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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Elizabeth Gregory

Google’s (cultural) year in search: from Will Smith to Diana Ross, who topped the trending charts?

Julia Garner in Inventing Anna


Google has revealed its lowdown of 2022’s Year in Search, and it makes for a fascinating read.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard both topped the most-searched people list: Depp came first, while Heard came in third (just before Putin and after Will Smith). They were also (along with Smith) the most searched actors in the world, showing just how many people were hooked to their very public spring defamation case.

Google has broken the data into numerous categories including People, Actors, Passings, Movies and Songs.

Here is our breakdown of Google’s cultural Year in Search.

Global results


Three of the top ten searched songs in the world this year were sung in English. These were Harry Styles’ As It Was (which came in at number seven), Nigerian singer Burna Boy’s May single Last Last (which came in at number ten) and Japanese-Australian artist Joji’s Glimpse of Us (which came in at number three).

The other most searched songs on the list include Pakistani artists Ali Sethi and Shae Gill’s song Pasoori and Japanese pop group Sekai no Owari’s Habit.

The most searched song was Tak Ingin Usai from Indonesian artist Keisya Levronka, which also has over 100 million streams on Spotify and over 207 million views combined on its Youtube official video and lyrics video.


Films and TV show results had a Hollywood leaning, with the most Googled film being Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder. Also on the list were Marvel and DC hits Black Adam, The Batman and the near-universally-hated Morbius.

Tom Cruise’s blockbuster sequel Top Gun: Maverick was the third most searched film in the world, while Jurassic World: Dominion came in seventh and Disney’s 2021’s animation Encanto, about a magical family that live in Colombia, was fifth.

Action film Uncharted, starring Tom Holland, was the ninth most Googled film in the world, which is perhaps a surprise given that the film was generally panned by critics. The New York Times called it a “nitwit treasure-hunt movie” that was “an amalgam of clichés... already past their sell-by date”. The film, which was released in February, still did well at the box office, making $400 million worldwide.


HBO continued to show its aptitude for making great TV, with Euphoria and House of the Dragon being the most searched shows globally. Disney+’s Moon Knight (based on the Marvel comic of the same name) came in third.

However, Netflix dominated the list with The Watcher (based on the true case of a couple who get stalked and harassed when they buy their dream house), Inventing Anna (about the New York-based con artist) and Dahmer (about the American serial killer) coming in fourth, fifth and sixth position.

The Korean drama All of Us Are Dead, which is available to watch on Netflix, was the eighth most Googled show, while Netflix’s American fantasy drama The Sandman came in at number nine and the streamer’s coming-of-age rom-com Heartstopper was at number ten.

The Boys, a Amazon Prime Video superhero series, which has run for three series (the last of which was released in 2022) was the seventh most searched TV show.

Julia Fox by Richie Shazam and ES Magazine | AMPLITUDA top, POA (amplituda LAQUAN SMITH skirt, POA ( ELENA VELEZ shoes, POA ( (Julia Fox by Richie Shazam and ES Magazine)


Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation trial whipped up so much interest that the duo became both the most searched people and most searched actors in the world.

Will Smith came in at the number two spot on both lists – most likely because of his actions at the Oscars in March. His now infamous on-stage slap created a tsunami of articles and memes online in the following days and weeks. It’s no coincidence that Chris Rock was the fifth most Googled person this year, while Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith’s wife, was the sixth.

The top searched list included Uncut Games star Julia Fox, who was the ninth most Googled actor this year. It makes sense: after Fox and Kanye West briefly dated in January, the ex-dominatrix was catapulted into international stardom. She was profiled by the ES Magazine in September.

Stranger Things star Joseph Quinn was the sixth most-Googled actor globally; Evan Peters, who played Jeffrey Dahmer in the Netflix hit drama about the serial killer, was the seventh most Googled actor; Andrew Garfield came in eighth, while Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’s Ezra Miller came in tenth.

Con artists whose actions have been dramatised in TV shows also topped the people charts: Anna Sorokin (aka Anna Delvey, another ES Magazine cover star) was the seventh most Googled person worldwide, while Simon Leviev, the real-life Israeli conman whose criminal enterprise was detailed in the popular Netflix series The Tinder Swindler, came in tenth.


The top ten most search passing list was dominated by cultural stars: it included American comedian Betty White, Donnie Brasco star Anne Heche, Fuller House star Bob Saget, singer-songwriter Aaron Carter, Olivia Newton-John, Goodfellas star Ray Liotta and Foo Fighter’s drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Otherwise, Queen Elizabeth, perhaps predictably, topped the list. Japan’s ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July, and Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s ex-wife, were in ninth and tenth positions.

Step into a kaleidoscope of colour as you experience Van Gogh Alive - the world’s most visited immersive, multi-sensory experience. After mesmerising a global audience of over 7 million people in 65 cities, Van Gogh Alive arrives in London and runs from 4th June to 26th September 2021. (Handout)


Using data pulled from Google Maps, the top most searched exhibit in the world was Berlin’s Dark Matter, an immersive light, movement and sound show which takes attendees through seven installations over the course of one hour.

Immersive exhibitions made up the top of the list, with the London, Washington, Bristol and Seattle versions of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience the second, third, seventh and eighth most Googled exhibitions, and with Atlanta’s immersive Illuminarium in fourth.

Harry Potter’s exhibitions also did well: London’s House of MinaLima, the design studio behind the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films, was the fifth most Googled gallery, while London’s The Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition was the sixth.

Little Canada in Toronto, a miniature museum of all things Canada, was the ninth most Googled exhibit. Then Dinos Alive Los Angeles, a dinosaur museum in Montebello, California, was the tenth.



The UK list of most searched actors almost exactly mirrors global search trends. However Bad Education star Ncuti Gatwa, who is set to play the next Doctor in Doctor Who, and Welsh actor Luke Evans, replaced Julia Fox and Ezra Miller in the list.


So who was the UK’s most Googled musician? Justin Bieber? Taylor Swift? No, it was, in fact, Diana Ross, who toured in the UK in June and played on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage.

Boy George came in as the UK’s second most searched artist. The singer-songwriter starred in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here In November, which is likely to have upped his Google search figures.

Then, Kate Bush came in third. In 1985, she released the now classic track Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God), which found a new audience in 2022 after being used in an episode of the Netflix blockbuster show Stranger Things. The song peaked at number one in the UK, and number three is the US Billboard charts in the summer. At the time Bush said: “I have to admit I feel really moved by it all. Thank you so very much for making the song a number one in such an unexpected way.”

Kate Bush in 1978 (Getty Images)

Sam Ryder and Mika were at the fourth and fifth spots – both were involved in Eurovision which took place in Turn in May. Mika hosted the competition, while Ryder competed for the UK, nabbing second place overall – an incredible feat for a British contestant.

Maroon 5’s Adam Levine came next – he became caught up in a cheating scandal in September. The seventh most Googled musician was then Tommy Lee, who was married to Pamela Anderson for three years in the Nineties. Pamela and Tommy were played by Lily James and Sebastian Stan in the February-released Hulu show, Pam & Tommy, which garnered a lot of criticism as the series went ahead without Anderson’s approval.

Matt Goss came in eighth – he was announced as a Strictly Come Dancing contestant this year, but was eliminated in week four. Brenda Edwards, the English singer and presenter and mother of the DJ Jamal Edwards, who died in February, was in ninth, while Darius, the Scottish singer-songwriter, who found fame as a contestant on Pop Idol in 2002, and who died in August, came in tenth.


In the UK, Stranger Things became the country’s most searched TV show. Then, as was the case globally, The Watcher, Euphoria, House of the Dragon, Inventing Anna, Dahmer and Moon Knight were all on the top ten list.

However, British users also Googled Stay Close, the mystery drama miniseries which was released on Netflix this time last year – it was the second most searched show. Meanwhile, the HBO Max show The Tourist starring Jamie Dornan came in fourth and I’m a Celebrity (starring Matt Hancock) came in eighth.


Producing very similar results to the Global search trends, in the UK Encanto, The Batman, Uncharted, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Adam, Top Gun, Jurassic World Dominion and Morbius were the top searched films of the year.

However in the UK, the March-released comedy drama Everything Everywhere All At Once from super studio A24, was the seventh most searched film, while the 1997 drama Ridley Scott-directed drama film G.I. Jane came in at number eight. The film was the subject of the joke that Chris Rock made at the Oscars which provoked Will Smith.

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