The Golden Year Award honors the people who created, worked on, or starred in some of the year’s best movies and TV shows, based on their achievements. This could mean anything from big awards to zeitgeist-capturing moments to hugely successful projects — and in most cases, multiple hugely successful projects. The Rotten Tomatoes staff and editorial team got together and whittled down a massive list of folks who impressed us in 2022, debating the merits of over 70 big names until we arrived at five consensus picks. It was not an easy task, but we think the winners we’ve selected are not only unquestionably worthy of the recognition, but they also represent a nice intersection of film and television, blockbusters and indies, awards contenders and genre favorites. Congratulations to all of our Golden Year Award winners!
Abbott Elementary creator, writer, and star Quinta Brunson had a breakout year in 2022, as her sitcom became an instant hit — along with Brunson herself — and garnered all of the accolades. She became the first Black woman to be nominated for three Emmys in comedy (winning one for Outstanding Writing), racked up more trophies at the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes, among others, and in the middle of it all, she even found time to film a fun cameo as Oprah Winfrey in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.
It was an especially chameleonic year for Colin Farrell, who began 2022 slathered in makeup and prosthetics as the scene-stealing Penguin in The Batman. From there, he pivoted to play a determined father in the family drama After Yang, then lent his talents to Ron Howard’s based-on-true-events survival drama Thirteen Lives. But it was The Banshees of Inisherin, the dark comedy that reunited him with In Bruges director Martin McDonagh and co-star Brendan Gleeson, that demonstrated his knack for both comedic timing and deep melancholy and earned him some of the highest praise of his career en route to becoming one of the most acclaimed films of 2022.
It takes a special talent to produce quality work both in front of and behind the camera, and Ethan Hawke did just that. He joined the MCU as the villainous Arthur Harrow in Moon Knight, then played a small but pivotal role in Robert Eggers’ The Northman, and finally broke bad again as a masked killer in The Black Phone. As a director, he was just as good, if not better, giving us the HBO Max documentary series The Last Movie Stars, about the lives and careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Thanks to his creative approach to the material, it earned rave reviews from critics and won the Golden Tomato for Best Docuseries.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new scream queen. Jenna Ortega took the horror genre by storm, starring in two major hits — the franchise-reviving Scream and Ti West’s X, the Golden Tomato winner for Best Horror Movie — and contributing a grisly cameo to the Foo Fighters horror-comedy Studio 666. Her household-name moment came in Tim Burton’s Addams Family spin-off series Wednesday, which stars Ortega in the title role and whose fourth episode birthed a dance sequence that would be mimicked all over the internet. Ortega had a fantastic year overall, but that dance alone could have put her on this list..
We can admit that not everything Michelle Yeoh touched in 2022 was a critical darling (we’re looking at you, Paws of Fury and anything she did for Netflix), but she did lend her voice to the highest-grossing animated film of the year (Minions: The Rise of Gru), and she anchored another little movie called Everything Everywhere All at Once. The Daniels’ genre-bending family dramedy romantic action flick has already won a slew of awards to become the most decorated film of the year, thanks in large part to Yeoh’s central performance, and Yeoh herself made Oscar history by becoming the first Asian-identifying woman to be nominated for Best Actress. If that’s not a banner year, we don’t know what is.