Alright: That’s a wrap. 2021 is over. Done. Finished. There’s nothing else to hold your breath on this year apart from the ball dropping, unless you’re in a store without a mask and you think you can make it without inhaling for as long as it takes to grab bagels and coffee. Somehow, movies kept coming out in 2021, and somehow, more will come out in 2022. (Not John Wick 4. Pour one out for John Wick 4.) Some are big, others bigger, and others still are small, but they’re all worth getting amped up about. We whittled down the onslaught of movies coming out in 2022 to a cool 20.
I can say with authority, having seen Céline Sciamma’s latest at TIFF this fall, that Petite Maman is a stunner that’s absolutely worth checking out. I can also say that it’s already one of the best films of 2022, even though it’s on best-of lists right now, because NEON gave it an awards-qualifying run this month. That means it played in theaters, but unless you lived on a coast (and near one of the very few theaters it opened in on both coasts), you didn’t see it. You’ll get your chance when this idiosyncratic and tender-hearted little film pops up on MUBI.
Release Date: February 4.
Finally, definitively, after multiple iterations of the world’s greatest detective on screens great and small, we have not a Batman, but the Batman. Whatever. Comic books allow for endless recycling by their very nature, and if we must recycle Batman for around the umpteenth time in the last 17 years, then at least he can be played by Robert Pattinson, and at least Pattinson can be surrounded by fascinating actors like Zoë Kravitz, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Barry Keoghan, and Colin Farrell. Maybe Matt Reeves will finally answer the question we’ve all asked since forever: How did Bruce Wayne’s parents die?
Release Date: March 4.
The Woman King
Gina Prince-Bythewood made Netflix really happy with The Old Guard, and she’s riding that wave of success into a historical epic about the Dora Milaje Dahomey Amazons, the all-female military unit originally formed just to pad the numbers on the kingdom’s army. The fighting women proved themselves such badasses that they were molded into their own corps, which is pretty awesome and feels like potent material for Prince-Bythewood to dig into. Viola Davis stars with Lashana Lynch, John Boyega, and Hero Fiennes-Tiffin.
Release Date: September 16.
Robert Eggers made his first 2 movies in New England, a land that’s charming on top and spooky underneath. We live on haunted land here in the northeast. But so do the kind folks who call Iceland home. You can’t walk half a mile without passing by an old execution site. The Northman appears in communication with that history, and with the history of narrative fiction. Hamlet didn’t come from nowhere. He came from Amleth, a Scandinavian legend. Here, he’s played by Alexander Skarsgård, joined by Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Björk, Willem Dafoe, and Anya Taylor-Joy, currently on top of the world via The Queen’s Gambit. This is a concept and a cast tailored to Egger’s wheelhouse.
Release Date: April 22.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
We’re at the peak of the Nicolas Cage renaissance, that slow-building wave initiated in 2013 with Joe, split in 2018 with Mandy, and amplified this year with Pig. Are we about to see the run-up of his career’s revitalization with The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent? It’s hard to see how a film whose logline involves Cage playing himself, Pedro Pascal playing a Cage superfan-slash-drug kingpin, and the CIA recruiting the former to help bring down the latter, could go wrong. Then again, Tom Gormican last directed the 2014 Zac Efron bro-com That Awkward Moment, so there’s at least one thing. Still, too good a premise to pass up.
Release Date: April 22.
It’s been 10 years since Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell. She’s worked since then, notably on the very good but underloved Alias Grace miniseries, but hasn’t had the opportunities she richly deserves given that film’s success. What a joy, then, that she’s back directing a knockout cast of Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, and Claire Foy, playing Mennonites living in isolation on a Bolivian colony where a rash of sexual assaults have shaken their faith. Everything about that summary fits right into Polley’s interests as an artist, and each of those 3 actors feel like great fits for her style.
Release Date: TBD.
Kelly Reichardt, one of America’s best filmmakers, gave us the gift of First Cow back in 2019, a story of capitalism, male bonding, baked goods, the American frontier, and of course a really cute cow. In 2022 she gives us a new vision that’s less pastoral but has 100% more Michelle Williams, her go-to leading lady from the start of her career. Here, she plays an artist this close to hitting the bigtime, and presumably her professional and social web – Hong Chau, John Magaro, Judd Hirsch, James Le Gros, Larry Fessenden, Amanda Plummer, and André “3000” Benjamin – will jeopardize her chances.
Release Date: TBD.
Top Gun: Maverick
Ha! Just kidding. This movie isn’t coming out this year. Yes, sure, fine, Paramount claims they’ll finally release the long-awaited (but arguably unwanted) Top Gun sequel on May 27, but they claimed they were going to release it in July of 2019 before pushing it off to June 2020, and then moving it forward 2 days, and then pushing it off again, this time to December, because of COVID, and then to July 2021, then November 2021, and here we are now. You’ve hurt us all before, Paramount. No one’s going to trust that Tom Cruise is co-starring with Val Kilmer again until they’re in theaters watching the damn thing.
Release Date: May 27.
Us? Get out? Nope. (Alternately: Nope, get us out.) Jordan Peele’s name has been sewn onto countless projects since altering contemporary horror’s course with 2017’s Get Out. Since then, he’s produced many, written a handful, and directed just one, being 2019’s Us. Nope puts him back at the helm, and apart from that, the ridiculous cast (comprising Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Terry Notary and Barbie Ferreira), and the poster, which screams “alien invasion,” there’s nothing else to say. It mostly has Peele, and that’s enough.
Release Date: July 22.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
To be excited over the sequel to arguably the best Marvel movie feels a little ghoulish. There’s no Black Panther without the Black Panther himself, the late, great Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in August 2020 after quietly living with stage III colon cancer for 4 years. No one knew he was ill save for his family and a privileged few folks outside that circle. His tragic loss casts a pall over Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and puts a big hole in Ryan Coogler’s casting options. No details about the movie are yet available, but frankly the only one that matters is how Marvel handles their star’s death*. If anyone can pull production together and make something cohesive that memorializes Boseman with grace and class, it’s Coogler, but what a mighty challenge that will be.
Release Date: November 11. (*Letitia Wright’s on-set anti-vax homilies led to a split between her and her U.S. PR reps, which is a whole other set of problems. Most likely none of this will stymie the movie’s release.)
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)
Neither Peter Ramsey, nor Rodney Rothman, nor Bob Perischetti are returning to direct the first half of the two-part sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so we’re a little bit leery. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller wrote the screenplay, which is reassuring, and Kemp Powers, who procured screenplays for Soul and Regina King’s adaptation of his play One Night in Miami in 2020, is sitting in 1 of 3 director’s chairs alongside Joaquim Dos Santos and Joshua K. Thompson. Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, and Jake Johnson reprise their original roles with Oscar Isaac and Issa Rae hopping aboard, too. Nothing not to look forward to, as long as the discontinuity of directors doesn’t cause an issue.
Release Date: October 7.
After Room made awards waves in 2015, any Emma Donoghue adaptation is going to catch eyes. The Wonder steps a few feet away from the realism of Room, what with its Biblical elements and supernatural undercurrents. A young girl in Ireland is reported to have gone months without food and lived, which spurs a visit from an English nurse (Florence Pugh) intent on finding the truth. Sebastián Lelio directs. Niamh Algar, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Tom Burke, David Wilmot, and Kíla Lord Cassidy star with Pugh.
Release Date: TBD, but c’mon, it’s fall or winter or bust. Don’t be surprised if this debuts at Telluride, like Room, or TIFF, where Room also screened.
Anna Rose Holmer’s followup to her excellent 2016 debut, The Fits, suggests expansion of location right off the bat. It’s set in Ireland, which is a long way away from Cincinnati, and centers around a mother “who lies to protect her son and the devastating impact that choice has on her community, her family and herself.” The 2 films share in common a psychological component, so there’s that, and Holmer has paired up with Saela Davis, her co-writer and editor on The Fits, here serving as her co-director, so there’s that, too. But God’s Creatures sounds like a leap forward for a filmmaker who leapt forward with her very first movie. There’s nothing about that that’s not exciting.
Release Date: TBD.
It’s amazing nobody’s died shooting a picture with Gareth Evans yet, and if that sounds like an exaggeration, you should probably watch this clip. Evans’ whole aesthetic may be summed up as “get the shot but please don’t die trying.” So far that’s served him and his brass-balls crew members well. But what about Tom Hardy? Havoc stars Hardy in what reads like a prototypical Evans film, hinging on conspiracies, corrupt authorities, a vast criminal underworld, and the one guy willing to battle his way through all of it. In a word: Awesome.
Release Date: TBD.
Down With the King
Diego Ongaro, a Parisian expat installed in the Berkshires, has made a second feature years after making his first, Bob and the Trees, and once again, he has chosen to work with his muse, Bob Tarasuk, a Berkshires logger and farmer playing, also once again, himself. This time Ongaro casts Tarasuk in a supporting role next to Freddie Gibbs, who plays a version of himself: A successful big-time rapper recording his new album in the Berkshires, ostensibly for peace and quiet. What he finds instead is an unexpected wish to learn how to farm from Bob. As you do. Down With the King premiered at Cannes last year and was wisely scooped up by Sony Pictures’ subsidiary label, Stage 6.
Release Date: TBD, but fall seems a likely choice for awards attention.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Daniel Scheinert. Dan Kwan. Separately, they are dudes named Daniel. Together, they’re Daniels, the team responsible for the “Turn Down For What” video and, most of all, for Swiss Army Man, the movie where Harry Potter plays a farting corpse. Turns out that in the period following Swiss Army Man, Kwan started working on a science fiction action film, and that Scheinert got bored waiting on him and made The Death of Dick Long to pass the time. What a relief they’re back to the old team-up again, making a film where there are apparently a limitless number of Michelle Yeohs out there in the multiverse, waiting to fight evil together in what feels like an echo of Sense8.
Release Date: TBD, but the film will open this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival.
If you saw Possessor, then “Brandon Cronenberg’s new movie” is all you need to hear to know whether Infinity Pool, his next effort, is for you. Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman play a couple attending a resort for an all-inclusive vacation. Sounds great! But events turn sour, the resort is revealed as a hedonistic hellscape, and well, that’s a trip to forget. So much went into making Possessor stand out among 2020’s horror, and with every movie, Cronenberg steps further out of the shadow of his legendary father, David. Infinity Pool could be his best yet. (Or not, depending on how you feel about Possessor.)
Release Date: TBD.
Killers of the Flower Moon
In the 1920s, cattleman William Hale orchestrated a murder plot after the Osage people in Osage County won rights to profits made off of oil deposits found on their land. the case eventually led to the formation of the FBI. In 2017, journalist David Grann published a book about the case, which Martin “Uncle Marty” Scorsese has made into his favorite thing, Cinema, starring 2 of his favorite people, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, plus talents ranging from Lily Gladstone to Jesse Plemons to Brendan Fraser, continuing his rebirth to the joy of all. Scorsese, slowly creeping up on 80, still makes films with the vitality of a man half his age. This is a can’t-miss.
Release Date: TBD.
Knives Out 2
It would be easier to list out who isn’t in Knives Out 2 than to list the new ensemble for Rian Johnson’s sequel to his take on Agatha Christie. Daniel Craig will play Benoit Blanc again, and Al Pacino definitely isn’t on the cast. Netflix paid more money than God has in his piggy bank for the rights to this movie and another sequel. I don’t understand their business model. No one does! It’s all eldritch sorcery, almost certainly involving human sacrifice. Will Knives Out 2 also involve human sacrifice? Probably not. Expect some shady business from shady characters, plus lots of laughs and Craig’s amazing Foghorn Leghorn accent.
Release Date: TBD.
I spoke with Josh Oppenheimer about his last film, The Look of Silence, about 7 years ago, and he candidly told me that after making 2 documentaries about the Indonesian genocide of 1965-1966 and the monsters responsible for it, that he can’t safely return to the country. I won’t speculate that that’s why he chose to shoot a narrative feature as his latest. The inspiration doesn’t matter as much as the premise. “A Golden Age musical about the last human family,” reads the logline, with a cast of Tilda Swinton, George MacKay, and Stephen Graham. I have no idea what any of that means. I don’t care. I’m interested with my whole head.
Release Date: TBD. The film begins production this year, which means that a 2022 release date may be out of the cards. If not, winter’s a good guess.