Manjule wrings performances from both actors and non-actors with an enviable savvy. Read Jhund review here.
Schools can be a frightening microcosm of social injustice and exploitation that’s rampant in the society at large. Laura Wandel’s powerful directorial debut Playground looks at the brutality of bullying and how it haunts one’s childhood experiences. Seven year-old Nora witnesses the bullying of her older brother, Abel. Nora tries to help him, though Abel asks her to remain silent. He feels that Nora’s meddling would only increase his chances of becoming a target for persecution. The playground becomes a jungle and the siblings’ day-to-day survival amidst the uncaring school system really cuts us deep. Laura vividly captures the dread and anxiety of school experience. Eventually, Playground is very relatable because sadly, bullying is a universal theme.
22. The Batman
Matt Reeves’ ominous and deeply satisfying interpretation of Batman is perfectly in sync with the original comic book vision. Batman is never a conventional family-friendly super-hero. And Matt Reeves only adds more complex layers to the super-rich masked vigilante. Nolan’s magnificent realist style is taken further and it’s evident in the labyrinthine and gloomy imagery of Gotham City. Reeves turns Batman into a flawed sleuth here, as the comic-book hero attempts to uncover a criminal conspiracy. The dark and twisted nature of the story reminds us of David Fincher’s films. Robert Pattinson is absolutely electrifying and intense in the eponymous character. Batman/Wayne’s vengeance fantasies and emotional needs are deeply explored by Reeves and his co-writer Peter Craig.
23. The Northman
Robert Eggers is known for his immersive arthouse movies, set in a unique place and time. The puritanical New England was the setting for his debut feature, The Witch. A mysterious and vicious lighthouse sets the stage for a tense character conflict in The Lighthouse (2019). With Northman, Eggers moves to the Viking-era and crafts a bloody tale of revenge that feels Shakespearean. The narrative is based on the legend of Amleth. It tells the story of a prince embarking on a two-decade journey to seek vengeance for the murder of his father. Eggers’ glorious staging and eerie visuals combined with Skarsgard’s powerful performance turns Northman into a spectacular experience.
24. Top Gun: Maverick
Joseph’s Kosinski’s highly entertaining Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel and spiritual successor to the 1986 Tony Scott movie. Tom Cruise reprises the role of Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, a naval aviator who is relatively wiser and mature compared to his younger version. Pete is tasked with leading a new team of Top Guns into a death defying mission in order to take down an unknown powerful adversary. Kosinski and Cruise offer an old-school action movie, full of outstandingly executed set-pieces. Tom Cruise does all his stunts and his stellar charisma is the driving force of the narrative. There are few missteps in terms of writing. But Top Gun: Maverick works perfectly due to the magnificently crafted adrenaline rush and as an exercise in nostalgia.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
25. You Won’t Be Alone
Australian-Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolveski’s feature-film debut is a folk horror that also works as a profound humanistic fable. The film is set in an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia. A shape-shifting witch known as Old Maria commands a mother to give her little daughter as a blood offering. The mother begs the witch to allow her daughter to grow into a young woman. What follows is unpredictable and distinctly original. The segment involving Noomi Rapace is the most memorable and poignant. The meditative narration, glacial pace, and lush landscapes inevitably remind us of the filmmaking style of Terrence Malick. Besides, Stolevski’s vision is equal parts philosophical, horrifying, and beautiful.
An ardent cinephile, who truly believes in the transformative power and shared-dream experience of cinema. He blogs at ‘Passion for Movies.’