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The Northman
Photograph: Universal

32 films you need to know about in 2022

It’s the year of ‘Avatar 2‘, ‘Black Panther 2’ and Robert Eggers’s ‘The Northman’

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
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Remember Avatar? Well, the sequel, which gives new meaning to the phrase ‘long-awaited’, finally arrives in 2022 – just one of many big splashy blockbusters landing in a year that should see your local cinema back to pre-pandemic levels of choice and spectacle. 

James Cameron’s big blue sci-fi is hot favourite to end the year as box-office champion, but it faces stiff competition from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and the latest from the always popular Mission: Impossible franchise. Then again, The Flash could just zip in and pull everyone’s trousers down, box-office-wise. There’s also a new Batman – say hello to Robert Pattinson, Gotham dwellers – and those other owners of a large country pile, the Crawleys, are back in a second Downton Abbey movie.

Loads for cinemagoers to get their teeth into, in other words, before you even consider the smaller docs, indies and awards season wannabes that will land throughout the year. There’s almost too much to see, too many tough decisions to make, so we’ve dug into the 2022 slate to pick out a few must-see movies. 

Scream
Photograph courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group

1. Scream

The return of Wes Craven’s ultra-meta horror-comedy universe has fans on the edge of their seat for yet another gory whodunnit. Neve Campbell tools up again as franchise survivor Sidney Prescott, returning to her hometown just in time for some more wholesale slaughter courtesy of Ghostface. This should be a darker, bloodier and less playful Scream than we’re used to.

Out in US and UK cinemas Jan 14. Read our review.

  • Film
  • Animation

The kaleidoscopic fantasy to brighten up dark winter days, Mamoru Hosoda’s new anime Belle got a 14-minute standing ovation in Cannes. It’s a riff on Beauty and the Beast that sees high-schooler Suzu reinvent herself as a superstar singer in a virtual world. As one of the people clapping in Cannes, we can attest to its deservedness of all 840 palm-reddening seconds. Expect pop bangers and dazzling colours from this anime superstar.

Out US theaters Jan 14 and UK cinemas Feb 4

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Nightmare Alley
Photograph: ©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

3. Nightmare Alley

A classic ‘40s noir featuring a stellar Tyrone Power turn as a feckless carnival barker on the road to run gets the full A-list remake treatment courtesy of Guillermo del Toro. Bradley Cooper steps into the Power role, while Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and Toni Collette round out a formidable-looking cast. With the gothic-loving Mexican director behind the camera, it’s sure to be a funhouse ride.

Out UK Jan 21

Morbius
Photograph: Jay Maidment

4. Morbius

Jared Leto packs on the muscle – and hopefully ditches his method-acting shenanigans – to star as the classic Spider-Man frenemy known as the ‘living vampire.’ Like Venom, this is a Sony joint, so don’t expect to see your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man adding garlic to his web shooters (yet). Still, given Michael Keaton’s MCU-based Vulture is in Morbius and Sony’s got more villain-centric films on the way, odds are good that Sony’s villainous one-offs are building toward something much bigger. Could this be the entry point for Mahershala Ali’s upcoming Blade reboot?

Out US and UK cinemas Jan 28

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  • Film
  • Drama

Arthouse sequels are a rare beast – not now, Che fans – but Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical study of a young Londoner, Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), struggling to unlock her inner artistry and recover from the emotional calamity that befell her in the first film. A more hopeful second film should deliver messiness and healing in equal measure, as well as another appearance from Richard Ayoade’s heroically smug filmmaker.

Out UK Feb 4

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  • Animation

A strong shout at an Oscar, here is proof that animation can capture the world with unsparing precision just as well as it delivers magical flights of fancy. The work of Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee tells the story of the Danish/French director’s friend, a gay Afghan refugee desperately trying to escape tyranny of the Mujahideen and come to terms with his own sexuality. Possibly the most politically zeitgeisty film of the year. 

Out UK Feb 11

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  • Film
  • Romance

Gay Paree has rarely looked better than in Jacques Audiard’s sparklingly lit black-and-white relationship drama set in the City of Light. Anyone grumbling about the relative chasteness of films at the moment will find this one a big, sexy thirst trap that also has some sharp insights to share on the state of modern coupling, the internet and life in the big city.

Out UK Feb 14

Benediction
Photograph: Laurence Cendrowicz

8. Benediction

Since his iconic debut, Distant Voices, Still Lives, British national treasure Terence Davis has not made a single bad film. His latest, a poetic rendering of the life of Great War poet Siegfried Sassoon, is another corker. Jack Lowden is a revelation as the younger Sassoon, while Peter Capaldi plays the older, embittered version. Davis promises something mournful but also warm and witty, with an ensemble of 1920s Bright Young Things like Robbie Ross, Ivor Novello and Stephen Tennant exchanging barbs.

Out in the UK February

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Uncharted
Photograph: Clay Enos

9. Uncharted

A video game adaptation that has had virtually every Hollywood leading man attached to it at one time or another, this archeological actioner finally arrives with Tom Holland’s name on the poster. The Brit is not everyone’s idea of rugged adventurer Nathan Drake, but he’s not short of charisma and being Spider-man will definitely help with all the climbing. The idea of Holland and baddie Antonio Banderas facing off in a variety of exotic locations does seem like a decent one.

Out UK Feb 11 and US Feb 18

The Duke
Photograph: Nick Wall

10. The Duke

As in ‘...of Wellington’, the subject of a Goya portrait stolen from London’s National Gallery in 1961. But was a gang of sophisticated art thieves responsible? A British Danny Ocean? Improbably, it was actually a retired bus driver protesting against the government’s shoddy care of senior citizens. Jim Broadent plays the thief and Helen Mirren his long-suffering wife in a final film from much-mourned director Roger Michell.

Out UK Feb 25

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Think Christopher Nolan’s Bat films were too dark and gritty? Robert Pattinson and director Matt Reeves would like a word. The Batman looks like the grimmest trip to Gotham yet, positioning Paul Dano’s Riddler as a costumed cousin to Seven’s John Doe and R-Batz as a young Knight dripping in darkness. The film promises to explore Batman’s status as a detective, but the emo Bruce Wayne looks like he’s got some serious brawn to match his brains. Early footage shows him brutally pummeling a goon as Zoe Kravitz’s shocked Catwoman looks like she’s suppressing a hairball. We’re a long way from Joel Schumacher

Out worldwide Mar 4

Downton Abbey: A New Era
Photograph: Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

12. Downton Abbey: A New Era

It’s always nice to get a surprise villa, as the Crawley family discover in the second big-screen Downton. Tired of being cooped up in their poky 600-room country pile, the aristocratic clan will decamp to the French riviera for jazz age glamour, a big wedding and the usual upstairs-downstairs wranglings among the staff (#TeamPatmore FTW). Unexpectedly, Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess is back for the poshest sequel of the year.

Out worldwide Mar 18 

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Turning Red
Photograph: Pixar

13. Turning Red

The last few Pixar movies haven’t been up to the studio’s usual genius-level standards, but here’s a red panda who can help. The Instagrammable critter appears whenever gawky teenager Mei Lee gets emotional in this animation about growing pains. It’s directed by Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi, who won an Oscar for her short Bao, and features Billie Eilish tunes. We are ready to be totally panda-ed to.

On Disney+ worldwide March 11

Everything Everywhere At Once
Photograph: A24

14. Everything Everywhere At Once

When the directors known as Daniels (surnames Kwan and Scheinert) broke out with Swiss Army Man, they treated us to the sight of a dead Harry Potter propelling Paul Dano across the ocean through the raw power of flatulence. That occurred in a single dimension. Now they’re sending the legendary Michelle Yeoh into an interdimensional freakout of wuxia acrobatics, office-drone mundanity, romance and grown Goonies. Marvel’s Multiverse of Madness might look like cinéma vérité by comparison.

Out in US cinemas March 25

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The Northman
Photograph: Universal

15. The Northman

This Viking-flavoured third movie from Robert Eggers should be a mind bending ride – at least, if the other two films – The Witch and The Lighthouse – are anything to go by. The American indie doyen loves to deposit his characters into extreme situations and let them try (and epically failing) to puzzle their way out of them. This should be that again, only with more axes. 

Out US Apr 2 and UK Apr 22 

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Photograph: Warner Bros.

16. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

An intriguing third outing for a spin-off franchise that has struggled to ignite even the fierce devotion of Harry Potter fans. But this one presents a piece of recasting – out goes Johnny Depp as evil wizard Grindelwald and in comes Mads Mikkelsen – that may just spark it into life. We can see Mikkelsen giving good evil wizard as he battles a younger Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) again.

Out worldwide Apr 8

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Thirteen Lives
Photograph: Andrea Raffin _ Shutterstock

17. Thirteen Lives

A Ron Howard disaster movie is worth getting excited about, as Apollo 13 fans will tell you. The genial American’s latest is a dramatisation of the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue that left a group of Thai teenagers stuck in a cave for 18 terrifying days. Coming to help are Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen and Joel Edgerton as the cave divers dispatched to find them. It’s written by Gladiator’s William Nicholson and has the hallmarks of a nerve-fraying watch. 

Out UK and US Apr 15

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Photograph: Courtesy of Marvel Studios

18. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

OG Spider-Man director and Evil Dead maniac Sam Raimi returns to comics for this daffy-sounding sequel to the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring mind-bender. As the title indicated, things are going to get weird for the Sorcerer Supreme, with Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch joining the interdimensional chaos that could also include demons and Lovecraftian squid monsters. Which is to say, this sounds like a Sam Raimi film.

Out worldwide May 26

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John Wick: Chapter 4
Photograph: John Wick 3 (2019) credit Lionsgate

19. John Wick: Chapter 4

When last we saw Keanu Reeves’s well-coiffed murder merchant, he declared war on his enemies… likely to the surprise of the 300+ dead people who already assumed the war had started. This fourth entry – the swansong of series steward Chad Stahelski – promises to continue the series’ gonzo spirit of escalation. Reeves and returning The Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne will welcome newcomers Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Hiroyuki Sanada and Scott Adkins... probably by shooting them in the face following some elaborate hand-to-hand mayhem.

Out UK and US May 27

  • Film

Thirty-five years on and Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell still hasn’t hung up those Aviators. His days of 4G inverted dives and buzzing the tower may be at an end, though, as this long gestating sequel sees him take on the role of trainer to a new squadron of hot-shot recruits. Slamming lockers and high-fiving in this one are Miles Teller as Bradley ‘Son of Goose’ Bradshaw and Hidden Figures’ Glen Powell. Adding to the nostalgia for Gen X-ers, Jennifer Connelly is the single mum Mav falls for in this one.

Out US and UK May 27

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Elvis
Photograph: DFree _ Shutterstock

21. Elvis

Should we read anything into the fact that Baz Luhrmann’s music-filled biopic isn’t in a traditional Oscar-hopeful timeframe? It certainly has awards pedigree, being a film about an American icon with Tom Hanks in it. Hopefully not, because Hanks makes all kinds of sense as Colonel Tom Parker and Luhrmann’s stylised, go-big filmmaking style could be a fun match for a man who, after all, lived a pretty outsized life. 

Out US cinemes Jun 3 and UK Jun 24

Jurassic World: Dominion
Photograph: Universal

22. Jurassic World: Dominion

Those breathtaking, earth-shaking miracles of the first Jurassic Park – Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern – are reunited at last for another dino disaster movie. Yes, Ian Malcolm, Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Sattler are back in action and trying not to get chomped by several new generations of giant monsters. The plot is locked away in an InGen vault, but we do know that this one will be PG-13 for some intense scenes of dino havoc.

Out worldwide Jun 10

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Lightyear
Photograph: Pixar Disney

23. Lightyear

Not Buzz Lightyear the toy, Buzz Lightyear the astronaut. Yes, Pixar is dusting off the old space ranger in a Toy Story spin-off that almost defies conventional terminology. Is it a prequel? A sidequel? An origin story? Whatever it turns out to be, it will follow the story of the spaceman who inspired the toy who would one day rescue Andy from himself. Chris Evans does the voice this time. To infinity and beyond-er?

Out worldwide Jun 17

Thor: Love and Thunder
Photograph: Marvel Studios

24. Thor: Love and Thunder

Director Taika Waititi is promising the craziest Marvel movie yet. Considering his psychedelic comedy Thor: Ragnarok is the current title-holder, that’s a big promise. Chris Hemsworth is back in shape after a stint as Lebowski Thor, while Natalie Portman is poised to hoist the hero’s signature hammer as the newly buff Jane Foster. Meanwhile, Christian Bale is on villain duties as a so-called God Butcher and Russell Crowe is playing Zeus. So yeah, we’re guessing Waititi is telling the truth.

Out worldwide Jul 8

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Nope
Photograph: Kathy Hutchins/ Shutterstock

25. Nope

What does Jordan Peele have up his sleeve next? At the moment, the sketch comedian-turned-horror-auteur’s latest is a mysterious entity. All we know is that it stars Peele’s Get Out mucker Daniel Kaluuya, Hustlers’ Keke Palmer, and Minari’s Steven Yeun. Also, that it’s partly shot on 65mm IMAX by frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator Hoyte van Hoytema, so it presumably has some pretty nifty visuals going on. We can’t wait to find out more.

Out worldwide Jul 22

Black Adam
Photograph: Lev Radin/Shutterstock

26. Black Adam

Against all odds, this Shazam! spinoff from DC marks the first time Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has played a superhero. That alone is cause for excitement. But considering said protagonist isn’t exactly a paragon of good – early footage shows a cloaked demigod disintegrating a guy with his bare hands – we’re expecting things to get a bit dark. That’ll happen when you awaken a slumbering, ultra-swole Egyptian god from a millennia-spanning nap.

Out worldwide Jul 29

 

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Mission: Impossible 8
Photograph: Paramount Pictures

27. Mission: Impossible 8

It’s hard to say what Tom Cruise will be hanging from next in this enduring box-office juggernaut – possibly an actual juggernaut – but on recent form, it’ll be worth seeing on the biggest screen available. Cruise and director Christoper McQuarrie’s commitment to nutso in-camera stunts, zippy plotting, and slick melding of spy thriller beats with blockbuster action make this so-far untitled septquel a must-see.  

Out worldwide Sep 30

Spider-man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)
Photograph: Sony Pictures Animation

28. Spider-man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)

Like his live action, Peter Parker-y equivalent in No Way Home, it’s all about the multiverses for the Miles Morales Spidey (voiced by Shameik Moore) in the follow-up to the ridiculously infectious 2018 animation. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are on screenwriting duties again, so expect the same skewy wit, a helter-skelter sense of silliness and hopefully more Spider-Ham. There are two Spider-Women this time out, with Insecure star Issa Rae’s Jessica Drew joining Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld).

Out worldwide Oct 7 

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The Flash
Photograph: Cubankite/Shutterstock

29. The Flash

Marvel’s not the only comic-book corp with multiversal designs: In this loose adaptation of the popular Flashpoint series, Ezra Miller slips back into the Scarlet Speedster role, with It director Andy Muschietti attempting to tie multiple timelines together. That includes multiple Flashes and, even more enticing, Batman. Or Batmen: Both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton will reprise their roles as the Caped Crusader. Did nobody think to call Clooney?

Out worldwide Nov 4

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Photograph: Marvel Studios

30. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Director Ryan Coogler follows up the $1.3 billion cultural phenomenon that was Black Panther with a sequel that needs to work around the tragic loss of its title star, Chadwick Boseman, make narrative sense and offer a fitting tribute to the actor’s memory. Thankfully, Marvel top dog Kevin Feige has already ruled out going down the CGI resurrection route that blighted Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. We don’t know much more at this point, except that cast members Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett and Winston Duke are all back.

Out worldwide Nov 11

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Creed III
Photograph: Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros.

31. Creed III

Michael B Jordan has so far dominated the ring in two installments of the grounded, powerfully affecting reinvigoration of the Rocky franchise. For the third title bout, he’s also calling the shots: Creed III will see Jordan pulling double-duty as Apollo Creed’s pugilistic son and the film’s director. Jordan knows his way around the ring, already turning in a pair of performances that stand among the best in sports-movie history. Hopefully, he can hold his own behind the camera, too. One thing is certain: It will be better than Rocky V.

Out US Nov 23

Avatar 2
Photograph: 20th Century Fox

32. Avatar 2

It’s been so long since we visited James Cameron’s human-devouring planet of Pandora, Disney World has opened its own, much less dangerous theme-park version. Despite that, Avatar hasn’t permeated the pop culture bedrock in quite the way you’d expect a $2.87 billion grossing blockbuster to do. Maybe that’s because the MCU has filled its space – and beaten its box office records. Still, don’t be surprised to see Cameron to blast back and show everyone how it’s done. He’s got Stephen Lang’s killed-off Colonel Quaritch to help him – a man far too charismatic to let death deter him.

Out worldwide Dec 16

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