22 Best Movies of 2022, Ranked – MovieWeb

A toxic event, a dead android, a mad god, and multiversal martial arts all contributed to the very best films of 2022, a great year for the movies.
Sometimes, when reading a list like this, people might get upset and say, "I haven't heard of any of these!" They say this like it's a bad thing, when it's actually not. If someone wishes to see their favorite movie of 2022 here, but they haven't heard anything about some of these following films, then how are they to know that their beloved film is actually better? Not having heard of titles in a best-of list is a blessing — it means that adventure still awaits you, rather than the mere confirmation bias of nodding along as someone agrees with you.
Granted, there were so many great films in 2022 that readers are bound to recognize multiple titles. It was a great year for all kinds of films, from blockbusters to shoestring indies. Many great films didn't quite make the cut (Apples, Something in the Dirt, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Masking Threshold, X, Pearl, Moonage Daydream, Prey, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Descendant, Murina, Close, Eternal Spring, Hit the Road, Ahed's Knee, No Bears, and so many more), especially since this is already an epic list. Scroll down or click on a title to explore the very best films of 2022, in descending order.
It doesn't feel quite right to even include Avatar: The Way of Water on lists. Unlike the first film, it doesn't feel like a standalone project, and is obviously part of a bigger picture. One day, the entire 15+ hours of the Avatar saga might stand as the greatest 'film' ever made, but until that day comes, this Avatar sequel has to sit near the bottom of the best-of list.
However, it is nonetheless on the list — mind-blowing special effects create the purest spectacle of the year, Cameron's environmental and anti-colonialist themes continue to inspire, and the acting all-around is phenomenal. On its own, this is hardly the best picture of the year, but it's still pretty special.
From Kanye West (or Ye) to Trippie Redd, there's been a slight trend of rappers moving to ranches and deeply rural settings in the middle of nowhere. Massive fame, million-dollar hip-hop, and Black men from urban environments seem incongruous with skinning pigs, driving tractors, and waking at dawn to feed the chickens, but it happens. Down with the King is perhaps the only, and certainly the most artistic, depictions of this interesting incongruity.
A slice-of-life character study starring the excellent rapper Freddie Gibbs, Down with the King is a peaceful, beautiful, and culturally unique meditation on stereotypes, farm life, and the expectations we have about Black men. "How many Black farmers do you know?" Gibbs' character asks his mother. "How many Black people are producing, cultivating their own food?" Down with the King studies these ideas and more in quiet, subtle, and altogether beautiful ways.
When the legions of Timothée Chalamet fans excitedly bought tickets to see the new film which would reunite him with his Call Me By Your Name director, Luca Guadagnino, it's likely that most of them expected something very different. Bones and All is a morbidly bleak film, and not just in that melodramatic, unrequited love way.
Related: Exclusive: Bones and All Director on His Cannibal Romance Film Starring Timothée Chalamet
The film follows Maren (a great Taylor Russell) as she is abandoned by her family for having cannibalistic urges. Having to fend for herself, she takes all the help she can get from the people she meets along the way in this twisted road trip movie, including Sully (the brilliant Mark Rylance) and the young kindred spirit, Lee (Chalamet). An incredibly haunting, poetic, and violent film, Bones and All is the kind of movie that lingers for a long time.
Wendell and Wild is easily one of the best animated films of the year, which is no surprise given it's from Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. The stop-motion animation is beautifully imaginative, fancifully illustrating this stuffed tale of an orphan making a deal with demons to resurrect her parents. Somehow managing to also be a poignant commentary on prison reform and the school-to-prison pipeline, Wendell and Wild is both fun and meaningful, with a truly killer soundtrack.
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Smile was one of the rare horror films that are actually scary and deeply meaningful, provoking thoughts and jump scares in near equal measure. Parker Finn's feature film debut is a riveting story about trauma and guilt as depicted through Rose, a troubled therapist (a pitch perfect Sosie Bacon) who becomes increasingly disturbed after witnessing a patient take her own life, smiling while she slit her throat. Tunneling deep down the rabbit hole of what appears to be insanity to the untrained eye, Sosie's story becomes one of the most upsetting and profound horror films in recent years.
Pacifiction is a truly hypnotic film which practically casts a mesmeric spell on the audience for its long, slow runtime. Albert Serra's new movie follows a French diplomat overseeing local affairs in Tahiti, just as some men from the military begin causing trouble in town. An almost experimental and psychedelic film, Pacifiction feels like a conspiracy theory thriller where the conspiracy has been surgically removed, leaving only paranoia and enigma.
Phil Tippett's boldly titled Mad God depicts a hellish world aptly created by a God gone mad. Working on and off for two decades to complete this mixed-medium (but mostly go-motion) film, Tippett's work paid off with undoubtedly one of the most disturbing films ever made. Mad God follows an assassin in a diving bell who descends into a subterranean abyss filled with unforgettably nightmarish imagery, beginning a trek through the underworld he seemingly plans to blow up.
Related: Exclusive: Phil Tippett on the Meaning of Mad God and the Disturbing Film's Blu-Ray Release
With artisinally designed characters and stomach-churning monsters, Mad God is a bad trip, but one worth taking for the sheer provocation and inventiveness on display. It's a dark, pessimistic vision of the world, but it aches with Tippett's special passion and truth.
James Gray's politically profound, semi-autobiographical film Armageddon Time uses a stacked ensemble cast (Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Jessica Chastain) to tell the story of his childhood journey toward maturity.
With incredible performances from the two young protagonists (Banks Repeta and Jaylin Webb), Armageddon Time mirrors growing up during the first election of Ronald Reagan with what it's like to live in America today, post-Trump, without ever being annoyingly didactic. Great music, urgent commentary, and ingenious casting elevate Gray's film beyond being just a very good coming-of-age drama.
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Incredibly bold and absolutely gripping, the post-war film Hinterland is Oscar-winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky's masterpiece. Combining a great police procedural with war cinema, film noir, and Agatha Christie-style mystery, Hinterland uses a great deal of blue screen to create a dizzying expressionistic post-war Austria.
The film follows a soldier from the defeated Austrian army after World War I; he used to be a respected detective, but the world has moved on, and he's now looked down-upon. When someone begins to murder veterans of the war whom he served with, the man joins the police to try and solve the case. Combining lots of classical narrative tradition with technological experimentation works perfectly in this grim, intense thriller.
One of the more divisive movies of the year, Triangle of Sadness won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and yet has been booed and demeaned by people who consider it a gross-out spoof lacking any subtlety. The thing is, everyone is kind of right — its satire is mostly obvious and it can also be physically and ethically disgusting, but the reckless maximalism on display is almost refreshing.
Plus, director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeur, The Square) is at the very height of his game as a filmmaker, and nearly every decision feels perfect here. Triangle of Sadness follows a cruise ship gone very, very wrong, and the combination of completely, fearlessly dedicated performances, beautiful imagery, and a complete lack of pretension make this twisted comedy even more brilliant.
For some reason, there have been three film versions of Pinocchio in the past year alone; the Italian fairytale is certainly ripe for topical allegory, but it seems old hat by now. Fortunately, Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio is not just better than the others, but better than any version in 80 years (and, as sacrilegious as it sounds, is probably better than the Disney original).
Related: Pinocchio Review: Del Toro's Great Netflix Movie Shows What Being a Real Boy Means
Subverting the historical messages ascribed to the tale, Del Toro and Mark Gustafson's incredible film uses the wooden boy to comment on fascism, authority, and filial expectations. It's a grand, sweeping statement made even stronger by the incredible stop-motion animation and explosive performances from the best voice acting cast of the year (Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Ron Perlman John Turturro, Finn Wolfhard Cate Blanchett, Tim Blake Nelson, Christoph Waltz, and Tilda Swinton, all excellent).
Jerrod Carmichael, the great stand-up comedian, stars in and directs On the Count of Three (written by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch), a film which balances the utmost bleakness with some of the best humor of the year. Following a day in the life of two suicidal men after one breaks the other out of a mental hospital, On the Count of Three pulls no punches, never devolving into sentiment as the narrative is rapidly propelled forward with the same giddy abandon as the protagonists. It's a dark film, brimming with tragedy and violence, and yet it feels so very alive.
Indie king Kentucky Audley co-directs (with Albert Birney) and stars in the extremely unique and utterly bonkers delight, Strawberry Mansion. There's more imagination in this brisk hour and a half than viewers will find in entire years worth of sci-fi and fantasy cinema. Filmed in the hazy, soft focus of lo-fi '70s movies but taking place in some weird future or alternate universe, Strawberry Mansion follows a mild-mannered IRS worker in a world where dreams are taxed.
Conducting a dream audit on an old woman, the man discovers that corporations have begun targeted advertising in people's dreams, knowledge which may put him in grave danger. With an incredible score from the great Dan Deacon and unbelievably strange but gorgeous imagery, Strawberry Mansion is masterpiece of the bizarre.
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In The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg manages to take something extremely self-indulgent (essentially making a movie about how he grew up making movies that everyone loved) and turn it into a universal story of family, art, and growing up. The autobiographical (and practically masturbatory) coming-of-age film follows Sammy Fabelman and his family through the '50s and '60s. It's a small story told in an epic way, and almost certainly the best thing Spielberg's done in 20 years.
Combining charming little details, like the mother's long fingernails tapping against piano keys, with beautifully choreographed sequences, The Fabelmans simply operates at a higher level of technical mastery than most movies. Yes, it may have the same emotional manipulation, sentimentality, and lack of subtlety of every other Spielberg film, but it's just so perfectly directed (and has such a perfect Michelle Williams) that it's impossible not to recognize as a great film.
The second in director George Bogdan Apetri's hometown trilogy, Miracle is even better than the first installment, the intense Unidentified. Marking the middle point of his three films, Miracle is fittingly divided in half, with each side mirroring each other in audiovisual ways. The first half follows a young nun as she sneaks out of her convent to go into town, while the second half follows an increasingly manic police detective. With arguably the best ending of any film this year, Miracle lives up to its title as a deeply stirring, tense, and spiritually invigorating miracle of filmmaking.
While it's not a horror film, Happening is nonetheless one of the most brutal films of the year and a difficult one to stomach. It's a French character study that chronicles the plight of Anne (an astounding young Anamaria Vartolomei) as she attempts to get an abortion in 1963 France. Broken up by the weeks of her pregnancy, Vartolomei guides the viewer through a truly harrowing but ultimately hopeful journey of loneliness and desperation, one which is unfortunately more relevant today than it's been in decades.
The best debut film of the year, Aftersun has stunned audiences and critics with its utter poetry, magnetic characters, and deep wells of emotion. Writer and director Charlotte Wells' first feature film also has the first performance from young actor Frankie Corio, and both women are perfect at what they set out to do. Corio plays Sophie, a girl who learns a lot about herself and her father Calum while on vacation in Turkey. Investigating the nature of remembrance and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone, Aftersun feels like a great but hazy memory itself. It's dreamy, beautiful, painful, funny, and impossible to forget.
Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan? You had us with Martin McDonagh, but everyone is perfect in The Banshees of Inisherin; actually, everything is perfect, from the incredible scenery to the animal wranglers and Jenny the donkey. The quietly allegorical and cleverly political film follows Pádraic (Farrell) as he suffers through his friend's decision to end their friendship. Pádraic simply can't understand why, and his obnoxiously loquacious (yet totally endearing) behavior leads to even further rifts on the small Irish isle of Inisherin.
TÁR announces the triumphant return of filmmaker Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children) after a 16-year absence, and it was worth the wait. The film follows Lydia Tár, a world-famous conductor played by Cate Blanchett in perhaps the single best performance of the year. Lydia is at the height of her success, and the film chronicles her downfall after being accused of predatorily grooming her younger students.
The extremely complicated Blanchett performance makes TÁR great, but it's the insightful and objective examination of cancel culture and art in a post-Me Too world, and the coldly perfect direction, which elevates the film to masterpiece status.
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The brilliant filmmaker Kogonada had a remarkable year thanks to both the acclaimed miniseries Pachinko and this extremely beautiful masterpiece. After Yang is an emotionally and visually stunning meditation on empathy, family, and just what makes a human. Even though it's set in a distant future where 'techno sapiens' and clones are common, After Yang somehow manages to feel like one of the most human films of the year.
The film follows a family who is mourning the loss of their android companion, Yang (a scene-stealing Justin H. Min), and the quest that the father (a great Colin Farrell) takes to try and repair him. The discovery that Yang had a sort of memory storage device within him leads to the family learning more about his past, themselves, and the power of seeing the world through someone else's perspective.
Editor and writer for Movieweb.com. Lover of film, philosophy, and theology. Amateur human. Contact him at [email protected]


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