Hey, sorry for getting to this later than usual (you can thank the holiday rush and me catching the dreaded plague for that), but considering I never got around to doing one of these last year at all, better late than never! I literally had my 2021 picks all planned, and even though every year there’s always one or two that slip into the following calendar, the list still ended up being almost identical to my 2020 one due to the amount of delays caused by COVID so you didn’t miss much; heck, there’s even one film from my 2020 list that’s now on my 2022 list! But overall, 2021 did manage to deliver on most of its promised releases, which gives me enough confidence this year to actually publish a full 2022 ranking.
Since it’s been a while, allow me to run over the rules again:
- I am only counting films that have a confirmed release date as of publishing in the United States and/or the United Kingdom. There are certain films I’m looking forward to that are aiming for a 2022 release, and may even play the festival circuit during the year, but if it hasn’t been given a set release, I can’t count it. Inevitably, some release dates may change and slip into 2023 or later (a few big ones like The Marvels, John Wick: Chapter 4 and Indiana Jones 5 did as I was collating this list), but as of writing these are all confirmed for 2022. I know that tends to mean these lists tend to focus on franchises and blockbusters rather than indie films and original IP, but that’s just how it works I’m afraid. I can’t foresee a surprise now, can I?
- Films that will release here in the UK in 2022 but released in the US or elsewhere in 2021 do not count. I’ve already seen a few films like Belle and Belfast that are coming to the UK this coming year thanks to LFF, and I’m looking forward to watching other awards contenders like Cyrano and Nightmare Alley when they finally release, but I can’t include them. Not only because they are not truly 2022 films, but because of their releases elsewhere, my anticipation is tainted by having heard positive buzz from overseas. This is a list for blind expectations about movies no one but the filmmakers themselves have seen, and it shall remain that way.
- This is by no means me predicting that these’ll be my favourites films of the year, or me guaranteeing any of them will even be good. I’ve ranked films on this list before that have ended up being disasters, and there are a few this year I have serious doubts about, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out all the same. More often than not, my favourite films of the years end up being the surprises, and maybe that complete lack of expectations is what makes them seem better than most films I’ve been looking forward to for years. Again though, I can’t predict what I’ll like, and all of these films will face their true judgement of quality once I’ve actually seen them.
Release Date: 14th January (US, UK)
Scream was the seminal horror movie of the 1990s, spawning a slew of sequels and knock-offs that defined a generation of slashers, but the genre has changed so much since then…but honestly not all that much since the last film in 2011. So far, this fifth entry (honestly, couldn’t they have called it 5cream or something? It’d be dumb, sure, but at least it’s less confusing) seems to be treading much the same ground as Scream 4 did: the original trio are drawn back to their hometown to help a new generation of teens deal with a new Ghostface killer. So what’s the gimmick here? What’s the real selling point that makes this more than just a cash grab? Well, since the filmmaking duo behind cult hit Ready of Not are behind this one in lieu of the late Wes Craven, the answer is likely waiting in the film itself, and hopefully them playing this one close to their chest will make up for the lacklustre marketing so far. I’m putting a lot of faith here in the directors to create something worthy of Craven’s legacy, but whatever they come up with, I’m sure it’ll at least be better than Scream 3. We’ll find out in literally a matter of days…
24. Super Mario Bros.
Release Date: 21st December (US), TBC (UK)
Yeah, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Chris Pratt is a terrible choice for Mario, and it’s disappointing that of all the studios this could have been handed to, it had to be Illumination. Put those gripes aside though, and there is also a lot to be optimistic about. The rest of the voice cast is honestly spot on (I mean, Charlie Day as Luigi? Inspired!), Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto are heavily involved, it’s being directed by the duo behind the bonkers Teen Titans Go!, and for all the guff we give Illumination they have put out a few wee gems here and there. I still highly doubt this will be anything more than a fun family romp, but was anyone seriously expecting or even wanting a Pixar-level tearjerker to be made from Super Mario Bros.? If it’s spiritually faithful to the source material and doesn’t go too hard on making it hip, I think this’ll be mission accomplished. Just please don’t make any Goombas twerk. Please?
Release Date: 25th December 2022 (US), 6th January 2023 (UK)
Damien Chazelle’s latest remains relatively under wraps so far, but we do know it will be set in 1920s Golden Age Hollywood and features an all-star cast, so that’s it guaranteed awards buzz sight unseen. Jokes aside, Chazelle has yet to completely whiff it and the cast is a tantalising smorgasbord of talent from across the industry: you’ve got A-listers Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie in the leads, great up-and-comers in Jovan Adepo and Samara Weaving, old hands like Eric Roberts and Jean Smart, comedic talents such as Chloe Fineman and Jeff Garlin, and even wildcards like Tobey Maguire and bloody Flea; I could go on! Whatever Babylon ends up really being about, the calibre of its talent alone has it on my radar.
Release Date: 29th April (US, UK)
If the names Scott Beck & Bryan Woods ring any bells to you, it’s because they’re the creators of A Quiet Place. However, the pair direct together as well as write and, after handing the reigns of their star-making baby over to John Krasinski, they’re getting their own high-budget directing shot in 2022. There’s not much info about 65 out yet, with Sony’s official synopsis being little more than “An astronaut crash lands on a mysterious planet only to discover he’s not alone.” That’s all we know, but whatever it’s about, it was more than enough to attract Adam Driver to star, Sam Raimi to produce, and Danny Elfman to score. We don’t get enough original sci-fi movies, especially on this scale (the reported budgetis $91 million), so I’m always going to get behind one when it comes along. Let’s just hope all the mystery is worth it, or we’re looking at another Cloverfield Paradox situation.
21. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Release Date: 22nd April (US, UK)
Nicolas Cage playing himself? That alone had me sold. Nicolas Cage playing himself being paid to entertain at the party of an eccentric millionaire drug lord in order to save his wife and child…and the drug lord is played by Pedro Pascal? Do I need to say more? No, I don’t. I’m there, day one, no questions asked.
Release Date: February 11th (UK), February 18th (US)
Uncharted is one of those video game properties that seems so perfectly suited to adaptation, but because it’s already so cinematic in its original form, what can a movie really add when in principle all you’ve done is take away player agency? Loosely pulling elements from across the franchise, mainly the flashback sequences from the third and fourth games, this big screen debut for PlayStation’s poster boy Nathan Drake has potential to be a fun romp to tide audiences over until Indiana Jones’ final adventure in 2023. Despite initial doubts, Tom Holland seems to be pulling off the smug swagger and in-over-his-head tenacity as Drake, and it’s great to see Antonio Banderas as what will hopefully be a scenery-chewing villain worthy of the franchise. The real potential sinker here, other than the video game movie curse in general, is Mark Wahlberg as Sully; a poor casting choice in every regard, and the piddly moustache he’ll likely only have for one scene as a gag doesn’t really make up for it.
19. Top Gun: Maverick
Release Date: 27th May (US, UK)
Yes, this one still hasn’t been released (and people gave The New Mutants a hard time!), but 2022 finally seems like the year Maverick will take to the skies once again. There’s not really much left to say, as we’ve just been seeing the same footage over and over for the past two and half years, but this sequel to the 80s classic looks like it’ll at least be a visual feast if nothing else.
18. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Release Date: 11th November (US, UK)
I honestly wish I could be more excited for Wakanda Forever. The first Black Panther was a landmark moment for both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the superhero genre in general, and a sequel that brings back so much of the talent from that exemplary film should skyrocket this movie right to the top of my list. Unfortunately, two elephants in the room keep me from being that excited. Firstly, the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman casts a huge shadow over everything about this project, and whilst I’m sure they’re going to respect his legacy, there’s no fully satisfying answer to how they move forward; I hope Ryan Coogler and Marvel surprise me, but I’m not yet convinced. More pressingly, the continued presence of Letitia Wright in the project worries me further, with this once-promising young actress now having given in to anti-vaccine conspiracies that neither she nor the studio have seriously addressed. I try not to let outside influences affect my enjoyment of a movie, but if speculation proves true and Wright is the one who ends up inheriting this franchise from Boseman, I’m out no matter how good the film is otherwise.
17. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Release Date: 16th December (US, UK)
It may be hard to believe, but the first Aquaman is the highest grossing movie based on a DC comic book ever. Yes, the movie with the bongo-playing octopus and the sea monster voiced by Julie Andrews made more money than any film with Batman in it, and I think that success can be owed mostly to the insane directorial choices of one James Wan. The horror maestro returns to Atlantis for another sea-faring adventure, and if anything this one looks like it may be more bonkers than the last. More monsters, more swashbuckling, more Jason Momoa being a hunky bro; it’s certainly giving the audience what they want.
16. The Fabelmans
Release Date: 23rd November (US, UK)
Steven Spielberg’s films have always had an intimate touch no matter their size, but The Fabelmans already seems like it’ll be the legendary filmmaker’s most personal film yet. Based on his own childhood with Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Seth Rogen playing fictionalised versions of his parents and uncle respectively, Spielberg has been toying around with since 1999 and the story of his early filmmaking ventures as a youth in Arizona will finally be brought to the screen with a script by himself and frequent collaborator Tony Kushner. Could this be the American answer to Belfast? Based on what little we know, it sure sounds like it, but Spielberg is no stranger to coming-of-age tales both tragic and heartfelt, so I have no doubt he’ll be able to bring something unique to the table.
Release Date: 22nd July (US), TBC (UK)
I may be in the minority here, but Jordan Peele’s Us was a bit of a disappointment and his Candyman was a promising but mishandled follow-up, so my excitement for his latest venture is a little more muted. Get Out worked not only because it was a great movie, but because it was a surprise that came out of nowhere, and you can’t get that same effect when everyone is now expecting something amazing and mind-blowing from you every single time; go ask M. Night Shyamalan. Still, Peele is far from reaching those lows yet, so here’s hoping he defies my expectations with his latest project…whatever the hell it end up being about. I like the poster though.
14. The Northman
Release Date: 22nd April (US, UK)
Robert Eggers’ first studio picture certainly has a lot of promise. A Viking tale of blood and revenge, The Northman essentially looks like Gladiator as made by the lovechild of Terence Malick and David Lynch who’s also really into Burning Man, and I can’t wait to see what this dark and twisted madman can do with a budget. The cast is absolutely fantastic, including Eggers veterans Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe and Kate Dickie, some gorgeous-looking production design and cinematography, and I’m sure all kinds of disturbing violence and imagery await in the final product. It’s always a risky gamble when a beloved indie filmmaker steps into the bigger Hollywood system, so here’s hoping Eggers manages to find a way to make it work for him.
13. The Black Phone
Release Date: 24th June (US, UK)
Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill finally reteam to tackle this adaptation of the Joe Hill short story, and early buzz suggests this one is a horror to remember. Ethan Hawke seems almost unrecognisable as the masked villain, and the idea of a kid trying to escape captivity by communicating with his captor’s dead victims via the titular phone is a golden premise ripe with suspense and frights. Whilst it was a shame Derrickson left helming the Doctor Strange sequel, seeing him instead return to his horror roots and make the true spiritual successor to Sinister we’ve all been waiting for is honestly the best consolation. We were supposed to be getting this one in January, but the fact the studio has pushed it into June shows they have confidence this could be a solid summer hit.
12. Black Adam
Release Date: 29th July (US, UK)
We’ve got another year to wait until the sequel to Shazam!, but before then we finally get to see Dwayne Johnson take on the mantle of his anti-hero nemesis. Black Adam is a fascinating character in the DC universe with a lot of depth and potential, and to see Johnson finally step away from his amiable persona to play a character with a lot more moral ambiguity is exciting on its own. On top of that, they’re pitting Adam against the Justice Society, which means the big-screen debuts of classic characters like Hawkman and Doctor Fate, and the battle that’ll undoubtedly come to pass between these titans could be one for the history books. If this proves to be hit, it’ll only be a matter of time before Johnson gets to square off against Billy Batson and his alter ego…or perhaps even The Man of Steel himself…
11. Strange World
Release Date: 23rd November (US), TBC (UK)
I’m a basic girl: Walt Disney Animation Studios announce a new project, and I get excited. There’s admittedly little info out there about Strange World yet, but we do know it’s a sci-fi adventure about an explorer family on a…well, strange new world. The film comes to us from director Don Hall and writer Qui Nguyen, who co-directed and co-wrote on this past year’s Raya and the Last Dragon, the story is supposedly inspired by the pulp adventure stories of the early 20th century, and seeing Disney’s interpretation of that style will certainly be a visual delight if nothing else. I’m one of the five people who enjoyed John Carter, so if this can capture a similar sense of escapism and otherworldly fantasy, I’m all aboard for this voyage into the unknown.
Release Date: 17th June (US, UK)
It seems Pixar still isn’t quite done mining the Toy Story well yet, but thankfully instead of once again returning to Woody and the gang, the studio taking a drastically different approach. Pitched as the blockbuster movie that in-universe inspired the action figure, Lightyear will explore the origins of Buzz Lightyear in a Hollywood-style sci-fi action movie that so far looks out of this world. Older fans may remember the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command TV series from the 2000s, but this looks like a far more mature take on the idea and one with actual involvement from Pixar (they supposedly weren’t too happy with that show). Little else is known about the film other than that Chris Evans is taking over as the voice of Buzz (plus Taikia Waititi’s in it, so that’s always a plus), but based on some imagery in the trailer, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the titular Space Ranger take on a certain Evil Emperor at some point in the story.
9. The Flash
Release Date: 4th November (US, UK)
Despite being in development for far longer, the long-awaited big-screen solo debut of The Fastest Man Alive is likely going to get a lot of unfavourable comparisons to Spider-Man: No Way Home, as DC steps its own foot into multiverse storytelling with an adaptation of the “Flashpoint” storyline. Directed by Andy Muschietti of the It duology, The Flash will entail Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen teaming up with an alternate version of himself, Sasha Calle as the new cinematic Supergirl, and not one but two Batmen (or is it Batmans?): Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton. Honestly, Keaton’s return as the Caped Crusader is enough to sell me on this, but here’s hoping DC can pull off the same magic trick Marvel just pulled.
8. Mission: Impossible 7
Release Date: 30th September (US, UK)
Yes, the franchise that refuses to die is back, and what ridiculous stunt is Ethan Hunt going to pull this time? We don’t know yet, but we do know a train is involved somehow. The Mission: Impossible series is hardly deep and is mostly an excuse for Tom Cruise to show off, but they’re honestly some of the most fun I have in a cinema every year they come out, and each instalment since the third has only gotten better, especially those helmed by Christopher McQuarrie, who returns again here. What little we know is this is intended as the first of a two-parter, with newcomers to the series Hayley Atwell and Esai Morales on board for both entries alongside Cruise and other regulars Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson. Whatever Cruise and McQuarrie have cooked up in what could be the beginning of the end for Ethan Hunt, I’m on board.
7. Don’t Worry Darling
Release Date: 23rd September (US, UK)
Olivia Wilde made quite a splash with her directorial debut Booksmart, so how is she following up her hit teen comedy? By making a period-piece psychological thriller, of course! We’ve only seen mere seconds of this latest effort, but it already looks like a huge leap forward in style and ambition for Wilde, with a look and atmosphere that combines the nostalgic aesthetic of Pleasantville and Far from Heaven with a disturbing undertone that only hints at the shocking secrets hidden within. Combine all of that with the glitzy cast led by Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, and Don’t Worry Darling will certainly be one film cinephiles will be chomping at the bit to see come September.
6. Turning Red
Release Date: 11th March (Disney+)
Right as I was readying this list for final release, Disney announced Turning Red would forgo a theatrical release and go straight to Disney+, making it the third Pixar film in a row to receive such a fate. It’s disappointing to be sure, and probably even more so for all the animators working on it, but it at least hasn’t one bit dampened my excitement for the movie itself. Pixar has certainly been going through a fascinating experimental phase in its post-Lasseter years, and this feature debut from Bao helmswoman Domee Shi is certainly unlike anything the famed studio, or really any mainstream Western animation house, have ever done. A coming-of-age urban fantasy tale set in early 2000s Toronto with an Asian lead and a boy band soundtrack? And people said Pixar ran out of original ideas after Toy Story 3. It’s once again disappointing that the biggest screen I’ll be able to see Turning Red on this year is my telly (seriously, Disney, not even a dual release?), but considering how Encanto didn’t hit it off with the general public until its Disney+ debut, hopefully its streaming debut will at least help this oddball animation reach a wider audience.
5. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Release Date: 6th May (US, UK)
I’m less excited for Multiverse of Madness because it’s a sequel to Doctor Strange or the potential for endless possibilities in terms of surprises and cameos, but simply because it’s the new Sam Raimi movie. Arguably my favourite director ever, the legend behind Evil Dead hasn’t directed a feature film in close to a decade (his last effort was the divisive Oz the Great and Powerful), and to see him return at all is a blessing, but do so by returning to the genre he helped revolutionise with his first Spider-Man movie? That’s exciting, and I can’t wait to see how he weaves his unconventional aesthetics into the fabric of the MCU. Multiverse of Madness promises to be the darkest and weirdest entry in the franchise yet, and the presence of an evil Strange variant and a literal Lovecraftian monster in the trailer shows they aren’t kidding around, so here’s hoping they really push the inevitable PG-13 rating to its limits and show us the truly insidious side of the MCU. Also, gay icon and all-around badass America Chavez is set to make her MCU debut as play by Xochitl Gomez, so…yeah, hopefully they don’t fudge that easy lay-up.
4. Avatar 2
Release Date: 16th December (US), TBC (UK)
To be bluntly honest, I’m less interested in this movie because I’m genuinely invested in returning to Pandora and seeing the continuing adventures of Jake and Neytiri, or because I care all that much about whatever new fangled technological breakthrough in filmmaking James Cameron is going to be hocking all year that will become a thing for maybe five years and then just quietly fade away (seriously, when was the last time you saw in a movie in 3D because you wanted to?). No, I’m invested in Avatar 2 at this point because of the sheer ridiculous ambition of the whole endeavour and how far it potentially has to fall. Cameron started hyping up his plans for a sequel as soon as the first film came out, which has since ballooned into a planed five-film epic with fully completed scripts and a third film already in the can shot alongside the second. They started filming these movies five years ago and we’re still waiting…and does anybody actually care about Avatar anymore? Beyond an apparently cool theme park, it’s lost all pop culture relevance despite still being the highest-grossing movie ever. Do they seriously expect this movie is going to make anywhere near the cash the first film did, especially in a post-pandemic economy? Who knows? Maybe Cameron has some insane trump card up his sleeve that will make this the cinematic experience of the century, but I highly doubt it. I’m genuinely fascinated to see the final project, but…my god. This could be that moment we’ve all been waiting for where high-budget filmmaking just goes up in smoke.
3. The Batman
Release Date: 4th March (US, UK)
It seems a little premature to be returning to a grimdark, super-grounded take of Batman just under ten years after the end of the Dark Knight trilogy, but this latest take on The Caped Crusader still has a lot going for it. Firstly, Matt Reeves’ direction already looks distinctive and fresh for the genre, bathing the visuals in harsh colours and lighting that immediately set it apart from its superhero contemporaries. Whilst The Batman is seemingly eschewing the fantastical elements of the mythos, it is at least keeping things stylised with a sense of heightened reality, as evidenced by the almost Dick Tracy-esqe look of Colin Farrell’s Penguin and the ultra-gothic cityscape of Gotham. Additionally, the cast is just filled with inspired picks for some of the most recognisable characters in comic book history, led by Robert Pattinson in what will hopefully be a role that finally shuts up all the dipsticks whining about Twilight (who did the exact same sh*t to Ben Affleck nine years ago, and now they’re all complaining they want him back and…*frustrated sigh* Bloody fanboys). So yeah. The Batman looks pretty cool. Really looking forward to it.
2. Thor: Love and Thunder
Release Date: 8th July (US, UK)
If things work out a certain way, we may actually be getting two Taika Waititi movies this year, with his biographical sports dramedy Next Goal Wins hopefully hitting in time for awards season, but even if it doesn’t make the cut we still have his follow-up to Ragnarok to give us our fill of the Kiwi comedic madman. Beyond having simply a cracking title, Love and Thunder is bringing in not one but two of the heavy hitters from the recent Thor comics: Gorr the God Butcher (played here by Christian Bale in what will hopefully be a deliciously evil change of pace for the former Dark Knight), and the return of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster now wielding Mjolnir as Mighty Thor. Also, the Guardians of the Galaxy are in it, so that’s neat. What exactly awaits Thor and his compatriots on this adventure is currently unknown, but I expect a lot of gods getting killed, some space-faring antics, and hopefully some explicitly queer stuff are in the mix. It’s going to be incredibly hard for Waititi to top the manic energy of Ragnarok, but I’m more than confident he can at least match it.
1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)
Release Date: 7th October (US, UK)
Really, I shouldn’t be this excited for yet more Spider-Man content, but…yeah, until further notice, Into the Spider-Verse is the greatest superhero movie of all time, so how can I not be chomping at the bit for more of that. Admittedly, I was sceptical at first of what they can do to top the first film beyond bringing in even more Spider-Variants, and they’ve already promised several like Jessica Drew, Takuya Yamashiro, and an increased role for Miguel O’Hara…and then I saw that teaser and it became clear: this isn’t just about exploring different versions of Spider-Man, but different universes all with their own unique art style and animation. Plus, it’s a project so ambitious and sprawling they had to split it in two, along with the continued promise of spin-off projects? I…I…my Spider-Man-loving brain can barely process all of this goodness! My only real wish this time around is that enough people go see this movie that it becomes a box office smash as well as a critical one. Seriously, so many people slept on Into the Spider-Verse despite the unbridled ravings of people like me until it was too late. Don’t make that mistake again.