The 30 best films of 2022

The LWLies team count down their favourite cinematic experiences from an embarrassment of movie riches.


Charles Bramesco, David Jenkins, Marina Ashioti, Hannah Strong, Adam Woodward

Movies, now more than ever! As another year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the films that stayed with us long after we left the cinema. We considered UK cinema and VOD releases from January 2022 until January 2023, so there might be a couple you’re yet to see, but rest assured every film here is a certified masterpiece. Looking for Licorice Pizza, Memoria, and a few other early 2022 releases? Check the 2021 list! Did your film of the year make the cut? Tweet us your favourites of 2022 @lwlies.

30. In Front of Your Face

Only the second feature from prolific South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo to receive a UK release, In Front of Your Face is one of the director’s more approachable character pieces, but one that doesn’t hold back when it comes to exploring his delectably obscure preoccupations with love, sex, family, God and social performance (particularly when soused). And in actor Lee Hye-young, Hong has found one of his most formidable collaborators who is very clearly operating on his sometimes obscure wavelength. David Jenkins

29. The Woman King

As massive fans of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s 2020 action epic The Old Guard (and, well, all her other movies too), we were very excited to see what the director would do next. The barnstorming The Woman King seamlessly melds action spectacle, historical drama and an all-timer Viola Davis performance to deliver this chronicle of a tribe of West-African female warriors tasked with defending their kingdom. DJ

28. The Batman

Robert Pattinson wore the iconic cowl and scowl with relish. An equally fully leather-clad Zoë Kravitz purred alongside him. And, against all odds, director Matt Reeves brought sexy back to the Hollywood blockbuster (is anyone seriously craving a return to the CG-smoothed chasteness of the MCU after this?). Speaking of getting hot under the collar, a quick word on Colin Farrell’s fat-suited supporting turn as Oswald Cobblepot. We’ve heard of scene stealing, but Farrell’s Penguin practically hijacks the whole damn picture. “No habla español, fellas?” Adam Woodward

27. Funny Pages

Good luck getting The Nutty Squirrels’ ‘Uh Oh’ out of your head after watching Owen Kline’s directorial debut, about a young comic obsessive in search of authenticity. After the sudden death of his influential art teacher, high schooler Robert Bleichner (Daniel Zolghadri) convinces his parents to let him move out of their suburban home into a dank apartment with two grown men so he can pursue his artistic aspirations. A run-in with unstable curmudgeon Wallace (Matthew Maher) ensures future calamity. It’s a grubby, cringe-inducing, wickedly funny little film, zipping by at 86 minutes long, and hopefully a sign of great things to come from Kline. Hannah Strong

26. The Kingdom Exodus

I’m not going to spend too much time worrying why, but we were mercifully spared another round of the great Film Vs. TV classification debate with the release of a third season for Lars Von Trier’s demonic sitcom initially broadcast on Danish small screens. Everyone was probably too busy laughing or thinking about death, the two opposing forces unstably commingling in the absurd, deeply cursed Rigshospitalet, where an ensemble of doofuses and manifestations of pure evil make schtick out of a banal malevolence hovering somewhere between the UK Office and Twin Peaks: The Return. Patients can check out any time they like, but they can never leave. Charles Bramesco

25. Corsage

By all accounts, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1889) was a bit of a loonbag, but that’s not the tack Marie Kreuzer takes with her impressionistic biopic of the flighty monarch. Vicky Krieps – making her first appearance on this year’s list, but not her last – is suitably sultry and enigmatic as the mother and wife who’s reacting strangely but not surprisingly to the ravages of mid-life. Her existential trauma is exacerbated by the trials, tribulations and petty diplomacy of life at court, and the film offers a tragicomic and relatable examination of aristocratic malaise. DJ

In UK Cinemas 26 December 2022

24. A Night of Knowing Nothing

Payal Kapadia casts a nocturnal spell over her politically vibrant feature debut about the anxieties of student-led protest against heinous police brutality, Hindu nationalism and casteism in Narendra Modi’s India. A Night of Knowing Nothing is an excellent, self-reflexive film with visceral sound design that evokes traces of Chantal Akerman’s Je Tu Il Elle in its use of autofiction, culminating in a love letter to cinema as a means of enacting political change. Marina Ashioti

23. Cette Maison

Miryam Charles rejects the narrow, sensational framework of true crime to bring forth an earnest, unique and thoroughly theatrical vision of speculative poetics in her assured feature debut, which takes the suspicious circumstances of her teenage cousin’s death to imaginatively reconstruct her memory. A ghost story that touches upon personal trauma, bereavement, gender violence, diasporic memory and displacement, deftly bringing complex cultural issues into its dreamlike construction. MA

22. Il buco

The film that made spelunking cool again. Following a James Cameron-esque absence from filmmaking, the industrious Italian director Michelangelo Frammartino returns triumphantly with this meticulously filmed chronicle of a cave diving expedition in the rugged wilds of rural Calabria during the 1960s. Not only are you forced to hold your breath as people lower themselves into an abyss with lengths of old rope, but you also share in their private wonder as they experience for the first time the sublime wonders of the deep. DJ

21. Happening

French memoirist Annie Erneaux won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2022, and that honour followed hot on the heels of a deserved Golden Lion win at the 2021 Venice Film Festival for Audrey Diwan’s searing adaptation of her 2000 novel of the same name. A fearless performance by Anamaria Vartolomei, essaying the school-age Erneaux in the early 1960s, looking for an abortion during a time when such procedures were illegal. A vital piece of socially-conscious drama that never once feels like a crass message movie. DJ

20. Flux Gourmet

All respect due to the very real Lydia Tár, but if you’re going to watch one work of stylised stoicism about a haughty, sexually controlling woman using her authority in the music world to run her little corner of it with a ruthless tyranny this year, it should be Peter Strickland’s fart-scented satire. At the Sonic Catering Institute, an experimental trio making avant-garde music from sundry foodstuffs bristles under the patronage of the domineering Jan Stevens (a name that eventually ripens into a terrific running joke), their personalities clashing in a piquant stew of ego, anxiety, fetishism, and resentment. It’s a rare delicacy in both senses, uncommon in its off-kilter sensibility, and raw enough in its unguarded vulnerability for juices to drip down the chin. CB

19. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Horror and the ennui that stems from being a depressed teen growing up online converge in Jane Schoenbrun’s feature debut that takes us on a trip down creepypasta lane. For the uninitiated, creepypastas – a portmanteau of the words ‘creepy’, ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ – are horror-related legends shared online, inspired by folklore, urban legends, and chain mail. Sharp, audacious and thoroughly distinct, this is a film that skilfully demonstrates the ways in which the internet can be a genuinely terrifying, unknown terrain, and hits the nail right on the head in portraying the nebulous concept of Being Online. MA

18. The Northman

Though Robert Eggers’ Viking action epic is set closer to the advent of the wheel than most big-budget spectacles, he’s not reinventing it; a guy wants to avenge his father’s murder, a setup already used most famously for Hamlet, Shakespeare’s indecisive wussification of the snarling berserker Amleth played here by Alexander Skarsgård. Eggers’ devilish genius hides instead in the details, how he situates this primal narrative in a long-lost civilisation with brutal customs alien to our present. And yet for all its historical studiousness, this is still Hollywood entertainment of the first order, harkening back to a time not so long ago when blockbusters took pride in such simple pleasures as sex, practical effects, and unadulterated bloodlust. CB

17. Aftersun

Charlotte Wells’ debut feature was the toast of Cannes after it appeared in the Critic’s Week sidebar, and it’s been a runaway success ever since, which is richly deserved. Paul Mescal and first-timer Frankie Corio deliver the joint performance of the year as father and daughter Callum and Sophie, as this evocative drama weaves together DV footage with rich, grainy cinematography to capture the spirit of a mid-90s package holiday. With period details on point and an acute understanding of the hazy, fluid nature of memory, Wells has announced herself in a truly impressive fashion, and created a film that is sure to go down as a modern British classic. HS

16. The Worst Person in the World

Joachim Trier sees out his Oslo trilogy with a deeply funny, deeply sad romance, starring the revelatory Renate Reinsve as Julie, a directionless thirtysomething who fits through life from one job to the next, desperately in search of her purpose. It’s perhaps a little lighter in tone than Trier’s Reprise or Oslo August 31st, but this effortlessly charming romantic dramedy manages to capture the uncertainty that comes with becoming an adult when you still feel kind of like a kid. HS

15. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

It’s somewhat astonishing that American cinema’s quintessential Good Boy, Rian Johnson, turned around this storming, franchise-extending whodunnit in just two years, and with a pandemic raging in the backdrop. And yet here we are with 2022’s most blithely intelligent and tricksily structured entertainment, boasting an ensemble of dreams (Ed Norton! Kate Hudson! Dave Bautista! Janelle Monáe! More!) led by Daniel Craig as cravat-sporting dandy sleuth, Benoit Blanc. Forget Bond – this is who Craig’s going to be remembered for. DJ

14. Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

The lack of fanfare for this new Richard Linklater gem was deafening when it dropped onto Netflix during a post-award slow period. Which is a shame as it’s a nostalgic gem which very much sees the Texan tornado working within his reflective and emotive comfort zone. It’s an effusively charming rotoscoped memory patchwork detailing life in suburban Houston for a boy who ends up manning the apocryphal space mission of the title. DJ

13. Jackass Forever

It took 13 long years to get the band back together, but Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Wee Man and co managed to pull it off and then some. The welcome addition of some fresh meat pays dividends, with the likes of Poopies and Dark Shark gamely indulging in some all-new puerile pranks and pratfalls, but it’s Ehren ‘Danger’ McGeherey who’s worth his weight in gold, enduring balls to his balls, a bear attack, and countless other on-screen indignities with little more than a world-weary grin. Going into Jackass Forever you might be tempted to think the long gap would dull the impact, but despite the passage of time, a flaccid penis will always be funny to a certain subset of sickos among us. But really? It’s always been the heart that makes Jackass what it is, and seeing this group of bozos back together is chicken noodle soup for the soul. HS

12. The Fabelmans

Early box-office figures haven’t been encouraging, but wouldn’t it be something if Steven Spielberg was able to spin a mainstream hit out of his bleakest, most tormented perspective on memory, family, and impermanence since Schindler’s List? He and screenwriting partner Tony Kushner had the good sense to hide these conflicted feelings inside an outwardly nostalgic dash down a junior cineaste’s poster-plastered memory lane, “the biggest American director who ever lived gets personal” being an easier sell than the ugly truth. It’s only once we’re seated that we realise Sammy Fabelman’s early dabblings in the cinematic form serve as an escape from the domestic nightmare in the margins of his life, as his parents’ marriage cracks and shatters, leaving him with decades of guilt possibly dispelled by this homespun exorcism. CB

In UK cinemas 27 January 2023

11. Benediction

Terence Davies’ achingly sad biography of the decorated First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon contains one of the most disarmingly poignant shots of any film from this year. During his forced convalescence at a military psychiatric hospital, Sassoon (Jack Lowden) confides in a doctor that he is gay and has fallen in love with one of the other residents, who is due to return to the trenches. From this heart-rending confession Davies cuts to an empty rain-soaked tennis court situated in the grounds of the hospital; in a single motion the camera slowly turns to meet one end of the net, whereupon it glides mournfully along the top tape. I still haven’t gotten over it. AW

10. Bergman Island

It’s hard to think of a better film about the process of creating art from a pointedly female perspective than Mia Hansen-Løve’s gently reflexive wonder, Bergman Island. Vicky Krieps – fast rising as one of the earmarks of moviemaking quality – stars as a loose MHL avatar taking a writing retreat to the island of Fårö – a spartan idyll that Ingmar Bergman called home during his later life. It’s a work that exudes confidence and poetic insight from its every precisely-calculated frame. DJ

9. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Laura Poitras offers a rambunctious treatise on art, politics, power and community in her portrait of renowned photographer and activist Nan Goldin, which made history at the 2022 Venice Film Festival as the second documentary title to ever claim the Golden Lion. The film takes on an intricate, profound approach to the opioid epidemic that takes Poitras’ body of work to a brilliant new plateau, the textures of its mixed-media construction coalescing in an artful and direct confrontation of global arts institutions’ complicity in the crimes of their billionaire donors. MA

In UK cinemas 27 January 2023

8. Top Gun: Maverick

He did it. That crazy son of a bitch did it! Who would have guessed that one of the biggest box office smashes of 2022 would be a sequel to a slightly hammy ’80s actioner, best remembered for a series of peppy one-liners? Tom Cruise was determined to make his long-awaited Top Gun sequel soar, and combining high-octane stunt work with deceptively simple storytelling and a winning cast resulted in one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences of the year. Conclusive proof that blockbusters can still look like actual movies instead of flat green screen, Cruise might be a maniac, but there’s no doubt that he still cares about the cinematic experience. HS

7. Mad God

That stop-motion virtuoso Phil Tippett’s magnum opus took thirty years to complete has dominated much of its coverage (now including this!), but this pleasure cruise through the gloppiest depths of Hell looks like it was forged through dark spells and hideous suturing across untold millennia. An air of the mystical permeates a minimally-plotted, dialogue-free cataloguing of subterranean horrors, its ancient cultures and lost codes hinted at by creatures locked in senseless rituals and Sisyphean tasks. But the greatest wonders here are manmade, the rotted fruit of a psychotically driven man’s quixotic labours; just as the computerised perfection of a new Avatar film makes us wonder how this could all be fake, the meticulously textured production design commands an inverse respect. People made this. It all existed. CB

6. RRR

An admission: we came late to SS Rajamouli’s RRR (aka Rise Roar Revolt), the Telegu-language epic which was the only film in 2022 to thread the needle between Singin’ in the Rain, The Matrix and the peak canon of any cinematic buddy comedy you care to mention. Like Nigel Tuffell’s custom-made amp, this is a film that can go up to 11, and the glorious thing about it is that it somehow stats at that volume and maintains its insane momentum across three train-crashing, tiger-punching, fortress-penetrating, tap-dancing hours. A pure shot of cine-adrenaline. DJ

5. Armageddon Time

James Gray is no stranger to bringing aspects of his family history to the big screen, but Armageddon Time represents his most personal undertaking, focusing on a transitional period in his pre-teen years, when Gray moved from public to private school. Starring lively newcomer Banks Repeta as a stand-in for Gray, this snapshot of life in Regan’s America manages to be wry, sincere and surprisingly unsentimental, with Gray taking great pains to acknowledge that he was kind of a brat in his younger years. It’s a moving portrait of childhood loneliness and the limits of memory, and a welcome addition to the wider portrait of Gray as an Artist. HS

4. Decision to Leave

Not a single second is wasted in Park Chan-wook’s much-anticipated follow-up to The Handmaiden. Decision to Leave sees the director switching gears, stripping away his trademark violent excess to give us one of the most romantic films of the year, earning him the Best Director prize at Cannes. The film’s meticulous, operatic arrangement is paired with sexy camerawork, phenomenal shot composition, innovative editing and stellar performances by Tang Wei and by Park Hye-il. Tense, thrilling, tender, and intoxicatingly entertaining. MA

3. The Banshees of Inisherin

Farrell. Gleeson. Condon. Keoghan. Jenny the Donkey. The finest ensemble of the year? Quite possibly. Martin McDonagh’s fourth feature is arguably his most grounded, and it’s all the better for it. A quietly devastating break-up film about the dissolution of a long friendship (and also about the Irish Civil War), Banshees is as bitingly funny as it is melancholy – not an easy balance to strike, but by harnessing the exquisite eyebrow acting of Colin Farrell and the breathtaking, austere beauty of the rural Irish coast, McDonagh makes it work. HS

2. Crimes of the Future

The return of the king. There were reports ahead of the 2022 Cannes Film Festival that the long-awaited return of Canada’s David Cronenberg would have patrons hurling into the aisles. And while Crimes of the Future very much did not deliver on those terms, what it did give us was one of the most melancholic and tantalisingly portentous studies of human evolution out there. Funny, terrifying and, ultimately, very, very beautiful. DJ

1. Nope

Yep! It’s been a very solid year for Jordan Peele, with his debut feature Get Out having recently been voted into Sight & Sound’s recent top 100 greatest films of all time poll, and all that on the back of his slam-dunk sci-fi opus, Nope. 2022 was not a vintage year for blockbuster cinema, so praise be for this eccentric, enthralling, effects-driven oddity that channels a Twilight Zone-style alien invasion thriller into a parable about the ethics of image-making in the 21st Century. DJ

Published 21 Dec 2022

Tags: 2022 Cinema David Cronenberg Jordan Peele

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Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.