Science Fiction Films

Top Ten Chart - 2008/9

Concatenation's annual calculation looking at the 52 UK weekly film charts up to Easter 2009 that accounts for only fantastic films (SF and fantasy).

Remember, this is the UK public's box office we are talking about, and not fantastic film buffs, consequently below this top ten we have included at the end a few other notables well worth checking out as well as (in some years) some warnings-to-avoid. Also note that this chart compilation calculation did not include DVD sales or spin-off product earnings, and our chart is also subject to weekly vagaries. (In some weeks most of the entries do not gross much but at other times (for example public holidays) overall box office takings are higher.) This means that the chart reflects on-going cinema attendance throughout the year and it is not a strict annual list of the year's high box office earners. Notwithstanding such small-print caveats, standby with the pop corn, here we go...

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


This is the fourth in the Indiana Jones series and a bit of a gap of nearly a decade since the last one (Last Crusade). In this one the 1940s archeologist is now older but still up for an adventure to do with crystal skulls whom the Soviets are also after. Little more is probably needed by way of explanation because the series is so well known. Indeed the first one and Last Crusade both won Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation. That this year it is not probably tells you something. Coud it be that the high box office take that enabled its number one position in this chart was due to the reputation and affection for the series to date? Well in our view this one is a bit like the second film that was decidedly not so hot. However the big bomb scene is a flash of the old genius. What do you think?

2. Batman: The Dark Knight


Director Christopher Nolan's sequel to the acclaimed Batman Begins with The Joker. This one not only did well at the box office but got (for what it is worth) good reviews from the critics and (arguably more importantly) was nominated for a Hugo Award in late March 2009 and previously (early January 2009) we did list it in our Concatenation end-of-2008 review as one of the best films of the year.

3. Watchmen


This is based on the Alan Moore classic Watchmen graphic novel and has been long-awaited. It concerns an alternate Earth where President Nixon continued to govern America through to the present and which had superheroes who helped the US win the war in Vietnam. One the other hand in this timeline the Cold War with Russia continued. However after Vietnam the superheroes fell from public/political grace as unelected, lose cannon vigilantes and so were forced by law to cease their superheroing. Then one day one of them dies, and then another. Could someone be bumping them off? Meanwhile the World is sliding into a superpower nuclear conflict.   OK. That is the set up. Now this film came out just a month before Easter and as Concatenation regulars know that this chart surveys the year up to Easter (a hangover from our 1980s '90s print days), yet such was the hype that it was high in the weekly British Isles box-office charts right through to Easter and this enabled it to get this No. 3 chart ranking. (It will be interesting to see whether it will be nominated for a Hugo Award but being a 2009 film we will have to wait until Easter 2010 to find that out.) Now, while none of the core Concat team have, at the time of posting this page, yet seen this film the word has it that it is visually very good and tries to be true to the original graphic novel. However the director/actors fail to capture the spirit of Moore's creation and seem unaware of when he was being humorous or ironic. What is more a fair bit could not be included in the film. The net result is that a good number of the fan reviews have been less than favourable. Moore himself considered the graphic novel unfilmable and he is not included on the film's credits. Do watch this and make your own mind up but if you have not read the graphic novel then that, arguably, really should be your priority. Meanwhile here are a few links Watchmen related short video clips.

4. Hancock


Imagine a superhero with the powers of Superman but lack of charm of a spoilt, drunk pop star: that is John Hancock (Will Smith). Having fallen out with the public can a well-meaning PR professional help? An entertaining comedy adventure.   Now the way we calculate these charts, this one only just pipped WALL-E below by one miserly point...



The Earth has been trashed by humankind who then left for the stars. One robot is left behind. And then one day a spaceship lands... This computer animated film will delight children of all ages as evidently it did by being nominated for a Hugo Award and then going on from the shortlist to win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) as well as the Nebula Award for best film script and Germany's Curt Siodomak Prize. The story's plot is in essence very good, but (and especially given the serious nature of the subject matter (humanity's total envionmental destruction due to consumerism)) the presentation is decidely sugary. Along the way there are a number of plot line rip-offs including from 2001. However if you like Hollywood eye-candy (nothing wrong with that occasionally) then this delivers. Of SFnal note the ship's computer is voiced by Sigourney (Ghostbusters and the Hugo-winning Alien and Galaxy Quest) Weaver.

6. Iron Man


Director Jon Favreau's take on the Marvel comic hero brought to the big screen for the first time and he has done quite a reasonable job of it. Two of us have seen it and we like it much more than The Fantastic Four. (The director also appears as the character Hogan.) It also was nominated for a Hugo Award in late March 2009 and previously (early January 2009) we did list it in our end-of-2008 review as one of the best films of the year.

7. The Incredible Hulk


Based on the Marvel comic character, this is the second 'Hulk' film. And is nothing like the angst-ridden, slow-to-get-going version half a decade ago. This one is much better. It also has to be said that there is a bit of a gap in our point scoring system between this film and Iron Man above.

8. Inkheart


This film is based on the Cornelia Funk novel about a girl who has the ability to bring the characters from books to life! But there is a catch: whenever a character comes out of a book it must be replaced by a real one from the real world.   This film is reasonably faithful to the novel (apart from the ending and the German translation over the door which is typically unforgivable of Hollywood given the novel's German origins).

9. The Day The Earth Stood Still


This is the SF disappointment of the year. It could so easily have been so good having been based on brilliant 1951 Robert Wise film. Illogical, poorly researched, but with great effects and some nice scenes. Because of this film's roots you may want to check it out and for this reason we did list it in our end-of-2008 review as one of the best films of the year albeit with a caveat.

10. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor


This is the third in the series and concerns a Chinese mummy of the first Emperor of Qin -- a shape-shifting entity cursed by a witch centuries ago. Much action and special effects but not nearly as good as the first two in the series (so be warned). This is very annoying but that is the way the box-office weekly rankings work: annoying because it just beat the far better Hellboy II (below) by just two score points...


And the worthies that slipped through the net...

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (12A)
Del Toro's acclaimed action adventure sequel to the very brilliant first Hellboy film that itself was based on the graphic novel about a (nice devil-looking) creature (from another dimension) who helps protect mankind from monsters. In this sequel the inhabitants of the mythical dimension starts to rebel with the aim of taking over the Earth, so it is up to Hellboy to save the world. This was nominated for a Hugo Award in late March 2009 and previously (early January 2009) we did list it in our Concatenation end-of-2008 review as one of the best films of the year.

The Spirit (12A)
This is based on the classic Will Eisner graphic novel The Spirit from 1941. Now it has to be said that the reason this is a classic is that it is often attributed to be the first ever graphic novel. In it a police cop refuses to let such a simple thing as death prevent him from upholding justice. Interestingly the director and screenplay writer of this cinematic adaptation is the comic's writer Frank Miller (so comic buffs can spot all the comic references). However in this case Miller arguably did not quite live up to his reputation. In short this one is for comics aficionados only.

Schrodinger's Girl (???)
A physicist has to come to terms with the real nature of 'reality' in this British independent.

Sleep Dealer (???)
Mexican near-future cyberpunk about a dream trader operating under the nose of a military-police type regime.

Time Crimes (???)
Spain's interconnected time loops film.

Tres Días (???)
Tres Dias or Three Days is sometimes sold as a DVD in the UK as Before the Fall. This one is decidedly new wave SF with the SFnal aspect very much in the background for much of the film. Over the news comes the announcement that a giant asteroid is to collide with the Earth in just 72 hours (the three days of the title). Everyone is worried, including the inhabitants of a small town where Ale decides to spend his remaining time getting drunk and listening to music. Then a stranger arrives and Ale has to defend his brother.   OK, now this one as said is rather new wave but it has won a number of awards at Fantastic Film fests in a couple of countries outside of Spain where it was made. If you like something a little different then this could be for you.

For forthcoming SF film premieres then see the Concat' Science Fiction diary.

For forthcoming SF film news then see our seasonal Science Fiction news page and its film section.

If you really are into Science Fiction (as opposed to casually passing through this site) then check out this site's What's new page.


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