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The 10 most popular movies of 2022

The year 2022 was a pretty decent one for cinema. From small auteur-driven films like Pearl and The Fabelmans to major blockbuster events like Nope and Elvis, the film industry delivered plenty of movies that packed theaters and rocked audiences worldwide.

Now that 2022 is over, it’s time to look back on the movies that, for better or worse, stuck with us. These are the most popular movies of 2022 based on their U.S. domestic box office gross as of March 22, 2023. (The * indicates that the movie is still in theaters and making money.)

Honorable mention: Black Adam ($168 million)

Dwayne Johnson strides toward the camera as Black Adam.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Dwayne Johnson finally had his dream film come to life with Black Adam. But with lackluster reviews and less-than-desirable box office numbers, it didn’t quite shake up the DC Universe as many people had hoped.

Despite this, it still gave many audiences a stunning, thrilling, and enjoyable superhero romp as the Man in Black faces off against the Justice Society and the Intergang. It also caused quite a buzz by bringing back Henry Cavill’s Superman — at least for a little bit. Black Adam‘s place in the top 10 was recently usurped by DreamWorks’ Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which showcased incredible legs in early 2023 and ended up beating the mighty Rock at the box office.

10. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish ($183 million*)

Puss in Boots holds his sword up in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When Puss in Boots: The Last Wish debuted around Christmas, no one had high expectations. After all, it had been nearly a decade since the last Puss in Boots movie, and CGI toons were a dime a dozen. Plus, aside from Minions: The Rise of Gru, animated movies aimed at kids had been struggling at the box office since the pandemic. And certainly, The Last Wish‘s unspectacular opening weekend at the box office suggested it would have a hard time reaching $100 million, let alone making the top 10 list of box office champs for 2022.

Yet the swashbuckling cat persisted, and audiences kept on coming back week after week. The Last Wish became a genuine word-of-mouth hit, due in large part to its different animation style, which clearly took inspiration from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse‘s kinetic visuals. The animated picture proved there’s life in the nearly two decade old Shrek franchise, and that animated movies could still pack audiences into theaters.

9. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($190 million)

Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles stand beside each other in team formation in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Paramount Pictures

Earth’s favorite blue hedgehog raced back into theaters, this time joined by his two friends, Tails and Knuckles, to give audiences another thrilling adventure. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 topped its predecessor and became the world’s highest-grossing video game film.

At the same time, it built up its own cinematic universe by tapping into the lore of the games and finally introducing the Chaos Emeralds and Super Sonic into the mix. In the end, this sequel sets up a promising adventure for Sonic and his pals that fans are stoked to see in the near future.

8. Thor: Love and Thunder ($343 million)

Jane and Thor look into each other eyes in Thor: Love and Thunder.
Image via Marvel Studios

In the God of Thunder’s fourth solo film, Marvel Studios brought the long-awaited return of Jane Foster as Mighty Thor. Though it earned over $760 million at the box office, many people were vocal about their disappointment in the film’s campy tone and underdeveloped CGI, calling it another example of Marvel’s recent decline with Phase Four.

Despite this, it still features plenty of vibrant visuals, exceptional performances, and hilarious moments that make Taiki Waititi’s latest film an electrifying thrill ride.

7. The Batman ($369.3 million)

Zoe Kravitz and Robert Pattinson in The Batman.
The Batman Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Matt Reeves brought a brand-new version of the Dark Knight and Gotham City to the big screen with this film. Unlike past cinematic iterations of the Batman mythos, this reboot takes a deep dive into the Caped Crusader’s morals, questioning whether or not he can really be considered a hero.

This all occurs in the backdrop of Batman’s war with the Riddler and Gotham’s corrupt elite, which makes for a suspenseful, gripping, and action-packed adventure through the city’s criminal underworld.

6. Minions: The Rise of Gru ($369.6 million)

Gru looks happy as he's surrounded by his Minions in his under-construction lair.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Gru and his Minions are at it again in this long-awaited prequel to Despicable Me. Though it follows a young Gru as he tries to become the world’s greatest villain, his Minions continue to steal the show as they try to save their “mini Boss” from the Vicious 6.

With so many hilarious and adorable moments from the titular yellow munchkins, the film understandably scored big at the box office. It also started that weird but despicable trend of people dressing up as Minions and annoying people in theaters.

5. Jurassic World: Dominion ($376 million)

The cast of Jurassic World: Dominion stares up at an approaching dinosaur.
Image via Universal Pictures

This threequel brought Colin Trevorrow back to the director’s chair, as well as the franchise’s original cast, for one last journey through Jurassic World. Like the other films in the franchise, Dominion turned a massive profit in theaters.

Nevertheless, the movie was still buried beneath a mountain of negative reviews, with many people agreeing that it’s now time to close Jurassic Park for good. Despite its flaws, it was still a treat to see the characters from both trilogies come together on the big screen, and with many jaw-dropping dinosaurs, Dominion felt like a solid conclusion for the franchise.

4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($411 million)

Xochitl Gomez, Benedict Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch stare into the camera in a scene from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Doctor Strange’s second solo film had Marvel fans buzzing, especially since Spider-Man director Sam Raimi directed it. While it grossed almost a billion dollars, it still proved to be one of the MCU’s more divisive projects for not living up to its massive hype.

The film essentially brought back the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Inhumans with the Illuminati, but audiences still felt this interdimensional blockbuster didn’t quite reach its potential. Nevertheless, with Raimi’s unique style and mind-bending visuals, this movie is undoubtedly one of Marvel Studios’ most distinct and director-driven films to date.

3. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($453 million)

shuri-black-panther-wakanda-forever
Marvel Studios

As the sequel to one of the most culturally impactful films in recent memory, Wakanda Forever was sure to receive a massive audience. Though the film sadly lacked the late great Chadwick Boseman, it still provided a riveting tale of a nation trying to heal from its tragic loss in the midst of its war with the aquatic Talokans.

Cast members old and new deliver some outstanding performances, including a Golden Globe-nominated performance by Angela Bassett, and director Ryan Coogler’s beautifully crafted epic makes for a film that burns bright among Marvel’s many other movies.

2. Avatar: The Way of Water ($678 million*)

Jake and his family flying on banshees in "Avatar: The Way of Water."
20th Century Studios

Audiences waited 13 years for the sequel to James Cameron’s Avatar, so it naturally made a huge splash when it hit theaters. Like the original film, The Way of Water is a technological evolution of cinema, introducing a state-of-the-art motion capture system for its many breathtaking underwater scenes.

The Way of Water also has its fair share of naysayers, but it still ended up being an instant success, having garnered two Golden Globe Nominations for Best Drama and Best Director before it was even released. This film feels like the culmination of Cameron’s exalted career, combining elements of Titanic, The Abyss, Aliens, and The Terminator films to create just one of many more Avatar sequels to come.

1. Top Gun: Maverick ($718 million)

Tom Cruise flys a plane in Top Gun: Maverick.
Paramount Pictures

It’s not often that a reboot does better than the original film, but Top Gun: Maverick soared with both critics and at the box office. After 30 years, audiences reunite with Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as he is tasked with teaching a new team of Top Gun fighter pilots, including the son of his late pal, Goose.

With jaw-dropping action, a refreshing and soulful story, and loving callbacks to the first movie, Top Gun: Maverick is a sequel that has become a legacy film for the ages.

Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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