WTW's best movies of 2022: we pick our favorites

What to Watch best movies of 2022
(Image credit: Future)

Whether you've seen one or 100 movies in 2022, there was something to watch for just about everybody this year, which is reflected in What to Watch's picks for the best movies of 2022. Whether you ventured back to the movie theater to see some of these on the big screen or are looking for what movies from the past year to catch up from the comfort of your couch, here are the 16 favorite movies from the WTW staff.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin (Image credit: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

The Banshees of Inisherin is the best movie I managed to see all year. This slow burn yarn reunites writer-director Martin McDonagh with his In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as lifelong friends Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson). Pádraic finds his life turned upside-down one day as Colm abruptly brings their friendship to an end and chooses instead to focus on his music, leaving Pádraic scrambling to fix their broken relationship. 

That friendship swiftly becomes a vehicle for both laugh-out-loud moments and gnawing tension as Colm's resolve to ignore his freewheeling former companion only strengthens and the stakes grow higher. Anchored by standout performances across the board (including deeply moving turns from both Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon) and coupled with beautiful shots of the Irish isles where all the drama takes place, The Banshees of Inisherin easily stands out as one of the movies you absolutely should not miss out on from 2022. — Martin Shore

How to watch The Banshees of Inisherin: streaming on HBO Max in the US and Disney Plus in the UK.

The Batman

Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz in 'The Batman'.

Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz in The Batman (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Batman was a highly anticipated hit and — just like the caped crusader — it certainly packed a punch when it landed in theaters. Matt Reeves' dark and gritty adaptation of DC's much-loved superhero, The Batman follows Batman (Robert Pattinson) as he's called in to help investigate the murder of Gotham City's mayor. His investigation soon leads him to the center of Gotham City's criminal underworld when evil killer The Riddler (Paul Dano) leaves a trail of cryptic clues and riddles.

As Batman uncovers a wave of corruption linked to his own past and the huge scale of The Riddler’s destruction, he recruits the help of Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) to help him unmask the supervillain and bring justice to the abuse of power operating within Gotham City.

What makes The Batman particularly striking is the different interpretation of the complex character you don't see in the other movies. The Batman takes a more psychological approach, touching upon Bruce Wayne's inner demons that have left him troubled as he uses his masked persona to hide his grief. It also reveals the much more powerful and terrifying aspects of Batman, which will leave you demanding more of the intense fight sequences. — Grace Morris

How to watch The Batman: The Batman is streaming on HBO Max and Prime Video in the US; Sky Go and NOW TV in the UK.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Letitia Wright in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Letitia Wright in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had a lot to live up to considering its predecessor. The original Black Panther was a box office behemoth, earned Marvel its first Oscar and arguably will serve as Chadwick Boseman's most iconic film of his career. So again, there were big shoes for the sequel to fill. 

Overall, while I missed Boseman as T'Challa and the fight choreography wasn't as dynamic, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was fantastic. It wonderfully reflected the real emotions of grief as seen in the dynamic performances of Letitia Wright's Shuri and Angela Bassett's Queen Ramonda, the latter of which received a Golden Globe nomination for her work. 

Additionally, the film offered viewers a great villain in Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Director and writer Ryan Coogler painted a picture of someone that wasn't on a quest for world domination, but rather just heavily invested in protecting his once preyed-upon community. Being honest, I don't even view Namor as a villain but rather an anti-hero because of Coogler's take on the character. Definitely interested to see how Namor plays into the future MCU. — Terrell Smith

How to watch Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: playing exclusively in movie theaters worldwide.

Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile

Kenneth Branagh in Death on the Nile (Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The classics are sometimes the best. And, if you enjoy a murder mystery, you can't go wrong with a good Agatha Christie yarn. Kenneth Branagh may not be the greatest Poirot — that honor has to go to David Suchet who portrayed him on screen for nearly 25 years — but he's clearly loving his chance to play the masterful Belgian detective, doing so once again in Death on the Nile.

The all-star cast has great fun with their characters as the audience is relentlessly thrown off the scent by Christie's genius plotting. Egypt and the confined space of the boat are great settings and it all builds to the wonderful moment Poitor finally reveals the murderer. 

And there's good news for fans as Branagh is set to make a third Poirot film. — David Hollingsworth

How to watch Death on the Nile: streaming on HBO Max and Hulu in US; Disney Plus in the UK.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Downton Abbey: A New Era Hugh Bonneville Michelle Dockery

Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Docker in Downton Abbey: A New Era (Image credit: Focus Features)

After the success of the TV series and the 2019 movie, long-time Downton fans knew they were going to love the 2022 movie, Downton Abbey: A New Era, before they even settled down in their seats. 

This latest offering from Julian Fellowes is like going out for dinner with an old friend you haven't seen in a while; you know where you are with them and no one is pretending to be something they're not — so if you are looking for a movie with high octane twists and turns then, perhaps this one's not for you. 

This second Downton movie shakes things up, as some of the Crawleys are off to the South of France. The movie is split into two parts, half of the family head to Côte D’Azur after it is revealed that Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith — who totally steals the show throughout the entire movie) has been left a beautiful villa after a secret dalliance with a handsome Frenchman in 1864. Back in England, a film production company use the Abbey as a location for their new movie... much to Lord Grantham’s disgust. 

Like an old pair of slippers, this is a movie that fans can relax into and never want to leave. — Claire Crick

How to watch Downton Abbey: A New Era: streaming on Prime Video.

Elvis

Austin Butler as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Austin Butler in Elvis (Image credit: Warner Bros/Trent Mitchell)

Baz Luhrmann's colorful and enticing musical biopic Elvis is a must-see for everyone as it follows world famous rock 'n' roll icon's rise from humble beginnings to becoming one of the world's biggest music stars. The movie also chronicles Elvis' (Austin Butler) complex relationship with his longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) and tells the story of his whirlwind romance with his wife, Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge), who was an integral part to Elvis' happiness throughout his rollercoaster life until his devastating death.

Butler puts on a spectacle of a performance as he embodies the King. From every soulful vocal to hip gyration, you can't help but think you’re actually watching the legend on-screen. Taking Austin's phenomenal performance and combining it with Luhrmann's spectacular take on the singer's unique life makes it a truly hypnotizing watch. — Grace Morris

How to watch Elvis: streaming on HBO Max in the US; available via digital on-demand in UK.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once Stephanie Hsu Michelle Yeoh Ke Huy Quan

Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once (Image credit: Allyson Riggs)

Eat your heart out Marvel. Despite all the hype around the Multiverse Saga that kicked off in 2022, the true queen of the multiverse is Michelle Yeoh and her movie Everything Everywhere All at Once (EEAAO), a wacky, hilarious and yet unbelievably emotional movie from Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert).

The movie stars Yeoh as a Chinese immigrant who is just desperately trying to file her taxes but gets swept into an adventure that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse, and she is the only one who can save the day. In addition to Yeoh, EEAAO features great turns from Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Hong and Stephanie Hsu.

EEAAO lives up to its name, with alternate universes where everyone has hot-dog fingers, a racoon doing a Ratatouille and two rocks having an emotional heart-to-heart. Yet the movie never loses the thread or its emotional core, as that is strongly centered in Yeoh's masterful performance and from A-plus directing from the Daniels. I can't think of too many movies that swing for the fences like EEAAO as much and hit every time. — Michael Balderston

How to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once: streaming on Paramount Plus and Showtime app in US; Prime Video in the UK.

Gabriel's Return Part 3

Melanie Zanetti and Giulio Berruti in Gabriel's Rapture Part 3

Melanie Zanetti and Giulio Berruti in Gabriel's Rapture Part 3 (Image credit: Passionflix)

Gabriel's Rapture Part 3 is the final installment of the three-part series of movies bringing Sylvain Reynard's bestselling novel Gabriel's Rapture to life at Passionflix. It's the second trilogy of movies dedicated to Reynard's work; the first book, Gabriel's Inferno, was also brought to life in three feature-length installments. 

As a fan of romance and happy endings, Gabriel’s Rapture Part 3 did it for me. It's thrilling to see Reynard's work come to life so faithfully, which is why it's in good hands at Passionflix, where bringing books to life faithfully is part of the mission. Gabriel’s Rapture Part 3 sees Gabriel Emerson (Giulio Berruti) and Julianne Mitchell (Melanie Zanetti) return to each other after overcoming huge obstacles.

This final chapter is the culmination of all of the movies that came before it. Zanetti is always a gem and Berruti delivers a career-defining performance. Though Julia and Gabriel's story continues in the next series of movies based on the third book, Gabriel's Redemption, the finale of Gabriel's Rapture was the love story we needed this year. — Sarabeth Pollock

How to watch Gabriel's Return Part 3: watch on Passionflix via Prime Video

I Want You Back

I Want You Back Jenny Slate Charlie Day

Jenny Slate and Charlie Day in I Want You Back (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

I Want You Back is a rom-com that tells the story of two dumpees, played by Charlie Day and Jenny Slate, who team up to ruin each others' exes' new relationship, in order to win them back. If you've seen a single rom-com, you know where this is going to go — but it's about the journey, not the destination.

It's a fun concept for a story, with as many hilarious moments as there are heartfelt character beats, but the real joy comes from Day and Slate's performances, as the two comedy actors are on top form.

Sure, picking a by-the-numbers rom-com may feel like an odd pick for the best movie of the year, but what I Want You Back misses out on in terms of novelty, it makes up for in terms of its superb execution. Plus, it's on Prime Video, so you can be comfy at home watching it. — Tom Bedford

How to watch I Want You Back: streaming on Prime Video.

The Lost King

Richard III (Harry Lloyd) and Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins)

Harry Lloyd and Sally Hawkins in The Lost King (Image credit: PATHÉ PRODUCTIONS LIMITED AND BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION 2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

Some movies are big beasts like Top Gun: Maverick and others, like The Lost King, are small gems. The quintessentially British movie revolves around the true story of how the long-lost remains of King Richard III were uncovered by an amateur historian called Philippa Langley.

Yep, that really did happen. And even better she uncovered them under a car park in Leicester! Sally Hawkins is simply perfect as Philippa, a woman who struggles to be taken seriously as she becomes convinced she knows the location of the king's body.

Harry Lloyd as King Richard III regularly turns up to offer encouragement to Philippa, while Steve Coogan wryly plays her put-upon husband John. 

It's a wacky story full of charm and humor as Philippa also sets out to change people's understanding of Richard, whose reputation was destroyed by Shakespeare. — David Hollingsworth

How to watch The Lost King: releasing in movie theaters March 24 in US; available via digital on-demand in UK.

The Menu

Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes in The Menu

Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes in The Menu (Image credit: Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures)

Fine dining has long been explored on screen, but no one has done it quite like The Menu. In this intriguing film, Ralph Fiennes plays a troubled celebrity chef who invites guests to a private experience on an island, promising to deliver an unforgettable night. As you may have guessed by the trailer, things soon take a dark turn and there are plenty of shocking moments. 

The movie is riddled with suspense and also manages to throw in some dark humor along the way as we watch the evening unfold. It's the perfect satire of Michelin-starred restaurants, snobby customers and certain attitudes toward the way we eat, which certainly gives the audience food for thought.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult deliver great performances, especially opposite Fiennes, which creates a tense dynamic, but it's the cinematography and overall design of the film where it really shines. If you're wondering if it will make you hungry, the answer is a resounding yes, so it's recommended that you eat something beforehand otherwise you'll be dealing with serious food envy. — Lucy Buglass

How to watch The Menu: playing exclusively in movie theaters, but arriving on HBO Max in the US on January 3 and Disney Plus in the UK January 4.

Nope

Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in Nope

Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in Nope (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

I'm convinced Jordan Peele can do anything. What I love about his projects, Nope in particular, is he weaves social commentary through his stories so it's always there on some level but it's never coming at you full force. The longer you watch, the more there's an underlying sense of unease that has nothing to do with horror or jump scares but instead with how messed up a situation is, and it's usually our own doing. (Incidentally, this is why I loved Peele's take on The Twilight Zone, too)

With Nope, Peele doesn't bother hiding the "villain" of the movie. He even hints at the alien presence in the movie's trailer, because the alien is actually secondary to the bigger themes of race, discrimination and the pervasiveness of capitalism. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer deliver magnetic performances as a brother-sister duo who are struggling to keep their father's horse ranch alive amid the otherworldly presence while Steven Yeun's neighboring amusement park seeks to profit from it. 

The alien presence is enough to be the main focus of other movies, but it's one of many moving pieces in a Jordan Peele movie and it helps to make Nope so much more than a horror movie. — Sarabeth Pollock

How to watch Nope: streaming on Peacock in the US; available via digital on-demand in the UK.

The Northman

Alexander Skarsgård in 'The Northman'.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Northman (Image credit: Focus Features)

I was always going to enjoy The Northman; it's a brutal, bloody Norse revenge epic helmed by Robert Eggers… what's not to love? In this chaotic take on the Old Norse legend that inspired Hamlet, we follow Amleth (played by a terrifying Alexander Skarsgård). As a young lad, Amleth witnesses the death of his father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) at the hands of henchmen working for his usurping uncle, Fjölnir (Claes Bang). Resolving to avenge his father's death, Amleth escapes and transforms himself into a living weapon of a man whilst living with a band of Viking berserkers. 

In a chance encounter with a Seeress, Amleth discovers he is fated to take his revenge on his duplicitous uncle. Posing as a slave, Amleth is taken to Fjölnir's estate, where he falls in love with Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) who assists him as he sets his plan for revenge into motion. 

Hypermasculine and hyperviolent, The Northman deftly juggles the fantastical elements of the story with relentless on-screen action to conjure up a thrill ride that stands right alongside his other work. — Martin Shore

How to watch The Northman: streaming on Prime Video in the US; streaming on Sky Go and NOW TV in UK.

The Territory

The Territory

(Image credit: National Geographic)

The Territory has got to be one of the most carefully-crafted documentaries of the last few years. It tells the story of the Uru-eu-wau-wau people, an indigenous peoples living in a shrinking area of protected land in Brazil, as they try to defend… well, their territory.

What's fantastic about the doc is that you see the conflict from all sides, with sections following Brazilian farmers, "pioneers" trying to invade the land and activists trying to protect the area, as well as the tribe itself. Plus, it ends with a fantastic third act depicting the tribe during COVID-19, as it learns to defend itself using cameras and drones to raise awareness, ditching the "doom-and-gloom" mentality that many movies use.

The story is fantastic but elements like the cinematography, music and smart editing choices make the movie even more gripping. It's certainly one of the best documentaries of 2022. — Tom Bedford

How to watch The Territory: streaming on Disney Plus in the US; not streaming in the UK at this time.

Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise in the cockpit of a fighter jet in Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

We had to wait about two years for Top Gun: Maverick to arrive in movie theaters after Tom Cruise and company held it until things calmed down with the pandemic, but boy are we glad they did because Top Gun: Maverick was one of the best big-screen experiences in a long time. It was the perfect summer blockbuster and has become not just the biggest movie of the year, but one of the biggest movies of all time.

Cruise returns as his hot-shot pilot Maverick about 30 years after the events of the original Top Gun. His push-it-to-the-limit attitude still gets him in trouble, but now he has to train a group of aviators for their most dangerous mission, including one who has a deep connection to Maverick's past.

Top Gun: Maverick is not just for fans of the original. Sure, if you already knew who Penny was that may have been a fun nod, but the movie does a phenomenal job in making these characters and their dynamics work even if you've never seen the original '80s favorite. Tom Cruise knows how to make crowd-pleasing movies, and he may have his best ever with Top Gun: Maverick. — Michael Balderston

How to watch Top Gun: Maverick: streaming on Paramount Plus in the US and UK.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage laughing and sitting next to Pedro Pascal in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Image credit: Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate)

If Nicolas Cage playing a version of himself doesn’t immediately sell this to you, let's try and convince you to watch it anyway. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a wonderfully funny movie that follows Nic Cage (playing himself) after he agrees to attend a superfan's birthday party in exchange for $1 million. The fan in question is billionaire playboy Javi Gutierrez, played brilliantly by Pedro Pascal, who wants the actor there as his guest of honor.

Once Nic arrives at Javi's house, he's convinced to make an improvised movie with him, but chaos soon ensues when the CIA shows up and tries to recurit Nic to help them locate a kidnapped woman that they think Javi is behind. 

The movie manages to become even crazier from this point on, with plenty of references to Cage's diverse filmography and creating an unexpected buddy comedy between Cage and Pascal that could go down in film history. It's a wild ride and a real treat for Cage fans everywhere. — Lucy Buglass

How to watch The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent: playing on Starz in the US; Prime Video in the UK.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Daisy Edgar-Jones hides behind a tree in Where the Crawdads Sing

Daisy Edgar-Jones in Where the Crawdads Sing (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

After enjoying Delia Owen's novel a few years back, I was looking forward to seeing what the movie would be like when it landed in theatres back in July. Would it be how I'd imagined it? How would Daisy Edgar-Jones work as Kya? And would they change the ending at all? 

Luckily, for fans of the book, Where the Crawdads Sing didn't disappoint. Edgar-Jones' portrayal as the "Marsh Girl" works brilliantly and the whole movie remains pretty true to the book — something that is always important to fans of a novel. 

If you're not familiar with the story, it's set in North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s and follows the coming-of-age of Kya, a young girl branded "Marsh Girl" by locals after she learns to live independently after being abandoned by her family as a child. Fending for herself and getting to know the marshlands like no one else, Kya starts putting her knowledge down on paper and illustrating her own books. But her lonely existence leaves her an outcast in the local town, and so when a local man is found murdered, Kya quickly finds herself the prime suspect for the crime. 

Definitely one for your watch list. — Claire Crick

How to watch Where the Crawdads Sing: streaming on Netflix in the US; available via digital on-demand in the UK.

The Woman King

Viola Davis as General Nanisca leading the Agojie in The Woman King

Viola Davis in The Woman King (Image credit: Sony)

When I think of the great Viola Davis, I don't readily look at her as an action star. Sure she was in films like The Suicide Squad, but I've grown accustomed to her turning out tear-filled dramatic performances in riveting films like Fences. Then she does a movie like The Woman King and I'm forced to reevaluate my perception of her diverse acting chops. 

Watching her in The Woman King, I was completely captivated by her commitment to portraying Nanisca, a commander of the fierce warriors that the movie was based on. Her fight sequences alone were top tier in my book. 

But The Woman King wasn't just great because of Davis. The film did an excellent job at retelling the story of a group of women that were incredibly skilled in battle and actually served as the inspiration for Dora Milaje in Black Panther

I'd be remiss if I didn't also brag about the movie's ending. While I won't ruin it for those that have yet to see it, I appreciated the fact that it defied what is usually seen with this type of project. — Terrell Smith

How to watch The Woman King: available via digital on-demand in the US.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).

With contributions from