by Alex Billington
November 24, 2022
It’s that time of year again: where families get together for massive feasts, the sun goes down way too early, snow sprinkles the land with its softness, and we all cuddle under blankets watching the best movies and TV series. But what to watch? It happens to everyone, over and over – you spend more time browsing Netflix deciding what to watch then you do actually watching whatever it is you eventually settle on. So here’s a list of our Top 7 Picks from Netflix to add to your queue now, so you won’t have to waste more time deciding what to watch. These seven films are verified as some of the best films released by Netflix this year. Other 2022 favorites aren’t out just yet – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (on Netflix starting December 9th) and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (on Netflix starting December 23rd). Until then, we highly recommend watching any (or all!!) of the films below and choosing wisely when you browse Netflix this holiday season.
These seven films are chosen as some of our most underrated favorites. There are plenty of other Netflix films to watch (more suggestions are listed at the end) but these are a few that you might’ve heard about and skipped already, or haven’t heard about at all before. I’ve seen them all and I can say they’re excellent films. Even if it doesn’t sound like something you might want to watch, just click play and settle in. Make sure the popcorn is ready before you start and the lights are dim – each of these deserves your undivided attention.
Athena – [Watch Now]
Directed by Romain Gavras
This intense French film is a Greek tragedy turned into a modern urban warfare thriller and it’s AWESOME. Most critics agree – the opening sequence in this is an all-timer, instantly joining the ranks as one of best openings ever in cinema history. The rest of it is also incredible, too!! Directed by Romain Gavras (Our Day Will Come, The World Is Yours), from a script co-written by Ladj Ly, Romain Gavras, Elias Belkeddar, the film is about three brothers that live and rule over a housing project in the French suburbs. After a local boy dies, the residents barricade themselves and start a war with the police – using anything they can find to attack and respond and keep the invaders out of their home turf. Athena has some of the most breathtaking, awe-inspiring long-take shots in any film this decade so far. Most of the time I kept wondering “how the hell did they get this shot?!” it all seems impossible to pull off. If you need any more convincing, Bilge Ebiri wrote the best review of Athena when it debuted at the Venice Film Festival. As for me, I stand with Karim!!
The Sea Beast – [Watch Now]
Directed by Chris Williams
Perhaps my favorite animated movie of the year, The Sea Beast is a Netflix original production animated by the talented creators at Sony Pictures Imageworks in Vancouver. It’s directed by animation veteran Chris Williams, who also made Bolt and co-directed Big Hero 6 for Disney; with a screenplay co-written by Chris Williams and Nell Benjamin. This remarkably inspiring, uplifting story of a young girl becoming a warrior is set in a time when legendary hunters went on voyages to fight massive sea beasts to keep kingdoms safe. Zaris-Angel Hator voices Maisie Brumble, who is one of the cutest lil’ brave heroes in any story this year. The animation work in this is spectacular, more detailed and realistic than most animated movies. It’s also a perfect adventure story and acceptance story. Topped off with superb performances that are believable and natural, making this feel seriously authentic and exciting. Not just another cartoon, this is a real adventure with stakes and thrills and unforgettable moments. I can’t recommend this one more – to anyone of any age.
Stutz – [Watch Now]
Directed by Jonah Hill
Listen to Stutz!! Trust him. And most importantly – learn from him. This film is as meaningful and valuable as I was hoping it might be. Stutz is a 96 minute documentary feature film directed by actor Jonah Hill, starring Hill and his therapist Dr. Phil Stutz. Hill wanted to make this film about Dr. Stutz because he had such a life-changing experience working with him, and wanted to share that experience with eveyone else, in hopes that it might help them with their mental health issues. I love how calm and cool Stutz is, and every idea is presented so cleanly making it so easy to grasp. I want to rewatch it and write down everything just to make sure I can properly remember all of his tools. I loved the big vulnerability reveal and honesty about the filmmaking in the first 30 minutes. Let’s tear down those walls so we can be honest and open with each other and accomplish some good and help each other out. When you watch, go in with an open mind, not a defensive one. Stutz wants us all to be better; if you make sure to embrace his ideas, you will learn so much.
All Quiet on the Western Front – [Watch Now]
Directed by Edward Berger
This brand new adaptation of the iconic World War I novel is a harrowing, haunting look at the horrors of war. German director Edward Berger’s new take on All Quiet on the Western Front flips the focus – we follow young German soldiers as they gear up and head into the trenches during “The Great War”, only to end up realizing it’s not a heroic place at all. Within minutes they start to break down and wish to return home, learning quickly that they’re just meat for the grinder and no one really cares. It may be hard to watch a war movie right now with the state of the world being so precarious, but that’s actually he entire point of this film – it’s a reminder that nationalist attitudes only lead to death. Young soldiers who are so excited to defend their country are sent straight into hell. Many people will die because a few assholes living lavishly in their giant palaces want to fight over nonsense. Critics have been raving about this (read our review) – the cinematography is astounding, the attention to detail is unforgettable, and the performances are excellent.
Windfall – [Watch Now]
Directed by Charlie McDowell
An underrated Netflix gem, Windfall first premiered on the streaming service back in March earlier this year. It’s the latest film directed by Charlie McDowell, best known for his other underrated indie flicks The One I Love and The Discovery previously. Windfall is one the most clever and intelligent psychological thrillers I’ve seen this year. A very slick, Hitchcockian thriller set at a beautiful home in Ojai, California with a gorgeous orange grove – which they spend plenty of time walking through. I loved the interplay between the intriguing cast of characters: Jason Segel & Jesse Plemons & Lily Collins. The score is fantastic (by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans) along with all the perfectly composed shots that almost feel like another character in the film. I wanted more out of Jason Segel’s character, but then again, I always want more from Segel in anything he’s in. Love him. You may as well watch Windfall just to enjoy Jason Segel in a new film.
Hustle – [Watch Now]
Directed by Jeremiah Zagar
Uncut Hoops! Damn this is good. I honestly think Hustle is one of Adam Sandler’s best non-comedic films ever, because he’s clearly so passionate about basketball (in real life) and that comes through in this role, too. Hustle stars Adam Sandler as a basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, flying around the world trying to find the right talent to join the team. He finally stumbles across a Spanish basketball star named Bo Cruz, played by the real-life Spanish basketball star Juancho Hernangómez. Sandler works with him to make sure he’s ready for the NBA, but it ain’t easy, and takes a lot of “hustle.” The dynamic between these two characters is outstanding, easily one of the highlights of the entire film. I’m not even a big basketball fan but this had me hooked all the way through. Hustle is directed by Jeremiah Zagar, a talented filmmaker whose feature debut We the Animals was one of the major discoveries of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
The Stranger – [Watch Now]
Directed by Thomas M. Wright
Tread carefully with this one. But if you are brave enough to venture into the world of The Stranger, you’ll discover a mysterious, gripping, unsettling psychological thriller unlike anything you have ever encountered before. This one is not an easy watch – I’ll admit that right up front. But it’s a rewarding watch. Written and directed by Australian actor / filmmaker Thomas M. Wright, the film first premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, landing on Netflix earlier in the fall. It stars two of Australia’s finest actors: Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris – both of them sporting the most glorious beards I have ever seen. They have mysterious pasts, one of them is chasing the other, but what for? What’s the goal, where is headed…? You must watch to find out. “To call it an unconventionally impressive crime drama is to put it very lightly,” one critic wrote about this one. Another adds: “In tone, the film is brilliantly hidden. It takes a long while to work out what’s happening. The atmosphere is gloomy, distrustful, brutal in language…” It is worth a watch.
Other Netflix recommendations to watch if you’re still looking for more to add to your Watch List: Andrew Dominik’s controversial Blonde, The Luckiest Girl Alive with Mila Kunis, The Good Nurse true story drama, the documentary Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, Spiderhead with Chris Hemsworth, Dayshift with Jamie Foxx, Lou with Allison Janney, the documentary Descendant, Key & Peele’s stop-motion Wendell & Wild, Enola Holmes 2 with Millie Bobby Brown, French action sequel Lost Bullet 2, The Wonder with Florence Pugh, the documentary Is That Black Enough for You?!?, the British thriller I Came By, action film Interceptor with Elsa Pataky, The Adam Project with Ryan Reynolds, and Richard Linklater’s 1960s comedy Apollo 10 1/2. There is also The Gray Man but it’s not that great.
We hope you enjoy some good films this holiday season!! Curl up by the fire and discover something fun and exciting and memorable. Talk about what you like and don’t like about each movie. It’s always our goal at FirstShowing to help steer you all towards the best films and other top picks that might’ve been lost in the mix. It’s our job to watch everything, so that we can recommend the films that don’t end up being a waste of time. And now you know what to choose when you’re out of ideas on night!! Dive in and start watching now. What other Netflix Originals are your favorites from 2022? Any more under-the-radar recommendations?
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