It’s been a terrific year for movies. Whether they’ve been released in theaters, on one of the best streaming services, or both, 2022 has been packed with brilliant blockbusters, intriguing indies, and streaming sensations.
With 2023 looming into view, it’s time to look back at the biggest, best, and criminally underrated movies of the past 12 months. Below, we’ve compiled a list of 2022’s best 40 movies, including offerings from Netflix, Marvel, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros.
We’ve organized our best movies of 2022 list based on the streamer they debuted on or, in the case of theatrical exclusives, the studio that distributed them. You’ll also find a miscellaneous round-up of films that didn’t fit into other categories, such as offerings from Sony and A24.
Here, then, are the 40 best movies of 2022, as chosen by TechRadar’s entertainment experts.
Best Netflix movies of 2022
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Knives Out wowed fans and critics alike in 2019, so sequels were inevitable. The first of those – Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery – is another elaborate and highly entertaining whodunnit from Rian Johnson. Buoyed by its excellent ensemble cast and the confidence carried over from its predecessor’s success, Glass Onion is even showier, funnier, and narratively intelligent than Knives Out. In short: it’s one of the best Netflix movies for a long time.
The Gray Man
The Russo brothers delivered one of Netflix’s biggest movies of 2022 with The Gray Man. Okay, it’s not perfect – in our review of The Gray Man, we said it favors style over substance. However, there’s still lots to like about this espionage thriller. Its action set-pieces are spectacular, it’s suitably suspenseful, and its cast, particularly Chris Evans in a rare villainous role, is superb. With film and TV sequels greenlit, this could be Netflix's big-budget franchise to rival James Bond.
Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
With Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, Netflix breathed new life into Carlo Collodi's beloved 1883 fairytale about a wooden puppet who longs to become a real boy. Del Toro’s darker adaptation is set in 1930s Italy during Mussolini’s fascist regime, is shot entirely using stop-motion, and features a star-studded voice cast, including Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, and Cate Blanchett. Full of heart and humor, and never less than utterly original, Del Toro’s Pinocchio is necessary viewing.
This Indian Telugu-language action epic is arguably the biggest surprise hit of the year. Set in the 1920s, it centers around the fictional friendship between two Indian revolutionaries as they battle the British Raj. With a three-hour runtime, it’s an Avengers: Endgame-style marathon of a movie. But, with some absolutely phenomenal action set-pieces (involving plenty of tigers) and a completely unexpected dance number, RRR is a stellar watch. Must be seen to be believed.
The Sea Beast
Netflix has stepped up its animation game in recent times, with shows and films like Arcane and The Mitchells Vs. the Machines being met with universal acclaim and numerous awards. The Sea Beast is another that can be added to Netflix’s burgeoning animation back catalog. It’s a bright, breezy, daring, and visually arresting film tailor-made for an evening spent on the proverbial high seas with the family. Yo ho ho and all that.
One of two documentary films to make this list, Sr. is a wonderfully assembled piece of art that doubles as a fascinating insight into Robert Downey Sr.’s life and a poignant ode from his A-list actor son. Okay, it espouses the virtues of storytelling in cinematic form, but viewers will find its intimate, amusing, and passionately raw spotlight on familial relationships extremely relatable. A moving, intergenerational film that takes pride of place on our best Netflix documentaries list.
Troll doesn’t rewrite the monster/kaiju rulebook and its plot is extremely derivative. Nonetheless, it’s a thoroughly entertaining Norwegian language film, with lots of destruction-based action, wonderful cinematography, and a pulsating score. It’s also rich from a mythology perspective so there’s potentially more monster folklore to explore in this universe. Given Troll is Netflix’s biggest foreign language movie hit, expect sequels to be greenlit.
Best Disney, Marvel, and Pixar movies of 2022
Avatar: The Way of Water
Say what you want about James Cameron’s Avatar, the 2009 sci-fi cinematic juggernaut was a moment in pop culture history. It’s fitting, then, that its long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, is equally boundary-pushing in its use of new filmmaking technologies. Set 15 years after its predecessor, The Way of Water finds the Sully clan forced to flee the lush forests of Pandora and seek refuge in its aquatic regions – and the underwater results are nothing short of spectacular. If you can stomach the film’s three-hour runtime, Avatar: The Way of Water is a truly transcendent cinematic experience.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been a mixed bag, and that’s certainly reflected in Marvel’s three films this year. Thor: Love and Thunder, for instance, was a mess (even though we enjoyed it at the time) but the same can’t be said for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s shock death in August 2020, this was always going to be an emotionally taxing watch. However, Black Panther 2 proved to be more than just a cathartic cinematic experience – it’s exciting, culturally significant, amusing, and thematically dense. Without sounding hyperbolic, it’s one of the best Marvel movies ever.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
If Wakanda Forever was Marvel’s best film of 2022 (and Thor 4 its worst), Doctor Strange 2 sits somewhere in the middle. It pushed the boundaries of Marvel’s usual PG-13/12A age rating, with director Sam Raimi leaving his indelible horror-infused mark on proceedings. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange 2's various cameos had fans cheering with delight. Strange’s latest solo adventure was undercooked in many aspects (Wanda’s character arc is baffling and America Chavez is nothing more than a plot device) but it’s mostly a spellbinding watch.
Of Pixar’s two films for the year, many wouldn’t have said Turning Red would beat Lightyear for a place on our list. They’re both charming, packed with humor and heart, and look visually stunning. However, Turning Red just feels more original as a concept, narratively and thematically challenging, and (most importantly) grounded in real life. It’s impossible not to like it – oh, and its soundtrack will be stuck in your head for weeks after you stream it on Disney Plus. One of the best Disney Plus movies to watch right now.
Best Hulu movies of 2022
A black comedy horror that topically explores the perils of modern dating, Fresh puts a, well, fresh and enthralling spin on its subject matter. Thanks to exceptional performances from Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan, Fresh doesn’t feel like a hammed-up version of similar films that have come before, either. Given the story it tells, though, maybe don’t watch this one when you’re tucking into those meat-based holiday season leftovers.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
If Fresh put a novel spin on the comedy-horror genre, this uninhibited and sizzling flick did likewise for the sex comedy subgenre. Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack are on fire as an insecure widow (who’s never experienced an orgasm) and the sex worker Thompson’s Nancy hires to correct that. In its oversimplified form, its plot doesn’t sound too original. But Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’s side-splittingly funny and unexpectedly tender story beats are what make it so refreshing.
The Predator franchise received a long overdue shot in the arm with Prey, a quasi-prequel flick that’s as tense, action-packed, and gory as its predecessors. In our Prey review, we said there’s no question that it’s the best Predator movie since the original. It treads that tricky fine line between honoring what’s come before and taking the series in new directions. Easily one of the best Hulu movies of all time.
Best Prime Video movies of 2022
Great Prime Video movies have been few and far between this year, but Argentina, 1985 proves there’s still life in Amazon Studios’ movie division. This unsurprisingly Argentine language historical flick explores the events surrounding the 1985 Trial of the Juntas, which saw a group of courageous lawyers battle against the odds to bring members of Argentina’s last (and most bloody) dictatorship to justice. A barnstorming courtroom drama not to be missed.
Emergency went under the radar back in May and that’s a big shame. It’s a clever thriller packed with biting social commentary on frat parties, racial double standards, and the unexpectedly serious after-effects of making incorrect, spur-of-the-moment choices. It’s wickedly funny, too, even if Emergency’s humor is born out of the shocking and awkward scenarios its lead characters are involved in. Come for the comedy, stay for the fundamentally important societal messages.
Good Night Oppy
The sci-fi genre has given us numerous iconic and lovable robots and AI companions throughout the decades. But, when it comes to feeling true emotion, you can’t beat the real thing – especially when they’re anthropomorphically positioned in the way Mars rover Opportunity is in Good Night Oppy. You’ll marvel at how NASA created it, be amazed at the sights Oppy takes in once it lands on the red planet, and definitely be wiping away tears during this documentary’s emotional climax. A wonderfully warm story set in the cold expanse of space.
Best HBO Max movies of 2022
Bones and All
We didn’t have a cannibal-centric romance movie on our best films of 2022 bingo card, but Bones and All delivered on that front anyway. Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet sparkle as a pair of young cannibals who fall for each other as they flee together on a cross-country road trip. It’s an at-times deeply gruesome watch, but it’s also profound and unexpectedly tender. Bones and All might not make it onto our best HBO Max movies list, but it’s beautifully tragic in its own right.
DC’s film franchise has had a torrid 2022. Movies have been delayed, The Flash star Ezra Miller has courted a great deal of controversy, and the series is undergoing a complete reset under new co-studio heads James Gunn and Peter Safran. There was one, Bat Signal-sized shining light in the sky, though: The Batman. Matt Reeves’ neo-noir detective take on the Caped Crusader is a masterpiece. Aside from a couple of niggly CGI/green screen elements, every part of this DCEU movie's production is astonishing. The cast, score, action, atmosphere, story, themes – everything fits together perfectly.
Dazzling and splashy films have been Baz Luhrmann’s forte since 1992’s Strictly Ballroom – and Elvis is no different. It’s a biopic as humanly devastating as it is bewitching, one that captures the legendary rockstar’s life (with some choice creative deviations, mind you) in dramatic fashion. Austin Butler’s portrayal of the King of Rock’n’Roll is mesmeric and powerful, while Tom Hanks revels in a rare antagonistic role as Elvis’ financially abusive manager. We were all shook up and you will be, too.
Steven Soderbergh is a master of the filmmaking craft. It’ll come as no surprise, then, that his latest project – Kimi – takes a place on our list. As she is in The Batman, Zoë Kravitz is in outstanding form as an agoraphobic tech company employee who becomes entangled in a murder mystery via Kimi, her employers’ new smart speaker. With its smart focus on tech-based voyeurism, human paranoia, and the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact, Kimi delivers a compelling streaming movie experience.
Best Paramount Pictures/Plus movies of 2022
After an 11-year hiatus, movie makers felt it was time to take another, erm, stab at the Scream franchise. Thanks to Scream 5’s blend of newfound subversiveness and penchant for meta storytelling, we’re glad Paramount Pictures did, too. It’s arguably not as scary or original as other entries in the series, but its irreverence, fun casting, and copious amounts of slasher-based humor mean Scream 5 is well worth your time. Even better, you can now stream it on Paramount Plus.
Paramount Pictures provided plenty of horror fare this year – some good, some less so – and Significant Other certainly falls into the first of those categories. Like Scream 5, this sci-fi horror flick doesn’t reinvent the genre wheel. However, its survival story-positioned narrative, compelling characters, and newfangled take on the alien horror subgenre make it one of the best Paramount Plus movies out there.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is not only one of the best family movies of the year, it’s also one of our favorite films of 2022 full stop. Its homage to the blue blur’s popular video game series is impressive, riffing on some of Sonic’s most iconic moments in surprisingly terrific fashion. Its introduction of fan-favorite characters from the gaming franchise, expansion on what made the first movie so good, and set-up for future films and shows also make for hugely entertaining viewing.
Top Gun: Maverick
Notwithstanding its predecessor’s cult status and the old school star power of Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick exceeded expectations and then some. Not only was Cruise’s long-awaited return as aging flying ace Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell one of the most accomplished Hollywood sequels ever, it also flew high at the box office, becoming the first film of Cruise's 40-year career to break $1 billion. Long story short: Top Gun: Maverick is a good old fashioned rollercoaster of a movie in a saturated age of superheroes and streaming.
Best Apple TV Plus movies of 2022
Clocking in at 92 minutes, Causeway won’t take a whole evening to stream on Apple TV Plus. Its advantageously short runtime isn’t the only good thing about it, though. With emotionally gripping performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry, and a subdued but no less powerful examination of trauma, Causeway’s sensitive and intimate storytelling approach makes it a small movie with a big heart.
Cha Cha Real Smooth
Cooper Raiff is one of the most talented young filmmakers of his generation, so the inclusion of his latest movie – Cha Cha Real Smooth - in our best movies of 2022 guide is understandable. It’s a sweet-natured, highly relatable dramedy that depicts the growing pains of, well, growing up. Dakota Johnson steals the show as Domino, while Raiff’s skillset – he wrote, acted in, directed, and produced this flick – confirms just how multi-talented he is.
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Okay, you might suggest we’re cheating with this one. The Tragedy of Macbeth had a limited theatrical release in December 2021, but it wasn’t widely available until its Apple TV Plus release in January 2022, allowing us to include it here. And why wouldn’t we? Denzel Washington is at his enthralling best as the legendary Shakespearean character in Joel Coen’s creatively monochromatic flick. A truly breathtaking watch and one of the best Apple TV Plus movies ever made.
Best Peacock/Universal Pictures movies of 2022
The Bad Guys
Not to be outdone by Netflix or Pixar, Universal Pictures’ The Bad Guys is a very entertaining heist comedy that’s perfect for adults and kids alike. Its eye-popping visuals, eclectic cast of well-voiced characters, and hilarious plot elevate The Bad Guys above your typical CGI animated movie. It helps, too, that its more childish humor serves a narrative purpose throughout, ensuring no joke falls flat. A stylish and underrated film, which is now streamable on Peacock.
Bros was a box office bomb when it arrived in September, so some readers might wonder why it’s one of our favorite movies of 2022. For one, it’s a ton of fun – Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane prove to be equally charming and funny throughout. But it’s Bros’ spotlighting of LGBTQ+ rom-com representation that really makes it stand out. In a genre littered with stories about cisgender relationships, Bros is a landmark moment for inclusivity.
To some, The Fablemans might come across as iconic filmmaker Steven Spielberg indulging in a self-absorbed biopic about himself. It’s anything but. This semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale is another cinematic masterpiece from the multi-award winning director, packed with raw emotion, riveting family drama, and numerous odes to the power of films. A masterful movie that needs to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. (NB: it’s not out in theaters in the UK until January 27).
Nope is a tricky movie to describe in under 100 words. On the one hand, Get Out director Jordan Peele’s slow-burning third feature is a refreshingly old-school Spielbergian creature feature. On the other, it’s an aggressively high-concept meditation on race, art, trauma, and exploitation that wouldn't be out of place as the subject of a college dissertation. However you interpret Nope, there’s no denying that the Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer-starring movie is wholly original and undeniably entertaining.
As movies go, The Northman – Robert Eggers’ stylish viking epic – is a bloody affair. The Witch director’s third film stars Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth, a young prince in medieval Scandinavia who embarks on a brutal quest to avenge the memory of his father (Ethan Hawke) and save his mother (Nicole Kidman) from the clutches of his traitorous uncle (Claes Bang). If that all sounds very Game of Thrones, that’s because The Northman mixes violence, betrayal, and incest into an artsy (but exceptionally bleak) tale of Norse mythology.
Best miscellaneous movies of 2022
The Banshees of Inisherin
In Bruges acting duo Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunite in this indie-positioned but captivatingly droll flick from director Martin McDonagh. Set on the fictional Irish isle of Inisherin, The Banshees of Inisherin follows one man’s quest to come to terms with his best buddy’s sudden ending of their lifelong friendship. The film has been near-universally praised and it’s easy to see why. Its unusual blend of comedy and tragedy, fantastic performances, and stunning cinematography make The Banshees of Inisherin a strong contender for next year’s Best Picture Oscar.
Available on HBO Max (US and supported territories), Disney Plus (UK), and in select theaters worldwide.
As our best movies of 2022 list shows, it’s been a particularly good year for horror – and Barbarian ranks among the most impressive of the lot. It tells the tale of Tess, a young woman who rents an Airbnb for a job interview, only to discover the house is, erm, housing a horrifying secret. Revealing anymore would spoil Barbarian’s most terrifying, suspense-laden, and gory moments. Stick it on your watch list ASAP.
Available on HBO Max (US and supported territories) and Disney Plus (UK). Also rentable via Amazon, Apple TV, iTunes, and Vudu.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Marvel, DC, and Sony’s Spider-Man movies (live-action and animated) have explored the concept of the multiverse to varying degrees. However, this A24 production usurps them all when it comes to exploring such a hypothesis. Michelle Yeoh delights in multiple roles in this riotous flick from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. It’s a film of swirling genre disorder and, unlike its more popular counterparts, confidently leans into the absurdity of the multiverse without missing a beat. From the Raccacoonie rescue mission to the sausage fingers realm and everything in between, Everything Everywhere All at Once is multiversal exploration at its finest.
We told you it was a good year for horror. Another dark comedy-horror flick, The Menu asks you to dine on its slow-cooked main course with an increasing sense of foreboding and suspense. It’s a tad long and its social commentary is a bit on the nose, but The Menu will leave you feeling suitably satiated. Top marks for Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, who particularly shine in their roles as celebrity chef Julian Slowik and unexpected dinner guest Margot Mills.
Available on HBO Max in the US from January 3, 2023, and on Disney Plus in the UK from January 4, 2023.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Love him or loathe him, Nicholas Cage is a bonafide movie star who gives his all in every movie he’s in. What better way to celebrate his unorthodox but supreme talents, then, by making Cage play himself in an incredibly meta action-comedy film? That’s the general gist of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a wildly creative spin on ‘90s action blockbusters that’s surprisingly funny and heartfelt. A must for Cage enthusiasts.
Available to rent via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, iTunes, Rakuten TV, Vudu, and YouTube.
Cage is one of many former big-name actors (Robert Downey Jr. is another) who have enjoyed renaissance periods in recent years. Few are more deserving of a comeback story, though, than Brendan Fraser – and his colossal performance in potential 2023 Oscar nominee The Whale proves why. A highly emotional movie about a 600-pound reclusive teacher who attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter Ellie, The Whale would ordinarily be a good but not great watch. However, thanks to Fraser’s astounding performance, The Whale is prestige movie making at its finest.
Available in US theaters now and UK cinemas on February 3, 2023.
The Woman King
Viola Davis doesn’t miss, does she? The Oscar winner’s latest film – The Woman King – is a scintillating action epic, albeit one that some will argue is slightly historically inaccurate. Even so, The Woman King delivers on the spectacle front, with frenetic and imposing set-pieces as grand as fan-favorite historical films like Gladiator and Braveheart. Its Black female-led cast feels suitably groundbreaking for a movie of this scope, too. Some day, maybe we’ll reach a point in the film industry (and society overall) where a celebration of such welcome inclusivity, particularly in this genre, is the norm rather than the exception…
Available to rent via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu.
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As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.
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- Axel MetzSenior Staff Writer