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The 10 Most Intriguing Movies of 2022 (That Aren’t Based on Anything)

A comedy from Alejandro G. Iñárritu. A new horror film from Jordan Peele. A musical about the end of the world. Absolutely no sequels, remakes or adaptations

It’s a new year, but so far 2022 feels like old times in not-so-great ways. Already this week, we’ve gotten news that Jared Leto’s Marvel movie Morbius has been pushed back, the delayed release date reportedly because of the Omicron surge, although there could be other factors at play as well. Nonetheless, couple that with the recent cancellation of the Palm Springs Film Festival and the announcement that Ontario theaters will be closing, and I’m reminded that the pandemic is far from “over,” making it hard to predict, at least for the near future, what moviegoing will look like. That’s a shame for lots of reasons, not least of which is that, on paper, 2022 could be a pretty great film year. Fingers crossed it turns out that way.

As in past years, I’ve put together a very specific most-anticipated list of upcoming movies, one that ignores remakes, adaptations, reboots, sequels and films based on real-life incidents or inspired by actual events. In other words, these are genuinely original movies, which even in our franchise-crazed world still exist, thank god. On my list, the draw isn’t some superhero but, rather, an excellent filmmaker or a pretty stellar cast. I’m listing these alphabetically by title, including a release date if it’s been made available. Forget The Batman or Doctor Strange and the Case of the Multiverse (or whatever it’s called) — below, check out the films that don’t come prepackaged, and are therefore far more enticing and potentially far more rewarding…

Bardo (TBD)

What It’s About: Deadline says that this “nostalgic comedy set against an epic journey” will be “[a] chronicle of uncertainties where the main character, a renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker, returns to his native country to face his identity, familial relationships and the folly of his memories, as well as the past and new reality of his country.”

Why You Should Care: This film, whose full title is Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths), is the latest from Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose last feature was 2015’s The Revenant, which won him his second Best Director Oscar. Unlike his recent, starrier affairs, though, Bardo sounds like it might be a little lighter, and it doesn’t feature any big names in the cast. (Respected veteran actor Daniel Giménez Cacho plays the journalist/filmmaker.) But Iñárritu’s track record guarantees that fans of Birdman and Amores Perros will be curious to see what he has in store next for us. 

Crimes of the Future (TBD)

What It’s About: This sci-fi film, according to Deadline, will take “a deep dive into the not-so-distant future where humankind is learning to adapt to its synthetic surroundings. This evolution moves humans beyond their natural state and into a metamorphosis, altering their biological makeup. While some embrace the limitless potential of trans-humanism, others attempt to police it. Either way, ‘Accelerated Evolution Syndrome’ is spreading fast.”

Why You Should Care: The full plot description is even wilder — apparently, there’s a performance artist who can grow organs inside his body — but most will be excited simply because Crimes of the Future is the first feature from David Cronenberg since 2014’s Maps to the Stars. “But, wait,” you might be thinking, “didn’t Cronenberg already make a movie called Crimes of the Future? So is this a remake?” Judging by the synopsis of the new movie, no: His previous Crimes was about pedophiles, so it appears this is an original story he’s telling. 

And you can’t argue with the cast, which includes Cronenberg regular Viggo Mortensen alongside Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart and Scott Speedman. For decades, Cronenberg was the master of kinky, disturbing genre fare, and it definitely sounds like he’s returning to that terrain for his latest.

Disappointment Blvd. (TBD)

What It’s About: The plotline I keep seeing is simply, “A decades-spanning portrait of one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time.”

Why You Should Care: Ari Aster’s first two films, Hereditary and Midsommar, were bold horror movies, and a couple years ago he said that his latest would be a “nightmare comedy.” (In that same interview, he also claimed it would be four hours long, although I don’t know if that’s true anymore.) Whatever the case may be, Disappointment Blvd. will be Joaquin Phoenix’s next film after the superb C’mon C’mon, and he’s joined by a pretty huge cast, including Nathan Lane, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Michael Gandolfini, Zoe Lister-Jones and Richard Kind. This film feels as different to Midsommar as Midsommar did to Hereditary — it’s great to see Aster continuing to refuse to repeat himself. 

Don’t Worry Darling (September 23rd)

What It’s About: The official Warner Bros. plot description says that this psychological thriller, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, spotlights “a 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community [who] begins to worry that his glamorous company may be hiding disturbing secrets.”

Why You Should Care: Every few years we get a “The suburbs sure suck” drama/thriller, and it looks like Don’t Worry Darling could be 2022’s Little Children or Reservation Road. (Just so long as it’s better than Suburbicon.) But considering that the film is Olivia Wilde’s follow-up to her well-reviewed debut Booksmart, Don’t Worry Darling also seems like the actress-turned-filmmaker is setting her sights on something far darker and more ambitious this time around. 

The script, by Katie Silberman (who also co-wrote Booksmart), inspired a fierce bidding war between studios, and the film’s cast includes Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll and Chris Pine (not to mention Wilde, too). And that September release date suggests Warner Bros. thinks enough of Wilde’s sophomore effort to give it an awards-season push. 

The End (TBD)

What It’s About: All we know is that it’s a musical about the last family on Earth.

Why You Should Care: Joshua Oppenheimer is best known for making two riveting documentaries about the Indonesian genocide of the 1960s, The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. So you wouldn’t necessarily think of him as someone who’d be interested in a musical, but it’s a project he’s been talking about for years. Of course, considering the subject matter, The End doesn’t sound like it’s going to be especially bubbly. Back in 2019, Oppenheimer said, “[I]t’s actually all about guilt, and [there’s been a] number of times that I’ve gone back to what I learned making [The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence], which has something to do with how we can hurt each other in ways where it becomes too painful to change, because change requires facing who you are.”

This apocalyptic film, which starts production early this year, stars Tilda Swinton, George MacKay and Stephen Graham. Will it be ready for release by the end of 2022? It’s certainly possible, and distributor Neon has managed to turn arthouse projects, like Parasite, into major events. But even if The End doesn’t actually come this year, you should probably put this film on your radar. 

Men (TBD)

What It’s About: Jessie Buckley, who’s recently starred in I’m Thinking of Ending Things and The Lost Daughter, will play “a woman who goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside after the death of her ex-husband.”

Why You Should Care: That plot description is pretty banal, but what if I told you that Men was written and directed by Alex Garland, who previously made Ex Machina and Annihilation? That extra info automatically imbues Men with a sense of dread, suggesting that Buckley’s vacation will hardly be that serene. (Even the fact that the film is called Men seems eerie, suggesting the story could have something to do with toxic masculinity.)

I thought Garland’s recent series, Devs, was a bit underwhelming, but even so, it’s exciting to see him reunite with A24, which put out Ex Machina and helped guide it to an Oscar win for Best Special Effects. Men’s cinematographer Rob Hardy, who also worked on Garland’s previous two films, posted on Instagram, “prepare for something truly extraordinary, and reassuringly weird.” I’m sold. 

Nope (July 22nd)

What It’s About: On the strength of two very good films, the Oscar-winning Get Out and the perhaps-even-better Us, Jordan Peele is now in the enviable position of not having to tell the world anything about his forthcoming film. He can just drop a poster on social media, announce a release date and then let the world speculate wildly on what the plot might be. Seriously, this is all we know about Nope:

Why You Should Care: Who wouldn’t be intrigued to see what Peele hatches next? Plus, it features Get Up star Daniel Kaluuya alongside Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun. What new flavor of horror does Peele have in store for us? Feel free to theorize away — you’ve got six months until you find out if your guesses about Nope are right.

Showing Up (TBD)

What It’s About: According to Deadline, “[T]he film is a vibrant and sharply funny portrait of an artist on the verge of a career-changing exhibition. As she navigates family, friends and colleagues in the lead-up to her show, the chaos of life becomes the inspiration for great art.”

Why You Should Care: Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt is on a hot streak of late, earning some of her best reviews ever for 2020’s First Cow, which followed up her equally excellent Certain Women. Showing Up will be her fourth collaboration with Michelle Williams, which started with 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, and the ensemble includes Hong Chau, Judd Hirsch and André Benjamin. Reichardt’s films tend to be intimate dramas, but Showing Up’s plot description makes it sound like this may be a bit of a change of pace for her. Honestly, though, just knowing it’s directed by Reichardt is all the enticement I need. 

Triangle of Sadness (TBD)

What It’s About: Variety says, “The film, which lampoons the worlds of fashion and the super-rich, centers on a fashion model celebrity couple who go on a cruise for the super-rich. After the yacht — whose captain is a rabid Marxist (played by [Woody] Harrelson) — sinks, the survivors find themselves marooned on an island. Here, the dynamics of the group changes: the cleaning lady rises to the top of the food chain as she is the only one who knows how to cook.”

Why You Should Care: The last time Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund put out a movie, The Square, it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was nominated for the Best International Film Oscar. Prior to that, he did the sharp relationship satire Force Majeure, which got turned into the very-average American comedy Downhill. Triangle of Sadness is his first English-language film, and while Harrelson is the most recognizable name in the cast, it also stars Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean and Vicki Berlin. 

In the Variety piece, Östlund noted that the film “says a lot about the economy, about money, about beauty as a currency […] a lot of the topics in the film are inspired by Marxist theories.” This has all the makings of another dark, provocative comedy from the man who’s become a specialist in the genre. 

Untitled David O. Russell (November 4th)

What It’s About: “A doctor and a lawyer form an unlikely partnership.” That’s it. Oh, and supposedly it’s a period piece. 

Why You Should Care: Russell hasn’t released a film in seven years — and that was the underwhelming Joy — but before then he’d delivered a series of award-winning dramas with The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. His new film, which was once titled Canterbury Glass, is pretty secretive, but we know it stars, among others, Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough, Chris Rock, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Shannon, Anya Taylor-Joy and Taylor Swift

Coming out in the midst of awards season, Russell’s latest will be hotly anticipated, but the film may also end up being under the microscope because it will force the writer-director to discuss allegations that he groped his then-19-year-old niece more than a decade ago. In addition, for years the filmmaker has had a reputation for physically and verbally abusive behavior on set, but to this point he really hasn’t had to have much of a public reckoning about his conduct. That will change when his new movie comes out. Expect that conversation to be prominent when he and his cast start doing promotion later this year.