The 10 Best Spanish Movies Of 2022: Spanish cinema has a distinctively rich history, built upon various styles, thanks to different parts of the same country having distinctly different people and cultures. But when you think about Spanish movies in general, what instantly comes to mind is probably the eccentric dramas of Pedro Almodóvar or the insanely twisted thrillers of modern-day superstar Oriol Paulo, which is absolutely understandable considering the accessibility factor.

But when I was tasked with the assignment of picking the ten best Spanish movies from the year 2022, I had the intention to look into movies beyond the usual fare. I wanted you to know about movies exploring the culture and discussing socially relevant issues while maintaining cinematic superiority. With all that in mind, I have conjured up a list that has movies that tell stories about parenthood, xenophobia, repressed sexuality, class division, and so many other real-world matters. What I hope to achieve here is for you, the cinema enthusiast readers taking an interest in the rich cultural pool of Spanish cinema. But in case you are wondering, the latest Oriol Paulo also features in the list. So here you go!

10. To Books and Woman I Sing

The 10 Best Spanish Movies Of 2022 - To Books and Woman I Sing

María Elorza, who has previously directed a handful of exciting short films, makes her feature debut with To Books and Woman I Sing. A documentary and fiction hybrid that earned Elorza the Youth Award at the 70th San Sebastian Film Festival (in the new director section), the movie is established on the novel idea that says we tell stories in order to go through our lives.

As you can expect, books and literature, in a broader sense, become the central theme of Elorza’s movie. Her unadulterated love for literature is clearly visible in the narrative that she weaves, where women tell their personal stories. One of the women used to have a library in the back seat of a car. Another recalls a poem while ironing. The stories are all about books or a specific piece of literature and every memory related to those. But most essentially, the movie becomes a reflection of the life of different kinds. It is Elorza’s passionate, very honest ode to art, which everybody should see.

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9. The Rite of Spring

The 10 Best Spanish Movies Of 2022 - The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring takes a subject matter as grave as sexual representation, but instead of the usual somber treatment, it gives the narrative a unique humorous spin. But that only makes the film a more enriching experience for the audience.

Fernando Franco, who won the prestigious Goya award for best new director for his debut “Wounded” back in 2013, is helming the movie, which follows Laura, a woman from conservative background moving to Madrid to study Chemistry. In Madrid, Laura meets David, a boy with cerebral palsy, and his mother, Isabel. The plot thickens when Laura and Isabel develop a friendly relationship which leads to Laura helping David masturbate in exchange for money.

While the basic plot sounds bizarre on paper, Franco’s handling of it with utmost care and love makes the movie what it is. The performances of all three primary actors, Valèria Sorolla as Laura, Telmo Irureta as David, and Emma Suárez as Isabel, deserve much credit. Overall, The movie has received a lot of praise from almost every critic. Unlike Franco’s debut “Wounded” or his sophomore effort “Dying” (2017)”, both artistically great movies but without much commercial pull, “The Rite to Spring” is much more accessible to the audience, which only increases its appeal.

8. Cork

The 10 Best Spanish Movies Of 2022 - CORK

Known as “Suro” in its original Catalan language, Cork is a rural drama movie that is set in the rural Catalonia region. Directed by first-timer Mikel Gurrea, Cork tells the story of a young couple, Elena (played by Vicky Luengo) and Ívan (played by Pól Lopez), both architects, moving to a rural Catalonian town to run an inherited cork plantation.

There is an idealistic conflict that is going on between the two leads. That only gets further escalated when their arrival throws a frenzy among the local and immigrant cork workers. A rift between the two parties begins, which eventually becomes the crux of the movie.

Argentinian writer Francisco Kosterlitz along with Guerra himself, has written the screenplay, which has received so much acclaim for the way it has handled issues like deep-rooted social structure being threatened by a new order in the form of outsiders as well as the impact of racism and capitalism on the society. It still remains a very personal story, both from the perspective of its two leads and the director himself. At the San Sebastian Film festival, “Cork” competed for the Golden shell award and has been hailed as a standout thanks to its mature narrative and very relevant story.

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7. God’s Crooked Lines

The 10 Best Spanish Movies Of 2022 - God's Crooked Lines

Oriol Paulo, one of the most accessible Spanish directors of our time, has made a comeback after four years with God’s Crooked Lines, and as you can all expect, he has hit the bull’s eye yet again. After premiering at the 70th San Sebastian Film Festival, the psychological thriller movie went on to earn six nominations in the 37th Goya award, including a best leading actress for Barbára Lennie as well as an adapted screenplay.

Well-known for his fast-paced storytelling, mysterious world-building, and twists that we never really see coming, Paulo infuses all his signature traits in his new film as well. Adapted by Paulo himself along with Guillem Clua from the 1979 novel (of the same name), God’s Crooked Lines follows a private investigator Alice (played by Lennie), entering the psychiatric ward of a facility to investigate a death that happened under mysterious circumstances in the same facility.

But, as it is a Paulo film, you have another separate timeline running along with the main one in which a fire and riot happen as well as a corpse is found. You do need to see the movie to know the significance of that, of course.

6. Piggy

The 10 Best Spanish Movies Of 2022 - Piggy

Carlota Perada’s feature debut “Piggy” (Cerdita), based on her own critically acclaimed short of the same name, is a lot of things wrapped inside one fantastic narrative. A brilliant genre-blender in the true sense, Piggy is a coming-of-age story, it is a body horror, and it is also a slasher. But most importantly, it is a feminist movie that firmly stands against a lot of toxic traits of society without being preachy for a single minute.

Very conveniently set in a small town, Piggy follows overweight teen Sara over the course of an eventful summer where she gets bullied by other local girls of her age, but the twist in the tale comes when she witnesses a mysterious stranger abducting her bullies and effectively finds her in a position of dilemma. What Sara does after that becomes the focal point of this story.

Perada’s handling of things like body shaming, sexual awakening, teenage angst, and the brewed hatred from it has been highly praised by critics. For her riveting performance as the troubled Sara, Laura Galán has also received a lot of praise, deservingly.

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5. Manticore

The 10 Best Spanish Movies Of 2022 - Manticore

Written and directed by Carlos Vermut, Manticore is a twisted tale that puts a successful video-game designer Julián in the middle, who gets weirdly fixated on a boy named Cristian after saving the boy from an apartment fire and eventually befriending him. To keep his dark impulses related to Cristian under control, Julián eventually gets into a relationship with Diana, an art history student. However, that doesn’t go as per Julián’s expectations, and the rest of the movie follows his struggle to get a way out of the mess.

Premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, the movie has been widely discussed, especially for infusing tragedy characteristics, mumblecore (a subgenre of Independent Film where a lot of scenes and dialogues are improvised), and Hamartia (a problematic characteristic of a protagonist who is going on a downward spiral) into the narrative. Words like “brutal”, and “unflinching” have been used to describe the movie, but its central romantic story has received so much appreciation as well.

At the 37th Goya award, Manticore deservingly got recognition by getting nominated in four categories; best director and best original screenplay for Vermut, best actor for Nacho Sánchez, and best new actress for Zoe Stein, for playing Julián and Diana.

4. LA Maternal

When fourteen-year-old Carla gets pregnant, she is placed at a center for teenage mothers, where she develops bonding with five other teenagers Raki, Estel, Claudia, Jamila, and Sheila. This is the basic story of director Pilar Palomero’s latest drama, which is fittingly titled La Maternal, which means “Motherhood” (also English title) in Spanish.

Although the story shares similar DNA to the 2007 movie Juno, starring Elliot Paige, “La Maternal ” stands very much on its own thanks to Palomero’s creative decision of unfolding the teen drama from a rather realistic, absolutely unsentimental perspective. The movie also shares thematic similarities with Palomero’s directorial debut “Schoolgirl”, which was also built upon female solidarity.

In “La Maternal”, Carla’s strained relationship with her Penélope also gets a parallel story arc which becomes very essential as a comparable plot device to the main narrative. Another creative choice that works in the movie’s favor is Palemoro’s lead character not being particularly likable, contrary to the usual tropes. Carla Quílez’s performance in the lead, sharing the same name, should be given special credit for that as well.

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3. Alcarrás

Another Catalan movie on the list, Alcarrás, is titled after the place of its setting. The rural drama (which has become a subgenre itself) follows Quimet, a middle-aged peach farmer who lives with his family, and their lives revolve around harvesting peaches and then selling it. Some African immigrant workers also work for the family. But their livelihood gets threatened when the original owner decides to build a solar farm on the same land, which involves uprooting the peach trees. Quimet gets into a tussle with his own brother-in-law, who sides with the landowner and seeks a job at the solar farm.

One of the high points of Alcarrás is director Carla Simón has used a bunch of non-professional actors. That has resulted in a very beautiful, natural feeling that the audience can experience while watching it. There is a lot of chaos going on in this, a lot of chattering, dogging, and packing, things that can be expected from a farm, and Simón has shown that brilliantly.

At the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, Alcarrás made history by being the first Catalan language movie to win the Golden Bear, the top prize for a feature film. It was naturally Spain’s entry for the “Best International Feature Film” category for the upcoming Academy Awards, although it did not make it to the final shortlist.

2. Lullaby

In Lullaby, a new parent seeks the help of her parents after struggling to manage her parenthood and professional life. Let me clarify before anything that I did not plan to put two movies with “parenting/motherhood” in the same list, but debutante director Alauda Ruiz de Azúa’s “Lullaby” absolutely deserves to be here.

After having their first child, Amaia and Javi get the initial support of the former’s parents, Koldo and Begoña. But when they leave, the parents struggle to manage their parenthood which intensifies further after Javi leaves for a week due to his work. A helpless Amaia moves to her parents, but unfortunately, Begoña falls ill accidentally, leaving the mother and daughter to handle things on their own. While the movie tenderly handles the central theme of motherhood and parenting, it also sheds light on the theme of absentee fathers and the struggles the mothers have to go through as a result of that.

Starring Laia Costa (who has appeared in many American movies and shows) in the lead, “Lullaby” premiered at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival in the Panorama section. The absorbing, emotionally impactful mother-daughter drama has been subsequently subjected to a substantial amount of critical acclaim, deservingly.

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1. The Beasts

As coincidence would have it, my pick for the top slot on the list is primarily a movie about a couple moving to a rural area and upsetting the locals, which you might find similar to another movie on the list, “Cork.”

But what sets director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s movie apart from everything is its treatment and sharp focus on transnational xenophobia. In the movie, we see a mild-mannered, well-meaning middle-aged French couple, Antoine (played by Denis Menochet) and Olga (Marina Fois), move to a Galician countryside with the hope of living an eco-friendly, peaceful life. But their electoral stand against the construction of a wind farm brings trouble in their paradise in the form of two locals, brothers Xan and Lorenzo. The primary reason for that is the brother’s desire to get away from the same place and achieve a better life, which begins with the financial possibility that comes with the farm.

Naturally, an ugly fight starts between the couple and these two locals where the couple finds it really hard to go toe-in-toe with the rather brasque, hot-tempered brothers. They even receive a lot of hostility from the other locals as well despite being nice to everyone, just for being outsiders. The central theme of not being warm to people from different countries is vastly explored in this pensive thriller, and standing at the beginning of 2023, and no other movies seem more relevant than this one; when we are discussing the same.

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