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The Best Movies Of 2022 So Far

After one year in total lockdown and another in limbo, 2022 is the year in which the Hollywood film industry expects to establish a new normal. 

Warner Bros. has put an end to their controversial strategy of releasing all of their new films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, but the window between theatrical release and availability on streaming platforms has shrunk across the industry, averaging a mere 45 days. Even Disney, whose films have topped the US box office for seven of the past 10 years, now prioritizes streaming content and considers theaters to be a "legacy platform." There's a fair chance that a movie released by Netflix or Apple brings home Best Picture this year. Whether or not the return of MoviePass can draw mass audiences back out as the COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully) subsides remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure — there's no going back to 2019.

Regardless of where or how audiences choose to watch movies, the drought of new releases brought on by the pandemic has seemingly come to an end. Films that were put on hold for safety reasons are now back on the board, and there's a steady stream of exciting cinema expected from major and boutique studios alike in 2022.

Updated June 7, 2022: We'll be updating this page all year long, so check back often to see what's new and what's worth watching.

After Yang

You've heard the term "elevated horror," now get acquainted with its close cousin, "quiet sci-fi." "After Yang" is a character drama centered around a father who suffers an unusual loss when Yang, a lifelike android programmed to connect his adopted daughter to her Chinese heritage, suddenly shuts down. While he seeks out a way to repair him, he and his family are forced to ponder Yang's place in their lives and explore Yang's own inner life that he chose to conceal from them.

Don't be misled by that PG rating: "After Yang" is a tender, patient, and elegant film for grown-ups that ruminates on themes of memory, intimacy, and identity.

  • Starring: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min
  • Director: Kogonada
  • Runtime: 101 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Belle

"Belle" follows a talented teenage songwriter, Suzu, who's been unable to raise her voice in song since the tragic death of her mother. But when she logs into the futuristic social media platform "U," Suzu transforms into "Belle," a spellbinding songstress who becomes a global sensation overnight. As Suzu attempts to reconcile the two parts of herself, she becomes fascinated by an infamous online prizefighter with a monstrous virtual avatar.

Though originally released in Japan and on the festival circuit in 2021, the critically acclaimed anime musical "Belle" finally arrived in U.S. theaters in January 2022. It's nominally an adaptation of the classic fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" for the social media age, but "Belle" brings far more to the table than just the familiar beats of its source material. "Belle" is part timeless and part bleeding-edge contemporary, as exemplified by its two distinct but equally beautiful art styles — painterly traditional animation to represent the real world and eye-popping cell-shaded CGI to represent the virtual reality of the Internet.

  • Starring: Kaho Nakamura, Ryō Narita, Shōta Sometani
  • Director: Mamoru Hosoda
  • Runtime: 121 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Emergency

Mix one part college buddy movie with one part thriller and stir in a shot of social commentary to give it some bite, and you've got "Emergency." A pair of college seniors plan to be the first Black students to complete a legendary bar crawl on their campus, but their plans are interrupted when they find an unconscious white girl sick with alcohol poisoning in their living room. Certain that calling the authorities will only get them arrested (or worse), they embark on an increasingly complicated quest to drive her to the hospital themselves. A spoonful of stoner comedy helps the medicine go down as "Emergency" highlights the way systemic racism increases the danger and difficulty of life for Black Americans.

  • Starring: RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, Sebastian Chacon
  • Director: Carey Williams
  • Runtime: 105 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Emily the Criminal

"Emily the Criminal" is a crime thriller born of the present moment, as a generation weighed down by debt and denied full-time employment struggles to make ends meet in the "gig economy." Aubrey Plaza stars as Emily, who juggles various menial jobs with combined wages that can't make a dent in her student loans. When presented with the opportunity to make a lot of money fast, Emily becomes a "dummy shopper," maxing out cloned credit cards and reselling the purchases on the black market. The story of a hard-luck outlaw getting in too deep is nothing new, but "Emily the Criminal" has such a modern edge that it can't be denied.

  • Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Megalyn Echikunwoke
  • Director: John Patton Ford
  • Runtime: 95 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated 
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

The COVID-19 era has produced a number of "locked room" feature films, produced with a minimal cast in an isolated location to reduce the risks and costs of working during a pandemic. "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande" stands out among this accidental genre, essentially a two-person play set almost entirely in a London hotel room. Here, Emma Thompson plays a retired ethics teacher who hires a young sex worker to help her rebound from decades of unfulfilling sex with her late husband. It's transparently a polemic in support of legalized sex work, but the heady conversation never weighs down this charming, dialogue-driven comedy. 

Jackass Forever

Who would've guessed that the first honest-to-goodness critical darling of 2022 would be "Jackass Forever?" The long-awaited fourth installment of the film series based on the MTV prank show of the same name sees Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and the gang once again punishing their bodies with elaborate pranks and dares. The twist: This time, they're middle-aged! 

The key to this film's critical success (apart from the fact that the film critics of today were the "Jackass" viewers of 20 years ago) is its total sincerity. Despite the increased risk to their health, Knoxville and company carry on performing dangerous, disgusting bits simply because they love making each other laugh, and to them, nothing is funnier. And now, they get to share their legacy with a new generation of comedians who grew up watching them throw rubber balls at each other's genitals and saying, "Someday, that's gonna be me."

KIMI

"KIMI" is a thriller that's extremely of the current moment. Zoë Kravitz plays Angela, a programmer whose job is to manually review garbled or misunderstood communications between an Alexa-style electronic assistant called KIMI and its users. When she stumbles across an audio recording of a heinous crime, Angela must try to get the evidence into the right hands without tipping off its perpetrators. But there's an added complication — it's the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Angela is severely agoraphobic. "KIMI" utilizes the unique stresses of the present day, from the anxiety of being constantly surveilled to the social and economic tumult inflamed by the pandemic, to create a short, sweet hour and a half of intrigue and action.

  • Starring: Zoë Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Rita Wilson
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Runtime: 89 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Resurrection

Debuting at Sundance and hitting theaters and streaming later in 2022, "Resurrection" is a white-knuckle psychological horror film in which star Rebecca Hall delivers one of the year's first great performances. Hall portrays Margaret, a businesswoman and single parent who seems in total control of her life until a mysterious man from her past resurfaces and sends her spiraling into all-consuming panic. What is it that makes his mere presence so terrifying? We are absolutely not telling — you need to see this one for yourself. Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth sell the film's bizarre and disgusting twists with such conviction that they can stick with you long after you've finished watching.

  • Starring: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman
  • Director: Andrew Semans
  • Runtime: 103 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Scream

In 1996, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson ushered in a new era of horror movies with "Scream," in which a group of teens are hunted by a mysterious killer who's obsessed with slasher movies. Just as each "Scream" sequel has commented on the nature of horror sequels and the changing landscape of horror cinema, this fifth entry tackles the contemporary trend of the "requel," in which "legacy characters" pass the torch to a new generation. But, as always, "Scream" isn't just about dorky inside jokes for cinephiles, it's also a thrilling horror "whodunnit" in its own right, with scares and chuckles in equal measure. "Scream" can be enjoyed as either a jumping-on point or a satisfying conclusion to one of horror's most consistent franchises.

  • Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
  • Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
  • Runtime: 114 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

The Worst Person in the World

Okay, we're cheating a bit here — Norway's "The Worst Person in the World" was released overseas last year, and it made a number of critics' lists of best films of 2021. But since it didn't hit theaters in North America until February 2022 (after we'd already finalized our own "Best Movies of 2021" list), we're sneaking it into this year's superlatives.

"The Worst Person in the World" has been called an "anti-romantic comedy," the story of one young woman's journey in and out of love as she tries to figure out what she wants from her life. Led by a rich and captivating performance by Renate Reinsve, "Worst Person" is a refreshingly honest and non-judgmental look at the millennial condition. It has been honored with an Academy Award nomination for Best International Film.

  • Starring: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum
  • Director: Joachim Trier
  • Runtime: 128 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

The Batman

The streets of Gotham City have never been grittier than in "The Batman," a new interpretation of DC's most popular superhero. Despite being yet another reboot that takes the character "back to basics" as a lone crimefighter chasing gangsters and serial killers, "The Batman" still feels distinct from both Christopher Nolan's nuts-and-bolts realism and Tim Burton's dark whimsy. More than any previous Batman film, it's a detective story, closer to a 1970s neo-noir than a modern action blockbuster. Within the film's ambitious three-hour runtime you'll find memorable performances, gorgeous photography, and the most in-depth exploration of the title character ever to hit the big screen.

Cyrano

Based on the popular 19th-century French stage play, "Cyrano" is a musical romance starring Peter Dinklage as a warrior poet who's hopelessly in love with his oldest friend, Roxanne. This latest twist on the classic romance features original songs written by members of the indie rock band The National and showcases Dinklage's untapped potential as a leading man, both during the film's comedic first hour and its heavier, dramatic second half.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Evelyn Wang is an exhausted and unfulfilled laundromat owner who's just trying to get her taxes done when she's suddenly recruited to fight in an inter-dimensional war. To save the multiverse, Evelyn will have to learn how to "verse-jump," tapping into the feelings, memories, and skills of her alternate selves, all of whom have done more with their lives than she has. "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is uproariously funny, visually dazzling, and deeply moving. Michelle Yeoh delivers an Oscar-worthy lead performance, and that's without even factoring in her multiple off-the-wall fight scenes that demand both great technical skill and comedic timing.

  • Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan
  • Director: Daniels (Dan Kwan & Dan Sheinert)
  • Runtime: 139 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

Turning Red

Overachieving eighth-grader Mei Lee awakens one morning to discover she has transformed into a giant red panda, just as every woman in her family has for generations. Mei's panda form emerges whenever she experiences strong emotions, and her mother Ming expects her to rein it in, like she did. But what if Mei likes being an excitable furry monster? "Turning Red" is a joyful celebration of friendship, family, and how the awkward process of growing up complicates both.

  • Starring: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse
  • Director: Domee Shi
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Ambulance

Director Michael Bay's maximalist style of action filmmaking has rarely produced a better product than "Ambulance," a pulse-pounding heist thriller that's basically a feature-length car chase. It's the story of two brothers — one a career criminal, the other a desperate Marine veteran — who attempt to escape a deadly bank robbery in a stolen ambulance with a brave EMT and a badly wounded police officer as their hostages. Bay infuses "Ambulance" with a killer combination of old- and new-school production techniques, shooting practical automotive action and a metric ton of pyrotechnics while also perching cameras on the noses of high-speed stunt drones that give the audience a first-person view of their daring dives and barrel rolls. The screenplay's not exactly Shakespeare, but when it comes to dizzying blockbuster fun, look no further.

  • Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza Gonzalez
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Runtime: 136 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%

RRR

"RRR" is, as Siddhant Adlakha of IndieWire put it, "a dazzling work of historical fiction — emphasis on the 'fiction.'" Essentially a superhero epic based on two real Indian revolutionaries of the 1920s who likely never actually met, "RRR" is a violent, thrilling, heartfelt, and gleefully over-the-top Tollywood (Telugu-language) action/musical blockbuster. Its song and dance number "Naatu Naatu" has gone mega-viral online, and it teases only a small fraction the bombastic excitement of its battle scenes. And "RRR" is no hollow spectacle. Beyond its anti-imperialist political message, "RRR" also boasts one of the most unreservedly sincere bromances in modern cinema. It's a three-hour film that energizes rather than exhausts its audience. By the time the credits roll, you'll feel like you could punch a hole through the moon.

  • Starring: N.T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgan
  • Director: S.S. Rajamouli
  • Runtime: 187 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

The Bad Guys

"The Bad Guys" follows the exploits of a gang of famous thieves who attempt to rehabilitate their public image, pretending to reform while actually planning their biggest crime yet. Based on a series of graphic novels for young readers by Aaron Blabey, the art style of "The Bad Guys" embraces its 2D, ink-and-paper origins, resulting in a distinctive and fun visual aesthetic that looks like nothing DreamWorks has produced before. Looper's Alistair Ryder calls it "the studio's best effort since the first 'How to Train Your Dragon' sequel," as it balances out its lowbrow kids humor with a surprisingly good send-up of hip heist films like "Ocean's Eleven" and "Reservoir Dogs."

  • Starring: Sam Rockwell, Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron
  • Director: Pierre Perifel
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

The Lost City

The premise of "The Lost City" is rather similar to the 1984 adventure film "Romancing the Stone," in which a romance novelist finds herself on a real-life treasure hunt through the jungle with a roguish hunk at her side. "The Lost City" is as much a parody of this idea as it is an homage — Sandra Bullock plays a bestselling author of erotic adventure novels who's washed up and embarrassed of her success, and instead of a devilish Indiana Jones type, she's paired up with the sweet but dimwitted model (Channing Tatum) from the cover of her books. While "The Lost City" doesn't approach the level of craft on display in "Romancing the Stone" (director Robert Zemeckis' next film would be "Back to the Future"), it's the sort of charming, low-stakes adventure flick we wish would hit the big screen more often.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Is "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" a cinematic masterpiece on par with the likes of "Paddington 2" (another film about a CG animal hanging out with humans)? No, not quite. But is it a comic action-adventure that's an absolute blast to watch? It is indeed. The super-fast blue hedgehog of Sega fame once again fights the diabolical Dr. Robotnik, allowing Jim Carrey to demonstrate that he's just as much a cartoon as any talking animal that the effects department can render. But now, the cast of computer-generated characters has expanded, bringing the series closer to the purely animated kids film franchise it probably should have been in the first place.

Fresh

In this very modern thriller, a young woman exhausted by the online dating scene takes a chance on a charming stranger who she meets at the grocery store. He seems too good to be true — and of course, he is — but nothing could have prepared her (or you, the viewer) for the gruesome reality of his intentions. "Fresh" is a grim, bloody tale with a sick sense of humor, a cutting criticism of the way men commodify women and their bodies. It's not a subtle film, and its politics are sometimes transparent the point of pandering, but its message has value, and the product as a whole offers far more gasps than it does groans.

  • Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jonica T. Gibbs
  • Director: Mimi Cave
  • Runtime: 114 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

The Northman

From celebrated director Robert Eggers comes this unflinchingly brutal historical fantasy, based on the ancient Viking epic that inspired Shakespeare's "Hamlet." The dethroned Prince Amleth will stop at nothing to exact vengeance against the uncle who slew his father and kidnapped his mother — but will his quest leave him more beast than man? "The Northman" is as visually stunning as it is disturbing, a meticulous and unsanitized portrait of the grim and miserable past. In Amleth's blood-soaked world, cruelty is the only currency, and debts are always paid with interest.

  • Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang
  • Director: Robert Eggers
  • Runtime: 137 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Men

Is "Men" one of the best films of 2022, one of the worst, or just one of the weirdest? In writer-director Alex Garland's slow-burning horror-thriller, Jessie Buckley's Harper seeks some time alone in a quiet English village after her husband's death, but her peace is interrupted when she discovers she's being stalked by a naked man who lives in the woods. What's more, every man she meets in town wears exactly the same face (that of Rory Kinnear) and a different shade of entitlement to her time, attention, and body. The story's visual metaphors are plentiful but very on-the-nose, all culminating in a shocking, thematically loaded body horror climax. Reactions to "Men" vary wildly across extremes: It's either a cutting rebuke of toxic masculinity or a fable so reductive that it's insulting, but as The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips puts it, "It sticks with you. And it deserves to be experienced rather than explained."

  • Starring: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu
  • Director: Alex Garland
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

The Tinder Swindler

The story behind "The Tinder Swindler" is fascinating to begin with: How did multiple women get conned out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the same poser Prince Charming who they met on a dating app? But what elevates "The Tinder Swindler" even further is tight, highly proficient filmmaking, careful control of pace, and a human approach to its subjects. Through text threads, voice messages, and cell phone videos, the audience is permitted to relive the events of the story the same way the victims lived them, guided through the romance and horror of it all by surprisingly candid and intimate interviews that make this entire bizarre affair seem immediate and relatable.

  • Starring: Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm, Ayleen Charlotte
  • Director: Felicity Morris
  • Runtime: 114 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

On the Count of Three

Suicide is not a laughing matter, but with his feature directorial debut, actor/comedian Jerrod Carmichael wrings comedy and pathos out of a grim tale of two friends who agree to end each other's lives after one last consequence-free day. "On the Count of Three" has a sense of humor that's incredibly dark, but it's also a deeply heartfelt film that engages with the subjects of depression and trauma with delicacy and sensitivity. It's a tonal tightrope walk (and not without its stumbles), but at its heart, it's a buddy movie about two people who will go to any lengths for each other, even to the brink of death.

  • Starring: Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish
  • Director: Jerrod Carmichael
  • Runtime: 86 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Back in 2002, director Sam Raimi codified the modern superhero movie with the first "Spider-Man." Now, after a decade away from comic book tentpoles, Raimi returns to helm the latest chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one that plays to his penchant for pulp horror. While "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is an MCU film first and foremost, pulling in threads from multiple Marvel Studios films and series and spitting out more fuel for their perpetual plot machine, it's at its best when Raimi's quirky sense of humor and signature blend of camp and macabre are allowed to show through. With that distinct Raimi touch adding some new dimensions, fans of the MCU still get exactly what they've grown to expect — a perfectly entertaining 2-hour comic book adventure in the style they've come to love.

  • Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Runtime: 126 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%

Top Gun: Maverick

We'll be the first to tell you that "Top Gun: Maverick" is, like its predecessor, basically a very expensive recruitment ad for the United States Navy. It's a sports movie in which the sport is flying advanced aircraft that just happen to be tools of death and destruction, and its aim is to make the people who operate them look as cool as possible. That said ... mission accomplished. "Top Gun: Maverick" is a ridiculously fun cinematic novelty that will thrill even the most cynical viewer. Eschewing CGI as much as possible, director Joseph Kosinski puts the actors and cameras right into actual fighter jets and lets audiences marvel at incredible real-life feats of aerial agility. The spectacle is bound together by irresistible charisma machine Tom Cruise reprising the role of Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, leading a new generation of hot shots into the danger zone. Propaganda? Sure, but it works!

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly
  • Director: Joseph Kosinski
  • Runtime: 131 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%