2022 Box Office Showdown

After taking a year off due to obvious reasons, I’m back with a look at the 2022 box office! 2020 was mostly a wash, but the movies came roaring back in the latter half of 2021. Well, at least one studio did. Five Marvel movies, four by Disney delivered strong results. We even had a rare original IP blockbuster succeed. Of course, other movies struggled – especially those for grown-ups.

Which brings us to 2022. While Omicron is still wreaking havoc around the world, it does seem like the 2022 box office will bring back a full year’s release schedule with the return of many top franchises, massive Disney releases in several franchises, and a bunch of movies that have been delayed almost two years.

But things are still unpredictable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of these movies move their release date or even push back due to competition or other circumstances. So for this list, I’m going to pass on giving number predictions – they’re just too much of a crapshoot this year. In 2021, one movie will have made the same money as the next three combined. That’s a huge disparity. What I can do, though, is give predictions of placements with some confidence.

So without further ado, my predictions for the top twenty-five movies at the box office in 2022.

25. Puss in Boots – The Last Wish

Is there any heat left in the Shrek franchise? What was once the biggest animated franchise of all time has largely faded from the public eye – until this long-delayed sequel. The first installment was a hit, and I predict this one will do modest numbers as well, but just enough to sneak into this list.

24. Morbius

This odd-looking Jared Leto vampire superhero film is getting on the list for one reason and one reason only – spillover audience. Coming on the heels of a second hit Venom movie and what might wind up being the top-grossing solo superhero movie ever, the Sony Spider-universe production should get enough eyes in seats for the first week before flaming out quickly.

23. The Lost City

This seems to be the year romantic comedies try to make a comeback. I’m not sure whether the genre can recover – things like the Julia Roberts/George Clooney reunion dramedy Ticket to Paradise or the J.Lo/Owen Wilson instant-wedding farce Marry Me feel like they’ll be limited to one quadrant. The exception may be this Sandra Bullock/Channing Tatum romantic comedy adventure, which seems to be trying to recapture the vibe of old pulp adventures with a romantic twist.

22. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

I know, I know, everyone thinks this will bomb due to JK Rowling’s…controversies. The thing is, I’m not sure that’ll matter. This series has suffered from massively diminishing returns after the first installment, and the combination of the firing of Johnny Depp, the poor reception for the second movie, and the absence of most of the elements people actually care about from the Harry Potter series makes me think this movie is primed to be the year’s most notable bomb. The fact is, with no Hogwarts and no original main characters, this is barely a franchise.

21. DC’s League of Super-Pets

I feel kind of silly complaining about accuracy in super-pets…but this really isn’t a super-pets movie. It’s a Krypto movie where a bunch of random other animals get superpowers. It’s The Secret Life of Pets with superheroes, and Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart doing voices. And you know what? That’ll probably be enough. The trailer makes this look like lowest-common-denominator kids entertainment, and there’ll always be a place for this. There will be much bigger animated movies this year, and much bigger superhero movies, but this will find its audience.

20. Violent Night

This one is a bit of a flyer, because we know relatively little about this December R-rated action thriller starring David Harbour. But the breakout star of Stranger Things and Black Widow is a big selling point, as is the fact that it has the John Wick team involved. Those guys know how to deliver ultraviolent popcorn entertainment that crosses over into the mainstream, and I could see this being successful counterprogramming amid a wave of family films.

19. Top Gun: Maverick

You know who likes to see movies? Dads! You know who hasn’t had a movie in a while? Dads! I was a little down on this loooooooooooong-awaited sequel when I first analyzed it in 2020’s preview, but I’ve since changed my tune. The trailers make this look like a retro, rah-rah action movie, and Tom Cruise surprisingly still has it. This won’t be his last appearance on this year’s box office countdown, but I think this one could surprise.

18. Strange World

Virtually nothing is known about the next Walt Disney Studios animated feature beyond it being a father-son adventure on an alien planet and one piece of concept art. Disney has been going in a very unusual direction with their animated features in the last few years, and this looks to continue. They struggled with sci-fi films in the early 2000s, but I think the company has built up enough goodwill that this will be a modest hit.

17. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The first in this series was one of the last hits before the shutdown – and is considered by many to be the only good video game adaptation. It’s really more of a “funny talking animals” action movie, but the sequel looks like the same family adventure but with much more. Bringing in a more authentic Doctor Robotnik, along with Sonic’s loyal sidekick tails and frequent rival Knuckles, this should make an impact as the first big family film of the year.

16. Nope

We know less about this movie than any other on the list – literally nothing except a spooky poster implying that Jordan Peele’s third horror film will involve some sort of spooky circus. Does that matter? Not really. He’s built up such a great reputation as a horror director that the odds are he can dominate the box office no matter what he does. Much like M. Night Shyamalan in his early days, he’s a brand in himself and will easily claim the top horror movie of the year.

15. Black Adam

The first Shazam was a modest hit, but you know what it didn’t have? Dwayne Johnson launching a new franchise. While it’s a big risk as DC’s first villain-led franchise (not counting the bizarre, R-rated Joker), the first teases look spectacular and the action-packed high fantasy should be a hit. This feels like it could be DC’s first successful shared-universe launch in a while if it leads to an intersection with the conclusion of Billy’s trilogy.

14. Turning Red

Pixar’s been delving into some bizarre concepts lately – with great success – but this 2000-set coming-of-age comedy from “Bao” director Domee Shi may take the cake. The story of an awkward Chinese-Canadian teen who gets the ability to shapeshift into a giant red panda looks like the best Hulk movie ever made, and its diverse cast is more evidence of Disney broadening its horizons. Still, it may be a little too oddball and quirky to match the massive success of some Pixar movies.

13. Mission Impossible VII

James Bond may be taking a lengthy break, but Ethan Hunt is here to pick up the slack. Just like this year’s other top Tom Cruise Dad movie, this is a franchise that will skew older. It also has a very strong box office track record and will likely play as counterprogramming to the superhero movies around its release. Director Christopher McQuarrie has had a good reception on the franchise and will likely deliver another strong outing.

12. Minions: The Rise of Gru

This is one of the longest-delayed films since the pandemic, coming out a full two years after its initial scheduled release. I don’t think it’ll hurt the franchise, though – it’s basically pre-sold. You either love or hate the little yellow buggers, but this installment has a box office edge over the first – it features the return of Steve Carrel’s Gru, here a teenager looking to break into villainy. It’s going to be a powerhouse, but I think there are a few animated hits that will be even bigger.

11. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Jason Momoa’s completely insane deep-sea adventure (Julie Andrews as the voice of the Cloverfield Monster!) was a surprise 2018 smash, but I don’t know if the sequel will quite duplicate that. Novelty is often a big part of movies like this breaking out, and the superhero market has only gotten more crowded. Still, even amid a very competitive month, this is one of the DC films best suited to be a hit.

10. The Flash

Probably the year’s biggest question mark, this has gone from an Ezra Miller solo film in the Snyderverse to an insane, dimension-hopping adventure that will apparently involve both Michael Keaton’s Batman and a new Supergirl, among other possible surprises. Miller has a lot of clouds over his head regarding conduct and this movie has often seemed cursed by countless directors and false starts. Still, I think the curiosity factor should be enough to get it into the top ten.

9. Avatar 2

First up, this is one of two movies on this list that I will believe come out in 2022 when I actually see them on the screen in front of me. But I know what you’re thinking – how does the sequel to the biggest movie of all time at the time barely break the top ten? Simple – Avatar has had very little in the way of cultural impact. Sure, there’s a Disney theme park land in Animal Kingdom, but the film rode its then-groundbreaking technology and a near-empty schedule to record numbers and then faded from the public consciousness. How long has it been since the first? The only MCU film released before it was Iron Man. The first one. The sequel plot, involving the main characters’ kids on an adventure, sounds uninspiring. It will likely make a solid profit, but the movie box office has moved on without it.

8. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)

It’s always great to see a movie truly become a word-of-mouth hit, and the Oscar-winning animated multiverse adventure is considered by many to be the best Spidey film. But despite that…its box office wasn’t that impressive, especially not compared to the live-action versions. In fact, it’s the lowest-grossing Spider-man movie. This one looks bigger, better, and wilder, introducing several new Spiders. I think that’ll translate to a major increase in the box office, easily doubling the original. But to get higher than this spot, it’ll likely have to triple – and that may be a bridge too far even for Spider-ham.

7. Mario

I know, I know. Chris Pratt as Mario? The internet is enraged! But here’s the thing…it’s not about us nerds. This is an Illumination movie, and just about everything they touch turns to gold at the box office. But they’ve never had a crack at a franchise quite as large and instantly recognizable as Mario before. With a voice cast that includes Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong and Jack Black as Bowser, it looks like it could be the heir to past animated hits starring all-star voices like Shrek. Sure, there’s a chance it could be terrible and kids will hate it, but I would say parents should get ready to hear Pratt talk about plumbing a lot in the coming years.

6. The Batman

Batman is probably the most bank-able character in comic book movies besides Spider-Man, but this Robert Pattinson reboot has a few things going against it. First of all, it’s a stand-alone noir film at the same time as many people are clamoring for more Ben Affleck Batman. Second, the DC cinematic universe is in flux as a whole. Finally, and most significantly, the movie will be going on streaming a month after release – either related to Covid concerns, or a lack of faith in the film. The trailers have been met with overall good response, but not exactly wildly enthusiastic. It’s Batman and it’ll be a hit, but a lot of factors will keep it from the highest tier.

5. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

Coming on the heels of the megahit Spider-Man: No Way Home, this next chapter in the Marvel multiverse adventure should be huge. It’ll introduce new character America Chavez, bring in Scarlet Witch (with rumors of Loki), and play on a much bigger scale than the previous installment. But with all that, the first Doctor Strange was big but not huge, and this movie looks to be much more “inside baseball” than other Marvel franchises. It won’t do less than double the first installment’s numbers, but I don’t expect that to be enough to contend for the year’s crown.

4. Jurassic World: Dominion

It might not get the hype of the biggest franchises, but the Jurassic World franchise shocked the world by taking the opening weekend record with its first installment, and the second was no slouch. This is not only the conclusion of the trilogy, but brings back the core trio of the very first Jurassic Park movie – Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Dern – and pits humans against dinosaurs in the wild. Some people will want a blockbuster that they can enjoy without ten years of lore, and this will fill that niche with a whole lot of creative dinosaur kills.

3. Thor: Love and Thunder

The Thor franchise was kind of Marvel’s ugly stepsister for a while, with the first two movies getting middling reception. That all changed with Taika Waititi’s rollicking space action-comedy Thor: Ragnarok, which was the biggest hit of the franchise. Not only is he back, directing Hemsworth (maybe the last remaining member of the original Avengers to headline a film), but he’s bringing Natalie Portman back to wield the hammer – adapting one of the best-regarded runs on the character ever. Add in Christian Bale as the terrifying Gorr, and you’ve got a recipe for a massive hit.

2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

You remember how I said there were two movies on this list I wasn’t sure would actually come out? This is the other. The first Black Panther shocked the world and became the top-grossing superhero movie of all time for over a year – and then we all know what happened. The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman shocked the world and left director Ryan Coogler with the near-impossible task of picking up the franchise and paying tribute to his friend. Rumored new star Letitia Wright has been at the center of vaccine drama and the movie has been plagued by rewrites and delays. All that said, if it makes its release date, the throng of people lining up to watch a tribute to Boseman’s legacy and the future of Wakanda will be huge.

  1. Lightyear

I’m taking a flyer on this one, but the Toy Story franchise has not given any indication of being played out. The last two installments have both crossed 400M at the domestic box office, and this new spin-off features the wildly popular Chris Evans taking over the lead role as a young Buzz Lightyear in a real space adventure. While it lifting itself over the three MCU films this year will be a challenging task, the sci-fi/adventure trailer reminds me a lot of another film – The Incredibles 2, which did a staggering 600M+ at the box office. In a superhero glut, it’s entirely possible that a stand-alone family adventure tying into one of the most beloved franchises of all time will come out the victor.

What do you think will dominate the year? Feel free to give your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter.

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