Remember, this is the UK public's cinema theatre 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...
James Cameron's visual special effects treat shot using IMAX and 3D. However the plot is very basic. Alien world has natural resources humans want but the natives might not like it. The humans set about exploring the (primitive) native culture by in effect mind-linking to an alien clone that can then infiltrate their jungle society. The stunning visuals won Avatar many mundane (mainstream) visual and production awards (such as a BAFTA and of course it also did very well at the box office to come number 1 in this chart. Its plot, though simple, also caused a stir among US right-wingers. However as an escapist romp, it is quite an experience and we cited it at the beginning of 2010 as one of our best films of 2009 shortly after it came out, and three months later it was nominated for a Hugo in 2010. To best appreciate Avatar see it in 3D at an IMAX. For home viewing high-definition is recommended.
Dan Brown mystery thriller with fantasy undertones. A Harvard academic attempts to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist attack against the Vatican. It largely did well in the box office due the popularity of the book and also the author's Da Vinci Code.
J. J. Abrams re-imagining of the 1960s TV space opera. Again we cited this at the beginning of 2010 as one of the best SF films of 2009, in part because the original Star Trek was such an SFnal success to the point of being iconic, and in part because this re-booting of the franchise was worthy. It was also nominated for a Hugo in 2010. The film's story nearly all takes place in a near-parallel time line and charts the early days of Kirk and Spock. The original Spock makes an appearance.
The latest in the Terminator (1984) franchise. Skynet has wiped out much of humanity and now the survivors need a leader to combat the machines. The series has been popular and Terminator 3 made the 2003/4 year chart. (Terminator 2: Judgement Day came out in 1991 back in our pre-internet days when we were a print semi-pro fanzine and so is not on our internet chart listings.)
A fantasy offering for younger viewers based on the J. K. Rowling books: youngsters flocked to the cinema to see this hence its rating in this chart. (Order of the Phoenix, Goblet of Fire, Prisoner of Azkaban, Chamber of Secrets and Philosopher's Stone all have been British isles box office hits.)
Roland Emmerich's stunning visualisation of the catastrophic end of the world as continents literally slide into the oceans. Spectacular action hokum.
Enjoyable, humorous computer animation of an old man wishing to see S. America and so ties loads of balloons to his house so that he can tow it there. Alas he unwittingly has a companion. Hollywood fun for kids of all ages. It was nominated for a Hugo in 2010.
Sequel action adventure based on the toy cars that can turn into giant robots. (The original was in our view better but this (because of it) obviously still did well at the box office.)
A huge alien ship arrives in S. Africa and its passengers end up living in a ghetto. Yet there is technology to be had despite inter-species tension. Notwithstanding its evident box office success with this chart, early in 2010 we rated this as one of the best films of 2009, and three months later it was nominated for a Hugo in 2010.
The sequel to Twilight. 'Young' vampire film that was the big hit of the year for teenage girls.
And the worthies that slipped through the net...
A lone Lunar harvester of helium-3 is coming to the end of his lengthy shift and looking forward to coming home. However, does his computer/artificial intelligence know something he does not…? This British independent film has won a number of awards and we certainly rate it even if it has plot flaws and a derivative look having already cited it on our seasonal news page as one of the best films of 2009, and three months later it was nominated for a Hugo in 2010 which it then won. It is not perfect, but is an enjoyable, SF film the story of which has a pulp-ish feel. It is certainly different from the standard big effects and/or superhero Hollywood fare. Recommended.
Lat Den Ratte Komma In [Let The Right One In] (15)
An absolutely brilliant vampire film with a different to the usual take that really does deserve to be seen. A young kid is bullied but the child of newcomers to the neighbourhood proves to be a friend with a difference… This Swedish film has literally won stacks of awards from film festivals all over the World. True, it came out in 2008 but the DVD in Britain and N. America with English subtitles (sorry but you can put up with it) only came out in 2009. Naturally we rate it too and already cited it on our seasonal news page as one of the best films of 2009. Hugely, if not intensely, recommended.
Cyborg She (12A)
This an accomplished Japanese time travel rom-com. OK, this came out in 2008 in Japan but only in 2009 in Europe and the rest of the west.
Is a Swiss film about the off-world survivors of a ruined Earth. Most live on crowded space stations but a few live on a remote planet. A young medical doctor takes up a job on a cargo ship to this said planet. The crew take turns to keep watch while everyone else is in suspended animation. Towards the end of the doctor's shift she hears noises coming from the cargo bay... This film has excellent special effects given it has not had the benefit of a Hollywood budget. See the opening Earth space station scene here.
Eraser Children (???)
A dark humour Australian offering that is a 1984-ish mix of Brazil and Max Headroom.
Thirst [Bakjwi] (???)
A South Korean vampire film concerning a priest who volunteers for a medical experiment that goes wrong. This has won three awards including at Cannes.
The Hunt for Gollum (???)
A fan film – yes fan film made for diddly-squat – that just raised the fan-film bar. OK, so the thin plot does not flow as it might, but not only is the acting competent, the photography is absolutely stunning and make-up brilliant! What is more it is based on a chain of events outlined in The Lord of the Rings' appendices. It received a commendation at Britain's Festival of Fantastic Films. An absolute must for Lord of the Rings fans.
Paranormal Activity (15)
Hugely atmospheric horror (as opposed to a gore and violence horror which this is not). After moving into their new home a couple begin to suspect that it may be haunted. Shot largely as if with a camcorder. Considering the lack of blood and violence etc, this is a scary offering. It shows what can be done with little money but a good director and script.
For forthcoming SF film premieres then see the Concat' Science Fiction diary.
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