Answering Nicole Kidman's call, the best movies of 2022 got people people back into theaters in droves. Top Gun: Maverick, for example, kept folks waiting for a streaming release at home for far longer than anyone could have predicted. Then, a new Batman reinvigorated the franchise.
Aside from the Hollywood blockbusters, the communal fun of RRR and feels of Everything Everywhere All At Once got people to try out independent cinema again. Oh, and a star was born portraying The King himself, Elvis.
So, dear reader, we've picked out the best movies of the year that you can stream at home right now. Oh, and don't overlook that last little qualifier — these movies are available to watch right now.
Also, some recent releases we have yet to be able to screen are not on this list. If we find them to be rave-worthy, this list will be amended.
25. Pearl: An X-traordinary Origin Story
Maybe it's recency bias, maybe it's the power of a single, memorable performance, but Pearl makes it to our list when it's predecessor X does not. Ti West's modern horror movies, which tell the tales of things gone wrong on a farm in the boonies, got a lot more attention than they were budgeted for. Mia Goth's performance as the titular Pearl, though, is riveting enough that it makes us feel okay about using 'unhinged,' one of the words that's definitely gotten over-used in 2022.
Pearl is a simple farm girl, whose life veered off the road into isolation due to the 1918 influenza pandemic, which has made her mother extra-precautious about Pearl's ailing father. And it's all warped Pearl's mind so much that she puts too much of her hopes, wants and dreams into a talent competition that could get her out of this town. – Henry T. Casey
Outside of the financial success of Top Gun: Maverick, 2022 was the year of the horror movie. And if Pearl's dalliances in the genre were subtle, Smile's were anything but. Reminiscent of It Follows, Smile's all about a specter that haunts its victims with a terrifying grin.
Ultimately about trauma in ways I can't spoil in this roundup, Smile is one of those movies that will have you white-knuckling your seat for nearly its entire run-time. A bit preposterous in ways only horror movies can be, Smile's ending may be a bit of a disappointment, but the ride to get there will have you constantly shocked. – HTC
Stream it on Paramount Plus
Possibly too slight of a film — and one that languishes on Apple TV Plus, where people still don't know to go for movies — Causeway gave us a memorable pair of performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry. As Lynsey, Lawrence plays a war veteran who insists she will recover from the brain damage sustained from an IED explosion. While having difficulty acclimating to "normal" life, she meets James (Henry), a man still haunted by a tragedy that re-shaped his life forever. The two form a bond and a tenuous friendship, and may possibly help each other recover. Almost like jazz, Lawrence and Henry's performances are just as much about what they don't say, and how they react. – HTC
Stream it on Apple TV Plus
22. Jackass Forever
Jackass Forever is primarily notable because it's got an influx of new cast members, most notably Rachel Wolfson (The First Lady of Jackass, if you will), Zach Holmes, Jasper and the amazingly-named Poopies. Each has their own amazing moments, such as Jasper's interactions with his dad Dark Shark, Rachel's incident with the scorpion, Zach's human sushi-roll and Poopies' moment with a snake. Of course, though, it's the OG's that really make Jackass Forever feel like the real thing, as the loving camaraderie between the likes of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Preston Lacey, Jason "Wee Man" Acuña and “Danger” Ehren McGhehey is enough to make you wonder how the hell they find this torture all so fun. Sure, it's funny to us — I laughed harder at Jackass Forever than anything I've seen all year — but the hits that Ehren takes are some of the most mind-boggling moments in the entire series. – HTC
Stream it on Paramount Plus
21. Bodies Bodies Bodies
A comedy in the guise of horror, Bodies Bodies Bodies satirizes Gen Z fairly enough for people to see themselves in these youths who had the bright idea of throwing a hurricane party. Little did they know, though, that secret feelings about each other would turn these shenanigans into an actual murder mystery.
And everyone is messed-up enough to be a suspect. The list starts with estranged friend Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), who just decided to crash the party, and her seemingly innocent new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova). Then, there's Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) as Greg, the awkwardly-older boyfriend of Alice (Rachel Sennott) who nobody really knows that well. – HTC
20. Bullet Train
While it's not the Goofy movie, the Brad Pitt-led Bullet Train is a silly film that we can't help but love. Unabashedly derivative, this thankfully rewatchable action movie is born out of both Quentin Tarantino's oeuvre and the John Wick philosophy "What if everyone was an assassin?" In it, Brad Pitt's playing a hitman named Ladybug whose string of bad luck leaves him nearly unwilling to go into work. Cajoled to hop aboard a train to steal a briefcase, Ladybug keeps running afoul of folks on their own missions, including a guy who wants him dead. Buoyed by crackling banter from Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who play brothers who are (you guessed it) also hitmen, Bullet Train is full of the good kind of surprises. – HTC
Stream it on Netflix
19. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
After a wild career that went from Raising Arizona and taking his Face/Off to the rollercoaster Mandy was, Nicolas Cage finally found the role of his lifetime: Nic Cage. In this hilarious film that more people should have seen, Cage plays a version of himself that's having trouble getting booked for roles and even more trouble connecting with his daughter. So, he does the unthinkable: goes to a wealthy fan's birthday party to get a $1 million payday. Unfortunately, the CIA is already here, as they think Nic Cage superfan Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) is more than just a big fan: he's also a suspect in a weapons trafficking investigation. A wonderful bromance follows, and Nic Cage learns more about himself along the way. – HTC
18. The Lost City
Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a romance/adventure novelist who is depressed and tired of turning out paperbacks about the fictional heroine Dr. Angela Lovemore and hunky love interest Dash McMahon. That said, her agent still wants her to keep pumping out novels, which brings her to a promotional stop for her latest tome. And she's annoyed to find that she's going to be joined on this tour by Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), the cover model who acts like he really thinks he is Dash. Or at least they would have gone on this tour, were it not for an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe), who thinks the lore in Sage's books means she can help him find an actual lost treasure. Bullock and Tatum have great comedic chemistry in The Lost City, one of the under-the-radar gems of 2022. — HTC
17. Triangle of Sadness
We still don't know if Triangle of Sadness makes sense as the belle of the festival ball, but it's definitely a movie that understood the assignment when telling a story about the uber-rich in 2022. Complete with a scene practically ripped out of Family Guy, Triangle of Sadness puts attractive and wealthy people in unflattering light for us to cringe, laugh and think.
Those filthy-stinking-rich folks include a pair of models in a toxic relationship and a grotesque Russian manure-dealer, and Triangle of Sadness uses all the rough waters of a cruise-gone-wrong to put them through the paces. And then some of them wind up on a island, where the hierarchy of power shifts faster than you can say "garcon!" – HTC
I'm as shocked as anyone that I'm writing this. I wrote Elvis off as just Baz Lurhman's latest bit of exhausting maximalist spectacle. And while it is definitely that kind of movie, it's so much more thanks to the performance of one Austin Butler, who plays The King himself, Elvis Presley. While Butler is far from a new face on the scene — he's been acting since 2005 — Elvis is truly a star-making role for him.
As someone far too young to have seen the Elvis phenomenon when it happened, the film Elvis is the first time where I understood what had happened. Once Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) sees an electric performance from Elvis on stage, he sees all the money in the world in this kid, and so will you. Butler's on-screen charisma and electricity as he plays Elvis' hits is unlike anything I've witnessed in ages. — HTC
15. Operation Mincemeat
A movie with not one Mr. Darcy, but two of them? Yes and yes, please. Colin Firth and Matthew Macfayden both had memorably smoldering turns in adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and now they team up for this World War II film about a preposterous but real espionage deception. British intelligence officers Ewen Montagu (Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Macfayden) hatch a seemingly hare-brained scheme to gain ground in Nazi-occupied Italy — planting a corpse in the sea carrying fake documents outlining the Allied forces’ next move. Absolutely bonkers, totally true. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Firth and Macfayden ooze charisma, so seeing the two of them together elevates what’s already a fantastic story. – Kelly Woo
Stream it on Netflix
14. Fire Island
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice gets a modern, queer update written by and starring comedian Joel Kim Booster. Noah is a gay, snarkier version of Elizabeth Bennet, who heads to Fire Island with best friend Howie (Bowen Yang) and other pals for a week of sun and cocktail-swilling parties. Noah’s only goal beyond having a good time is getting his friend laid. Things are looking good when Howie vibes with kind pediatrician Charlie (James Scully). Unfortunately, Charlie’s aloof friend Will (Conrad Ricamora) threatens to be a buzzkill and even insults Noah. If you’re familiar with Austen’s novel or its numerous adaptations, you know how things go. Still, Fire Island’s path to sexily-ever-after is delightfully clever and funny. – KW
Stream it on Hulu
13. The Batman
While the DCEU movies (see: Zack Snyder's murder-verse, that Flash movie that is haunted by Ezra Miller's arrest warrants) are basically a waking nightmare, Matt Reeves' The Batman proved that amazing results are possible when you leave Ben Affleck behind and draw outside the lines. This auteur vision of Batman is the truest distillation of some of the best Batman comics, where Gotham is grim and Bruce Wayne is just becoming the world's greatest detective. While Robert Pattinson's version of Wayne may be too soft-spoken for some, Zoë Kravitz's Selina Kyle/Catwoman got raves from practically all. Beautifully shot, The Batman is the best superhero movie of the year so far. Need more to stream on HBO Max? Check out our list of the best HBO Max shows. – HTC
Stream it on HBO Max
Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is many things, and while she has the EGOT wrapped up, she is most well-defined as "difficult." Blanchett's top-tier performance, though, is only improved by fantastic sound design (a combination that has us thinking about Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread). And right as she's thriving, well, things fall apart.
Accusations stalk her every moment, and her sensitivity to sound gives the film an audio profile that's all the more intense as her emotions ratchet up. Blanchett has won praise left and right for this performance, and you can watch it now at home to get an idea of why she'll clean up on awards night. – HTC
11. The Black Phone
If you like Stephen King's brand of horror, you'll want to pick up The Black Phone (which is based on a story of the same name by King's son Joe Hill). A startling horror movie (with some fantasy elements), The Black Phone is bolstered by a strong cast of child actors and a remarkably unnerving performance from Ethan Hawke. Based in 1978, before parents could use Find My Phone to track their kids, siblings Finney (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) Blake go through hell both at home (surviving an abusive and alcoholic father) and at school where bullies target Finney because that's what kids do in Stephen King-adjacent movies. But when a local predator that kids nickname The Grabber pulls Finney off the street, his only hope is a peculiar phone in the room he's locked in, and his sister's secret abilities. – HTC
10. Crimes of the Future
Body horror is rarely seen as highbrow, but director David Cronenberg is not your average filmmaker. In this reality, the effects of pollution and climate-change have ravaged how our bodies work. A child we meet early in Crimes of the Future, for example, eats plastic and it's his secret shame.
The art world, though, is reacting to these changes in its own way. In an underground subculture, artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is a performance artist whose body is his canvas. His "accelerated evolution syndrome" finds his body creating new organs, and so he's made a show of it all, with his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux). Kristen Stewart got critical praise for her tense performance of a National Organ Registry employee named Timlin who finds Tenser to be very interesting. – HTC
Stream it on Hulu right now
9. Petite Maman
Emotionally powerful and remarkably subtle, Petite Maman probably flew under the radar for most - even though it’s fantastic. 8-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) is dealing with the loss of her maternal grandmother, and has to just sit there as her parents pack up Grandma’s home. Adventuring around the building, she meets Marion (played by Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine's identical twin sister), and the two become fast friends.
Throughout the film, though, you can sense something is off or wrong, as Nelly quietly processes the loss she’s experiencing. And the more you pay attention, the more you’ll pick up on what’s up underneath the surface. Director Céline Sciamma gives you small clues as to what’s going on here, both in the film’s title (which translates to ‘little mom’) and the fact that Nelly’s mother is also named Marion. Petite Maman treats the audience with respect, as they watch bond form between Nelly and Marion. – HTC
Stream it on Hulu
8. The Northman
Best described as an adrenaline rush visualized by Heavy Metal magazine, Robert Eggers' The Northman is a brutal and amazing movie. It may be far too violent for some — seriously, heed my warning if you're squeamish around blood — but The Northman is one of those rare movies that breaks through the static by sheer force. Based on the Scandanavian lore of Amleth (who inspired Shakespeare's Hamlet), The Northman goes back to the year 895 for an ultimate tale of revenge.
Young Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) witnesses the betrayal and murder of his father King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) by his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang), and after he escapes for his own safety, he vows revenge. Years later, an older Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is chiseled and seeking the head of Fjölnir. Little does he know a massive surprise will break his mind once he gets to his uncle's whereabouts. – HTC
Stream it on Peacock
7. Turning Red
Turning Red marks off a lot of firsts for Pixar — the studio’s first film to have a solo female director, Domee Shi; the first to be set in Canada; and the first to feature an Asian girl as the lead. It’s also possibly the most mature Pixar project yet, a parable about the on-set of puberty (and more specifically, menstruation). A 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl named Mei wakes up one morning having transformed into a giant red panda. It’s a family curse that occurs whenever she’s stressed or excited. The curse can only be broken during the next red moon — which unfortunately conflicts with a concert by Mei’s favorite boy band, 4*Town. Turning Red does a wonderful job of exploring the near-universal adolescent desire to break free from your parents and establish your own identity. At the same time, it’s fun and funny, with plenty of jokes for kids and grown-ups. – KW
Stream it on Disney Plus
6. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Viral internet sensation Marcel The Shell With Shoes On shouldn't translate into a film, yet it's somehow one of our favorites of the year. Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) is an eager and earnest shell that's both sentient and adorable, and capable of surprising amounts of sadness.
The story begins, though, when a documentary filmmaker named Dean (Dean Fleischer Camp) moves into an Airbnb where he finds Marcel, a talking shell. Marcel lives in this home with his Nanna Connie (also a shell, voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and Marcel's pet ball of lint named Alan. Marcel's world, built around ingenious little tricks, is missing his whole community. And this inspires Dean's to stream Marcel and Connie online, so they can hopefully find their lost family. – HTC
Nope is one of those movies that is best seen knowing very little beforehand. The latest film from Jordan Peele, Nope finds O.J. (Daniel Kaluuya) running his family's horse training stable, Haywood Hollywood Horses. They've been preparing horses for their starring roles in movies since the dawn of cinema.
O.J. is helped by his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer), and the two have had a hard time making ends meet. But when the supernatural becomes possible, they start to investigate and chase glory. Amazingly shot, Nope may be Peele's best movie yet. – HTC
Stream it on Peacock
Writing about Barbarian, when your audience (thankfully) doesn't know much about its story, is a challenge of watching what you say. Tess (Georgina Campbell) is trying to enter the Airbnb she booked, only to find that Keith (Bill Skarsgård) also booked the house, on a different app. Eventually, Tess enters, and finds much more than she had seen on the Airbnb listing.
Twists, and turns, and a moral story about who we help and who gets abandoned, lurk inside Barbarian's house. All I ask is that you avoid any plot summaries or explainers before you watch Barbarian. I recommended it to a friend who didn't know anything going into it, and I woke up the next day with a series of texts reacting to the movie sent in real time — and praise for recommending it. – HTC
Stream it on HBO Max
3. Top Gun: Maverick
I didn't know I felt the need for speed again, but man, I surely did. Top Gun: Maverick felt like a completely useless, "nobody asked for this" sequel. Yet, it works — it more than works. Maverick is a blast, from start to finish, the kind of old-school, crowd-pleasing action film that is missing among the CGI-heavy superhero flicks.
For all his eccentricities, Tom Cruise is the last of the big Movie Stars. He puts the full force of his personality and power into this sequel. He reprises his role as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, an ace test pilot who still likes to make trouble for his superiors. His former rival, Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer) sends him on a new assignment: Training an elite group of Top Gun graduates to carry out a dangerous mission. They include Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), who happens to be the son of Maverick's late friend Goose. - KW
Not all heroes wear capes. Some, at least in RRR, dance in musical numbers and throw motorcycles at evil colonialists. RRR, the latest film from Indian film director S. S. Rajamouli, is a bit of high fantasy, where two Indian folk heroes become friends and fight British colonialists in the 1920's. And it's my current best movie of 2022, as it accomplishes all of the above with more style and flair than anything I've witnessed in ages. In the theater, my audience was clapping to the beat of one of the fight scenes, and the charming performances by leads Ram Charan and N. T. Rama Rao Jr. help ground the film's more over-the-top moments. Hopefully, the MCU and the rest of America's action movies will be trying to knock RRR off for years to come. – HTC
Stream it on Netflix
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
My favorite movie of the year features a very strange trip through the multiverse — but it wasn’t made by Marvel. Instead, it’s an indie film starring Michelle Yeoh as a laundromat owner who is pulled into an insane adventure involving parallel realities. Everything Everywhere All at Once might as well refer to the mash-up of so many genres and tones, from Hong Kong martial arts flicks to science fiction to comedy.
Yeoh’s Evelyn Wang starts off as a very ordinary woman living a very ordinary life. But then, she learns from an alternate version of her husband that other realities exist and that she is the key to saving everyone from annihilation. Evelyn must learn to tap into newfound powers to face off against the would-be multiverse destroyer: another version of her daughter, Joy. Ultimately, the genres fade away to reveal what this story is truly about: love. – KW
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.
- Kelly WooStreaming Editor