6 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2022 On Criterionchannel

Staff & contributors
Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 2022. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

The Iranian director Jafar Panahi has faced constant persecution from his country's government for over a decade, for his career of sharply political films speaking truth to power. In fact, No Bears—which was shot in secret, in defiance of the government banning him from filmmaking for 20 years—had its initial festival run in 2022 while Panahi was in prison. Evidence of Panahi's drive to keep making his movies, no matter what, are clear in this film's limited resources and occasionally inconsistent video quality. But even those obstacles can't get in the way of his vaulting ambition.

No Bears operates on several different layers that all express Panahi's growing frustration with—but also his commitment to—making art that only ever seems to put himself and other people in harm's way. At its base level, this is a suspenseful small-town thriller, as an exiled Jafar Panahi (playing himself) tries to evade suspicion from the villagers around him. At the same time, Jafar is struggling to direct a film remotely, which creates a strain on his production crew. On top of that, the characters in his film undergo their own drama, seeking asylum out of Turkey. All of this is edited together under a stirring screenplay written with heart, humor, and the hope that the institutions that try to scare us will never keep us in the dark forever.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Jafar Panahi, Naser Hashemi

Director: Jafar Panahi

A harrowing family loss sets off a poetic exploration of grief in this experimental film from Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Miryam Charles. The focus of the movie is Charles’ own cousin, who was found murdered in her Connecticut bedroom in 2008. Rather than let her cousin’s life remain frozen at that point in time, Charles unmoors her film from the cold realities of time and space to suggest new perspectives on the girl’s past and imagine a future that never came. While events like the family’s decision to move to the US are recast as portends of tragedy, there’s also deep generosity in the movie’s ghost story — such as the joyous scenes it depicts from a mother-daughter trip to the family’s home country of Haiti, a trip that never actually took place.

It’s not always easy to discern where or when we’re at in its liberal toggling between time and space, but once Cette Maison establishes its unconventional visual language, everything comes into poignant focus. Given the reality on which it’s based, this is undoubtedly a heartbreaking watch, but the way Charles’ movie evokes the ability of imagination to both deepen and assuage the pain of grief is nothing short of revelatory.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Ève Duranceau

Director: Miryam Charles

On the one hand, Godland is a film about nature’s unforgiving beauty. Like the photographs the priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) takes, these quietly superb scenes speak for themselves. The Earth moves in mysterious and harsh ways, and we are but mere specks, organic matter to be folded in and absorbed, in the grand scheme of things. It would’ve worked with just this message alone, but Godland also treads on political ground. Through Lucas, who is Danish, and his travel guide Ragnar (Ingvar Sigurdsson), who is Icelandic, we sense a palpable tension that electrifies the film with a colonial strain. There are layers to their deep aversion (and dependence) on one another, and director Hlynur Pálmason does well to pair this with imagery that is just complex, profound, and packed with meaning.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Elliott Crosset Hove, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Vic Carmen Sonne, Waage Sandø

Director: Hlynur Palmason

Spanning over decades and continents, The Eight Mountains depicts the kind of childhood friendship that remains central to one’s whole world. While city boy Pietro (Luca Marinelli) treks from the Alps to the Himalayas, the mountain pasture of Grana remains special as his father’s old refuge and as the hometown of childhood best friend Bruno (Alessandro Borghi). When they were younger, the two struck a summer friendship as the only two boys in the small town. However, their friendship isn’t the kind formed through day-to-day, routine interactions. Instead, each moment they share is fleeting, cut short by circumstances, but therefore, all the more precious. Co-directors Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch slowly and patiently craft intermittent moments that form a lifelong friendship. And at the end, when they last bring us back to Grana, these moments are all we have left of this profound, meaningful connection.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Borghi, Elena Lietti, Filippo Timi, Gualtiero Burzi, Luca Marinelli, Surakshya Panta

Director: Charlotte Vandermeersch, Felix Van Groeningen

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Director: Maryam Touzani

, 2022

It’s a bold move, centering a drama around a creature as docile as a donkey, but EO pulls it off without ever leaning on the crutch of CGI. Instead, the film makes ingenious use of a hundred-year-old film technique: the Kuleshov effect. By splicing the image of the titular donkey’s placid, expressionless face against visual stimulus, the illusion of a genuine reaction is produced.

But don’t be mistaken: this is no twee Disney-esque tale of anthropomorphism. Inspired by the classic Au Hasard Balthasar, EO tracks the haphazard journey of a former circus donkey across Europe — one that is often depicted in surreal psychedelic reds instead of idyllic picture-book tones, and punctured by more horrors than joys (though we do, thankfully, get to see him munch away on some well-deserved carrot treats). EO’s docility frames him as a kind of holy innocent, making the cruelty meted out to him feel all the more like a grave violation of something sacrosanct. Seeing the world through his oft-neglected perspective also makes this a movie about humans by proxy — a fresh, empathetic approach that, even in its obvious dramatic liberties, makes us meditate on both the depth of experience that may be unfolding in our animal neighbors and our role in shaping it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Isabelle Huppert, Lolita Chammah, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Sandra Drzymalska, Tomasz Organek

Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Rating: NR