2022 has been a great year for lower-budget films (and ‘Top Gun,’ of course).
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may currently be dominating theaters after breaking the November box office record, but it hasn't only been big blockbuster movies that have made an impact at the box office this year. In fact, 2022 has been a great year for lower-budget films.
Films like Smile and The Black Phone have surprised audiences and box office experts across the globe by massively exceeding expectations. This is great news for cinema on the whole, as it should prompt studios to fund more original movies knowing they can make an impact on the box office.
The horror genre is often a relatively safe bet for movie studios. Films made for low budgets often go on to make a profit given the incredible popularity of the genre, but rarely does a horror film perform as well as Smile. The terrifying flick, which was made for just seventeen million dollars, has gone on to gross over $200 million at the global box office.
Written and directed by Finn Parker, Smile was a hit with audiences and critics alike. In particular, people seemed to respond to the film's fast pacing and grounded characters, although some did find the ending a little disappointing. Paramount won't be disappointed, though. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Rom-coms have not faired particularly well at the box office in recent years, with most relegated to skipping cinemas altogether and landing straight on streaming sites. The Lost City, however, arrived in theaters earlier this year to remind audiences just how fun the genre can be when done right. The star-studded movie earned just shy of $200 million from a budget of just $68 million, making the film a roaring success.
Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum are perfectly cast as opposites who, in a life-or-death situation, attract. Daniel Radcliffe is also superbly cast against type as the film's villain, ensuring there's enough comedy to balance out the romance. We're hoping the success of the city signals the return of the rom-com. We've really missed them.
The combination of director Scott Derrickson and author Joe Hill, son of horror icon Stephen King, guaranteed The Black Phone would be one of the most bone-chilling films of the year. Boasting terrific performances and a truly frightening script, the movie was able to earn almost $160 million at the global box office from a budget of just 18 million dollars.
Blumhouse is well known for making terrifying horror movies that stand out against the crowd, so it isn't exactly a huge surprise that the film, featuring a sinister Ethan Hawke performance, turned a profit. It is surprising, however, that the film was able to earn ten times its budget almost. Another win for Blumhouse.
The surprise here isn't that the critically acclaimed Top Gun: Maverick made money; the surprise is just how much money the long-awaited sequel went on to make. Despite a career of great films, Tom Cruise had never before broken the billion-dollar barrier. But all that changed with Maverick, which has earned just shy of 1.5 billion dollars from a healthy budget of $170 million.
Paramount has had an incredible year at the box office, but Top Gun: Maverick is undoubtedly the jewel in their crown. The death-defying stunts, epic nostalgia, and excellent performances helped the film become the highest-grossing movie of the year by quite some distance. Welcome to the billion-dollar movie club, Mr. Cruise.
The fact that a film as visually pleasing as Barbarian could be made for just $4.5 million is a testament to writer/director Zach Cregger. The twist-filled, fast-moving horror flick has earned almost ten times its budget at the worldwide box office while receiving rave reviews from almost all who have seen it.
Much of Barbarian's success comes as a result of a clever marketing campaign that kept most of the plot and the reveal of a well-known actor completely hidden. This ensured audiences went into the film without knowing what to expect and were therefore shocked by the brutal horrors that lie beneath the Airbnb.
The first Sonic the Hedgehog film was a bit of an anomaly in that it opened just before the pandemic closed theaters, meaning the true potential of the franchise was unknown. The second film went bigger in every conceivable way, introducing beloved new characters and adding huge set pieces, and audiences responded with sheer glee.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2, made for an estimated $110 million, went on to earn a little over $400 million at the global box office, marking another smash hit for Paramount. Expect plenty more Sonic action over the coming years, too, with a third installment planned alongside a TV series based around Knuckles (Idris Elba).
Elvis Presley may have been the king of rock and roll, but that was no guarantee he would also rule the box office. However, a series of incredibly strong performances paired with Baz Luhrmann's distinct directing style ensured Elvis was a smashing success. Made for $85 million, the movie went on to earn $286 million at the global box office, proving that Elvis' popularity is still as strong as ever.
Austin Butler's sensational performance as the titular character has garnered a lot of Oscar buzz, and we expect the film to be a major player when awards season rolls around in a couple of weeks.
Making another installment in the Scream franchise without Wes Craven, the man responsible for making the franchise the cultural phenomenon it is, was a mammoth task, but Matt Bettinelli-Oplin and Tyler Gillett managed to continue the series with class and gore aplenty. Audiences flocked to the theaters to see the slasher movie, which grossed a little less than $150 million from a budget of just $24 million.
The legacy sequel brought back the series' most iconic characters and embedded them with a set of younger characters to carry the franchise forward, appealing to both die-hard fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. Now we just have to see if they can recapture the magic in Scream 6.
Few actors share such amusing natural chemistry as real-life friends George Clooney and Julia Roberts, which probably explains why their newest film, Ticket to Paradise, made such an impression on audiences. The hilarious, aesthetically pleasing rom-com more than doubled its $60 million budget to earn over $150 million at the global box office, proving that certain movie stars still have enough clout to pull in huge audiences.
Clooney and Roberts bounce off one another with ease in a film that gives them both plenty of moments to shine, be that by busting out some old-school moves or sharing a heart-to-heart with their only daughter. The rom-com is back. Long live the rom-com.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is arguably the biggest surprise story of the year. The A24 multiverse-bending indie is the definition of a sleeper hit. After opening on the heels of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the touching movie went from strength to strength at the box office, eventually becoming the first A24 film to gross over $100 million at the global box office.
Though most films rely on their opening weekends to amass most of their box office, Everything Everywhere All at Once benefited from incredibly strong word of mouth that saw its box office returns improve almost week on week. The movie is one of the most original pieces of cinema released in the last decade and truly highlights just how refreshing it is to experience something entirely unique in a theater. It's absolutely no surprise that this gem of a film is considered one of the best films of 2022 thus far.
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Michael Walsh is a graduate of the Northern Film school and spends his spare time watching and writing films and TV. Mike lives in Rochdale, England