2022 in Review: Best Documentary Films of the Year

As I am prone to do every year, I separate documentaries into their own Best of the Year list, not because I feel they should be judged any differently than narrative films, but because I want to call attention to as many great docs as I possibly can, and trying to do that and still limit my main list to 30 or 40 titles is impossible. I get such a charge from a great documentary, whether it’s on a subject I know a great deal about or if it covers ground I’d never even contemplated in terms of perspective, information, or fuel for outrage or celebration.

Part of the thrill of being a living, thinking, evolving human being is absorbing new things and experiences, and allowing this newness to inspire fresh ideas and points of view. That’s the standard to which I hold documentaries: don’t just teach me, but move me or change me in some fundamental way. Here are 20 titles that did just that in 2022…

20. Stutz (Dir: Jonah Hill)

19. Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (Dirs: Daniel Geller & Dayna Goldfine)

18. Wildcat (Dirs: Trevor Frost & Melissa Lesh)

17. A House Made of Splinters (Dir: Simon Lereng Wilmont)

16. Punch 9 for Harold Washington (Dir: Joe Winston)

15. Cow (Dir: Andrea Arnold)

14. Good Night Oppy (Dir: Ryan White)

13. Turn Every Page – The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (Dir: Lizzie Gottlieb)

12. The Return of Tanya Tucker (Dir: Kathlyn Horan)

11. Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down (Dirs: Julie Cohen & Betsy West)

10. Riotsville, U.S.A. (Dir: Sierra Pettengill)

9. 2nd Chance (Dir: Ramin Bahrani)

8. Hold Your Fire (Dir: Stefan Forbes)

7. Bad Axe (Dir: David Siev)

6. All That Breathes (Dir: Shaunak Sen)

5. The Janes (Dirs: Tia Lessin & Emma Pildes)

4. The Territory (Dir: Alex Pritz)

3. Moonage Daydream (Dir: Brett Morgen)

2. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Dir: Laura Poitras)

1. Fire of Love (Dir: Sara Dosa)

There is something about the reddish-orange hue of flowing lava, as it swallows up everything in its path, that warms my heart. It’s as mesmerizing as it is terrifying, and I could stare at it for hours. So, too, could the internationally known subjects of director Sara Dosa’s documentary Fire of Love, Katia and Maurice Krafft, who met and fell in love decades ago thanks to their mutual admiration for the power and mysteries surrounding volcanoes. Fire of Love is so visually stunning that you could turn the volume off completely and enjoy the film almost as much. But why would you want to miss this touching love story? In a way, you can see the way these exotic settings and mysterious explorations seduced this couple into a lifestyle that would ultimately kill them, but I believe even they would say that, considering their legacy, it was worth it. This is one of the most memorable documentaries I’ve see in quite some time.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support! 

Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

Plan Your Life with 3CR Highlights

Join Our Newsletter today!