Netflix has had a big year for new movies, and if you’re looking for our best-of list, you’ve come to the right place. Here are our top 10 Netflix Original movies released in 2022.
For the past few years, December has been a joyous month for Netflix as they have been showered with praise for several films ending up in the thick of the Awards Season races.
While their 2022 movie slate doesn’t appear to have a bonafide Best Picture Oscar Winner, Netflix did seem to have another handful of exceptional films that will be talked up on end-of-the-year “best of” lists just like this one for weeks to come.
Let’s check out what I believe rose to the top of the heap for Netflix this year:
Director: Romain Gavras
Cast: Dali Benssalah, Sami Slimane, Anthony Bajon, Ouassini Embarek, Alexis Manenti
As Netflix becomes increasingly global, its film studio seems to follow suit. Particularly following Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar-winning drama Roma, Netflix seems to take larger swings with their international selections with hopes of more awards contention. One of those swings came in the form of Roman Gavras’ French thriller Athena, a chaotic and gripping fireball of a film centered around three siblings’ reaction to the tragic death of their youngest brother.
A non-stop riot for almost its entire duration, Athena brings you front and center for the mayhem with cleverly stitched together tracking shots and relentless violence typically reserved for big-budget crime dramas like Heat or The Dark Knight. Produced & co-written by Les Miserables director Ladj Ly, there is no question that he has a type that seems to be working. After Les Miserables was nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature, Athena followed suit with a Gotham Awards nomination for the same category.
9. THE GOOD NURSE
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jessica Chastain, Nnamdi Asomugha, Noah Emmerich, Kim Dickens, Malik Yoba, Alix West Lefler
Sometimes you just play the hits.
Over the years, Netflix has been the epicenter for the resurgence of the true crime documentary. The next evolutionary step would be to bring back the true crime docudrama. With a year that saw Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story become a massive success on the TV side, it should come as no shock that the same appetite (not sorry) for that show would spill over into the success of another serial killer story.
Billed as “based on the unthinkable true story,” The Good Nurse centers around Amy Loughren (performed admirably by newly crowned Oscar Winner Jessica Chastain), who is struggling to keep afloat after a life-threatening heart condition and a demanding position as an overnight nurse constantly wear this single mother down. Enter Charlie Cullen: a new hire on the overnight nursing staff that appears almost as an angel for Amy when he takes over caseloads, watches her children, and covers for her when her illness sidelines her during her shifts. However, when patients start to die off in a mysterious fashion, the police start to question whether Amy’s Godsend is actually working on a darker level.
Based on the book by Charles Graeber, The Good Nurse is a solid thriller that combines the skills of director Tobias Lindholm’s previous work on Mindhunter and HBO’s The Investigation with the writing prowess of scribe Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917, Last Night In Soho). The film is driven by the ensemble cast led by Chastain and Eddie Redmayne as Charlie. Redmayne was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his supporting performance.
8. ENOLA HOLMES 2
Director: Henry Bradbeer
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, David Thewlis, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Susan Wokoma, Adeel Akhtar, Sharon Duncan-Brewster
Read our full review for Enola Holmes 2
After the success of the first film, both director Henry Bradbeer (Fleabag, Killing Eve) & star Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) proved they could thrive in feature films after critical & commercial breakouts in television. However, to launch this film series into a full-blown franchise, they would need to prove themselves worthy once more and progress the Enola character forward while amping up the stakes & theatrics. Well, it seems the franchise game is, as the Holmes family would say, afoot.
With a bold blend of historical fiction storytelling & a fast-paced, tightly woven edit, Enola Holmes 2 sheds the origin story & overuse of romantic entanglements to get to the heart of why we always come back to these types of films: solving a mystery with the best family ever to do it.
Carryovers Henry Cavill & Helena Bonham Carter shine in their returns as Sherlock & Eudoria, respectively, while welcomed additions David Thewlis (The Sandman), Sharon Duncan Brewster (Sex Education), & Hannah Dodd (The Eternals, Bridgerton) deepen this already impressive ensemble.
Fans of this new franchise should be satisfied with this entry and encouraged by the new template that could bring the rest of Nancy Springer’s novels to Netflix in the coming years.
7. LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Cast: Emma Corrin, Jack O’Connell, Matthew Duckett, Faye Marsay, Ella Hunt, Joely Richardson
Full disclosure: Period pieces centered on romantic entanglements are typically not the type of films that make my “Best of” lists at the end of the year. While that probably says more about me than the films themselves, it is, nonetheless, the truth. I share this only to emphasize how remarkable it is that Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s enduring 1928 novel ended up on this list. But, in the end, the film was too engrossing to deny.
My admiration stems from what it wasn’t as much as what it accomplished.
It’s a story that shows an aristocratic woman suffering through a level of suffocation & discontent that feels a piece with what Pablo Larrain tried to display in Princess Diana’s arc in Spencer or what Marie Kreutzer put forward for the Empress Elisabeth of Austria in this year’s Corsage. However, I felt that this film spends more time with a reasonable & laudable plot for Lady Chatterley that made you feel her pain, as well as her release and it pays off.
Oh yeah, and it’s steamy as hell.
Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell have real chemistry that makes you grin, giggle, & blush throughout their courtship. A surprise hit for Netflix.
6. WHITE NOISE
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle, Madison Daughan
With two of the best Netflix Original Films already under his belt in Marriage Story and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Noah Baumbach cashed in all his equity & goodwill to adapt what many said was an unadaptable novel in Don DeLillo’s 1985 critical success White Noise, a novel that follows a year in the life of a death-obsessed Hitler Studies professor and his family as they traverse through the challenges of a chemical spill turned airborne toxic event, an illegal prescription drug trial, & a seedy motel confrontation at gunpoint.
It sounds pretty unadaptable when you say it like that, but what Baumbach creates is a relentless & rich tapestry of obsessions, distractions, and philosophies, all aimed at the idea of avoiding the inevitable conclusion of our lives: consumerism, religion, celebrity worship, drug abuse.
It’s all a part of avoiding what confronts us all the time. Some more than others, but probably none more than Jack (Adam Driver) & Babette (Greta Gerwig) who take us on a rollercoaster ride that devolves in a way only akin to the dark comedies of Joel & Ethan Coen.
In fact, some of the best things about this film is how Baumbach utilizes his increased budget this time around to create a second act that has action stunts and set pieces that feel more early Spielberg than Baumbach’s previous work. The influences don’t stop there either as we get highly intellectual, rapid-fire cross-talking dialogue that makes you feel like you’re in a Robert Altman film and moments of heightened reality where talk in a manner not heard in real life like you’re in a David Lynch film.
Baumbach stretches everything he could possibly imagine doing in a film and takes the biggest swing of his career with this film. Many will feel that the movie is simply too much to take in on first viewing, but I feel like once you see past the “noise” that this film presents in bunches, you see it for the bold and sometimes ridiculous meditations & darkly comedic moments that make the movie persistently entertaining.
Be sure to stay to the end for a dance sequence punctuated by my choice for Best Original Song, LCD Soundsystem’s New Body Rhumba. You’ll be glad you did.
5. THE WONDER
Director: Sebastian Lelio
Cast: Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Niamh Algar, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Elaine Cassidy
Read our full review for The Wonder here.
While many people will remember Florence Pugh’s work in 2022 for the polarizing Don’t Worry Darling which brought a lot of drama on and off screen, I will remember Pugh’s understated yet engrossing performance in Sebastian Lelio’s mysterious & methodical mystery drama The Wonder.
Based on the novel of the same name, the film follows English nurse Lib Wright (Pugh), who is brought to a tiny village to observe young Anna O’Donnell (Kila Lord Cassidy) on claims that she has not eaten in the past four months since her 11th birthday. As she remains miraculously alive and well, Nurse Wright must suss out if this community is harboring a new saint or if they are covering up the unholy truth.
The Wonder is a well-crafted story displaying the battle for the soul between science and faith. Even with a medical professional at the center, the story plays out like many investigative crime dramas, interrogating the facts until the ultimate truth presents itself. The tone of Lelio’s puzzle box is haunting and gripping, with strong, palpable performances.
Kila Lord Cassidy is unflinching as Anna; devout by force, at war with her convictions, and tortured by her family’s secrets & manipulations. Her calm presence, icy stare, and breathy prayer recitings create an aura of believability in her impossible circumstances.
Of course, the movie doesn’t work without the gravity of Florence Pugh. She is the barometer for all that we feel in the film. Her cold & calculated persona in the earlier parts of the film set the mood for the more exploratory measures, but subtly gives way as the story progresses into a more anxious & frantic conclusion.
While I absolutely HATED the Fourth Wall breaks in this film, the rest of the story is so compelling that it landed as one of the best Netflix films of the year.
Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Cast: Adam Sandler, Juancho Hernangómez, Queen Latifah, Ben Foster, Kenny Smith, Robert Duvall
OK! OK! I can’t get enough of The Sandman when he gets all serious!
I also may be an incredible sucker for a well-constructed sports drama, which is why Hustle was a sight for sore eyes in a spectacularly dull summer movie season for 2022.
Set in the modern NBA and filled with a ton of today’s stars, the film centers around Stanley Sugarman, former college basketball player and NBA scout, who discovers a phenomenal streetball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to gain back respect and favor amongst his former colleagues in the league.
While the film presents all the classic beats of a quality rise-to-fame sports tale, what makes the film more unique is putting the role of scout on display and showing the parallel relationship of two men at different stages of their career who need each other desperately to survive the rigors of professional sports and the mental toll that the draft process can take on anyone involved. As a known basketball fanatic, this was the type of film Sandler was dying to get a hold of and it shows. With impressive performances from current NBA players Juancho Hernangomez & Anthony Edwards, Hustle may be one of the best basketball films we’ve seen in a long time.
3. GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman, John Turturro, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Tim Blake Nelson
While there have been many film adaptations of the classic 1883 children’s tale, the beauty of this version lies in the creator himself. Director Guillermo del Toro has dreamed of making this film since he was a little boy and it shows. Del Toro’s creation is a combination of his ever-present fascination with a “monster’s” interaction with human societal structure with the lens of child-like exuberance & naivety.
Likening the story of Pinocchio to that of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, del Toro’s Pinocchio story has more heart, more realism, & more darkness than the previous cinematic adaptations.
Set in a small Italian village during the rise of fascism under Mussolini’s authoritarian rule in the 1930s, the film does not shy away from the harsh realities of the period and how it would affect the decision-making of our protagonists as well as the village’s reaction to such a spectacle as Pinocchio. Meditations on religious ideology, collateral damage of wartime regions, and, above all else, grief are on full display without the typical guardrails set up in modern family film storytelling.
Buoyed by the bold, gothic claymation-style animation and a murderer’s row of voice-over talent, this version of Pinocchio will be the best chance for Netflix to take home Oscar Gold come March.
2. GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson
After an extremely successful limited run in theaters, Rian Johnson’s follow-up to his 2019 breakout hit Knives Out has been eagerly anticipated by critics and audiences alike after the original made $311 million at the box office and landed an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
With expectations staggeringly high, Johnson upped the ante from the previous film by dazzling us with luxurious locales and opulent set design that beg for meaning even though they are mostly played for distraction.
In fact, the puzzle box that Johnson’s script creates is devilishly simple after he tempts you with potentially larger meanings and false flags at every turn. Inspired by the song of the same name by The Beatles in 1968, Johnson relishes in those temptations and false flags to bring something more to the point that delights in taking the piss out of the hype of high expectations. The winners of this fight skip the puzzles and go straight to the throat; a result in which John Lennon himself would be tickled.
Much like the original, Glass Onion elevates an already intriguing plot construction with an incredibly deep roster of talent. While I enjoyed the expansion of the Blanc depiction and Craig’s performance within, the movie belongs to the standout exhibition performed by Janelle Monae and Kate Hudson, with Monae recently being honored as a nominee for this year’s Critic’s Choice Awards.
The film captures most of the magic of the first film with its incredible roster of talent and complex story construction, but it deviates from the design just enough to be more intriguing for its franchise’s future. Count me in for any number of sequels Johnson, Craig, & crew want to make.
1. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Director: Edward Berger
Cast: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, Edin Hasanović, Thibault de Montalembert, Daniel Brühl, Devid Striesow, Adrian Grünewald, Andreas Döhler, Jakob Schmidt, Friedrich Berger, Michael Wittenborn
“The nightmare is over.” Hopeful words that are swiftly rendered false at the end of Edward Berger’s incredibly tense & hopelessly bleak war epic All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted from the Erich Maria Remarque novel.
Much like Guillermo del Toro’s difficult task of reimagining a classic in Pinocchio, Berger had the impossibly high expectations of updating a previous Best Picture winner in Lewis Milestone’s 1930 version.
Much like the original, the film is filled with impressive visuals & meticulously detailed production design that make this immersive & visceral experience draw you into hell on Earth.
By design, war movies generally operate on a rooting interest in the battles themselves; however, this story is told from the losing German side on the brink of ending the war and focuses on a few young soldiers’ experiences with entering the war on full adrenaline & optimism and leaving broken & irrevocably damaged. Just when you think the film is letting up, it pounds you back down with doomed missions, haunting casualties, & a gory suicide that you’ll never forget.
The chemistry between Paul (Felix Kammerer) & Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch) forms a strong bond that packs an uncomfortable gut punch in the 3rd act of the film. Co-producer & co-star Daniel Bruhl brings a level of stardom & gravitas to the film as the voice of reason beyond the trenches.
In recognition of its success, All Quiet on the Western Front is now in the heated battle for Best International Feature honors as it’s already been nominated for this category at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards. It is currently the betting favorite to win in the category at the Oscars in March.
- The Swimmers (Dir. Sally El Hosaini)
- Munich: The Edge of War (Dir. Christian Schwochow)
Note: I did not include RRR on this list as it came out in theaters in India and is not a Netflix Original in parts of the globe, but please watch the film as it is absolutely worth it.