It is difficult to find a better alien film than this classic. The stir-crazy spacecraft crew consists of more stoned college-dorm philosophers than scientists, and the sprightly creature is a character unto itself. Close Encounters of the Third Kind utilized an innovative approach to alien invasion scenarios for its time. It remains a revered film and a family favorite.
1. The Abominable Snowman (1982)
The saga of the ice-age monster that roamed Alaskan forests in the early 20th century is an edge-of-your-seat adventure. The film features some harrowing scenes but also moments of humor.
Sigourney Weaver stars as Ellen Ripley in this classic sci-fi thriller that takes the horror genre to new heights. The film’s terrifying alien Xenomorphs remain one of the most feared creatures in cinema history.
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece keeps its aliens mostly off-screen but the influence of these mysterious monoliths shapes the course of human evolution in this mind-bending story. Its deliberately ambiguous ending still has fans debating the meaning and significance of the events depicted in the vumoo movies decades after its release. It doesn’t get much more alien than a slug-like creature that takes over a small town in the middle of an invasion. The movie’s premise and humor make for an instant classic.
2. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
An alien visitator (Michael Rennie) and his stern robot companion inspire a single mother and her son in this Cold War fable that’s surprisingly relevant for modern times. It may seem simplistic by today’s SF standards, with its lack of fancy special effects and eschewing of space battles, but director Robert Wise tells an intelligent story that makes use of a classic premise.
A widow in rural Wisconsin witnesses a mysterious object, which resembles her dead husband, land in a nearby field. Her initial reaction is to kill the creature, but she soon learns to respect Klaatu’s enviable forbearance and his message of peace. It’s a lesson for all of us. The film also introduces us to the concept of wormholes, which would later make an appearance in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
3. Men in Black (1995)
In a genre that can often fall into schlocky, stereotyped invasion stories, this movie stood out for its nuanced portrayal of societal dynamics during an alien arrival. Klaatu, an alien from another planet, arrives in Washington and shares his message of peace with the world.
Tom Cruise stars as a desk-bound military officer who gets pulled into action when bloodthirsty aliens invade. The film has a sense of humor and plenty of edge-of-your-seat alien battle scenes.
Few movies can depict aliens as something truly alien, but this sci-fi thriller does so with creatures that speak in a complex language. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner star as linguists working to communicate with the visitors. Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral sci-fi film is one of the most thought-provoking movies of all time.
4. The Martian (1982)
Few movies capture the anxiety and fear that humans feel when encountering interplanetary visitors like this one. Sigourney Weaver is terrific as Ripley, who returns in this sequel that amplifies the action and introduces the intimidating Xenomorph queen.
Director Edgar Wright began his Cornetto Trilogy with a sendup of zombie movies, followed by an action parody in Hot Fuzz, and then shifted gears to this suspenseful alien-invasion thriller. He does an excellent job of mixing action and debunking humor with his belief that humans are capable of pushing themselves to their limits if they respect each other. He also throws in some eye-popping 3D spectacle to stop the movie from feeling too sanctimonious. For a more cerebral take on alien invasion, check out Arrival. starring Amy Adams. The movie represents aliens in a highly intellectual way, as advanced creatures that communicate with humans using complex hieroglyphics.
5. Arrival (2014)
This film takes a much different approach than other alien invasion movies. It doesn’t rely on conflict between humans and aliens to keep the audience entertained and invested. Instead, it focuses on the mystery surrounding the arrival of the aliens which is what makes it so captivating.
Its premise is that twelve giant spacecraft appear at random locations across the world overnight. Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited to help decode and understand the language of these creatures in order to prevent a global war.
Villeneuve manages to avoid all of the usual clichés and tropes that plague this genre of films. It is a meditative, methodically paced movie about language, communication and time. It is one of the most thought-provoking films of recent years. It is a must-see for any sci-fi fan. It also looks absolutely stunning.