Nothing can be better to start off 2023 than a watchlist of films that have a mysterious quality attached to them. These types of films that have a sense of mystique generally tend to have a very enchanting and enticing quality, as the viewers enjoy the fulfillment of getting surprised, thrilled and keeping their mind working through some delicious puzzle that is also at the same time fun and enjoyable. In 2022, various kinds of mind-boggling films were released, majorly delving into genres such as thriller and horror, at the same time containing some really fun and unique use of the old-school whodunnit, which is quite a favorite among the audiences, if carried out properly. These can be the perfect watch where the audience takes an active part in decoding and deciphering the clues. Once more, it needs to be mentioned that this list is an unranked one due to the inaccessible nature of various films released in 2022, and a ranked one will be made a few months later, in 2023, when the majority of the films become accessible to watch and assess. These are some of the best mind-boggling mystery films of 2022.
The Batman (2022) (Dir. Matt Reeves)
This is the most interesting choice in this list as the popular superhero comic character Batman, who despite being nicknamed ‘the world’s greatest detective’, ends up having this part of his character ignored in films and television shows that prefer to show massive action set pieces instead. Here lies the inventive take of a filmmaker like Matt Reeves, who changed the landscape with the presentation through a very noirish approach, something very typical to the classic mystery films. He envisions the character of Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, in a very detective-like manner and focuses more on the investigation part than the action hero one. These, along with some really impressive action set-pieces, make “The Batman” rise above the plethora of comic book superhero films that are made nowadays, with a majority of them lacking major artistic merit. The tension of the mystery is further heightened in this film by the brilliantly written characters, both the major and minor ones, along with their brilliant portrayals on the screen by the talented ensemble cast, which comprises acting talents such as Robert Pattinson, Paul Dano, Zoë Kravitz, John Turturro, and Colin Farrell.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) (Dir. Rian Johnson)
Even though the main character of detective Benoit Blanc is played by Daniel Craig, this sequel to the 2019 film “Knives Out” acts perfectly on both grounds, as a standalone film and also a sequel. This film contains a dazzling ensemble cast that is adequately supported by well-written characters. The narrative revolves around ultra-rich people and a murder mystery on an isolated private island owned by a tech billionaire. Even though it sounds somewhat familiar with its tropes, director Rian Johnson manages to constantly play with the audience with some refreshing portrayals of these elements. Furthermore, it is also quite comical and kind of takes on the concepts of cultural capital and elite snobbery while having some major real-life parallels to some characters, which makes it more topical.
Monica, O My Darling (2022) (Dir. Vasan Bala)
One of the most refreshing films that came out of India in 2022 had a very neo-noirish approach. Director Vasan Bala takes the viewers through a very quirky and fun ride showing off some very morally dubious characters and perfectly traps one in a deliciously woven web of mystery and the film’s also quite funny in a very dark way. Each and every frame of “Monica, O My Darling” is highly stylized and detailed in a very dazzling manner with some of the wackiest characters, with brilliant acting showpieces from its highly talented cast of Rajkumar Rao, Huma Qureshi, and a stand-out performance from Radhika Apte. Furthermore, Bala’s love for films can be perfectly seen through his almost childlike sense of wonder through various homages to retro Hindi thrillers by filmmakers like Vijay Anand, along with a very unique and refreshing soundtrack from Achint Thakkar, reminiscent of the music of greats like Shankar-Jaikishan and RD Burman.
X (2022) (Dir. Ti West)
“X” marks the perfect tribute to the sub-genre of slasher films, mainly paying homage to the 1974 classic, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” It tackles the genre through a very different lens and formulates a revisionist take on the concept of Christianity, purity, and other themes of voyeurism as seen as generic tropes in the old slasher films. This film follows a group of people who go to a secluded farmhouse in order to shoot an adult film. Nothing more should be revealed about the plot, as here lies the mystery that one should definitely experience, and director Ti West perfectly captures this aura with a very smart, engaging, and thrilling film. Furthermore, a major credit should go to the brilliant use of prosthetic makeup, which is among the finest of recent times.
Pearl (2022) (Dir. Ti West)
“Pearl” is a prequel to the abovementioned “X” (2022), and it is generally quite a rare feat that both of these films were directed by the same filmmaker and released within the same year. This film perfectly cements Ti West as one of the most exciting and promising filmmakers one should look out for. “Pearl” is just a pure example of brilliance in filmmaking with a director who is perfectly in control of the cinematic language. It plays with various generic tropes and completely subverts the old-school Hollywood musicals into a very mysterious and horrific setting that is quite fun and, at the same time, disturbingly delicious to watch. Furthermore, this film contains a brilliant performance from the lead actress, Mia Goth, and is definitely among the best of 2022, thanks to an almost pitch-perfect acting showcase, further elevating the film to a different level altogether.
Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) (Dir. Halina Reijn)
Halina Reijn perfectly crafts a very refreshing film that constantly manages to puzzle and raise questions through some really dumb and idiotic characters while also blending and shifting genres from black comedy to slasher horror and also a whodunit mystery. The plot is quite simple and set inside a mansion filled with mostly ultra-rich kids in their 20s, where suddenly people start to get murdered one at a time, quite reminiscent of works like “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” perfectly evokes a very claustrophobic and tense atmosphere through the usage of various visual tropes along with brilliant writing that perfectly holds the film together for an out-and-out nail-biting experience, at the same time in a subtle manner taking a dig on class, privilege and economic disparity while being a satire on the Gen-Z, or the millennials with respect to their high dependence on technology and social media.
Decision To Leave (2022) (Dir. Park Chan-wook)
After a break of six years, 2022 marked the directorial return of the acclaimed Korean auteur Park Chan-wook with the seductive, mysterious drama “Decision to Leave.” This film showcases his prowess as a filmmaker, as even after a span of 30 years in this line, he constantly manages to reinvent himself and, at the same time, is very confident with the craft. This film is great in its dealing with multi-layered plots and subplots through a very Hitchcockian approach, along with always having an edge-of-the-seat effect on the viewers, painting the visual landscape with broad strokes, and creating a film whose each frame showcases filmmaking excellence. Furthermore, it can be stated that “Decision to Leave” is among Park’s best works, along with being one of the best films of 2022, and showcases why he is one of the contemporary masters.
This list reflects a variety of intriguing mysteries, from the age-old trope of the chamber drama whodunnit to even some of the most stylish and dazzling mysteries and showcases films both by seasoned auteurs and some budding new voices. So, one should not wait on these above-mentioned films and should watch them as soon as possible, as these mysteries can often be spoiled due to some revelation, especially due to the current times of social media and the tremendous flow of information. Other than these, here are some films that deserve special mention: “The Outfit” (2022), “The Wonder” (2022), “See How They Run” (2022), “Drishyam 2” (2022), and “Scream” (2022).