The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of 2016

Saturday, 24 December 2016 - 2:56PM
Star Wars: Rogue One
Captain America: Civil War
Saturday, 24 December 2016 - 2:56PM
The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of 2016
< >
2016 has been a terrible, terrible year for so many reasons, but here's one nice thing we can say about it: this year was much, much better for sci-fi movies than last year. In spite of a few gems like Ex Machina and TFA, we couldn't even get to ten movies for last year's list. But in 2016, there were great movies of every type, from from huge franchise blockbusters to small indies, from lighthearted comic book movies to R-rated raunchy comic book movies. Here's our list of the best geeky movies to grace our screens this year:

10. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange had all of the elements of a classic MCU movie—a great cast, a sharply-written script with a quippy sense of humor, and an instantly loveable and charismatic protagonist—while also adding a truly experimental and surrealist visual style. It falls low on the list because it also shares Marvel's trademark weaknesses (generic plotting, vaguely disappointing villain, thankless "girlfriend" roles for talented actresses, etc), and because in spite of its visuals, it didn't carve out a different place for itself like Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel's only truly "strange" outing. But it's still as reliably entertaining as we've come to expect from Marvel, and worth seeing for the imagery and Cumberbatch's performance.

9. Spectral

This Netflix original doesn't win too many points for originality—in spite of a few flourishes, it's mostly your typical military sci-fi flick. But like most Netflix originals, it's polished, well-acted, and entertaining throughout, and even manages to throw in some hard science and moral exploration along the way.

8. Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters was a disappointment when compared to the original, but it stands on its own as a fun and genuinely funny movie. A few jokes fell flat here and there, but Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones were all typically hilarious, and Kate MacKinnon was a revelation. It wasn't the best movie we've ever seen, but it certainly didn't deserve the (mostly sexist and racist) vitriol it received.

7. Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond wasn't without its share of issues: Idris Elba was completely wasted in his villain role, the plot was pretty weak, etc. But after two grim films from J.J. Abrams, Beyond brought Star Trek back to its lighthearted, adventurous, and genuinely humorous roots, and we will be forever grateful for that.

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Similarly, Rogue One had several glaring flaws—the lackluster protagonists, the occasionally clunky dialogue, the ethically questionable resurrection of deceased actors—but at the end of the day, it was a great Star Wars movie. It had plenty of callbacks to the original trilogy and tie-ins to the rest of the universe while its standalone status allowed it to take plenty of risks, all culminating in one of the best third acts of any blockbuster we've ever seen. If this is a sign of things to come for Disney's anthology movies, we're more than happy to give all of them (even the Han Solo prequel) a chance.

5. Captain America: Civil War

Civil War was one of the best movies in the entire MCU, if only because it was so damn fun. Genuinely funny and full of heart, Civil War was engaging and really made the audience care throughout its runtime. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. anchored the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America beautifully, Black Panther made an exciting and worthy debut, and most of all, Tom Holland gave us the adorable, quippy Peter Parker we had all been waiting for. It was a letdown if you were expecting the sociopolitical weightiness of the comics or the originality of smaller MCU movies like Guardians of the Galaxy. But taken on its own, it was a wildly satisfying ending to the best solo trilogy in the Marvel universe.

4. Midnight Special

Jeff Nichols is a force to be reckoned with; after the success of his first few films, including Take Shelter and Mud, he was often touted as "one of the greatest directors of his generation" and the "next Spielberg." In his first sci-fi outing, Midnight Special, the Spielbergian influences were on full display, as were the director's talents. This mysterious, withholding little movie keeps you compelled all the way through, and even if it falls apart a little in the final act, it's one of the greatest indie gems of the year.

3. Arrival

Arrival couldn't quite reach the heights of the novella on which it was based, "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang, and as a result of a somewhat silly deus ex machina, couldn't quite achieve the political relevance it seemed to be aiming for. But that being said, it was still a beautifully shot, sensitively written, and amazingly acted sci-fi drama, and the huge twist at the end packs a huge emotional wallop. Arrival may not have proven that countries can work side-by-side in times of crisis, but it did prove that speculative fiction can be just as philosophically weighty and prestigious as any straight drama.

2. 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane is a wonderfully claustrophobic sci-fi thriller, keeping you on the edge of your seat from minute one and never letting the tension deflate for a moment. Demonstrating expert control of sophisticated scare tactics and featuring excellent performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane didn't particularly need connections to Cloverfield, but it certainly didn't hurt. (Read our full review here.)

1. Deadpool

Deadpool came out all the way back in February, but I immediately knew it would be my favorite superhero movie of the year. It was as violent, hilarious, and snarkily self-aware as fans of the Merc with a Mouth could have hoped for (and made us forget all about the travesty of X-Men Origins: Wolverine). It's a testament to the quality of the film that I loved it in spite of the (very unnecessary) sexist humor peppered throughout, simply because the writing was so clever and the movie was so daringly original. Ryan Reynolds is an absolutely perfect Wade Wilson, and we can't wait to watch him get all meta in the many sequels to come. (Read our full review here.)
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Movies
Star Wars: Rogue One
Captain America: Civil War