10 Best Thriller Movies of 2022, Ranked
2022 is coming to a close, making it the perfect time to reflect on some of the best films of the year. While a lot of genres had a big year in 2022, the thriller genre stood out among the rest. Many films in this genre, from Smile to Nope to The Menu, delivered on significantly high levels of hype, phenomenal box office performances, and positive critical reception. As is to be expected, the thrillers on this list will vary quite significantly. Most have an underlying thriller or horror premise mixed with elements of psychology, mystery, sci-fi, and black comedy.
A well-made thriller is nearly impossible to resist. Few films outside of the genre can recreate the same sense of foreboding and suspense that a thriller does. Viewers find themselves unable to look away, yet also dreading the events they may still witness. Here are the 10 best thriller films of 2022 that capitalized on the suspense and foreboding while offering a unique premise.
10. Orphan: First Kill
A prequel to the 2009 psychological horror-thriller Orphan, Orphan: First Kill follows Leena Klammer (Isabelle Fuhrman), a 31-year-old psychiatric patient with a disorder that gives her the physical appearance of a young child. Orphan: First Kill explores how she first hatched the idea to take on the fake persona of an orphaned child, Esther, and the twisted tale of what happened to the real-life Esther and her family. The film offers an unexpected twist on the story of the franchise and delves deeper into the psychological factor than the initial film. Though it’s far from a groundbreaking horror-thriller, Orphan: First Kill is a satisfactory and entertaining prequel.
Beast is a thrilling tale of survival that follows a widowed father, Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba), who heads to Africa to show his daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries), the place where their mother grew up. However, the trip turns into a nightmare when they find themselves being stalked by a ferocious lion. Beast is a suspenseful take on the man vs. beast premise that is reminiscent of the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness. It is elevated by Elba’s performance and its brief exploration of the themes of grief and healing. While Beast is entertaining, it largely refrains from going beyond a basic survival thriller.
8. Scream (2022)
Scream is the fifth meta-horror-thriller installment in the Scream franchise. The film takes place 25 years after the events of the original 1996 film, and sees a new Ghostface set their sights on a group of teens connected to the Woodsboro massacre. Scream upheld the elements that made the franchise successful in the first place by providing a satirical premise that pokes fun at horror film cliches. It also delivered well on the nostalgia with Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell reprising their roles. While there’s no shaking the feeling that the franchise has run its course, Scream does a good job of getting things back on track.
7. The Black Phone
An adaptation of the short story of the same name by Joe Hill, The Black Phone follows Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), a shy boy with a troubled home life who is kidnapped by a notorious child abductor and serial killer known as the Grabber (Ethan Hawke). However, Shaw soon realizes that he can converse with the Grabber’s dead victims through a disconnected black phone—and they may hold the key to his survival. The Black Phone is an intriguing and suspenseful story largely elevated by the phenomenal performances of its young cast and its candid portrayal of child abuse and addiction. It is further elevated by the intrigue of a touch of the supernatural. In the end, though, it’s a little restrained and fails to find depth or ambition outside of recreating the source material.
Smile is a thriller that offers a chilling mix of psychological horror and mystery. The film follows psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), who is tormented by an entity that takes on the form of a smiling stalker. In an attempt to fight this entity, Cotter must face the trauma of her past. Smile is a terrifying, deliciously creepy, and deeply disturbing horror-thriller. It is filled with jump scares and haunting visuals, but also imbued with a deeper message about trauma and grief that requires individual interpretation. While the ending is a bit predictable and its treatment of mental illness slightly questionable, Smile is a truly thrilling film to watch and won’t quickly fade from memory.
Nope offers a unique and memorable blend of the horror, sci-fi, and thriller genres. The film follows adult siblings Otis “O.J.” Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald “Em” Haywood (Keke Palmer), who discover their ranch is attracting visits from an extraterrestrial, predatory creature that’s consuming their horses. They then embark on a mission to capture photographic evidence of the creature. Nope isn’t necessarily scary, but it still manages to nail the thrilling factor by being laced with subtext, tension, and brilliant cinematography, creating a spectacle one is unable to look away from. The film features brilliant performances and visuals and is elevated by numerous themes on Black historical documentation, the power of film, and the dangers of living in the past. However, while the obscurity of Nope‘s purpose will appeal to some, it may be confusing to others.
4. Bodies Bodies Bodies
Bodies Bodies Bodies is an intriguing blend of comedy and horror-thriller elements. The film follows a group of young, privileged individuals who end up stranded in a mansion while waiting out a storm. When a dead body shows up, it doesn’t take long for the group to devolve into chaos as their true forms and reputations rise to the surface. The film is wildly entertaining, though at times it edges on silly and is rather over the top in its hyperbolic portrayal of Gen Z. However, it still effectively delivers on its themes about the digital age, the wealthy, and the younger generation while maintaining its wit, charm, and an eerie sense of mystery.
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3. The Menu
The Menu features a revenge plot with a comedic, thrilling, and foodie-centric twist. The film follows Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) who joins her boyfriend, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), for a night of food-tasting at the high-end restaurant Hawthorne, which resides on an exclusive island. However, as the night progresses, the wealthy realize that chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) has other plans in store. The Menu offers a strong dose of bleak humor, a nuanced look at the toll of the wealthy on service workers, and masterful performances from Taylor-Joy and Fiennes. It is beyond entertaining and beautifully made, but might leave you with a desire for something more—or, at least, a more believable and deep conclusion.
X is a thrilling slasher that pays homage to the low-budget splatter films of the Grindhouse age. The film follows aspiring pornographic actress Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), who sets out with a group of friends to produce an adult film. However, the production attracts the attention of an elderly couple whose voyeurism takes a disturbing turn. X is a bold thriller that doesn’t shy away from its raw, gritty, and disturbing premise. At the same time, it offers an interesting perspective on aging and relevance while delving into past film genres. It has a flair of vintage suspense and sexuality that blend to make it an unmatchable thriller. However, X isn’t the type of film that will appeal to all audiences with its gritty premise.
1. Emily the Criminal
Emily the Criminal sees Aubrey Plaza make the move from mockumentary sitcom regular to crime-thriller star. The film follows Emily Benetto (Plaza), a young woman who, struggling under the weight of student loans and a felony that prevents her from landing a job, turns to a credit card fraud ring for profit. Emily the Criminal features a fantastic performance from Plaza and an intriguing, suspenseful, yet deep premise. It proves to be more than just a thriller film with its social commentary on wealth, capitalism, and humanity. With strong performances, a gritty premise, and deep themes, Emily the Criminal proves to be an exemplary thriller.
(featured image: Paramount Pictures)
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