The 25 Best Films of 2022
From After Yang to Top Gun, we break down our favorite movies of the year.
December 19, 2022

2022 was a fascinating year for the movies. While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on (please stay healthy, everyone), it’s abaated enough for the moviegoing public to peek out their heads long enough to go out to the theater. But this just raised further questions about the role of movies in our cultural conversation, who’s going to see them, and whether the moviegoing experience will survive in an age of straight-to-streaming releases and franchise universes. Marvel released more stuff than ever this year, and even they saw fit to shunt half their storytelling to TV.

Don’t get it twisted, though; even if many of the films on this list didn’t get seen by many folks outside of their home TVs, the art, the craft, the stories are still there. Some of our most exciting filmmakers, old and new, put out astounding works. Old stars and auteurs came back into the fold to put out some of their most interesting films to date, some of them decades in the making. Tom Cruise stepped back into the cockpit and single-handedly saved cinemas (at least for now), and genre films in particular (sci-fi, horror, action) saw all manner of novel, interesting projects come to fruition. The moviegoing landscape may look decidedly different now, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find some real diamonds in the rough.

That’s where we sit with this year’s list, one that sidesteps some of the more obvious choices in favor of a snapshot of The Spool staff’s idiosyncratic tastes this year (and where to find these gems, if they’re streaming). Enjoy. [Clint Worthington, Founder, Editor-in-Chef]

Honorable Mentions: Resurrection, Tár, Aftersun, Ambulance, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, The Eternal Daughter, Moonage Daydream, Barbarian, X, The Automat, Men, The Outfit, Triangle of Sadness, Hatching, The Good Nurse, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, George Carlin’s American Dream, Three Thousand Years of Longing, The Fabelmans, Lost Bullet 2, Something in the Dirt, Apollo 10 1/2, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, Accident Man: Hitman’s Birthday, Huesera, Nanny, Please Baby Please, Leonor Will Never Die, Bodyshop, The US and the Holocaust, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, The Princess, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul, Il Buco, Lingui, the Sacred Bonds, Armageddon Time, Wet Sand, Mariner of the Mountains, Nitram, Clara Sola, All That Breathes, Women Talking, You Are Not Alone, All Quiet on the Western Front, Topside, The Box, The Innocents

The Best Films of 2022

After Yang

Best Films of 2022 - After Yang

Director/writer kogonada follows his wonderful Columbus with a similarly quiet, thoughtful piece of science fiction. As a family (Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) grieve the irrecoverable malfunction/death of their android son/big brother (Justin H. Min), they learn about the life he lived beyond being part of their family—a life they had not realized he had been living. If, that is, he was truly sapient. It’s beautifully composed and performed (Min, working with comparatively limited screentime, is a particular standout), and weaves its questions on the shape and possible limits of synthetic life with its gentle and vibrant family study into an elegant, transfixing portrait. [Justin Harrison, Film Editor]

(Read Jihane Bousfiha’s full review of After Yang.)


Best Films of 2022 - Ambulance

Michael Bay, whose 1990s actioners are—for good and ill—iconic parts of the decade’s cinema, and whose 2000s and 2010s work is reliably fascinating (from the terrific Pain & Gain to the baleful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) delivers a bombastic chase movie that doubles as a damn good character study. Loving but criminal brothers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) take an ambulance hostage to escape a heist gone sideways. Along for the ride are a masterful EMT (Eiza González) resigned to personal apathy, and a critically injured cop (Jackson White). Amidst the carefully shaped chaos of burnt rubber and bullets, Bay makes space for Gyllenhaal (frenzied and in denial about how badly everything’s gone) Abdul-Mateen II (trying to keep cool even as that becomes impossible) and González (who must break out of her self-built walls if she is to survive) to bounce off each other in a pile of compelling ways. [JH]

(Read Clint Worthington’s full review of Ambulance.)


The Banshees of Inisherin

Best Films of 2022 - The Banshees of Inisherin

In one of the darkest comedies in recent memory, Martin McDonagh concocts a tale of friendship gone awry. Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) were thick as thieves until the latter came face to face with the dark embrace of his own mortality. Art, death, and humanism collide in a film that turns its attention to the decay of relationships with time. “Maybe he just doesn’t like ya” people say half-mockingly to Pádraic. A funny, wry explanation is the signature of McDonaugh’s comedy. But as the movie goes on the audience’s laughter stops being initiated by the script or characters and instead arises as a spontaneous nervous burst here and there, perhaps from a need to defend ourselves from the black endless void staring us dead in the face. [Soham Gadre]

The Batman

Best Films of 2022 - The Batman

Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson delve into the refinement of Batman with their superhero detective story. Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne and Batman are two years into the “Gotham Project,” the same angry man, afraid that he’s just beating his fists into a wall. Over the course of The Batman, friends (Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Andy Serkis) and foes (Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, John Turturro) push him to push past that—to step up and step back. Pattinson’s Dark Knight makes for a damn fine detective—whether methodically following leads on Dano’s Riddler alongside Wright’s Detective Gordon, sorting through the muddle that Kravitz’s Selina Kyle makes of his feelings, or engaging piles of overconfident goons. Reeves’ direction is skillful—The Batman is a dark film, but not monotone. There’s a welcome vein of dry, bleak humor that runs throughout. When the time comes for thrills, oh how they are delivered. Plus, pardon the moment of pure dweebery, but oh my gosh. This Batmobile. It is so, so cool. [JH]

(Read Clint Worthington’s full review of The Batman.)

Bones and All

Best Films of 2022 - Bones and All

A pair of young lovers (who also happen to be cannibals) go on the road together, leaving a bloody swath of destruction behind them. Sounds pretty creepy, right? Luca Guadagnino manages to turn a sinister premise into something strangely sweet and melancholy, however, as the lovers (Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet) struggle to keep their dark urges under control and lead a normal life. Mark Rylance and Michael Stuhlbarg, in supporting roles, play capital-C Characters, a wild, near-campy balance to Russell and Chalamet, both heartbreaking as a pair of lonely kids who have no idea what to do with themselves at the best of times, but least of all that when that certain hunger takes control. A genuinely unique horror romance, hopefully, it’ll find the audience in streaming that it couldn’t find in theaters. [Gena Radcliffe]

Crimes of the Future

Best Films of 2022 - Crimes of the Future

“Surgery is the new sex.” David Cronenberg has spent a lifetime musing on the ways technology and modernity have changed not just our personalities, but our very bodies. Crimes of the Future is a triumphant return to that sci-horror mode he made his early bones in, paired with his own anxieties about his place in an art world that demands you adapt or die. In Viggo Mortensen’s Saul Tenser, Cronenberg finds a nifty analogue, a grumbly artist with a shock of white hair gasping and choking his way through his creations, flattered and frustrated by the status he has in the decidedly niche medium he’s chosen to excel in. And he’s surrounded by excellent, ethereal, strange performances from Lea Seydoux, Scott Speedman, and a twitchy Kristen Stewart, all of whom embrace the squickiness of the subject matter with perverse glee. [CW]

(Read Gena Radcliffe’s full review of Crimes of the Future.)

Decision to Leave

Best Films of 2022 - Decision to Leave

The leads in the best romantic movie of the year (maybe even the decade so far) only share a single kiss. Now, it’s a great kiss, mind you, like they know it’s the only opportunity they’re going to get, but up to that point, like Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, it’s everything that’s not said or done that speaks volumes. Park Hae-il is a married-but-lonely detective who immediately becomes entranced with a murder suspect (Tang Wei), and even up to the very end, it’s difficult to tell if she feels the same way for him or if it’s all some long, amusing game she’s playing. Park Chan-wook is the master at making the mundane fascinating and casting actors with sexual chemistry that American films won’t even get near nowadays, and he always ties it up with a haunting ending. [GR]

(Read Andrea Thompson’s full review of Decision to Leave.)


Best Films of 2022 - Descendant

Director Margaret Brown has been making documentaries around her home community of Mobile, Alabama, for over a decade. Her latest film, Descendant, is my best of the year. It’s one of those finely structured documentaries that finds the metaphors in the data and draws them out. Using the recent surfacing of the last US Slave Ship, Clotilda, Brown elegantly weaves a tale of history, folklore, pain, and hope. Using oral history, material culture, and community history, Brown and the living descendants of the last enslaved people to come to the US give a passionate case for why reparations are necessary. [B.L. Panther]


Best Films of 2022 - Elvis

Glory, glory, hallelujah. Baz Luhrmann is back. The Aussie Fosse turned his sights this year on the entertainment industrial complex in all its Babylonic excesses. All his usual flares are there, if a bit subdued at first, but they meld with the content and explode in the 1960s and ’70s Las Vegas. Far from being yet another biopic of the departed American King, Luhrmann’s Elvis is about the machine behind the man, the thing that made and later killed him. And Austin Butler goes through it. His passion, sweat, and fury transform this movie about making a star into its own star-making vehicle. We watch his inspirations form, his talent found, and then a rapid and delirious descent into depression. The film is perfectly exhausting because being Elvis was exhausting. [BP]

(Read Michael Guarnieri’s full review of Elvis.)

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Films of 2022 - Everything Everywhere All at Once

There’s the MCU multiverse, and then there’s Daniels Kwan and Scheinert’s take on it, where an unhappy woman (Michelle Yeoh) facing a tax audit, a failing marriage, and an estranged relationship with her only child discovers there are thousands of different versions of herself in thousands of other universes, and it’s up to her to confront Jobu Topaki, a mysterious being looking to bring on the end of the world. It’s impossible to encapsulate what an ambitious rollercoaster ride EEAAO is when bittersweet moments about learning to accept one’s life for what it is rather than what we wanted it to share the same space as a violent fight scene in which the weapon is a floppy dildo. Yeoh is as charming as she always is, but truly taking the movie to another level are Stephanie Hsu as Yeoh’s troubled, prickly daughter and Ke Huy Quan as her seemingly passive husband, who reveals that his gentle nature is how he survives in a cruel world. [GR]

(Read Justin Harrison’s full review of Everything Everywhere All at Once.)

Fire of Love

Best Films of 2022 - Fire of Love

White-hot burning passion fueled the volcanologist power couple of Katia and Maurice Krafft, who revolutionized not just the way we understand volcanoes, but (through their archive of brilliant footage) the way we look at them. And through Sara Dosa‘s quirky, matter-of-fact perspective, the majesty of their magma movies becomes the backdrop for one of 2022’s most entrancing documentaries. Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput’s limber editing make their doomed love story read like a Wes Anderson film, aided in no small part by Miranda July’s droll narration and, of course, the Krafft’s idiosyncratic wardrobes. (They even wear the Zissou caps at one point!) Set against astonishing images of burping craters and voluminous ash clouds, Dosa sets the intimacy of human connection against the backdrop of our planet destroying and reshaping itself once more. [CW]

(Read Sarah Gorr’s full review of Fire of Love.)

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Best Films of 2022 - Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Knives Out was such a finely tuned, endlessly entertaining, and intelligent mystery that it didn’t seem possible that writer-director Rian Johnson could do it a second time. Yet, with Glass Onion, he managed to hit all the same buttons with nearly the same amount of precision. An Elon Musk-like tech bro (Edward Norton) invites his obnoxious “disruptor” friends (“shitheads,” as they’re accurately referred to later in the film) to his private island for a murder mystery weekend that, upon the arrival of the world’s greatest detective (according to Google) Benoit Blanc, turns into a real murder mystery. Though there might be a few too many characters this time around (Kathryn Hahn and Leslie Odom Jr. don’t get much to do but react to things), Johnson’s follow-up hasn’t lost any of the surefooted sharp wit of its predecessor, as it once again humbles out of touch rich people who always think they’re one step ahead of everyone else. [GR]

(Read Peter Sobczynski’s full review of Glass Onion.)

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Best Films of 2022 - Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

Art is an answer to fascism. That’s the moral of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. As expertly displayed in his adaptation of the Italian folktale, creativity cannot be controlled by strings. A sense of wonder can shatter even the most oppressive of curses. Those familiar with GDT’s work know these themes well, and to see them animate richly designed puppets feels like magic. Every hinge of his adaptation and the handcrafted world it inhabits feels nurtured. It’s an uncanny tale that will never talk down to its audience. And of the handful of adaptations this year, del Toro’s is the only one that updates the film with a sense of maturity. Del Toro believes in this project, this weird ass puppet, and he believes in us. I’m really glad someone does. And that his nose never grows. [BP]

(Read Gena Radcliffe’s full review of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.)

Jackass Forever

Best Films of 2022 - Jackass Forever

In the era of nostalgia cinema, hardly anything is as timeless as getting hit in the nuts. Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, et al understand their roles, talents, and chemistry better than any on-screen comedy team ever. Yes, Jackass Forever has new cast members, the stunts involve a lot of moving parts, the production values are higher, the celebrities are richer, and Johnny Knoxville has a come-to-Jesus moment where he decides maybe he should just retire. But in the end, people are still just getting their shit wrecked and laughing about it. Jackass sticks gloriously with a golden formula conceived at the turn of the 21st century as the culture around it tries to futilely re-invent itself for the millionth time. [SG]

(Read Clint Worthington’s full review of Jackass Forever.)


Best Films of 2022 - Kimi

Steven Soderbergh and Zoë Kravitz make marvelous use of limited-by-design space. Kravitz’s tech worker Angela lives with severe agoraphobia and anxiety. Thus, she has made her home into an emotional fortress. She is content, if not happy. But, while teaching the titular piece of smart-tech assorted idioms, she hears a woman being attacked. She cannot let that go, but pushing against corporate apathy and then a full-on malevolent conspiracy means pushing through the boundaries she built to protect herself from a world so physically overwhelming that it changes the look and feel of the picture itself. Kravitz is the primary (often sole) performer here, and she’s fantastic—nervy, committed, unable to not care. It’s excellent work in an excellent film. [JH]

Mad God

Best Films of 2022 - Mad God

Phil Tippett’s Mad God is a feat of cinema not just because it’s fucking amazing but because it exists at all. It’s taken twenty years, volunteers, a Kickstarter, and creative madness to bring this dank and dark dystopian tale. In the twenty years between when he first started the project and its final release, Tippett was busy pushing the limits of visual effects. NBD. Mad God is nothing short of a masterwork. It displays a depth of field and vision of a skillful creative who retained his passion for the craft. Each new chaotic layer of this gory maquette ballet reveals new things to look at and ways of looking at them. There is no end to what we might see, which is the very definition of cinema. [BP]

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Best Films of 2022 - Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer Camp figured out a long time ago that cuteness brings people together. This intimate and fragile look at his life with Nanna Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) goes beyond a string of Internet clips. It’s worldbuilding. Fleischer-Camp has created a charming and lived-in world rich with adorable eccentricity. In his big-screen adventure, Marcel will face fame, loss, and the bigger world around him, all wrapped in an endearing message about the importance of community. Having an audience isn’t enough. Real community is necessary. We don’t love Marcel just because he says the darndest things. We love Marcel because we share him in common with others. [BP]


Best Films of 2022 - Nope

Jordan Peele scoops up vast riches of cinema history and motif and allegory to pour into his movies, but not as cheap easter eggs or puzzle pieces to patronize his audiences. Similar to Tarantino, he is self-reflexive and uses self-contained material to restructure media from influence to something new. In Nope, Peele’s thread connects references ranging from ’90s network TV, MAD Magazine, Akira, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ‘Bonanza’, Eadweard Muybridge, Looney Tunes, The Scorpion King, and Carnival of Souls, like so much confetti bursting and dropping from the sky. It’s impossible to grasp with your bare hands, but endlessly interesting to sit and watch. [SG]

(Read Jon Negroni’s full review of Nope.)

The Northman

The Northman

Sadly lost in the 2022 shuffle is Robert Eggers’ third film, a revenge epic that weaves traditional Norse folklore with gritty, brutal action and the kind of druggy weirdness we’ve come to expect from the writer-director. Though the entire all-star cast, including Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, and Anya Taylor-Joy is solid, the highlights are all-too-brief appearances by Willem Dafoe and Björk (in her first film appearance since 2005), playing, respectively, a jester who’s later a talking severed head, and a whispering seeress. Eggers’ ability to combine the historical with dark mysticism is currently unmatched, and one hopes that the disappointing box office performance of The Northman doesn’t interfere with that in an increasingly uncertain industry. [GR]



While X was a blood-soaked, diverting spin on the grindhouse slashers of the ’70s (fueled by a healthy dose of skin, though still sanitized for mainstream movie audiences), Ti West‘s immediate followup, Pearl, turned its crimson lens to a Douglas-Sirk-meets-Psycho recounting of the first film’s murderous farmhag Pearl (also Goth). And what a Technicolor treat it was, as Goth — in an unstoppable performance — constantly teeters between genteel and grotesque as a WWI-era farmgirl dreaming of stardom, and killing when the world tells her she can’t have it. The third-act is all Goth, wailing and trembling and grinning at the camera for minutes at a time, making for some of the most excitingly terrifying moviemaking of the year. [CW]

(Read Clint Worthington’s full review of Pearl.)



The Predator series has had, let’s face it, not the best reputation (at least after its excellent first installment). But Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) has a seeming penchant for finding fun new directions to take sci-fi creature features, and proves it by stripping away the convoluted mythos of its titular alien hunter and stripping it down to basics. This time, a proto-Predator stalks a Comanche tribe in the 1700s, and it’s up to a stalwart wannabe warrior (Amber Midthunder, in a stellar star turn) and her Very Good Boy to stop him. Well-crafted action, inventive kills and puzzle-solving, and a crackling score make this hunt worth watching — not to mention its dedication to authenticity in its treatment of its Indigenous cast and subject matter. [CW]



There is no secret to S.S. Rajamouli’s artistic sauce. His camera is also a megaphone, his scripts are a giant billboard. His latest film, RRR, is a volcanic eruption of an entertainer jam-packed with maximalist stylistic intentions and a dizzying mix of genres. The casting of Ram Charan and NTR, two of the most celebrated Telugu film stars, as two of South India’s most celebrated historical heroes, Alluri Sitaram Raju and Komaram Bheem, signifies both the perfect melding of historical fiction to the modern genre blockbuster model as well as troubling questions of what makes symbolism and nationalism so intoxicating. [SG]



My personal favorite film of 2022, Congolese director/writer Jean Luc Herbulot’s Senegalese thriller/horror hybrid is tightly told, character-focused, thoughtfully scary, and supremely cool. Yann Gael brings charisma and depth to a master strategist mercenary with a past that he cannot bring himself to share with his brothers-in-arms and history (Roger Sallah and Mentor Ba, both excellent)—even as he moves to face it and the monsters it is tied to. Herbulot expertly interlinks creative, thrilling action with unsettling, crawling-up-the-back-of-the-spine horror (primarily folk and social, with a fair bit of body and cosmic in play as well). It’s an unforgettable blast of a movie. Seek. It. Out. [JH]

(Read Justin Harrison’s full review of Saloum.)



In an age where Black cinema is often defined by historical trauma (mostly because stories of Black suffering are about the only ones movie studios will let Black filmmakers tell), Chinonye Chukwu‘s Till proves one of the most assured, valuable contributions to that conversation. Yes, the story concerns the lynching of young Emmett Till (a cherubic Jalyn Hall) in 1955, a shocking tragedy thrust into the cultural conversation by the activism of Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler, speaking volumes through a fluttering eye and resolute face in many of Chukwu’s signature closeups), who refused to let America look away from his mangled body. But in keeping focus on Mamie’s love for her son, and the ways his death activated her (and the community around her) to action, Chukwu continues Mamie’s mission in a way that feels potent and timely. Through her lens, and her potent storytelling, she, too, forces our gaze, and reminds us of the mission America needs — and has, so far, resoundingly failed — to fulfill. [CW]

Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick

With Top Gun: Maverick, Joseph Kosinski takes 30 years of technological advancements in cinema that have amassed since the 1986 Tony Scott classic and turns out a better movie bolstered by them. The jet sequences are thrilling and have real weight, the shadow of Goose’s death a consistent phantom between Maverick and Rooster (Miles Teller). Just like Top Gun could only exist in the Reagan era, Top Gun: Maverick can only exist in a post-Iraq War era. America still has cool planes to show off, and some solid weaponry that’s still being made, but is a country imagining ghosts. Teller and Glen Powell both hold their own, but Cruise is still the show here, even as he reminds us consistently of his lingering star power. As with much of Cruise’s latest output, it self-reflexively casts the shadow of one of Hollywood’s greatest stars as a fading one. “The future is coming and you’re not in it,” he is told. We can all relate to that one. [SG]

(Read Justin Harrison’s full review of Top Gun: Maverick.)