Who Won the Year: The biggest stories of 2016

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May 5, 2017, 11:25 AM EDT (Updated)

The actual news news kept everyone pretty busy this year, but sci-fi fans also had a lot to keep them busy in 2016.

From surprise hits like Deadpool and Stranger Things, to blockbusters like The Walking Dead and Star Wars, it’s been a very big year for the genre. From TV, to movies and a boatload of comics, there's a lot to get through. So what are the biggest stories of 2016?

Note: The below is not about critical praise of the BEST works of 2016. It's about the biggest newsmakers - the things that everyone (including us) kept talking about.



A big year for Marvel is becoming a recurring theme these days, but the house that Iron Man built had one heck of a great 2016. The studio released the blockbuster hit Captain America: Civil War, and followed it up with the mystical adventure Doctor Strange. On television, the flagship series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. introduced Robbie Reyes’ version of Ghost Rider, while Luke Cage’s first season was absolutely great (not to mention the solid second season of Daredevil). But that’s not all: The studio launched the comic event Civil War II this year, which led to the buzzy creative refresh that’s currently underway with several interesting new arcs. 

Check out all of our Marvel stories from the year.



We’re going to look at the small screen first: The CW’s Arrowverse is one of the coolest things DC is doing these days, weaving together hugely ambitious stories featuring Flash, Arrow, Supergirl and the Legends of Tomorrow. There four-part Invasion! crossover in late 2016 was easily one of the most ambitious things ever attempted on television. That shared universe is unlike anything else on TV, and it’s an absolutely blast to watch. On the big screen: They might not have been massive critical hits, but DC pretty much hit it out the park (financially speaking) with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Both films made a whole lot of money, and sequels/spinoffs to both properties are already in development. Last but not least, DC Comics successfully pulled itself out of the New 52 doldrums with the hit Rebirth event, relaunching dozens of books and gaining a ton of new readers in the process.

Check out all of our DC stories from the year.

Privatized space


We’re not quite there yet, but the private space industry took some major steps toward getting us back to the stars in 2016. SpaceX rolled out its mind-bogglingly ambitious plan to eventually colonize Mars (and explore the solar system in general), while also finally figuring out how to successfully launch and land a rocket (Blue Origin managed it, too, though they didn’t fly quite as high). Of course, SpaceX also had an unmanned rocket mysteriously blow up on the launchpad in 2016, which serves as a vivid reminder that space is still really, really hard.

Check out all of our privatized space stories from the year.



Here are the facts. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones strapped on the proton packs for a reboot of the beloved 1980s franchise. Who, people were PISSED. Most detractors cited a reboot was not neccessary, or a beloved childhood memory was being bastardized. The conversation got ugly fast, prompting discussions and examination of the current state of sexism and racism in the genre, films and, really, the world (Leslie Jones was also the object of some vitriolic harrassment on Twitter). Add in the film's lukewarm response and it's kind of a big swirling mess. BUT it was on everyone's mind, lips and fingers (keyboards, get it) for the first half of 2016 - hence why it's on our list. 

Check out all of our Ghostbusters stories from the year.



Fans expected Deadpool to be a modest hit, but this hard-R comic adaptation blew every expectation out of the water. Then kept going. And going. Deadpool was one of the biggest movies of the year, and turned the Merc With A Mouth into a global icon. Ryan Reynolds was basically perfect in the role, and the film traded in the world-ending ambitions of pretty much every other comic book story for a small stakes quest for revenge. Now, the real question is if the sequel can even live up to the expectations. But that’s a question for 2017.

Check out all of our Deadpool stories from the year.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Disney kept this ace up its sleeve right up until the end of the year, but the first Star Wars standalone film was certainly worth the wait. Rogue One has gotten rave reviews from fans and critics alike, and has been praised for finally putting the “war” in Star Wars. It’s big, gorgeous, thrilling and positively dripping with nostalgia. Director Gareth Edwards faced a very big challenge in trying to introduce fans to a brand new cast of heroes, building a film off of what essentially accounted for just a few sentences in the opening crawl of A New Hope. But, he pulled it off. In spades.

Check out all of our Rogue One stories from the year.

The Walking Dead


AMC’s hit zombie series The Walking Dead came back with a bang (or, umm, a bash) this fall with the full introduction of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan. The show’s seventh season certainly had its faults, but it remains one of television’s top contenders — and the introduction of Negan pretty much captured the cultural zeitgeist for a few weeks there. The show also knocked off some central cast members for the first time in a long time. Over on the comic side of things, the series is also firing on all cylinders with the continuation of the Whisperers storyline. 

Check out all our The Walking Dead stories from the year.



HBO’s latest sci-fi prestige series became one of the most talked about shows of the year, and for good reason. It towed the line between high drama and big ideas, tackling the question of what it means to be human (and what it means to not be human). it was a tour de force with an A-list cast, and though it sometimes struggled under the weight of its own ambitions, it never buckled. One of the best shows of 2016.

Check out all our Westworld stories from the year.

Stranger Things


It’s almost impossible for a show to come out of nowhere in the age of media saturation, where we get trailers for trailers a year before a film (or television show) actually premieres. But somehow, Stranger Things pulled it off. The Duffer Brothers crafted a near-perfect love letter to the Spielbergian world of the 1980s, while putting their own twists on the tried and true formula. From #JusticeForBarb, to the lingering mysteries of Eleven, Stranger Things positively owned 2016.

Check out all our Stranger Things stories from the year.

Fantastic Beasts

What do you do when a film franchise comes to its conclusion? Start a new one! Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them had a LOT riding on it's shoulders. The Harry Potter franchise, from which it was born, basically made so many billions of dollars it could solve the national deficit (note to the new administration: Start a film franchise). But Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the last film in the series. When news dropped that Fantastic Beasts - a textbook at Hogwart's that's mentioned a few times in passing - would be turned into its own film, many people thought "well damn they're desperate." Flashforward to the film's release this November. Critics and fans are pleased, the film performed strongly (not Harry Potter levels, but it did very well) and a new franchise was born. More importantly, this - combined with Rogue One - showed that tentpole franchises can actually branch out beyond the characters and settings audiences are used to. Boom. That opens up a whole new set of storytelling opportunities. That's a game changer.

So what did we miss? What do you think were the biggest stories of the year?