2022 was filled with a lot of films that were released theatrically and on various streaming platforms. We got some stone-cold masterpieces, some fiery-hot masterpieces, some that came close to being absolutely brilliant, some that could’ve been summarized in a brief email, and some that were pure stinkers. But today, we are here to celebrate the best of the best. Please keep in mind that I haven’t seen every film that has been released this year. That’s literally impossible. I think I came close to watching around 230 films. And I couldn’t narrow things down to just 10, 20, or even 50. Hence, I have made this list, which contains 70 titles. However, before getting to them, here are some honorable mentions: “Thar,” “Fall,” “All About Nothing,” “Nanny,” “Redrum,” “Run Sweetheart Run,” “KGF: Chapter 2,” “The Wonder,” “Three Headed Beast,” “Hypochondriac,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “Seriously Red,” “Palm Trees,” and “Power Lines,” “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” “Flux Gourmet,” “Kaacher Maanush,” “Karnasubarner Guptodhon,” “Shadow,” “Piggy,” “Nude Tuesday”, “All the Old Knives,” “Breaking, Master,” “Beast” (the Idris Elba one), “V/H/S/99,” “RRR,” “Look Both Ways,” “Am I Ok?,” “Blood,” “The Lost City,” and “The Princess.”
Disclaimer: The following list is not a ranking. I love all of them.
70. Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
Even if you haven’t watched the animated series, you can go into this amazingly animated rollercoaster ride of a film. It’s on Netflix, but it would have been a blast to witness it on the biggest screen possible, equipped with the best sound system.
With the exception of “The Predator” and “AVP: Requiem,” there hasn’t been a single bad Predator movie. But it’s true that Dan Trachtenberg has done the impossible by surpassing the original with “Prey,” which features a star-making performance from Amber Midthunder.
Another true, blue Jordan Peele classic, superpowered by Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya, Steven Yeun, and Brandon Perea’s performances. And then there’s Jean Jacket, who, apart from being a beautifully designed UFO, serves as a metaphor for animal abuse, humanity’s love for spectacle, and the inability to process grief.
67. The Sea Beast
Older Kaiju films have always been synonymous with critiquing government propaganda and war-mongering. Recently, it has become all about heavy-duty CGI, wafer-thin plots, and underdeveloped characters. Thankfully, “The Sea Beast” is as much of a throwback to 1954’s “Godzilla” as it is a commentary on current-day politics while featuring some eye-popping visuals and great storytelling.
66. The Courtroom
You may have seen a lot of courtroom dramas, but this is simply the best. It’s stripped down to its basics and essentially looks like a stage play. But the emotions are high, the acting is off the charts, and it is relevant as hell.
65. My Love Affair With Marriage
I will always champion animated movies that exist outside the usual Disney and Pixar wheelhouse, and given this film’s unique visual style, I have to amplify this. It’s profound, funny, nightmare-inducing, and it’s a musical. So, it’s absolutely worth a watch.
64. Four Samosas
If you love Wes Anderson’s movies, the “Paddington” duology, maybe a little bit of “American Animals,” and want to see them channeled through the Indian diaspora, then this is it. It’s one of the funniest movies ever made and is filled to the brim with brilliant performances, amazing gags, and memorable lines, and it features the best mid-credits and post-credits scenes of all time.
I genuinely didn’t know what I was going to witness when I walked into this film. When I emerged out of its bejeweled embrace, I was undoubtedly riveted. I love the way Baz basically says, “Death to boring biopics.”
I don’t think I’ll be doing it a disservice by saying that it’s the Dutch version of “Hereditary,” because it deals with familial themes of trauma. But the reason why it stands out as a great horror film in its own right is due to its use of the geography of the village the story is set in, along with its healthy injection of folklore.
61. The Roundup
Ma Dong-Seok, also known as Don Lee, punches a bunch of bad dudes for 106 minutes, and there’s a brilliant bus fight scene at the end. What else can you ask for?
60. Top Gun: Maverick
As someone who thinks the original “Top Gun” wasn’t all that good, I am so glad that Tom Cruise, John Kosinski, and the rest of the team managed to make a legacy sequel that will be seen as the pinnacle of practical action filmmaking until, maybe, the next “Mission: Impossible” film drops. The 2 minutes and 15 seconds of the test run are seared into my brain, though.
59. The Northman
Anyone who thinks this is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is wrong because it’s the other way around. The story of Amleth was the source material for “Hamlet.” I thought I should put it out there again, even though Robert Eggers has already clarified it. In addition to that, it’s an icy epic with a searing hot Alexander Skarsgård performance.
58. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
As soon as you realize that you are watching a superhero movie where the superhero is a sentient blue hedgehog, you start to enjoy it. And when Jim Carrey is having that much fun, and Idris Elba is being hilariously deadpan, it’s hard not to jam with the film.
57. The Bad Guys
It’s essentially an “Ocean’s” film, but instead of humans, you have animals, and they are animated. And unsurprisingly, it’s all the better for it. The movie is constantly kinetic, has some of the best car chases of all time, and the voice cast is clearly having too much fun.
56. Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood
Yes, a Richard Linklater movie came out this year, and although people love to go on and on about his “Before” series, a lot of you didn’t show up for this one. It’s a beautifully animated, serene, funny, and extremely calming film. So, yes, it’s just like every Linklater film, which is why you should watch it!
55. The Pez Outlaw
If you are not sold on the absurd premise that people were breaking all kinds of laws to get the rarest Pez dispensers, the empathy with which Steve Glew’s story is told certainly will. It’s a documentary, but the filmmakers partake in some dramatic recreations with Steve Glew playing himself.
We don’t get a lot of movies where you follow a character thinking that they’re the hero and even a victim of circumstance, but by the time the third act rolls in, you realize that you’ve been following the villain. “Sissy” is definitely one such film, and Aisha Dee’s performance is stellar.
53. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Everything that needs to be said about this stunning piece of work has been said already. All I can say is that it’s masterful on every level, and I cried so much during the first viewing that I didn’t have the courage to rewatch it. That’s a compliment, BTW.
52. The Batman
I went to the local theater five times in one week because that’s how much I wanted to be enveloped in this movie’s atmosphere. And after its home release, I watched it three more times. Is that convincing enough for you?
51. Turning Red
This is the most adorable movie on this list, I guess, while also being so poignant regarding its themes about family and womanhood. The animation is so expressive and alive. Ludwig Göransson’s score is fantastic. And by the end, you’ll definitely want to attend a 4*TOWN concert.
It’s “Rear Window” meets “Phobia” (the Radhika Apte movie), and it’s set during the COVID-19 pandemic. Steven Soderbergh has directed, shot, and edited the hell out of this movie, with Zoë Kravitz delivering the performance of a lifetime.
49. Jackass Forever
Did you ever imagine hearing the words, “Hi, I am Johnny Knoxville. Welcome to Jackass” will get you emotional? Neither did I, and, in addition to making me gasp in horror with their crazy antics, the film did hit me in the feels.
48. Emily, the Criminal
This is an anxiety-inducing film, first and foremost, and a commentary on the current rise in unemployment, second. And Aubrey Plaza is fantastic throughout, with Theo Rossi giving a great supporting performance.
47. All That Breathes
I have been hyping up this film since its Sundance release, all the way back in January 2022. And it’s so satisfying to see Saud, Nadeem, and Salik’s story—that’s beautifully told through Shaunak Sen’s lens—get so much applause from all over the world. It’s one of the most relevant and important Indian films ever made.
46. Speak No Evil
I don’t want to spoil this movie in any shape or form. All I will say is that you’ll never befriend strangers when you go on vacation. And even if you aren’t on vacation, you’ll learn to voice your opinion if you are in an uncomfortable situation.
This can make for a spine-chilling double feature with “Kimi,” as it looks at patriarchal society through the eyes of a woman. Even though it’s clear who the killer is, just because a woman is pointing out the obvious, it falls on deaf ears, thereby forcing her to take matters into her own hands. The final sequence is both incredibly terrifying and deserving of the loudest cheers.
Carey Williams starts things off in the stoner comedy and coming-of-age genre and then quickly shifts into a searing commentary on how black teenagers are being robbed of a normal teen life because of the world they live in. It’s equal parts suspenseful and darkly comedic. The final shot will have you sitting in complete silence and contemplating life.
This is just the first cannibal-themed movie on the list, and maybe the only one that’s tongue-in-cheek in nature. The main performers in the film, Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones are spectacular, and Mimi Cave’s direction is so pulpy and fun.
I have grown up watching “Scream” movies. I have watched them be parodied to death. So, I was skeptical about how a legacy sequel was going to tackle it all. But they did it. The young cast members are amazing, and they go toe-to-toe with the legends that are Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell.
41. The Black Phone
Finney’s conversation with Robin had me in tears because that was the moment when I realized that the ghosts of the missing kids forget who they are because people slowly forget about them. It’s such a harrowing reminder of the fact that when people are reduced to statistics, the viciousness of the crime starts to feel less impactful. And there’s nothing sadder and scarier than that.
I have no clue why every single fan of the musical genre didn’t flock to this stunning film, because if it can impress someone who doesn’t like musicals (me), it has to be one of the all-time bests. Haley Bennett is stunning as Roxanne, and Peter Dinklage kills it as the titular Cyrano.
39. After Yang
Kogonada’s “Columbus” is one of my favorite movies of all time. So, I was understandably excited for this one, and, evidently, he blew me away again in the quietest, serenest, calmest way possible. It’s a sublime piece of work that will undoubtedly have you in tears by the end.
If you like Westerns and if you like folk horror, you have to keep this on your radar. And even if you aren’t scared of the “creatures” in the film, its themes and the questions that it poses will haunt you for a long, long time.
37. Three Thousand Years of Longing
It’s a George Miller film featuring Tilda Swinton as a scholar who develops feelings with a Djinn (Idris Elba). And Miller swings for the fences to underscore the power of stories, and he doesn’t miss. Not even once.
36. Who Invited Them
I didn’t read any reviews about this Duncan Birmingham directorial. I didn’t even watch the trailer. I just saw the poster and put it on, and I was scared to my bones. It’ll make for a fantastic double feature with “Speak No Evil,” as they both test the consequences of niceness.
Yes, 2022 had me rooting for all kinds of musicals, be it live-action or animated. And on top of that, this is a Kid Cudi musical. So, it obviously comes highly recommended.
34. Halloween Ends
Yes, this is the best “Halloween” movie since “Season of the Witch.” Deal with it. David Gordon Green expertly tackles toxic romance and motherhood and gives a punk rock of a conclusion to one of the most iconic horror movie monsters and one of the most iconic final girls.
33. Crimes of the Future
It’s a David Cronenberg film. So, it’s pretty grotesque and puke-inducing. But, weirdly and surprisingly enough, it also seems like a meditation on the process of filmmaking, the future of cinema, and wrestling with where or how we fit into this ever-changing puzzle.
32. Bodies Bodies Bodies
Despite knowing the twist in the film before watching, I was stressed and anxious throughout the 94-minute runtime. The movie is exquisitely written and directed, and the performances from the cast are nothing short of stupendous.
31. Wendell & Wild
I have grown up watching Henry Selick’s “Coraline,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “James and the Giant Peach.” So, it’s no surprise that I adored his latest stop-motion animated masterpiece, which expertly tackles grief and capitalism.
The hype for this Zach Cregger directorial was through the bloody roof, and it was worth the wait. Yes, it had me shaking in fear. But by the time the credits rolled, the fate of the “monster” made me sad.
29. Decision To Leave
“Decision To Leave,” right here, is my favorite movie of the year. As soon as I was done watching it, I just knew that nothing was going to top it. And although it has been categorized as a “neo-noir, it’s one of the most romantic films of all time.
28. Terrifier 2
I think it’s safe to say that Damien Leone redefined the cinematic definition of the word “grotesque.” Also, there’s something cool about getting a new horror icon (Art the Clown) and an iconic final girl (Sienna) in the same year that a horror icon and an iconic final girl concluded their journeys (“Halloween Ends”).
27. My Father’s Dragon
Yet another animated film that exists beyond the Disney-Pixar wheelhouse and is masterful in every way imaginable. The story is fairly simple, but it continues Cartoon Saloon’s theme of promoting environmentalism through the eyes of a child. Also, Jacob Tremblay and Gaten Matarazzo’s chemistry is heartwarming.
26. Monica O My Darling
I don’t think I was the only one waiting for Vasan Bala’s latest feature film after the amazing “Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota,” and boy, did he deliver in spades. It’s action-packed, thrilling, surprising, and has a killer soundtrack that you’ll be listening to on repeat.
25. Lost Bullet 2
Director Guillaume Pierret put a massive taser in a car, which was capable of frying the car that it attaches itself to, and then launched it into the stratosphere. If that’s not the definition of awesomeness, I don’t know what is. In addition to that, the film has some amazing fight sequences, car chases, and drama.
For a movie as mainstream and cliche-looking as this, it genuinely surprised me with its handling of depression and trauma, which are themes that have been used and reused to death in the horror genre. But the way Parker Finn puts you in the shoes of the victims is impressive.
The fact that it has come out at a time when we are choosing to live in virtual, fantasy worlds ourselves while normalizing traditionalism and commenting on how this habit is turning us into villains makes it worthy of a generous round of applause. And while the whole cast is tremendous, Amy Adams functions on a whole other level.
This Dhanush and Nithya Menen starrer is definitely the definition of “beauty lies in simplicity,” because it has the most straightforward and predictable story ever. But there’s so much care and love put into making the characters that inhabit it feel tangible that you can’t help but root for them. If you are a fan of movies with “best friends to lovers” arcs, you’re going to lap this up.
21. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The story of Pinocchio has been told so many times that you’d think that no one, not even Guillermo del Toro, could do something original with it. Well, he has, and it’s a visual masterpiece, and it brazenly asks parents to look after their kids before they become the tools of fascism.
It’s an absolute shame that no one got the opportunity to watch this Norwegian juggernaut of a film on the big screen because it’s tailor-made for the theatrical experience. Like “The Sea Beast,” Roar Uthaug balances the bombastic visual-effects heavy setpieces, the character work, and its commentary on environmentalism very well while giving us a Kaiju that’s not a version of Godzilla or King Kong.
19. An Action Hero
“An Action Hero” is hands down the best Hindi movie of the year. It is one of the most important Indian movies ever made. And hence, I have watched it three times on the big screen, and I will be recommending it to everyone and anyone I come across because that’s the kind of attention this film deserves.
18. Bones And All
We’ve arrived at the second cannibal-themed movie on this list, and this one’s a romance! But the topic of cannibalism is also masterfully used to talk about coping with abandonment, attachment issues, and understanding one’s sexuality. It isn’t the easiest watch for reasons that are very obvious, but if you can stomach the blood and gore, I think you’ll appreciate it.
17. The Fabelmans
It’s Steven Spielberg at his most vulnerable and honest. Of course, every movie that he has ever made has a piece of him. But now, he has turned the lens inward to show us the pieces that make him who he is. Steven Spielberg is simply the best!
16. The Banshees of Inisherin
The word “ambitious” is usually used to refer to high-concept science-fiction movies made with big budgets. But, if you ask me, this Martin McDonagh film is a highly ambitious one. To tell a story about two friends breaking up, which has an underlying commentary about male ego and its consequences, in a market full of wishy-washy blockbusters and superhero films, and to tell it so well is something.
15. The Big 4
Timo Tjahjanto has done action. He has done horror. He has done action and horror. And his latest has a stupid amount of action but an even stupider amount of comedy. So, of course, it’s awesome!
14. Avatar: The Way of Water
James Cameron and his team deserve a standing ovation for reminding the world what blockbusters should look and feel like. And also, for telling every studio that’s throwing out one CGI-heavy spectacle after another to stop and think because they’re doing it all wrong. Additionally, this is the only other film on this list that I’ve watched five times in the theater.
13. The House
Haunted house movies that are possessed by an evil, vengeful spirit are good. Haunted house movies where the characters are unable to leave because of how much they’ve invested in it, emotionally or financially, are even better. This anthology film is the latter and given that it has come out at a time when we’ve become overly dependent on our houses due to the pandemic, it’s pretty scary.
12. Seoul Vibe
Watching this made me realize that the “Fast and Furious” franchise has become so vapid, and, in the right hands, the whole grease-monkey-ensemble-performs-heists sub-genre can have so much to offer. I mean, it essentially does everything that the “Fast and Furious” franchise has done but ten times better.
11. Day Shift
Jamie Foxx goes around town killing vampires while wearing some of the most vibrant Hawaiian shirts ever made. It’s a treat for the eyes and the soul.
Here’s yet another ambitious movie where a man coming out of a break-up has to work around a deal with a literal god who is trapped in a bathroom stall. I have no clue how it managed to hold my attention for 79 minutes straight. But I am glad that it did.
9. Land of Gold
There’s no dearth of movies (and shows) about a grizzly, world-weary guy going on a road trip with a little girl and forming a father-daughter relationship on the way. But there’s certainly a dearth there in terms of Indian representation. And Nardeep Khurmi’s film (which he has written, directed, and acted in) is a step in the right direction.
I’ll give this movie the award for the most chaotic film on this list. But despite its over-the-top tone, hyper-kinetic editing, and flashy visuals, it manages to get its message across about how men are just the worst thing on planet Earth.
7. Saani Kayidham
Indian filmmakers have tried to ape the “Kill Bill” duology multiple times, and they’ve all failed. Arun Matheswaran’s attempt to do the same doesn’t only manage to surpass Quentin Tarantino’s work but also stands tall in its own right as he tackles topics like misogyny, casteism, and more.
I won’t lie about disliking the movie when I watched it for the first time. A few months later, I gave it a second try, and everything from Jake Gyllenhaal’s chaotic energy to the commentary on how war veterans are ignored by the system simply clicked. I still don’t know what the alley-oop maneuver is, and maybe it’s meant to be that way.
This can both be and not be a cannibal-themed movie because we never get to see anyone eat a human. It’s only described in graphic detail. And it is that ambiguity that makes it so scary. Rebecca Hall should get all the awards in the world for her monologue.
4. Vikram Vedha
Hrithik Roshan as a villain who is going to teach the honest cop, played by Saif Ali Khan, about ACAB, with both of the actors acting their butts off while a killer soundtrack plays in the background? This is peak Hindi masala cinema, folks!
This was the biggest surprise of 2022. In my opinion, Varun Dhawan hasn’t given a genuinely good movie since “Sui Dhaaga.” And given the state of Bollywood, it seemed like we were never going to get another “Badlapur” or “October” from him. But, thanks to Amar Kaushik, who managed to blend his mainstream appeal with a message about alienating the people of Arunachal Pradesh and disrespecting the flora and fauna that’s an integral aspect of their culture, we got that Dhawan back in what’s probably his career-best performance.
2. Glass Onion
From dunking on the current tech-bro culture to criticizing the trend of celebrating empty-headed influencers, all the while empathizing with the plight of women of color in the United States of America, and that too in a twisted whodunnit? Rian Johnson is a winner for pulling it off so smoothly.
1. Mad God
Phil Tippett has made this movie over a period of 30 years. And the result is a nightmarish masterpiece. That’s all I’ll say about it.
I am really sorry to cinephiles, critics, filmmakers, or casual viewers who read this list and didn’t find their favorite movies in it. If I could have, I would have added them all. However, as you can see, it’s a pretty long list anyway, even after being very judicious about the titles that I wanted to exclude or include. That said, it doesn’t detract from the point that 2022 was a good year for films. We have gotten something from every genre to cherish, celebrate, and enjoy. Maybe all of them didn’t make a big splash in terms of views or box office numbers. But those aspects have never been the sole indicator of the quality of the film. Emotions, rewatchability, relatability, relevance, passion, and expertise in one’s craft are the things that make or break a movie. So, in 2023, leave box office numbers and viewership to the trade analysts. Share what you felt, what you witnessed, and what you needed more or less from the story that unfolded in front of you. And as Tom Cruise loves to say, “See you at the movies.”