According to U.S. News & World Report's exhaustive study of 24,000 public high schools in the nation, the School for Advanced Studies isn't just the best school in Miami, it's the best in the state of Florida, and fourth-best in the entire country. Spread out over Miami Dade College's five campuses (Homestead, Kendall, North, West, and Wolfson), SAS allows high school juniors and seniors to use their last two years to a head start in college by simultaneously earning their associate's degree. A public institution, SAS is open to any Miami-Dade resident who meets the grade and testing requirements with an impartial lottery deciding who gets in in the event there's an excess of qualified candidates. Merit mixed with luck — it's an admission policy that makes for a student body that matches Miami's diversity.

An up-and-coming director must possess authenticity, tenacity, and above all, curiosity. Chris Molina possesses all these traits, making him an exciting, emerging filmmaker. Over the past few years, he's been a behind-the-scenes fixture with various film productions, festivals, and collectives, absorbing the film culture of South Florida. He's channeled that energy into his own films, like the confessional and insightful, Is That All There Is? (2020), and, most recently, The Truth of a Thousand Nights (2021), which won "Best Film" at this year's Miami Film Festival. Molina has also supported his fellow filmmakers through the creation of the Sun Pass Film Festival and its new offshoot, Anita's Film Festival. That kind of involvement is essential to Molina's own art. Already a two-time Sundance Ignite finalist and recent artist-in-residence at Oolite Arts, Molina is becoming a marquee name in South Florida's film scene.

Best Miami Documentary
Photo courtesy of Netflix

Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman, founders of the production company Rakontur, have been friends and filmmaking partners since their high school days in the 1990s. In fact, they snagged this honor last year for 537 Votes, an incisive look back at Miami-Dade's pivotal role in the 2000 presidential election. But their 2021 documentary Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, just might be the most #BecauseMiami tale of them all. The six-part docuseries opens with a catchy theme song by local boy Pitbull and chronicles the story of how local childhood pals Augusto "Willy" Falcon and Salvador "Sal" Magluta (AKA Willy and Sal) went from dealing dime bags to controlling America's most robust cocaine empire during the 1970s and '80s. Through archival videos and interviews with former prosecutors, drug smugglers, and journalists, the series illustrates how the duo trafficked millions of dollars' worth of cocaine from Colombia into the United States, all while somehow staying one step ahead of the law. The series, available for streaming on Netflix, is the third in Rakontur's Cocaine Cowboys series and draws heavily on former New Times staff writer Jim DeFede's dogged coverage of the rise and fall of Willy and Sal. Slow claps for local journalism!

Do you dream of a shirtless Hugh Jackman floating in a water tank with suction cups stuck to his head? Have you wondered what Miami will potentially look like if we ignore rising sea levels? Don't worry, we'll have rowboats. Although Lisa Joy's (Westworld) 2021 sci-fi thriller Reminiscence was mostly filmed in New Orleans (one of the main locations was that city's abandoned Six Flags — creepy!), the production crew shot aerial drone footage of the Magic City, then CGI'd permanent high tide and dreariness. The film scored a decisive 36 percent splat on Rotten Tomatoes and inspired New York Times critic Manohla Dargis to label it "highfalutin, lightly enjoyable mush." Thanks for the memories, Hugh!

Coral Gables Art Cinema
Courtesy of Coral Gables Art Cinema

The past few years have been a struggle for art houses around the world. Coral Gables Art Cinema, along with O Cinema and the Tower, have made it through those dark times. This year, Gables set itself apart by continuing its commitment to connecting the community through carefully curated cinema programming and adding a fresh point of view. That new perspective came in the form of filmmaker April Dobbins taking the role of programming director. In addition to standard art-house fare, like the latest Almodóvar and Oscar nominees, Dobbins' keen eye brought in adventurous films like The Pink Cloud, the daring Gagarine, and future cult classic Strawberry Mansion. Politically charged cinema from Chad (Lingui: The Sacred Bond) and Palestine (Huda's Salon) offered thought-provoking tales from nations underrepresented in mainstream curation. Perhaps most memorable and impactful, "Strong Black Leads," a ten-film salute to Black cinema, eclipsed the perfunctory Black History Month programming of the past, pointing to the depth and variety of Black representation in American cinema. This was the year the Coral Gables Art Cinema underlined the "art" in art cinema.

AMC Sunset Place 24
Courtesy of AMC Sunset Place

A fixture in South Miami since the late 1990s, the AMC Sunset Place 24 continues to offer blockbuster films, award contenders, and international and independent cinema. With a whopping 24 screens in operation, it is a bona fide megaplex that offers a variety of options for your viewing pleasure. The mall where it resides has seen better days, but you can still find great places to eat and drink before or after the movie. In contrast to some newer theaters in the area, Sunset keeps costs relatively reasonable and offers a discounted ticket on Tuesdays. Equipped with 3D, IMAX, and Dolby Cinema, AMC Sunset Place 24 beats sitting on the couch when you want to watch a big, brash Hollywood spectacle. It's what Nicole Kidman means when she says, "Dazzling images on a huge silver screen. Sound that I can feel."

Best Theater Company
Photo by Rafael Guillén

Miami New Drama does the opposite of what many other theater companies do: It purposely avoids the well-known crowd favorites. While Broadway hits and other popular productions rake in ticket sales elsewhere, Miami New Drama eschews the status quo with seasons that consist of mostly new, world premiere plays and musicals. They proudly embrace their role as a smaller, hyperlocal theater company by aiming their work directly at Miamians, with stories that reflect the city's culture. The Cuban Vote, an iteration of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, premiered at the Miami New Drama's home base, the Colony Theatre in April 2022, exploring local politics. During the height of the pandemic, when many theater artists were jobless, the company produced"The 7 Deadly Sins," a series of seven commissioned short plays performed in empty Lincoln Road storefronts for limited audiences. That bold risk paid off when "Sins" won a 2021 Drama League award for Interactive or Socially Distanced Theater, placing MND on the national stage. Bravo!

Known by her fans as "La Barbie Dominicana" — or Dominican Barbie — this Miamian has become a total mainstay in TV, theater and film in Miami, the U.S., Dominican Republic and well beyond. Spanish speakers will know Wendy Regalado from the hit Nickelodeon telenovela Grachi, where she played Lucía. She's also starred as Dulce in La Suerte de Loli on Telemundo and La Fuerza de Creer 2 on Univisión. Earlier this year – and perhaps her biggest gig to-date – she wrapped filming for the new Disney+ Latino miniseries 4Ever with Latin music mega-stars CNCO. As for local theater, she's appeared in several recent Miami productions, too, spanning "Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding) at Goodlet Theatre and Performing Arts Center to Much Ado About Nothing at Trail Theater. In between all of her entertainment endeavors, she even hosts her own Wellness by Wen digital program focused on nutrition, beauty and wellness. Regalado is as dynamic as it gets and is Miami's shiniest star here in 2022.

Best Dance Company
Photo by Simon Soong

Founded in 2000 by Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini, Dance Now! Miami has become one of the city's most respected dance companies thanks to its focus on modern and contemporary dance. From traditional programs on the stage to immersive site-specific productions, Dance Now! Miami pushes forward what dance can and ought to be in the 21st Century. It prides itself in teaming up with other artists and dance companies, like its recent collaboration with the legendary Limón Dance Company. DN!M presents various series throughout the year, including Masterpiece in Motion, which honors dance's rich legacy, and New Voices, in which choreographers from across the U.S. expose Miami audiences to new trends in dance. Miami is certainly a cosmopolitan city, but it's nonetheless impressive thatsuch a forward-thinking company calls our city home.

They don't call Sin the "ass of South Florida'' for nothing. Pole dancers and burlesque performers alike are often left out of the "dancer" quota, but leave it to Sin Silva to effortlessly merge the gap. Their seductive spectacle entices audiences of all kinds with an androgynous showgirl-meets-drag aesthetic. From fire-eating to whip-cracking, Sin is modernizing and redefining the world of burlesque. Each flip, dip, and kick makes watching them feel like...a sin. Catch them Friday nights starting at 8:30 at the Outcasts Show at Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar (2266 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors; 954-565-2526; alibi.lgbt).

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®