The best movies of 2022

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TheThe first few months of the year is a good time for resolutions, renewal, and taking stock of life, but it’s often a slow time for new movies. The streaming era has changed that calculus — a novelty-hungry home-viewing audience doesn’t much care about the season, so more release houses are slipping interesting movies onto VOD or even bringing them to theaters during a season when they’ll face less competition.

And then there are always the little gems that were never intended for a blockbuster audience, and the compelling surprises we weren’t expecting would move us. So even though it’s still early in the year, we’ve started a survey of which 2022 releases have excited us most, from big action-adventures to small indie genre movies. All of these are worth a watch.

Below you’ll find entries are in reverse order of release: The most recent releases are first, so it’ll be easy to see the newest additions to this list. We’ll be updating it throughout 2022. We’ll also be doing the same for the best gamesthe best anime, and the best TV shows of 2022.

After a one-year hiatus due to COVID delays in 2020, fans are still experiencing the most plentiful era in comic book movie history. Last year, 7 superhero blockbusters of varying quality hit theaters. Just when audiences thought that was the peak of fandom, 10 will release in theaters in 2022. Undoubtedly the biggest year in comic book movies since, well, last year.

It begins this weekend with The Batman and will end in December with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. In the middle fans will experience another Sony Spider-Man anti-hero, the MCU Multiverse slip into madness, and the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe change forever. There are even two animated entries into the library in 2022. One is a fun family trip to the theaters while the other is the sequel to what some consider the greatest comic book movie of all time. Oh, and Michael Keaton is in 20% of superhero movies set to release this year.

With all of that being said, on an opening day for Matt Reeves’ The Batman, The Direct ranked all 10 comic book movies set to release in theaters this year in order of how excited we are first each…

BONUS: Batgirl

DC

Before diving into the list, it is worth noting Batgirl is set to be released on HBO Max in late 2022. While Batgirl will not be hitting theaters, DC is still treating it as a high-budget feature film starring Leslie Grace as Barbara Gordon and Brenda Fraser as the villainous Firefly. The excitement level of this movie is tough to gauge due to the lack of knowledge about the film itself. Fans know that JK Simmons is reprising his role as the Snyderverse’s Jim Gordon and that Michael Keaton is suiting back up to play Batman

So the question really is, which universe is this movie a part of? With The Flash set to answer these questions, audiences will surely have a better idea before this movie’s release. But with nothing besides a few set images and a look at the classic purple and gold Batgirl suit, that is about all fans have at the moment. 

So, while it does not qualify for our list of most anticipated movies released in theaters, Batgirl will surely set the tone for DC’s movie streaming future.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

A furious-looking Jamie Lee Curtis, in a grey pageboy wig and unflattering mustard-colored turtleneck, with a piece of paper with a 0 on it stapled to her forehead, pushes Michelle Yeoh through the glass partition of an office cubicle in Everything Everywhere All At Once, because that’s how this movie rolls.

People who only know filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert from their tongue-in-cheek 2016 indie-movie parody Swiss Army Man — yes, that’s the one where Daniel Radcliffe spends the whole movie as a vomiting, farting corpse — may be surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and ambition of the writer-directors’ new movie Everything Everywhere All At Once, which absolutely lives up to its name. It’s a wild, winning multiverse comedy slash kung-fu epic about a depressed laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh) who’s called on to save billions of alternate universes from evil, but that only scratches the surface of what the Daniels are out to achieve.

Part metaphorical attempt to reckon with the chaos of the internet age, part life-affirming argument against despair, and part reckless absurdist action movie, it’s simultaneously hilarious and touching, an impressive special-effects experiment and a tremendous mental reboot on the order of The Matrix. This is the only movie you’ll see this year (or probably ever) where one man gets beaten to death with oversized floppy dildos, while another changes the world with the Kurt Vonnegut-derived message “Be kinder to each other.” —Tasha Robinson

YOU WON’T BE ALONE

Noomi Rapace in closeup, blood on her shoulder and someone barely visible leaning over her, in You Won’t Be Alone

A story about a young witch that uses her power to shapeshift to live among humans in a small village, You Won’t Be Alone is a folkloric tone poem that uses horror as a form of yearning. As villagers disappear and the film’s protagonist replaces them, You Won’t Be Alone drifts into a dreamy, Terrance Malick-esque rumination on gender, community, and memory. Grotesque and lovely, You Won’t Be Alone lingers in the mind, wistful and aching, longing to wear your skin. —Joshua Rivera

THE LONG WALK

A young Lao boy stands with his back to the camera, looking at a pile of detritus in a dark, cluttered room in Mattie Do’s The Long Walk

Laos’ first and only female film director, Mattie Do, makes ghost stories: movies where characters interact with the dead and learn from them, but pay a price for that knowledge. Some of the themes of her debut feature Chanthaly (which she’s posted on YouTube) and her followup, Dearest Sister () get fuller, richer development in The Long Walk, a genre mashup that’s part time-travel story and part serial-killer story, but still keenly involved with the spirits of the dead, and how they both express their desires and enable the desires of living people.

A Lao hermit living in a tech-oriented future periodically travels 50 years into the past and intervenes in events in his own traumatic childhood, with the help of the ghost of a woman who died in the nearby forest when he was a kid. These are bold, striking elements that don’t entirely seem to fit together, but The Long Walk is exquisitely constructed in a way that reveals its puzzlebox methods slowly, building toward an emotional end that ties all its genres, timelines, and threads together in a startling, impressive way. —TR

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