The Best Music Videos, Movies, and TV of 2022

Documentaries on Sinéad O’Connor and Phil Elverum, thrilling videos from Rosalía and Björk, a genius “Grunge Frasier” parody, and more.
Neptune Frost (photo courtesy of Kino Lorber), There’s No End featuring Phil Elverum (photo via YouTube), Tár (photo courtesy of Focus Features), Poly Sytrene: I Am a Cliché (photo courtesy of Kino Library). Image by Callum Abbott.

Music may have returned in earnest in 2022, but it was also a banner year for videos, movies, and TV. From show-stopping set design and performances in videos by Björk and Rosalía to stirring documentaries on Phil ElverumSinéad O’Connor, and Poly Styrene, music-focused visual media helped to flesh out the stories and aesthetics of great artists past and present (Alas, Beyoncé’s much-teased Renaissance visuals remain elusive).

Below, find entries from our monthly column of highlights, plus more noteworthy additions that caught our attention over the year.

Check out all of Pitchfork’s 2022 wrap-up coverage here.

Nothing Compares showcases Sinéad O’Connor’s incandescent artistry and authenticity

Early on in her career, critics and commentators often described Sinéad O’Connor as an artist who recklessly used shock tactics to draw attention to herself. Those detractors typically failed to see her artistry as anything but provocation, but in Kathryn Ferguson’s documentary Nothing Compares, that perspective is reframed with gentle hindsight to reveal an incendiary performer whose moral compass never swayed. From her time growing up in an abusive Roman Catholic home in Ireland to the sweeping success of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” O’Connor’s trajectory is depicted through archival footage, subtle reenactments, and voiceover from the artist herself, who looks back on her career with hard-won resilience. Nothing Compares illuminates a career powered by independence, empathy, and unwaveringly strong political beliefs, which inspired generations of listeners and subsequent artists to speak up. –Eric Torres

Watch: Showtime

Aftersun uses a spare vocal track by Queen and David Bowie to mesmerizing, heartbreaking effect

In Scottish director Charlotte Wells’ quietly riveting debut Aftersun, a father takes his young daughter Sophie on vacation to Turkey, toting a camcorder to capture sun-drenched memories. A subtle sense of calamity lingers at the corners of the story, cut together with VHS footage of the past and a surreal expression of the present, when Sophie is an adult reflecting on who her father really was. Toward the end, as she comes closer to understanding that mystery, Wells drops in a spare, pleading a cappella vocal track of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” Set in a club with lights strobing, the scene is a wrenching, unexpected moment that capitalizes on Bowie and Freddie Mercury’s pained delivery to convey the desperation and hope of her discovery. –Eric Torres

Preorder: AmazonApple

Short-but-sweet documentary There’s No End captures Phil Elverum’s quiet joy

In September 2020, director Mattias Evangelista and cinematographer Riley Donavan ventured out to Washington’s Orcas Island to spend time with Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum and his young daughter, Agathe. The resulting 20-minute film is a beautiful portrait of the quiet moments that compose their day-to-day life: breakfast, playtime, drives to school soundtracked by The Lion King and My Bloody Valentine. Near the end of the documentary, Elverum remarks on his reputation as the “heavy, weight-of-the-world guy who sings about his dead wife.” He gets it, but as There’s No End attests, there’s plenty of joy to be found in him as well. –Quinn Moreland

Watch: YouTube

Animal Collective, serpentwithfeet, and Indigo De Souza add depth to the moving queer military drama The Inspection

Animal Collective seemed like an unconventional choice to score The Inspection, a film about a young gay Black man trying to find a sense of self and community in a rough Marine boot camp. But in Elegance Bratton’s film, the band is a surprisingly good fit, anchoring harrowing training scenes and all-too-rare moments of tenderness with deft acoustics, faint vocals, and stirring synth work. serpentwithfeet and Indigo De Souza also provided original songs to the soundtrack, adding depth to a queer story that doesn’t flinch in its tough depictions of the military and family life torn asunder. –Eric Torres

Watch: In theaters

Björk’s Fossora visuals blend majestic visuals and costumes with heart-wrenching pathos

Alongside Björk’s terrific tenth album, Fossora, the Icelandic singer-songwriter released a lush set of visuals to match the music’s heart-wrenching high drama. Whether playfully partying at a mushroom rave in the verdant clip for “Atopos,” submerging herself in ornate gowns and CGI for the clattering “Ovule,” or filming near the recently erupted volcano Fagradalsfjall at dusk for “Sorrowful Soil,” a mournful eulogy dedicated to her late mother, there was no shortage of awe-inspiring visual feats. But it’s the haunting clip for album standout “Ancestress,” also dedicated to her mother, that lingers the most: Wrapped in red silk and a beak-like fascinator hat, Björk leads a funeral through the Icelandic countryside in sweeping panoramic shots that capture the depths of her grief. The Fossora videos revealed some of Björk’s most affecting visual work to date, an impressive accomplishment for an artist who already has decades’ worth of genius music videos to her name. –Eric Torres

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché gives a punk icon her flowers

As the leader of the iconoclastic punk group X-Ray Spex, Poly Styrene blazed an inimitable path in the late ’70s, becoming one of the few women of color to pioneer the nascent UK scene. In this documentary co-directed by Styrene’s daughter Celeste Bell, Poly is given her overdue flowers through an intimate crash course of her life, with voiceover commentary from members of X-Ray Spex, Neneh Cherry, Kathleen Hanna, and many more. Spanning kinetic, one-of-a-kind live footage of “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” during X-Ray Spex’s early years to frank descriptions of Poly’s struggles with mental illness at the height of the band’s fame, I Am a Cliché offers a candid look at a staunchly anti-authoritarian artist who was always at odds with an industry eager to commodify her. –Eric Torres

Rent/Buy: iTunes

Rosalía’s epic TikTok live performance is as innovative as MOTOMAMI

Celebrating the release of her inventive new record MOTOMAMI, Rosalía delivered a 28-minute live TikTok performance that brought her brazen sounds and visual theatrics to the small screen. Best viewed on a smartphone, the video uses simulated screenshots and TikTok’s duet feature alongside changing screen orientations to create an engulfing, VR-like effect. On opener “Saoko,” the camera sits inside a motorcycle helmet facing Rosalía as she sings, before it suddenly gets thrown into the air and becomes more selfie-like. For “Hentai,” Rosalía uses various camera angles and costuming to energetically switch between intimate POV moments and swirling cinematic sweeps, just like MOTOMAMI whiplashes between ballads and experimental reggaeton. Between breaking the fourth wall, playing in dirt, and riding around in scooters, Rosalía sets another new bar for music video creativity. –Gio Santiago

Watch: YouTube

The Dropout’s early-2000s soundtrack is a bizarre delight

The Dropout is a harrowing, occasionally hilarious vehicle for an excellent Amanda Seyfried, who plays Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes as she grifts her way through Silicon Valley via bogus health tech and wire fraud. The show spans from the early 2000s to the mid-2010s with era-appropriate needle drops to mark the passage of time, usually during scenes in which Holmes awkwardly jams out alone on her iPod to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Missy Elliott, and other inspired choices. One particular sync in episode five captures the miniseries’ low-key brilliance: In an effort to win back the good graces of her partner Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews), Holmes starts blasting Lil Wayne’s “How to Love” while sauntering into his office, clumsily shaking her hips and lip-syncing along with a green juice in hand. Holmes’ eclectic music taste may be the biggest stretch of The Dropout, but it’s a refreshing, cringeworthy wrinkle that makes one of the weirdest people on the planet seem just a little more down-to-earth. –Eric Torres

Watch: Hulu

The “Grunge Frasier” parody is perfect

What if after a long day of talk radio therapy, Dr. Frasier Crane wanted to unwind in the pit at a Pearl Jam show? How would he feel if he’d heard wrong and it was actually an early Temple of the Dog set? How would he react to his father’s brash Stone Temple Pilots fandom? Comedian and writer Jon Blair’s strong understanding of the ’90s sitcom Frasier’s characters, cadence, and reliable narrative beats is why “Grunge Frasier” is such exhilarating fanfiction. All this and more are explored in a two-minute storyboard performance that includes not one but two exceptional sitcom-ready Layne Staley puns. –Evan Minsker


The Afrofuturist sci-fi musical Neptune Frost delivers a crucial anti-colonial message

In Neptune Frost, the debut feature from rapper-poet Saul Williams and Rwandan filmmaker Anisia Uzeyman, a man named Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse) works in Burundi to mine coltan, a metallic ore used by wealthy countries to manufacture smartphones and other electronics. He flees to join the ranks of a computer hacker collective in a techno-junkyard village, where he forms a close intellectual and romantic bond with stylish intersex hacker Neptune (played by both Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo). Together they fight for their close-knit community’s existence against an unknown organization known as the Authority, a stand-in for the Western world that exploits Burundi’s resources for its own benefit. Told through breathtaking camerawork, poetic dialogue, and dazzling dance and musical sequences that veer between dreams and reality, this Afrofuturist love story is energized by dynamic performances and Williams’ poetry and hip-hop, delivering a queer, anarchic, and optimistic vision of the future. –Eric Torres

Watch: Criterion Channel

Cate Blanchett’s TÁR peers into the shadows of symphonic sound

For a film about a world-class conductor—Cate Blanchett’s Lydia Tár, whose steely demeanor can go from pianissimo to fortissimo in the blink of an eye—Todd Field’s masterful TÁR is a surprisingly quiet movie. That’s especially remarkable given that star composer Hildur Guðnadóttir is responsible for the score. Her work here is a far cry from Chernobyl’s sentimental theme, or Joker’s ominous drones and elegiac melodies; long stretches pass in which we hear nothing but dialogue and diegetic sound. But listen closely, and you’ll realize that even the smallest sonic details—like the rattling glove compartment in Tár’s Porsche—are charged with portent, flashing out like the bold strokes of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the hinge around which so much of the film turns. –Philip Sherburne

Rent/Buy: Prime Video