The domestic cinema market continued its recovery in 2022, with the top ten releases of the year grossing a substantially higher combined figure ($3.83B) than the top ten of 2020 ($829.1M) and 2021 ($1.52B) combined.
Landing at number two is the highly anticipated Avatar: The Way of Water, which comes in at $446.9M and counting; if domestic grosses were tallied on a calendar basis, taking into account money earned during 2022, rather than money earned by 2022 releases, The Way of Water would drop to the number four spot, with release Spider-Man: No Way Home coming in at number nine; the superhero film, released in mid-December of 2021, held the top spot at the box office for four of the first five weekends of this year.
Films with a * are still in 1,000-plus domestic screens as of this article’s publication.
1. Top Gun: Maverick
Paramount Pictures | May 27
Domestic Total: $718.7M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $126.7M (three-day); $160.5M (four-day)
The most anticipated film of the year in the Boxoffice Pro‘s 2022 exhibitors’ poll, Top Gun: Maverick set CinemaCon 2022 abuzz in April, kickstarting overwhelmingly positive word of mouth among movie theater executives. “This is why we build movie theaters,” shared George Rouman, the owner and operator of Rouman Cinema in Wisconsin. The excitement continued when Maverick took flight during domestic previews with a $19.2M haul, the highest grossing preview in Paramount Pictures’ history as well as the highest grossing Memorial Day preview in history. The film’s opening weekend continued setting records with a $126.7M domestic opening, breaking Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End 15-year record for the biggest Memorial Day weekend of all time. Maverick‘s opening weekend exceeded all expectations, giving Tom Cruise the first $100M+ opener of his career and nearly doubling his prior top opener, 2005’s War of the Worlds ($64.8M). Maverick went on to earn the lowest second-weekend percentage drop of any movie to debut above $100M. In July, the film surpassed Titanic to become Paramount Pictures’ top first-run, domestic-grossing film; in September, it became the 5th highest grossing domestic film of all time. Maverick also holds the distinction of being the only film in history to take the top spot on both Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.
2. Avatar: The Way of Water*
20th Century Studios / Disney | December 16
Domestic Total (2022): $446.9M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $134.1M
After a thirteen-year wait since the original film’s phenomenal $749.8 million initial domestic run, James Cameron finally delivered the first of his planned Avatar sequels with what turned out to be the sixth biggest December opening in history—and the largest outside of the Marvel and Star Wars franchises.
Not adhering to a typical front-loaded nature like most sequels, The Way of Water posted strong holds over the Christmas and New Year’s corridor as it again showed the all-audience appeal Cameron’s career of blockbusters has been known for. Premium screens like Imax have been a boon for the film, with strong demand fueling interest for seeing the film in the best format possible. The lack of much competition entering 2023 means the sequel will have a healthy runway to continue building on its box office achievement as theaters welcome the leggy run following several ebbs and flows of major releases throughout 2022.
3. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever*
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures | November 11
Domestic Total: $439.9M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $181.3M
Disney reported a strong start to Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with $28M in Thursday domestic previews. Including previews, the film earned $84M for its full opening day, besting a 13-year-old record held by 2009’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon for the best “first day” domestic gross by any November release. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opened to $181.3M domestic, just -10 percent behind 2018’s original Black Panther ($202.0M). The film also broke the overall November domestic opening weekend record, previously held by 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($158.0M), by a solid margin. AMC Theatres reported a domestic concessions record that weekend for the most food and beverage sales during a single day in the month of November in AMC’s 102-year company history. IMAX also broke its November domestic weekend box office record with $14.2M. The film went on to lead five consecutive frames at the box office, making Wakanda the first film with five consecutive weekends at #1 since 2018’s original Black Panther in early 2018.
4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures | May 6
Domestic Total: $411.3M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $187.4M
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness broke Fandango’s 2022 first-day ticket sales record, surpassing the previous 2022 leader, The Batman. The film earned $36M from domestic previews to earn the 8th largest preview gross in history, making it the only 2022 film to crack the top ten; it landed just behind Avengers: Infinity War ($39M) and had the second largest pandemic-era preview figure, behind Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s $50M. The film earned an impressive $187.4M over its domestic opening weekend, which still stands as the highest opening weekend of 2022. The opening was over two times that of 2016’s original Doctor Strange ($85.0M) and only -20 percent behind the first film’s $232.6M domestic total. Multiverse of Madness became the seventh-biggest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) opener, behind 2019’s Avengers: Endgame ($357.1M), and held the record up until the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which stands at 8th with $181.3M.
5. Jurassic World: Dominion
Universal Pictures | June 10
Domestic Total: $376.8M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $145M
As one of the first films to finish filming during the height of the pandemic, Jurassic World: Dominion was an important piece to summer 2022’s box office recovery. Although mixed reception from 2018’s Fallen Kingdom resulted in more diminished returns for the franchise, the film’s reuniting of classic cast members like Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum with the new trilogy’s Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard sparked excitement for what was sold as the end of a six-film era.
Bowing to $145.1 million on opening weekend, it scored the fourth highest June debut in history (just behind Fallen Kingdom‘s $148 million) before closing out with $376.9 million domestically, as reception again proved somewhat mixed compared to franchise heights of 1993’s original Jurassic Park and 2015’s Jurassic World.
6. Minions: The Rise of Gru
Universal Pictures | July 1
Domestic Total: $369.6M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $107M
Family audiences had very few options to choose from during the pandemic and throughout most of 2022, but the performance of this sequel proved they were ready to return to cinemas in big numbers. While most franchises see diminishing returns after five films, the Despicable Me umbrella has arguably benefited from the sustained popularity of the Minions characters and their two spin-off films.
The Rise of Gru was an instant smash, coming in ahead of Transformers: Dark of the Moon‘s $97.9 million three-day performance in 2011 to deliver the best Fourth of July holiday debut in history. Families continued to turn out over the rest of summer as the film legged its way to a healthy multiplier, solidifying both the franchise and Illumination’s brand strength among both millennials and Gen Z—underscored by the popular “Gentleminions” trend that blew up on social media. The Rise of Gru easily became the biggest animated box office hit of 2022.
7. The Batman
Warner Bros. | March 4
Domestic Total: $369.3M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $134M
After notching zero films in last year’s domestic top ten—due in part to that year’s slate going day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max—Warner Bros. secured two spots this year, among only six films given a theatrical release. The first of those, The Batman, became the second film of the pandemic era to open to over $100M upon its release in March; it is also the sixth March release ever to open to more than $100M domestically and the fifth-highest March opener of all time. Working against the film was its three-hour runtime, which limited its number of daily screenings; that said, positive reviews and strong word of mouth helped the film to a -51% second weekend drop, more modest than the second weekend drops of recent Batman-led releases The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League.
8. Thor: Love and Thunder
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures | July 8
Domestic Total: $343.2M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $144.1M
Marvel Studios’ second theatrical release of the 2022 summer season, Thor: Love and Thunder opened strong in Thursday previews, the film’s $29M gross giving it, at the time, the 13th highest opening day of all time and the second highest opening day of 2022, well ahead of fellow releases The Batman ($21.6M), Top Gun: Maverick ($19.2M), Jurassic World: Dominion ($18.0M), and Minions: The Rise of Gru ($10.7M). Previews proved front-loaded, however, as Love and Thunder dropped -67.7% in its sophomore frame, a sharper drop than any other pandemic-era MCU title to receive theatrical exclusivity. Domestically, however, it still clocked in as the highest earner of the four MCU Thor films, which have seen steadily increasing grosses since the $181M release of Thor in 2011.
9. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Paramount Pictures | April 8
Domestic Total: $190.8M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $72.1M
Two consecutive Sonic the Hedgehog films have proved hits for Paramount Pictures, with the first film—hitting theaters domestically in mid-February 2020, shortly before the pandemic shut down North American cinemas—coming in as the second highest domestic grosser of 2020. Domestically, the Sonic sequel out-earned its predecessor to the tune of roughly $40 million, though a substantially expanded range of releases push it down the top ten to spot number nine. All the same, Sonic the Hedgehog 2‘s $190.8 haul is enough to rank it as the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time in the North American market; globally, that title still belongs to 2016’s Warcraft.
10. Black Adam
Warner Bros. | October 21
Domestic Total: $168M
Domestic Opening Weekend: $67M
Warner Bros.’ DC Comics universe snuck into the top ten in the form of Black Adam, which landed on the high end of pre-release expectations with its $67M opening, the fifth highest October opening in history. That figure places the film above (+25%) 2019’s Shazam!, as far as opening weekends are concerned, and only slightly below (-1%) 2018’s Aquaman. The good news ended there, however, as Black Adam‘s stiff percent second weekend drop (-59%) proved more severe than both of those previous films; despite Black Adam‘s opening weekend cume being almost even with Aquaman‘s, by the end of Black Adam‘s 17th day its total gross lagged behind the other film by -47 percent. Black Adam‘s sophomore frame drop was also substantially steeper than those of comparable films starring Dwayne Johnson, including 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw (-58%) and Jumanji: The Next Level (-55%). By the end of the year, Black Adam stood solidly in the middle of Warner Bros.’ current DC comics series in terms of box office, ahead of 2019’s Shazam! ($140.3M), 2020’s pandemic-curtailed release of Birds of Prey ($84.1M), and the day-and-date releases of 2021’s The Suicide Squad ($55.8M) and 2020’s Wonder Woman 1984 ($46.8M).