clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The best movies of 2022

Here’s what excited us the most on screen this year

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

From big theatrical events like Top Gun: Maverick to a shockingly good year in horror, it’s been a memorable year at the movies.

What makes a movie worth including as one of Polygon’s best? We like many different types of movies here, from genre fare to the kind of stuff that makes you think. If it made us laugh, made us cry, made us ponder, or made us squeal in excitement, it’s probably here.

We asked Polygon’s staffers to submit their favorite movies of the year. Some ranked theirs, some didn’t. Some included 25, some included five. We were able to take that data and translate it into this extremely scientific*, definitive** list of the best movies of the year.

Nobody has had a chance to see everything — we’re publishing this in early December, which meant collecting ballots in November. That means only a select few have seen The Way of Water, and very few people have seen Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, The Fabelmans, or Glass Onion, to name a few examples. But that’s why we’re a team! With our powers combined, we’ve seen nearly all of the relevant 2022 releases, and we’ve sorted through our feelings to determine which ones are the best — just for you.

Below are Polygon’s top 10 movies of the year, as voted on by our staffers. We’ll also have movies that didn’t make the cut but were worth mentioning, as well as our staffers’ top 10 ballots for your perusal. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

And if you like lists, we’ve got more lists — specifically lists of the best TV, games, anime, and books of the year.

* There was barely any science involved.
** There’s no such thing as a definitive list of the best movies. That’s, like, your opinion.


The top 10 movies of 2022

10. Everything Everywhere All at Once

A furious-looking Jamie Lee Curtis, in a grey pageboy wig and unflattering mustard-colored turtleneck, with a piece of paper with a 0 on it stapled to her forehead, pushes Michelle Yeoh through the glass partition of an office cubicle in Everything Everywhere All At Once, because that’s how this movie rolls. Image: A24

Genre: Sci-fi action
Run time: 2h 19m
Directors: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis

People who only know filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert from their tongue-in-cheek 2016 indie-movie parody Swiss Army Man — yes, that’s the one where Daniel Radcliffe spends the whole movie as a vomiting, farting corpse — may be surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and ambition of the writer-directors’ movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, which absolutely lives up to its name. It’s a wild, winning multiverse comedy slash kung-fu epic about a depressed laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh) who’s called on to save billions of alternate universes from evil, but that only scratches the surface of what the Daniels are out to achieve.

Part metaphorical attempt to reckon with the chaos of the internet age, part life-affirming argument against despair, and part reckless absurdist action movie, it’s simultaneously hilarious and touching, an impressive special-effects experiment and a tremendous mental reboot on the order of The Matrix. This is the only movie you’ll see this year (or probably ever) where one man gets beaten to death with oversized floppy dildos, while another changes the world with the Kurt Vonnegut-derived message “Be kinder to each other.” —Tasha Robinson

Everything Everywhere All at Once is available to watch on Showtime, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

9. Ambulance

Jake Gyllenhaal in Ambulance, as seen through the back glass window of the ambulance, which has a bullet hole in it. Image: Universal Pictures

Genre: Action thriller
Run time: 2h 16m
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González

Ambulance follows two brothers who steal an ambulance after a botched bank heist and lead the Los Angeles Police Department on a chase across the city, all with a couple of accidental hostages in the back. The robbers are played by Yahya Abdul Mateen II, who brings a sympathetic presence to the high-stakes chase, and Jake Gyllenhaal at his unhinged best. But it’s action director extraordinaire Michael Bay who is the real star of the show.

After 10 years in the dark dungeons of Transformers sequels, Ambulance is the best version of Michael Bay. The movie has all the hallmarks of Bay’s best work, like The Rock and Bad Boys, mixed with the mastery of new technologies that he’s shown in more recent works like 13 Hours. Drone cameras soar through car chases, handheld shots give us an up-close view of panicked amateur surgery, and every explosion looks incredible. Does every ounce of the story make perfect sense and conform to the laws of reality? No, it absolutely does not. But it is a tremendously fun two-hour-long car chase, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It feels good to have Bay back at the top of his game. —Austen Goslin

Ambulance is available to watch on Prime Video, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

8. Aftersun

The father and daughter in Aftersun lounge on chairs next to the water. Image: Mubi

Genre: Drama
Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Charlotte Wells
Cast: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall

The human memory is, famously, unreliable — faulty to the point of being thrown out even when it’s your sworn testimony. Childhood memories are perhaps the best example of this: Even a small, isolated memory can completely change tone later when seen with the full spectrum of adulthood, filtered through the prism of concern and care that comes with it. It’s a tough concept to wrap your brain around at times. And so Aftersun feels like a small miracle in the ways it not only captures that scope but manages to frame the whole concept with grace.

Young father Calum (Paul Mescal) and his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) are on a rare resort vacation, a fading moment captured by her on a clunky camcorder (at least partially; you know what it’s like to hand a kid a video camera). While that plot is simple in construction, the execution of it is far more profound, capturing the wistful vantage points of both Calum’s and Sophie’s experiences on holiday with equal, vivid clarity. In Aftersun’s hands, memory is just as slippery as it’s always been. Sometimes conversations wash over Sophie and threaten to drown Calum; growing up is seeing the full picture of their trip, and Aftersun is quietly devastating in its ability to capture that. It’s a testament to the performances at the center of it (Mescal’s compassionate weariness most of all) that the film manages to suggest so much without overstating its point. After all, memory may be unreliable, but sometimes memory — echoed in a grainy camcorder or the recollection of a warm embrace — is all we have. —Zosha Millman

Aftersun is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

7. Saloum

Three men wearing ponchos look inside a box and smile in Saloum Image: Shudder

Genre: Action horror
Run time: 1h 24m
Director: Jean Luc Herbulot
Cast: Yann Gael, Mentor Ba, Roger Sallah

I don’t want to say too much about Saloum, because part of the joy of the movie is the way it dramatically unfurls in surprising directions. A charming group of mercenaries escorting a drug lord from Guinea-Bissau to Senegal have to land their plane unexpectedly early, and then things spiral from there. But I will say this: It’s a joyous genre mashup with gorgeous characterization, terrific lead actors, and a jaw-dropping third act. You won’t regret it.—Pete Volk

Saloum is available to stream on Shudder and AMC Plus through Prime Video, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.

6. Tár

Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) makes a vigorous full-body downward gesture while conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Todd Field’s Tár Image: Focus Features

Genre: Drama
Run time: 2h 38m
Director: Todd Field
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant

Todd Field’s first film in nearly two decades stars Cate Blanchett as the eponymous Lydia Tár, a globally renowned (and entirely fictitious) composer-conductor who is faced with a professional and personal reckoning brought upon by her many transgressions and infidelities. Exquisitely well paced, scrupulously detailed, and impeccably performed, Tár marks the return of a director whose small body of work belies a mastery and vision seldom seen in all but the greatest of his contemporaries in their prime.

Field’s film is more ambitious and interesting than any simple screed either against or on behalf of so-called cancel culture. Over the course of its run time, Tár reveals itself as something far more complex and harder to nail down: an incisive exploration of the myriad ways in which the abuse of power, both institutional and personal, manifests, while also a story that attempts to dispel the myth of “genius” and the aura of exonerating virtue in which it is imbued, to probe at the ugly, complicated, and incontrovertibly human truth at its center.

The film accomplishes this by centering on a character who embodies a multitude of contradictions: a woman who is at once unquestionably gifted, indisputably reprehensible, and so coercively charismatic as to nearly, if not outright, elicit reluctant sympathy even when viewed at her worst. Blanchett so thoroughly inhabits the role of Lydia Tár that it feels impossible to even imagine this film existing without her, affording a performance befitting one of the greatest actors of their time. There is more to be said and written about Tár than can comfortably fit in the space of a paragraph, let alone a sentence, but the bottom line is this: Tár is one of the best films of the year, if not the best. —Toussaint Egan

Tár is available to stream on Peacock, or for rent or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

5. Barbarian

Georgina Campbell pulls a rope in Barbarian Image: 20th Century Studios

Genre: Horror comedy
Run time: 1h 43m
Director: Zach Cregger
Cast: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long

Perhaps the ultimate “don’t go into the basement” movie, Barbarian follows Tess, a young woman who has the unfortunate fate of getting double-booked at an Airbnb with a strange man in a less-than-ideal part of town. And then things get way worse. And then things get way worse again.

Barbarian is the rare horror movie that manages to keep upping the ante with new and bigger surprises every few minutes, without ever feeling like it’s holding anything back. Just when you think the creepy guy Tess has to stay the night with is going to be trouble, the movie opens up a whole subterranean basement of horrible twists and shocking grossness.

Maybe the most surprising of these twists is how frequently the movie jumps between its gruesomely violent moments and funny jokes, without ever letting either feel out of place and making the whole movie a shockingly fun time. —AG

Barbarian is available to stream on HBO Max, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.

4. Nope

Emerald (Keke Palmer) wearing a white graphic T-shirt at night in Nope Image: Universal Pictures

Genre: Sci-fi horror
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya, Steven Yeun

Nope is yet another thoughtful and fun sci-fi horror from one of the best filmmakers currently working.

Ostensibly a movie about trying to prove the existence of a UFO, Nope is a profound meditation on the role of cameras and filmmaking not only in our society, but also in the struggle against oppression and racism toward Black people in America. Two siblings on the outskirts of the filmmaking industry (but with deep ties to the history of cinema’s formation) use all the tools at their disposal (and their wits) to capture proof of something they know is true but others will not believe. It is not a big leap to connect their quest to that of the many brave Black Americans who have attempted to document injustices against them on camera, something Peele himself has talked about in the context of this movie. And Peele’s movie goes further, pulling in deeper themes about who gets access to the tools needed to document their stories, what support looks like in times of crisis, Cosmicism, and animal actors, all wrapped within a story of pursuing that one perfect shot.

Nope is also anchored by one of the best sibling relationships I’ve ever seen. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer have an electric chemistry that leaps off the screen, and you instantly believe they’d do anything for each other. It is also Jordan Peele’s ode to the filmmaking style of Steven Spielberg, and thus the most blockbuster-y of his oeuvre to date (with great monster design to boot).

Nope has only grown in my estimation since watching it, as my brain constantly finds itself returning to its powerful images and ideas. Nope serves as further proof of Peele’s mastery of both unforgettable ideas and arresting images, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next. —PV

Nope is available to watch on Peacock, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

3. The Banshees of Inisherin

Colm (Brendan Gleeson) plays violin at a table in the local pub in The Banshees of Inisherin Photo: Jonathan Hession/Searchlight Pictures

Genre: Dramedy
Run time: 1h 54m
Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan

The Banshees of Inisherin is a bit of a miracle. Writer and director Martin McDonagh’s previous film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, received many Oscar nominations and took home two acting awards, most memorably for Frances McDormand. It’s an ugly film with a misguided interpretation of bigotry in America, but so was Crash, and that didn’t stop its creator from landing a Bond movie. That’s how things work: When an artist gets this much attention, they usually make the most of producers hoping to re-create similar success. Instead, McDonagh took the longest creative break of his career.

Four years later, McDonagh returns with a film that doubles as a conclusion to a loose trilogy of plays he’d abandoned in the mid-2000s. (Don’t worry, you needn’t have seen off-Broadway favorites like The Lieutenant of Inishmore to appreciate this movie.) The Banshees of Inisherin has a cinematic grace, the camera floating through the hills of a small Irish island. But the story has the premise of a killer play: an older artist (Brendan Gleeson) calls off a lifelong friendship with a farmer (Colin Farrell) with no warning and little explanation. The harder the farmer fights to reunite, the more extreme the artist’s efforts to break ties.

It doesn’t take a close inspection to spot McDonagh’s own questions about the prioritization of art and the artist. But McDonagh is too clever a writer to frame the farmer as some pure, noble good. He can be downright annoying. A troupe of characters fill out the spectrum of views between the farmer and the artist, and by the end, McDonagh has seemingly juiced this scenario for every philosophical and existential question it contains — never taking too clear a stance on any answer.

Banshees is the opposite of Three Billboards: vulnerable, beautiful, and utterly obsessed with the aching complexity of even the most banal life. McDonagh could have made a lot of money or a vanity project. Instead he took a beat, then made this quiet masterpiece. —Chris Plante

The Banshees of Inisherin is available to stream on HBO Max, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

2. Decision to Leave

Detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il), in a dapper suit, points a gun off screen against a backdrop of dark greenery in Decision to Leave Image: MUBI

Genre: Mystery romance
Run time: 2h 18m
Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Park Hae-il, Tang Wei

Park Chan-wook’s follow-up to The Handmaiden is a completely different kind of love story: a police procedural about a detective, Hae-jun (Park Hae-il) falling for an insightful, soft-spoken woman he’s investigating for murder. This slow-burn story crosses through so many genres that it may leave viewers a bit baffled about what they’re watching, until, with a series of almost audible clicks, each segment of the puzzle-piece narrative falls together, building to an unforgettable conclusion. It’s the kind of immaculately crafted experience that may leave people wanting to watch it again immediately, just to appreciate the eventual impact of all the tiny details that didn’t add up the first time around. But by the end, it comes into focus as a portrait of obsession, devotion, division, and some very clever scheming. —TR

Decision to Leave is available to stream on Mubi, or for digital rental or purchase on Apple and Amazon.

1. RRR

A shirtless Jr NTR shoots an arrow through a gap in a wall of fire in RRR Image: DVV Entertainment

Genre: Historical action epic
Run time: 3h 7m
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
Cast: N.T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan

Every cinematic possibility explodes across the screen in S.S. Rajamouli’s three-hour historical action epic. Too much hype? There is no overselling the spectacle of RRR, which reimagines the real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem as superheroic protectors capable of outmaneuvering ferocious beasts, battling battalions of men into submission, and slapping imperialist assholes with motorcycles like Jet Li in The One. Rajamouli, seemingly fueled by 100 years of Eastern and Western classics, drops the film’s thunderous-applause-worthy moments with the precision of the jokes in Airplane; just when you think dopamine levels might drop after a physics-defying rescue sequence, Rama (Ram Charan) and Bheem (Jr. NTR) hit the dance floor, snap their suspenders, and fight colonialism through the power of footwork. “Dance like a scorpion has bitten you!” they proclaim in Telugu, though their moves speak even louder than words. Every second of RRR is like this.

This may sound familiar in Hollywood’s mega-scale era, and RRR’s bombast would be fluff if not for its human, melodramatic core. Charan and Jr. NTR, bona fide movie stars, balance ferocity with chumminess as they carry the life-or-death weight of a nation on their backs and ward off a violent British officer (played with mustache-twirling despicableness by Ray Stevenson). The way Rajamouli rewires the past has been rightfully interrogated for riding a fine line between patriotism and propaganda (in a way similar to Top Gun: Maverick’s military sales pitch), but the director’s tight grasp on emotionality feels like the antidote. Bheem, a hero of India’s Gond tribe in search of an abducted girl, is a vulnerable man, even as he unleashes a wave of wild animals on his Western adversaries. Rama, the rare Indian member of the Imperial police who unknowingly hunts Bheem while also befriending him, is the definition of a compassionate Best Bud, though we know he’s sold his soul. All the complications and self-actualizing make RRR a dimensional work of pop fiction — and the kind you never see at this scale. —Matt Patches

RRR is available to watch on Zee5, and the Hindi dub is available to watch on Netflix.

The best of the rest

The movies that just missed the cut (or had dedicated fans on staff who made damn sure they were included).

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

“I NEED TO TALK TO YOU” is projected in neon letters onto a flat surface, with a young woman standing in front of it. Image: Utopia

Genre: Horror
Run time: 1h 26m
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Cast: Anna Cobb

Writer-director Jane Schoenbrun has created something truly special: a coming-of-age horror film for the generation that grew up too online. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair communicates the excitement and fear that accompany creating a new self on the internet, as well as the excitement and fear of encountering others online who think they know you.

Casey, an internet-obsessed lonely teenager (Anna Cobb, in an unforgettable feature film debut), stumbles across The World’s Fair Challenge, a horror-themed online challenge that promises physical changes to those who take part. Casey begins to create videos of her participation in the challenge, opening the door to new experiences (and spectators) in her physical and virtual lives.

With effective use of creepypasta aesthetics (including striking collaborations with real YouTube creators), We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is an unsettling, immersive internet horror experience that is at once new and familiar to those who have visited these remote corners of the internet. Schoenbrun’s feature debut is one to remember, and they’re a filmmaker to keep an eye on as new projects emerge. —PV

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is available to stream on HBO Max, for free with a library card on Hoopla, or for digital rental on Amazon and Apple.

Athena

A side profile shot of a group of young men in black tracksuits with smoke and fireworks in the distance. Photo: Kourtrajmeuf Kourtrajme/Netflix

Genre: Thriller
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Romain Gavras
Cast: Sami Slimane, Dali Benssalah, Ouassini Embarek

A pure adrenaline shot in cinematic form, celebrated music video director Romain Gavras’ feature debut is an unforgettable concoction of escalating tensions in a small French village. After a young boy is murdered, a community is thrown into turmoil and conflict with the police. Featuring some of the most stunning one-take sequences you’ll ever see, incredible leading performances, and the best title drop of the year, Athena is not one to be missed. Just watch the opening scene — you won’t regret it, and you’ll likely just keep going from there. It’s a shame the movie is exactly one scene too long, but even a bad ending can’t take away the power of this one. —PV

Athena is available to watch on Netflix.

After Yang

Colin Ferrell examines his dark reflection in glass, symbolically, in After Yang Photo: Sundance Institute

Genre: Sci-fi
Run time: 1h 36m
Director: Kogonada
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min

The latest from Columbus director Kogonada, After Yang is a melancholy science fiction movie that balances the question of how we should think about artificial life with the more intriguing question about how it should think about us. Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith star as adoptive parents raising a young Chinese girl, with the help of a “technosapien” — an android programmed as her language tutor, cultural advisor, and big brother. When his systems fail, the family goes through exactly what they’d experience at the death of any family member, with the added question of what his death tells them about their lives and relationships. It’s a small, quiet, meditative film, but it’s visually rich and packed with ideas about prejudice and assumptions, cultural assimilation, and the way everyone is navigating an inner life that would astonish everyone around them. —TR

After Yang is available to watch on Showtime, or for digital rental on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

Catherine Called Birdy

Joe Alwyn and Bella Ramsey play with swords in Catherine Called Birdy. Photo: Alex Bailey/Prime Video

Genre: Comedy
Run time: 1h 48m
Director: Lena Dunham
Cast: Bella Ramsey, Andrew Scott, Billie Piper

Lena Dunham’s adaptation of middle-grade historical novel Catherine, Called Birdy is the rare film version that strays from the book in a good way. Bella Ramsey stars as headstrong Catherine, a teenage girl in the Middle Ages who is frustrated with her limited options in life. While she wants to enjoy her girlhood and stomp around the mud with the goat boys, as the daughter of the village’s lord, she’s expected to be married off to whoever pays most handsomely for her hand. The book was a diary, focused on Catherine’s spunky voice and sharp observations, and while the movie keeps Catherine’s narration, it also offers a more nuanced look at the world around her. Catherine’s father, Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott), for instance, isn’t a greedy and lazy man who treats his daughter and wife as pawns, but a flawed person trying to rectify his mistakes and provide for his family and village. It’s a lovely little look into the daily life of a medieval lady, but also with a more overarching plot throughline than the book. —Petrana Radulovic

Catherine Called Birdy is available to watch on Prime Video.

A Hero

Mohsen Tanabandeh, Saleh Karimai and Amir Jadidi  Photo: Amir Hossein Shojaei/Amazon Studios

Genre: Thriller
Run time: 2h 7m
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Amir Jadidi, Sahar Goldust, Mohsen Tanabandeh

[Ed. note: Farhadi has been accused of plagiarizing the idea of A Hero by a former student.]

Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi returns with another stunner, painting a beautiful, nuanced picture of a man in crisis. Amir Jadidi is phenomenal as Rahim, a charming man who simply can not get his life together, no matter how much his friends and family love him. When his girlfriend finds an abandoned handbag with gold coins inside, Rahim considers using the money to pay off his debt while out on a brief furlough from debtor’s prison. But after a series of events leads him to return the bag and money to a woman who says she’s the original owner, he becomes the subject of a local media frenzy for his charitable act.

A moving, challenging story about the difficulties of trying to do the right thing in an unjust world, A Hero is also a study of how difficult it is to pin down clear motives or objective truth, especially when facing a story filtered through layers of personal and organizational agendas. Even the truth about your own actions and motivations can be difficult to sort through. And if you do actually find it, is it actually for navigating the world? A Hero is a stirring, unforgettable work that should not be missed. —PV

A Hero is available to watch on Prime Video.

The Woman King

The warrior Izogie (Lashana Lynch) throws a male warrior to the ground during a battle in The Woman King Image: Sony Pictures

Genre: Historical action drama
Run time: 2h 14m
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Cast: Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, John Boyega

Gina Prince-Bythewood takes the next step onward from her pivot to superhero action, Netflix’s The Old Guard, and lays out a historical epic that’s rousing, thrilling, and fierce as hell. Viola Davis stars in The Woman King as General Nanisca, leader of the Agojie, an all-female band of elite warriors charged with protecting the West African kingdom of Dahomey in the 1820s, as a larger and more powerful neighboring tribe begins kidnapping Dahomey citizens to sell to European slave traders. The Agojie were real — they’re the inspiration for Black Panther’s Dora Milaje — and Prince-Bythewood drew heavily from their real-life art, music, fashion, weaponry, language, culture, and fighting styles to give the film texture, though in other ways it’s as fictionalized as Braveheart, Gandhi, or any other Hollywood historical epic. The result is a rich and thrilling underdog story with Prince-Bythewood’s usual attention to character-building, relationship-building, and steeping all the big plot beats in believable human emotion. It’s a familiar good-versus-evil story with familiar beats, but told in a way that’s rare for American screens, and with a level of detail, energy, and verve that keeps it engaging and personal through every epic battle. —TR

The Woman King is available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Crimes of the Future

Seriously, Viggo Mortensen more or less in Assassin’s Creed cosplay in Crimes of the Future Photo: Nikos Nikolopoulos/NEON

Genre: Science fiction
Run time: 1h 47m
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart

The master of body horror returns with a shockingly prescient script written nearly 30 years ago, tackling subjects as varied as art and the creative process, our relationships to our bodies and governments’ relationships to them, disability and aging, and (as often is the case with his movies) queerness and sexuality at an angle. There’s a lot going on in Crimes of the Future, and it’s all contained within a fascinating sci-fi tale with efficient and evocative world-building, incredible production design (the chairs in this movie!!! Viggo’s coat!!!), and some of the best performances of the year. —PV

Crimes of the Future is available to watch on Hulu.

The Northman

Alexander Skarsgard, wearing a wolf skin, howls during a firelight war ritual in The Northman Image: Focus Feature

Genre: Historical epic
Run time: 2h 17m
Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman

Few things go better together than Vikings and revenge, and The Northman is the perfect proof. Drawing inspiration from the same Norse myth that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet, director Robert Eggers (The VVitch, The Lighthouse) has created a historical epic of the sort we rarely get to see anymore. The story follows Amleth (Alexander Skarsgaard) as he seeks revenge against his Uncle, who murdered his father and usurped his throne.

The Northman is a brutal movie, but among Amleth’s epic battles and lava-soaked duals, there’s a surprising heart and humanity, giving the character more compelling motivation than most revenge movies manage. Eggers brings this balance to every aspect of the movie, whether it’s the beauty and harshness of the Icelandic landscape, or combining incredibly detailed realism with the more operatic side of Norse cosmology. With this careful symmetry of real and surreal, The Northman is about as close as any movie has come to bringing the fantasy of myths to a live-action film. —AG

The Northman is available to stream on Prime Video, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise does some mechanic stuff, hotly, in Top Gun: Maverick. Photo: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Genre: Action
Run time: 2h 11m
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Glen Powell

“The sequel was so much better than the original” isn’t something movie fans say or hear often, but it’s true in the case of Top Gun: Maverick, a 36-years-later check-in on the high-flying 1986 action movie that gave Tom Cruise the need for speed. Cruise is back as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the Navy test pilot who continually lives up to his name by breaking rules, flouting superiors, and charting his own course.

But Top Gun: Maverick walks far enough away from Top Gun’s testosterone-scented smugness to consider the cost of the Maverick life: namely, reaching a point where a fed-up military is ready to put Mav out to pasture, and he has to settle for teaching a class of up-and-coming fliers, some of whom as are as cocky and off-putting as he used to be. Maverick is an intense action movie where the actors really are flying planes and filming themselves in the cockpits, and even though the ending is a foregone conclusion, director Joe Kosinski pulls off plenty of breathless “Is this where they all die?” action. But the film is more interesting and more satisfying for its emotional elements, which include a tearjerking salute to (and premature goodbye to) visibly ailing Top Gun star Val Kilmer, and Maverick making it clear that he still keenly feels the loss of his wingman Goose more than 30 years later. —TR

Top Gun: Maverick is available on Paramount Plus, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.

Baby Assassins

The assassins from Baby Assassins shoot a guy in the head while wearing their school uniforms. The one doing the shooting appears out of a trash can, while the other one holds a trash bag over the victim’s head. Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

Genre: Action comedy
Run time: 1h 35m
Director: Yugo Sakamoto
Cast: Akari Takaishi, Saori Izawa

A rare action comedy that is equal parts funny and kick-ass, Baby Assassins is an eccentric slice-of-life story about two (extremely) teenage girls who happen to kill people for a living.

Chisato and Mahiro would like nothing more than to perform their killer duties and then just laze around their apartment all day. When they’re asked by their boss to get part-time jobs in an effort to better integrate into society, the two girls struggle to find an alternative means to conflict resolution… outside of murder.

More a fish-out-of-water comedy than pure action movie, the fight choreography in Baby Assassins is nonetheless great. It features exciting hand-to-hand combat and gunplay that works well with the comedy, with many physical punchlines. Gamers, take note: Action director Kensuke Sonomura is a celebrated video game fight choreographer who has done extensive work on the Devil May Cry and Resident Evil series, as well as Vanquish and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. —PV

Baby Assassins is available to watch on Hi-Yah!, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.

Turning Red

Turning Red: Mei (Rosalie Chiang) shows her red panda self off to her friends Image: Pixar

Genre: Family fantasy comedy
Run time: 1h 40m
Director: Domee Shi
Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh

It’s hard to look back fondly at the painfully awkward middle-school years, but Pixar’s Turning Red considers the tumultuous ups and downs of early adolescence without flinching, and with an astonishing amount of love. Domee Shi, who directed 2018’s Pixar short Bao, makes her theatrical debut with this one-of-a-kind movie that envelopes quirky magic, cultural specificity, and most of all, an absolute love for young girlhood in all its messy glory.

Thirteen-year-old Mei discovers that she turns into a gigantic red panda when she’s overwhelmed by strong emotion — a quirk all the women of her family have been burdened with since ancient times. Mei struggles to control the panda just as other family members have, but she also starts to discover her own identity outside of her family, and to embrace that side of herself. The giant-red-panda-sized emotions she feels at the cusp of adulthood translate into giant emotions for the audience, who can look back on that pivotal time of their lives where everything felt like so much all at once. Turning Red balances those deep emotions with some charming humor and genuine sweetness, and it’s one of the best and most unique films in Pixar’s canon. —PR

Turning Red is available to watch on Disney Plus, or for digital purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play and Vudu.

Bones and All

Young lovers Lee (Timothée Chalamet) and Maren (Taylor Russell) sit in a sunny field together, each frowning into space, in Bones and All Photo: Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Genre: Romance/horror
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance

Bones and All is a beautiful little love story between two teens who just happen to be born with the affliction to crave human flesh. It may sound gross, and at times it can be, but director Luca Guadagnino is a master of using grossness as a vehicle for intimacy, and he’s never been better at it than in Bones and All.

The film follows Maren (played marvelously by Taylor Russell), who’s recently run away from home after her latest incident. After a less-than-fortunate meeting with another “eater,” Maren meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet at his most gaunt, playing a careful mix of vulnerable and defensive), and the movie’s love story gets rolling as the two travel the back roads of America’s heartland in a beat-up truck. Guadagnino shoots the Midwest as if America had never seen a building taller than two stories and turns fields of grass and grain into a massive stage to host and contrast some of Maren and Lee’s most intimate and loving moments.

Thanks to the cannibalism of it all, Bones and All is also a movie that’s almost too easy to reduce to metaphors (for growing up, for falling in love, for being an outsider), but the outstanding performances from Chalamet and Russell keep the movie’s feet planted firmly on the floor of their romance, never letting anything, real or metaphorical, get in its way. Even with the cannibalism, Guadagnino’s tender filmmaking and his two excellent performances make Bones and All one of the sweetest and warmest road trip romances in recent memory. —AG

Bones and All is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, and Vudu.

Inu-Oh

Detail from the poster for Inu-Oh, with a character in blue playing a biwa Image: Science Saru/GKIDS

Genre: Historical fantasy/musical
Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Cast: Avu-chan, Mirai Moriyama, Tasuku Emoto

The latest surreal anime movie from Lu Over the Wall, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, and Ride Your Wave director Masaaki Yuasa features all his usual elements — wildly bending rubber-band bodies that look like nothing else in anime and energetic musical sequences, both being used to underline and emphasize the powerful emotions on display. But Inu-Oh goes further than usual with both. The story of a spirit-plagued mutant and a cursed biwa-playing monk who band together to revolutionize music in 14th-century Japan is part historical epic, part rock ’n’ roll origin story. There are some deep and painful themes here, about how regimes rewrite and reshape history with no regard for those who lived it, but they’re expressed with a joyful, often manic energy that becomes visually stunning on screen, especially during the extensive concerts that tell the stories of lost battles and lost souls. It’s a unique experience, like all Yuasa’s films, which each play with the range of human emotion in different ways. And like Yuasa’s recent work in general, it stretches the boundaries of anime — of what kind of stories can be told, and how. —TR

Inu-Oh is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Fire Island

Will (Conrad Ricamora) and Noah (Joel Kim Booster) walk on the beach together in Fire Island. Photo: Jeong Park/Searchlight

Genre: Romantic comedy
Run time: 1h 45m
Director: Andrew Ahn
Cast: Joel Kim Booster, Conrad Ricamora, Bowen Yang

This delightful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice brings Jane Austen’s classic story to the gay vacation destination Fire Island. Comedian Joel Kim Booster wrote the movie and stars as Noah, the Elizabeth Bennet of this story. Noah and his friends travel to Fire Island every year to vacation for a week, but this year appears to be the last. Noah’s best friend, Howie (Bowen Yang, playing the Jane Bennet role here), has never been in a relationship, and Noah makes it his mission to get Howie laid this week. When the pair meet a group of rich guys also on vacation, tensions flare as some hit it off and some don’t.

Fire Island is the rare straight-to-streaming movie that doesn’t look like a cheap TV show, and director Andrew Ahn relishes the beauty present in both the people and the scenery. Every member of the cast is hilarious, with Booster and Yang earning the recognition they’ve already received for their particular takes on these long-explored roles. But for me, Conrad Ricamora as the Mr. Darcy of this world steals the show. While the other characters get lines filled with jokes and gags, Ricamora has to bring out the humor and charm in his character from moments of self-seriousness. It’s an impressive feat, and one that easily could have gotten lost under some of the energetic performances he’s acting across. Instead, it’s a star-making role in a lovely 105 minutes. —PV

Fire Island is available to watch on Hulu.

Thirteen Lives

Thira ‘Aum’ Chutikul as Commander Kiet, Popetorn ‘Two’ Soonthornyanaku as Dr Karn, Joel Edgerton as Harry Harris, Colin Farrell as John Volanthen and Viggo Mortenson as Rick Stanton in Thirteen Lives Photo: Vince Valitutti/Metro Goldwyn

Genre: “True story” thriller
Run time: 2h 30min
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton

Thirteen Lives, the adaptation of the true story of the 2018 Thai cave rescue, is a perfect match of director and material. Ron Howard is a deeply sentimental filmmaker who loves inspirational stories — Apollo 13, Cinderella Man, and his excellent sports drama Rush, for instance — and there are few more inspirational stories in recent memory than this one. It’s also one that’s quite impossible for him to overdramatize, because of how unbelievable the true story is.

An old-school tense, edge-of-your-seat thriller, Thirteen Lives avoids the pitfall of similar Hollywood adaptations by not locating the story as a journey of a singular group of outsider heroes (in this cave, the eccentric specialty cave divers portrayed by Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell). Instead, the movie effectively showcases how this was a group effort by volunteers from around the world. The heroics of the divers wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of local villagers and other volunteers from around the world, and the movie does not forget it. The diving scenes are electric and incredibly tense, too — Howard and the crew built a gigantic set to replicate the caves, and Mortensen and Farrell shot their own diving sequences. —PV

Thirteen Lives is available to watch on Prime Video.

I Was a Simple Man

In “I Was A Simple Man,” Constance Wu sits on a bed in the foreground while sunlight peers through a window onto another woman painting in the background of the same room. Image: Talk Tree

Genre: Drama
Run time: 1h 40m
Director: Christopher Makoto Yogi
Cast: Steve Iwamoto, Constance Wu

August at Akiko’s Christopher Makoto Yogi turns this ghost story into a slow-burn meditation on death, memory, and what lives on after we depart. As the elderly patriarch of a fragmented family (Steve Iwamoto, excellent in his first lead feature role) nears the end of his life, he’s visited by family in the present and ghosts from the past, including his long-deceased wife (Constance Wu). Intergenerational tensions arise as the ghosts of past conflicts return, too — squabbles and fights between family members long estranged, and historical conflicts around Hawaii’s path to statehood.

I Was A Simple Man takes us on this journey across different time periods and with evocative use of surrealism and dream aesthetics. A beautiful movie filled with stunning images of Hawaii’s gorgeous landscapes and rich textures, it won the Made in Hawaii Award for Best Feature at the 2021 Hawaii International Film Festival. I Was A Simple Man is an unforgettable experience that ventures to capture the final days of one life on Earth. —PV

I Was A Simple Man is available to watch on the Criterion Channel, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play and Vudu.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc in Glass Onion, looking thoughtful in a pink linen shirt and blue cravat inside a multifaceted glass dome Image: Netflix

Genre: Mystery comedy
Run time: 2h 19m
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, approximately every popular actor in the world

It’s certainly true that Rian Johnson’s sequel (and franchise-confirmer) Glass Onion is broader, sillier, and shallower than the film it follows, his 2019 whodunit Knives Out. The latter is as much a commentary on classism and racism as it is a murder mystery, while Glass Onion aims at broader, lighter targets, like skewering influencers, “disruptors,” and the cults built around figures like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. But the lightness actually makes Glass Onion a more agreeably weightless enterprise, where the all-star cast has more freedom in their farcical roles. Daniel Craig seems less exaggerated this time out as world-famous detective Benoit Blanc — or maybe he just feels like a more rational character next to Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, and Leslie Odom Jr. as a circle of wealthy success stories full of dark secrets. The mystery itself is cunningly constructed, full of verbal and visual gags, but packed with enough twists to feel like the Agatha Christie mysteries Johnson is openly evoking. In a year with even more mocking, scabrous “eat the rich” movies than ever, this one feels like a breath of fresh air — critical but not bitter, observational but not leaden with real-life parallels, and packed with winking surprises. —TR

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is available to watch on Netflix.

Prey

Naru (Amber Midthunder) hiding behind a tree as the Predator kneels down to observe her tracks in Prey. Photo: David Bukach/20th Century Studios

Genre: Sci-fi thriller
Run time: 1h 40m
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers

A return to form for a consistently fun sci-fi franchise, Prey dropped on Hulu (for business reasons) and quickly became the platform’s biggest success ever. A nice respite from how other franchises have approached world-building and stakes-setting in recent years, Prey relies heavily on the star-making performances of Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers, who shine as Comanche siblings in the Northern Great Plains who are stalked by the Predator.

Midthunder is Naru, a young woman who wants to prove herself as a warrior, despite the mockery of many young men in her tribe. It’s the perfect conflict for the Predator to wade his way into, as a creature whose only concern is challenging himself against the mightiest foes he can find.

A tense, economical thriller from director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), Prey is light on dialogue and high on excitement. —PV

Prey is available to watch on Hulu.

Confess, Fletch

Jon Hamm as Fletch lounges bare-chested in a hammock in Confess, Fletch Photo: Robert Clark/Miramax

Genre: Comedy
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Jon Hamm, Roy Wood Jr., Kyle MacLachlan

Buried by a bungled release this past September, the revival of author Gregory Mcdonald’s charming rabble rouser I. M. Fletcher stands out as one of the hidden gems of the year, a breezy mystery carried by actors at the top of their games. To fill the shoes of Chevy Chase, who played Fletch twice in the 1980s, writer-director Greg Motolla (Superbad, The Daytrippers) turned to Jon Hamm, who finds the rare role than support both his leading man swagger and weirdo comedic instincts.

Based on one of Mcdonald’s more revered stories in the character’s run, Confess, Fletch finds the investigate-reporter-turned-gun-for-hire tracking down a set of missing paintings that his Italian girlfriend Angela (Lorenza Izzo) needs to pay off the ransom for her kidnapped father. Not helping his situation: The day he arrives to Boston to track down the masterpieces, a woman is murdered in his rental home. Hamm matches the high-stakes caper like a dance, weaving in and out of police capture while setting up a series of rouses to solve the ticking-clock mystery. His low-key interrogations range from wild (Kyle MacLachlan’s as a germaphobe art dealer) to wilder (Barb & Star’s Annie Mumolo steals the show as a woman who may burn down her entire block making matzah ball soup), but Hamm and Motolla never let Confess, Fletch descend into sitcom territory. There’s a buttoned up, Negroni-sipping sense of cool from start to finish, even while provoking big laughs. The combination makes Confess, Fletch every bit as classic as Knives Out. —MP

Confess, Fletch is available to stream on Showtime Anytime and FuboTV, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Hustle

Juancho Hernangómez as Bo Cruz and Adam Sandler as Stanley Sugerman in Hustle. Photo: Scott Yamano/Netflix

Genre: Sports dramedy
Run time: 1h 57m
Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Cast: Adam Sandler, Juancho Hernangomez, Queen Latifah

A love letter to the sport of basketball and one of the better sports movies released in years, Hustle is a terrific display for Adam Sandler’s talents and his love for the sport.

Sandler is Stanley Sugerman, a former college star who is now a veteran NBA scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has a close relationship with the team’s owner (Robert Duvall), a father-like figure to Sugerman who sees Stanley’s value as a basketball mind. The owner promotes Sugerman to assistant coach, a position where he can spend more time around his wife (Queen Latifah) and their young daughter. But when tragedy gets in the way of Stanley’s new job, he has to prove himself yet again and find a winning prospect for the team.

That prospect is Bo Cruz (played by real-life NBA player Juancho Hernangómez), who Sugerman spots dominating a local pickup game in Spain. The movie shines as it showcases Sugerman and Cruz’s developing relationship — the two rely on each other, and Hustle delivers a must-have for most sports movies with a terrific training montage sequence, featuring Sugerman repeatedly chasing Cruz up a hill with a car.

Hustle’s performances truly shine. Sandler’s centered, grounded portrayal of a man who loves what he does but would rather have the job he was promised is another terrific, layered role for one of our great modern actors. The cast is also filled with NBA players who deliver memorable performances, led by Hernangómez as the temperamental and talented Cruz and Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Anthony Edwards as his trash-talking rival Kermit Wilts, a terrific addition to a long line of sports movie heels.

Bringing in real basketball players for leading and smaller roles lends authenticity to the whole thing, but especially in the scenes where the players actually play basketball. The camera is free to roam as athletes do what they do best, with thrilling basketball sequences that far outdo most sports movies that try to re-create the kineticism of live sports with non-athlete actors. —PV

Hustle is available to watch on Netflix.

Belle

Protagonist Suzu from the anime movie Belle stands in mid-air and looks out at a vast crowd of fans Image: Studio Chizu/GKIDS

Genre: Drama
Run time: 1h 29m
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Cast: Kaho Nakamura, Ryô Narita, Shôta Sometani

Just when you might think Disney’s permanently locked up the coveted title of “Best Animated Musical Rendition of the Beauty and the Beast Story,” along comes Mamoru Hosada’s Belle, which gives the “tale as old as time” a thrilling futurist spin. This anime feature from the director of Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Mirai re-imagines the classic fable as a conflict in a virtual-reality wonderland, where everyone’s digital avatars reflect their innermost selves. When withdrawn, mourning high-schooler Suzu enters the VR world, she becomes a beloved pop star, center of an energetic fandom — and equally energetic dismissal and criticism. Then she becomes obsessed with a mystery user whose avatar is a powerful, monstrous beast, and she starts trying to uncover his secrets.

This is a dizzying story that sometimes overreaches — Hosada is trying to take in everything from the addictive but destructive nature of online life to the importance of individual human connection, and there are so many threads (and romances, and secrets) that they aren’t all fully fleshed out. But it’s a heartfelt film full of big emotional beats and stunning animated sequences, and even if it doesn’t answer all the questions it raises, it at least seems determined to bring a familiar story to a bolder, brighter, more ambitious stage. —TR

Belle is available to watch on HBO Max, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Orphan: First Kill

Isabelle Fuhrman investigates some jeweled items on a countertop as “Esther” in Orphan: First Kill Photo: Steve Ackerman/Paramount Pictures

Genre: Horror
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: William Brent Bell
Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles

Returning to a franchise a decade later to do a prequel with the same lead actor shouldn’t just be a recipe for disaster; it should have been completely impossible. As it turns out, Orphan is a very special series and its lead character/monster, Esther, is a very special child*.

Orphan: First Kill follows a 9-year-old girl named Esther who breaks out of a hospital in Estonia, then scams her way into the good graces of a rich American family in hopes of making off in the night with whatever she can. This setup is nearly identical to the original movie, but the prequel manages to play with those expectations in some very clever ways.

The original Orphan (also great) hinged on a twist revealed late in the film, but the prequel gets the reveal out of the way early in favor of letting audiences feel like they’re in on the secret and the joke that Esther, a 9-year-old, is still played by Isabelle Fuhrman, who is now 25, which the movie uses all kinds of fun tricks to hide. Thankfully, First Kill is in on every single one of its own jokes and manages to perfectly balance its tone between silly and a gruesome, well-made slasher, along with being one of the best “rich people are weird” movies of the last few years. —AG

Orphan: First Kill is available to stream on Paramount Plus, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.

Cyrano

Haley Bennett, in a white dress, holds her arms out as papers scatter across the room Photo: Peter Mountain/MGM

Genre: Musical
Run time: 2h 3m
Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac has been adapted for film many times in many ways, including as the modern-day Steve Martin/Daryl Hannah rom-com Roxanne in 1987, and the Toshirô Mifune action-drama Samurai Saga in 1959. As with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, its story about unrequited love (and arguably, complete romantic cowardice) resonates in any age, and crosses cultures easily. But there’s never been a production quite like this lavish movie adaptation of Erica Schmidt’s musical version of the play. Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage stars as Cyrano, a French soldier and poet in love with his childhood friend Roxanne (Swallow star Haley Bennett), but afraid to tell her because he’s certain she’ll reject him. When she falls for Christian (Luce’s Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a handsome newcomer in Cyrano’s regiment, Cyrano agrees to ghost-write Christian’s love letters to her, mostly so he can finally, fully express himself, even if she doesn’t know it’s him.

Joe Wright’s production is lush and glowing, with a soft visual warmth courtesy of his longtime collaborator Seamus McGarvey, cinematographer on his Atonement and Anna Karenina, among other titles. Dinklage’s singing isn’t very strong, but he still feels like he was born to play this pained, passionate swashbuckler, and the central trio all deliver fantastic performances that make this an authentic tearjerker. It’s a big-hearted project, full of outsized emotions that hit home powerfully. Don’t watch this right after a breakup, or after someone you’ve secretly longed for marries someone else. —TR

Cyrano is available to watch on Prime Video, or for digital rental or purchase on Google Play, Amazon, Vudu, and Apple.

The Batman

A man in black armor wearing a mask with bat-like horns (Robert Pattinson) in front of a wall plastered with newspaper clippings and graffiti. Photo: Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros.

Genre: Superhero
Run time: 2h 56m
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano

Matt Reeves’ reboot of the Dark Knight isn’t as bold as it might be, but it sure is stylish. A long, slow-burning mystery in the vein of David Fincher’s Seven, The Batman infuses a familiar story with darkly beautiful imagery and magnetic performances from stars Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz. When it isn’t too enamored with ideas already explored in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Batman lays exciting groundwork for a richer, stranger sort of Batman movie, which will hopefully materialize as a sequel reuniting everyone who made this one such a pleasure to watch. —JR

The Batman is available to watch on HBO Max, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Kimi

In Kimi, Zoë Kravitz sits at her desk and works at her computer. Photo: Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.

Genre: Thriller
Run time: 1h 29m
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Zoë Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Rita Wilson

The protagonist of Steven Soderbergh’s tech-crime thriller Kimi moves through the world like she’s tapped directly into a power line, and is desperate to burn off all the excess energy. The movie operates at that same level of speed and ferocity. Essentially an internet-age take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window by way of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (among many other cinematic touchstones), Kimi follows a Seattle tech worker who stumbles across evidence of a crime, and draws some dangerous attention when she tries to report it. Soderbergh and Panic Room screenwriter David Koepp strip that story down to its basics, jumping in and out of the action in a shockingly tight and stylish 89 minutes. The plot is simple and the ethos is go-go-go, which makes the film’s verve contagious and the action breathless. It isn’t deep, but it sure is fun. —TR

Kimi is available to watch on HBO Max, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

The Long Walk

A young Lao boy stands with his back to the camera, looking at a pile of detritus in a dark, cluttered room in Mattie Do’s The Long Walk Photo: Yellow Veil Pictures

Genre: Sci-fi
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: Mattie Do
Cast: Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy, Vilouna Phetmany

Laos’ first and only female film director, Mattie Do, makes ghost stories: movies where characters interact with the dead and learn from them, but pay a price for that knowledge. Some of the themes of her debut feature Chanthaly (which she’s posted on YouTube) and her followup, Dearest Sister (streaming on Shudder) get fuller, richer development in The Long Walk, a genre mashup that’s part time-travel story and part serial-killer story, but still keenly involved with the spirits of the dead, and how they both express their desires and enable the desires of living people.

A Lao hermit living in a tech-oriented future periodically travels 50 years into the past and intervenes in events in his own traumatic childhood, with the help of the ghost of a woman who died in the nearby forest when he was a kid. These are bold, striking elements that don’t entirely seem to fit together, but The Long Walk is exquisitely constructed in a way that reveals its puzzlebox methods slowly, building toward an emotional end that ties all its genres, timelines, and threads together in a startling, impressive way. —TR

The Long Walk is available to watch on Shudder, AMC+ through Prime Video for free with ads on Tubi, or for digital rental or purchase via Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Also receiving votes:

Three Thousand Years of Longing, The Menu, The Fabelmans, Petite Maman, In Front of Your Face, Honk for Jesus Save Your Soul, Resurrection, Mad God, Lost Bullet 2, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Babylon, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Jackass Forever, Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday, Memoria, Elvis, Benediction, Dual, Emily the Criminal, Fire of Love, Montana Story, Thallumaala, Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Moonage Daydream, The Munsters, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, The Lost City, Goncharov (1973), The Deer King, The Innocents, The Last Thing Mary Saw, White Noise, Armageddon Time

The ballots

Every staff member who submitted a ballot is listed below, in alphabetical order by last name. While some staff members submitted more than 10 movies, only the top 10 are listed here. Some ballots may change as people catch up with more new releases in December — be sure to check back!

Toussaint Egan

Associate curation editor

  1. Tár
  2. Decision to Leave
  3. RRR
  4. The Banshees of Inisherin
  5. Nope
  6. Crimes of the Future
  7. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
  8. Prey
  9. Resurrection
  10. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Austen Goslin

Assignment editor, entertainment

  1. Decision to Leave
  2. Aftersun
  3. Athena
  4. Nope
  5. Bones and All
  6. Saloum
  7. Resurrection
  8. Ambulance
  9. Barbarian
  10. RRR

Zosha Millman

Editor, TV

(unranked)

  • After Yang
  • Aftersun
  • Barbarian
  • Decision to Leave
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul
  • Nope
  • Saloum
  • RRR

Matt Patches

Deputy editor, entertainment

  1. RRR
  2. The Fabelmans
  3. Catherine Called Birdy
  4. Aftersun
  5. Turning Red
  6. The Woman King
  7. Tár
  8. The Banshees of Inisherin
  9. Confess, Fletch
  10. Jackass Forever

Chris Plante

Editor-in-chief

  1. The Banshees of Inisherin
  2. Decision to Leave
  3. RRR
  4. Barbarian
  5. Petite Maman
  6. Mad God
  7. Nope
  8. Tár
  9. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  10. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Petrana Radulovic

Staff writer, entertainment

(unranked)

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • Catherine Called Birdy
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • Goncharov (1973) remastered
  • Fire Island
  • The Lost City
  • Turning Red

Joshua Rivera

Staff writer, entertainment

(unranked)

  • Babylon
  • The Banshees of Inisherin
  • Barbarian
  • Bodies Bodies Bodies
  • Nope
  • The Northman
  • Petite Maman
  • Saloum
  • Three Thousand Years of Longing
  • We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Tasha Robinson

Editor, film and streaming

  1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  2. RRR
  3. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  4. Decision to Leave
  5. Inu-Oh
  6. The Woman King
  7. Athena
  8. The Banshees of Inisherin
  9. The Northman
  10. Cyrano

Pete Volk

Curation editor

  1. Decision to Leave
  2. In Front of Your Face
  3. Tár
  4. The Fabelmans
  5. Crimes of the Future
  6. Nope
  7. A Hero
  8. RRR
  9. Ambulance
  10. Athena

Oli Welsh

Editor

  1. Decision to Leave
  2. The Banshees of Inisherin
  3. Top Gun: Maverick
  4. Elvis
  5. A Hero
  6. Nope
  7. The Woman King
  8. Turning Red
  9. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
  10. White Noise
What to Watch

The best movies new to streaming on Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, and Hulu (February 2023)

What to Watch

The best movies on Netflix right now

What to Watch

5 deep-cut Dave Bautista movies to watch right now

View all stories in What to Watch

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon