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...
Another in the kids' animation series about toys coming to life. (This year a good number of the top ten SF / Fantasy British cinema box office chart are children's films. Them's the breaks.)
More young Harry wizardry based on the children's novels by J. K. Rowling. The Potter films do so well at the box office that they are regularly in this chart (see Half Blood Prince, Order of the Phoenix, Goblet of Fire, Prisoner of Azkaban, Chamber of Secrets and Philosopher's Stone). And so we previously guessed that this would be a top box-office taker of the year and so included it in our earlier Best SF/fantasy films of the year listing.
If you could enter someone's dreams the perhaps you could find out what they know and this could be a valuable industrial espionage tool… There is much initial info dumping for a complex plot and great effects. We rated this as one of the 'best films science fiction of 2010', and so we are glad it did well at the box office and subsequently won a Hugo. Inception was directed and written by Christopher Nolan (who also directed and wrote Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins, Memento and The Prestige). Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page
The sequel to Iron Man. A little more action, but probably not quite as good a story as the first film. Director: Jon Favreau. Stars: Robert Downey Jr.
Children's animation comedy sequel set in a fairytale land. Parents can enjoy it too, but it really is a family film for kids. Director: Mike Mitchell. Features the voices of: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy.
Children's fantasy based on C. S. Lewis' 'Narnia' books. We guessed that this would be a top box-office taker of the year and consequently previously included it in our Best SF/fantasy films of the year listing. Director: Michael Apted. Stars: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley.
Animation, superhero comedy. The super-villain Megamind finally conquers his nemesis, the hero Metro Man... but finds his life pointless without someone to challenge... Director: Tom McGrath. With the voices of: Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt
A comedy take on the classic tale. A travel writer, Lemuel Gulliver, takes an assignment in Bermuda, but ends up on the island of Lilliput, where he is a giant compared to its tiny citizens. Director: Rob Letterman. Stars: Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel.
Sequel to the 1982 Tron. The son of the virtual world designer from the first film goes looking for his father and ends up inside the digital world that his father designed. He meets his father's creation turned bad and a unique ally who was born inside the digital domain of The Grid. Stars: Jeff Bridges (who was also in Tron (1982)), Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. Director: Joseph Kosinski
Another sequel. This time it is the sequel to the zombie action film Resident Evil. Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still out to destroy the evil Umbrella Corporation who created the zombie virus bioweapon, and joins a group of survivors who want to relocate to the mysterious but supposedly unharmed safe haven known only as Arcadia… Though not big with British SF fans, the Resident series and Milla Jovovich go down really well with SF fans in the Sov Bloc. Directed and written by Paul W. S. Anderson (who took over after the death of Bernd Eichinger).
And the worthies that slipped through the net...
Given the number of sequels and kids films are in the above Hollywood dominated chart, the below is where you may find some worthy watching should you want to hire a DVD for the evening.
The Adjustment Bureau (12A)
This is based on the Philip K. Dick short story 'Adjustment Team' and so Dick fans will want to check this 2011 film out. The story concerns a person who stumbles upon a team that seems to keep reality together. The film has a romantic element. Director: George Nolfi.
Batman: Under the Red Hood (U)
Cartoon. This one is for comic buffs and loosely links to the graphic novel Batman: A Death in the Family which is part of Batman's history and the various Robins.
Devil I (15)
A horror but it only has a '15' certification. A group of people are trapped in an elevator and something is mysteriously amongst them… A low budget film (but often these are the best) that looks as if it is becoming a bit of a cult favourite. Director: John Erick Dowdle. Stars: Chris Messina.
After an atmospheric event, a group of people wake up to realise that their lives have been a lie... This film comes off the beaten track (so you may need to keep a special eye out for it) but has done rather well at a number of mainland European film fests.
First Men in the Moon (12)
This was the BBC's 2010 straight-to-broadcast film version of the H. G. Wells 1901 novella written and starring Mark Gatiss. An Edwardian professor discovers antigravity and so he and a friend go off to the Moon… Its running time is officially 90 minutes which in Hugo Award category terms makes it borderline between the Hugo short and long-form Best Dramatic Presentation but the full DVD release may be a little longer. The first broadcast was on BBC4 (a non-terrestrial channel) and watched by 830,000 people in Great Britain, the third largest multichannel audience of the night. See the trailer here.
Let Me In (15)
This is the Hollywood version (which is not that bad) of the excellent Swedish film Let The Right One In [Låt Den Rätte Komma In (2008)] Now, if you can take subtitles then do check out the Swedish original that won loads of awards at numerous fantastic film fests (including one at the mainstream film fest Cannes). It is a vampire tale involving a bullied young boy who is befriended by a young girl whose family has moved into the neighbourhood... We have discussed both these films on our spring 2011 science fiction news page. We cited the original as as one of the best films of 2009. Though not as good as the original, still recommended.
Science fiction. A writer stumbles across a secret drug that endows him with super abilities. Then his trouble starts... Director: Neil Burger.
A low-budget independent offering. Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border. A first directorial for Gareth Edwards who also wrote the screenplay. Stars: Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able
Never Let Me Go (12A)
Based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, this is set in an alternate 20th century to our own. It starts with the announcement of a medical breakthrough that can extend human life. Then the film turns to children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school but they are not allowed to leave its grounds...
Another great comedy from the Brit duo, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Two British comic-book geeks travelling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51… Now Frost and Pegg were behind Shaun of the Dead that did make it into our 2005 top ten. They also did the non-SF (mundane) comedy Hot Fuzz. Paul still hits the mark but has been slightly sanitised by Hollywood (the Pegg and Frost previous offerings were Brit independents) and so some of the Bible-belt creationist-bashing has been dropped. Nonetheless still a good laugh.
A so-so action (horror-ish) SF with a variation of the War of the Worlds theme. Strange lights appear over Los Angeles, drawing people outdoors, where... Now, this is quite watchable apart from the last few minutes and the ending really does spoil it. However if you are capable of ignoring the finale, then Skyline is quite an enjoyable film if you want an SF action film to help pass an evening but don't expect anything deep.
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