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Spling's 'Best Netflix Movies of 2022' List

As we draw to the end of 2022, film critic Spling takes a look at which Netflix movies made the biggest impression. Performing especially well in the animation genre, Netflix's best movies take an introspective journey through documentary, a hybrid docudrama, a war drama and crime thriller. Watching at least 150 movies a year, mostly streaming titles, here are some of the best reviewed films from Spling's Talking Movies show on Fine Music Radio for 2022.

Spling's Best Netflix Movies of 2022 List

You can scroll down to the bottom of the page for the "close but no cigar" contenders that didn't quite crack this list of movies.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

A father's wish brings to life a wooden boy.

Directors: Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson | Voice talents: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley and Gregory Mann

You may think you know the story of Pinocchio, made famous by a Disney classic in 1940, yet del Toro's version provides a much-needed refresh on the fairytale based on the book "Pinocchio" written by Carlo Collodi. Del Toro takes the central concept and expands it into a full-fledged adventure set against the backdrop of World War II. Set in Italy during Mussolini's regime, even small rural towns are under Nazi control. This beautifully animated stop-motion feature film, which incorporates del Toro's aesthetic, transports you to another dimension with its detailed world-building, going far beyond the limits of traditional stop-motion.

This fairytale, like the Brothers Grimm, has an inherent darkness that filters through its creative choices in character design, mood, and bittersweet storytelling. Much like Pan's Labyrinth had direct contrasts between fantasy and war, Pinocchio, while family-friendly like Coraline, leans toward nightmare. The characters are voiced by an array of first-rate acting talents, including Christoph Waltz, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, and Tilda Swinton, who allow the animator's nuanced decisions to inform them. In texture, tone, and quality, it is comparable to The House, but it creates something new and fierce in the process. The cheerful songs, which are infused with a musical element and narrated by a Jiminy Cricket-style narrator, are not out of place, and are further enhanced by Pinocchio's playful sense of humour. Despite a few lapses in judgment and a cool temperament, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is a vivid animated adventure that makes for compelling viewing.

All Quiet on the Western Front

The terrifying experiences and distress of a young German soldier on the Western Front during World War I.

Director: Edward Berger | Stars: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch and Aaron Hilmer

All Quiet on the Western Front is a remake of Erich Maria Remarque's novel of the same name, which was first adapted for film in 1930. This epic war drama thriller is a visual masterpiece that goes to great lengths to capture the bleak mud and blood of trench warfare in World War I. From the perspective of a German soldier, this wide-eyed chronicle follows several young conscripts as their experiences fighting for their country shape, break, or kill them. Using nature's constant as a bookend to the conscript's story, the futility of sending hundreds of thousands to their deaths in order to advance a few hundred meters echoes the hellish insanity of war.

For scale, bystander perspective, and lead temperament, it's reminiscent of Sam Mendes' simulated single-shot war epic 1917. All Quiet on the Western Front is an absolute spectacle, creating visceral and sprawling war scenes that craft an immersive and gutwrenching cinematic experience about the utter meaninglessness of war. Despite the film's intimate fly-on-the-wall perspective, the film maintains a certain distance from its characters, giving the impression that you are watching from the outside in. Perhaps this device is intentional in its attempt to provide a non-heroic depiction and a vicarious in, but it leaves one befuddled. This war drama contains many powerful moments that highlight the madness and futility of being a soldier without a war. This visually captivating film, propelled by a minimalist soundtrack, may run nearly two and a half hours, but its cinematography, artful execution, raw authenticity, and transportive mis-en-scene keep you transfixed.

The Metamorphosis of Birds

This multigenerational story follows a Portuguese family as a mother and her children cope with their father's absence at sea for months and years.

Writer-Director: Catarina Vasconcelos

The Metamorphosis of Birds is similar to Amelie's quirky sentimental sway and Wes Anderson's retro magpie appetite in that it feels like sifting through a family memory box. It's strangely hypnotic in the way it melds sound and visuals, echoing the Instagram generation with its screen format, manicured visuals, and storytelling devices. There is no dialogue, no typical character interactions, and no traditional sense of continuity; instead, a poetic lyricism is embraced. It's as if people are reading letters, with language ranging from meditative to poetic, and it's driven by narration rather than performance. The Metamorphosis of Birds, with its steady rhythm, is strangely calming and soothing.

It takes the time to create a series of dreamlike sequences and uses magic realism to maintain a retro otherworldliness. In contrast to traditional filmmaking, it is somewhat alienating, but its family photo album nostalgia and rich emotional hues compel it as a work of innocence and wonder. While rare, there are a few instances where the art's whimsy borders on absurdist comedy. The introspective tone remains consistent, providing some grounding to an otherwise lofty and surreal slow cinema experience. As The Metamorphosis of Birds arrives on the scene, its memory-based storytelling comes full circle as reality is separated from fairy tale.

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

A coming-of-age drama set in the Houston suburbs in the summer of 1969, centered on the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.

Director: Richard Linklater | Voice talents of: Glen Powell, Zachary Levi and Jack Black

Apollo 10½ is a nostalgic animated coming-of-age sci-fi adventure drama directed by a director known for creating atmospheric, moody, and nostalgic stories that soak up the life and times of eras or generations, such as Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, and Boyhood. Filming Boyhood over the course of a decade, a gimmick that helped him craft an unusually immersive suburban tale, he takes a page in Apollo 10½. Linklater replaces his actors in a playful two-dimensional world where it's much easier to recreate space flights, moon landings, pop culture brands, and even theme parks, using a similar rotoscoping and live-action animation technique used in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly.

Using some of his trademark elements, Apollo 10½ has a sweetness, naivete, and warmth that is reminiscent of the first moon landing. Linklater, like First Man, Boyhood, The Wonder Years, and Young Sheldon, adds fantasy to his grounded storytelling by allowing a 10-year-old boy's daydream to take root. The film, which is narrated by Jack Black, harkens back to simpler times, using music from the era to connect the dots and an amusing retrospective commentary to poke fun. Apollo 10½ will evoke many fond memories for people who grew up on both sides of the moon landing, from playing in the garden to drive-ins.

The House

In this animated dark comedy, a poor family, an anxious developer, and a fed-up landlady become linked to the same mysterious house across different eras.

Writer: Enda Walsh | Voice talents of: Matthew Goode, Helena Bonham Carter and Mia Goth

Most people associate British stop-motion animation with the comedy of Wallace & Gromit. Nonetheless, the craftsmanship, patience, and scrapbook textures of these dead-alive creations contribute to a natural creepiness. The House takes full advantage, luring you into its dark fairytale world with the genre's innocence and playfulness. The animators present three very different stories in three chapters, all centered on the same house, ranging from a poor family accepting a generous offer to a rat house-flipper trying to keep up appearances to a small commune of cats living in a flooded world.

Walsh's imagination and wit are reminiscent of Roald Dahl, harnessing the original intent of the Grimm brothers with dolls house and anthropomorphic character design to match the tone. Even more impressive is the exquisite detail of the backdrops, which capture woodgrain in the floorboards while recreating fine living mansions and crafting the most intricate décor. Immersion in each of these distinct stories, solid performances from its fine voice talent, and timeless themes make it difficult to believe you're watching animation. The House is a wonderful and transcendent showcase of stop-motion animation at its highest level, presented in three equally entertaining and magical chapters.


Jonah Hill and his renowned therapist talk about mental health, coping strategies, and their familiar relationship.

Director: Jonah Hill | Features: Jonah Hill and Phil Stutz

Hill is an Oscar-nominated actor best known for his dramatic roles in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, and he alternates between comedy and drama. Much like Jim Carrey realized, despite reaching the pinnacle of his career and amassing fame, fortune, and critical acclaim, he still didn't feel fulfilled in his pursuit of happiness. The actor discovered a role model in renowned therapist Phil Stutz, whose intuitive approach to counselling establishes more dialogue with helpful tools. This black-and-white documentary is Hill's attempt to honor the man, his contributions, and to share his valuable array of mental health coping skills.

The crisp interview visuals interlace quite masterfully as Stutz's trademark visual cue cards and scribble font creates progressive chapters in this artful documentary exploration, not dissimilar to C'mon C'mon with Joaquin Phoenix. A familiar relationship, bordering on father-son, develops through this candid experiment as the two open up about their lives to provide real-life examples of how to apply the methodology. Stutz becomes self-referential and even interdimensional, offering a rare and tender glimpse into the mind of Jonah Hill and his esteemed therapist, despite being shot over several years in an attempt to appear as a single session. This unconventional documentary and its subjects are both spontaneous and self-reflective, entertaining, informative, and surprisingly funny.

The Stranger

A man with a dark secret is persuaded to join a criminal syndicate.

Writer-Director: Thomas M. Wright | Stars: Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris and Jada Alberts

The Stranger is an epic and menacing crime drama thriller in the vein of Seven, Heat, Sicario, and Destroyer. Wright weaves the story through a tense atmosphere as a man with a dark past is lured back into criminal activity in a bleak, dark, and mysterious world. A smart edit keeps things aloof and uncertain as the puzzle pieces lock into place, centered on an unlikely partnership between an undercover cop and a murder suspect. The fictionalized account, loosely based on a true crime story about a man suspected of abducting and killing a boy, uses the 2003 incident as a springboard into the investigation rather than focusing on the crime itself.

The Stranger is a taut cat-and-mouse game that captures the intensity of the investigation as well as the ploys used to find evidence and corner the suspect. The pairing of its co-leads, Edgerton and Harris, is one of the main reasons to see this Australian film, which has a similar emotional heft to Heat. The Stranger is an elegant, enigmatic, and seething portrait of an uneasy working relationship between a lonesome criminal and an undercover cop who battles addiction, hides his true identity, and bears the burden of being a Judas goat. This artful thriller is elevated by first-rate performances, gripping crime drama, striking visuals, and a familiar bleak, intense, and moody atmosphere.

The Summit of the Gods

A photojournalist’s obsessive quest for the truth about the first expedition to Mount Everest leads him to search for an esteemed climber who went missing.

Director: Patrick Imbert

The 14 Peaks documentary, centered on athletic prowess, captured the record-breaking and incredible journey of a mountaineer and his team as they accomplished the seemingly impossible. The Summit of the Gods takes a more contemplative, ethereal, and philosophical approach to reaching the highest points on the planet. As a climber wrestles with his compulsion to reach the summit, we get a more intimate account of the sport's rigors, both physical and mental. The mystery of a camera with undeveloped film that belonged to a pioneer who died just short of the top is told through the eyes of a photojournalist.

These solo expeditions were more dangerous than the world we live in today, where sports and technology have advanced. Because the storytellers are animated, they have more freedom to capture some of the more metaphysical aspects and moods of such endeavors. Nonetheless, they strive for accuracy in their portrayal of the characters in relation to the details of their expeditions, whether rockface or snow. While The Summit of the Gods is reminiscent of previous mountaineering films, it is based on a manga series. With echoes of The Red Turtle, it's a beautifully realized and sometimes poetic depiction of a restless spirit and man's desire to conquer the natural world. It's as fearless as its climbers, moving at its own pace, constantly aiming to transcend the medium and capture the essence of the extreme sport.

Other Netflix films worth checking out: Enola Holmes 2, The Nurse, Hustle, The Trapped 13, The Swimmers, The Father, Sr. and the Knives Out sequel Glass Onion.