30 Best Movies Of 2022 So Far – Looper

After one year in total lockdown and another in limbo, 2022 is the year in which the Hollywood film industry expects to establish a new normal. 
Warner Bros. has put an end to their controversial strategy of releasing all of their new films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, but the window between theatrical release and availability on streaming platforms has shrunk across the industry, averaging a mere 45 days. Even Disney, whose films have topped the US box office for seven of the past 10 years, now prioritizes streaming content and considers theaters to be a “legacy platform.” There’s a fair chance that a movie released by Netflix or Apple brings home Best Picture this year. Whether or not the return of MoviePass can draw mass audiences back out as the COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully) subsides remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure — there’s no going back to 2019.
Regardless of where or how audiences choose to watch movies, the drought of new releases brought on by the pandemic has seemingly come to an end. Films that were put on hold for safety reasons are now back on the board, and there’s a steady stream of exciting cinema expected from major and boutique studios alike in 2022.
Updated October 3, 2022: We’ll be updating this page all year long, so check back often to see what’s new and what’s worth watching.

You’ve heard the term “elevated horror,” now get acquainted with its close cousin, “quiet sci-fi.” “After Yang” is a character drama centered around a father who suffers an unusual loss when Yang, a lifelike android programmed to connect his adopted daughter to her Chinese heritage, suddenly shuts down. While he seeks out a way to repair him, he and his family are forced to ponder Yang’s place in their lives and explore Yang’s own inner life that he chose to conceal from them.
Don’t be misled by that PG rating: “After Yang” is a tender, patient, and elegant film for grown-ups that ruminates on themes of memory, intimacy, and identity.

“Athena” is a thriller, a family drama, and a snapshot of contemporary tensions between citizens and institutions. It’s all told from the perspective of three grieving brothers trying to make sense of their fourth brother’s death. If the opening sequence doesn’t grab you, you may not have a pulse: In a continuous 10 minute shot, a press conference regarding the police murder of this lost brother collapses into a frenetic raid of the station by well-organized protestors, who proceed to fortify an apartment complex into a revolutionary stronghold. It only gets more intense from there. 

“The Bad Guys” follows the exploits of a gang of famous thieves who attempt to rehabilitate their public image, pretending to reform while actually planning their biggest crime yet. Based on a series of graphic novels for young readers by Aaron Blabey, the art style of “The Bad Guys” embraces its 2D, ink-and-paper origins, resulting in a distinctive and fun visual aesthetic that looks like nothing DreamWorks has produced before. Looper’s Alistair Ryder calls it “the studio’s best effort since the first ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ sequel,” as it balances out its lowbrow kids humor with a surprisingly good send-up of hip heist films like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Reservoir Dogs.”

Now and then, a horror film comes along that has to be seen to be believed. “Barbarian” is one such movie. A woman arrives at the house she’s renting for a short period of time, only to discover someone’s already home. Now, she must spend the night sharing the domicile with this smitten stranger. That’s not all: The house itself seems to harbor its own strange secrets. “Barbarian” is what you get when a sketch comedian (Zach Cregger of The Whitest Kids U’ Know) is given free rein to goof around with horror tropes. Equal parts shocking, revolting, and hilarious, “Barbarian” is best enjoyed without spoilers and a room full of likewise unsuspecting viewers.

The streets of Gotham City have never been grittier than in “The Batman,” a new interpretation of DC’s most popular superhero. Despite being yet another reboot that takes the character “back to basics” as a lone crimefighter chasing gangsters and serial killers, “The Batman” still feels distinct from both Christopher Nolan’s nuts-and-bolts realism and Tim Burton’s dark whimsy. More than any previous Batman film, it’s a detective story, closer to a 1970s neo-noir than a modern action blockbuster. Within the film’s ambitious three-hour runtime you’ll find memorable performances, gorgeous photography, and the most in-depth exploration of the title character ever to hit the big screen.

“Belle” follows a talented teenage songwriter, Suzu, who’s been unable to raise her voice in song since the tragic death of her mother. But when she logs into the futuristic social media platform “U,” Suzu transforms into “Belle,” a spellbinding songstress who becomes a global sensation overnight. As Suzu attempts to reconcile the two parts of herself, she becomes fascinated by an infamous online prizefighter with a monstrous virtual avatar.
Though originally released in Japan and on the festival circuit in 2021, the critically acclaimed anime musical “Belle” finally arrived in U.S. theaters in January 2022. It’s nominally an adaptation of the classic fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” for the social media age, but “Belle” brings far more to the table than just the familiar beats of its source material. “Belle” is part timeless and part bleeding-edge contemporary, as exemplified by its two distinct but equally beautiful art styles — painterly traditional animation to represent the real world and eye-popping cell-shaded CGI to represent the virtual reality of the Internet.

Whodunits are back in style, and it’s time Gen Z got one of their very own. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” follows a tight-knit crew of 20-somethings who assemble at a luxurious mansion to wait out a hurricane. But when one of them turns up dead, their hunt for the killer brings closely guarded secrets and deep-seated grudges to light. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a funny and frightening murder mystery that interrogates the pop psychology of the extremely online.

Cooper Raiff (also the writer and director) stars opposite Dakota Johnson (also a producer) in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” a sweet, witty indie comedy that took home the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at 2022’s Sundance Film Festival. Raiff portrays Andrew, a recent college graduate who’s landed back at his mom and stepdad’s house while he figures out the next phase of his life. Though built around the sizzling chemistry between Andrew and Dakota Johnson’s affianced 30-something Domino, “Cha Cha Real Smooth” is really a coming-of-age story, a quirky and heartfelt tale about the liminal space created when an adult who’s enjoyed four years of independence and higher learning has to get a job at the mall food court.

Around the turn of the millennium, a string of teen flicks adapting the plays of William Shakespeare to a contemporary high school setting debuted. With “Do Revenge,” director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson makes a killer case for giving the same treatment to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. In this comedy-thriller loosely based on “Strangers on a Train,” a new kid at an affluent prep school and its disgraced queen bee team up to exact some cruel and imaginative vengeance upon each others’ nemeses. Lively, funny, and sporting a tremendous performance from Maya Hawke, if “Do Revenge” doesn’t spark a new trend in high school thrillers, someone is going to pay.

Mix one part college buddy movie with one part thriller and stir in a shot of social commentary to give it some bite, and you’ve got “Emergency.” A pair of college seniors plan to be the first Black students to complete a legendary bar crawl on their campus, but their plans are interrupted when they find an unconscious white girl sick with alcohol poisoning in their living room. Certain that calling the authorities will only get them arrested (or worse), they embark on an increasingly complicated quest to drive her to the hospital themselves. A spoonful of stoner comedy helps the medicine go down as “Emergency” highlights the way systemic racism increases the danger and difficulty of life for Black Americans.

“Emily the Criminal” is a crime thriller born of the present moment, as a generation weighed down by debt and denied full-time employment struggles to make ends meet in the “gig economy.” Aubrey Plaza stars as Emily, who juggles various menial jobs with combined wages that can’t make a dent in her student loans. When presented with the opportunity to make a lot of money fast, Emily becomes a “dummy shopper,” maxing out cloned credit cards and reselling the purchases on the black market. The story of a hard-luck outlaw getting in too deep is nothing new, but “Emily the Criminal” has such a modern edge that it can’t be denied.

Evelyn Wang is an exhausted and unfulfilled laundromat owner who’s just trying to get her taxes done when she’s suddenly recruited to fight in an inter-dimensional war. To save the multiverse, Evelyn will have to learn how to “verse-jump,” tapping into the feelings, memories, and skills of her alternate selves, all of whom have done more with their lives than she has. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is uproariously funny, visually dazzling, and deeply moving. Michelle Yeoh delivers an Oscar-worthy lead performance, and that’s without even factoring in her multiple off-the-wall fight scenes that demand both great technical skill and comedic timing.

The latest in a proud tradition of modernized Jane Austen adaptations, “Fire Island” sets “Pride and Prejudice” during a tight-knit, queer chosen family’s annual reunion at the titular New York vacation spot. Austen’s novel of manners translates beautifully into this contemporary setting, trading prim propriety for raunchy comedy and poking fun at the roles of race, class, and narrow beauty standards in a closed but thriving sexual economy. Conrad Ricamora is a standout as Will, “Fire Island’s” version of the steamy and stoic Mr. Darcy, but the heart of the film is the friendship between the lead characters, portrayed by Joel Kim Booster (who also wrote the screenplay) and Bowen Yang. Like “Pride and Prejudice,” “Fire Island” is about the family first and the romance second.

“Fire of Love” tells the true story of Katia and Maurice Krafft, fearless volcanologists who visited multiple erupting volcanoes during the latter half of the 20th century. To finance their studies, the couple filmed and photographed their adventures, turning them into books and movies that captivated audiences across the world. This documentary is the distillation of hundreds of hours of footage of their strange journey into one, stunning narrative. Their relationship to each other and the awesome and indifferent forces of our planet is nothing short of enthralling. “Fire of Love” is part nature documentary, part romance, and part tragedy, best seen with the person next to you clutching your hand.

The COVID-19 era has produced a number of “locked room” feature films, produced with a minimal cast in an isolated location to reduce the risks and costs of working during a pandemic. “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” stands out among this accidental genre, essentially a two-person play set almost entirely in a London hotel room. Here, Emma Thompson plays a retired ethics teacher who hires a young sex worker to help her rebound from decades of unfulfilling sex with her late husband. It’s transparently a polemic in support of legalized sex work, but the heady conversation never weighs down this charming, dialogue-driven comedy. 

In between bringing his friends on vacations to sunny locales around the world (and incidentally shooting Netflix comedies while they’re in town), Adam Sandler maintains a successful career as a dramatic actor. Following up his critically acclaimed turn in the Safdie brothers thriller “Uncut Gems,” Sandler stars in “Hustle,” the story of a desperate basketball scout who discovers a world-class talent in a poor single dad from Spain. “Hustle” doesn’t exactly break the sports drama mold, but Sandler and co-star Juancho Hernangomez share a lovely chemistry that reminds you how uplifting this dying genre can be. Add in clutch performances from Queen Latifah, Ben Foster, and Robert Duvall and dozens of cameos by NBA and street ball legends, and “Hustle” is a worthy addition to the canon of basketball movies.

“KIMI” is a thriller that’s extremely of the current moment. Zoë Kravitz plays Angela, a programmer whose job is to manually review garbled or misunderstood communications between an Alexa-style electronic assistant called KIMI and its users. When she stumbles across an audio recording of a heinous crime, Angela must try to get the evidence into the right hands without tipping off its perpetrators. But there’s an added complication — it’s the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Angela is severely agoraphobic. “KIMI” utilizes the unique stresses of the present day, from the anxiety of being constantly surveilled to the social and economic tumult inflamed by the pandemic, to create a short, sweet hour and a half of intrigue and action.

In 2020, Russian lawyer and vocal opponent of the sitting Russian government Alexei Navalny was poisoned using a deadly nerve agent. Miraculously, he survived the ordeal and spent the following months cooperating with international journalists in an effort to find those responsible and prove a link between the assassination attempt and Russian president Vladimir Putin. “Navalny” is a firsthand document of that investigation.
While certainly designed to agitate and to make its subject as palatable as possible to American liberals, “Navalny” does its job well, painting a terrifying picture of life as an enemy of the authoritarian Russian state, as well as giving us a look at the mundane realities of modern spycraft. Though it’s tempting to view “Navalny” as a thriller, put your popcorn away — this is a story about real people for whom the stakes are urgent and deadly.

Horror auteur Jordan Peele returns with his biggest and most ambitious film yet, a sci-fi-horror-comedy-Western that deconstructs the very concept of filmed entertainment. When a brother-sister pair of down-on-their-luck horse trainers spies a UFO above their ranch, they hope to secure their legacy by capturing the first incontrovertible proof of extraterrestrial life. But at what cost are they willing to attain the impossible shot? And what, “Nope” further inquires, drives people to seek out bizarre spectacle in the first place? Peele doesn’t answer every question he poses, to tremendous effect. Expect the wheels in your head to keep turning for days after you see “Nope.”

From celebrated director Robert Eggers comes this unflinchingly brutal historical fantasy, based on the ancient Viking epic that inspired Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The dethroned Prince Amleth will stop at nothing to exact vengeance against the uncle who slew his father and kidnapped his mother — but will his quest leave him more beast than man? “The Northman” is as visually stunning as it is disturbing, a meticulous and unsanitized portrait of the grim and miserable past. In Amleth’s blood-soaked world, cruelty is the only currency, and debts are always paid with interest.

John McTiernan’s 1987 genre-mashing blockbuster “Predator” may be a bulletproof classic, but few of its sequels or spin-offs have survived contact with audiences or critics. However, in modern Hollywood, movie franchises can’t be killed, no matter how much they bleed — and for once, the world is better for it. “Prey,” a prequel to “Predator” set in the North American Great Plains during the 18th century, is by far the best installment in the series since the original. It’s a lean, character-driven horror-thriller with some gnarly, cleverly staged violence.
Amber Midthunder makes her mark on action cinema as Naru, a young Comanche warrior looking to prove herself by hunting a dangerous beast. Her prey turns out to be a well-armed extraterrestrial who’s come to kill humans for sport, as well as a portent of the colonizing threat that awaits her community. Like all “Predator” films, “Prey” can be enjoyed entirely on its own, but it also contains some cute Easter eggs for longtime fans of the franchise’s mythology.

Debuting at Sundance and hitting theaters and streaming later in 2022, “Resurrection” is a white-knuckle psychological horror film in which star Rebecca Hall delivers one of the year’s first great performances. Hall portrays Margaret, a businesswoman and single parent who seems in total control of her life until a mysterious man from her past resurfaces and sends her spiraling into all-consuming panic. What is it that makes his mere presence so terrifying? We are absolutely not telling — you need to see this one for yourself. Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth sell the film’s bizarre and disgusting twists with such conviction that they can stick with you long after you’ve finished watching.

“RRR” is, as Siddhant Adlakha of IndieWire put it, “a dazzling work of historical fiction — emphasis on the ‘fiction.'” Essentially a superhero epic based on two real Indian revolutionaries of the 1920s who likely never actually met, “RRR” is a violent, thrilling, heartfelt, and gleefully over-the-top Tollywood (Telugu-language) action/musical blockbuster. Its song and dance number “Naatu Naatu” has gone mega-viral online, and it teases only a small fraction the bombastic excitement of its battle scenes. And “RRR” is no hollow spectacle. Beyond its anti-imperialist political message, “RRR” also boasts one of the most unreservedly sincere bromances in modern cinema. It’s a three-hour film that energizes rather than exhausts its audience. By the time the credits roll, you’ll feel like you could punch a hole through the moon.

From the co-director of “Moana” comes “The Sea Beast,” a vibrant and clever seafaring adventure. Young orphan Maisie stows away aboard a legendary vessel that hunts the carnivorous monsters that wander nearby shipping lanes. Like her heroes, she wants to live her life to the fullest — but what is it they’re really living (and dying) for? Maisie and veteran hunter Jacob embark on a voyage that throws everything they know and cherish into question. “The Sea Beast” tackles some heavy themes with a very light touch; It’s a fun and family-friendly romp with a lot of laughs, terrific action, some cute critters, and something valuable to say.

In 1996, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson ushered in a new era of horror movies with “Scream,” in which a group of teens are hunted by a mysterious killer who’s obsessed with slasher movies. Just as each “Scream” sequel has commented on the nature of horror sequels and the changing landscape of horror cinema, this fifth entry tackles the contemporary trend of the “requel,” in which “legacy characters” pass the torch to a new generation. But, as always, “Scream” isn’t just about dorky inside jokes for cinephiles, it’s also a thrilling horror “whodunnit” in its own right, with scares and chuckles in equal measure. “Scream” can be enjoyed as either a jumping-on point or a satisfying conclusion to one of horror’s most consistent franchises.

Director George Miller always seems to zig when he’s expected to zag. He became famous for his “Mad Max” trilogy of post-apocalyptic action films, which he followed up with the supernatural sex comedy “The Witches of Eastwick” and the true-life tearjerker “Lorenzo’s Oil.” After a string of kid-friendly talking animal pictures, Miller exploded back to prominence with his spectacular return to the world of Max Rockatansky in “Fury Road.” While fans eagerly await its prequel, “Furiosa,” Miller has delivered a haunting adult fairy tale romance, “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” combining the bombastic production design and color palette of his wildest genre works with the emotional maturity of his soberest dramas.
Though unsurprisingly a box office bomb, this dark storybook tale of a solitary academic who frees a lonely djinn from centuries of imprisonment is both thought-provoking and heart-wrenching, musing on the nature of love, the shape of stories, and the death of myth in our modern world. It’s not a “feel good” movie, it’s a “feel everything” movie.

The story behind “The Tinder Swindler” is fascinating to begin with: How did multiple women get conned out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the same poser Prince Charming who they met on a dating app? But what elevates “The Tinder Swindler” even further is tight, highly proficient filmmaking, careful control of pace, and a human approach to its subjects. Through text threads, voice messages, and cell phone videos, the audience is permitted to relive the events of the story the same way the victims lived them, guided through the romance and horror of it all by surprisingly candid and intimate interviews that make this entire bizarre affair seem immediate and relatable.

We’ll be the first to tell you that “Top Gun: Maverick” is, like its predecessor, basically a very expensive recruitment ad for the United States Navy. It’s a sports movie in which the sport is flying advanced aircraft that just happen to be tools of death and destruction, and its aim is to make the people who operate them look as cool as possible. That said … mission accomplished. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a ridiculously fun cinematic novelty that will thrill even the most cynical viewer. Eschewing CGI as much as possible, director Joseph Kosinski puts the actors and cameras right into actual fighter jets and lets audiences marvel at incredible real-life feats of aerial agility. The spectacle is bound together by irresistible charisma machine Tom Cruise reprising the role of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, leading a new generation of hot shots into the danger zone. Propaganda? Sure, but it works!

Overachieving eighth-grader Mei Lee awakens one morning to discover she has transformed into a giant red panda, just as every woman in her family has for generations. Mei’s panda form emerges whenever she experiences strong emotions, and her mother Ming expects her to rein it in, like she did. But what if Mei likes being an excitable furry monster? “Turning Red” is a joyful celebration of friendship, family, and how the awkward process of growing up complicates both.

“The Woman King” is a grand Hollywood war epic unlike any other. Set in 19th century Dahomey, it stars Viola Davis as General Nanisca, the (fictional) leader of the (quite real) Agojie, an elite army of female soldiers. Through the eyes of Nanisca and teenage recruit Nawi, “The Woman King” explores the lives of these incredible warriors as their nation attempts to divest itself from the monstrosity of the slave trade. Like plenty of other war movies, “The Woman King” plays fast and loose with history, but between its taut direction, gnarly action, and heartfelt performances, one can hardly complain. It’s a prestige blockbuster that kicks butt while celebrating a piece of history Hollywood has heretofore failed to represent.


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