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With the likes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World laying waste to the box office in 2015, science fiction had a big year. Just a month into 2016, we’ve already got two entries into this arena, The 5th Wave and Synchronicity, but this is already shaping up another big one for the genre.
There are sure to be massive spectacle blockbusters, as some of our favorite franchises are returning to the big screen. But on the other side of the coin there are smaller, more idea driven sci-fi films that are worth seeking out, too. With this in mind, here are 15 of the science fiction movies, big and small, that we’re dying to see in 2016.
One note, we’re leaving out superheroes on this list, even those with more explicitly sci-fi elements. With them this would become an unwieldy beast, and we have plenty of comic book movie themed lists to check out.
10 Cloverfield Lane (March 11)Cloverfield hit in 2008 there’s been talk that a super-secret sequel or spinoff, or a movie somehow tangentially related to the found footage creature feature, was in the works. Last month the notoriously enigmatic Bad Robot dropped a trailer and was like, Boom, here’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. We don’t know a ton about it or how it connects to the earlier film, but it revolves around a young woman who is in a car crash and wakes up in a survivalist’s underground bunker. He tells her there’s been an attack that rendered the outside world uninhabitable, but there’s obviously much more going on. A viral marketing campaign just kicked off, so expect the mysteries to keep swirling around this one until it opens.
Midnight Special (March 18)Parents will do almost anything to keep their children safe, and that’s at the core of Jeff Nichols’ upcoming sci-fi thriller Midnight Special. Roy’s (Michael Shannon) son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), has powers, the kind of things that the likes of a government task force led by Adam Driver and a cult fronted by Sam Shepard, would really like to use for their own nefarious ends. Rather than hand him over, Roy and Alton head out on the run to protect themselves, and possibly the fate of the world. Midnight Special has been finished for a while and pushed back a couple times, but it will debut at SXSW 2016 and hit theaters shortly after.
High-RiseJ.G. Ballard’s dystopian 1975 novel, High-Rise, about a modern high-rise apartment complex, where every need is catered to, but that devolves into a violent, vicious class war between floors, may have found the perfect director to bring it to the screen in Ben Wheatley. The man behind such genre-benders as Sightseers, Kill List, and A Field In England has a sharp satiric eye, a twisted sense of humor, and a mean streak that suits this material to a T. With a cast that features Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, and Luke Evans, among others, High-Rise got mixed reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but this is still something I’m wildly stoked about and can’t wait to see for myself.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows (June 3)I wasn’t a huge fan of the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, but to be fair, that wasn’t the fault of the Turtles themselves. When they’re actually on screen—my biggest problem was that the movie is more about April O’Neil than the title characters—they managed, at least for me, to capture spirit and energy of the quartet, despite the fact that they look terrible. Hopefully Out of the Shadows will rectify this and put Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael front and center and leave April as the side character she should be. And we’re also going to get to see fan favorite villains Rocksteady and Bebop, and reportedly Krang, so if nothing else, TMNT 2 promises to be interesting in that regard.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)Sure, you won’t see Will Smith’s Stephen Hiller on screen—he’ll have reportedly died in the twenty years since Independence Day—but the franchise is soldiering on without him with Independence Day: Resurgence. Now it’s up to a new generation to defeat the aliens, who, a few decades after the fact, have returned. Sounds like that first visit was just an advanced party. Fortunately, humanity used the recovered alien tech to bolster our own defenses that cover the entire planet. Still, nothing can prepare us for the coming onslaught, and it will be up to a few brave, inventive men and women (you just know that Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson is going to be one of them) to save the day, again.
The Purge 3 (July 1)Though The Purge movies often get lumped in with horror, there’s a dystopian sci-fi streak that informs the world of these films. The Purge: Anarchy was a gritty throwback to exploitation titles of an earlier time, and I dug it way more than the first, which was a low-budget, self-contained home invasion yarn. We don’t know a ton about the plot of The Purge 3, but there has been talk it revolves around a Presidential candidate who opposes the Purge—the annual night where all crime, including murder, is legal—who has been targeted for assassination. Frank Grillo’s grim, stoic character, Sergeant, is coming back, and as this has been referred to as The Purge: Beginnings, it sounds like it could be a prequel and that we’ll learn some more about the near-mute anti-hero. There is space for a variety of different social commentaries, and while the first films touched on them, they’ve been generally unexplored, so hopefully The Purge 3 will tackle some of that.
Star Trek Beyond (July 22)Despite a sturdy box office haul and largely positive critical reviews, Star Trek Into Darkness takes a lot of heat, especially from fans, and Paramount hopes to change that narrative this summer with Star Trek Beyond. And with the third chapter in the rebooted franchise, there are some big changes in store. The core cast is more or less intact, but Fast & Furious’ Justin Lin took over the directing duties from J.J. Abrams, star Simon Pegg was tapped to rewrite the script (which I assume means Scotty is the captain now), and the story reportedly finds the crew of the Enterprise in the midst of their traditional five-year mission instead of hanging around Earth. The first trailer left a lot of people, including some of the cast members, wanting, but with new additions like Idris Elba playing the villain, and Sofia Boutella, there is a lot to look forward to in Star Trek Beyond.
The Space Between Us (July 29)There is no shortage of adolescent romance to be found in you local metroplex, but The Space Between Us, formerly titled Out of This World (I’m really glad they changed that), looks like something other than your typical dystopian teen love triangle. People fall in love online all the damn time, however, it’s a bit more complicated than living in different states when a 16-year-old boy (Ender’s Game’s Asa Butterfield) from Mars falls in love with a young woman from Earth (Tomorrowland’s Britt Robertson) and he sets out to meet her. The stakes are even higher because he’s the first person born on Mars, and is totally secret from the rest of the world. Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino add their presence to the cast, and with a prime summer release date, someone appears to have high hopes for this one.
Star Wars: Rogue One (December 16)Given the record-breaking success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the next installment, Star Wars: Rogue One has some added pressure on its shoulders. It’s also the first of the standalone Star Wars Story films, which explore that far, far away galaxy outside of the scope of the Episode films. This one has been described as both a heist film and a gritty war movie, and centers around a group of Rebels who steal the plans for the first Death Star that Luke Skywalker and company use to blow the weapon out of the sky in A New Hope. Rogue One looks to deliver something quite different from the Star Wars films that we’re used to, but it sounds pretty damn awesome, and with as good as The Force Awakens was, we can’t wait to see what this movie has in store.
Assassin’s Creed (Dec 21)Video game movie adaptations have, at best, a spotty track record, but if any film has the potential to change that, it’s Assassin’s Creed. When a bartender discovers he is the descendent of a long line of assassins, he relives their memories to gain their knowledge and put their skills to use in the present day battling a huge corporation. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard top line a great cast, and they rejoin director Justin Kurzel, who they worked with on last year’s adaptation of Macbeth. Something tells me this is going to be a very different movie, but Macbeth is a visually stunning film, and Assassin’s Creed should be beautiful to look at. And it’s got some balls going up against Rogue One, so the studio must have confidence in this one.
Passengers (December 21)Another big sci-fi film that’s opening dangerously close to the next Star Wars movie, Passengers can do that sort of thing because it boasts two of the biggest stars in the world in Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in the lead. On a spacecraft travelling to a distant planet they intend to colonize, thousands of people sleep away the journey. One man accidentally wakes up 60 years early, realizes he’s going to grow old and die alone with just androids for company, and, in kind of a dick move, wakes up a female passenger. Passengers has been bouncing around for years with Keanu Reeves and a number of high-profile actresses attached, but with Lawrence and Pratt, and The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum at the helm, it finally got rolling, and with a huge payday for both stars.
Replicas (2016)To be honest, I would watch this just to see Keanu Reeves play a neuroscientist. In the Tanya Wexler-directed sci-fi thriller, Reeves plays a scientist on the cutting edge, but when his family dies in a car accident, he will stop at nothing to bring them back to life. This puts him at odds with his government-controlled lab, a ruthless law enforcement task force, and, of course, the laws of science. Written by Chad St. John, the writer behind London Has Fallen and that gritty Punisher short, Dirty Laundry, this has the potential to be a fun genre actioner take on Frankenstein. I can’t help but hope for a more sci-fi John Wick, but that’s probably just a pipe dream. Replicas is in pre-production now, so whether or not it hits in 2016 remains to be seen, but fingers crossed.
The Circle (2016)With a cast that includes Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Karen Gillan, The Circle would have been on most radars regardless of what it’s about. Based on the 2013 novel by Dave Eggers and directed by James Pondsoldt, the plot follows a young woman who gets a job at a massive, Google-esque tech company called The Circle, run by the so-called "three wise men." What begins as the opportunity of a lifetime takes a darker turn. Her ambition and idealism soon give way to suspense, and the story involves themes of privacy, history, memory, and more. This is certainly fertile ground of a tech thriller, and we can’t wait to see what this cast and crew has in store.
Story Of Your Life (2016)Based on a short story by Ted Chiang, Story of Your Life promises to be something different from your average sci-fi film. Helmed by Sicario and Prisoners director Dennis Villenueve (who will also direct Blade Runner 2), it stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlbarg. As alien spaceships land all over the planet, a linguist is tasked with determining if they come in peace or are out to get us. But as she learns how to communicate with the visitors, she experiences flashbacks that help her unlock the real purpose of the invasion. This sounds tense and mysterious and, in such capable hands, should be a damn fine time.
The Blob (2016)As a kid, both the 1958 and 1988 versions of The Blob straight up scared the shit out of me like few other movies. It’s getting another facelift, this time courtesy of Con-Air director Simon West. While it’s going to give the titular gelatinous pile of goo a big Hollywood CGI makeover, there are some other changes in the works. West has said that he plans to give the amorphous antagonist a backstory, saying it will be "more sophisticated," and that it will be more based on science. We’ll find out where it came from, and how it works. While this may be overkill, and I don’t really need to know why the Blob is here devouring everyone it touches, I’m still all-in on the idea of a blockbuster spectacle version of one of my all-time favorite movie monsters.