Prior to the 1950s, science fiction films generally tended to be either horror films with sci-fi elements--with mad scientists building death rays and the like--or space opera adventures like Flash Gordon. That all changed in the 1950’s…the development of the space program, Cold War paranoia, and UFO sightings resulted in Hollywood’s first alien invasion films. Now the monsters were no longer man-made, but came from outer space.
Alien invasions can come in a number of ways. They can involve all-out aggressive attacks like in Independence Day; or the aliens can infiltrate us from within such as in Dreamcatcher. Sometimes the “invasion” can involve completely benign or friendly aliens, as in Cocoon. Mania is proud to present our list of the ten best alien invasion films.
10. Cloverfield (2008)
Cloverfield gave filmgoers something they had not seen in a long time: an honest-to-goodness giant monster film. Japan has Godzilla, and we tried to make an American version which became an epic failure. But Cloverfield gave us a monster of our very own rampaging through New York. You might not have liked the first-person perspective and jerky camera style, but Cloverfield was a winner. Best of all, the monster wasn’t created by nuclear radiation but as we saw in the final shot, it crashed to Earth from space.
9. District 9 (2009)
District 9 gave us the after effects of an alien invasion and an entirely new take. The aliens arrive on Earth but their mother ship is dead in the water…err… air. The sickly aliens are treated and returned to health, and then placed in a government housing camp to live in deplorable conditions. Isn’t that just like the government!
We’re stepping out of the box a bit on this one but when it comes right down to it, few aliens have caused as much worldwide havoc as the three freed Kryptonion prisoners who arrive on planet Houston…I mean Earth. Having all the powers of Superman, General Zod and his two underlings force the President of the United States to surrender to him until a love-struck Superman finally wakes up and kicks their asses.
7. Predator (1987)
A different kind of alien invasion film involves a creature that does not arrive to conquer but rather to hunt. His quarry is a group of elite soldiers assigned to rescue a cabinet minister kidnapped by guerrilla forces in Guatemala. A unique creature design and tech that allowed the Predator to make itself invisible and see heat signatures made it a box-office hit.
6. Dark City (1998)
An underrated gem, Dark City features aliens with a powerful collective mind that they use to stop time and constantly reshape the landscape of the world, using Earth’s inhabitants as playthings as they study them. However, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) upsets their plans by not only being immune to their power, but able to turn it back on them.
5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The second and best of the four versions of this film involves a race of spore-like creatures that arrive on Earth. They begin creating near-perfect duplicates of humans that grow out of plant-like pods when they fall asleep. Truly terrifying with one of the best shock-endings ever!
4. War of the Worlds (1953)
The best of the all-out attack style of alien invasion films. When it came out in 1953 George Pal’s version of the H.G. Wells classic hit the perfect note for filmgoers at a time of UFO panic. The Martian invaders have the Earth on the brink of destruction when they fall prey to the simplest of threats: everyday Earth bacteria for which they have no defense against.
John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 classic surpassed the original by cranking up the horror elements with incredible special effects by Rob Bottin. An Antarctic research team comes under attack by an alien life form that is able change its shape and imitate other forms of life. Soon the entire crew becomes suspicious of each other, not knowing who is human, and who is the alien. Not only a great invasion film, but also one of the very best horror movies ever made.
2. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
One of the earliest and still one of the best alien invasion films. An alien named Klaatu and his giant robot Gort arrive in Washington, DC to warn the Earth that they will be destroyed if they continue with their war-like ways. Klaatu displays his power by neutralizing all electric power on the planet for a short time. The first truly intelligent and thoughtful sci-fi film and one of the first to warn us about atomic weapons.
1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Steven Spielberg’s classic about ordinary people encountering UFOs features benign aliens rather than hostile ones. When electrical lineman Roy Neary (Ricahrd Dreyfuss) encounters a UFO he becomes obsessed with images of a strange mountain in Wyoming. He and other similarly affected people make their way to the mountain where the government has built a secret landing area for first contact with extraterrestrials. It still looks amazing more than thirty years later.
Because this list was so difficult to narrow down to ten, here are a few honorable mentions:
ET (Which in the end I hesitated to qualify as an invasion)
Men in Black