The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022: 2022 was a pivotal year for Malayalam cinema as theatres in the State began functioning at total capacity since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020. The film fraternity breathed a sigh of relief when the audience rushed back to the movies crushing the lockdown blues. While the pandemic wreaked havoc on film theatres, the audience relied on digital on-demand video streaming services, which led to discussions of the future of the film viewing experience. However, contrary to the misapprehensions of having an adversarial relationship between theatres and OTT platforms, there was a harmonious balance and co-existence between the two mediums, offering the best of both worlds.

In the year gone by, Malayalam cinema continued to thrive, consistently producing outstanding content and films getting recognition at international festival circuits. It caught the popular imagination with inventive and experimental films, refusing to be the underdog of Indian cinema. 2022 was a mixed-bag year for Malayalam cinema, with some great attempts and some big disappointments. Filmmakers and writers of the industry explored novel and contemporary themes and techniques that other industries refuse to touch upon. Malayalam cinema carries on drawing pan-India audiences as it boldly experiments with striking explorations of the human condition, characters grounded in reality, and unapologetically addresses culturally-rooted everyday issues involving patriarchy, politics, and caste.

The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022 - Kuttavum Shikshayum

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The Malayalam film industry faced its own fair share of controversies this year. Still, the one reiterated throughout the year was the condescending remarks made by a veteran actor and some filmmakers against audience and critics. Mohanlal, Rosshan Andrrews, and Anjali Menon, on different occasions, stressed the need to learn to edit or have basic knowledge about the technicalities of filmmaking before reviewing or critiquing a film. This year also witnessed actress Bhavana, the survivor of the sexual assault, deciding to end her silence and coming forward to share her mental trauma and her battle “to see justice prevail” in an interview with award-winning journalist Barkha Dutt.

Looking back at the year, Mammootty, Kunchacko Boban, and Tovino Thomas struck gold with diversity and script innovation. At the same time, Darshana Rajendran, Revathy, Grace Antony, and Bindu Panicker made it big with their performances. Mammootty, who is 71 years young today, redefined and reactivated himself to cater to the modern sensibilities and the evolved viewers. Surprisingly, he gave his fellow actors a run for their money with his unconventional and fresh films. With chameleon-like ease, he becomes a despotic casteist bigot who terrorizes his son in one film, while in another, he plays an archetypal gangster with undeniable swagger, strutting in style, and in the next, he impresses by donning the role of an enigmatic man obsessed with seeking revenge against a dead person, letting us take a cerebral trip into the psychology of his twisted and grieving mind. Let’s look forward to what’s in store for us in Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam, directed by none other than Lijo Jose Pellissery.

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In contrast, Mohanlal, who gifted us a befitting sequel to Drishyam and amazed us with his remarkable rendition, failed to impress this year with back-to-back regressive script choices and mediocre and over-the-top performances. Be it Monster, 12th Man, or Bro Daddy, the legendary superstar disappointed with substandard acting and formulaic films, refusing to adapt to changing times. Prithviraj Sukumaran also had a fantastic year at the box office with two highest-grossing films, Kaduva and Jana Gana Mana. Kunchacko Boban, Tovino Thomas, and Basil Joseph also made a fantastic feat by delivering hard-hitting stories, satisfying the audience both at the movies and the streaming front. The power-packed performances of Darshana Rajendran in Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, Revathy in Bhoothakaalam, and Bindu Panicker in Rorschach literally made the viewers raise their eyebrows.

Before diving into the list of the 10 Best Malayalam movies, let me mention some of the honorable mentions that failed to make the cut. This is a compilation of all those films that have already made their presence in the theatre and digital platforms.

Kuttavum Shikshayum

Firstly, Rajeev Ravi’s Asif Ali starring Kuttavum Shikshayum (Crime and Punishment), partly an edge-of-the-seat police procedural and partly a psychological character study based on a jewelry robbery that occurred in Kasargod that took a team from the Kerala Police force to a lawless village in Rajasthan. This cat-and-mouse game, which may remind you of H Vinoth’s Theeran Adhigaram Ondru, is drowned in realism and gets into the finer and painstaking details of the investigation.

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Puzhu and 19(1)(a)

Secondly, I would like to mention two debutant directorial ventures that made an impact with their unhurried narrative and well-rounded characters. In Ratheena PT’s Puzhu, Mammootty appears as a prejudiced and patriarchal Kuttan who is trapped in his deep-rooted casteism. Indhu VS’ 19(1)(a), helmed by Vijay Sethupathi and Nithya Menen, is an engaging coming-of-age story that lays bare how authoritarian governments curtail the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the constitution. Apart from its political subtext, it also delves into the issues of climate change, patriarchal gender politics, and women’s rights.

Super Sharanya

Thirdly, Thanneer Mathan Dinangal director Girish A.D. brings yet another charming coming-of-age comedy Super Sharanya starring Anaswara Rajan, Arjun Ashokan, and Mamitha Baiju. A breezy and charming ride, the film compels the viewers to listen to a girl who narrates her experiences of finding her first love, making friends, and enjoying her youthful college days and how she walks the tricky path toward adulthood from innocence.

Malayankunju and Ariyippu

Lastly, it is meritorious to refer to Sajimon Prabhakar’s survival thriller Malayankunju and Mahesh Narayanan’s directorial Ariyippu (Declaration) which both display various shades of human nature. Built around a landslide in Kerala, the Fahadh Faasil starrer Malayankunju is a story of remission and redemption that marked AR Rahman’s return to the Malayalam industry. It follows the reclusive and ill-tempered bigot Anikkuttan who goes through a life-changing calamitous disaster resulting in his transformative worldview. In addition, character-driven stories like Jeethu Joseph’s Kooman, Rosshan Andrrews’s Salute, Akhil Anilkumar’s Archana 31 Not Out, and Nirmal Sahadev’s Kumari also have some lucrative elements which make it hard to rule them out.

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Special Mentions:


The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022-Oruthee

This year saw the comeback of several yesteryear actors Meera Jasmine, Navya Nair, and Ann Augustine, after a hiatus with female-centric roles. National Award winner Meera Jasmine made her presence known through Sathyan Anthikad family drama Makal, Navya Nair made her well-timed return to the silver screen with Oruthee after a gap of 10 years, Padmapriya came back to M’Town with Oru Thekkan Thallu Case, and Ann Augustine made a rebound with Harikumar’s Auto Rickshawkarante Bharya. V. K. Prakash’s Oruthee stands out among the four titles as the beloved Nandanam actress almost single-handedly anchors the movie forward with her outstanding performance.

An empowering tale of resilience, Oruthee utilizes the “David vs. Goliath” trope to narrate the intense ordeal Radhamani, a middle-class commoner, who works as a conductor at the ferry service, goes through when she is taken for a ride by shady jewelry owners. This tense and engaging crime thriller exudes enough humanity for the majority of the viewers to identify and connect with her nightmarish crucible as it portrays an everyday woman’s struggle and her sense of relentlessness in seeking justice. Vinayakan’s role as an honest and fearless police officer elevates the film and holds it together. Despite its flaws, this socially relevant drama, which leaves us with the lasting image of a frantic mother and son chasing their adversaries through difficult terrains, boils our blood for societal apathy and indifference.

Asangadithar (Freedom Fight)

Following the critically acclaimed The Great Indian Kitchen, which raised unsettling questions about patriarchal gender discrimination and insidious sexism, Jeo Baby presented a new anthology, Freedom Fight (Swathantharya Samaram), with a set of liberal filmmakers addressing complex societal issues. One of the segments, Asanghadithar (The Unorganised), directed by Kunjila Mascillamani, my personal favorite and the most socially relevant one, revolves around a group of low-wage workers of the unorganized sector in the busy market streets of Kozhikode’s Mittayitheruvu, in their crusade to have access to toilets during work hours. Based on a real-life story, the film examines a pertinent issue about workers being denied their basic human rights of proper sanitation facilities. Adopting a docudrama structure and capturing the raw and hilarious conversations among female workers, the film shows women’s everyday ordeal in the workspace.

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Now that we are done with this bunch, let’s get to the ten best Malayalam movies of 2022.

10. Thallumaala

THE 10 BEST MALAYALAM FILMS OF 2022 - Thallumaala

Director Khalid Rahman’s fourth directorial venture Thallumaala (Ballad of Brawls), is a gorgeously shot, masala comedy-action entertainer featuring Tovino Thomas and Kalyani Priyadarshan in the lead roles. Narrated in a non-linear manner, it chronicles the journey of Manavaalan Wazim, an angry young man from Ponnani, who becomes an overnight infamous internet celebrity following an unexpected scuffle during his wedding with popular vlogger Beepathu. Stylish visuals, slick editing, mindblowing cuts and transitions, breathtaking cinematography, and colorful shots make it a near-perfect mass masala with loads of action sequences to indulge in. The stunt choreography is truly stunning, and the fight scenes offer an adrenaline rush to the viewers.

What makes it peculiar is the adaptation of the Malappuram subculture, its idiosyncracies, and atmospherics into the film, blazing an entire lifestyle on display. The indulgence in the Instagram aesthetic, over-the-top takes and fight-song-fight routine keep you occupied. Kudos to the team for the exceptional production design and costumes, as well as the color symmetry that reminds you of the films of Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson. Tovino Thomas reinvents himself as Wazim, in his appearance and in attire, and manages the Malabar dialect in a near-perfect fashion. The entire cast oozes swagger in this fun caper and delivers solid performances. It is available for streaming on Netflix.

9. Dear Friend

The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022 - Dear Friend

How do you handle when a close friend “ghosts” you all of a sudden without reason? Vineeth Kumar’s second outing, Dear Friend, revolves around a group of friends who have been trying to pitch a health start-up for two years to make it in the bustling metropolitan city of Bengaluru. However, it starts as a buddy flick, with the friends partying and having fun with some mild scuffles that resolve quickly. When Vinod, a happy-go-lucky fellow, suddenly disappears, leaving no trace, his friends go on a quest to find his real identity and the grounds for his unexpected vanishing act.

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The tonal shift in the film from a buddy film to an unconventional and obscure mystery thriller brings excitement to the table. Tovino’s character Vinod drives the film forward, and his friend finds tidbits about his life and tries to complete the puzzle that is Vinod to find closure. But it is non-existent as Vinod lives a transient existence, moving from one place to another without letting you figure out his true self. This film on fast-fading urban friendships makes you contemplate the psychology of outgrowing friendships and the resulting massive disillusionment and grief over losing a once dear friend. It is available for streaming on Netflix.

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8. Pada

The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022 - Pada

Director Kamal K.M. made a comeback after a long hiatus with a tense and brilliantly staged hostage drama Pada (Army), inspired by a real-life incident that occurred in 1996, which is now almost forgotten in Kerala. The film follows the four men identifying themselves as members of the ‘Ayyankali Pada’ holding the Palakkad District Collector hostage for almost half a day in an attempt to change legislation. They demanded that the government should make amendments to the Kerala Scheduled Tribes (Restriction of Transfer of Land and Restoration of Alienated Land) Act 1975, which turns Adivasis into refugees and forces them to move out of their land. As a protest for tribal land rights, the activists are carrying out this daring act to bring the government into the conversation.

Pada’s brilliance lies in the empathetic and humane treatment of the whole endeavor and the relatable characters fighting for the oppressed and voiceless tribal Adivasis. The hostage crisis becomes engaging as the protest widens from the Collector’s office to the media, local politicians, bureaucracy, and the entire state administration. It will leave you on tenterhooks, grappling for what will eventually happen to the activists. Kunchacko Boban as Rakesh Kanhangad, Joju George as Aravindan Mannur, Vinayakan as Balu Kallaar, Dileesh Pothan as Kutty, and Indrans as Commander Kannan Mundur performed their roles remarkably with urgency and edge as activists fighting for tribal rights. It goes without saying the role played by Vishnu Vijay’s music and Sameer Tahir’s cinematography in transferring us to the crisis point. It is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

7. Appan

The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022 - Appan

Filmmaker Maju makes a potent comeback after his debut French Viplavam with a dark family drama Appan (Father) that revolves around Itty, a despicable bed-ridden father paralyzed beneath the waist who tyrannically rules over the family with an iron fist. Set in the hilly terrains of Thoduppuzha, this intense family drama examines the victims of a toxic patriarch, his rubber-tapper son Njoonj, at whom he hurls abuses and curses, and Kuttyamma, his wife, whom he manipulates to let the next-door neighbor and prostitute Sheela stay with him. Despite requiring round-the-clock care of his family, the narcissistic, cruel womanizer harasses, abuses, and tortures them without mercy. The family members wait for the death of the depraved autocratic father to free themselves from the prolonged trauma of surviving in a dysfunctional family.

Appan is praiseworthy for its complex subject and riveting performances from Alencier Ley Lopez and Sunny Wayne, who plays the loathsome and notorious Appan and the traumatized son, respectively. Though we get reminded of the bed-ridden grandfather in K.G. George’s Irakal, Itty is a glaring contrast as he anxiously shouts for attention and controls his family under the aegis of the inheritance. It is distinctive for its realistic and unapologetic take on the bitter parent-child relationship, power relations within the family dynamic, and the social conditioning imposed on children to look after the elders. Mark my words, Itty will emerge as one of the reprehensive characters in Malayalam cinema. Appan is available for streaming on SonyLIV.

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6. Bheeshma Parvam

The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022 - Bheesma Parvam

Megastar Mammootty’s swag, style, and larger-than-life-personality are unparalleled in Malayalam cinema, making him the versatile patriarch of the industry. Amal Neerad’s second directorial with Mammootty after Big B, Bheeshma Parvam (The Book of Bheeshma), brought much-needed success and reflected the choices made by the actor throughout the year. Set in the late 1980s, the film revolves around the exploits of the patriarch Michealappan of the Anjootti family, a wealthy and influential family in Kochi with underworld connections. The title is an obvious nod to celibate Bheeshma of the Indian epic Mahabharata. We also see ever-familiar influences of erstwhile gangster films, right from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather to Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan.

One of the top grosser of the year, the film has everything going for it – an ensemble cast, immersion into 80’s atmospherics and costumes, Sushin Shyam’s pulsating background score, and the storyline of the blood feud mixed with insidious rivalry within the family. Despite a sense of familiarity, it is fun to draw the parallels between Micheal and Bheeshma and how it delves beyond to make a commentary on religion and politics. The uniquely executed action sequence captured using the Bolt camera that captures images in a crisp focus which otherwise is impossible to achieve by hand, is one of the highlights of the movie. Mammootty as Michealappan makes it worth your while for his sheer screen presence, dialogue delivery, and action scenes. This slick and stylish is available for streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

5. Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey

The 10 Best Malayalam Movies Of 2022 - Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey

Malayalam Cinema has always normalized domestic violence and misogyny, offering a stronghold to the anachronistic institutions of patriarchy to have control over women. Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad raised the chauvinistic outcry that seeking a divorce because of one slap is silly; validating one slap should not be a reason for such a hullabaloo. Vipin Das’s Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey seems to give an apt response through his reckoning of spousal violence in which women no longer suffer in silence. This comedy-driven action entertainer with a message of women empowerment serves as a satirical vehicle to lampoon the male abusers who have to this point, managed to escape the wrath of women.

Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey follows the eponymous Jayabharati, an ambitious woman brought up in a conservative household, taking things into her hand to defend herself when her very definition of a mercurial quick-tempered husband, Rajesh, slaps her twenty-one times within six months of her marriage. The film, which skillfully balances dark and comical elements, abridge a microcosm of Indian society and the patriarchal restrictions and inequality that subordinate women as passive dependants of their husbands. Conceived as a bildungsroman, the film focuses on Jaya from her childhood to adulthood, where she is constantly disrespected, bullied, and denied agency. The gaslighting that actual women face around everyday occurrences is beautifully depicted through the characters of her parents and her teacher-turned-lover.

This kickass film takes drastic tonal shifts from time to time; however, it strikes a chord with the audience, making it relatable to everywoman who will cheer for Jaya. The subversion of the “Taming of the Shrew” trope attempts to critique men’s manipulative attempts to subordinate women. Basil Joseph and Darshana Rajendran’s graceful performance, coupled with solid screenplay and dialogues, make it a worthy watch. Darshana literally packs a punch! Watch Jaya’s journey to achieve gender parity, justice, and agency on Disney+ Hotstar.

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4. Nna, Thaan Case Kodu

Writer-director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval has exhibited his gift for satire and trademark sly humor through his earlier films Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25 and Kanakam Kamini Kalaham. His third directorial outing Nna, Thaan Case Kodu (Sue Me), is a biting political/courtroom satire in which a commoner attempts to seek justice and prove his innocence to his live-in partner and the accusing society by fighting against systemic corruption. Set in Kasaragod’s Cheemeni, it revolves around Kozhummal Rajeevan, a reformed thief, who begins a legal battle over a pothole on the road in front of an MLA’s house, which through a series of incidents, not only caused him physical injury but also rebranded him as a thief again. Thus it ridicules the machinery of the government and the intrinsic bureaucratic corruption of the system that causes ill effects on the common man.

Nna, Thaan Case Kodu can boast of its authentic and realistic performances, the smartly-written script, and poker-faced deadpan delivery of hilarious situations that tickles your funny bone. Kunchacko Boban unshackles himself from the quintessential romantic hero image and from his comfort zones to deliver an arresting performance, which is very well evident in the song sequence “Devadoothar Paadi.” The delightful and heartwarming performance of the character actor P.P. Kunhikrishnan, who plays the upstanding and sharp-tongued magistrate who throws almonds and curiously wanders his attention to the pigeons in the courtroom, is full of surprises. Moreover, it is also fascinating to find that the supporting cast includes numerous newcomers who have a set of earnest performances. The film is one of the best Malayalam movies of 2022 as it dives into the theme of questioning the unjustness normalized over the year and will keep you hooked and rooting for Rajeevan, who becomes the voice of the voiceless, in his quest for justice. It is available for streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

3. Rorschach

Ever heard of avenging a ghost by tarnishing his good name and reputation, as well as destroying all his physical ties? Director Nissam Basheer blazed a trail by redefining revenge in his sophomore feature Rorschach, in which the death of the person who wronged you is no longer a gratifying culmination of bottomless vengeance. This unprecedented and out-of-the-box concept drives the genre-bending revenge thriller that follows a wealthy NRI, Luke Antony, who arrives at a rural town and starts wreaking havoc on a family with a fermenting desire for vendetta, payback for his irreparable loss.

This technically masterful and layered narrative is eerie and intriguing and crosses the boundaries of psychological thriller to paranormal elements and existential questions. Employing visually compelling storytelling and a time frame swinging back and forth between the past and the present makes it unpredictable in more ways than anyone could guess. Mammootty, who had earlier played a despicable casteist bigot in Ratheena P.T’s Puzhu, takes up yet another grey-shaded character, and he magnificently renders a tortured soul who plays god in order to deliver his last judgment. The women characters, especially Bindhu Panicker, who will go to any lengths to preserve her family’s stature, are written with depth and a keen eye for detail. Nimish Ravi’s atmospheric cinematography and Kiran Das’s smooth editing make it equally compelling. Catch this unusual and mind-boggling thriller on Disney+ Hotstar.

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2. Bhoothakaalam

Malayalam movies in 2022 embraced the language of modern horror through Rahul Sadasivan’s second feature Bhoothakaalam (Past), which allows us to experience our deepest real-life fears metaphorically. Set in a middle-class house in urban Kerala, the follows the strained relationship between Asha and her son Vinu, who is haunted by the ghosts of the past and their uncertain future. The film is shockingly distinctive as it creates dread and discomfort sans the cliched employment of violence and jump scares and thus transmutes our stereotypical perception of horror. The genre-bending psychological horror exposes the darker corners of the human psyche and highlights the emotional and mental vulnerabilities that most people may repress or deny.

Distinctive and unprecedented in its approach and style, the film revolutionizes fear by showing the nightmarish everyday horrors of existence through the experiences of a dysfunctional family. This slow-burn atmospheric house-bound thriller is an allegory for intergenerational trauma, grief and loss, and loneliness. To be honest, it is far more terrorizing than any supernatural horror as it touches upon unpleasant and distressing issues like mental disorders, substance abuse, youth unemployment, and the psychological stress and pressures of elder care.

The brilliant and memorable performances, the rising tension that will keep you on tenterhooks, and the cathartic climax mark this an outstanding outing that will definitely send chills down the spine. Revathy is impressive as she leaves no stone unturned in showcasing the pain of a distressed and anxious soul, while Shane Nigam keeps you invested as a troubled young man questioning his sense of reality and sanity. Revathy most deservingly won the Kerala State Film Award for best actress, the first in her long career, for portraying Asha. It is available for streaming on SonyLIV, and catch it soon, if you haven’t, without delay.

1. Aavasavyuham

The genre of seemingly “realistic” faux-documentary, aka mockumentary, that blurs the line between fictional comedy and real-life sensationalism is unheard of in Malayalam cinema. Krishand RK’s sophomore feature Aavasavyuham (Habitat), is a unique and impressive mockumentary that calls our attention to the ecological issues born out of the anthropocentric exploitation of the environment. It is a genre-bending “fantastic ecological superhero action thriller mockumentary” that straddles arthouse and mainstream cinema sensibilities, and I assure you, it is nothing like what you have ever seen before.

This critically acclaimed ethno-geographically rooted film, which establishes the need to maintain a precarious balance and harmony between humans and the non-human world, recounts the story of Joy, an ecological superhero resembling the Swamp Thing, who has a mystifying relationship with nature and its creatures. As a cinematic spectacle that exhibits the features of eco-cinema and eco-trauma, it is replete with aesthetically shot scenes of nature and its small creatures. The wicked sense of humor and love for the absurd is commendable, and describing the amphibian man as a “marriage between Aquaman and a shitty b-grade Malayalam superhero remake” will convulse with laughter.

Inventive and unconventional at heart, Aavasavyuham plays out similarly to G. Aravindan in Esthappan as the enigmatic character of Joy gets unfolds through the contradictory and fragmented narration of different characters. Reinforced by a superb cast led by Rahul Rajagopal, who brilliantly essayed the idiosyncratic character, the film documents the complex human-nature relationship and the socio-political and geopolitical reality of ecologically-sensitive regions like Puthuvype. The film won the Kerala State Film Award for best film as well as for best original screenplay and is one of the best Malayalam movies of 2022.

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