The 25 best movies of 2022

Best of 2022
(Image credit: Best of 2022)

Multiverses collided, the Bat-signal shone, and a certain Maverick took to the skies; the past 12 months have been some of the most interesting in cinematic history, and the best movies of 2022 reflect just that. 

Despite franchises dominating the box office, auteur filmmakers took bigger and bigger swings, the likes of Jordan Peele and Robert Eggers making big-budget blockbusters that challenged wider audiences and won our hearts. Netflix proved a safe haven for directors trying new ideas, from animated wonders to controversial biopics, resulting in more hits than losses. Meanwhile, the art-house scene continued to thrive as festival favorites had the world talking as new stars were born. 

In the end, the best movies of 2022 came from all corners of the world. And while no Marvel movies made our list, a fair few franchise entries did – with an inevitable legacy sequel reminding us all about the power and spectacle of cinema. The below choices were all made by the Total Film team together and represent the very best of the big screen. Enjoy!

Note: Total Film is UK-based; the below movies were released between January 1 and December 31, 2022 in the UK. The likes of The Fablemans, Babylon, and Empire of Light are not included as they were not released within this timeframe in the UK, but are available in the US.

25. Speak No Evil

Speak No Evil

(Image credit: Sundance)

"Sometimes, the worst thing is to lose face. Sometimes, that is even worse than dying," said Christian Tafdrup, the director of dread-drenched psychological horror Speak No Evil. An intriguing, well-acted, slow-burn exploration of the lengths one might go to be polite, it followed a Danish family who get caught in a nightmare when they accept an invitation to stay with a Dutch couple they previously met on holiday. It almost plays out like an awkward cringe comedy at first, as the hosts exhibit increasingly unsavoury behaviour – which makes it all the more shocking when the reveals start coming and its brutal, bleak ending leaves you gobsmacked. Amy West

24. Emily the Criminal

Aubrey Plaza in Emily the Criminal

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

"Emily does and says all the things that we want to do and say, but we don't," Aubrey Plaza told us earlier this year. "There's something really cathartic about watching her character do that stuff." Plaza's Emily is a woman saddled with $70,000 of student debt. She works a thankless job delivering for a catering company that barely makes a dent in the repayment figures, so when an opportunity for some quick and easy cash is presented to her, she takes it – and finds herself in the depths of Los Angeles' criminal underworld. Director John Patton Ford's debut feature film is a tense, taut thriller that asks: if you're already at rock bottom, how much lower can you go? Emily Garbutt

23. Parallel Mothers

Parallel Mothers

(Image credit: Sony)

Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar re-teamed with his muse Penélope Cruz for Parallel Mothers, a melodrama of coincidence and tragedy. Cruz is astonishing as Janis, a photographer and newly single mother who forms a bond with her ward-mate Ana (Milena Smit), another, much younger mother. The pair stay in touch after their babies are born, but their fates are more tightly intertwined than either could ever have imagined. It's a film of motherhood, grief, and cultural trauma – it's no wonder Cruz was nominated for an Oscar for her role. Emily Garbutt

22. The Wonder

Florence Pugh in The Wonder

(Image credit: Netflix)

Don't Worry Darling may have grabbed headlines, but Florence Pugh's best performance of the year was in the lower-profile yet more momentous The Wonder. In it, Pugh played a nurse tasked with observing a "miracle girl" who has not eaten for months. "It is a film about the collision between reason and magical thinking, or science and extreme religiousness; between spiritual and intellectual elasticity versus fanaticism," director Sebastian Lelio told us. More than that, The Wonder is a film that challenges us to suspend our disbelief, the opening shot literally showing us the backstage of the film studio. Don't Worry Darling could never. Jack Shepherd

21. White Noise

White Noise

(Image credit: Netflix)

Noah Baumbach’s latest may be his boldest film yet. An adaptation of Don DeLillo's 1985 novel, White Noise depicts a year in the life of Hilter academic Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), his wife Babette (an impressively coiffed Greta Gerwig), and their children. When a chemical spill dubbed "The Toxic Airborne Event" hits their college town, hysteria descends as everyone's warned to either evacuate or stay inside. "It was a way to express the madness that I felt I was seeing every day, reading the headlines in the paper, and not leaving my house," Baumbach told us. But this isn’t just a pandemic-era film: the biting satire tackles addiction, mortality, anxiety, and love – all elevated by note-perfect performances. Plus it has the best credits sequence of the year, hands down. Fay Watson

20. Red Rocket

Red Rocket

(Image credit: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival)

Tangerine and The Florida Project director Sean Baker is a master of painting vignettes of bleakly humorous American mundanity. Red Rocket was his latest portrait, in which Simon Rex played former porn star Mikey who returns, down on his luck, to his Texas hometown to live with his estranged wife and her mother. Suddenly smitten with the 17-year-old girl working in the local doughnut shop, he’s convinced he can make her the next big name in porn. Mikey muddles his way through life in Texas City in an infuriating manner, the consequences of his actions never quite catching up with him, but Rex’s magnetic screen presence kept us enthralled. Emily Garbutt

19. Prey

Amber Midthunder as Naru in Prey

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios/Hulu)

Director Dan Trachtenberg didn’t just return the Predator franchise to its roots with this prequel Prey – he took it all the way back to 18th-century America, to a Yautja hunting trip on Indigenous lands. With quick wits and fierce determination, warrior Naru (Amber Midthunder) proved herself capable of taking on the series’ most intimidating hunter to date. But the film also explored her struggle to be taken seriously by the men of her tribe – a rousing coming-of-age tale, which happened to have a relentless, rampaging Predator pursuing its lead. "When this project first came into my world, I had no idea it was a Predator movie," Midthunder said. Joel Harley

18. Boiling Point

Stephen Graham in Boiling Point

(Image credit: Vertigo Releasing)

Long single shots can be utterly thrilling, especially when they run to movie length. Hitchcock pulled off only 10 shots over 80 minutes in 1948’s Rope, with the action performed in a single space, and 2014 saw Iñárritu’s Birdman, with 119 chaotic minutes appearing as a one-take. Boiling Point merged the two, with the claustrophobia of Rope and the ingenious camerawork of Birdman, and told the story of an upmarket restaurant kitchen, led by a never-better Stephen Graham as head chef. Director Philip Barantini gave a masterclass in building tension and created a riveting nightmare from which the camera – and audiences – couldn’t look away. Leila Latif

17. Turning Red

Turning Red

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

Metaphors didn’t come much cuter in 2022 than in Domee Shi’s boundary-busting Pixar animation Turning Red about a girl going through puberty and dealing with an ancient family curse that means she transforms into a giant red panda any time she’s excited or anxious. As a high-schooler, that’s fairly often. “I really wanted it to feel like an Asian teen fever dream,” said Shi, and the film boasted a remarkable, anime-inspired visual style that emphasized poppy colors, stylized ‘chunky cute’ shapes, and cartoony motion. Extremely funny, but also moving, it was culturally specific and universally engaging. And in boy band 4*Town, it had some of the best original songs of the year. U know what’s up. Matt Maytum

16. Living


(Image credit: Lionsgate)

"The idea of doing a period piece was scary," admitted Oliver Hermanus, the South African-born director of Moffie who nevertheless brought his A-game to this delicate, devastating reworking of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru. Scripted by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, who shifted the action from Japan to Britain, this drama saw Bill Nighy deliver a career-best turn as Williams, a 1950s mid-level manager at London’s County Hall who only has six months to live. How he spends that time made up this masterly look at what it means to leave something behind. From Sandy Powell’s costumes to Jamie Ramsay’s elegant cinematography, this was one of the most artful films of the year. James Mottram

15. The Batman

The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Robert Pattinson played a haunted, fixated Dark Knight in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, up against a thoroughly disturbing Riddler (Paul Dano) and the villain’s string of gruesome, puzzling murders. As Batman sank into the murky underworld, backed by Michael Giacchino’s booming score, we met the likes of Zoë Kravitz’s seductive Catwoman, Colin Farrell’s sleazy Penguin and Jeffrey Wright’s stalwart Jim Gordon. "I think people will be quite shocked at how different it is," Pattinson told TF. A dark, moody detective story that took us deep into the rain-slicked heart of a corrupt Gotham City, The Batman was the Caped Crusader as we’d never seen him before. Molly Edwards

14. Blonde

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde

(Image credit: Netflix)

Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional tale of Marilyn Monroe (Ana de Armas, luminous) was fiercely divisive with its uncompromising, cruel, and unapologetically male lens trained on the heartbreak, abuse, and shattered dreams of a starlet disseminated by audience, media, studio, family, and friends. But maybe that was the point? Challenging, grotesque, filthy-gorgeous, and troubling, Blonde asked viewers to question themselves on how complicit they were, and are, in the voracious Hollywood machine that craves celebrity while also tearing it apart. Provocative filmmaking that recreated moments from Monroe’s career with startling verisimilitude, it made you feel something. Even if that was disgust and rage. Jane Crowther

13. Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio

(Image credit: Netflix)

A story about "imperfect fathers and imperfect sons", this was the Pinocchio movie of the year. Freely adapting the original Carlo Collodi story, Guillermo del Toro and co-director Mark Gustafson crafted a unique companion piece to The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, moving the (mostly) family-friendly story to fascist Italy. There haven’t been many family films (this year or otherwise) to ruminate so profoundly on loss and love, and the superb, hand-hewn animation was perfect for bringing the wooden boy to life. Del Toro specified that he "wanted the possessory credit" to differentiate this film from previous versions: there was no mistaking who the visionary behind this unique fable was. Matt Maytum

12. Belle

Belle (2021)

(Image credit: Anime Ltd)

After the moppet-focused Mirai (2018), anime auteur Mamoru Hosoda “wanted to create something big”. Drawing on his love for Beauty And The Beast (’91 version), he dazzlingly transposed a time-old tale to the metaverse, where grieving teen Suzu becomes a singing cyber-sensation, meets a cagey Dragon and has to deal with some vicious trolls (think Gaston, but with a mania for doxing). Taking startling departures from Disney, this was no fairy tale - nor a plainly cautionary one, offering a more tech-positive stance than many a web-based, youth-oriented drama. Online or off, the worlds of Belle were stunning to behold, and even lovelier to listen to: in cathartic climactic number 'A Million Miles Away', the emotions could hardly have been bigger. Matthew Leyland

11. Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood

New Netflix movie Apollo 10 1/2

(Image credit: Netflix)

Mixing dewy-eyed reminiscence, a dollop of fantasy and the forensic eye of a cultural historian, Richard Linklater’s trip back to Houston in the late '60s revisited a golden time in America’s evolution through the eyes of a boy who imagines he is called upon by NASA to take a rocket to the Moon. No sooner did it establish its fanciful premise, though, than it revealed its true agenda: to scrutinise its hero’s coming-of-age in all its colourful minutiae, with Jack Black’s genial narration serving as our guide.

"What I’ve always tried to do in my movies is show what it feels like to be human at a certain time in history," said Linklater. "I wanted to make a film that captured what it was like to live in Houston at this very moment in time." What really made this Space Age Childhood soar, though, was its vibrant rotoscoped imagery, Linklater using the techniques he honed on Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly to lend his nostalgic stroll down memory lane a dream-like sense of wonderment. Neil Smith

10. Moonage Daydream

David Bowie in Moonage Daydream

(Image credit: Universal)

"It’s not about David Bowie. It’s not about David Jones. It’s Bowie in quotations," said Brett Morgen, the director of this dazzling documentary deep-dive into the personal archives of one of music’s most mercurial figures. For his kaleidoscopic look at Bowie – the showman, the shapeshifter – Morgen spent five years sifting through often never-before-seen footage to create a unique portrait of the artist. Even compared to his earlier music docs, the Nirvana-led Cobain: Montage Of Heck and the Rolling Stones’ Crossfire Hurricane, this was radical. Beginning with 1995’s ‘Hallo Spaceboy’, before spinning viewers through a Bowie wormhole, watching it was like stepping in a time machine, as eras, outfits, and personas flash by. The “unicorns” included previously shelved footage from the epic Earl’s Court gigs in ’78 when Bowie toured ‘Heroes’ – what Morgen calls "possibly the greatest performance on film of David’s career" – but this went much deeper than merely showcasing hidden gems. From fan worship to a revealing Russell Harty interview, Morgen’s tapestry was a symphonic homage to one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. James Mottram

9. Elvis

Austin Butler in Elvis

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Austin Butler likened his transformation into The King to climbing Mount Everest and there were plenty who thought he might tap out on the ice. But by the time Baz Luhrmann bowed his glitzy biopic at Cannes to a standing ovation, it was clear that he’d achieved the summit. Dividing Presley’s life into three different eras and telling his story via the lens of his long-time manager (Tom Hanks), Luhrmann managed to capture the thrill of Elvis as a rebel, sex symbol and performer via Butler’s feral, soulful turn that so eerily nailed Presley’s physicality and voice that audiences had trouble telling him and the real Elvis apart in the film’s closing footage. Uh huh huh. Jane Crowther

8. The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures UK)

"The idea was to tell a truthful break-up story – as sadly and humanely, or horrifyingly, as that can be," said writer/ director Martin McDonagh of The Banshees of Inisherin. Adding dark humor, quiet beauty, and one miniature donkey to the mix, he reunited his In Bruges leads to make the year’s most complicated relationship look effortless. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson were the lifelong best pals who fall out on a small island during the Irish Civil War – one hitting an existential impasse, the other left wondering what he’s done wrong. Fiddles were fiddled, fingers were chopped off, and McDonagh’s prickly script danced to the tune of immortality versus... not being a feckin’ eejit. Paul Bradshaw

7. Aftersun


(Image credit: A24)

"Paul [Mescal] offered an innate warmth and stability essential to the character," writer-director Charlotte Wells said of her leading man, playing a privately troubled young Scottish father on a Turkey package holiday with his daughter (Frankie Corio). A remarkably assured debut feature, Aftersun was a film so deceptively simple that you didn’t realise how much it had successfully sneaked up on you until it broke your heart in its final stretch. Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar (2002) seemed a clear influence, but Wells demonstrated her own distinct, sharp ability to unearth weighty, intimate portraits from emotionally cryptic characters. Josh Slater-Williams

6. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once

(Image credit: A24)

Forget Doctor Strange: this year’s true Multiverse of Madness was to be found in the Daniels’ deliciously demented fantasia about a Chinese-American laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh) who finds out, in the middle of a tax audit, that only she can save the world. The unhinged result was a riotous cavalcade of fanny packs, googly eyes, butt plugs and hot-dog fingers. Yet at its core lay a tale of generational divide that couldn’t help but resonate, even with Ratatouille- like raccoons anarchically pulling the strings.

"We tried to make an empathetic story about how hard it is for our parents’ generation to understand our generation," said co-director Daniel Scheinert. "We knew we could throw crazy ideas at the wall, but the litmus test would be, 'Does that complement the journey of this family?'" That the film would celebrate Yeoh was certain from the off. "But it’s also a love letter to 40 other things," Scheinert went on. "At the end we were like, 'Woah, what a crazy collection of things we love have come together here.'" Neil Smith

5. Nope

Daniel Kaluuya in Nope

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Anticipation was high ahead of Jordan Peele’s latest film, which saw him reunite with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya. The trailer was dissected, and theories flooded social media. Was Nope about the Rapture? An alien invasion? Climate change? What no one saw coming was the film opening with one of the most harrowing chimp scenes committed to celluloid that proved the inciting incident of a huge, scary, beautiful spectacle that paid tribute to the best of early Spielberg. 

While Peele acknowledged the tribute, he also reiterated that this was not "Jordan Peele’s Jaws" it was "Jordan Peele’s Nope". And that auteur status is well deserved after a winning streak of Get Out, Us, and Nope; the former sketch-comedy star has proven to be one of the most intriguing filmmakers working today. He staged one of the most complex, and largely dialogue-free, action sequences of the year, and wrote the most perfectly imaginable return to screen for Michael Wincott. Where Nope features a "bad miracle", Peele’s filmography has proved to be a good one. Leila Latif

4. Licorice Pizza

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

"What happens when an eighth-grader asks a grown woman out for a date and she actually turns up to it?" So mused writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson for 20 years before he finally got around to figuring out the answer in his ninth feature, Licorice Pizza. Set in the sun-drenched San Fernando Valley of the 1970s, aka Anderson’s youth, it focused on 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour Hoffman), an effervescent, fast-talking child actor, and 25-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim), a photographer’s assistant adrift in life. 

He does indeed ask her out, she agrees, platonically, and what follows is a freewheeling set of (mis)adventures that mix a wealth of mirth with pockets of melancholy. Most of the exploits in the movie actually happened to PTA’s friend, producer Gary Goetzman, and they were brought to heart-soaring life by two novice actors offering vivaciously naturalistic turns. Electric support came from a wild-eyed Bradley Cooper as producer Jon Peters, while a host of feel-good needle drops amplified the giddy emotions. "The director’s most endearing movie yet," proclaimed Variety. Jamie Graham

3. The Northman

The Northman

(Image credit: Universal)

How in Odin’s name the director of art-house favorites The Witch and The Lighthouse convinced studios to give him $90m to make this dark, daring
and armrest-grippingly intense tale of Viking vengeance, we’ll never know. But thank the Norse gods that Robert Eggers managed it. Blockbusters simply aren’t supposed to be this weird (which might explain why it underperformed at the box office) but after being rushed to VOD and home media, The Northman belatedly, deservedly found its audience. Dense in historical and mythological detail, Eggers’ script – co-written with Icelandic poet Sjón – smartly kept its revenge plot simple (all together now: "I will avenge you, father! I will save you, mother! I will kill you, Fjölnir!") as Alexander Skarsgård’s Amleth hunted down his villainous uncle, played with cold-eyed relish by Claes Bang. 

With fine support from a wild-eyed Willem Dafoe and Björk, stealing her single scene as a blind seeress, the central cast tuned into their director’s prog-operatic frequency, with Anya Taylor-Joy’s twitchy sorceress providing the perfect foil to Skarsgård’s muscular lead performance. Culminating with two naked men roaring at one other atop an active volcano, this was risk-taking big-ticket cinema at its exhilarating best. Chris Schilling

2. The Worst Person in the World

‎Renate Reinsve in The Worst Person in the World

(Image credit: Neon)

"Everything is polarising in art right now, and I want to go the other way
and make something tender and caring," Danish-Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier said of his spellbinding The Worst Person In The World. His ode to romantic comedies of yesteryear did just that, juggling humor, melancholy, and romance, while not ignoring the flaws of his decidedly modern heroine Julie.

Focused on four years of her life, we watched her fall in and out of love, deal with loss, and ultimately try to forge a path forward. And amidst the deeply human drama of Trier and Eskil Vogt’s note-perfect script was also space for wonder – one particular standout scene featured the entirety of Oslo stock-still as Julie sprinted between two men for a kiss. Such a deft handling of tone was anchored in the extraordinary performance of Renate Reinsve, who was on the brink of abandoning acting before landing the role, while Anders Danielsen Lie and Herbert Nordrum brought poignancy and levity. The Worst Person In The World was the finale to Trier’s ‘Oslo Trilogy’, after Reprise and Oslo, August 31st, and it may just be his pièce de résistance. Fay Watson

1. Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

There was no way Top Gun: Maverick could work. Top Gun, the movie that made Tom Cruise a star, came out 36 years ago, and was a product of its time – from its power-pop score and MTV edits to its jingoistic politics and unbridled machismo. Even its biggest fans wouldn’t want more of that. A sequel had to again capture that need for speed but be completely different.

No, it couldn’t work. And yet it did. And how. Boy oh boy, and how, as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) found himself ordered back to Top Gun to train a batch of flyboys (Glen Powell and Miles Teller are magnetic) and a flygal (Monica Barbaro, ace) to navigate a seemingly impossible mission. If the original was about cockpit cowboys fighting for individual glory as their egos wrote cheques their bodies couldn’t cash, this belated sequel taught the values of teamwork and instilled belief in those without hope.

Top Gun: Maverick got everything right, from the frequent callbacks that each time came with a clever twist to lend the nostalgia a touch of zest, to Val Kilmer’s oh-so- moving cameo as Iceman, to the slipstream of world-weariness that Mav now trailed. His trademark confidence and mischievous anti-authoritarianism were still in evidence, but the grin and the Ray-Bans had slipped askew. Cruise grounded the airborne action with a terrific performance – movie-star charisma feathered with real nuance.

The kinetic, heart-stopping set-pieces, meanwhile, were extraordinary, culled from 800 hours of footage and proving 10 times more thrilling than the no-stakes CGI spectacle offered by most blockbusters. Director Joseph Kosinski is a shooter, and he somehow matched – nay, exceeded – Tony Scott’s bar-setting visuals.

"It’s all practical action," stressed Cruise, who not only performed his own stunts (naturally) but trained up his co-stars. "Being in an F/A-18 is very intense; I had to teach the actors about how to become pilots, and... how to understand cinematography and editing and lighting – so that when they were up there, they knew how to start the cameras, turn them off – and performance. They had to be absolutely spot on."

As did the film. It is. Damn, this kid’s good. Jamie Graham

Those are the best movies of 2022, as chosen by the Total Film team. Be sure to also check out our list of the best shows of 2022, too.

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.

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