The Sci-Fi Movie With The Biggest Box Office Is Not What Anyone Would Guess

By Brian Myers | Published

  • Chinese sci-fi film Hi, Mom is the most profitable sci-fi film of all time.
  • Hi, Mom made over $850 million during its theatrical run.
  • Thanks to a low budget, Hi, Mom earned more than Avatar and every Star Wars movie.
  • Hi, Mom was the highest-grossing film with a female director until Barbie.

The number of science fiction films that continue to amaze the world with record-breaking box office receipts are usually relegated to those that are part of franchises. Multiple Marvel, Star Wars, and Avatar entries have worldwide grosses of over $1 billion, showing just how popular this genre is. But when it comes to standalone science fiction films, the 2021 movie Hi, Mom might surprise some fans as the most financially successful science fiction film of all time.

Hi, Mom Is A Time-Travel Sci-Fi Comedy

Hi, Mom is a sci-fi/comedy that centers around a young woman in China named Jia Xiaoling who lost her mother in a car accident in 2001. Wrought with grief, Jia finds herself magically transported back to 1981, where she meets her mother, Li Huanying. Jia and Li become close friends, with Jia carrying out a motive that involves her helping put Li’s life on a better trajectory than the timeline she was previously living in.

Time-Travel Powered By Guilt

Jia recognizes that her father isn’t the best match for Li, so she works as a matchmaker to bring Li together with another man who will treat her right. Part of Jia’s guilt over Li’s death in Hi, Mom stems from her belief that she could have been a much better daughter, and she’s preparing to make major sacrifices to ensure that Li gets the life and family that she feels she deserves.

Unknown To The Western Audience

Many science fiction fans in the United States might not have heard of the film Hi, Mom, despite the massive successes the movie has seen internationally. Produced in China with a cast probably largely unfamiliar to American audiences, Hi, Mom was a smash hit in its native country. It opened in February 2021 during Chinese New Year and brought over $195 million USD at the box office that weekend.

Small Budget, Huge Profits

Hi, Mom was produced by multiple companies, including New Classic Media. The final production budget for the film was $59 million USD, which was a drop in the bucket compared to the $841.7 million it eventually raked in when all global box office receipts were tallied over its theatrical run.

A Record-Setting Release

What is also remarkable about Hi, Mom is that the film became the highest-grossing movie with a female director, smashing the one set by Patty Jenkins for the 2017 film Wonder Woman. The film’s star, Jia Ling, directed the film and held this honorable distinction as an industry record holder until Greta Gerwig broke it when she directed the Barbie movie that was released in 2023.

Based On A Real Tragedy

Jia Ling also served as the screenwriter for Hi, Mom. Ling has been a staple of comedic entertainment in China for more than a decade, with roots in standup and sketch comedy. She based her most successful endeavor on real-life events that shaped her life more than two decades ago.

The fatal car accident in Hi, Mom was based on a real-life tragedy. In 2001, Ling lost her mother in the same manner, which served as the basis for what would develop into a record-breaking film at theaters.