Exclaim!'s 10 Most Underrated and Underseen Movies of 2022
Published Dec 09, 2022It seems like every studio and media company has a streaming service now that releases countless new TV shows and movies every month. Add on the full-on return to cinemas this year, and 2022 was filled with a mountain of content to sift through. Naturally then, for every highly praised and commercially successful film, there were stellar efforts that went overlooked by audiences and critics alike.
Another common trend was great films being thrown onto streamers that got lost to the algorithm. From French epics to Richard Linklater's return to rotoscope, it wasn't that critics panned them or audiences intentionally ignored them — they were simply films not on people's radar.
But never fear, we've got you covered. Here are 10 great films that went underappreciated or underseen this year.
Directed by Kogonada
Colin Farrell has had quite the year. He turned in four exceptional performances, including one as a tea merchant whose family's technosapien has gone haywire. A beautifully quiet and meditative film that explores memories and life, After Yang got lost in the Everything Everywhere All at Once shuffle, and come award season, Farrell's other turn as Pádraic in The Banshees of Inisherin will most likely take all the glory.
Directed by Danny Cohen
Think being an acclaimed indie rocker seems like fun? Anonymous Club, the documentary about Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett (which premiered Down Under last year and was on the international festival circuit throughout 2022), tells a different story, showing the malaise and dissatisfaction that nags at its subject despite her success. With hushed voice notes from Barnett and vibey 16 mm visuals chronicling life on the road, Danny Cohen crafts an intimate character portrait that pays off with an optimistic final chapter.
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Directed by Richard Linklater
The Netflix content farm can be good for actors to hide out who churn out quantity over quality (see: Kevin Hart). The flip side is, of course, some real gems get lost, even by directors like Richard Linklater. Loosely based on his own life, Apollo 10 1/2 is the imaginative coming-of-age story of a kid growing up in Houston, TX, who dreams of going to the moon. Using rotoscope to create a child-like wonder, Apollo 10 1/2 is a warm-blanket movie if there ever was one.
Directed by Jeremy LaLonde
In the near future, the world's water supply has been tainted, forcing humans to balance their intake of contaminated water with dehydration. The world's leading scientist on this matter has burnt out and goes on a retreat with her husband in an attempt to regroup when it soon becomes apparent that something isn't quite right. A science-fiction mystery, Ashgrove brings some of Canada's great talents together — including, Jeremy LaLonde, Amanda Brugel, Jonas Chernick and Shawn Doyle — in a movie that will having audiences guessing right up to the last few minutes.
Directed by Romain Gavras
Director Romain Gavras's latest French action epic stretches the long tracking shot to near breaking point against a kinetic background of state violence, racial inequality and mass civil disobedience. Much of Athena's 97-minute runtime plays out like a Greek tragedy gasping for air, moving propulsively from one incendiary set piece to the next with all the white-knuckle energy of holding onto a Molotov cocktail and watching the wick burn down. While the film's political valences are sadly undermined by a cowardly final scene reveal, the formalist verve on display remains utterly mesmerizing.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On
Directed by Madison Thomas
Even though Carry It On mostly concerns events that happened decades ago, it still feels tapped into the current zeitgeist. Songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie's 1960s political causes — such as insisting upon using an Indigenous cast in a TV episode, for example — feel very much of-the-moment, proving how far she was ahead of her time. It's an inspiring tribute to its subject that celebrates the quality of her songwriting, but the real takeaway is the strength of her character.
Directed by David Leitch
A Brad Pitt-led, David Leitch-directed, Tokyo-based comedic heist somehow slipped right by filmgoers this summer and was criminally underrated with 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. While nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking, this neon-soaked, high-speed action comedy is a thrill-filled romp with dry humour and Pitt charm at its best. As far as popcorn blockbusters are concerned, Bullet Train is a wildly entertaining ride that never lets up.
Crows Are White
Directed by Ahsen Nadeem
It seems like it's going to be a reverent documentary about monks on a mountain — but after a blunder involving a cellphone during a sacred ritual, Crows Are White becomes a cute buddy comedy involving director Ahsen Nadeem and a low-ranking monk who enjoys cake and heavy metal. Ultimately, it's about being true to who you really are, even when cultural forces try to pull you in a different direction.
Directed by Carter Smith
Squirming life forms within filmy pods travelling through the digestive tract ‚ Swallowed compellingly delivers its grotesqueries to such an unnerving effect, one might miss the sweetly tragic love story at its core. But fret not: Cooper Koch's portrayal of a budding porn star stumbling into the drug-smuggling world stuns to a James Dean-eqsue brooding degree, bootlegging this gem straight into our hearts. A film that ups the ante with every subsequent frame, Swallowed is unmissable.
Directed by Damien Leone
Remember the clown scare of 2016? Whether intentionally or not, the spooky, pre-US presidential election phenomenon inspired a small but notable resurgence of clown-based horror. From 2017's It reboot to 2018 short film Gags, and my personal favourite, 2019's Clownado — it all started with 2016 B-horror Terrifier. Where the film lacked in production value, it compensated in all-out-gore, and, with original Art the Clown actor David Howard Thornton, final girl newcomer Lauren LaVera and director Damien Leone on board, the 2022 sequel doubles down on that formula. An indie-horror box-office success story for the ages, Terrifier 2 delivers two-plus hours of demented practical effects, inspiring creative new ways to carve up bodies, which naturally led to reports of audiences passing out and vomiting in theatres, portending the launch of Art's very own line of branded barf bags. Fun!