From box-office blockbusters to independent arthouse hits, 2022 has been a good year for films. As the New Year approaches, we’ve taken a look back at some of the best films released this year – to give you some inspiration for what to watch over the festive period.
So, without further ado, here are 22 of our favourite films of 2022 (in no particular order)…
1. Top Gun: Maverick
What better way to kick off our list than with 2022’s ultimate summer blockbuster? There was lots of scepticism surrounding this long-awaited sequel, but when it opened to glowing reviews and a record-breaking box-office weekend, Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick silenced doubters.
The film follows Tom Cruise’s Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell as he returns to the Top Gun flight school to prepare a new generation of pilots for a dangerous mission. It features stellar performances from its all-star cast and breathtaking action sequences.
When visiting his cousins in Mississippi in 1955, 14-year-old African American Emmett Till was abducted, tortured, and lynched by white supremacists. The incident is thought to have catalysed the civil rights movement and is often used as a prime example of the horrors of racism.
In Till, Nigerian-born director Chinonye Chukwu tells the story through Emmett’s mother’s eyes – and follows her fight for justice and change in the wake of her son’s death. It’s a powerful and heartwrenching story, and Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as the grief-stricken Mamie Till is being praised as one of the most profound of the year.
While Till has already been released in the States, it’s scheduled to premier in the UK on January 6th.
When Williams (Bill Nighy), an ageing civil servant who lives a monotonous life defined by bureaucratic routine, receives an unfortunate diagnosis, he takes a bold step to make the most of what life he has left.
Living is a remake of the Japanese classic Ikiru. It stars national treasure Bill Nighy in a Golden Globe-nominated performance and is written by Nobel prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.
Set in post-war London, it’s a touching period piece about life, death, and reclaiming lost youth.
4. Turning Red
From Toy Story to Inside Out, Pixar has released a steady stream of quality films for all ages since the mid-90s – and their latest film, Turning Red, is no different.
It tells the story of Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a self-assured high-achiever who’s dealing with some pretty typical issues for a 13-year-old: her parents’ expectations, newly-emerging feelings, and balancing the social politics of school. But none of these problems compares to when she wakes up one morning and finds herself transformed into a giant red panda.
This is a heartwarming coming-of-age story which tackles themes of puberty with honesty and elegance – perfect for watching with kids or grandkids.
5. Decision to Leave
Decision to Leave follows Hae-joon, a detective who’s called in to investigate the death of a man who fell from a mountain peak in South Korea. After doing some digging, the detective begins to suspect the man’s much younger wife, Seo-Rae, who shows very little grief over her husband’s death.
But before long, Hae-joon discovers there’s more to this case than meets the eye and is pulled into a dark world of death, deception, and desire. This erotic noir thriller from the director of Oldboy was chosen as South Korea’s entry into next year’s Oscars, and has already been nominated for a Golden Globe.
Since the original starring Arnold Schwarzennegger debuted 35 years ago, the Predator films that have followed have been somewhat underwhelming. But finally, the beloved sci-fi action film of the 80s has a sibling it can be proud of!
Set before European colonisers arrived in North America, Prey tells the story of Commanche warrior Naru (Amber Midthunder), who must put her skills to the ultimate test when her tribe finds themselves hunted by a ruthlessly violent extraterrestrial.
Filled with beautiful shots of the North American wilderness, terrifying action sequences, and a well-developed protagonist, Prey is a real treat for sci-fi/action lovers.
7. The Banshees of Inisherin
Fourteen years after the dark hitman comedy In Bruges, writer-director Martin McDonagh reunites with Irish thespians Colin Farrel and Brendan Gleeson for The Banshees of Inisherin.
Set on the fictional island of Inisherin during the Irish Civil War, the story follows Padraic (Colin Farrell), a sweet (but not all that bright) dairyman whose life is turned upside down when he finds out his best friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), doesn’t want to be friends anymore.
The Banshees of Inisherin is an insightful, nuanced, and sometimes hilarious study of male friendships and loneliness.
8. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
When billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) invites his friends to his luxurious Greek-island retreat, along with famed detective Beniot Blanc (Daniel Craig), they suddenly find themselves pulled into a murder mystery.
Like the Agatha Christie whodunnits on which it’s based, Glass Onion is a completely standalone story, so you don’t have to have seen its predecessor, Knives Out, to enjoy it.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a classic murder mystery full of twists and turns.
9. The Woman King
The Woman King tells the exceptional story of the Agojie, a real all-female military regiment in the Kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa which played a role in the conflicts against French Colonials in the 19th Century.
The plot follows Nanisca (Viola Davis), a general in the Agojie, as she prepares the next generation of female fighters for war against European invaders.
Viola Davis gives one of her best performances to date in this action-heavy flick – already earning herself a Golden Globes Nomination.
10. All Quiet on the Western Front
In All Quiet on the Western Front, we follow a young, naive German soldier (Felix Kammerer) in the First World War, as his initial enthusiastic patriotism devolves into a chaotic frenzy of fear and desperation. It provides a vivid counter-narrative for WWI films concerning allied forces and demonstrates the horrific consequences of war on everyone involved.
German World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque’s haunting novel about the physical and mental horrors of trench warfare has been adapted twice by Hollywood – with the 1930 instalment achieving ‘classic’ status. And now, featuring hauntingly-shot sequences and stellar performances, 2022’s German-language version seems to be giving it a run for its money.
11. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
With her laundromat business and marriage teetering on the edge of collapse, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese immigrant in her 50s living in America, is struggling to cope. Although, one day while being audited by the IRS, she’s suddenly thrust into an interdimensional adventure.
With the fate of the universe in her hands, she travels between kaleidoscopic parallel worlds, exploring the different lives she could have led.
Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is a trippy, absurd journey through the multiverse – with plenty of martial arts and laughs. But, at its centre, it’s also incredibly life-affirming and moving.
12. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
After Robert Zemeckis’ live-action retelling fell rather flat earlier on in the year, Guillermo del Toro stunned audiences this month with his take on the classic Disney tale: Pinnochio.
We all know the story, but the stunning stop-motion animation and the director’s signature style (which combines elements of gothic, horror, and fantasy) breathe new life into the often adapted tale.
Featuring the voices of Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, and Cate Blanchett – and dealing with a myriad of themes, from love and loss to the dangers of fascism – this is one for kids and adults alike.
Since the success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, we’ve seen a sort of renaissance for music biopics, and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood fixed its gaze on the King of Rock & Roll himself.
The film follows Elvis’ (Austin Butler) meteoric rise to fame, paying special attention to his relationship with his shady manager Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).
Director Baz Luhrmann brings his signature glitz-and-glamour style, and Austin Butler stands out as the titular character – a performance that many critics are predicting will earn him at least a nod at next year’s Academy Awards.
14. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Looking for something light and full of heart? Mrs Harris Goes to Paris tells the story of a sixty-something widow (Lesley Manville) living in London in the 50s. One day, she falls in love with a Dior dress worth £500 and decides she must have one. The only problem is there’s no way she can afford one on her cleaner’s salary.
When she finally receives her war widow’s pension, however, she decides to travel to Paris to make her dreams come true. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a charming, upbeat story about an “invisible woman” determined to make a splash!
15. The Northman
In 2015, Robert Eggers established himself as a young director to watch with The Witch, and four years later he impressed critics with the claustrophobic arthouse flick, The Lighthouse. But this year, he brings us his most visceral creation yet; the Viking revenge story The Northman.
Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth, a prince whose kingdom was stolen from him when, as a child, his uncle (Claes Bang) killed his father (Ethan Hawke) and kidnapped his mother (Nicole Kidman). Now all grown up, we follow him on his brutal quest to avenge his father, save his mother, and reclaim his homeland.
Full of violent action and Shakesperian-level family drama, this one will keep you on the edge of your seat.
16. Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Good Luck To You, Leo Grande follows Emma Thompon’s Nancy; a retired and reserved widow, who, in an attempt to experience the joys of sex that she was unable to in her stifling marriage, hires a sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack).
What sounds like it could be a set-up for shallow hijinks and gags turns out to be an honest and subversive exploration into the shame surrounding intimacy – both physical and emotional – as well as the joys it can bring.
Set almost entirely in the confines of a hotel room, the film is defined by its two engaging leads, clever direction, and witty script.
17. The Batman
When prominent officials in Gotham city are slowly picked off one by one, Batman (Robert Pattinson) investigates. The threads of evidence take him deep into the shadowy underbelly of the city, and he begins to untangle a web of deceit with connections to his own family.
Matt Reeves’ rendition of the caped crusader was eagerly awaited by comic book fans, and it opened to critical and box office success earlier this year.
The Batman follows everyone’s favourite crimefighter in the early years of his career, and Pattinson gives a wholly original performance as the tortured and immature Bruce Wayne.
With creative action sequences and a broody, noir-thriller feel, you can enjoy The Batman whether you’re a fan of superhero films or not.
18. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical
In 2010, the stage musical adaptation Roald Dahl’s beloved book Matilda – with music and lyrics from comedian Tim Minchin – premiered to critical acclaim. And since then it’s continued to attract audiences to the West End.
Now, everyone’s favourite telekinetic schoolgirl returns to the silver screen, and she’s brought all of Minchin’s songs along with her. Featuring standout performances from newcomer Alisha Weir as Matilda and an unrecognisable Emma Thompson as the terrifying Miss Trunchbull, this one’s an entertaining watch for all the family.
Bollywood cinema is known for its extravagant dance numbers, colourful set design, and jaw-dropping action, and 2022’s RRR – the industry’s most expensive production yet – delivers on all three.
Rated 93% by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, this film follows two revolutionaries – Komaram Bheem (Rama Rao) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Charan) – in an over-the-top, high-octane battle against British colonials in the 1920s.
Though they were real freedom fighters, the two main characters never met in real life (nor did Bheem lift a motorcycle over his head as he does in the trailer), so if you’re looking for a grounded historical period piece, you won’t find it here.
But if you’re in the mood for some bombastic fight sequences and striking visuals, why not give RRR a watch?
Young Scottish director Charlotte Wells stunned critics when her debut feature Aftersun screened at Cannes International Film Festival in the summer. It’s a nuanced and tender portrayal of a father and daughter’s trip to a budget beachside resort in Turkey.
Starring Normal People’s Paul Mescal as Calum and the breakout star Francesca Corio as his daughter Soph, Aftersun is told through the mirage of an adult Soph’s memories. It’s a touching exploration of child/parent relationships, and how we remember time spent with long-lost loved ones.
21. Avatar: The Way of Water
Thirteen years after the original Avatar film smashed box office records and set a new standard for CGI in Hollywood, Titanic director James Cameron returns with the second instalment of a planned five films: Avatar: The Way of Water.
The film follows Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully and his newfound family of Na’vis living on the faraway moon of Pandora. When an old enemy resurfaces and threatens their existence, he, his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of his people must band together to fight back.
James Cameron brings lots of the original cast with him – including Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver. It’s worth seeing it on the big screen to experience the stunning visuals.
22. The Swimmers
In 2016, at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini won a 100m butterfly heat. As a member of the Refugee Olympic Team, spectators knew that her journey here would have been a tumultuous one – full of hardships and triumphs – and this year, Mardini and her sister’s story was released as a film.
The Swimmers follows the two Mardini girls (portrayed by real-life sisters Nathalie and Manal Issa) as they flee war-torn Syria across the Agean Sea on a dingy with 18 other refugees, make their way on foot to Germany, and eventually, in Yursa’s case, qualify for the Olympics. It’s a touching story about the power of dreams and the bonds of sisterhood.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of some of our favourite films from the past year. It’s worth mentioning that there have been lots of great releases in 2022 – too many to condense into one list. So if we haven’t mentioned your favourite, let us know in the comments below!