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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

The 20 Best Movies Of 2022

A collage comprised of characters from 2022 movies
A24 | Cinemanse | Focus Features | Netflix | Warner Bros. Pictures | Super | Hulu

Even if 2022 presented struggles at the box office for non-blockbusters, unbelievable droughts of new theatrical releases (I'm looking at you July-October) and another wave of postponed titles, it still ended up being another solid year in cinema. Or at least that's what it felt like when putting this top 20 together and it's just less painful if you choose to forget everything that didn't connect like you would've wanted. Just on this following list and other special mentions, there's enough variety in terms of genres, languages and budgets represented, and certainly ambition is still there from the filmmakers who made them.

This year 104 films competed for spots in the top 20, some that didn't make it still deserving shout-outs, notably in the always important section for debuting filmmakers. For best catch-ups from 2021, I managed to get to 25 different titles. In retrospect, few of them would've cracked last year's top 20, something I'm sure is a repeating sentiment for this year's crop as well. Some of the big titles still on my watchlist are 'All Quiet On The Western Front', 'Avatar: The Way Of Water', 'Bardo', 'Glass Onion' and 'Top Gun: Maverick', and that's only the beginning. You just need to check back in next year if any of those would've deserved a spot. Meanwhile, I'm sure there's enough on this list to feed your appetite.

Without further ado, here are my favourite films of the year (key word again is ''favourite'', that is always a good reminder when discussing these) and some special mentions. You can find reviews for nearly all of these on the site, just click the ''Read our review'' or the title in special mentions.

Special Mentions

Best 2021 Catch-ups


Quo Vadis, Aida? | Quo Vadis, Aida?

Red Rocket

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

The Last Duel

Best Bang For Your Buck

Critical Disagreement

Spiderhead (5.2/10 and 39% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Promising First Narrative Features

A Love Song (dir. Max Walker-Silverman)

AM I OK? (dir. Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro)

Emily The Criminal (dir. John Patton Ford)

Plan 75 | Plan 75 (dir. Chie Hayakawa)

The Fallout (dir. Megan Park)

And now... here are the 20 best films of 2022

20. GODLAND | Vanskabte land / Volaða land

Writer-director Hlynur Pálmason's examination of colonialism, religion and language is surprisingly a ''small epic'' with sweeping vistas that you don't get tired of marvelling. Check it out for its exceptional photography (sometimes literally) and production design, as well as its spiritual journey.

Elliott Crosset Hove taking a picture with an old camera
Janus Films


Looking for a neat, tense and skillful period horror featuring not just one but two great child performances? If that sounds like it'd be up your alley, this capture-and-escape story from Scott Derrickson should do the magic trick. Features some of the year's best editing work, including honest appreciation for the art of transitions.

Ethan Hawke in a creepy mask carrying Mason Thames
Universal Pictures


Every best-of list seems to need movies that you simply do not dare to recommend but in some way you do end up recommending because their quality exceeds their tough subject matters. Directed by Justin Kurzel and based on tragic real-life events, Caleb Landry Jones and Judy Davis are the main reasons why you stick with its grimness. Make sure you're ready for the anxiety and anger it gives you, though.

Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia sitting
IFC Films

17. ARGENTINA, 1985 | Argentina, 1985

Another film based on true events comes from, you guessed it, Argentina. This legal drama tracks a highly important court case in the country's history, its entire cast delivering from its stars to everyone in small roles. Santiago Mitre just needs to make sure they're in his frame, the stakes often speak for themselves. You can also find an unexpected musical score in it, too.

Ricardo Darín sitting behind a desk and mics
Amazon Studios


Comparatively young filmmaker to feature on this list, Cooper Raiff directs, writes and stars in this year's Sundance breakout where it sold for big bucks. Return of investment will probably forever be a mystery but in terms of quality, the film's writing creates engaging conversations one after another, while Dakota Johnson shows up in excellent form to make that material and Raiff's acting even better. Recommended for those who want something life-affirming.

Cooper Raiff and Evan Assante eating dinner
Apple Original Films


You most likely won't find a more entertaining first-time watch this year than this nasty horror film with superb comedic edge from Zach Cregger. His smart script knows the rules of both genres as it makes a hard turn in the middle to throw you off balance with help from surprising casting choices. But let's not spoil that or anything else in this movie for anyone who hasn't seen it.

Georgina Campbell looking down at a basement
20th Century Studios

14. HAPPENING | L'événement

Similar thing is happening here as with one film mentioned above because Audrey Diwan's period drama doesn't exactly come with an easy recommendation due to its story involving an abortion when it was illegal in France which is where the story takes place. Lead actor Anamaria Vartolomei's performance is however something that you don't want to miss and neither is the editing which never lets you go from Diwan's grasp.

Anamaria Vartolomei and Sandrine Bonnaire hugging
IFC Films

13. PREY

Something that certainly wasn't on my bingo card this year was that a prequel to an action movie franchise with middling success would be great, or even okay if we're being honest for a second. Dan Trachtenberg and his creative team manage to come out with the biggest surprise of the year; this is an action-horror epic doing the impossible. This is why we love to be proven wrong, would you agree?

Amber Midthunder crouching


In complete contrast to relentless force and epic action sequences in the previous slot is this gentle, kind-hearted gem of a film. Top-tier voice work from Jenny Slate, brilliant sense of humour and genuine emotional connections make Dean Fleischer-Camp's effort easily rewatchable as well. You might need some tissues because you might cry from both laughter and sadness, just saying.

Marcel the shell standing on a laptop keyboard

11. ATHENA | Athena

Okay, let's get back to brutal force and momentum that you simply can not look away from. And I mean that literally—not just figuratively—because the thrilling 10-minute opening scene orchestrated by Romain Gavras is alone a must-watch. Featuring some of the year's best effects, acting, musical score and cinematography, if you're in the mood for being impressed for once. Don't let the algorithm screw you when it comes to this one.

Dali Benssalah threatening Sami Slimane

10. THE BLUE CAFTAN | Le bleu du caftan

Is it just me or is there a theme emerging here slowly as we again take a breather with Maryam Touzani's soft romantic drama which is a remarkable portrait of unconditional and unselfish love one can give and receive. Saleh Bakri and Lubna Azabal give show-stopping performances, all while surrounded by thoughtful costume design and touching writing which gives space for silence when necessary.

Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri sharing smiles
Strand Releasing


How many times can we really do this realistically? Well, at least one more time as Matt Reeves and company's brooding crime thriller runs around in Gotham's underworld fairly successfully. Technically outstanding from its thunderous score and sound design to gorgeous photography and transformative makeup work. Come for them, stay for the latte art.

Jeffrey Wright and Robert Pattinson in Batsuit at a mortuary
Warner Bros. Pictures

8. X

Director and writer Ti West didn't only show up with one retro-horror film this year, he showed up with two (and the other one is great as well as you can see from its special mention above). What eventually became the sequel is the more accomplished of the two, highlights include a terrific cast and makeup artistry so mind-blowing that it only hits audiences during credits. Sorry for not placing it in my tenth spot, it's just that good.

Mia Goth reflected in a circular mirror


While you may be thinking that there's an awful lot of horror on this list, I'd actually beg to differ when it comes to this particular movie. Let's not argue, however, and instead just enjoy the wild ride that Mimi Cave has cooked up for us. Ingredients include a pitch perfect soundtrack and pair of charismatic leads, table has been set for the meat-cute of the year. Sit down and enjoy.

Daisy Edgar Jones shopping for vegetables

6. THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD | Verdens verste menneske

And the meet-cutes just won't stop coming because Joachim Trier's Nordic dramedy has its main character facing ups and downs of relationships whilst trying to figure herself out as well. Renate Reinsve announces herself to the world in that role, while Trier creates the best running scene in years with the worst person. How great is it when you truly get to know a character? This makes you believe that it shouldn't be so hard to achieve in films.

Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie smiling whilst lying in a hospital bed


Since we already have franchise prequels and new versions of old superheroes, why not add something that has been made again and again for 100 years now, from animation and live-action to literature. Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson's stop-motion wonder is a breath of fresh air thankfully, every frame making it apparent that this is a passion project, just like all the best animated movies are. I wouldn't want to be the other Pinocchio adaptation, especially in the same year as this jewel.

Pinocchio and Geppetto in a forest


Directing and writing duo Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) throw so much stuff at you that it's a genuine miracle that ''EEAAO'' doesn't fall flat on its face. Easily the most inventive movie of the year, mixing genres such as action, comedy, drama and science fiction while featuring relatable familial relationships along the way. Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh alone are worth the price of admission, in addition you get talking rocks, tax forms and raccoons. How does it all work together? Watch it and you'll find out, you will have a blast.

Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh hiding behind a water cooler

3. THE QUIET GIRL | An Cailín Ciúin

Highest-ranking debut feature this year comes from writer-director Colm Bairéad whose adaptation of a novel transports you to a very small world of a small girl in Ireland. Bolstered by heart-wrenching performances, resonating musical score and phenomenal character depth, this small picture sings beautifully when it begins to find its voice. What better way to spend a summer than watching this?

Catherine Clinch and Carrie Crowley walking next to a tree


Enough with sweetness and silence again, it's time to get so sweaty, bloody and dirty with Robert Eggers that you'll be showering for months to remove the stench and stains. Probably buried for most due to its early spring release, this viking epic earns this spot even now because it's something that you can undoubtedly smell, taste and feel from its village raids to volcano duels. Its production values (those sets!), music (percussion!) and landscapes (Iceland!) ensure that this classically trained revenge tale will age gracefully in coming years and decades.

Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy riding horses
Focus Features

1. PETITE MAMAN | Petite maman

Only one type of movie will come out on top and at least today it won't be something loud and super energetic. Céline Sciamma's short and sweet fantasy drama may not seem like it's something massively important due to its runtime of 70 minutes but it tells a meaningful story either way. Just in that short time, Sciamma manages to tell two lifetimes worth of story, those two people being a mother and daughter.

Every line and line delivery is pure gold, the quirks are surprising and it also happens to look fantastic as set designs are used effectively and all the shots feature so much life captured in them. It's a film that you can rewatch anywhere, anytime and with anybody. This truly is cinema at its best.

Gabrielle and Joséphine Sanz looking at a hut in a forest

You can find these films and everything else on this Letterboxd list.
See you in 2023.
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