2016 took us to space a few times— sometimes in ways that were driven by science-fiction, sometimes driven by war, and in one instance, a true story.
A beloved franchise found its way back to the cinemas, our thinking about what a space movie could be was changed forever, Disney’s first big gamble with a Star Wars spin-off film was unleashed, and we learned about the real-life heroes behind the historical space voyage of John Glenn. Go to red alert and trust in the force, because here is our list of the four best space movies of 2016.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The first attempt at a Star Wars film not about the Skywalker family, Rogue One is a heist movie with one of the best space battles of all time. Though the striking violence of the Death Star hovers over the entire film, all we have to do it listen to Donnie Yen chanting “I’m one with the force, the force is with me” to feel like we’re going to be okay. It’s another Star Wars movie that has the theme of sacrifice right at the forefront and, though we lose most of our heroes here, the best part of all is that the sequel to this film had been out since 1977.
When a space-based film (aliens come to Earth, ok?) gets a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, it must be some kind of masterpiece— and that is exactly what this movie is. Amy Adams has to figure out how to communicate with these new lifeforms, which becomes increasingly fascinating. Humanity’s encounter with the visitors here not only changes the way we look at our own lives (and our memories of them), but it changes the way we look at space and time in general. It also proves that if someone is going to make a mess of first contact, it won’t be the aliens - it will most assuredly be us.
No science fiction or wacky alien creatures here— this is a true story. Based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, this is the story of three black female scientists who made John Glenn’s journey into space possible. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) served as the brains behind Glenn’s voyage, and its success make the country (and the world) interested in the spade race once again.
Star Trek Beyond
Sometimes when you go venturing into the depths of space, you lose yourself. The third entry in J.J. Abrams’ “Kelvin Timeline” series of Trek films is the first that is primarily alien in nature. How spacey can you get? Director Justin Lin did a fantastic job depicting the strange new planet (as well as giving us a few excellent action scenes), that gives the whole cast plenty of time and space to stretch their acting legs. The film also bids farewell to Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Prime and Anton Yelchin’s Chekhov, since both actors sadly passed around the time of the film's release.