The 411 Movies Top 5 08.23.13: Top Alien Movies
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 08.23.2013
From Star Wars and Aliens to The Thing, They Live, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and more, the 411 staff counts down their top five alien movies of all time!
Welcome to Week 388 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: The World's End comes out this week. Without spoiling too much, this is a comedy about an alien invasion. So, with that in mind - lets count down our Top 5 alien movies (it doesn't have to be alien invasions, and it doesn't have to take place on earth, but it does need to include aliens from another planet).
Honorable Mentions: I Come in Peace (1990), Spaced Invaders (1990), Critters (1986), Zone Troopers (1985), E.T. (1982), Alien (1979), Predator (1987), War of the Worlds (1953), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Independence Day (1996), Pacific Rim (2013), Star Wars, The Blob (1958/1988), Men in Black 3 (2012)
5. Peacemaker (1990)
This great low budget sci-fi action flick, which features two aliens (Yates, as played by Robert Forster, and Townshend, as played by Lance Edwards) chasing one another around Los Angeles. One of them is a cop and one of them is a criminal. The great fun of the movie, besides the fight and action scenes, the overall performances, and the gore (there is some nasty, bloody stuff in this movie), is figuring out who the cop is and who the criminal is. The big revelation isn't shocking or anything, but it is cool how it all works itself out. The great Robert Davi also shows up as a nice guy/badass cop who gets mixed up in the back and forth between Yates and Townshend. This movie is in desperate need of a killer DVD special edition.
4. John Carpenter's They Live (1988)
John Carpenter's They Live is both a sci-fi action flick and a major political statement from the director. Star Roddy Piper, with the help of special sunglasses, finds out that the world is run by mega rich Republican type aliens who use a TV signal to keep humans asleep and unaware of what's really going on. It's quite a bit to take in at first, but Piper's John Nada decides to take matters into his own hands and fight the aliens head on. Nada eventually recruits his fellow homeless buddy Frank (the immortal Keith David) into the cause, and then they find out that there others out there who know what's really going on. Carpenter's attacks on the rich and the right wing politics of the 1980's are in your face for the duration of the movie, stuff that makes the movie just as a relevant today as it was back in 1988. And think about all of the humans who have sold out, like the Vagrant played by the great George "Buck" Flower. He loves that he sold out to the aliens. He's "finally going to get a taste of the good life." A brilliant movie through and through.
3. Aliens (1986)
Jim Cameron's Aliens acts as both a sequel to Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror masterpiece Alien and, in a sense, as its own movie. The flick takes place in the same cinematic universe established in Alien but instead of being a sort of slasher/suspense movie Aliens is a full on war movie. There are more aliens for the heroes to deal with, and, well, the heroes are marines; heavily armed, highly trained killers. The action scenes are all top notch, and the special effects are scary, well done, and still pack a major punch some twenty seven years later. Great stuff.
2. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter's remake of The Thing is the ultimate sci-fi horror flick. It's about an alien life form that, after it is discovered in some wreckage under a sheet of ice, starts killing people, taking over their bodies and assuming their identities (in a sense). Watching it take over, one by one, the men of the scientific expedition in Antarctica will give you chills and, every couple of minutes gross you the hell out. Rob Bottin's special effects are still just as nasty and horrendous and messed up as they were back in 1982. The movie is the ultimate alien nightmare. The Thing, if it isn't stopped, will eventually take over the world. We don't want that.
1. Starship Troopers (1997)
Starship Troopers is, in this writer's opinion, the greatest movie ever made. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Starship Troopers has everything. It's a war movie, an anti-war movie, a comedy, a love story, a horror movie, a monster movie, and an attack on fascism. The movies aliens, the bugs, are nasty creatures that are hard to kill and have a need to colonize the universe (well, that's what the humans claim. There's a good chance that the bugs are just fighting back against the humans as the humans made the first move). I still get weirded out thinking about that bug swarm scene in planet P, where the Mobile Infantry marines try to hold on for rescue transport. The MI marines don't have enough people or enough weaponry to kill all of the bugs, but the marines are going to do their best to hold on. "The only good bug is a dead bug!"
5. The War of the Worlds (1953)
Keep the 2005 remake and even Independence Day. George Pal's fantastic adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic shows just how terrifying an alien invasion of Earth can be. The Martians are realized as nothing more than a force of nature in ships that shrug off everything from cannons to nukes and the sight of a general hit by a beam that turns him into a skeleton before disintegrating him is still freaky today. The scene where we briefly see them out of the ships is scary as hell and clearly influenced many directors down the line. The finale of a ravage Los Angeles before the Martians are brought down by a simple virus reminds you of how helpless mankind can be against forces beyond us, a message that still resonates today.
4. Dark City
I debated putting this on the list. Not because it's not a great movie, it is, but because doing so can be seen as a spoiler to the film. However, I decided that even in the early trailers, it's obvious the men behind the scenes are not of this earth so it works. Unfairly ignored in its 1998 release, this brilliant film mixes sci-fi with noir as Rufus Sewell is a doctor who realizes that every night, the city around him goes to sleep as mysterious black-suited men go around to change the lives and memories of its people. The director's cut is much better explaining it all, making you realize how we can be seen as little more than lab rats to other species and their wicked powers making them even harder to beat. Its stunning finale is great but it's the brilliant way the movie builds up to it that impresses you and shows a very different way aliens and humans can mix.
3. E.T. The Extra-Terrestial
The recent Blu-Ray release reminds you of the incredible magic of this film. Steven Spielberg has always been his own harshest critic but he was wise to decide to get rid of the poor CGI of the 20th anniversary version as the original is still fine on its own. The story of a lost alien bonding with a human boy resonates for all generations and Spielberg's direction provides iconic moments from the bike ride to its great ending. It's the rare beast that makes you feel as well as laugh and why it still stands today as a true classic reminding you that not all aliens are to be feared.
The rare example of a sequel better than the original as James Cameron ramps up the terror of the original film and spices it up with the simple idea: If one of those monsters scares the hell out of audience, why not an entire planet of them? Reprising her role as Ripley, Sigourney Weaver added to her legacy as an ass-kicking icon, taking charge when the marines sent to investigate an attacked colony are wiped out by the monsters, caring for a little girl along the way. It's famous for so many lines ("Game over, man, GAME OVER!") and James Horner's fun score but still feel chills seeing the Aliens attacking in droves and the final battle with Ripley in the power loader against the giant Alien Queen still puts any CGI fest of today to shame. Still amazing after all these years.
1. Star Wars
Some may say this is too easy a choice. Well, screw it, I'm doing it anyway as it's my all-time favorite film. Technically speaking, everyone in this is an alien as it takes place in a far distant galaxy and while there had been films like it before, George Lucas was one of the first to showcase to moviegoers a fantastic array of non-human creatures. The cantina scene alone has enough species to supply a half-dozen movies but Lucas makes you feel like it's different worlds from harsh Tattoine to the cold Death Star and tranquil Yavin. With Chewbacca, we had a great sidekick whose monstrous appearance hid a gentle heart and really felt like this was another part of the universe, a legacy that so many try to reach and very few manage to.
When thinking of alien invasion movies, I could have done with a Top 20 to be honest. Here's a quick run through those unlucky to miss the cut
British media personality Joe Cornish's Attack The Block was an interesting spin on an alien invasion in a inner city London tower block community with local street youths taking on the menace. Mars Attacks was a terrific send up of the genre at the time but it hasn't aged well. If you're looking at it from a different angle, Wall-E is definitely an alien invasion movie since his world and life is being by invaders from space – the remaining members of the human race.
Men In Black and it's sequels are a sloping scale of quality of comedy sci-fi but the alien invasions are kept low key. The idea behind Disney's John Carter is almost a reverse of a human invading an alien world and taking over there. I was highly entertained by Pacific Rim but the focus is so much more on the giant robot vs. monster fights, it doesn't feel like they're alien invaders at times. John Carpenter's They Live was so close but I didn't want to put two Carpenter films (SPOILERS!) on my list, so unlucky.
5. District 9
Not an alien invasion in the sense of coming down and murdering/enslaving the human race, District 9 goes with the idea of unwelcome visitors invading our personal space and becoming a burden on us, using our resources, for little to no gain. Brilliantly different with it's documentary style of filming and the South African setting is a breath of fresh air compared to the traditional west. The politics of what to do when a broken down spaceship filled with refugees ends up on our doorstop is decent commentary reflecting current human rights events still. Also, has a damn filthy prawn being wasted by a laser rifle. A winner.
I know this will probably stir up a few of you and it's not my intention, but we have an alien force coming down to Earth, wrecking up our local and best warriors to prove themselves they're better than us – all delicious grounds for an invasion to me. One of Arnold's best outings, Predator is one of the 1980's action pinnacles. Tremendous one liners, ridiculously awesome action and blossoming bromances within an entertaining cast can't overshadow the titular alien though, creating it's own cult following and another four outings for the hunter race from beyond the stars.
3. Day Of The Triffids (1962)
One of my favourite films growing up and a highly influential adaptation of John Wyndham's novel, this Day Of The Triffids film is often derided but to be honest it has an amazing level of charm and is far more entertaining that some of the more serious modern versions (The last BBC adaptation is a lesson in boredom). Spores arrive to Earth during a wild meteor storm, blinding most of the Earth's population. The next day, mutated killer carnivorous plants called Triffids walk amongst us gobbling people and animals up. Hunting by sound, we follow multiple stories of unblinded survivors searching for ways to avoid the plant invasion. Perhaps more important as it influenced future horror properties like The Last Of Us amongst others, it deserves a place on any alien invasion list.
Oh if you're wondering why this is on here, this version says the spores come from outer space and suggest the Triffids are from beyond the stars. If that's isn't an alien invasion, I don't know what is!
2. John Carprenter's The Thing
That brooding soundtrack. The sense of paranoia. Some of the best goriest puppetry you'll ever see. John Carpenter's remake of The Thing From Another World is peerless in the sci-fi and horror genres, featuring the awakening of a imitating alien presence under the Antarctic ice with it's only purpose to assimilate the whole human race. Kurt Russell's MacReady and his fellow humans at a lonely outpost realise they are the line in the sand before this copycat alien menace gets to the mainland and put a stop to The Thing, despite the creature copying members of the facility staff. Brilliant, suspenseful, rewarding – a classic.
1. Independence Day
Sue me, I love this film. Being British, I have to admit this is American cinema at it's finest. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum teaming up to save the world? Bill Pullman as the President? Giant city wide spaceships? Marvellous. The aliens are quite basic in their intentions – "No peace" – and the worldwide destruction is a marvel still even after the numerous disaster flicks we've had since 1996. The all star cast chip in their own expertise to fight back in a close call in an absolutely badass two and a half hours. Independence Day is one of the most memorable summer blockbusters ever, and still holds up nearly 20 years later. "Welcome to Earth" indeed!
Shawn S. Lealos
5. The Avengers
Of course, the villains in this were an alien race. If a 12-year old comic book fan told you what he wanted to see in a comic book adaptation, what you might get is The Avengers. Yes, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy transcended comic book movies, but The Avengers is everything a comic book movie should strive to be. Joss Whedon, the king of the geeks, knows what fans want and he gave it to them. The action, the dramatic moments, the comedy, the geek-out moments and the characterization is all there. This is not a cinematic masterpiece, but might be the greatest comic book movie ever made.
4. They Live
At one time in my life, this movie would have been number one and nothing else could have touched it. I think I have quoted the "I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass" line more than I have almost any other movie line. This was a time when Rowdy Roddy Piper was cool and John Carpenter was the king. For the ones of you who have never seen it, They Live is about an alien invasion that happened under our noses. No one knows that the aliens have taken human forms and took over powerful roles in the world, both politically and corporate-wise. The only way to see the aliens is with special sunglasses, which Roddy Piper gets a hold of. The entire movie is nonsense, but it is the most entertaining nonsense you will probably ever see.
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was a classic horror film that fed off the hysteria of the red scare and the fear of communism during the McCarthy era. The remake also fed on the fears of communism right before the Reagan era began. The remake was superior to the original in every way, not the least of which because Donald Sutherland took on his role and carried it to the furthest extent. Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy were also great and Philip Kaufman succeeded in every way when it came to bringing this story to a new generation. The end with Sutherland screaming was a brilliant end to a brilliant movie.
2. The Host (2006)
Most people might think of Bong Joon-ho's first movie as a straight up monster movie, but at the beginning of the movie, there is one shot that was never really even noticed by most people and that is of something flying from the sky and into the water. I believe that was the alien that ended up coming out of the water to attack the people. Bong created a fantastic monster movie here with the focus being on the dysfunctional family trying to survive the monster attack, making it better than almost any other straight up monster movie of the last decade. Be careful when you try to find this one. There is a ridiculous movie by the author of Twilight with the same name. This one is a Korean monster movie and well worth your time.
1. John Carpenter's The Thing
John Carpenter's The Thing is not just the best alien invasion movie of all-time, but is also easily in the Top 10 horror movies of all-time. The original film took the alien and made him a humanoid that drifted around the arctic outpost, needing blood to survive. It was interesting but was in no way a great movie. However, John Carpenter took the idea and crafted it into a brilliant film, as the alien was a form able to take the form of anyone. It was a form of the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" movie, where anyone could be the bad guy and no one could be trusted. Released in the Reagan Cold War era, it fed on the fears that the enemy could be within. The great effects, the lonely isolated arctic station and Kurt Russell make this a true classic masterpiece.