2022 has been a good year for drama movies. Here’s our ranking of the very best.
Who doesn’t love a good drama? There’s suspense, sometimes comedy and romance, action, and maybe even a little adventure. On top of those subgenres, dramas also often have great, complex storytelling with a lot of depth. They could make you think, laugh, cry, but ultimately keep you fully gripped and entertained from start to finish.
Updated: December 2022: To keep this article fresh and relevant by adding more information and entries, this article has been updated by Wishka Tilakaratne.
2022 has been a great year for the drama genre. From the hyped-up Don’t Worry Darling to Adam Sandler’s surprise hit Hustle on Netflix. There were hundreds of great drama films this year, but if you missed these particular 16 releases when they hit theaters or streaming platforms, now's your chance to check them out.
Don't Worry Darling was a very divisive release this year. From the heated press tour to the drama between the cast members, people were forming opinions about the movie before it even hit screens. And perhaps that's what led to so many poor reviews — because in all reality, Don't Worry Darling was a pretty decent movie. It follows a housewife (Florence Pugh) who's living in a picturesque 50s suburbia (reminiscent of The Stepford Wives) but soon begins to unravel the twisted reality of the world they're living in.
Some have said that Don't Worry Darling feels like it was missing something. Perhaps there could've been more explanations about what was going on and why, and maybe the ending even felt a tad rushed. That said, it's hard to deny how good the standout performers — Pugh, Chris Pine — were in this movie, even if they essentially carried it. On top of that, the general concept for Don't Worry Darling is interesting and captivating, and it was beautifully styled and produced. If you can ignore all the hype, good and bad, and attempt to enter the movie blind, it's enjoyable and worth watching.
This feature directorial debut of Megan Park, The Fallout was released to the audience in January 2022 and is one film that focuses on a very painful topic. With school shootings being a widely discussed issue, the film looks at it from the students' perspectives. The film not only captures the happening of such a disastrous event but also reminds the audience of the aftermath of these events. Specifically, the mental health and the trauma that the survivors have to face. With Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler taking over the lead roles, The Fallout brings to the screen a painful reality that many students face.
The Whale debuted at the Venice International Film Festival in September and received a six-minute standing ovation, with videos of an endearingly overwhelmed Brendan Fraser going viral. It's about a 600 pound man (Fraser) who, after a series of familial strains, works to rekindle his relationship with his teenage daughter (Sadie Sink).
Luckiest Girl Alive is a mystery/thriller that premiered on Netflix this year and is based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Jessica Knoll. It's about Ani (a great Mila Kunis), a woman who seems to have a perfectly constructed life. She's living in NYC and working as a magazine editor, preparing to marry her handsome fiancé (Finn Wittrock) and living — what looks to be — a picture-perfect life. That is, until a documentary director approaches her to make a short film about a school shooting she survived when she was in high school.
Since the shooting, Ani has really worked to bury the trauma and all the gross details of everything that happened, but as soon as the director expresses his interest in making a documentary about what happened, all those years worth of buried trauma comes flooding back, wreaking havoc on Ani's life and relationships. Mila Kunis is a fantastic actress with great range, and she really thrives in this dark, serious role. Plus, the screenplay was written by the author of the book, so the book-to-movie translation is really well-done.
As one of the most notable "funny guys" in the game, dramatic roles typically aren't what first comes to mind when you think of Adam Sandler. But, Sandler's dramatic roles in movies are actually very good, from Punch-Drunk Love to Uncut Gems. In his big deal with Netflix, Sandler has been churning out a number of movies, Hustle being one of the most recent releases.
It's about a jaded NBA scout (Sandler) who discovers a raw, yet very talented basketball player in Spain that he works with to try to prepare him for the NBA Draft. While Hustleis obviously a sports-centric movie, it's still enjoyable even if you have zero interest in basketball. It's a touching story about compassion, family and taking risks, and it does a great job at not feeling at all like your cliché sports flick. On the other hand, if you love sports — specifically basketball — Hustle will definitely garner a few re-watches.
Where the Crawdads Sing is about Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a young, nature-loving woman who raised herself in the marshlands of North Carolina. All is well — or as well as it can be for her — until a guy Kya once had a relationship with turns up dead, and she becomes the prime suspect and is tried for his murder.
The movie is based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Delia Owens, which has become a bestselling hit. The movie does the book justice, and while the plot is relatively simple, the performances (most notably from Edgar-Jones) are captivating and believable. It teeters between being a mystery/thriller and a romantic drama, but regardless of what you classify it as, Where the Crawdads Sing will have you heavily invested from beginning to end.
Based on the powerful true story of how Mamie Till-Bradley pursued justice following the murder of her son in 1955, this biographical drama film is definitely not an easy watch. The story focuses on how her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, was tortured and murdered simply because he allegedly "offended" a white woman (who, in reality, admitted on her deathbed that she'd lied).
Thereafter, the film follows the painful journey Mamie had to go through to bring justice to her son. Emmett's story is quite famous due to the details of his murder and the acquittal of his murderers. Thus, by bringing it to screen, Till ensures that the viewers are made aware of the long history of racism that still exists today.
Yet another biographical film, She Said follows the two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Jodi Kantor (played by Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (played by Carey Mulligan), as they investigate and expose the sexual assaults of Harvey Weinstein. The film focuses on how the two journalists worked together to track down victim-survivors of Weinstein's acts, and how their investigations ultimately led to the film producer being charged and punished. While She Said was a box office bomb, it's nonetheless an important film for the present day.
With a powerful cast taking over the lead roles, this film is based on Miriam Toews' 2018 novel of the same name, which focuses on the real events that occurred in Manitoba Colony, Bolivia. The story focuses on how some women of an isolated Mennonite colony constantly wake up to find themselves sexually violated, which was then disregarded by the community. To tackle the reality of these events and to find support among each other, these women form a union. Women Talking focuses on the themes of patriarchy, gender inequality and sexual assault and is yet another brilliant release for 2022 that focuses on social change.
Corsage is an intriguing take on Empress Elisabeth of Austria and takes place in 1877. With Vicky Krieps taking over the role of the protagonist, the film focuses on how the Austrian monarchy attempts to divert from the stringent world she is surrounded by. Thus, we find ourselves looking at a rebellious Empress who is not only chaotic but willing to make bold moves. Krieps' performance is phenomenal in Corsage.
This dark comedy drama has already proven its power by leading the Golden Globes with eight nominations. The Banshees of Inisherin focuses on a feud between once good friends, Colm Doherty (played by Brendan Gleeson) and Pádraic Súilleabháin (played perfectly by Colin Farrell). With the latter trying to reconcile and understand why the former suddenly started ignoring him, the story takes some dark turns.
From cutting off fingers to dead dogs and burning houses, the two former-friends take drastic measures to either take revenge or keep the other away. At the end, the film brings in a whole new meaning to the idea of friendship, finding solace in being alone and also, giving the finger.
The sequel to the 2019 Knives Out movie, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery follows yet another murder mystery which requires Benoit Blanc's (Daniel Craig) investigative skills. With the suspects and the victim coming from absurdly rich backgrounds, the film mocks at the lifestyles and their reckless nature. It makes the audience question those with power and in power. Even though this particular film is a chill watch that brings in the right amount of drama and comedy, it does delve into the themes of class hierarchy and the powerful vs. the powerless.
The journey of the Mardini sisters, who went from refugees fleeing Syria's civil war to Olympic swimmers, is a well-known story. The Swimmers brings this story to the screen with real-life sisters, Nathalie and Manal Issa, taking over the roles of the Mardini sisters. This film might be an emotional rollercoaster and certified tearjerker, yet it is definitely one that is worth watching. Not only does it have the ability to inspire and positively influence the viewers, but it also reflects on the traumas faced by refugees.
Based on the 2015 novel by Camille DeAngelis, Bones and All is directed by Luca Guadagnino, with Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell taking over the lead roles of Lee and Maren. The film focuses on a pair of young cannibals who attempt to flee from their past but end up going back to it while realizing their feelings for each other.
Bones and All is not an easy watch due to its graphic visuals and the violence, but it is one of the most interesting releases of 2022, and one that takes a completely different form of perspective on romance and life. Both Chalamet and Russell prove their brilliant acting skills in this film, helping lead Bones and All to its fame.
Babylon takes viewers back to Hollywood's history as it showcases the transition from silent films to sound films in the late 1920s. With Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, the film focuses on the silent film stars' attempts at grappling with this transition, reminiscent of Singin' in the Rain. The bright visuals and the soundtrack (from the same filmmaker who brought us La La Land) have gathered the attention of film lovers.
Babylon also takes the chance to look behind-the-scenes of Hollywood as it shows the urge of certain stars to gain prominence no matter what the cost, and the hard work many put into their work. However, it also goes big in trying to portray the carnal desire of the characters, with parties, drugs, sex, and lust playing a central role in the film.
The Wonder is a psychological period drama and a meditation on the conflict between science and religion near the end of the 19th century. The Netflix film follows an English nurse (Florence Pugh) as she travels to a rural Irish village to examine a girl who is said to have stopped eating but is still alive and well. The villagers feel it's some kind of heavenly happening, but of course, things aren't always as they seem. It's based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, who also helped write the screenplay.
The Wonder is truly original, and Pugh is a mega star who shines in everything she's cast in. It offers an interesting narrative that explores themes of family, trauma, and morality in a way that feels brand new. There's also an impressive production value to The Wonder that makes it enjoyable to simply just look at. It's worth noting that this movie is very much a slow burn, but if you can stick it out, it's well worth it and is certainly one of Pugh's best performances.
Maria is a freelance writer and editor who operates her own freelance business, Total Type LLC. Maria enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but has always had an avid love for pop culture.