Exclaim!'s 20 Best Films of 2022

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 2, 2022

Horror and cinematic events reigned supreme in 2022. For the first time in what has felt like a long time, movies dominated conversations outside of film circles. Tom Cruise's gamble to keep the much-awaited sequel to Top Gun away from streaming services paid off in spades. Big names like Steven Spielberg and Jordan Peele returned to our screens with spectacle, and the Predator franchise returned with a vicious bang (albeit on Disney+).

And it wasn't just Hollywood that made a splash this year. Bollywood epics, South Korean thrillers and the feckin' Irish all showed up with explosions, deceit and incredibly dark humour. Not to be outdone, Canada's homegrown talent put to film some of the year's best. With their directorial feature debuts, Domee Shi and Nyla Innuksuk brought a Toronto fever dream and Baffin Island preteen life into our homes. Releasing her first film in 10 years, Sarah Polley tackled gender roles and a woman's place in this world with a moving return.

The movie industry certainly looks different today than in the before-times, but if 2022 is anything to go off of, the movies are officially back — and we couldn't be more excited. Here are Exclaim!'s best 20 films of the year.

20. Fire of Love
Directed by Sara Dosa


Fire of Love isn't a story of love so much as it is a story of obsession. Married volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft will stop at nothing to get the perfect shot, and, like a cross between the explorers of old and the daredevil influencers of today, they risk their lives by visiting active volcanoes around the world. They seemingly made peace with the fact that their vocation would kill them (which, spoiler alert, it did), but the footage they left behind is staggering in its terrifying beauty.
Alex Hudson

19. Prey
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg


Another stab at the Predator franchise, Dan Trachtenberg's 18th-century Prey has something for everyone — at least those who are comfortable with an R-rating. Gore and violence aside, the Disney product adheres to its distributor's winning formula: a fierce female protagonist on the cusp of adulthood carves out an identity for herself against the bidding of her male counterparts, when an extraterrestrial force presents her the chance to use her cunning to overcome its otherworldly combat skills. The film is shot gorgeously in Calgary, and would go on to become a vessel for lead actor Amber Midthunder to land herself on Variety's 10 Actors to Watch for 2022.
Allie Gregory

18. RRR
Directed by S.S. Rajamouli


In this 1920s Telugu-language epic centred on the fictional history of two Indian revolutionary freedom fighters, the opening credits arrive after 45 breathless minutes. Within this cinematic preamble, viewers are exposed to sneering colonial child abduction, shirtless tribal guardians screaming at tigers, an impeccably moustachioed officer single-handedly clubbing back hundreds of rioters, and a daring bridge rescue involving horses, motorcycles and exploding trains. Yet these scenes barely scratch the surface of RRR's three hours of dizzying spectacle, stretching gleefully from outlandish action to musical dance battles to bromance comedy and back again with reckless abandon.
Owen Morawitz

17. The Northman
Directed by Robert Eggers


This savage Norse epic earns its R rating fair and square. There's enough grunting and codpieces in this ancient tale to please Conan, and enough betrayal and palace intrigue to make Shakespeare proud. With flames and decapitations and dazzling starry nights, the stark visuals are alluring and vicious throughout, as we take in the Scandinavian landscapes and fantastic sights like a mystical ascent to Valhalla or Björk portraying an eerie witch. It's both brutal and beautiful.
Tobias Jeg

16. Turning Red
Directed by Domee Shi


As Domee Shi's debut feature film, and Pixar's first solely directed by a woman, Turning Red reads like a love letter to girlhood — a subject that, despite its potency, remains criminally unexplored. Where '90s exemplar Buffy metaphorized high school tribulations with monster battles, or fellow Canadian production Ginger Snaps made werewolves a symbol for menstruation, Turning Red deftly presents the consequences of puberty as becoming the monster (in this case, a giant red panda) thanks to a family curse that only affects women. Set in 2002, the narrative remains nevertheless timeless, while deliciously pandering to millennial nostalgia, even if the sunshiney-rainbow presentation of the setting does sort of feel like a eulogy for the golden era of early-2000s Toronto.
Allie Gregory

15. The Menu
Directed by Mark Mylod


Mark Mylod's sharp and incendiary satire perfectly captures the milieu of the fine dining world by boldly slicing through the pretension and condescension that fuels it. Utilizing the medium to its fullest, The Menu brings forth some of the most inventive gags in recent memory, making the appetizer just as fulfilling as the entrée. Add in a dash of Oscar-worthy Ralph Fiennes, and Mylod's latest is a wickedly delectable experience worthy of a Michelin star.
Prabhjot Bains

14. Barbarian
Directed by Zach Cregger

(20th Century)

The disturbing Barbarian is now available to stream on Disney+ — and while that really just comes down to who owns what, the movie itself reflects that out-of-left-field attitude. It's one that benefits from knowing as little as possible. Suffice to say, its three central performances and smart screenplay allow the material's commentary to shine without tipping over into obnoxious "elevated horror." And while its gore is neither overhyped nor overdone, its scariest moments are also bloodless, courtesy of actor Richard Brake.
Nicholas Sokic

13. Women Talking
Directed by Sarah Polley


Sarah Polley's film takes place in a Mennonite community in 2010, as the men in the community sexually assault the women in their sleep. The women try to decide if they're going to leave, stay and fight, or do nothing. Women Talking is captivating, as the phenomenal ensemble cast took my breath away with their incredible performances. It's not an easy watch, but it's an important one that will stick with you.
Andres Guzman

12. Triangle of Sadness
Directed by Ruben Östlund


Director Ruben Östlund has made a career out of Palme d'Or-winning satires of the privileged and wealthy, and Triangle of Sadness might be his most savage yet. Centring on a group of super-rich guests and staff aboard a luxury cruise, including a celebrity couple on the rocks, a Russian oligarch shit-seller, and a socialist philosophy-spouting Woody Harrelson among them. Triangle of Sadness holds absolutely nothing back. It's elegantly written and, at times, shockingly, hilariously disgusting.
Laura Di Girolamo

11. TÁR
Directed by Todd Field

In TÁR, Cate Blanchett plays a "U-Haul lesbian" and one of the greatest living composers. Lydia Tár is a fascinating artist and feels so real that it's almost inconceivable that she's fictional. She's incredibly flawed and the film challenges its audience to gauge the limit they'd go to root for her. Even if you're unfamiliar with the world of classical music, Blanchett keeps you interested. It's surprisingly funny, leans into horror, and surprises with the unexpected.
Sara Clements

Click "Next" to continue reading.10. Decision to Leave
Directed by Park Chan-wook

An enthralling tale of obsession which smoulders with desire and intrigue, Park Chan-wook's stunningly directed thriller is one of his most intricately constructed and devilishly erudite films. Carried by the mesmerizing chemistry between Park Hae-il and Tang Wei as a veteran police detective and the suspect of a murder case, respectively, the interlacing threads of Decision to Leave deviously unfold in such a way to fully and completely absorb viewers into its audacious, alluring mystery.
Chris Luciantonio

9. The Fabelmans
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg celebrates himself in this semi-autobiographical story of a precocious kid with a burgeoning talent for directing. Scenes in which the young Sammy Fabelman teaches himself about filmmaking are a delight, providing the counterpoint to the poignant moments of family drama driven by a gripping performance by Michelle Williams as Sammy's radiant yet erratic mom. Beautifully shot and patiently paced, this touching coming-of-age comedy is a low-key triumph.
Alex Hudson

8. The Banshees of Inisherin
Directed by Martin McDonagh

Tragedy and comedy have never been married with such riotous poignancy. Martin McDonagh's masterpiece brings forth plenty of cursing, contemplation, and one of the most lovable donkeys ever committed to celluloid. The Banshees of Inisherin is a hauntingly beautiful treatise on isolation, despair and forgiveness, all the while tapping into the rich thematic veins of Irish humour and folklore. Couple this with two transcendent performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and it's one feckin' fantastic film.
Prabhjot Bains

7. Top Gun: Maverick
Directed by Joseph Kosinski

The original Top Gun, released in 1986, kinda stinks. But just like he did with the Mission: Impossible franchise, Tom Cruise takes a cornball IP from his past and turns it into a white-knuckle thrill ride, thanks to his apparent willingness to risk his life for an incredible stunt. A green screen simply can't replace the intensity of practical effects, so when Maverick's actors are shown actually flying in fighter jets — they were passengers and not pilots, but still! — it feels like you're in the cockpit with them. Is it army propaganda? Yeah, probably. But this big-screen spectacle was a stunning way to return to cinemas after COVID lockdowns.
Alex Hudson

6. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Directed by Tom Gormican

Nicolas Cage, no stranger to meta-fiction, takes on his most challenging role yet: Nicolas Cage. Part buddy action-comedy, part self-referential commentary on Nic's gonzo public image and film auteurism, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is so funny and likeable you'll want to start it all over again once it's finished. It's a rare smart action-comedy that, at its character-driven core, tells a story about a man who isn't sure if he's proud of his enormous legacy or embarrassed by it.
Laura Di Girolamo

5. Slash/Back
Directed by Nyla Innuksuk

During the long days of summer in the North, a group of 14-year-old Inuit girls in Pangnirtung, NU, come across a deformed polar bear who moves and attacks unlike any animal they've come across before. The girls, led by Maika (Tasiana Shirley), take it upon themselves to stop whatever this creature is from taking over the town and arm themselves with their fathers' hunting weapons. A fun and thrilling alien invasion story from start to finish, director Nyla Innuksuk breathes new life into the genre. Nunavut's natural beauty is on display for the world to see in stunning landscapes and mountainous fjords that add a unique texture to the film.
Rachel Ho

4. Nope
Directed by Jordan Peele

With Nope, Jordan Peele's transformation into one of the most beloved directors of the past decade is complete. Reuniting with Daniel Kaluuya and adding Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun, among others, Nope tackles fundamental ground for Hollywood blockbusters: the alien sighting. Rather than a rote exploration of familiar territory, it creates some of the most memorable spectacles of the year (this is a movie made for IMAX if there ever was one) while working in thematic and story threads that manage to critique Hollywood's creation of the very same. It's a complex balancing act that, in Peele's hands, seems effortless.
Nicholas Sokic

3. All Quiet on the Western Front
Directed by Edward Berger

Nearly a century since All Quiet on the Western Front was first published, WWI veteran Erich Maria Remarque's message remains as potent as ever: war fucking sucks. The latest adaptation of the 1929 novel is a chilling nightmare, as director Edward Berger follows 17-year-old enlistee Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) through waterlogged trenches and on horrifying sprints across no man's land — shots that are contrasted by images of political leaders sipping tea in opulent rooms far away from the Western Front. The cinematography makes it all feel disturbingly real, while the score by Volker Bertelmann features one of the most chilling musical motifs I've ever heard in a film. Once it's over, viewers will be immensely grateful to be in the comfort of their homes — and desperate to prevent anyone from ever doing this again.
Alex Hudson

2. Pearl / X
Directed by Ti West

Yes, we're counting these as one entry. Ti West's X introduced to us a lushly sensuous world and a host of uniquely bawdy characters recalling the best Hollywood horrors. With Pearl, West and star Mia Goth seem to have answered a desire many of us were too shy to voice — more time spent within this irreverent world. X and Pearl accomplish what the best horrors do: they inspire the kind of disgust that keeps us from looking away, inspiring within us that intuitive bent toward voyeurism that few contemporary movies are bold enough to indulge. West and Goth are at their best as they unabashedly excavate the festering underbelly of X's universe, and, by extension, our best worst desires. 
Alisha Mughal

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert


It's hard to put into words what the success of Everything Everywhere All at Once means. It proved that mainstream audiences are, in fact, interested in quirky indies not bound to any existing franchise. It showed studios that, without a shadow of a doubt, a primarily Asian cast could lead the box office. It introduced the world to Stephanie Hsu, reintroduced Ke Huy Quan back into our cinemas, and gave Michelle Yeoh a Hollywood role finally worth her talent. The multiverse is well-crafted, and the action sequences are brilliant in execution, with the perfect amount of directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's signature sense of humour. But the true triumph of the film is the familial heartache and love that comes unravelled. The themes of discontentment and parental love are universally felt and time-honoured, adding layers of depth not often seen in an action film. And for all those Asian kids out there who never saw themselves or their families on screen, EEAAO truly became everything to us, all at once.
Rachel Ho

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