While 2021 was largely defined by its proximity to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, when worldwide lockdowns and cinema closings forced moviegoers to establish new viewing habits, 2022 seemed to be about getting back to “business as usual.” Which, itself, is a constantly evolving concept. But the past 12 months have provided all the benchmarks people have come to expect from any single year of moviedom: massive blockbusters (hello, Maverick), surprising flops (sorry, Lightyear), unexpected hits (Sonic the Hedgehog 2?!), and a parade of superheroes. It all added up to a really solid year of entertainment, with fantastic films being made in countless genres (horror is at a real high point) and coming from virtually every corner of the world. Below are WIRED’s picks for the best movies of 2022.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Every so often a movie comes along where it feels like the cast and crew are having as much fun making the film as you are watching it. That would be Glass Onion. More specifically: Daniel Craig seems to be soaking up every second of the Detective Benoit Blanc Experience (which could have something to do with having had one hand attached to James Bond’s martini glass for the past 15 years). Rian Johnson is back in the director’s chair with a script he wrote for the second installment of this surprise franchise. The action has moved to Greece, on a private island belonging to brash tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton, who seems equally game to play). A “Murder Mystery” is on the official itinerary, but it is interrupted by the one unfolding in real life. Yet again, everyone’s a suspect. Yet again, it’s up to Benoit to figure out whodunnit. Yet again, it’s a blast.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Fans of In Bruges only needed to hear that Oscar-winning writer-director Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) was teaming up again with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in The Banshees of Inisherin to start lining up. The movie takes place in 1923, as the Irish Civil War is winding down, and a new battle is about to be waged. Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson) are longtime friends whose relationship has come to an abrupt end when Colm simply decides he’s had enough of his old pal. That’s not a good enough reason for Pádraic, who tries to press the matter with Colm, and he soon learns that wasn’t the wisest choice. McDonagh’s dark, absurdist wit is on full display as the men go to war with each other. Fingers will be lost, a donkey will die, and The Banshees of Inisherin is sure to attract some major attention come Academy Awards time.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
It’s been six years since Daniels (directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) premiered Swiss Army Man and brought the phrase “Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie” into everyday conversation. They clearly made the most of every second of that time, as Everything Everywhere All At Once is two hours and 19 minutes of unbridled, happy chaos. Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) gets the chance to experience the many different lives she could have led in a multiverse storyline the directors smartly milked as an opportunity to pull out every tool and trick they’ve got—and they’ve got a lot. Keep your eyes on the screen and your ears open, because the entire movie can change from one minute to the next. (The film employs different languages and aspect ratios—and prosthetic hot dog fingers.) Also: There’s a dildo fight. Multiple viewings are encouraged, and perhaps necessary.
From the outside, famed (fictional) composer and conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) seems to have it all. She’s reached dizzying heights in the classical music world, achieved many “firsts” for a woman, and is frantically preparing for a live recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. But Lydia has had to fight for all she’s achieved, and she hasn’t always played fair in doing so. At what should be a high point in her career, Lydia can feel the walls closing in. While most actors are lucky to land even one “career-defining” performance in their careers, Blanchett seems to up the ante with each new project. While not nearly as prolific, Todd Field (Little Children, In the Bedroom) is undoubtedly one of contemporary cinema’s most talented directors. If only he had directed more than three films over the past 20 years. (You might know him better as an actor; he played Nick Nightingale, Tom Cruise’s piano-playing pal, in Eyes Wide Shut.)
Bones and All
In the same way that Swiss Army Man became known as Daniel Radcliffe’s “farting corpse movie,” Bones and All is typically explained with the same fragmented sentence: “Timothée Chalamet cannibal movie.” Hey, it’s accurate. Chalamet teams up again with Luca Guadagnino, director of Call Me By Your Name, for this adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’s 2015 coming-of-age novel, which just happens to involve a couple of fine young cannibals.
Jordan Peele’s Nope didn’t make as much noise as Get Out or Us, but it might be the director’s most accomplished film. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as OJ and Em Haywood, siblings who—with their father Otis (Keith David)—provide and train horses for film and TV productions. When Otis is killed by a coin falling from the sky, OJ and Em set out to investigate. What they discover is a massive, horse-eating UFO that has staked a claim somewhere in the skies around their home. But that’s not even where it gets weird. Peele yet again manages to deftly weave his distinct sense of funny into the script, and Kaluuya and Palmer make those words sing.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
If two Pinocchio movies in one year feels like a lot, that’s because it is. So if you’re going to pick one, make it Guillermo del Toro’s gorgeous—and pretty damn dark—stop-motion animation version. As you might expect, this isn’t Disney’s version of a wooden boy’s dream of becoming a real boy. Instead, it’s a not-so-thinly-veiled statement on fascism, right down to being set in Italy in the 1930s. (Even Mussolini stops by.) It’s also a very sad and a stark reminder that life is short, so appreciate it—and the people around you—while you still can. (See? Not Disney!)
Emmett Till—the Chicago teen who was kidnapped, tortured, and lynched in 1955 while visiting family in Mississippi—is a name Americans know. Less known is Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother, a civil rights activist who spent nearly 15 years fighting to get justice for her only child. She is the focus of this heart-wrenching biopic from Chinonye Chukwu, in which Danielle Deadwyler (Station Eleven) delivers a masterclass in playing lived-in grief.
Audrey Diwan’s gut-punch of an abortion drama may be a French film set in 1963, but it could not have come at a more appropriate time for American audiences. Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a college student whose future feels wide open, until she learns she’s pregnant. So Anne must make a harrowing decision: embrace motherhood when she’s barely out of childhood herself, or seek an abortion—an illegal operation at the time, which could result in prison time. Rather than preach to one particular side of the abortion debate, Happening focuses on the pain of having to make that decision in the first place—and the life-threatening dangers women face when forced to make those choices in the shadows.
Decision to Leave
Park Chan-wook is a director’s director—an auteur who is regularly lauded by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee (who had the temerity to mount his own version of Oldboy a decade after Chan-wook’s film shook viewers). While he’s known for his keen ability to turn acts of extreme violence into beautiful movie moments, one might argue that Decision to Leave is the auteur’s tamest effort. When a man mysteriously plummets to his death from a mountain, detective Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) is sent to determine if he could have been murdered. Ultimately, he begins to suspect that the dead man’s wife, Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei) might be the guilty party … but he’s also starting to fall for her. It’s not a new trope, but in this director’s hands it may as well be. As always, he more than sticks the landing.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Edward Berger’s updated adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front may have seemed unnecessary, but that doesn’t make it any less engrossing. Or violent. Really, really violent. While it’s set during World War I, its lessons about the horrors and futility of war couldn’t be more timely—or needed. Felix Kammerer offers an impressive performance as Paul Bäumer, a young soldier whose excitement about fighting for his country quickly turns to anxiety, exhaustion, and disillusionment. Perhaps most impressive is cinematographer James Friend’s jaw-dropping camerawork, which puts you right in the trenches. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s never felt more necessary.
Hit the Road
Panah Panahi, son of legendary filmmaker Jafar Panahi (who was sentenced to six years in prison earlier this year for “inciting unrest”), makes his directorial debut with this comedic family drama, which some have described as Iran’s answer to Little Miss Sunshine. A family of four sets off on a road trip that inspires both tears and laughter as they traverse the countryside. Any family is going to have some dysfunction—especially when trapped in an automobile together—but ultimately their squabbles feel unimportant when the purpose of their journey is revealed.
Top Gun: Maverick
OK, it almost hurts to admit that this movie over-delivered on what most people expected from it. But Maverick was definitely worth the 36-year wait. Then again, audiences should know by now that Tom Cruise won’t put his stamp of approval on an action movie that isn’t properly action-packed. Not that this movie is nothing but action. In fact, it’s as much an homage to the original film—or an inside joke for ’80s kids—as anything else. But if your only reason for watching is in the hope that they re-created the original film’s iconic volleyball scene, you’ll be (semi) disappointed.
Moonage Daydream isn’t so much a documentary as it is an immersive musical experience. Brett Morgen, Oscar-nominated documentarian behind On the Ropes, The Kid Stays in the Picture, and Cobain: Montage of Heck, offers David Bowie know-it-alls and newcomers alike a trippy ride through the music, mind, and artistry of the iconic singer. Bowie himself leads the journey with narration for the film—the first officially sanctioned doc on the late artist.
Is naming Jackass Forever one of the best movies of 2022 a risky move? Yep. Are we going to do it anyway? Uh-huh! OK, so Jackass isn’t for everyone. But if you’re in, you’re all in—even if you end up watching a few of the nausea-inducing stunts with your hands over your eyes (two words: Zach Sashimi). Veteran Jackass Steve-O sums up the crew’s mantra best when he explains that “concussions aren’t great. But as long as you have ’em before you’re 50, it’s cool.”