Now that it’s January, the days are dark, gray and cold across most of the country… perfect weather to curl up on the couch and watch a movie. Preferably one with fantastic scenarios that provides an escape from the doldrums of everyday life… and wouldn’t you know it, today happens to be Science Fiction Day!
On January 2nd each year, we celebrate the stories set in far off worlds, high tech futures, or featuring exotic alien characters, and the fan base that generally don’t mind a day indoors with a good book or movie. Nerds, to put it bluntly.
Common wisdom would tell us that modern culture has embraced science fiction and the nerd set… but is that really the case? Perhaps not. Sure, the iconography of nerd staples like Star Wars and superhero comic books have been exploited to their fullest extent, but I’d argue that “hard” sci-fi – stories that deal with strange or heightened events that could conceivably occur in our own world, without resorting to magic or the supernatural – are still generally on the fringe. For every Ex Machina or Arrival, there seems to be a dozen superhero or fantasy films.
So, in the spirit of celebrating science fiction, below is a list of the most successful science fiction film series.
A disclaimer before we start: In compiling this list, I’ve elected not to include fantasy films (including Star Wars) or comic book films that are based more on a character than a science fiction concept – thus allowing for the inclusion of X-men and Men in Black, but not Batman. That said, let’s begin!
Domestic Gross: $1,400,952,879
Can Gene Roddenberry’s iconic series take the mantle for most popular sci-fi franchise ever?
Genetic engineering, humans playing god, thus unleashing the power of nature? Yep, Jurassic Park is sci-fi. And sci-fi with a great soundtrack, to boot. (Duh duh duh Dun Duuun, Duh duh duh, Dun Duuun…)
Sure, Wolverine and Rogue are much-loved characters, but ultimately, X-men is a story of genetic mutation and its effects on our society and culture. That’s right… X-men is more sci-fi than superhero story!
Dystopic future? Challenging socio-political themes? Yep, Hunger Games is sci-fi alright, albeit cleverly disguised as teen lit…
Planet of the Apes
You don’t think Planet of the Apes is hard sci-fi? Well, this Statue of Liberty buried in the sand begs to differ…
Alien is a horror movie. Aliens is an action movie. The other Alien movies are some variant of a disaster. But one thing they all have in common… gritty, effective sci-fi! Also, not the last time a James Cameron film will appear on this list…
…because James Cameron also brought us the terrific first two Terminator movies… and had nothing to do with the other, terrible Terminator movies.
Men in Black
Yes, it’s a pretty mediocre comedy, but Men in Black is still quite clearly sci-fi, and very lucrative sci-fi at that. So, here it is.
Back to the Future
A classic sci-fi series in any decade.
The Matrix is an exciting sci-fi concept, and an important reminder that in the 90s, techno music was really, really popular.
And just for the record, the 11th on the list happens to be another notable James Cameron effort:
How much does James Cameron love sci-fi? Enough to stake billions of dollars and his entire reputation on a romance between a giant blue cat and disabled marine.