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22 films to watch in 2022

From a psychological thriller starring Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, to Robert Pattinson as The Batman, and sequels to Avatar and Knives Out, our critics pick the best releases slated for 2022.
A Hero (Credit: Amir Hossein Shojael)

A Hero (Credit: Amir Hossein Shojael)

A Hero

With its intentionally ambiguous title, A Hero is a work from one of today’s masters, Asghar Farhadi. Two of his most stirring films, A Separation and The Salesman, each won the Oscar for best foreign language film (before the category was renamed), and this latest is shortlisted for this year’s award. Once more his characters embody the clash of tradition, morality, politics and a changing society in today’s Iran. With Farhadi’s usual eloquence and precise, intimate observation, the story follows Rahim, a flawed but hugely sympathetic man imprisoned for debt. When he gets two days’ leave and tries to find a way out of that debt, a small act of dishonesty spirals out of control, and the glare of social media enhances his problems. (Caryn James)

Released in the US on 7 January

Belle

This cyberpunk update of Beauty and the Beast received a 14-minute standing ovation when it premiered at last May’s Cannes Film Festival – and it’s easy to see why. Mamoru Hosoda’s dazzling anime is a fairy-tale romance, a high-school soap opera, a superhero action movie and a science-fiction mystery all rolled into one. More than that, the film is a technical marvel in which every frame sparkles with a seemingly infinite array of tiny details. Its heroine is a Japanese schoolgirl who is too shy to sing in real life, but becomes a world-famous pop star in a virtual-reality community. Everyone is desperate to uncover the true identity of her pink-haired, blue-eyed alter ego – and when Belle meets the mysterious, monstrous Beast online, she is desperate to work out who he is, too. (Nicholas Barber)

Released on 14 January in the US and Turkey, 20 Jan in Italy, and 4 February in the UK and Spain

The Batman

Robert Pattinson channels his inner bat in this latest, grammatically precise reboot. It’s not Batman, it’s The Batman. And if you thought The Dark Knight was a moody guy, think again. Matt Reeves, who co-wrote and directs, told Empire he sees his version of the crime-fighter as a recluse inspired by Kurt Cobain, right down to a grungy, well-worn Batsuit. Pattinson has the right brooding game for this, portraying a hero who is only in his second year of saving Gotham, still finding his way as he takes on the ruthless Riddler (Paul Dano). Colin Farrell, under layers of prosthetics, is The Penguin. But seemingly there will be some humour amid the darkness and violence, going by the comical moment in one of the trailers, when The Batman deadpans to Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), in his husky, ultra-serious voice, “You’ve got a lot of cats.” (CJ)

Released internationally on 4 March

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The directing team known as Daniels (aka Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) turned eccentricity into an art form in 2016’s Swiss Army Man, their droll, blacker-than-black comedy about a flatulent corpse. Their new film, with a title suggesting controlled chaos, leaps into sci-fi. Michelle Yeoh plays a woman whose simple, relatable attempt to finish her taxes takes her across multiple universes, where she may exist as different versions of herself. The cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis as a villainous accountant who gets in her way. The trailer suggests an emotional family story, a martial arts extravaganza and a deserved showcase for Yeoh, all shaped by Daniels’ maniacally off-the-chart style. (CJ)

Released in the US and Canada on 25 March

Everything Everywhere All At Once (Credit: A24)

Everything Everywhere All At Once (Credit: A24)

Turning Red

Like Inside Out, Turning Red is a Pixar cartoon about the pains of growing up as a girl, but it is unique in lots of ways: this is Pixar’s first film to be directed solely by a woman, the first to be set in Canada, and the first to revolve around a heroine from an Asian family. The heroine in question is Meilin – or Mei – (Rosalie Chiang), a hard-working student who transforms into a huge, shaggy red panda whenever she is stressed. Given that Mei is a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian, and that the film is set in Toronto in the early-2000s, Turning Red appears to be drawn from the experiences of its writer-director, Domee Shi – except, presumably, for the bit about swelling up into a giant, furry animal. Anyway, Mei looks so sweet and fluffy in the trailer that anyone with small children should place their order for a cuddly red panda toy now. (NB)

Released internationally on 11 March

Nope

At the moment, nothing has been revealed about Nope except that 1: It stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun; 2: The poster depicts some kind of cloudy flying saucer hovering over a valley town; and 3: the same poster describes it as “A New Terror from the Mind of Academy Award Winner Jordan Peele”. Still, that information is enough for Nope to be a thrilling prospect. Peele’s first two films, Get Out and Us, also had brief titles which didn’t give away their stories – and, in fact, the less you knew about the plots in advance, the more riveting they were. But both turned out to be hugely imaginative horror movies that blended hair-raising scares and provocative social commentary. Dare you miss Peele’s third big-screen offering? The answer is: Nope. (NB)

Released on 22 July

The Northman

Robert Eggers’ small, eerie, psychologically dark stunners have marked him as one of today’s most original filmmakers. Anya Taylor-Joy, in her first starring role, was transported to the 16th Century and took on the devil in The Witch (2015), and in The Lighthouse, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe tangled with each other as isolated 19th-Century lighthouse keepers. The Northman, another period piece, takes Eggers to 10th-Century Viking Iceland, but expands his scope with an epic tale and a large top-rank cast that includes Dafoe, Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Björk and Ethan Hawke, with Alexander Skarsgård in the lead as a prince out to avenge his father’s death. Eggers’ vision promises to be as bold and bizarre as ever, with wide-scale action, intense close-ups and Kidman in yet another of her crazy-long wigs. (CJ)

Released internationally on 22 April

The Northman (Credit: Aidan Monoghan/ Focus Features)

The Northman (Credit: Aidan Monoghan/ Focus Features)

Killers of the Flower Moon

The 26th film from Martin Scorsese is his first ever Western – although it does echo some of his previous masterpieces: once again, Scorsese has opted to tell a momentous true story of greed, ambition and brutal crime. Adapted by Eric Roth from the non-fiction book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon examines the murders of several members of the Osage tribe in the 1920s. Robert De Niro plays William Hale, an Oklahoma cattle rancher who covets the oil rights of the Indigenous people, and Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hale’s conflicted nephew, who is married to an Osage tribeswoman (Lily Gladstone). Yes, the main attraction here is that we’re finally getting to see Scorsese’s two favourite leading men together in one of his films. Mind you, Jesse Plemons is sure to match them as Tom White, the FBI agent assigned to the case. (NB)

Released in 2022

The Woman King

In a year full of powerful women on screen, the two in this 19th-Century historical drama may be the most intriguing. Viola Davis, who has made fierceness her trademark style, plays the leader of a women’s military group in the African kingdom of Dahomey (a country now within present-day Benin) and Thuso Mbedu, the electrifying star of The Underground Railroad, is one of her recruits, as they fight threatening colonisers. Lashana Lynch, briefly 007 in No Time to Die, and John Boyega also star in the historical epic. Black Panther proved there’s a hunger for African heroes, and director Gina Prince-Bythewood is experienced at both character portraits (the classic relationship film Love and Basketball) and action (the 2020 superhero movie The Old Guard with Charlize Theron). (CJ)

Released in the US and Canada on 16 September

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)

One of the most innovative of all superhero films, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse pioneered its own pop-art visual style, and introduced the film world to the concept of different Spider-Men (Spider-Mans?) in alternate universes – a concept that has since been borrowed by Marvel’s live-action Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s unlikely that the sequel will be quite as inventive, but, as the sub-title suggests, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) is the first episode in a two-part story, which makes it a rarity in the world of animated films. Once again masterminded by creators of The Lego Movie Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film unites such Spider-People as Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and the Spider-Man of the year 2099 (Oscar Isaac). (NB)

Released internationally on 7 October

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage gets the role of a life, actually, his lifetime, playing a fictional version of Nicolas Cage in this tongue-in-cheek action comedy. Fictional Nic accepts a $1 million payday to make a personal appearance at a fan’s birthday party in Spain, a move that somehow comes to involve Tiffany Haddish as a CIA agent. Cage has always been savvy about his image and has a winning sense of humour about his career, which veers between respected performances, as in last year’s drama Pig, and… let’s just say a lot of over-the-top stuff. The Unbearable Weight promises to make references to plenty of his movies, so there is one safe bet: no film this year will be more meta. (CJ)

Released internationally on 22 April

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Credit: Katalin Vermes/ Lionsgate)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Credit: Katalin Vermes/ Lionsgate)

The Worst Person in the World

If you’re lucky, you can get through your 20s with none of the restrictions you had as a child, and none of the responsibilities which come later. But what should you do with all that freedom? It’s a question that puzzles Julie (Renate Reinsve) in Joachim Trier’s bittersweet romantic comedy drama, The Worst Person in the World. Divided into 12 chapters, this generational character study follows Julie through her early adulthood in Oslo as she tries to decide which job and which man are right for her. According to viewers who have seen it at festivals and preview screenings, The Worst Person in the World is one of the Best Films in the World. It currently has a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Barack Obama included it on his list of favourite movies of 2021, and the luminous Reinsve won the best actress prize at Cannes. (NB)

Released in the US on 4 February 2022

Don’t Worry Darling

This psychological thriller has been garnering tabloid and internet headlines for months, thanks to the relationship between director Oliva Wilde, and one of its stars, popstar Harry Styles. What’s on screen is likely to be much more fascinating, though. The ever-surprising Florence Pugh – of Little WomenMidsommar and Black Widow – transforms herself yet again, into a 1950s housewife in a utopian community who begins to suspect that her world and her husband (Styles) are concealing dark secrets. Wilde, who sharply directed the very different coming-of-age comedy Booksmart, has told Vogue that films like Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal were among her inspirations here because they “are really sexy, in a grown-up way”. That would certainly set her film apart in a world of superheroes. (CJ)

Released internationally in on 23 September

She Said

Journalists are the heroines here, with Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan playing the New York Times investigative reporters who unearthed the news about Harvey Weinstein, the one-time movie mogul now serving time in prison for rape and sexual assault. The woman behind the camera is as impressive as the stars, if less famous: Maria Schrader, recognisable as an actress (Deutschland 83) is also the Emmy-winning director of the Netflix series Unorthodox and the director of the Oscar-shortlisted comedy I’m Your Man. She should bring a sharp-eyed style and astute social awareness to the story that helped launch #MeToo. (CJ)

Released in the US on 18 November

Babylon

Damien Chazelle’s love of Hollywood’s golden age shone through his Oscar-nominated musical comedy, La La Land. Now the writer-director is sharing that love again in Babylon, a glamorous period drama that takes place in the roaring 20s. Specifically, the film is set at the end of the silent era, much like Singin’ In The Rain and The Artist, and it mixes fictional characters with historical figures, much like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It also shares two of its stars with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Brad Pitt plays a fictional director who has trouble adjusting to the new sound technology, and Margot Robbie plays Clara Bow, the real-life so-called “It Girl” who was a colossal box-office draw in both the silents and the talkies. (NB)

Released on 25 December

Top Gun: Maverick (Credit: Scott Garfield/ Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun: Maverick (Credit: Scott Garfield/ Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun: Maverick

OK, so this belated Top Gun sequel was on our list of films to watch in 2021, and before that it was scheduled to come out in 2020, but we’re still optimistic that lovers of supersonic aerobatics will finally get what they’ve been waiting for this year, shortly before Tom Cruise’s 60th birthday. It was back in 1986 that Cruise last played Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a trainee fighter pilot in the US Navy. Can anyone really believe that, all these years later, Maverick would only be a captain while his old frenemy “Iceman” (Val Kilmer) would be a four-star general? Maybe not, but it should be fun to see Cruise in his Aviator shades and bomber jacket once again, alongside such new recruits to the series as Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris and Miles Teller. Cruise fans take note: Mission: Impossible 7 is due in September, too. (NB)

Released internationally on 27 May

Avatar 2

There are two things we know about James Cameron: he can’t be rushed, and he loves the ocean. Those qualities come together in Avatar 2, the first of a whopping four planned sequels to his 2009 spectacle, the highest-grossing movie of all time. The new film returns to the planet of Pandora, where blue-skinned Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and her human husband Jake (Sam Worthington) are now parents, and Earthlings still haven’t solved the climate crisis. Most of the action takes place underwater and was shot in a 900,000-gallon tank. The Avatar sequels have been in the works for a decade, but Cameron’s water-logged hits, Titanic and The Abyss, also arrived behind schedule, and it all turned out just fine. (CJ)

Released internationally (so they say) on 16 December

Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear has been central to four Toy Story feature films, his own TV series, and various animated shorts. This year, the square-jawed Space Ranger is getting a film of his own – sort of. The idea is that the Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story was a plastic action figure, whereas the new animation – a homage to the sci-fi films of the 1970s and 1980s – is the big-budget adventure movie which that action figure was based on. It’s a slightly confusing concept, but it lets director Angus MacLane (co-director of Finding Dory) and screenwriter Pete Docter (Soul, Up, Inside Out) bring back a beloved character while giving his interstellar scrapes a new look, a more serious tone, and a fresh voice: Chris Evans rather than Tim Allen is the actor who’ll be shouting, “To infinity – and beyond!” (NB)

Released internationally on 17 June

Elvis

It’s been almost a decade since the release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, but the Australian writer-director of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge! is back at last. Never one to shy away from a big, risky project, Luhrmann has made an Elvis Presley biopic that chronicles 20 years in the life of The King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Austin Butler – an uncanny lookalike – has the title role, alongside Olivia DeJonge as Elvis’s wife Priscilla and Tom Hanks as his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, the Dutch carnival worker who reinvented himself as an all-American impresario. Don’t be surprised if Luhrmann indulges his addiction to loud music and splashy spectacle in the Las Vegas scenes – and don’t be surprised if Hanks is nominated for an Oscar in 2023. (NB)

Released on 24 June

Ana de Armas will play Marylin Monroe in Blonde (Credit: Getty Images/ Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Ana de Armas will play Marylin Monroe in Blonde (Credit: Getty Images/ Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Blonde

It’s Ana de Armas’s turn to put on the platinum wig as Marilyn Monroe, whose allure for novelists and filmmakers seems inexhaustible. Blonde is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel that takes us inside the mind of Monroe, now known to the world as the neediest, sexiest and most tragically-exploited movie star of the 1950s and ’60s. Writer-director Andrew Dominick, who made the underrated Brad Pitt Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, follows Oates’ lead in coyly nicknaming Marilyn’s husbands. Adrien Brody’s character, Arthur Miller, is called only The Playwright. Bobby Cannavale, the Joe DiMaggio figure, is The Ex-Athlete. IMDb also lists a character called President’s Pimp, so there may be room for surprises even in this often-told story. (CJ)

Released in 2022

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Chadwick Boseman wasn’t just the star of Black Panther, he was an inspirational figure who revolutionised Hollywood’s representation of African and African-American characters. Shortly after he died of cancer in August 2020, Marvel’s boss, Kevin Feige, announced that no one else could play T’Challa, aka Black Panther, and so the character wouldn’t be recast for further films. This left Ryan Coogler, the director and co-writer, with a fearsomely difficult task: how to make a satisfying Black Panther sequel without the franchise’s lead actor and lead character. All we know for certain is that nearly all of the previous film’s cast and crew will return, including Lupita Nyong’o as T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend and Letitia Wright as his sister Shuri. In the comics, Shuri took on the mantle of the Black Panther while her brother was in a coma, so could something similar happen in the film? (NB)

Released on 11 November

Knives Out 2

Same private detective: Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, the sleuth with the cartoonishly over-the-top accent from some indeterminate part of the American South. Different murder mystery: this time set in Greece, with a new cast including Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe and Dave Bautista. Same writer and director: Rian Johnson, but much richer. Netflix made a deal reportedly for $469 million (including production budget) for two sequels to Johnson’s 2019 hit that evoked the classic board game Cluedo (or Clue, if you’re in North America). Whodunnits come and go, but Craig’s Blanc is an original, witty confection of a character, an engaging parody that still allows you to be invested in his crime-fighting. (CJ)

Released in 2022, possibly with an updated title

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