January 1, 2023
While it definitely wasn’t as bad as 2020 or 2021, 2022 could still be considered a rough year for most people. But there were a few that rose above the challenges set before them and came out victorious.
In this list, I’ll be going through nine of the biggest winners of 2022, whichever way you want to define the term “success.” Of course, plenty more could have been included here, but margin space is tight so some tough decisions had to be made.
Make sure to come back tomorrow to see the unveiling of the 2022 Losers list.
Just as they always do, the independent distributor offered several genre-drying outings from our best present and future filmmakers. Their presence was felt at every film festival, with Everything Everywhere All at Once (SXSW), Close (Cannes), and The Whale (Venice) grabbing headlines from all over the globe. And with the box office potential for arthouse films falling by the wayside at alarming rates, A24 has continued to position itself as a strong brand geared towards younger demographics, so its future looks as bright as its present.
In terms of both quality and quantity, the Irish actor knocked it out of the park, starring in several productions in varying genres and scales. He started off the year with After Yang at Sundance, reintroducing Kogonada’s film after its 2021 Cannes bow. He then went big, both literally and metaphorically, for The Batman, which has netted him his own future spinoff show. Then there was Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, where he and Viggo Mortensen aptly led the inspiring true story of the Thailand cave rescue. And, finally, he returned to his native home country to work again with Martin McDonagh on The Banshees of Inisherin, receiving the best reviews of his career. He’s already picked up a number of critics' prizes and looks to be a prime contender for the Best Lead Actor Oscar.
No one had a bigger rise to fame in 2022 than Jenna Ortega. She had the one-two punch of The Fallout and Scream in January, proving that she was both able to carry heavy dramatic material and be a box office star. She kept the horror streak going with a supporting performance in Ti West’s X, followed by the titular role in Wednesday, which has already become one of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time. She’ll reprise her role in the upcoming Scream 6, meaning we may have a new scream queen for this generation.
Who says a sequel needs to come right away? If 2022 taught us anything, it’s that no movie is too old to get a follow-up. Top Gun: Maverick demolished box office expectations despite thirty-six years between entries, and Avatar: The Way of Water will look to repeat the success of its thirteen-year-old predecessor. Jackass Forever brought back the usual gang of numbskulls after a dozen years apart, resulting in even more hilarious brain trauma. Finally, there was Scream, blending both fan-favorites such as Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox with a fresh-faced group of potential Ghostface victims.
The revered French auteur released two movies in 2022, both netting her positive critical remarks and some hardware for her trophy shelf. The first was Both Sides of the Blade, premiering at the Berlin Film Festival and reuniting her with Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon. Denis would pick up the festival prize for her direction just as she was racing around the clock to put the finishing touches on Stars at Noon for it to be submitted for the Cannes Film Festival, her first time there in competition in over thirty years. Her hard work paid off, as the film was jointly awarded the Grand Prize of the Festival (second-place prize) along with Lukas Dhont’s Close.
Brian Tyree Henry
Between both movies and television, and comedy and drama, Henry reached new heights in his career. He stole the spotlight from both Brad Pitt with his Thomas the Tank Engine-obsessed character in Bullet Train, and Jennifer Lawrence as a grief-stricken car mechanic in Causeway, which might earn him an Oscar nomination. He also concluded his run on Atlanta with the final two seasons, putting him in a prime position for next year’s Emmy awards.
While other genres saw dwindling box office numbers, horror movies kept theaters afloat, both in wide and limited releases. Smile was the big winner with over $100 million both domestically and internationally, with Barbarian and The Menu close behind. Damien Leone’s Terrifier 2 proved to be a great investment at a budget of only $250,000, grossing over $10 million despite staying in a small number of theaters. X and Pearl gave arthouse horror fans a surprise treat, Prey reimagined the Predator franchise, and Bones and All told a story filled with both literal and metaphorical heart.
Considering the high bar Blanchett has set for herself throughout her career, it’s hard to imagine how she would be able to raise it again. But just as she’s always done, she doubted the naysayers, turning in one of best performances of her career in TÁR, writer/director Todd Field’s return to feature filmmaking after a sixteen-year absence. She’ll be a top contender for her third acting Oscar. She also provided monkey noises for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and her narration for The School for Good and Evil was the only positive thing critics had to say about that movie.
The only thing consistent about Hawke’s output this past year was the excellence of its quality. He made his MCU debut, and probably made some good money, as the main antagonist in Moon Knight. He then did three wildly different roles, both in terms of size and range, on the silver screen: Leading The Black Phone, supporting in The Northman, and providing a cameo in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. But Hawke wasn’t just satisfied with appearing in front of the camera, as he also directed the six-part HBO Max documentary series on the relationship between Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.