We had our first full post-pandemic year of moviegoing in 2022 – and the future of cinemas started to look a little brighter (well, darker if we’re being totally accurate). Keeping the lights firmly switched off was a stream of Hollywood blockbusters featuring superheroes (of course), time-travellers, rock stars and fighter pilots. But we also found time to support smaller indie stories – and after a tricky few years at the box office, they really needed it.
Away from the big screen, Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and the rest continued to churn out films at an ever increasing rate. From spooky horror and wacky teen flicks to tense drama and soppy romance, we were spoiled for choice – and all from the comfort of our well-worn, slightly sagging sofas. The snacks were cheaper too!
So whether you’re a lifelong Picturehouse member or sending money to MUBI, check out our list of the 20 best movies of 2022 (as voted by our writers). You wouldn’t want to miss anything good now, would you?
Alex Flood, Commissioning Editor (Film + TV)
Words by: Elizabeth Aubrey, Paul Bradshaw, Andrew Brown, Rhian Daly, Ella Kemp, Claire Lim, James Mottram, Hannah Mylrea, Thomas Smith, Lou Thomas, Andrew Trendell, Jake Tucker, Kyann-sian Williams
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
It felt very fitting this year when the Scream franchise – Hollywood’s most self-aware slasher series – got a reboot that skewered reboot culture. It opens, as the 1996 original did, with a phone call. Masked murderer Ghostface has found a new victim – and he wants to play yet another game. From there the film constantly surprises as it upends horror tropes, carving out a path to its gore-filled finale. Along the way, some familiar faces pop up (Neve Campbell’s scream queen Sidney; Gale the reporter played by Courtney Cox; David Arquette’s dopey cop Dewey) – and they did a great job of passing the torch to a new generation, led by the absolutely fearless Jenna Ortega.
Action-wise, the set pieces are excellent, the twists mostly shocking, and even moments that should be ridiculous (“Look behind you” and “Welcome to Act Three”) should draw a smirk from even the most jaded of fans. All in all, an unexpected delight.
Did you know? Just like in the previous four Scream films, Roger L. Jackson provides the voice of Ghostface. His other famous role? Mojo Jojo in The Powerpuff Girls. JT
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19. ‘This Much I Know To Be True’
Director: Andrew Dominik
In the midst of cutting his Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, Aussie director Andrew Dominik nipped to London to shoot his second movie with Nick Cave. Taking place during the pandemic, this part-documentary, part-performance piece catches up with Cave and regular collaborator Warren Ellis, both at home and performing tracks from albums ‘Ghosteen’ and ‘Carnage’. In a cavernous church-like space, Dominik truly captures the majesty of Cave and Ellis in their creative fury, with the camera circling the musicians in giddy fashion. Yet this is not just about the end result, but the inspirational journey it took to get there. Cave, once again, proves both a consummate performer and endlessly fascinating raconteur, musing on life, the universe and everything. Ellis, meanwhile, is the ideal partner in crime – Robin to Cave’s Batman. Never has a film got closer to nailing their indelible partnership than this. Oh, and the Marianne Faithfull cameo is a sheer delight.
Did you know? The film is a hobbyist’s dream, showing Nick Cave’s ceramics collection and Warren Ellis’ love of pressed flowers. JM
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18. ‘Nightmare Alley’
Director: Guillermo del Toro
A grim but gripping remake of the 1947 Tyrone Power film noir, Bradley Cooper excels as drifter Stan Carlisle, who goes from carnival clairvoyant to shifty psychic, only to fall foul of Cate Blanchett’s elegant psychologist, who threatens to expose his con artistry. The support cast is one of the year’s slickest: Rooney Mara as Stan’s squeeze; Willem Dafoe and Tim Blake Nelson as fair barkers; del Toro regular Ron Perlman as the circus strongman; David Strathairn and Toni Collette as a married vaudeville act. But what really casts a spell is the period atmosphere conjured by del Toro and his regular cinematographer Dan Laustsen, so richly evocative of the ‘40s it’s like time-travel. While it may move del Toro away from the horror/fantasy genre that he so loves, he’s tailor-made for film noir. From the flame-grilled opening to the grisly, snow-bound denouement, this may be a story about fakery, but it feels utterly genuine.
Did you know? Del Toro took inspiration from American painters Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, and George Bellows for the film’s distinct look. JM
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17. ‘Do Revenge’
Director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
In 2022, we welcomed Do Revenge to the ranks of actually-good high school comedies. A film that celebrates the genre as much as it satirises it, this Gen Z revenge flick sits snugly alongside Mean Girls, Heathers and Easy A. Loosely inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, the plot follows queen bee Drea (Camila Mendes) and loner Eleanor (Maya Hawke) who are both out for vengeance. Drea is ostracised among her peers when her “fake woke” prom king boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams) leaks illicit pictures she sent him, while Eleanor gets bullied after a vicious rumour is spread at summer camp. The dynamic duo switch targets, each of them seeking retribution for the other’s tormentor – and a thrilling ride that grows more brilliantly preposterous with each big reveal ensues. Filled with whip-smart one-liners, this witty watch is well worth your time.
Did you know? Costume designer Alana Morshead told InStyle that she was influenced by Clueless, Korean school uniforms and ’90s supermodels when making the film’s killer outfits, with leads Drea and Eleanor both having specific colours and styles. HM
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16. ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’
Director: Ryan Coogler
King T’Challa is gone and while Wakanda mourns his death, the fictional African nation’s enemies covet its futuristic tech. Meanwhile, another threat emerges from the sea: Namor, the King of Talokan, an ancient underwater civilisation that is feeling the threat of modern society on its borders. Namor is angry, and he sets his people on a collision course with, well, everyone. What follows is a well-worked sequel to one of the biggest Marvel movies ever that’s packed with heartache and rollocking action scenes you’ll wish went on much longer. Deserved props go to director Ryan Coogler, who has somehow managed to maintain momentum from the first Black Panther, despite several script rewrites, a global pandemic and the death of his star getting in the way. Now there’s a superhero for you.
Did you know? Tenoch Huerta, who plays Namor in the movie, called his costume “shame shorts” because of their size – they were pretty small! CL
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Director: Dan Trachtenberg
It’s been 35 years since the last good Predator movie (Arnie’s original, by the way), which means the time is ripe for a franchise return to form. Step forward, Prey – Dan Trachtenberg’s cleverly-worked prequel. The star is Amber Midthunder’s Naru, who carries the entire movie on her shoulders as a Comanche Warrior going toe-to-toe with a vicious alien intent on murdering her people. The Predator itself is mostly invisible, but when we do get a glimpse of the terrifying beast it’s done in a thoughtful, smart way that adds to the mystery. Prey keeps things simple with a quiet, slow-building thriller. It’s the sort of movie that only a filmmaker with a deep understanding of the source material could make – and Trachtenberg clearly knows his stuff.
Did you know? Naru’s pet canine Sarii is played by Carolina Dog Coco, descended from the wild breed that migrated with humans (similar to the Comanche) from Russia to Canada 16,500 years ago. JT
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Director: Charlotte Wells
Bringing old memories to life on-screen is a difficult task, but debut writer-director Charlotte Wells does so beautifully with the help of Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio playing a young dad and daughter on holiday at an all-inclusive resort in Turkey during the ‘90s. Expect a lot of karaoke hits and the usual quirks of slightly tacky holiday resorts visited almost exclusively by sunburned Brits. But there’s much more than satire here, in one of the most elegant and vulnerable films of the year. Sophie (Corio) is trying to figure out what’s getting her dad Calum (Mescal) down, as the film sways gently between past and present, in an ode to love and family that understands depression and believes in the power of remembering loved ones. A beautiful, relatable family portrait.
Did you know? This is Frankie Corio’s first ever film role, after her mum found the ad on Facebook. EK
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13. ‘Moonage Daydream’
Director: Brett Morgen
If you saw Brett Morgen’s powerful Kurt Cobain doc Montage Of Heck, you’ll know his approach to making music movies is more sensory overload than all-singing, all-dancing rock biopic. Rocketman, this ain’t. Instead, Moonage Daydream is a dizzying mix of arty archive footage, interviews and live performances that’s all laid out in a kaleidoscopic manner so the viewer can truly get lost in the vast imagination and undefinable character of David Bowie. The soundtrack is, of course, exquisite – and the gig scenes so immersive you’ll feel transported back to Hammersmith Odeon in the ‘70s. Essentially, you’re stepping into a Bowie superfan’s fever dream. So if your mum is expecting to watch Bohemian Rhapsody when you sit down for your family Boxing Day film, you’d better warn her now.
Did you know? While obsessively working on the movie in a pitch-black studio, Morgen had a heart attack, flatlined for three minutes and spent a week in a coma. Yikes! AT
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Director: Rob Savage
Lockdown horror Host was crowned the scariest film of all time in a study last year, so it’s safe to say director Rob Savage’s second film had a bit of expectation behind it. Luckily Dashcam, a blood-soaked, mad-as-a-hatter B-movie, didn’t disappoint. Filmed entirely via handheld camera, it follows MAGA-loving Annie on the worst night of her life. Sick of California’s COVID regulations, she pitches up in the UK to visit a friend but gets caught up in a gory, supernatural yarn involving death, drink-driving and involuntary defecation. It is quite possibly the most foul-mouthed, disgusting thing you’ll clap eyes on this year – and that’s with a new Jackass out too. “I wanted this movie to be un-classy, big and loud,” Savage told NME earlier this year. Tick, tick, tick.
Did you know? Annie is played by Annie Hardy, frontwoman of LA indie rock band Giant Drag. AF
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11. ‘The Worst Person In The World’
Director: Joachim Trier
Coming-of-age movies are two a penny these days but the latest film from writer-director Joachim Trier presents a subtle twist on the genre – it’s for grownups who feel like they never grew up. Julie (played by breakout star Renate Reinsve) is about to turn 30 and has yet to settle down as society expects, bringing concerns and insecurities into her romantic life. But they also push her to open up, falling for comic book author Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) before finding more infatuation with wedding party guest Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), with whom she tests the limits of her and Aksel’s relationship. Set out in 12 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue, The Worst Person In The World holds literary ambitions but it dazzles on-screen in scenes such as when Julie runs through Oslo to her new lover while the rest of the city is frozen in time – a giddy and glorious bottling of the first rushes of infatuation.
Did you know? Reinsve was almost ready to quit acting before she landed this role – and then went on to win Cannes’ Best Actress award for the part. RD
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10. ‘Decision To Leave’
Director: Park Chan-wook
On paper, Decision to Leave is just another police procedural. But don’t be fooled – this incredible work from director Park Chan-wook is yet another reason why South Korean screen culture is currently smashing it in the wake of Netflix smash Squid Game and Oscar winner Parasite. When a climber is found dead and Busan detective Hae-jun takes the case, he soon ends up in a morally complex game of conflicting emotions and opaque motivations when he falls in love with Seo-rae, the dead man’s wife. This banger doesn’t have the extraordinary blood-letting of director Park’s Oldboy but it has shades of Hitchcock classic Vertigo and thrillers like Basic Instinct, coupled with a subtlety and modern sophistication unlike anything else out there. With Park Hae-il compelling as the tormented, married Hae-jun and Tang Wei captivating as Seo-rae, it’s both a heart-stoppingly beautiful romance and a gripping puzzler you can’t miss.
Did you know? Park’s next project is The Sympathizer, a seven-part HBO TV series with Robert Downey Jr. LT
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9. ‘The Batman’
Director: Matt Reeves
Batman has had a tough few years. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy raised the bar but Ben Affleck’s beefed-up Bats knocked it back down again. Realising that Batman should never be a co-star in someone else’s film, Matt Reeves gave the character another AAA reboot. Avoiding Nolan’s realism and Zack Snyder’s bombast, Reeves went back to the grit of the graphic novels to stuff a jaded millennial detective in the Batsuit – weirdly, and brilliantly, turning Bruce Wayne into a superhero Kurt Cobain. Robert Pattinson felt like the perfect fit (returning to franchise filmmaking after a decade spent honing his arthouse chops), and Batman 2022 landed punches that crunched as hard as his daddy issues. Add in a heavyweight supporting cast (Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano and Jeffrey Wright), a handful of bass-shaking set pieces (that Penguin chase…), plus the promise of a whole new trilogy, and The Batman put the Caped Crusader right back where he belongs.
Did you know? Pattinson had to wear George Clooney’s old cowl for the screen test, and he sweated so much in it that the makeup dripped off his face. PB
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8. ‘Boiling Point’
Director: Philip Barantini
Tense kitchen dramas about troubled chefs had a moment this year, with The Bear’s tasty dish of razor-sharp writing and complex characters tempting tellyheads in. Even better though was Boiling Point – a single-take, low-budget nerve-jangler set in a posh restaurant. The owner is Andy (Stephen Graham), a well-respected figure in the industry who’s gone off the rails and is nursing a coke habit, which he leans on to help cope with stress, rising bills and a creeky family life. Unfortunately, he takes it out on his disgruntled staff – who are all understandably fed up with the dynamic. The one-shot format only adds to this anxious atmosphere, as we follow Andy and his employees from each business-ruining calamity to the next. It’s a bit like Whiplash, but all the trombones and clarinets have been replaced by stale bread baskets and overcooked steaks. Every bite is utterly addictive.
Did you know? Emily, Andy’s kind pastry chef, is married to Stephen Graham in real life. AF
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Director: Jordan Peele
There are few remaining truly original blockbuster filmmakers, but thank God we have Jordan Peele. The acclaimed writer-director returned this summer to give us Nope, his fresh sci-fi thriller with a twist: what if the only way to see aliens was to capture them on camera? Starring frequent Peele collaborator Daniel Kaluuya as OJ and scene-stealing Keke Palmer as his sister Emerald, Nope follows a family’s Hollywood horse-training business after dad Otis (Keith David) is killed by a coin falling from the sky amid a bunch of other mysterious debris. The rest of the story provides a meta-commentary on the power and risk of filmmaking when lives are on the line. It deftly pays homage to the history of cinema while creating original, high-stakes excitement for a new audience. There are naturally more questions than answers – but sometimes the most fun is had when you stop looking for the how and suspend your disbelief.
Did you know? When Keke Palmer’s motorcycle screeches to a halt in a slow-motion scene in the film’s climax, Peele is paying homage to Katsuhiro Otomo’s ‘80s cult classic anime Akira. EK
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6. ‘The Northman’
Director: Robert Eggers
Leave your expectations at the longhouse door, The Northman is a strange one. In Robert Eggers’ historical revenge epic, Viking prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) witnesses his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murder his father King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke), setting him on a lifelong quest for vengeance. Years pass and Amleth – now ludicrously muscly – embarks on an elaborate quest to avenge his father. Along the way, he teams up with sorceress Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), gets life advice from Björk, and carves bloody murder through the picturesque plains of Iceland. Though The Northman takes time to relish in folklore tales and esoteric spiritual sequences, it’s punctuated by some truly explosive action scenes: scores of Viking heads roll before the credits do, and some gruesome practical effects highlight the barbarity of Amleth’s retribution. However, even looking into the exposed nasal cavity of a would-be villain shouldn’t be enough to put you off one of this year’s wildest triumphs.
Did you know? After shooting, Alexander Skarsgård was gifted his own bloody thong from the set. Lovely. AB
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Director: Baz Luhrmann
For two and half blissful hours this summer (not counting rewatches), we were immersed in the momentous life of Elvis Presley, quite possibly the most famous musician ever to have lived. Opening on his childhood spent in Mississippi as an inquisitive lover of gospel standards, Baz Luhrmann’s bold biopic includes some of The King’s most memorable performances as well as honestly depicting the troubled life that came from his celebrity. Ex-child star Austin Butler knows a thing or two about handling success at a young age and embodies the tension at the heart of Elvis’ character well. Tom Hanks, in a rare villainous role as Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker, is on top form too. An intriguing prospect even if you’re not a fan of ‘Hound Dog’ or ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, Elvis sits atop this year’s music movie throne.
Did you know? Ansel Elgort, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Harry Styles were also in the running for the lead role. KSW
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4. ‘Licorice Pizza’
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson is best known for his many collaborations with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, so when news arrived that the actor’s son, Cooper, was to star in his latest – well, there wasn’t a dry eye in sight. And what a debut performance it was. Cooper starred as Gary Valentine – a teenage entrepreneur and actor mature beyond his years and smitten with an older woman, Alana – played by one Alana Haim in her first starring movie role. It also featured some excellent cameos: a grizzly Tom Waits playing wizened film director Rex Blau, Sean Penn as pervy Jack Holden and John C. Reilly as Herman Munster. But it was Bradley Cooper’s coked-up Jon Peters that truly stole the show. The course of true love doesn’t run smooth for Gary and Alana (the notable age difference looms large) but theirs is a love that transcends in what is ultimately a beautiful sun-tinged ode to PTA’s teenage life in the San Antonia Valley.
Did you know? The film’s brilliant score was written by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. EA
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3. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’
Director: Joseph Kosinski
No, you weren’t the only one. A Top Gun sequel – released over 30 years since the original – wasn’t supposed to be good. The return and phenomena caught many by surprise, including little old NME who gave the film a paltry three stars upon release. Whoops! By the end of the summer, however, it became an icebreaker in post-pandemic social events: “So have you seen the new Top Gun, yet?” It was everything you could possibly hope for in a sequel: close enough to the first but not a complete rehash, Easter eggs galore for superfans and an accessible spectacle for newcomers and casuals. Not only that, but it might have saved cinema itself: Tom Cruise’s insistence that he wanted the film to be experienced on the big screen was a gamble that paid off, becoming 2022’s highest-grossing film so far.
Did you know? The cast celebrated wrapping on that hot and heavy game of topless beach football with milkshakes and junk food. Days later Cruise decided he wanted to reshoot the whole scene, and the cast had to hit the gym again. TS
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2. ‘The Banshees Of Inisherin’
Director: Martin McDonagh
“I just don’t like you anymore”, says Brendan Gleeson’s Colm to Colin Farrell’s Pádraic. It’s as simple as that, except of course it isn’t – with a lifelong friendship breaking up so suddenly that Pádraic just can’t understand what he’s done wrong. Existential madness swirls around the shores of the film’s rural Irish setting, but so too do miniature donkeys, naked policemen and a handful of severed fingers. Dancing between pitch-black comedy and something painfully profound, Martin McDonagh’s mythic script cuts through life’s mini tragedies like a pair of rusty shears – but it’s Gleeson and Farrell that really make The Banshees Of Inisherin sting. Reuniting his In Bruges leads, McDonagh’s masterstroke is his casting: with both stars never better than they are here squinting silently into a Guinness. The only film this year that’ll have you laughing, crying and wondering whether you’d be better off moving to the middle of nowhere to learn the fiddle.
Did you know? Farrell shared a house with co-star Barry Keoghan while making the movie, and constantly complained how messy he was. (Keoghan also apparently stole Farrell’s cornflakes…) PB
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1. ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’
Directors: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Was there a madder, more exciting movie in 2022 than Everything Everywhere All At Once? So good, in so many ways, was director duo Daniels’ meta action spectacular that it’s now become synonymous with the idea of the Multiverse – wresting the idea from a much bigger Marvel title that even had the timey-wimey concept in its title (hey there, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness). It details the myriad disappointments of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese-American matriarch who, she learns, represents a worst-case scenario for all of the infinite Evelyns from other realities. She’s broke, estranged from her daughter, and stuck in a loveless marriage to a man she co-owns a laundromat with. Cue a rollicking, dizzying sci-fi trip in which Evelyn uses special technology to access the memories and feelings of alternate Evelyns – enabling her to possess their superhuman abilities and fight off a dastardly villain hellbent on destroying mankind. It’s kind of a headfuck, but that’s sort of the point.
Did you know? To keep plot details under wraps before the trailer was released, the official IMDb synopsis read “a woman tries to do her taxes.” AF
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