Science Fiction Films

Top Ten Chart - 2011/12

Concatenation's annual calculation looking at the 52 UK weekly film (movie) charts up to Easter 2012 that accounts for only fantastic films (SF and fantasy).

Remember, this is the UK public's cinema theatre box office we are talking about, and not fantastic film buffs' views. 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. Transformers: Dark of the Moon


Though more a film for teenagers, those who like special effects action will get off on this one. It features giant alien robots that fold themselves up into cars and lorries. In this offering from the franchise the Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets. Trailer here.

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(12A )

Now this is actually quite a good second film in the re-boot of the Planet of the Apes franchise and it actually has a logical basis as to how we humans uplifted apes to sentience (quite different to the original franchise's time-loop premise). Ignore the first film in the re-boot series by all means, but do check this one out. Eight years of being raised by humans and now left behind in an abusive sanctuary, a hyper-intelligent chimpanzee (as the result of biomedical research) will lead a revolution of apes towards freedom from humanity's exploitation. Trailer here.

3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1


Another offering for teenagers, though most certainly more for girls than boys with this light-action, light-horror, romance based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer. A human teenage girl finds love amdist conflict between vampires and werewolves.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2


The sequel to HP&DH Part 1 and the final in the Harry Potter films based on the J. K. Rowling books about a young boy who learns to be a wizard at a school for magic. Harry, Ron and Hermione search for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord. For what it is worth the IMDB users rating for this film is quite high and so on that basis could be considered one of the better Potter offerings.

5. X-Men: First Class


In this offering from the Marvel Comics' X-Men franchise about mutants who have superpowers, we go back to the beginning (1962) where it all began with Prof Xavier creating his school and shelter for mutants. Then the United States government enlists the help of the mutants to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start world war III. Director: Matthew Vaughn. Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. Trailer here.

6. Thor


Based on the Marvel comics, the reckless Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), challenges his brother's claim to the throne of Asgard. To teach him humility , Odin casts the young warrior down to Earth to live among humans. Robbed of his powers, Thor falls in love with a scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). While Thor's brother; Loki usurps the throne of Asgard for evil gain and plans revenge. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Trailer here.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


More fantasy comedy action high-jinx on the high seas, arrrr. Pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.

8. Underworld: Awakening


The Underworld series of films continues the war between the vampires and werewolves. When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. The vampire warrioress Selene leads the battle against humankind. Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy and India Eisley. Trailer here.

9. Captain America: The First Avenger


The third Marvel franchise to be in the UK science-fiction/fantasy box office top ten this year, which just goes to show how US popular culture dominates the British Isles. After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending the USA's ideals... Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Samuel L. Jackson. Trailer here.

10. Contagion


A SARS type virus breaks out across the world and society crumbles... Soon after her return from a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff dies from what is a flu or some other type of infection.  Her young son dies later the same day.  Her husband Mitch however seems immune.  Thus begins the spread of a deadly infection. For doctors and administrators at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, several days pass before anyone realizes the extent or gravity of this new infection.  They must first identify the type of virus in question and then find a means of combating it, a process that will likely take several months.  As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, societal order begins to break down as people panic.  This is the hardest SF offering of this year-to-Easter UK box office top ten.  Director: Steven Soderbergh.  Writer: Scott Z. Burns.  Stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law. Trailer here.


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 straddled Easter 2011 and so its box office score was split between the two 2010/11 and 2011/12 (Easter-to-Easter) years. It 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 maintenance team that seems to be working to keep reality together... Warning, unlike the Dick short story, this film has Christian undertones: yeah, Hollywood even undermines US authors. Unlike the story, the film also has a romantic element but was nominated for a Nebula Award. Director: George Nolfi. Trailer here.

Attack the Block (15)
Comedy SF horror. A group of London teenagers defend their home turf from alien invasion. This was nominated for a Nebula Award and picked up an Award at StigesTrailer here.

Chronicle (12)
SF-fantasy comedy. After making a discovery in the ground, three teenagers gain superpowers... and more than they bargained for. Director: Josh Trank. Trailer here.

Cowboys & Aliens (12)
SF action film. In the Old West a lone cowboy leads an uprising against an alien force from beyond our world. 1873. It is Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious bracelet that encircles one wrist... The film has some great set pieces and fun moments but the plot resolution is no great shakes. Director: Jon Favreau. Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. Trailer here.

The Divide (18)
This also just came out after Easter in Britain but, hey, you deserve a little extra.   This German, Canadian and US production is an apocalyptic thriller that comes with the tag line 'To survive the end of the world you must first survive each other'... A group of survivors of a nuclear attack hide in a basement. – See the trailer here.

Hugo (12)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this offering is set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. It is based on the Brian Selznick novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station... The film was nominated for both a Hugo Award (appropriately given its title) and also a Nebula Award.

In Time (12)
In a future biomedicine has advanced so much that people stop aging at 25. So as to prevent immortals being a burden on the world, they are engineered to live only one more year but if you have the means you can buy more time. And so Will Salas inherits so much time that he finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage - a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system...   And yes, there are similarities with Harlan Ellison's award-winning short story 'Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman' (1965) but notwithstanding these in truth Harlan's story was more about punctuality and keeping to a master schedule even if both stories feature control of the population's individuals' lifespans and both have enforcers called 'Timekeepers'. Perhaps this is why Harlan dropped the case with both he and the studios paying their own costs.   Trailer here.

Insidious (I) (15)
Horror-thriller. A family searches for help for their son, Dalton, who fell into a mysterious coma. Little do they know that there is much more to this endless sleep than meets the eye as they explore the paranormal, and rediscover the past; the key to getting their son back once and for all. Director: James Wan. Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Ty Simpkins. Trailer here.

Iron Sky (12)
OK, so this came out just after Easter 2012 in Britain, but in parts of Western Europe and the US it came out in Februry and March (2012) and it is very good. This Finnish production is from the same people that did Star Wreck. The premise is that after WWII some Nazis escaped and set up a base on the Moon. There they have been developing their forces and now they are back... – See the trailer here.

Limitless (also known as The Dark Fields) (15)
A writer is introduced by a 'friend' to a pharmaceutical that gives him a super-high IQ and stamina. It allows him to use 100 percent of his mind. As one man evolves into the perfect version of himself, forces more corrupt than he can imagine mark him for assassination. Hard SF action thriller. Director: Neil Burger. Writers: Leslie Dixon (screenplay) and Alan Glynn (novel). Stars: Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel and Abbie Cornish. Trailer here.

Paul (15)
This straddled Easter 2011 and so its box office score was also split between the two 2010/11 and 2011/12 years' top ten charts. 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. Trailer here.

Phase 7 (also known as Fase 7) (12)
Billed as a comedy SF triller. This Argentinean production is set in the near future when the authorities have decided that drastic measures are needed to curb the population. The film did well at the Stiges film fest. – See the trailer here.

The Rift (12)
The extraterrestrials were watching us. What are they? Nobody knows. Earlier a Russian physicist started to study a phenomenon of recent decades. Then in 1982 he found an answer but before he could tell anyone he vanished.  30 years on, in Newell Iowa, Dean Hollister seems to be a normal person until strange radar anomalies appear throughout the world. All of a sudden something starts to happen at the sky, black rifts appear. Behind those rifts something is moving... This is a Swiss–USA production that first came out in 2011 but is slated (hopefully) for a broader release this year (2012). – See the trailer here.

Perfect Sense (12)
A love story set against an SFnal riff. A chef and a scientist become drawn together as an epidemic begins to rob people of their sensory perceptions. This BBC Film is a collaborative British, Swedish, German and Danish production starring Ewan McGregor, Eva Green and Connie Nielsen, and directed by David Mackenzie. – See the trailer here.

Super 8 (12)
In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined had been transported on that train and was now loose. Director: J.J. Abrams. Writer: J.J. Abrams. Trailer here.

TrollHunter (or Trolljegeren) (15)
A fantasy (and not-too-heavy) horror from Norway about students who are making a documentary about mysterious bear killings. In their investigations they come across a trapper, but what exactly is he after? This has had some very good reviews. It came out in 2010 in Norway but only in September 2011 in Britain. Trailer here.

See also our selection of best films of 2011 (January - December) as opposed to the Easter 2011 - Easter 2012 box office chart above. This personal selection is in our Spring 2012 news.

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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