Best Movies of 2022: Critics Pick Year’s Best Films & Performances

165 critics from around the world voted in this year’s survey, and one film topped several of the major categories by a landslide.

Critical consensus is in the air once again. Last year, IndieWire’s annual critics survey was dominated by one title, “The Power of the Dog.” Now, a landslide victory has happened again. With 165 critics and journalists voting on the best films and performances in this year’s survey, Todd Field’s “TÁR” stormed the #1 spot in several categories with the urgency of a mad conductor knocking a rival off her podium.

The movie topped the categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Performance, and Best Screenplay. It appeared on over 45% of all ballots, with 26 first-place rankings for Best Film. It also placed at No. 2 on IndieWire’s own staff list of The Best Movies of 2022.

Staffers from IndieWire, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Hollywood Reporter, The Atlantic, and Entertainment Weekly voted, as well as freelance and staff writers for newspapers, websites, radio, and TV from across Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia — in addition to all over the US and Canada. All participants were required to vote only for films that received theatrical, streaming, or VOD releases in the US over the past calendar year.

All of the Top 10 films of 2022 appear in other categories, as well. The biggest victory that took place in any one category this time around was for the film that placed first in the Best First Feature category, “Aftersun.” Charlotte Wells’ debut placed first on 82 ballots for Best First Feature, about half of all voters declaring it so. It also placed at No. 2 on the overall Best Film list (and at No. 1 on the IndieWire staff’s own list), as well as at No. 5 for Wells as Best Director, No. 8 for Paul Mescal in Best Performance, and No. 4 for Best Screenplay. Strikingly, neither the No. 1 nor No. 2 films from the overall Best Film list, “TÁR” and “Aftersun,” appeared on the Best Cinematography list.

The power of festivals was on display once again in the Top 10 list, with “TÁR” making its debut at Venice, then Telluride, and then for a rhapsodic reception at the New York Film Festival where its Jimmy Levine joke landed with particular force among the Lincoln Center crowd. “Aftersun” premiered at Critics’ Week at Cannes in May, followed then by bows at Telluride, TIFF, and NYFF.

In fact, every other film on the Top 10 except for “Nope,” “RRR,” and “Top Gun: Maverick” premiered at a major international festival — and even then “RRR” director SS Rajamouli has appeared at many festivals since “ RRR” reentered the awards conversation at TIFF, while “Maverick” did its first screen, to a rhapsodic response, at CinemaCon and Cannes. “Nope” also received a special presentation at TIFF, some time after its wide release.

Other films in the overall Top 10 appear in other categories too: the No. 3 selection, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” also appeared at No. 7 in Best Director for Martin McDonagh, No. 2 in Best Performance for Colin Farrell, No. 6 in Best Cinematography, No. 2 for Best Screenplay, and No. 6 for Best International Film; “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (No. 4 on the Best Film list) also appeared at No. 2 on Best Director for the Daniels, No. 3 on Best Performance for Michelle Yeoh, and No. 3 on Best Screenplay; the No. 5 film, “The Fabelmans,” also appeared at No. 4 on Best Director for Steven Spielberg, No. 5 for Best Cinematography, and No. 6 for Best Screenplay.

And of the rest of the Top 10, “Decision to Leave” also topped Best Cinematography and Best International Film, while “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” also topped Best Documentary. A full list of the Top 50 films will be published later this week.

RRR, (aka RISE ROAR REVOLT), NT Rama Rao Jr., 2022. © Raftar Creations /Courtesy Everett Collection

“RRR”

Courtesy Everett Collection

For the third time, this survey featured a gender-neutral Best Performance category. Along with its dominant victories as Best Film, and in Best Director and Best Screenplay, “TÁR” simply owned this category for Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the accomplished title conductor and her sharp fall from grace. In a time of snap judgments, where everyone now seems to be defined by just one thing (and even seek to define themselves by just one thing), the way in which this character is defined by a lack of absolutes has resonated far and wide.

Containing multitudes is the order of the day for characters right now, based on this Best Performance list — in some cases literally, such as the many versions of herself that Michelle Yeoh (No. 3) experiences in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and others others in more subtle ways such as Paul Mescal (No. 8) in “Aftersun” (he can be a loving father and deeply troubled) or Guslangie Malanda (No. 10) in “Saint Omer” (she can be a murderous mother but her plight still invokes sympathy).

Contradictions like those abound in the Best Documentary category as well, which was topped by “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” and its portrait of the artist and activist Nan Goldin. Complex, irreducible individuals get the spotlight several times in this category, such as doomed volcanologists Catherine and Maurice Krafft in “Fire of Love” (No. 2), David Bowie in “Moonage Daydream” (No. 3), or the imprisoned Russian dissident “Navalny” (No. 6). Then there’s “Mr. Bachmann and His Class” (No. 9), which feels like the entire world.

As much as this is a time for looking backwards, it is also a time for looking ahead. Luckily, we already know of a number of form-breaking, mind-expanding films due to be released in 2023 that are destined to colonize the brains of anyone who watches them. Critics were asked to vote on the best 2023 film they’ve already seen, and at the top of the list was Kelly Reichardt’s “Showing Up,” which debuted at Cannes and played several other festivals in 2022.

We invite readers to get lost in these results — and use them to consider filling some blindspots. Enjoy.

Best Film

TAR, Cate Blanchett, 2022. © Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection

“TÁR”

©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

1. “TÁR”
2. “Aftersun”
3. “The Banshees of Inisherin”
4. “Everything Everywhere All At Once”
5. “The Fabelmans”
6. “Decision to Leave”
7. “Nope”
8. “RRR”
9. “Top Gun: Maverick”
10. “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”

Best Director

Todd Field at arrivals for The 60th New York Film Festival Presentation of TAR, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, New York, NY October 3, 2022. Photo By: Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection

Todd Field

1. Todd Field, “TÁR”
2. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
3. SS Rajamouli, “RRR”
4. Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”
5. Charlotte Wells, “Aftersun”
6. Park Chan-wook, “Decision to Leave”
7. Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
8. Jerzy Skolimowski, “EO”
9. Jordan Peele, “Nope”
10. Alice Diop, “Saint Omer”

Best Performance

TAR, Cate Blanchett, 2022. © Focus Features /Courtesy Everett Collection

Cate Blanchett in “TÁR”

©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

1. Cate Blanchett, “TÁR”
2. Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
3. Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
4. Danielle Deadwyler, “Till”
5. Park Ji-Min, “Return to Seoul”
6. Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”
7. Tilda Swinton, “The Eternal Daughter”
8. Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”
9. Mia Goth, “Pearl”
10. TIE: Guslagie Malanda, “Saint Omer,”; Austin Butler, “Elvis”; Léa Seydoux, “One Fine Morning”

Best Documentary

ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED, Nan Goldin leading protest to remove the Sackler name from galleries at the Louvre, Paris, 2022. © Neon / courtesy Everett Collection

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”

Courtesy Everett Collection

1. “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
2. “Fire of Love”
3. “Moonage Daydream”
4. “All That Breathes”
5. “Descendant”
6. “Navalny”
7. “Three Minutes: A Lengthening”
8. “The Janes”
9. “Mr. Bachmann and His Class”
10. TIE: “Sr.”/”We Need to Talk About Cosby”

Best Cinematography

DECISION TO LEAVE, (aka HEOJIL KYOLSHIM), left from top: JEONG Ha-dam, GO Kyung-Pyo;  right: PARK Hae-il, 2022. © MUBI / courtesy Everett Collection

“Decision to Leave”

Courtesy Everett Collection

1. “Decision to Leave”
2. “Top Gun: Maverick”
3. TIE: “EO”/”Nope”
5. “The Fabelmans”
6. “The Banshees of Inisherin”
7. “Athena”
8. “Avatar: The Way of Water”
9. “Bardo”
10. “Ambulance”

Best Screenplay

TAR, Sophie Kauer, 2022. © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

“TÁR”

©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

1. “TÁR”
2. “The Banshees of Inisherin”
3. “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
4. “Aftersun”
5. “Women Talking”
6. “The Fabelmans”
7. “Crimes of the Future”
8. “Glass Onion”
9. “Saint Omer”
10. TIE: “The Eternal Daughter”/”After Yang”

Best International Film

DECISION TO LEAVE, (aka HEOJIL KYOLSHIM), TANG Wei, 2022. © MUBI / courtesy Everett Collection

“Decision to Leave”

Courtesy Everett Collection

1. “Decision to Leave”
2. “RRR”
3. “EO”
4. “All Quiet on the Western Front”
5. “No Bears”
6. “The Banshees of Inisherin”
7. “Saint Omer”
8. “Happening”
9. “Hit the Road”
10. “Blessing”

Best First Feature

AFTERSUN, from left: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, 2022. © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Aftersun”

Courtesy Everett Collection

1. “Aftersun”
2. “Saint Omer”
3. “Turning Red”
4. “Nanny”
5. “Murina”
6. “Hit the Road”
7. “Emily the Criminal”
8. “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”
9. “The Inspection”
10. “Three Minutes: A Lengthening”

Best Films Opening in 2023

“Showing Up”

courtesy of A24

1. “Showing Up”
2. “Godland”
3. “Close”
4. “Of Human Corporis Fabrica”
5. “Pacification”

Click to the next page to see a list of critics who voted.

Sign up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

Leave a Comment