Don’t call it “a return to normal”. Most certainly, don’t call it “a comeback”. 2022 may be the year the landscape radically shifts and points to an entire new direction for the operation of movie theaters at large. We might view the next year, charitably, as a last-stand for certain types of movies getting made at all. Perhaps we will see, in the division of blockbusters and low-budget movies, a clearer line of division. The role movies played will never be the same, where they once occupied the center of all culture, they may now fulfill a different cultural purpose. Distractions from all the death happening around us. Perhaps some will bring us closer, in these very hard times, and we’ll see a greater humanity reflected in them. But movies will remain movies. Box office priorities do not have to be our priorities. We may be able to have it both ways. Perhaps 2022 can be the year where two proper lanes emerge and a secondary direction for cinema is dictated by the streamers, while box office numbers falter. But there is also a third case: movies that succeed on their own terms, and outside the system. Here is our annual celebration of all types of movies we’re waiting to see. Some of the list we’re incredibly excited for, some of it we’re dreading, or worried about, but all of it paints a colorful and curious picture about the year of cinema to come.
Magic Spot & Boston Johnny
Why We’re Hyped: Have you talked to any of us the last year? All we talk about are the films of Motern Media; we even made a whole podcast about them. Because the Motern Media films, made with economical budgets and consistent taste, have given us so much this year. Perhaps the film we all agreed upon most this year was 2012’s Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You, and Motern Media will be releasing two films every year through 2025. Put Magic Spot & Boston Johnny at the top of our lists. We’re here for all of it. And we’re going to deep dive through the team’s work all year, so it’s also the content we’re most excited to create content for. Long live Motern Media, purveyors of small films done right.
Why We’re Hyped: The VVitch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019) are, perhaps, the most unfuckwithable one-two punch by any modern director. Back-to-back horror masterpieces. And now, director Robert Eggers is making a Viking epic with Alexander Skarsgård, Anya-Taylor Joy, and Willem Dafoe. Every sign, including the rapturous new trailer, points to this being an outsized winner.
The Zone of Interest
Why We’re Hyped: It may be the third year we’re the only ones publishing about Jonathan Glazer making his follow-up to 2014’s Under the Skin. We’ll probably keep doing it, on the off-chance it happens one of these times. A dark story about Germans who just watched as the Worst Thing Imaginable happened, we can only trust Glazer’s vision and approach. Do watch his two recent short films from 2019, The Fall and Strasbourg 1518, and all three of his features, and his Apple commercial, and his Radiohead music videos… You might have time for it all, the way things have been going.
Why We’re Hyped: Cornish director Mark Jenkin is a director to watch. Like 2019’s exceptionally well received Bait, Enys Man (Cornish for Stone Island) will utilize old technology to produce an old-school effect. This time, his film will evoke ’70s horror through its 16mm camera, utilizing color and filmmaking techniques from the decade. Enys Man will be an ecological study of flowers that grow uniquely in one space of the world but also an isolated horror picture, using a very small cast, and the limitations of the present pandemic to induce some smart plant-based horror. We’re here for all of it.
Why We’re Hyped: I’ll argue for Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2010) all day long, as the best documentary of all time, and perhaps one of the greatest works of modern times in general. In the documentary, Oppenheimer interviews corrupt mass murderers with Hollywood dreams. Continually, he uses their ambitions against them. Perhaps one of the most absurd is a big musical sequence (pictured above), where the murderers put on elaborate shows. Eventually, their interest in moviemaking and being in front of the camera ends up with them having to face the reality of what they’ve done. Beneath it all is a maddening love of filmmaking, a kind of successor to Werner Herzog’s own cinematic interests. Who better to direct the next musical than Joshua Oppenheimer, who has already made the most stunning and hard to watch musical sequence of our times? The genre may be spiking with interest again but it has never produced anything as profoundly disturbing and interesting as the one segment in The Act of Killing. But maybe Joshua Oppenheimer can.
Why We’re Hyped: Yep. 2017’s Get Out was a revelation and 2019’s Us was a divisive hit. The films of Jordan Peele are sociological horror examinations of our country’s divisive impulses. They continue to be prescient and necessary entries into an ever expanding horror cannon that so greatly benefits from their inclusion. They say it takes three movies to make a pattern and we’re willing to invest in Nope continuing to build Peele’s legacy.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Why We’re Hyped: Oddball darlings Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, creators of the wonderfully quirky Swiss Army Man (2016), have another clever trick up their sleeves. It’s a Michelle Yeoh multiverse picture. That’s enough. It also looks wildly inventive and clever, as Yeoh, playing a Chinese immigrant, explores the many alternative permutations of life through connecting with the multiverse. We’re due to celebrate Michelle Yeoh. Watch the trailer. It’s going to be terrific, isn’t it?
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Why We’re Hyped: The Nicolas Cage meme cycle gains sentience with The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Nicolas Cage has always kind of been making self-aware meta-commentaries anyway, but the admission of self awareness is a rare treat from the actor, a meta “thank you” to the fans who have made him such a Meme Lord. But will it be good? It’s going to be tons of fun, who are we kidding?
Speak No Evil
Why We’re Hyped: Sundance is a hotbed for new voices in horror. It’s the best place in the world to break the next big thing in the genre. Premiering at this year’s festival is Danish director Christian Tafdrup’s promising new cabin-in-the-woods horror film. A Danish family vacations to join a nice Dutch family at their woodside cabin, and it turns out, nothing is quite as it seemed.
Hit the Road
Why We’re Hyped: We’ve already given it top marks, a full 10/10 score in Vaughn’s review. We’ve all spent all year confusing it with the excellent 2021 film Drive My Car on podcasts. A road trip mystery, the film marks the feature debut for director Panah Panahi. Surely we’ll be able to tell these driving / road movies apart in 2022. Right? We’ll see.
Knives Out 2
Why We’re Hyped: 2019’s Knives Out was a magnetically watchable mystery in the style of 1985’s terrifically fun Clue. It provided a clear template with loads of leg room for expanding its ideas into a franchise. Now that Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond has ended, he has plenty of time to concoct further kooky accents as everyone’s favorite modern detective, Benoit Blanc, a classical cinematic detective who talks like Foghorn Leghorn. Rian Johnson continues to be a great entertainer as a director and having his own franchise to expand ought to be a great playground for his ideas.
Sherlock Holmes 3
Why We’re Hyped: Indeed, why is a good question here. But the why is also fairly good. Dexter Fletcher plays in a big budget after his remarkable Rocketman (2019) and Robert Downey Jr. gets to work in a franchise space outside of the Marvel Complex. Hurrah. We’re banking on Fletcher pretty hard here, but he’s also earned just enough credibility that this pick should make sense later.
I’m a Virgo
Why We’re Hyped: “It will be dark, absurd, hilarious, and important,” Tweeted Boots Riley about his new show, I’m a Virgo. Following the success of his Sundance breakout Sorry to Bother You (a deliciously divisive film among our staff, worthy of every feeling it provokes), Boots’ new program will follow a 13-foot-tall Jharrel Jerome. Boots has created the great socialist rap record (The Coup’s 1998 masterpiece Steal This Album), the most politically lively picture of our time with Sorry to Bother You, and should make some beautiful, challenging television with what he dubs an “episodic joyride”.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Why We’re Hyped: How wonderful it’s been to see Martin Scorsese, the premier director of the ’70s, stay at the center of the filmmaking conversation in the ’20s. Longevity is one measure but the continued high quality of the work is another. Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the popular non-fiction book, concerns the events of the Osage Indian murders. Scorsese regulars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro star. For a cool $200 million, Apple’s production is certain to have a good run next awards season.
Why We’re Hyped: Steven Soderbergh is perhaps my most respected director. I love his pure efficiency, the way he’s now worked at every level of filmmaking, and has realized lately, that some of the best work is happening right on the periphery of the system. I’ve enjoyed his rapid releases of modern movies and how he’s seemed to hit his stride and found just the right balance in order keep making work at a steady clip. What a great premise for him Kimi is, a story about an agoraphobic tech worker who discovers a violent crime, and must leave home to investigate it for herself.
Why We’re Hyped: Love 2021’s The French Dispatch? Don’t care for it? It doesn’t matter! New Wes Anderson is already on the way in Asteroid City. Another big ensemble piece will bring symmetry to your 2022, lead by Bill Murray, in the actor and director’s tenth collaboration.
The Stars at Noon
Why We’re Hyped: In the mid-1980s, author Denis Johnson set out to Nicaragua and Costa Rica to tell the truth. He wanted to write non-fiction. Instead, he wrote the downbeat travelogue, The Stars at Noon, which refigures South America as a hellscape where nameless figures intermingle in politically complicated affairs. It’s just the kind of spicy and poetic framing for director Claire Denis to make her mark with. Reuniting with High Life (2019) star Robert Pattinson, the film adds Margaret Qualley. We can already imagine the burning and strange chemistry of the pairing. It’ll be some piece of art.
The Worst Person in the World
Cheating — as I’ve already seen it — but Joachim Trier’s latest will almost certainly find a devoted audience when it releases early this year. I thought it was just perfectly fine, but there is a lot of potential in it and it should provide a range of good and diverse reviews from those it connects with and those it misses the mark with alike. Actress Renate Reinsve is very good here and worthy of inclusion.
Why We’re Hyped: Damien Chazelle’s holiday period drama will examine the shift between talkies and sound films in old Hollywood studios. Just the right template for Chazelle, who is due for a return to form, to expand on his kinetic audiovisual expertise, with a big ensemble lead by Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie.
Why We’re Hyped: What might we expect from the latest from David O. Russell, director of The Fighter (2010) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012)? A period comedy about a doctor and lawyer forming a unique partnership. A decently cast ensemble starring Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, Rami Malek, John David Washington, Anya Taylor Joy, Robert De Niro, Andrea Riseborough, Timothy Olyphant, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, and Chris Rock. Sounds ridiculous! Scored by Hildur Guðnadóttir, composer of 2019’s Joker (truly that film’s greatest asset), there’s certainly more than enough talent to buy in.
Why We’re Hyped: Steven Spielberg is back in serious awards contention with last year’s timely update of West Side Story. His Oscar luck is likely to continue with The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiographical account of the director’s upbringing with Gabriel LaBelle set to star, with an interesting ensemble cast formed around him with Michelle Williams and Paul Dano playing his parents and Seth Rogan as his uncle. The Ready Player One (2018) career rehab continues with The Fabelmans. Maybe this Spielberg really will become someone. We all know that he does but we’ll find out again this November.
Why We’re Hyped: It’s been several years since Kogonaga’s architectural triumph Columbus (2017). If the director has already proven his interest in structural design, with After Yang his interests turn to technological design. The way we interface with robots, specifically. After a family’s robot called Yang breaks down, while Collin Farrell’s character tries at fixing it, the family goes on a profound journey of emotional discovery. Android analogues for human feeling are always interesting, and coming from Kogonaga, surely the most exciting thing is how much there is to find out about After Yang.
Why We’re Hyped: Say what you want about the quality of Netflix’s regular output. Sure, it’s spotty as hell. Auteurs make movies without any commercial prospects and are unrestrained by limitations. What a great design for Jean-PierreJeunet to slip right into and make an absurd comedy about humans being locked into their apartments while an android revolt rages outside. Netflix semi-justified for early 2022.
The Lost City
Why We’re Hyped: Romancing the Stone (1984) is a certified The Twin Geeks classic. We love romance; the right kind of romance, with literary and cinematic aspirations. That cult movie also had within it a clear line to franchising the story out. The immediate sequel, The Jewel of the Nile (1985), fell short of the same fun loving adventurous spirit, but the spiritual reboot in The Lost City feels right in line with any expectation of what a modern adaptation would be. We expect to have some escapist fun.
Jurassic World: Dominion
Why We’re Hyped: Why wouldn’t you be tentatively excited to see even a mid-tier Jurassic Park at the cinema? The day we collectively can’t get it up for giant dinosaurs on the big screen in any capacity is the day we’ve all died inside. Plus, what we’ve seen of the prologue is Actually Good.
Marvel: Morbius; Doctor Strange; Thor; & Black Panther
Why We’re Hyped: You’re either here for it or you’re not. And you know how you feel. You could probably accurately predict just how you’ll come out on each of these already, at this point, there is very little mystery to how these things go anymore. Now, each do deserve inclusion, simply because we’ve now found out these are the only movies anyone sees at the cinema anymore. That’s either wonderful or terrible news or both. Starting with a Jared Leto-starring Morbius has the potential to be a hilarious choice (you’ve seen him in last year’s House of Gucci by now, right? Has Marvel?); another Sony and Marvel collaboration. The new Doctor Strange is directed by The Evil Dead (1981) and Spider-Man 2 (2004)’s Sam Raimi — after the new Spider-Man, his hero films are very much in the conversation again — and we’ll just have to see how that all goes. Taika Waititi returns a fourth Thor movie, primed to reintroduce Natalie Portman in a central role; we mostly all appreciated 2017’s Ragnarok, so expectations are right-sized. Last, and perhaps most interesting, we see how a new Black Panther moves forward after the sad loss of Chadwick Boseman — see our friend E-Man’s petition to recast T’Challa (you may have seen him on various tv news programs by now, this movement has momentum!)
DC: The Batman; Black Adam; & Aquaman
Why We’re Hyped: We still haven’t seen the post-Snyderverse future. As DC films begin to take a new shape, we look toward 2019’s Joker as the model going forward: franchise movies as focused character studies. Who better to dig into the humanity of Batman than an actor like Robert Pattinson, who always digs deep and searches for something in his characters. Matt Reeves is also a solid choice for the directorial recentering of the franchise, having proven his directing sense with the Planet of the Apes movies. Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson enters the DCEU as Black Adam, Shazam’s arch-nemesis, and James Wan returns for another Aquaman. Will this be the year DC provides a clear vision for the future of the brand?
Wendell and Wild
Why We’re Hyped: Do you long for the days of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s brilliant comedy pairing? Do you wax nostalgic about Henry Selick’s great contributions to animation, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), James and the Giant Peach (1996, a personal dark horse favorite) and Coraline (2009)? Wendell and Wild solves both problems at once. It’s about two demon brothers trying to scheme their way out of hell and Henry Selick has said it’s inspired by the original run of The Twilight Zone, The Night of the Hunter (1995), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).
Pinocchio: Del Toro & Disney’s Versions
Why We’re Hyped: We’re getting two whole Pinocchio movies in 2022. Guillermo del Toro ought to be wrapping up his darker fable about what makes us all human, set in fascist Italy during the rise of Mussolini. Utterly fascinating thing to make. Disney, meanwhile, team up with Robert Zemeckis for a live action adaptation, which sounds about right for the director’s present interests in uncanny and awkward digital work.
Super Mario Bros.
Why We’re Hyped: Hyped isn’t the right word. A more accurate description would be “Why We’re Bracing for Impact.” We’re anticipating Illumination’s new Mario movie like an oncoming car. We know we’ll cringe our way through Chris Pratt’s performance of Mario, said to be an entirely new voice, created by Pratt. This will be either an exceptional disaster or a mild monetary success. Either way, we will all regret not being able to look away.
Suzume no tojimari
Why We’re Hyped: Makoto Shinkai makes effusive animations from the heart. Like The Garden of Words (2013), Your Name (2016), and Weathering with You (2019) before it, we expect a deep thematic resonance with the visual layer of the film, detailed with empathy and heart. The pedigree of the director begins to paint a bright picture about just what kind of storyteller they are: one you just have to watch, because you never know what’s locked behind the next door…
Why We’re Hyped: Thinking about how Turning Red and Red Rocket (2021) are bringing back N*Sync. Hopefully that is all they have in common!
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Why We’re Hyped: “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I can’t wait until two o’clock God. That’s when our dance starts,” started Judy Blume’s seminal novel that has thrived as a Young Adult staple for some 40 years. Judy Blume, who has written more than 25 novels, has only had one novel translated to the screen (the 2012 Tiger Eyes, based on the 1981 book), and the market for young women’s fiction is flourishing. Kelly Fremon Craig will direct, having already made a good film in this space with 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2
Why We’re Hyped: “Ayy ayy ayy ayy, ohh ohh ohh ohh,” ain’t Into the Spider-Verse (2018) just a downright vibe? We’re still caught in the web of its awesome comic visualization. It is big studio animation taking risks, trying something visually fresh and pushing all hero stories into the multiverse. Spider-Verse just hits different. Just watch the trailer: Pure Hype.
Why We’re Hyped: To say the decade plus wait has been long would be an understatement. The entire crux of the MCU, from build-up to present day box office mega performer, has happened in this time. 3D technology was all the rage when Avatar showed how to use it with intention, and now it’s (at best) a peripheral option. The directors who are now James Cameron’s contemporaries have made their entire careers since his last movie. Avatar 2 ought to be coming at the end of the year, if you can believe that.
Top Gun Maverick & Mission Impossible 7
Why We’re Hyped: Not one but two Tom Cruise action vehicles arrive in theaters in 2022. The long-awaited Top Gun and Mission Impossible sequels find the last-of-his-kind action star at the apex of his late-stage career. There could be little as enticing, in terms of silly distractions, in partaking in either in the year ahead. Permitting that the theater doesn’t remain a kind of Danger Zone itself, either picture feels deserving of a trip to IMAX.
Why We’re Hyped: I wrote a college paper called “Schadenfreude and Jackass,” perhaps the first serious movie writing I had ever done. I wish I still had it, to post alongside footnotes about everything I got wrong, but mostly because it was my favorite piece of scholarly writing I ever got to do, an essay where I tried to convince my professor that Jackass was valuable art because it produced the strongest emotional response of any pop art our generation consumed. They said it was their favorite essay of the year and asked to keep it. Thanks to that professor for inadvertently getting me interested in writing about film. Anything I do here is their fault.
Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy
Why We’re Hyped: How much is a Ye documentary with twenty years of unused footage worth in 2022? Netflix suggests upwards of 30 million. That’s how much the streamer paid for the new mini-series from longtime Ye associates and directors of the “Through the Wire” and “Jesus Walks” music videos.
Why We’re Hyped: Foo Fighters found longevity without pretenses. They’ve remained a sturdy and reliable rock n’ roll band, perhaps even outliving that label as a viable concept. You know how you feel about them. You know whether you care. Some of us listened to that Bee Gees cover album… look, we’re down for anything at this point, and so are the Foo Fighters.
Why We’re Hyped: Please do end. Hasn’t the fanbase been through enough? Given the figures pulled in by the first reboot and even the relative Covid success of the last movie, the bad news is that, like Michael, the franchise should never stay dead for long. A third entry recovery certainly isn’t out of the question, but whether the movie, scheduled in such close proximity to the last one, can answer for any of the criticisms also feels patently unlikely.
Why We’re Hyped: Once upon a time, a January release was the kiss of death from studios. What it meant is that a film either wasn’t on the awards circuit or had no box office faith in the crowded holiday season. Now, that doesn’t feel remotely true anymore. The calendar is whacky. The prospects of the January movie feel infinitely better. The new Scream, coming from the Radio Collective team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (V/H/S, 2012 and Ready or Not, 2019) and with the original cast returning, offers a plausibly crowd-pleasing throwback that might even prove unseasonably successful.
Why We’re Hyped: Will it come to the West? Wong Kar-Wai’s ode to his hometown of Shanghai during its shifting and rapid development in the ’90s is due out soon, but no Western streaming partner has been announced. We wait with bated breath, as a televisual Wong Kar-Wai production is an enticing thought indeed. You can view the trailer with subtitles and endure the long and potentially fruitless wait alongside us. Please make it over!