Here we are: somehow it’s December already, 2022 has flown by at Mach 10 speed, and it’s already time to tot up the very best movies of the year. It’s been a doozy – with picturehouses back open and in full swing, massive blockbusters sweeping across screens and into our eyeballs, and all kinds of cinematic surprises winning our hearts. It’s been the year of the multiverse, both in the MCU and beyond. It’s been a year of searing social commentary, delivered in the form of gripping crowdpleasers. It’s been a year of auteurs taking on gigantic budgets and doing fascinating things with them. And it’s been a year of comebacks – not just from Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, but the cinema itself. As Vin Diesel perhaps said it best: “The movies.” With all the year’s major releases now out, the members of Team Empire were polled for their top 10 films of 2022. Those individual ballots were totted up into the Top 20 below. As usual, we’re running from UK release dates (yes, we know some of these were 2021 in the States; no, we haven’t got Pearl or Marcel The Shell With Shoes On yet), and are looking at films released both on the big screen, and beamed straight into our living rooms (which, half the time, we also wished we were watching in a cinema). Across these 12 months, movies have taken us to all kinds of new worlds and experiences – from berserker Viking brawls, to fluffy panda-shaped puberty, to 1980s film school, and to the Comanche nation to face down one ugly motherfu–– well, you get the picture. Read Empire’s list of the best movies of 2022 below, and get ready for 2023 – a certain Indiana Jones awaits…
Here we are: somehow it’s December already, 2022 has flown by at Mach 10 speed, and it’s already time to tot up the very best movies of the year. It’s been a doozy – with picturehouses back open and in full swing, massive blockbusters sweeping across screens and into our eyeballs, and all kinds of cinematic surprises winning our hearts. It’s been the year of the multiverse, both in the MCU and beyond. It’s been a year of searing social commentary, delivered in the form of gripping crowdpleasers. It’s been a year of auteurs taking on gigantic budgets and doing fascinating things with them. And it’s been a year of comebacks – not just from Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, but the cinema itself. As Vin Diesel perhaps said it best: “The movies.”
With all the year’s major releases now out, the members of Team Empire were polled for their top 10 films of 2022. Those individual ballots were totted up into the Top 20 below. As usual, we’re running from UK release dates (yes, we know some of these were 2021 in the States; no, we haven’t got Pearl or Marcel The Shell With Shoes On yet), and are looking at films released both on the big screen, and beamed straight into our living rooms (which, half the time, we also wished we were watching in a cinema). Across these 12 months, movies have taken us to all kinds of new worlds and experiences – from berserker Viking brawls, to fluffy panda-shaped puberty, to 1980s film school, and to the Comanche nation to face down one ugly motherfu–– well, you get the picture.
Read Empire’s list of the best movies of 2022 below, and get ready for 2023 – a certain Indiana Jones awaits…
1 of 20
While it would be tempting to reimagine Mia Hansen-Love’s Bergman Island as an arthouse Jurassic Park — a group of happy-go-lucky visitors are terrorised by a pack of genetically engineered Swedish depressives — the actual film itself is a mini marvel of a movie. Not a homage to, nor a parody of, cinema’s chief miserablist, Hansen-Love draws droll comic relief from Bergo’s back-catalogue in a lighter, warmer, breezier story of young screenwriter Chris (a terrific Vicky Krieps) finding her voice on Fårö, the literal and spiritual home of the filmmaking titan. Delightfully, around halfway through, the story Chris is cooking up takes over the film with a New York based filmmaker (Mia Wasikowska) reconnecting with her first love (Anders Danielsen Lie) in what feels like an unseen Linklater flick. Two great films for the price of one, Hansen-Love’s wistful delicate filmmaking and a great set-piece set to ABBA’s ‘The Winner Take It All’. What more could you want? (Apart from velociraptors wrestling with the existence of God.)
2 of 20
You’ve seen Pinocchio before – perhaps once already this year, with the Robert Zemeckis’ Disney remake – but not quite like Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Gustafson’s Pinocchio. Gorgeous stop-motion puppet work and a dedication to putting the animators’ decisions and mannerisms first immediately make it a sublime feast for the eyes. But what sets this telling apart – aside from its choice of medium – is the message it chooses, as Del Toro and co-writer Patrick McHale draw lines between abusive fatherhood and fascism. The story of the wooden boy is relocated to real-world 1930s Italy (yes, Mussolini makes a guest appearance), and the details are darker in response – Gepetto is a drunk, Candlewick is the son of a fascist, Pinoke sees the land of the dead. A winningly goofy approach to existentialism ties it all together, resulting in a simple if devastating emotional epiphany: don’t take your time with loved ones for granted, and treasure what makes them unique. Is someone cutting onions in here?
3 of 20
There’s nothing quite like a slippery Park Chan-Wook thriller. And Decision To Leave is as slippery as they get: a wry, complex, sophisticated, sumptuously-made psychological puzzle-box that gleams with style and mystery. Inspired partly by a Korean song, partly by 1960s Swedish detective novels, Director Park brings us a fresh-feeling cop hero — a mild-mannered investigator who carries wet wipes, played by the excellent Park Hae-il. But even more importantly, he brings us a fantastic new femme fatale — Tang Wei’s enigmatic, entrancing murder suspect, alive and thrumming with intrigue in every scene. She walks away with the movie. But this is Park at the top of his game too, with crackerjack camerawork, electric editing and an ending that will lodge in your mind for a long time to come (and quite possibly put you off going to the seaside). The finest noir of 2022.
4 of 20
It’s hard to know what’s more invigorating about Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King – that it presents an as-previously-untold story of West African warrior women the Agojie with such clarity and intention, or that it does so in the guise of a crowd-pleasing historical war epic. The images that Prince-Bythewood and her cast deliver feel undeniably radical, but the narrative hits the irresistible beats of Braveheart and Gladiator – wrapping together real-life history, expected factual embellishments, and just the right level of melodrama into the kind of sword-swinging blockbuster rarely made today. Viola Davis is formidable as General Nanisca, the abundant energy of Lashana Lynch has her warrior Izogie stealing scenes, and relative newcomer Thuso Mbedu carries the narrative weight lightly as Nawi, the young girl finding her way in the Agojie ranks. The action is crunchy and muscular, the storytelling is engaging, and the passion for telling it is palpable. Long live The Woman King.
5 of 20
RRR (or ‘Rise! Roar! Revolt!’, as it actually stands for) is the bombastic Indian action-musical sensation that has taken the film world by storm this year, with word-of-mouth rave reviews making it one of 2022’s most enjoyed pieces of pure escapism. Set in 1920s India, it focuses on soldier Alluri and villager Komaram, who team up against the British Empire in search of a girl that they've kidnapped. This is cinema with all the dials turned up to 11 – there’s a river on fire, a fight with a tiger, immense hand-to-hand combat and, underneath it all, a story of brotherhood. Oh, and several super-catchy musical numbers. What more could you want? Add it to your Netflix queue and believe the hype.
6 of 20
DC may still have some work to do in terms of figuring out its extended universe (your move, James Gunn) but appointing Matt Reeves to bring a new Batman to life in his own cinematic corner proved to be a great move. He somehow finds a fresh way into the well-trodden path of Bruce Wayne, mostly ditching the origin story to chronicle a hero finding his feet, while still stumbling along the way. Robert Pattinson gives good growl as the Bat (though his brooding emo-Bruce gets less to do), haunted by his past but figuring out what he needs to do in the future. Paul Dano is suitably creepy as a serial-killer Riddler, Zoe Kravitz injects wit and energy as Catwoman, and Colin Farrell is almost unrecognisable, chewing the scenery as crime-boss-to-be Oswald "Oz" Cobblepot, aka The Penguin. There's a gritty, rain-sodden reality to Gotham – soundtracked by Nirvana’s ‘Something In The Way’ – but while the visuals are moody, gorgeously lensed by cinematographer Greig Fraser, The Batman is a vivid new version of a comic book icon.
7 of 20
No screen character this year has amused – and confused – us nearly as much as Mikey Saber (Simon Rex), a man as handsome and roguish as handsome rogues get, his ego trampling on everyone he meets, his dick flapping in the wind. The reprehensible but endlessly entertaining focus of Sean Baker’s Red Rocket is a true one-off – a charismatic hustler as seductive as he is repellent. With an absolute knockout of a performance, Rex proves a revelation as the down-and-out porn star fleeing back to his Texan hometown to exploit, well, whoever he can in a bid to get some cash and worm his way back into the industry that’s spat him out. The singular Baker – previously behind Tangerine and The Florida Project – once again gave us an authentic, compassionate but riotous portrait of the American fringes. What a ride.
8 of 20
Look out, The Godfather Part II, Terminator 2 and Toy Story 2: the ‘Best Sequels Of All Time’ list has a new contender. Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Part II, which sees her revisit the semi-autobiographical world of her early years at film school, is the perfect example of a part two: one that deepens and enriches the original, while standing firmly as its own brilliant entity. Helped by another revelatory performance from Honor Swinton Byrne as Hogg’s ostensible screen surrogate, ‘The Two-venir’ (as nobody is calling it) is a fascinating and emotionally eloquent look at how the creative process intersects with grief and growing up. Some hilarious scene-stealing petulance from Richard Ayoade (“You're forcing me to have a tantrum!”) completes the effect. If they’re this good, we hope Joanna Hogg keeps making sequels forever. ‘Archipelago: Archipel-again’, anyone?
9 of 20
Sweet, funny, and perhaps the only movie this year to combine Mary Shelley with Wallace and Gromit, Brian And Charles is a little bit like E.T., if E.T. had rocked up in rural Wales and had a washing machine for a tummy. David Earl’s Brian is a lonely eccentric living alone with his utterly useless inventions (see: bicycle-powered flying grandfather clock; egg belt). Then, unexpectedly, he makes a fully functioning robot who names himself Charles Petrescu. The ungainly but charming Charles wants to learn and explore, but starts to chafe as Brian tries to protect him from a rough, unkind world which soon wants to destroy him. In a bleak year, it takes a gigantic robot with a love of cabbages to provide some sunniness – and Charles’ zest for life is exactly the tonic we needed.
10 of 20
Predator prequel Prey unlocked more than its share of achievements upon release this summer. Firstly, it made an instant movie star out of no-nonsense heroine Amber Midthunder, whose Comanche hunter Naru capably slaps seven shades out of a technologically advanced alien with just a bow, a dog, and a tomahawk-on-a-rope. More surprisingly, however, it took a franchise that has been on life support for decades and shocked it back to rude health with a potent combination of authentic period setting, simple yet effective premise, and precise, efficient direction from 10 Cloverfield Lane's Dan Trachtenberg. Not to mention twisting a monument to over-inflated '80s masculinity into a modern, feminist action thriller. While it's almost criminal we couldn't experience it on the big screen (it went straight to Disney+), Prey succeeded in defying all expectations: a welcome return to the screen for Trachtenberg, and a stunning new lease of life for the demon that makes trophies of men.
11 of 20
Crank up the 4*TOWN, because Domee Shi’s debut directorial feature Turning Red proved a Pixar knockout. Rosalie Chiang voices Mei, a Chinese-Canadian tween who, upon hitting puberty, begins to harness a power passed down to her through generations – the ability to transform into a giant red panda when overcome with emotion. Infused with influences from Shi’s own childhood (Anime! Boybands! Tamagotchis!) this is not Pixar as you know it – there’s no adventure, no fetch-quest, no traditional structure. Instead, it’s a coming-of-age movie through and through, where the real mission for Mei is accepting herself, her heritage, and the inevitable changes in her relationship with her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) as she gets older – oh, and getting to the biggest pop concert in town. The anime-inspired visuals are a wonder, the script relentlessly funny and moving, and the soundtrack is crammed full of Billie Eilish and Finneas-written Noughties pop bangers. Altogether now: “You’re never not on my mind, oh my, oh my…”
12 of 20
A fresh, original vision from Jordan Peele is always an instant ‘Yep’. But even by his standards, Nope feels special – a step-up in scope from Get Out and Us, combining his horror instincts with sci-fi spectacle for a film that interrogates our desire for (and exploitation of) the spectacular. If that sounds dry, Peele grounds his sometimes abstract thematic explorations in a thrilling, scary alien-encounter blockbuster with stellar setpieces – that nightmarish ‘Gordy’s Home’ sitcom (the key to the film’s central preoccupations), the Jupiter’s Claim show, the mid-way blood gush, that thunderous final ride… Threading it all together is Daniel Kaluuya’s low-key but nuanced turn as the grieving OJ, leaving plenty of room for Keke Palmer to steal the show as his livewire sister Emerald, intent on claiming their place in history by capturing the extraterrestrial phenomenon on camera. Nope is a Spielbergian blend of horror and wonder that reveals itself anew on every rewatch. Its stunningly beautiful final reel dares you to look away. Spoiler: you won’t.
13 of 20
Paul Thomas Anderson’s return to cinemas after Phantom Thread swaps starched, pressed London for a sun-bleached Los Angeles-set coming-of-age yarn. Child actor Gary (Cooper Hoffman), who’s 15, meets 25-year-old Alana (Alana Haim) and falls hard for her when she helps out at his school’s yearbook picture day. She’s not interested, but the two hustlers try to get a waterbed business together while Gary helps Alana edge into showbusiness, and they tussle with their feelings for each other. It’s all very enjoyably dazed and confused, a love story wrapped up in a caper which moves dreamily by in a blaze of ‘70s seediness. At the centre of it all are Gary and Alana, drawn toward each other for reasons they can’t really fathom, and played energetically by first-timers Haim and Hoffman. The soundtrack bangs, too.
14 of 20
There was a short period during 2019, after the release of Knives Out, when you couldn't move without hearing someone slurring, in their best Southern accent, lines like: "I am merely a passive obser-vuh of the truth!" In 2022, with the eagerly-anticipated return of Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig's gentleman detective Benoit Blanc, the impressions geared up again. Glass Onion is a lighter, fluffier, warmer affair than the crispier, crunchier original film, but no less satisfying, continuing Johnson's satirical streak and light ribbing of the rich and idiotic. This time, it's tech bro billionaires (or self-appointed "disruptors") under Blanc's microscope, with Edward Norton as an Elon-Musk-in-all-but-name eccentric who hosts a murder mystery party on a private island, only for a real murder to be committed. Cue twists, turns, a wildly entertaining ensemble (shout out to Janelle Monae, in particular), some celebrity-endorsed hard kombucha, and the promise of more brilliant Benoit Blanc mysteries to come. Let the impressions continue!
15 of 20
Charlotte Wells’ somber, sweet, and subtle debut feature was one of the year’s best surprises, with its tender two-hander between young dad Calum (Paul Mescal) and his pre-teen daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio). Set on a holiday resort in Turkey, the pair make use of what precious time they have together before school begins. Sophie is beginning to see the world a little differently; one full of bare shoulders and kissing. Calum meanwhile has demons to battle, although they’re never addressed head on. Mescal and Corio are excellent, their collective presence as joyful to behold as it is painful, as the cracks in Calum’s veneer deepen. You will struggle to find a better British filmmaking debut in 2022.
16 of 20
You never really stop coming of age – an idea wonderfully explored in Joachim Trier’s funny, relatable, romantic, highly emotional The Worst Person In The World. Renate Reinsve stars as the indecisive, impulsive Julie, roaming through life (and Oslo), trying to juggle following her heart with making bad choices, desperately wanting to find something to commit to. It manages to chronicle late twenty-something malaise with refreshing authenticity throughout its 12 chapters, thanks to its impeccable Oscar-nominated screenplay and mesmerising, honest performances. The quiet, gut-punch moments are perfectly balanced with naturalistic wit, and the fantastical sequences (a city frozen in time as Julie runs towards her desires; a psychedelic trip interspersed with animation) elevate it even further.
17 of 20
Never bet against James Cameron. When news broke that the record-breaking director had not one, not two, not three, but four sequels to 2009’s box-office-smashing, boundary-pushing Avatar on the way, the world wasn’t sure what to expect. The answer – with Cameron, always – is a movie-going experience unlike any other. Moving Jake Sully, Neytiri and their new brood to the oceanic base of the Metkayina clan in The Way Of Water gave Cameron a big new blue playground to swim in. The result? An otherworldly, transportative exploration of family, our bonds with animals, fatherhood, colonisation, revenge and sacrifice, with perfectly paced action sequences that will make your jaw drop. We see you, James Cameron – and we also can’t wait to see what happens next.
Read the Empire review ofAvatar: The Way Of Water.
18 of 20
Marking the return of Martin McDonagh – who excels at serving up biting humour wrapped in misanthropy – The Banshees Of Inisherin is his best work yet, contained after the rather epic Three Billboards. In the early 1920s, on a (fictional) Irish Ireland, Colin Farrell (incredible) is Pádraic, a well-meaning, good-hearted fellow… or at least he starts off that way, before his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson – also incredible), bored of idle chit-chat, decides he doesn’t want to be his mate anymore. From there, McDonagh explores a disintegrating relationship, flame-throwing into the mix politics, art, donkeys, and dismemberment. With an excellent supporting cast providing various degrees of heartbreak – including Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister Siobhán, and the ever-reliable Barry Keoghan as a horrendously troubled young man – McDonagh gives us a note-perfect piece of upsetting melancholia that socks you in the gut.
19 of 20
We – that is to say, Empire (and, well, an entire generation of cinemagoers) – were trepidatious. Over 30 years after Top Gun defined a decade and made Tom Cruise an icon, he and producer Jerry Bruckheimer were bringing Maverick back to the Danger Zone. No good could come from it! This is 2022, for Pete Mitchell’s sake! But it’s clear Tom Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer also didn’t want to trample on his legacy. Along with director Joseph Kosinski and a crack team of screenwriters – including Cruise’s personal wingman Christopher McQuarrie – they created a sequel that improves on the original in every way. Top Gun: Maverick has a humongous beating heart, some of the most thrilling action sequences ever devised, and cracking chemistry all-round – from Maverick’s tête-à-têtes with his gruff superiors, to Rooster (Miles Teller) and Hangman’s (Glen Powell) fractious squabbling… and then there’s that Val Kilmer scene. We laughed. We cried. We clenched. Action cinema doesn’t get better than this.
20 of 20
Even in the vastness of the multiverse, the chances of a film as boundlessly creative, heart-stoppingly emotional, and adrenaline-poundingly exciting as Everything Everywhere All At Once coming into existence is slim-to-none. To say that the Daniels’ follow-up to the barmy Swiss Army Man is a revelation is an understatement – its combination of crude comedy, surreal sci-fi, inventive action and epic emotional stakes make it one of the most magical, original movies in recent years.
Michelle Yeoh is at the top of her game as Evelyn, a laundromat owner with too many thoughts and not enough time – with too many dreams and too little commitment to making them happen. As it turns out, that makes her the perfect candidate to take on Jobu Tupaki, a dark force who has learned to harness the power of the multiverse, and wants to see it swallowed whole by an ‘everything bagel’ black hole.
There are dildo fights, secret raccoon-chefs, hot-dog hands, and hyper-hench pinky fingers. Jamie Lee Curtis does kung-fu in a tax office. Ke Huy Quan delivers heartbreaking monologues and beats people up with a bumbag. A near-silent scene of two rocks with googly eyes becomes pure cinematic ecstasy. But all of the absurdity in EEAAO makes the grounded, ever-relatable theme of tension between parents and children all the more powerful, with further nuance in its intersections of immigrant identity, cultural heritage, and LGBTQ+ relationships. This film is love and pain, strength and weakness, light and darkness, all wrapped up in a perfect, undefinable package. It is everything, everywhere, all at once.
What is the #1 movie in 2022? ›
1. Top Gun: Maverick. The most anticipated film of the year in the Boxoffice Pro's 2022 exhibitors' poll, Top Gun: Maverick set CinemaCon 2022 abuzz in April, kickstarting overwhelmingly positive word of mouth among movie theater executives.What are top 10 most watched movies of 2022? ›
- Top Gun: Maverick ($718 million)
- Avatar: The Way of Water ($637 million*) ...
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($453 million*) ...
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($411 million) ...
- Jurassic World: Dominion ($376 million) ...
- Minions: The Rise of Gru ($369.6 million) ...
- The Batman ($369.3 million) ...
- #1. Knock at the Cabin (2023) 68% #1. ...
- #2. You People (2023) 42% #2. ...
- #3. 80 for Brady (2023) 62% ...
- #4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) 84% ...
- #5. M3GAN (2022) 94% ...
- #6. Babylon (2022) 56% ...
- #7. Infinity Pool (2023) 86% ...
- #8. The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) 96%
|1||2015||Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens|
|3||2021||Spider-Man: No Way Home|
Billion dollar movies of 2022
With 1.49 billion dollars in revenue, Top Gun: Maverick was the highest-grossing movie of 2022, closely followed by Avatar: The Way of Water, which brought in 1.4 billion U.S. dollars worldwide.
|4||Avatar: The Way of Water||$2,213,093,090|
💯 #Kantara is already winning hearts with 9.5 IMDB rating and has become India's highest-rated. Mark your calendars for February's most anticipated blockbusters!What movie has a 100% rating? ›
'Pinocchio' (1940)What are top 5 biggest movies? ›
|4||Avatar: The Way of Water||$2,213,093,090|
What's the top 10 on Netflix right now? ›
- Pamela, a love story. #3 this week. ...
- Viking Wolf. #4 this week. ...
- Flushed Away. #5 this week. Watch now. ...
- Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. #6 this week. Watch now. ...
- Arctic. #7 this week. Watch now. ...
- Bad Boys II. #8 this week. Watch now. ...
- Sing 2. #9 this week. Watch now. ...
- Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. #10 this week. Watch now.
- Avatar (2009)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Titanic (1997)
- Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
- Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
- Jurassic World (2015)
- Knock at the Cabin (2023)
- 80 for Brady (2023)
- Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)
- M3gan (2023)
- A Man Called Otto (2022)
- Missing (2023)
- Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
- Plane (2023)