×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Underrated Movies Of 2022

In the modern world, there are more options for movies than at any other point in history. It's an exciting byproduct of 21st-century existence, where the internet, digital theatrical film distribution, and other technological advances have opened up new avenues for films from all over the world to be seen by the general public. But this does have the adverse side effect of ensuring that there can be too many options. With so many motion pictures available at your fingertips, not only is something bound to slip past your gaze but something downright great can even get lost in the shuffle. The year 2022 has been no different in this regard, with several exquisite features failing to become household names due to there being so much competition for people's eyeballs.

These underrated motion pictures range wildly in terms of genre, filmmaking style, country of origin, and so much more. Whether you want a small-scale crime thriller contained to one location, an expansive epic with a richly human heart, or groundbreaking documentaries, it's all right here. True, these projects didn't score the enormous box office hauls or massive marketing campaigns of titles like "The Batman." But even if you've never heard of them before, that doesn't mean you shouldn't give the most underrated movies of 2022 a watch. Think of them as cinematic surprises just waiting to be discovered.

Updated on April 28, 2022: As more and more films are released this year, we'll be keeping an eye out for the underrated gems that deserve more love. So be sure to check back here each month to discover more under-the-radar movies you should definitely check out.

The Fallout

The horrors of school shootings — a terrifying event that's become a tragic part of everyday reality for American youths — are so overwhelming that it can be difficult to imagine how to even tackle this topic in the context of a movie. In contrast to the tone-deaf stab at relevancy in the "Shooting Star" episode of "Glee," "The Fallout" tackles the psychology of a teenager living in the wake of a school shooting with depth and specificity. That teenager would be Vada Cavell, whose trauma extends far beyond just the school shooting event itself. Just trying to go back to high school becomes an enormous trial, and her outlets for controlling her anxiety aren't always as healthy as they could be.

The remarkable thing about writer/director Megan Park's work on "The Fallout" is the sheer variety she lends each of the high schoolers depicted in this story. There's never one way to cope with trauma, and the same can be said for surviving a school shooting. Vada and her friends register as real human beings thanks to "The Fallout" taking the time to outline the specific varied ways they're each moving forward in their lives after unspeakable horrors. Meanwhile, the lead performance from Jenna Ortega is remarkable, especially in her subtly detailed depiction of Vada shutting out those around her. "The Fallout" is far from an easy watch, but it's an unflinching and emotionally astute piece of filmmaking.

  • Starring: Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Julie Bowen
  • Director: Megan Park
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

A Hero

The people we lionize in society are all humans, they're just people like us. It can be easy to forget about that in everyday life, but Asghar Farhadi's "A Hero" — which played at Cannes in 2021 but hit Prime Video in 2022 — is a perfect reminder of this truth. The film tells the story of Rahim (Amir Jadidi), who was recently released from prison. As he begins to rebuild his life, he returns a bag of money to its rightful owner, making him a hero in the eyes of his neighbors and community. However, Rahim's past comes back to haunt him as dissenting voices begin to question the validity of his actions. Not only does this place his new reputation in danger, but it also begins to eat away at Rahim's ability to secure new employment and stake out a post-prison existence.

The same nuance and richly detailed characterizations that Farhadi lent to his 2011 masterpiece "A Separation" are once again found in "A Hero." These intricacies make the ensuing tragedy of the plotline all the more compelling to watch, as does the delicately thoughtful camerawork from Farhadi and cinematographer Ali Ghazi. The latter quality is especially unforgettable in a closing shot that finishes "A Hero" with a sense of unshakeable despair. Bizarrely overlooked for a Best International Feature Oscar nomination, "A Hero" is still well worth watching as another Asghar Farhadi gem.

  • Starring: Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Sahar Goldoost
  • Director: Asghar Farhadi
  • Runtime: 128 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

After Yang

There have been plenty of movies navigating the relationship between human families and robotic companions, ranging from "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" to "Bicentennial Man." However, none of them have been quite like "After Yang," the latest film from director Kogonada. This film chronicles a family, led by father Jake, figuring out what to do once their longtime robot Yang abruptly shuts down. While determining the next steps for this mechanical being that was a part of his family, Jake begins to uncover extraordinary things in Yang's memories that suggest he was even more complex and human than they could've imagined.

The contemplative style of filmmaking Kogonada applied to his 2017 film "Columbus" is alive and well in "After Yang." It proves to be a perfect fit for a story about coping with loss, but "After Yang" is far from a retread of a prior Kogonada directorial effort. The ingenious use of shifting aspect ratios alone gives "After Yang" a distinct visual identity, ditto the striking editing techniques (also courtesy of Kogonada) used in scenes depicting Yang's memories. Meanwhile, the quiet pieces of unique technology and architecture surrounding the characters suggest a broader near-future world without overwhelming the story. The filmmaking and melancholy vibes here are so captivating that they make this movie feel like the very first film to ever tackle the idea of distinctly human traits lurking inside a robotic being.

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America

The way racism is ingrained into the fabric of America and its institutions is such an overwhelming part of reality that it can be difficult to know how to even approach it. The documentary "Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America," hailing from directors Emily and Sarah Kunstler, provides an expansive look at the past and present of racism's impact on the U.S. This is told through the words of ACLU deputy legal director Jeffery Robinson, with the film split between watching him give a talk about the history of America's racism to a packed crowd and segments depicting Robinson talking to various everyday American citizens about this urgently relevant topic.

"Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America" is a heavy watch, as it should be. The filmmakers and Robinson thankfully don't distill the horrors of bigotry to just flat readings of statistics. There's a passionate fervor in Robinson's public speaking skills as he dives into the nuances of how racism has informed key parts of America's foundation. Meanwhile, his interviews — like one with a woman who led a protest to tear down a pro-Confederacy statue — remind viewers of the human costs of systemic racism being normalized. The overwhelming reality of intolerance in America is superbly reflected within the lens of "Who We are: A Chronicle of Racism in America."

Riotsville, U.S.A.

In the 1960s, the ongoing presence of riots in American society led the U.S. government to create a fake town called Riotsville, U.S.A., where cops and soldiers could prepare tactics to take down those breaking the law in the eyes of the government. As the title would suggest, this is where the story of the documentary "Riotsville, U.S.A." begins, but it's far from where it ends. Director Sierra Pettengill proceeds to explore how brutal tactics to subdue citizens — all based on racial discrimination — were employed, with such procedures being told through archival footage. This manifests in everything from training videos to news coverage, with Pettengill looking to expose new layers in previously existing material.

Among the many accomplishments of this approach is highlighting the horrifying reality that the oppression of marginalized classes has been hiding in plain sight. You don't have to dig deep to see examples of Black people getting their voices silenced — just the ways news programs talk about Black protestors will do. Similarly, videos of training simulations in Riotsville, U.S.A., all meant to show the prowess of American soldiers, provide a chilling demonstration of how powerful American institutions normalize the dehumanizing of people of color. The harrowing atmosphere of "Riotsville, U.S.A." is punctuated by a chilling score by Jace Clayton. Through this ominous aesthetic, "Riotsville, U.S.A." powerfully presents how the horrors of the 1960s reverberate well into the modern world.

Sirens

You may not know the metal band Slave to Sirens, but once you watch "Sirens," you won't forget them anytime soon. The only all-women metal band in Lebanon, this group and its members are the centerpiece of director Rita Baghdadi's documentary, which sees this gaggle of musicians trying its hardest to keep on rocking in the face of middling attendance at their concerts, societal prejudice against women, and even strife between band members. All these issues nicely render the people that make up Slave to Sirens as discernibly human. They may be trailblazers with exquisite fashion sensibilities, but they're just as prone to everyday foibles as anyone else.

Through emphasizing these vulnerabilities, "Sirens" quietly but powerfully suggests that any person can upend the idea of what's "normal" or possible in a patriarchal society. Even better, such concepts are told through a structure that effectively oscillates between segments chronicling the musicians working together and their separate home lives. These disparate parts of "Sirens" coexist nicely, especially through the editing courtesy of Grace Zahrah. Meanwhile, the recurring presence of enjoyable earworms from the Slave to Sirens band will also get your toes tapping and your head bopping. All of these qualities come together to solidify this film as documentary you can't help but rock out to.

Lingui, the Sacred Bonds

All parents want their kids to have a better life than they had and, especially, to avoid the troubles they had to navigate growing up. Amina is no different, as she does everything she can to make sure her teenage daughter, Maria, has everything she needs for a successful life. However, things gets thrown out of orbit when Maria suddenly gets pregnant. This is the event that shifts the plot into high gear, as Amina and Maria now search for a way to secure an abortion, a procedure forbidden by the society they occupy. The urgency of this scenario gives "Lingui, the Sacred Bonds" a compelling sense of narrative propulsion, even while the film adheres to a quiet naturalistic style of pacing reminiscent of the works of Chantal Akerman or Yasujiro Ozu.

Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun avoids the melodramatic pitfalls that can plague other movies dealing with the topic of abortion. Instead, his focus remains on more interesting storytelling material like how Amina and Maria cling to their autonomy and desires in the face of societally ingrained oppression. In the vein of other great modern films like "Never Rarely Sometimes Always," "Lingui, the Sacred Bonds" is technically a film about abortion that's also so much more than that. In this case, "Sacred Bonds" is primarily a movie centered on the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, as well as highlighting the hoops people have to jump through to have control over their bodies.

  • Starring: Achouackh Abakar, Rihane Khalil Alio, Youssouf Djaoro
  • Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
  • Runtime: 87 minutes
  • Rating: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

Cyrano

You've doubtlessly heard or seen the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac, which has been captivating audiences in various forms for well over a century. But you've never seen it told quite like director Joe Wright's "Cyrano," which brings the story to life as a musical headlined by Peter Dinklage in the titular role. The story of an expert swordsman who believes himself to be too hideous to be loved by the woman of his dreams, it's a tragic romantic yarn that bursts off the screen with palpable pathos. This is a movie that wears its sentimental belief in old-fashioned love on its sleeve, and it's all the better for such a cynicism-free execution.

The unabashedly straightforward approach to the romance is mirrored by the similarly confident execution of the music, with tunes springing out of the lips of cast members at any given opportunity. A random conversation can be punctuated by a melody, while reading a letter aloud can be an opportunity for lead actress Haley Bennett to engage in sensual crooning. "Cyrano" has no qualms about beating its own drum, which comes especially in handy with executing emotionally devastating sequences like the "Wherever I Fall" musical number. Some may find it more hokey than moving, but if you like old-fashioned romantic dramas that throw subtlety and caution to the wind, then "Cyrano" will deeply move you.

The Outfit

In the grand tradition of "Rope" or "Buried," "The Outfit" largely takes place in one location. In this case, that singular backdrop tells a story belonging to cutter Leonard Burling. He prides himself on making the finest clothes possible for his customers, as well as how he stays out of the way of the mobsters who use his place to hold money and letters. One late night, this shop becomes a hotbed of activity when gangster Richie Boyle shows up dead. Thus begins a night of increasingly dangerous activity that sees this seemingly mild-mannered expert in fashion using all his wits to stay alive. Writer/director Graham Moore does fine work utilizing this simple premise and a minimal amount of environments to create a crime thriller that, well, thrills.

Part of the charm here is Moore's willingness to have dark fun with his material, especially with enjoyably bombastic storytelling turns. Meanwhile, the R-rating allows for bursts of bloody mayhem or dialogue laden with coarse language to land with a proper amount of impact rather than getting sanded down to fit into the confines of a PG-13 rating. Plus, if you're going to be stuck with an actor in one location for lengthy periods of time, Mark Rylance is one of the better options out there. His lengthy experience in stage performances, where he had to keep viewers engaged with minimal resources, is put to great use in the spry yet contained crime thriller "The Outfit."

RRR

Some movies only offer excess spectacle but no heart, others merely schmaltz but no scope. "RRR," an epic blockbuster hailing from director S. S. Rajamouli, wisely decides to deliver both of these ingredients at once. This story concerns two men, Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju, in Delhi in 1920, when the city was occupied by colonial forces. The duo sparks up a deeply passionate friendship without realizing the other's true identity. Bheem is on a mission to rescue a young girl who was kidnapped from his village while Raju is a cop who demonstrates deep loyalty to brutally cruel figures like Governor Scott Buxton.

To say any more about the plot would be to spoil the fun of "RRR," which delivers one riotously over-the-top action scene after another. Any pretense towards being "grounded" has been tossed to the wind in favor of delightfully maximalist chaos. At the same time, there's a genuineness to how Rajamouli depicts the friendship between Bheem and Raju that makes it impossible not to get wrapped up in their bond. Depictions of this duo and other principal characters standing strong and fighting back against cruel colonial forces also stirs the soul. There's a beating heart to "RRR" that lends deep humanity to a movie that also features a man throwing a motorcycle at evildoers. Toss in a bevy of remarkably catchy tunes like "Naatu Naatu," and "RRR" becomes a cinematic delight one can't miss.

  • Starring: N.T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgan
  • Director: S.S. Rajamouli
  • Runtime: 187 minutes
  • Rating: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Apollo 10 1/2

Writer/director Richard Linklater returns to the world of rotoscope filmmaking with "Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood." For this production, Linklater splits the story between the real and the fantastical. Part of the runtime is concerned with chronicling the exploits of young Stanley growing up in Houston, Texas, in the 1960s when the Space Race was everywhere. A quasi-autobiographical venture for Linklater, authenticity reverberates off these recollections of the highs and lows of yesteryear. However, "Apollo 10 1/2" also concerns itself with a heightened yarn about Stanley being called in by NASA for a top-secret mission that will involve this kid getting sent to the moon even before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Fusing these disparate parts of "Apollo 10 1/2" turn out to be quite easy, especially since there's wall-to-wall narration from Jack Black (portraying the off-screen adult version of Stanley) to help bridge the gap between Stanley's home life and his voyage to the stars. Even better, Linklater injects amusingly specific details into Stanley's reminiscing about childhood elements like his uber-paranoid grandmother or how his mom could make one ham dinner last an entire week. All of it's told through nicely realized hand-drawn animated rotoscoping, a welcome return of an artform Linklater used so well on earlier projects like "A Scanner Darkly." With these qualities, it becomes quite easy to recommend "Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood" as a trip worth taking.

Hit the Road

As director Panah Panahi's "Hit the Road" begins, it appears that there's nothing out of the ordinary here. We're going to just be watching a married couple and their two sons go on a road trip that will take them across Iran. Just a traditional family road trip, probably full of exciting roadside sights, traffic, and bickering. Slowly but surely, though, Panahi peels back the layers on this family and their excursion to reveal deeper darker truths. This is anything but a normal road trip, and it quickly becomes apparent that we're watching an exercise in quiet tragedy masquerading as familial normalcy.

The film's power as a piece of cinema is especially apparent in how each of the lead characters gets a unique and distinctive point of view. The intentionally cramped confines of the narrative allow us time to get to know everyone in this family while the restrained camerawork offers subtle glimpses into their interior worlds. Panahi's strengths as a filmmaker are further reinforced by how well he can incorporate bursts of dark humor into "Hit the Road" without undercutting its ominous tone. Above all else, Pantea Panahiha's performance as the unnamed mother of this family may be the ultimate reason to see "Hit the Road," especially her work in the film's final devastating sequence. Performances like that, just like movies as good as "Hit the Road," are far from commonplace.

  • Starring: Hassan Madjooni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak
  • Director: Panah Panahi
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rating: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%