Best Documentaries 2022

Documentaries left none of life’s stones unturned in 2022, from scaling up volcanoes to the edge of burning oblivion (Fire of Love), to tracking down the last slave ship to arrive in America (Descendant), to a son’s tribute to his father (Robert Downey Jr.’s Sr.). Music played their part, with revealing looks at artists Sinead O’Connor (Nothing Compares), Louis Armstrong (Black & Blues), and a woman-fronted metal band against the Lebanese revolution (Sirens).

The order reflects Tomatometer scores (as of December 31, 2022) after adjustment from our ranking formula, which compensates for variation in the number of reviews when comparing movies or TV shows.


Fire of Love (2022)

Adjusted Score: 107346%
Critics Consensus: Whether as a story of one couple's quixotic quest or simply a stunning collection of nature footage, Fire of Love burns bright.
Synopsis: Fire of Love tells the story of two French lovers, Katia and Maurice Krafft, who died in a volcanic explosion... [More]
Starring: Miranda July
Directed By: Sara Dosa


Descendant (2022)

Adjusted Score: 103007%
Critics Consensus: Descendant serves as a fantastically compelling example of how history can be reclaimed -- and a stirring tribute to a resilient community.
Synopsis: Documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown ("The Order of Myths", "The Great Invisible") returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama to document... [More]
Directed By: Margaret Brown


The Janes (2022)

Adjusted Score: 102892%
Critics Consensus: Frighteningly timely and powerfully persuasive, The Janes offers a unique opportunity to look back at a pivotal chapter in American history through the eyes of those who helped define it.
Synopsis: In the spring of 1972, police raided an apartment on the South Side of Chicago. Seven women were arrested and... [More]
Directed By: Tia Lessin, Emma Pildes

Adjusted Score: 103049%
Critics Consensus: A poetic tribute to tenacity, All That Breathes uses two brothers' tireless efforts to make a broader point about finding triumph within tragedy.
Synopsis: In one of the world's most populated cities, cows, rats, monkeys, frogs, and hogs jostle cheek-by-jowl with people. Here, two... [More]
Directed By: Shaunak Sen


Navalny (2022)

Adjusted Score: 101983%
Critics Consensus: Navalny is a documentary that's as gripping as any thriller -- but the real-life fight against authoritarianism that it details is deadly serious.
Synopsis: Shot as the story unfolded, NAVALNY is a fly-on-the-wall documentary thriller about anti-authoritarian Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Recovering in... [More]
Starring: Alexei Navalny
Directed By: Daniel Roher


Nothing Compares (2022)

Adjusted Score: 103165%
Critics Consensus: A moving look at Sinéad O'Connor's remarkable life and career, Nothing Compares is enriching viewing whether or not you're a fan of her work.
Synopsis: NOTHING COMPARES is the story of Sinéad O'Connor's phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and how her iconoclastic personality resulted in... [More]
Starring: Sinéad O'Connor
Directed By: Kathryn Ferguson

Adjusted Score: 100137%
Critics Consensus: A fitting tribute to a titan of American music, Louis Armstrong's Black & Blues honors its subject by letting him tell his story in his own words.
Synopsis: "Louis Armstrong's Black & Blues" offers an intimate and revealing look at the world-changing musician, presented through a lens of... [More]
Starring: Louis Armstrong
Directed By: Sacha Jenkins

Adjusted Score: 101732%
Critics Consensus: Inspirational and unabashedly political, Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down pays passionate tribute to its resilient subject.
Synopsis: Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down tells the extraordinary story of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords: her relentless fight to recover... [More]
Directed By: Julie Cohen, Betsy West


Free Chol Soo Lee (2022)

Adjusted Score: 101430%
Critics Consensus: Free Chol Soo Lee powerfully relates a story of injustice while issuing a searing indictment of the systemic racism that enabled it.
Synopsis: In 1970s San Francisco, 20-year-old Korean immigrant Chol Soo Lee is racially profiled and convicted of a Chinatown gang murder.... [More]
Directed By: Julie Ha, Eugene Yi


"Sr." (2022)

Adjusted Score: 99487%
Critics Consensus: Sr. is an illuminating look at a fascinating filmmaker -- and a poignant tribute to a father from his son.
Synopsis: Robert Downey Jr. pays tribute to his late father in this documentary chronicling the life and eclectic career of pioneering... [More]
Directed By: Chris Smith