This year’s best movies were everything, everywhere, all at once.
It’s hard to pick one particular film to represent everything that was great about genre movies in 2022. A new David Cronenberg thriller probed the extremes of body horror. A Telugu action epic took blockbuster spectacle to delirious new heights. Batman went noir, as did Oldboy director Park Chan-wook. Stop-motion and hand-drawn animated films proved they still had a place in an increasingly CG-dominated landscape. We had multiple (!) cannibal romances. And James Cameron, Jordan Peele, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Rian Johnson, and Ryan Coogler proved there was more depth to be found in the crowd-pleasing tentpole.
But at the end of the day, this year’s best movies proved that sometimes meaning can be found at the dark end of a bagel.
Here are the 25 best movies of 2022, according to the Inverse Entertainment staff and some of our favorite freelance writers.
Combining punk rock and feudal Japanese folktales shouldn’t work, but Masaaki Yuasa does it with flair in the rock opera anime Inu-Oh. Set in 14th-century feudal Japan, Inu-Oh follows the meeting of the blind musician Tomona and the cursed outcast Inu-Oh, who was born with three stubby limbs, an elongated right arm, skin covered in scales, and a hideously deformed face that he always covers with a mask. But when the two begin performing together — reinvigorating the traditional art of biwa storytelling by giving it a punk rock twist — Inu-Oh’s deformities begin to magically disappear.
Yuasa’s elastic animation style and rock musician Avu-chan’s husky, rapturous vocals make Inu-Oh a truly dazzling experience — like attending a rock show that’s so cool you reach nirvana and get whisked away to a vibrant fantasy land. If only all folk tales could be accompanied by a cool-as-hell guitar riff. — Hoai-Tran Bui
24. Bodies Bodies Bodies
Bodies Bodies Bodies isn’t afraid to say what it thinks. The satirical horror film from director Halina Reijn dares to ask what would happen if a group of persona-obsessed zoomers decided to get high in a remote mansion together only for some of them to start showing up dead. The chaos that inevitably follows is every bit as gruesome and unruly as one would expect, but it’s ultimately the film’s acid-tongued approach to addressing its characters’ obsession with each other’s privilege that makes Bodies Bodies Bodies hit as hard as it does. The film’s ending manages to ride the line between deliciously unpredictable and absurdly obvious, but the best compliment that can be given to it is that it’s the most logical conclusion to a story in which the only people its characters can truly blame for their problems are, much to their horror, themselves. — Alex Welch
23. Crimes of the Future
The fact that we live during the time of David Cronenberg is such a gift for fans of both science fiction and horror. With his criminally underrated Crimes of the Future, Cronenberg delivers a movie that is both a cautionary tale and a horrifying piece of cinema. Like his classic film The Fly, Cronenberg once again proves he’s the expert at mixing a serious sensibility with a pulp element of shocking body horror. It’s not his best film of all time, but Crimes of the Future is so unlike any other movie in 2022 that it almost feels as though it's from a parallel universe of sci-fi cinema. — Ryan Britt
22. After Yang
An old T-shirt. A repeated song verse. A blank stare in the mirror. After Yang is about how those fragments of life can be rendered meaningful through the sheer weight of existence. It’s exhilarating, it’s devastating, and it’s beautiful. In Kogonada’s melancholic sci-fi film, a family mourns the loss of their robotic companion Yang (Justin H. Min), whom Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) bought to teach their adoptive daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) about her Chinese heritage. The gentle robot is embraced as a member of the family. In attempting to get him repaired, Jake discovers Yang’s unusual memory banks, which hold glimpses of a whole other life.
After Yang is a stark, minimalist film that finds the beauty of life in the simplest objects — the old T-shirt unlocks a dear memory, the song verse is a quiet confession of love — while capturing the lonely heartache of transracial transhumanism. — Hoai-Tran Bui
21. Three Thousand Years of Longing
When Tilda Swinton asks djinn Idris Elba if his wishes will have any ironic side effects, it’s hard not to wonder if George Miller is speaking from experience. Mad Max: Fury Road enjoyed the kind of success that most directors can only dream of, but Three Thousand Years of Longing, Miller’s first film since his monster 2015 hit, lost so much money it would have been more efficient to just burn down a bank. That’s a shame because it’s a gorgeous meditation on love and the nature of storytelling. Swinton and Elba sell a rushed romance, but the real highlight are Elba’s tales, which take us through a fantastical version of Istanbul’s history. We’re all looking forward to Furiosa, but hopefully, one underappreciated flop doesn’t trap Miller’s imagination in the Mad Max bottle. — Mark Hill
20. The Woman King
Gina Prince-Bythewood has long been one of the most underrated workman directors of her generation, but her undeniable skill at putting together well-made, crowd-pleasing studio fare has, perhaps, never been quite as clear to see as it is in The Woman King. Led by a reliably commanding Viola Davis, the film tells a fictional story centered around the Agojie, the all-female warriors that famously defended the African kingdom of Dahomey throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Crafted with the kind of skill and attention that it deserves, The Woman King handles its difficult subject matter with surprising levels of grace, all while delivering some of the best practical action sequences of the year. Beyond its moments of awe-inspiring spectacle and action, it’s ultimately the scene-stealing supporting performances given by both Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim that make The Woman King a necessary entry on this list. — Alex Welch
Fresh certainly lives up to its name. Oh, sure, we get all kinds of cannibal movies every year, and across a surprisingly wide spectrum of genres and, ahem, tastes. But what truly sets Fresh apart is its balance between camp and genuine suspense. It's a thriller, first and foremost, but it has the style of a slick, goofy horror movie where the characters are as unpredictable as the plot.
That shouldn't be too surprising considering the pedigree of the director, Mimi Cave, whose music videos for artists like Vance Joy and Sylvan Esso have long been celebrated for their ability to weave complex, human storytelling through (mostly) visuals and sound. Fresh, on that note, is about as simple as a music video at first glance, but no less affecting. — Jon Negroni
18. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Immersed in a frightening online role-playing game, isolated teenager Casey (Anna Cobb) has found a sense of belonging in pretending that supernatural occurrences haunt her. Well-versed in the visual language of the internet, writer-director Jane Schoenbrun paints an eerie digital portrait told mostly in vignettes of the footage Casey shoots of herself. In Cobb, the filmmaker finds an intuitive young performer who exudes a guarded personality, somewhere between innocence and defiance. Slowly, the more she becomes captivated by the fictional stakes of the web’s “creepypasta” underbelly, the more we understand she may be hiding deeper emotional fissures. When Casey connects with an adult man on the other side of the screen, JLB (an unassuming Michael J Rogers), one becomes alarmed at the possible implications. But Schoenbrun refrains from taking the expected route and instead offers an affectingly ambiguous conclusion. — Carlos Aguilar
17. The House
If you count the number of stop-motion movies made for adults over the last few years, you aren’t exactly in danger of running out of fingers. It’s a labor-intensive process for a niche audience, making the mere existence of The House a treat. As a cherry on top, the three loosely connected stories about obsession, happiness, and our relationship with the spaces we occupy are engrossing ones, balancing grotesquery with tightly-timed slapstick. But it’s the animation that will stick with you; from the unnerving reveals of a mad architect’s secrets to an elaborate song and dance number performed by insects, The House is primarily an argument for more movies of its kind. — Mark Hill
Tim Roth has built a long career playing slimeballs with ambiguous intentions. In Andrew Semans' taut psychological thriller, he cranks up the menace but maintains a chilling posture in Resurrection, one of the most haunting pictures of the year. When businesswoman and single mother Margaret (played by an absorbing Rebecca Hall) runs into her abusive, gaslighting ex-husband (Roth), her past traumas are excavated with full, destructive force. Pair with both/either 2015's The Gift and 2020's The Night House, and you'll have a grand time watching Rebecca Hall prove she has what it takes to vie for the throne of the modern-day scream queen. — Eric Francisco
What starts out as a seemingly straightforward story of an Airbnb booking gone wrong slowly but surely devolves into something far more horrifying and ridiculous in this breakout feature from writer-director Zach Cregger. Over the course of its 102-minute runtime, Barbarian shifts from comedy to horror and back again several times, delivering a viewing experience unlike any other offered this year. It’s not just the film’s many tonal shifts that make Barbarian so memorable, though, but how seamlessly Cregger is able to bounce from unbearable dread to unbelievable comedy within the span of a few seconds. By the time the film reaches its blood-soaked climax, Barbarian’s shades of horror, comedy, and sweetness have already blended together to form a cocktail with the power to knock you over and leave you wondering what the hell you just experienced. — Alex Welch
14. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent takes the buddy comedy trope and triples down on the hilarious hijinks, action-packed antics, and contagious rapport the subgenre is best known for. This meta-movie, starring Nicolas Cage as washed-up actor Nick Cage and Pedro Pascal as an eccentric, Mexican billionaire playboy holed up in a private Majorcan island, is massively entertaining. Just when you think The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is going to go in a straightforward and obvious direction, the plot swivels and sways like two guys on LSD standing dangerously close to a cliff. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is, inexplicably and miraculously, both a high-brow art film and low-brow action-comedy, with an overwhelming amount of creativity, brilliance, and, yes, talent. (Bonus: Paddington 2 is frequently brought up.) — Mónica Marie Zorrilla
13. Top Gun: Maverick
A wise woman once said that we go to the movies to laugh, cry, and care. What she neglected to add is that we also go to have our skulls throttled by jet engines. Was Top Gun: Maverick blatant military propaganda? Yup. Did it kick total ass? Oh, hell yeah. Tom Cruise leading a tense mission against the Democratic Republic of Movie Villains was fun, but the real appeal was in watching a team of professionals painstakingly prepare for the toughest job of their lives. The fiction mimicked Maverick’s production, which put its actors through fighter jet boot camp while their colleagues on competing blockbusters fumbled with greenscreens. The result was an exhilarating reminder of the joys of practical effects in a movie so ludicrously fun it could sell any fiction, including its insistence that a bar full of 20-somethings would know every word of a 65-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis song. — Mark Hill
12. Decision to Leave
With Decision to Leave, director Park Chan-wook brings the film noir genre into the present more successfully than any other filmmaker ever has. The forbidden romance that blossoms between a sleepless police detective and a lovelorn femme fatale isn’t just punctuated by prolonged interrogation sessions that turn into sushi dinner dates, but also stakeout stints that somehow manage to make recording and listening to one’s voice memos feel like a surprisingly erotic act.
Featuring an unforgettable performance from Tang Wei, Decision to Leave is arguably its filmmaker’s tamest and least provocative film to date, but also his sweetest. There’s a romantic ache that permeates through Decision to Leave, which nags at its two central lovers and leads them on a journey that culminates in one of the most haunting and heartbreaking stretches of any film released this year. — Alex Welch
In the age of Marvel and Star Wars dominance, it’s genuinely refreshing to see an original epic, and Tollywood (Telugu cinema) epic RRR is the perfect example. It combines all the elements of historical epics we love: anachronistic costumes, the best dancing scenes since Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, CGI animals, and acting for the back row of the theater. Plus, we’ve said it a thousand times: more movies need Intermission cards.
There’s a good reason why director S. S. Rajamouli included movies like Ben-Hur, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Kung-Fu Panda on his ballot for the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll: he’s a director who can make a movie that takes itself so seriously yet not seriously at all. — Dais Johnston
10. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Even the biggest film franchises can suffer the most tragic losses. The death of Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer in 2020 left the world without one of its exciting talents, and the Marvel Universe without one of its heroes. Writer/director Ryan Coogler picks up the pieces to take on bigger themes like grief and legacy in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. With plentiful grace, the movie packs an emotional wallop as Wakanda is flooded by the equally reclusive Talokan, ruled by the smoldering Namor the Sub-mariner (Tenoch Huerta). As the MCU crowns a new Black Panther and moves on to the future, a dominant kingdom looks inward as it maintains its face before a hostile outside world. — Eric Francisco
9. Avatar: The Way of Water
Look out, blockbuster filmmakers, James Cameron is here to show you how it’s done. The long-awaited Avatar: The Way of Water turned out to be worth the wait, with Cameron delivering out-of-this-world spectacle and nail-biting action in the sequel to his 2009 film Avatar. Gone are the hacky Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves parallels, in its place is a more complex web of characters and an even richer world that is, yes, full of water. Picking up more than a decade after Avatar, The Way of Water follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) as they and their children fight to survive when humans return to colonize Pandora, again. While the plot of The Way of Water may be undercooked, Cameron makes up for it with some truly exhilarating action sequences befitting the director of Terminator and Aliens, along with an even more endearing political message (save the whales!). — Hoai-Tran Bui
A vast California desert. An alien entity hiding in plain sight. A murderous chimpanzee. A Black man on a horse. And the deadly pursuit for the perfect shot. Jordan Peele's third horror film Nope is not only his biggest movie yet, it's also his most searing as an indictment of the rotten heart that beats in Hollywood. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as siblings who work in the margins of film sets and find themselves pitted against an all-swallowing monstrosity. Steven Yeun also plays a key role as a former child star still drawn to the glistening lights of fame and whose chilling arc summarizes the movie's principle themes about an industry built on both dreams and nightmares. Nope is a resounding "Yup." — Eric Francisco
7. The Batman
Never before has vengeance looked so good. In 2022, Matt Reeves disrupted the blockbuster superhero industrial complex with his feral, aggressive, yet sympathetic portrait of the Batman legend. Eschewing origin story traditions, The Batman, which stars Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz (as "Selina Kyle/Catwoman"), drops audiences into the Caped Crusader's sophomore slump as he squares off with the eerie serial killer the Riddler (Paul Dano). Spanning a fully realized and fully decaying Gotham City, Matt Reeves' finely executed direction is aided by the haunting images of cinematographer Greig Fraser and the atmosphere of composer Michael Giacchino, who perverts Nirvana's chilling penultimate track of Nevermind, "Something in the Way," into an operatic beast. There's something about the way superhero pop culture can become staid, only for Batman to furiously set a new standard. — Eric Francisco
6. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Dazzling, dizzying, and disturbing, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is the moviemaking magic that happens when a director is doggedly determined to carry out his brilliant vision (and the studio doesn’t get in the way). The Mexican auteur known best for Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water describes Pinocchio as his passion project, taking him nearly 14 years to complete. Del Toro's affection for the story (and his unique twist on it) is evident in the stop-motion feature, which is an authentic labor of love from start to finish. Breathtaking set and character designs, whimsical musical performances, a gut-wrenching father-and-son dynamic, and the audacious inclusion of anti-fascist themes earns del Toro's Pinocchio the double categorization of a re-imagination of a timeless classic and an entirely new invention of a narrative that, while vaguely familiar, never ceases to surprise. — Mónica Marie Zorrilla
5. Bones and All
“There’s before bones and all, and after bones and all.” That’s a chilling line uttered by Michael Stuhlbarg’s character in Luca Guadagnino’s latest film, but it’s also an apt description of the ravishing cannibal romance, Bones and All. The perfect medium between Guadagnino’s sun-dappled love stories like Call Me By Your Name and his grotesque horror films like Suspiria, Bones and All is a lovely, gooey romance between two young cannibals who fall for each other as they roam across America in the 1980s. Taylor Russell gives a star-making performance as the outcast teenager Maren, while Timothée Chalamet has never been more magnetic than as the sullen Lee, whom Maren meets on the road. Bones and All is a captivating story about life on the fringes of society and a romance that gives two teens a taste of normalcy before it is all tragically ripped away from them. — Hoai-Tran Bui
The Curse of the Hollywood Sequel is the closest thing to a metaphorical monster in the film and television industry. So it's an absolute treat when a prequel (and also technically a sequel) like Prey surpasses the 1987 original Predator in a way that adds depth to the entire franchise. While it’s arguable whether Prey was "needed,” it’s hard to argue with Amber Midthunder's badass Comanche warrior Naru beating up and outsmarting a Predator alien in the 1700s Northern Great Plains. Prey is an indispensable genre movie, not just for its renewed pop cultural impact but also as a valuable learning lesson to Hollywood: the expansion of a story doesn't need to feel bloated and can even enhance the beloved narrative it sprang from. — Mónica Marie Zorrilla
3. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Rian Johnson did the impossible: He made an even twistier and outsized whodunnit than his 2019 murder mystery hit Knives Out. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is back on the case in Glass Onion, which turns the social satire up to 11 for a dizzying mystery that takes place on an arrogant millionaire’s (Edward Norton) private island. Glass Onion unfolds like an elaborate puzzle itself, keeping its audience in the dark as to all its characters’ intentions until it all clicks into place. And when it does, boy is it great.
Craig is a hoot as expected, playing up the Columbo-like tendencies of the eccentric Benoit Blanc, but Glass Onion’s star-studded cast are no slouches either: Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, and of course, a hilarious Norton, are all on their A-game, making Glass Onion a blast to watch from start to finish. — Hoai-Tran Bui
2. The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin is just as prickly and tragic as any film that writer-director Martin McDonagh has made, but it’s also the filmmaker’s most contemplative movie to date. The film, which reunites McDonagh with In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, is a doom-laden exploration of both the inward and outward violence that grows from the sudden dissolution of one friendship. The film’s setting, a lonely Irish island in the early 1900s, imbues The Banshees of Inisherin with the kind of mythic quality that many of McDonagh’s previous big-screen efforts have flirted with, and which the contentious relationship between Farrell and Gleeson’s former friends only further heightens. Among its many accomplishments is the film’s unmatched use of Farrell’s eyebrows, which the actor uses to hilariously devastating effect throughout The Banshees of Inisherin, a film that’s as layered and quietly moving as any you’ll see this year. — Alex Welch
1. Everything Everywhere all at Once
If Daniels’ debut feature film Swiss Army Man could be described as “a joke that went on so long it started to feel profound,” their mind-melting second feature Everything Everywhere All At Once might be described as “a joke that hit too close to home to be funny, but you’re laughing out of despair for the world and our futile existence anyway, because maybe that’s all that matters.”
Everything Everywhere All at Once stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, an ordinary laundromat owner juggling an IRS audit, an unhappy husband (Ke Huy Quan), an estranged daughter (Stephanie Hsu), and — oh — the fate of the multiverse. Enough has been written about the film’s outrageous multiverse plot, its themes of generational trauma and depression, and its wild swings between cartoonishly comical and disarmingly sweet tones. All that needs to be said is that Everything Everywhere All At Once is an absolutely absurd, unexpectedly life-affirming maximalist masterpiece. — Hoai-Tran Bui
Inverse celebrates the best of the best in entertainment, gaming, science, and technology of 2022. Go to the Inverse Awards hub.