Ten of the best… Sci-Fi Box Office Busters

Totalling up the figures and adjusting the inflation, Jedis and webslingers headline these science-fiction hits that were box office gold

 

top_ten10_screen110. Spider-Man 3
Gross: $890,900,000
Year: 2007
Director: Sam Raimi

Featuring a tri-villain assault on the put-upon webslinger and a convoluted plot to match, Spider-Man 3’s highest plaudits come from topping a box office year featuring the likes of Shrek 3, Transformers, and Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End. Only just ousting the money spinning of its predecessor, any slight critical hits did little to deter Spidey as the prospect of witnessing a Sandman smackdown, the Green Goblin’s revenge and the long-awaited unveiling of uber-villain Venom made this possible trilogy closer a major hit at the multiplexes.

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9. Revenge of the Sith
Gross: $925,007,404
Year: 2005
Director: George Lucas

The final episode of George Lucas’s revised trilogy got the tills ringing, as this high point in the prequel selection brought forth the image fanboys had been yearning for: the birth of Darth Vader. Featuring a heavy focus on the characters, a molten tussle between Anakin and Obi-Wan and a superior early space battle (as well as a fair few terribly misjudged scenes), this prequel more than lived up to expectations at the box office. No wonder Clone Wars is on its way.
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8. Spider-Man
Gross: $964,173,382
Year: 2002
Director: Sam Raimi

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, LOTR: The Two Towers and even Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones were all truly stuck in the spider’s web as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man zipped into sky-high box office figures. Handling Peter Parker’s arachnid origins with geeky warmth, and pitting him against his infamous foe in The Green Goblin, saw this summer smash raking in both the punters and plaudits. Setting a bar that has since been smashed by its own sequel, the superhero genre was never the same when Spidey donned the suit and slung his first web.
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top_ten07_screen7. Return of the Jedi
Gross: $1,008,224,636
Year: 1983
Director: Richard Marquand

A low point in the trilogy for some (blame the Ewoks) nevertheless drew in the crowds as Lucas called time on his saga at the trilogy mark… for the time being. Beating off Flashdance and the heart-wrenching Terms Of Endearment to the top of the pile, Luke and co’s battle against the Galactic Empire saw the young Jedi completing his training, Han embarking on a thrilling speeder chase – with added Ewok interlude – and finally Luke conquering his past as he, Vader and the Emperor himself duked it out in a fatal three-way that, let’s face it, deserved the firework send-off at the credits close.

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top_ten06_screen6. Independence Day
Gross: $1,102,257,824
Year: 1996
Director: Ronald Emmerich

Mark down 1996 as the year a true Euro invasion occurred, as Jan De Bont’s Twister blew away audiences and the Cruiser attempted a Mission: Impossible only to be ground into dust by Roland Emmerich’s chest beating sci-fi overload. Centring on Earth’s battle with some capital-sized UFOs and their intent to – for reasons not quite known – destroy our planet, an effects overhaul pulled in the crowds, as a mega successful teaser campaign sated audiences anticipations for the loud and over-the-top experience to come.

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5. The Phantom Menace
Gross: £ 1,171,142,183
Year: 1999
Director: George Lucas

Some would say anticipation was somewhat high for Lucas’s first instalment in his proposed prequel trilogy, but high would be an understatement. However, despite a sky-high box office taking, what viewers got was somewhat of a disappointment. But alas, Star Wars fans and avid cinemagoers alike bypassed the likes of The Sixth Sense and The Matrix to witness a legacy get truly rumbled.  Darth Vader utters ‘yippee’, politics took precedence over action, and a fish mongrel going by the name of Binks all helped drive the nail into the coffin of this trilogy non-starter.

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top_ten04_screen4. Jurassic Park
Gross: $1,336,089,917
Year: 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg

Stomping into the year of Cliffhanger, Mrs Doubtfire and the Oscar-baiting Schindler’s List, Spielberg’s Midas touch at the box office made itself known in the Nineties with this dino hit. Gifted with a teasing trailer and poster campaign, Jurassic Park evoked heady memories of the rampant blockbusters of old, with cinemagoers queuing down the streets to get a piece of the roaring action. Pillared by the animatronic glory of the T-Rex and her snarling buddies, some overblown sequels have done little to sully the breadth and scale of Jurassic Park.

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3. The Empire Strikes Back
Gross: $1,519,054,014
Year: 1980
Director: Irvin Kershner

In a year where 9 to 5 and Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor’s Stir Crazy were sitting atop the year’s big earners, it was safe to say studios were shy to release their big hitters, as this was the year George Lucas was going to unleash the Force once more. Taking a step back from direction and allowing an old hand in Irvin Kershner (his teacher at college) to take the reins, a layered script from Lawrence Kasdan once more turned an instalment in the saga into a big hit. Featuring an exhilarating battle on the ice planet of Hoth all the way up to the father/son duel to rule them all, Star Wars elevated itself into a new stratosphere.

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2. E.T.
Gross: $1,786,961,556
Year: 1982
Director: Steven Spielberg

Beating out the likes of Tootsie and mega weepie An Officer And A Gentlemen to a barnstorming gross at the box office, Spielberg’s prune-like baby was a worldwide phenomenon. Handled with suitable heart-tugging aplomb by its director, E.T. saw Elliot, a young boy coping with his father’s desertion, meeting up with a lost soul in the titular creature from the outer realms. Carrying themes of family unity, childhood and that omni-present hint of danger, E.T. is the number one sci-fi drama that still offers up a warming hug at its soaring climax.

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top_ten01_screen1. Star Wars
Gross: $2,795,314,702
Year: 1977
Director: George Lucas

It took just a studious interest in Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress for George Lucas to set the foundations down for his space opera. Throw in loose references to westerns and Japanese samurai code and the (at the time) solely titled Star Wars was a mega hit like no other. Stumbling at the distribution stages with only 40 theatres agreeing to show the film, Fox had to give it the hard sell – threatening to bar potential blockbuster The Other Side Of Midnight from all chains that wouldn’t screen Lucas’s picture – and the rest is mega franchise history, as consistent tinkering with his source material and a penchant for crafting daft prequels make the Star Wars universe and Lucas himself cash cows like no other.