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American fears of the cold war with the USSR in the middle of the 20th century manifested themselves in stories of alien invasions. The movie aliens themselves often took the forms of outright green blobs, which in my opinion was probably a budgetary issue, resolved by some special effects coordinator suggesting that they leave it up to the audience's imagination. From stormtrooper looking soldiers to individual messengers of doom, the aliens kept coming until science fiction films in general became the highest grossing film genre over big movie weekends in the later 20th century. If there is even a shred of predictive truth to these films, we should have no excuse when the time comes for an alien invasion. Watch the best alien invasion movies. Get prepared.
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
What happens when a town in California is visited by hostile aliens? Lots of distress, distrust, and death according to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While the 1956 original had Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, and King Donovan, the 1978 remake billed Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy. Each film is about aliens who have the ability to morph into any person to the point where people cannot tell who is human and who is an alien, making them some of the scariest science fiction aliens to date. While the original was hailed as the best film in 1956 and as a classic alien invasion movie, the remake was also hailed as a great film and one of the best remakes ever made, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
This wacky 1996 alien invasion movie directed by Tim Burton is actually based on a trading card series of the same name. It features an all-star cast of Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie Smith, and Sylvia Sidney. The story is about alien spaceships visiting the world’s major cities and blowing up the White House and Congress. While it drew comparisons to Independence Day, which came out in the same year, Mars Attacks! was seen as a box office bomb although fans saw it as a satire of alien invasion films.
War Of The Worlds
The original novel of the same name, which was written by H.G. Wells between 1895 and 1897, is considered one of the earliest stories of alien-human conflict. Before it was a film, it was made into an American radio drama in 1968 that was so realistically reported as new bulletins on Halloween of 1938 that 1.7 million of the 6 million listeners actually believed there was an alien invasion happening on Earth. While the original 1953 alien invasion movie was a critical and commercial success, the 2005 remake with Tom Cruise was not favored by viewers although critics gave it positive reviews. It was nominated for 3 Academy Awards and won the award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Dakota Fanning’s performance at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 2006. Despite low box office numbers, it is still considered one of the best sci-fi book to movie adaptations.
Men In Black
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star in this 1997 film about a government agency dedicated to hiding the identity of aliens on earth while protecting humans from these rogue creatures. The film also starred Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub, Fredric Lane, and David Cross. Men in Black was nominated for two Oscars and the went on to win for Best Makeup in 1998. It was also placed at 409th place on Empire’s list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. The film was so successful that it spawned an animated series called Men in Black: The Series that ran from 1997 to 2001 and two movie sequels in 2002 and 2012.
Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting off the Predator is exactly what you need to make one of the best alien invasion movies. This 1987 film is about a team of experienced fighters are hired to rescue a group of hostages from Central America but they soon find out they are being hunted by an alien with incredible strength and cunning. While critics were first not fond of the film, the reviews became more positive as time passed. Since the Predator was seen as such as great villain, the Predator franchise grew into two sequels, a novel, a comic book series and video games. It was also pinned up against the cuddly chest-bursters and face-huggers of Alien in Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs Predator: Requiem. This crossover also spawned various comics, books, and video games.
As one of the best films by director M. Night Shyamalan, Signs is about a farmer in Bucks County, Pennsylvania who finds crop circles in his cornfields. Soon enough the signs start showing up all over the world and aliens are caught on video as they begin to walk the earth with humans. The alien invasion movie stars Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, and M. Night Shyamalan himself. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 4 stars and said, “M. Night Shyamalan's Signs is the work of a born filmmaker, able to summon apprehension out of thin air. When it is over, we think not how little has been decided, but how much has been experienced ... At the end of the film, I had to smile, recognizing how Shyamalan has essentially ditched a payoff. He knows, as we all sense, that payoffs have grown boring.”
It Came From Outer Space
Based on the Ray Bradbury story treatment The Meteor, It Came from Outer Space is a 1953 film about aliens who crash-land on earth and begin to take the place of the humans they kidnap. As a black and white film, it was the first 3D film to be produced by Universal Studios. Starring Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, and Joe Sawyer, the film was a success. Rush even won a Golden Globe Award in 1954 for the most promising female newcomer for her portrayal of Ellen Fields. Like Predator, critics’ reviews became more positive over time and the film has been dubbed a solid effort at science fiction in the 1950's, especially with the attempt at 3D.
This 1982 sci-fi horror film is about a research team in Antarctica that is plagued by an alien that came take the form of anyone it has already killed. Directed by John Carpenter, The Thing stars Kurt Russel, Keith David, Ricahrd Dysart, and T.K. Carter. While the film did not do well at the box office—it was up against Blade Runner and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was released just two weeks earlier—it was a hit among fans. The film garnered so much success and acclaim over the years that that it became one of the best sci-fi cult classics of all time. A prequel with the same title was released in 2010 and several comics, books, video games, and action figures were also released. Fun fact: members of the winter crew at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station watch the film on the first night of winter every year.
Prometheus acts as a prequel to Alien and follows a team of explorers as they search for the origin of mankind on a distant moon which brings them in contact with a prehistoric chest-burster found in Alien. The 1979 film is about a team woken from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway from their journey home by distress signals they soon realize are warnings of hostile alien life forms. Both films garnered critical and commercial acclaim.
Alien is one of the most influential science fiction films ever created. Helmed by legendary director Ridley Scott, the combination of talents on the set of the xenomorph film filled audiences with terror and fascination. Supreme talent combined, and the making of Alien, from the biomechanical paintings H.R. Giger to the unforgettable badass performance of Sigourney Weaver, changed the sci-fi horror subgenre. Expectations were set so high for Alien, that Twentieth Century Fox gave the team behind the film a publicity budget to match that of Star Wars.
The Fifth Wave
The Fifth Wave is a 2016 apocalyptic alien invasion movie which has the atmosphere of a blend of Independence Day and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Based on Rick Yancey’s best-selling trilogy, the film features an alien invasion that almost wiped out the entire human population. The attack is made in five waves, with each wave causing massive deaths. The film focuses on 16 year old Cassie, portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz. Along her search of her younger brother, she meets some of the few survivors of the first four waves. Distinguishing a friend from foe has been tricky for Cassie as the aliens disguise themselves as humans.
Who would have thought that aliens are life force sucking vampires from outer space? This is the main premise of the 1985 science fiction horror film Lifeforce. Based on Colin Wilson's 1976 novel, The Space Vampires, the film starts with space shuttle Churchill invaded by alien zombies. When another team is dispatched to investigate and brought three humanoid life forms found in Churchill, it was a little too late for Dr. Hans Fallada’s team to find out that what they have brought are vampires which transform their victims into zombies. With their backs against the wall, Col. Tom Carlsen teams up with Col. Colin Caine to save the world.
Basically Godzilla meets Blair Witch Project. This is the main theme of Matt Reeves’ 2008 thriller Cloverfield. Set in modern day New York City, the populace is on a mad rush to flee from a gigantic monster wreaking havoc all over the city. Similar to the feel of film producer J. J. Abrams’ TV series Lost, the audience is put into a mysterious vibe all throughout the film as the monster is rarely shown. Moreover, the monster’s origin is relatively unknown. Is it a mutant, an alien, or a distant relative of King Kong? Who knows! With a Godzilla type monster and the shaky camera effect, all add up to a combination of an eerie atmosphere.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic alien invasion movie based on a 1940 science fiction short story "Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates. The film was remade in 2008 directed by Scott Derrickson and starred Keanu Reeves. However, the remake fell short to capture the wit and elegance of this timeless classic. The film features Klaatu, an alien who descends from a flying saucer hovering around Washington D.C. With him is a very important message that would shape the future of mankind. The film is highly revered as one of the best science fiction films of all time. It also presents an interesting metaphor that most audience might not see at first viewing.
Edge of Tomorrow
Also known for its tagline “Live. Die. Repeat.”, Edge of Tomorrow is a 2014 science fiction film set in a futuristic Europe with a time travel twist. The aliens, referred to as “mimics,” have taken over almost the entire world except for a few military settlements. Directed by the Bourne franchise director Doug Liman, the film stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Tom Cruise plays the character of Cage, who has acquired the power of the mimic, enabling him to reset time to a particular point every time he is killed. With such ability, he has trained himself and devised a way to defeat the mimics.
Despite its time travel premise, the movie is not complicated like those other movies in this category. Liman has a creative way of presenting the loops without having to show similar sequences of each loop.
Slither is a science fiction comedy-horror film with the same atmosphere to the likes of Tremors and Night of the Creeps. The story depicts an extra-terrestrial life form which infects its living victims and takes them as its host. Grant, as the first victim, loses his consciousness and slowly transformed into a slug-like creature with tentacles. The succeeding victims became Grant’s puppets. The movie was a box office flop, but it gained positive reviews from fans and critics. As a horror film, it is not intended to make some genuine scare. It is entertaining with a few laughs and some low-budget special effects. With its B-movie feel, the film has become a cult movie.
The Blob (1958)
Indescribable, indestructible! The movie’s tagline all sums up to a fitting description of this massive blob from outer space which consumes everything in its path. The Blob is perhaps the main inspiration for Pokemon’s Muk, but the former is not as cute as the latter. In fact, it isn’t pretty at all, as it continually grows into an enormous devouring creature causing chaos in a small Pennsylvania town. The Blob was initially released as a B-movie, but it was quickly moved to a feature film due to the number of audiences that liked the film. To this day, a yearly celebration called the BlobFest is held at The Colonial Theatre in Pennsylvania. Fans re-enact the fleeing of the crowd from the theatre.
Independence Day is a 1996 blockbuster alien invasion movie directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum. The film portrays an alien invasion intended to wipe out the existence of mankind. It begins with an alien mothership, about one fourth of the size of the moon, entering into Earth along with 36 city destroyer aircrafts. A coordinated attack from aliens destroyed the major cities, including a memorable destruction of the White House. The film was a box office success becoming the second top grossing film of all time in 1996. Despite its box office success, the film received mixed reviews. It is criticized for its narrow plot and senseless action sequences. However, it is undeniable that its special effects were unparalleled at that time.
The World’s End
The World’s End is the last film of the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” by the team of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. It is a comedy science fiction film released in 2013. The movie depicts the story of five guys trying to do a pub crawl, composed of 12 pubs in New Haven. Previously, when they were in their youth, they attempted the pub crawl, but they failed. As they visited the first few pubs, they realized that they were surrounded by androids. The World’s End, like the other films from the trilogy, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, is entertaining with the usual British humor. It also received positive feedback from the critics.