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 worthies 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...
A welcome re-boot that almost takes the taste away of the second (the prequel) muddled George Lucas trilogy. This J. J. Abrams film takes us back to the original trilogy's roots and features the original cast (Hamil, Ford and Fisher) and a return to more model based special effects rather than over-reliance on CGI computer graphics. All rather good with perhaps the exception of a new ridiculously ball-shaped droid and a nemesis wielding a light sabre with very unpragmatic (positively dangerous to the user) side-lasered light sabre; flaws that are easily overlooked by Abrams' vision. The film has broken opening weekend box office records in cash (not real) terms. And unsurprisingly nominated for a Hugo Award. Trailer here.
Technothriller, hence borderline SF. James Bond (Daniel Craig) discovers that the criminal organisation Spectre aims to largely replace Britain's intelligence service with sophisticated computer monitoring and surveilance. This Bond revisits past Bond themes -- the car chase, the martini, the torture scene, the secret base -- and references the past 'Q' (Judi Dench). As such it embeds Craig's Bond in the common elements of this long-lived franchise. And it did very well at the box office breaking the world record for opening week box office take. Trailer here.
Adventure thriller. During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Based on the stunningly brilliant novel, this is our best mundane SF choice of the year. Not really watchable on the small screen as so much of the spectacle is lost; this is best seen IMAX 3D but a normal cinema viewing suffices. If you are forced to watch it at home then switch all the lights off. It was also nominated for a Hugo Award. Trailer here. The film went on in 2016 to win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form and also Germany's Curt Siodmak - Best Film Award.
A new theme park is built on the original site of Jurassic Park. Everything is going well until the park's newest attraction, a genetically modified giant stealth killing machine – non-spoiler alert – escapes containment and goes on a killing spree. If you liked the original films then you'll love this one. Downside: there is little new other than the monster is bigger than T. rex. In short, more of the same. Trailer here.
More Marvel comics' superhero mayhem, mind-numbingly nominated for a Hugo Award. Trailer here.
Based on the best-selling juvenile SF novels by Suzanne Collins and the fourth film in the juvenile, dystopic SF series about a girl and her boyfriend forced to fight for their district in a dystopic resource poor future. Trailer here.
A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max. A good reboot of the old franchise. However if you are into the politics of fiction -- that is seriously into the politics of fiction -- this is perhaps a little spoiled by the use of the colonialist/N.American device of a native showing the way and then make room for the settlers ('totem') trope. But don't let this last put you off. It was also nominated for a Hugo Award and it won the 2016 Nebula Award. Trailer here.
Another in the juvenile, dystopic SF series about a girl and her boyfriend who flee their modern settlement and out into a climate changed, ruined world.. Trailer here.
Based on the the fairy tale. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Stars: Lily James, Cate Blanchett and Richard Madden. Trailer here.
More Marvel comics' superhero mayhem. Trailer here.
And the worthies that slipped through the net...
Given the number of sequels and kids films are in the above -- once again -- Hollywood dominated chart, the below is where you may find some worthy watching should you want to hire a DVD for the evening.
The Age of Adaline (12A)
A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into. This is our SFnal romance offering of the year. The good news: it is an engaging fim right up to 15 minutes before the end. The bad news: it sacrifices an SF trope exploration (immortality) for a romantic 'aaahhh'. Trailer here.
In a near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and her daughter Jules do all they can to hold on to their joy together, despite the instability surfacing in their world. Trailer here.
51 Degrees North (PG13)
When Damon Miller (Moritz von Zeddelmann), a talented, young London filmmaker becomes involved in the disturbing research surrounding Near-Earth Objects he stumbles onto the discovery that the Earth stands on the brink of an extraterrestrial disaster. Believing he's finally discovered the ideal subject for his next documentary, Damon gets caught up in a conspiracy. Trailer here.
Directed by Ben Wheatley but more importantly based on the novel (1975) of the same name by J. G. Ballard. A new high-rise seems to give its well-established tenants all the conveniences and commodities that modern life has to offer: swimming pools, its own school, a supermarket, and high-speed elevators. But at the same time, the building seems to be designed to isolate the occupants from the outside world, allowing for the possibility to create their own closed environment. Life in the high-rise begins to degenerate quickly, as minor power failures and petty annoyances among neighbours escalate and class and socio-economic differences are thrown into sharp relief. Trailer here.
This is based on the Robert Heinlein story 'All You Zombies' and the life of a time-travelling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. This simplistic description betrays a very good time travel film. This came out in 2014 but only on the film fest circuit: its UK cinematic general release was 2015. Trailer here.
Terminator Genisys (12A)
When John Connor, leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Despite the ageing Arnie (which has a logical rationale provided) this is an improvement of the last two Terminator offerings... or not, you decide. Trailer here.
And this year for a change we are also going to recommend some box sets of television series...
After peaceful aliens invade earth, humanity finds itself living in a utopia under the indirect rule of the aliens, but does this utopia come at a price? This is based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name. This is actually a mini-series but as it is a single story based on a single novel, we're going to classify this as a long-form dramatic presentation film. Trailer here.
The Man in the High Castle
Based on Philip K. Dick's award-winning novel and adapted by Frank Spotniz, The Man in the High Castle explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States using the device of a fiction within the fiction that is our reality… If you can follow that drift. Trailer here.
This is a four-part miniseries of 40-minute episodes that was first broadcast in Britain (on E4) in November/December (2015). It is a single story and concerns Rick and Morty, two young adults (in their 20s) who suddenly find themselves being chased by a killer when – having bumped into doubles of themselves – someone who could have been one of their twins is killed in front of them. It appears that reality is a multiverse of alternate realities and that someone (and all that someone's alternates) is after them and all their own alternates across the multiverse. They find themselves chased across parallel realities finding clues left by a couple of their alternates. In one reality one of them is a famous rock star, in another the world is on the brink of nuclear war, in another the world has slipped into a glacial… Played as a comedy, action SF thriller, it is very good (otherwise we would not include it here). If you can follow that drift. Trailer here.
Plus, this year for a change we are also going to recommend a non-fiction, SF documentary...
Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD
Documentary of the world's greatest comic and the home of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Robo-Hunter and The ABC Warriors among others. It shows how radical the comic's artists and writers were and how they had to fight to overcome censorship as well as explore controversial political areas (such as racism, wealth distribution and so forth). The documentary's title comes from its occasional 'Future Shock' standalone SF short strips. Splundig. Trailer here
And one to avoid…
Fantastic Four (12A)
Loosely inspired by the rather good Marvel Comics, this variant sees four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. Trailer here. You were so warned.
See also our selection of best films of 2015 (January - December) as opposed to the year to Easter 2015 - Easter 2016 box office chart above. This personal selection is in our Spring 2016 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 then check out this site's What's new page for our full list of recent postings of news, reviews, diary articles and loads of other stuff.
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