Nearly all the films that were released in 2022 were conceived—and, in some cases, shot—during the Covid pandemic lockdown. Undoubtedly, the time spent inside, as well as the fear that movies might never return to their glory days, had a huge impact on filmmakers. Their anxiety and pent-up desire resulted in wildly ambitious films such as Babylon, which practically exploded in its depiction of the crazy, decadent 1920s in Hollywood; Elvis, which was the cinematic equivalent of fireworks; and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which took place on a Greek island full of wealthy, antagonistic friends and lovers. Time away from work also made filmmakers introspective: Steven Spielberg created his most personal film to date, The Fabelmans, about his parents, with Michelle Williams playing his utterly unique mother; Todd Field wrote Tár, a character study about the glory and downfall of an orchestra conductor; true-life dramas, such as Women Talking, about a series of rapes in a Mennonite community, and Till, which recounts the harrowing story of Emmett Till’s death through his mother’s sorrow, were showcases for brilliant acting. Danielle Deadwyler was a standout as the bereaved and furious mother in Till, as was Cate Blanchett in her portrayal of the spectacular and deluded Lydia Tár. But there were plenty of other memorable moments: Jennifer Lawrence quietly healing from the wounds of war in Causeway; Zoë Kravitz slinking around Gotham in The Batman; Ana de Armas transforming into Marilyn Monroe in Blonde.
And then there was Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once, playing Evelyn Wang, a dowdy laundromat owner who fights like a superhero in order to reunite her estranged family. Extreme opposition only strengthens Evelyn, and that kind of resolve, as much as anything, could be the theme for our times: The world might have gone mad, but we still need to believe. This year, we are saluting 32 actors who offer thrilling emotion and depth. The pandemic is, we hope, behind us, but these performances are a reminder that art can emerge out of darkness.
Check back here throughout the week as we continue to present the year’s standout acts. To see all 14 covers please click here.