Rahul is a movie addict who can never get enough of good films. His all time favorites are Inception, 12 Angry Men, and Scarface.
Humanity’s fascination with space has always extended past just mere exploration.
The age-old question of whether or not we are alone in the universe has plagued mankind for centuries with theories extending from before the pyramids to the reason for the extinction of dinosaurs.
In recent years, however, alien abductions and stories of flying saucers have been laughed off by many as the ramblings of crazy conspiracy theorists or newspapers looking to sell more issues. The question, however, has never been definitively answered. In the midst of all the uncertainty, cinema has been a prominent medium to keep the flames of this gnawing question alive.
Throughout the years, several iterations and theories of life outside planet Earth have been postulated through films with no end in sight. If anything, with Elon Musk’s first attempt to draw hippy aliens out of hiding with his car in space and the discovery of an actual black hole, the conversations are about to get a lot more pronounced.
Here’s a quick recap of some of the cinema's more iconic offerings of human and alien interactions to give you something to think about before readily embracing our alien overlords. Without any further ado, let's take a look at some of the best alien movies you should watch.
Best Alien Films
- Transformers (Franchise)
- District 9
- Cloverfield (Franchise)
- Edge of Tomorrow
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
- Men in Black
- Star Wars (Franchise)
- Alien (Franchise)
- Predator (Franchise)
1. Transformers (Franchise)
The Transformers franchise tells the story of the Autobots, an alien race of robot-like beings, who after a civil war with their mortal enemies called the Decepticons, saw the destruction of their home planet of Cybertron. Seeking refuge on Earth with nothing more than plans of living in peace and solitude, their old battles are rekindled when their enemies decide to bring their age-long battle to Earth.
Directed by Michael Bay, the franchise stars many recognizable faces such as Mark Wahlberg, Shia LaBeouf, and Megan Fox. It tells the story of this alien race and how their past, present, and future affect the planet they now call home.
The film series has spanned over 12 years with each installment running the gauntlet for most negative reviews. For all its negative reviews and criticisms, the Transformers franchise remains one of the highest ever grossing film series, clocking in at number 13 on that list. Whatever it may sound like, it seems Michael Bay is doing something right.
2. District 9
Not all movies about aliens incorporate otherworldly elements intended to scare. Sometimes, the scariest element is humanity itself.
A perfect example of this is this 2009 sci-fi film by Neil Blomkamp. The movie tells the story of an alien species who are forced to find refuge on our planet—specifically South Africa, as their homeworld begins to die. Unlike most films where fear is normally attached with reverence for the men from space, fear is attached with disdain for the extraterrestrials who are forced to live in abject conditions in a slum called District 9.
The film follows the mockumentary format with parts of it displayed as found footage. District 9 is a very different and refreshing take on the sci-fi alien genre, not only in its location and setting (why aliens seem to have a penchant for finding American soil, we’ll never know), but in how it deals with human and alien interactions.
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The movie was also touted as a creative bit of social commentary about apartheid South Africa. With all the originality oozing from District 9, it was no wonder that it received critical acclaim on its release and went on to cement its place as one of the best alien movies of its time.
When it comes to aliens, they don’t get any bigger than the highest grossing movie ever made in James Cameron’s 2009 epic, Avatar.
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, Avatar tells the story of a future Earth that looks to colonize an alien planet called Pandora. The movie follows Jake Sully, a disabled Marine who decides to take his brother’s place on a mission after he is killed.
The mission, he finds, involves the mining of a special mineral found on the alien planet, which also happens to be inhabited by a race called the Na’vi. Due to the poisonous atmosphere, however, body substitutes known as “avatars” are used to explore the land.
Jake, who is unable to walk, jumps at the chance at being able to use his feet, albeit through a proxy, and is tasked to infiltrate the Na’vi in an attempt to overpower them in a military confrontation. What he does not expect is to fall in love with one of the natives. The film beat out Titanic, a milestone set by Cameron himself, to become the highest grossing film of all time.
4. Cloverfield 9 Franchise)
When Cloverfield was released on screens worldwide, audiences were not certain what to expect and yet, at the end of the movie, were left pleasantly surprised and asking for more.
Adopting the found footage style of cinematography, the first installment of the subsequent franchise told the story of six friends, who have their night of partying and celebration interrupted when a giant creature appears in New York City and begins to leave a trail of destruction in its wake. The subsequent films in the franchise do away with the found footage format, but continue to stay true to the central idea of alien races attacking the Earth as a repercussion for mistakes made by a human space team aboard a space station called the Cloverfield Station.
Starring well recognizable stars such as Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller along with John Goodman, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the franchise has gone on to become a staple in the alien psychological thriller genre, even with the less than stellar reviews for its third installment.
5. Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow is one of those films where the story crosses several genres and delivers a bit of cinematic brilliance for everyone. Directed by Doug Liman, famous for movies such as The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow tells the story of humans, or what's left of them, fighting to survive against an invading alien race in what is essentially a losing battle.
When a neophyte officer named William Cage (played by Tom Cruise) is given his first on-field mission, things go as expected and he is killed almost instantly. What happens afterward, however, is the premise upon which the entire movie hinges. Cage finds himself alive yet again, reliving the day before his death, which happens several times after.
With each death, Cage gains added clarity on how to neutralize the alien threat. He must fight alongside a dwindling group of Special Forces soldiers, one of which is played by Emily Blunt, to end the war before humanity is completely obliterated.
Edge of Tomorrow has been widely praised, especially for Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt’s performances. The film is equal parts funny, dramatic, and pulsating in its action sequence, all driven by a script that does not ever leave you bored.
Edge of Tomorrow is truly one of the better movies on this list. Even if you are not a fan of the alien genre, it's definitely worth your time.
6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
When we normally think of aliens, the words cute, cuddly, or friendly are not what readily come to mind. We think of aliens as someone who's out to capture our brains, not our hearts.
However, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial proved to the world for the first time that all aliens needn't be scary and scornful. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (more commonly and affectionately referred to as E.T.) is the story of a young boy who despite his own problems finds and befriends a gentle alien who has become stranded on our planet.
Starring Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, and Drew Barrymore, E.T. takes us on an emotional journey as we find ourselves rooting not only for the genteel alien, but the young boy who finds the courage within himself to help this stranger escape.
The film received rave reviews on its release and has stood the test of time, earning it a 7.9/10 rating on IMDB and an almost perfect 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, in addition to being called one of the greatest alien films ever made.
7. Men in Black
Before the debacle that was DC’s Suicide Squad and the negative backlash to his portrayal of the genie in the yet to be released Disney’s Aladdin, there was a much simpler time where Will Smith could do no wrong.
One of the movies he served up in those times is the now iconic, Men in Black. The 1997 film tells the story of a secret intergalactic government agency tasked with the regulation and enforcement of alien activity on planet Earth. In the movie, Will Smith plays the role of a new recruit named Jay who partnering with Kay, the organization’s veteran officer (played by Tommy Lee Jones).
They must track down a rogue alien who is looking to escape the planet with a power source that could ultimately destroy our Earth. The novelty (at that time) of the concept along with the amazing alien makeup and special effects made it a near instant hit with audiences, leading to two subsequent sequels of the movie and a spin-off slated for 2019.
8. Star Wars (Franchise)
Star Wars is without a doubt one of the largest franchises ever known to modern cinema. With over eleven titles spanning over forty-two years and apparently one more on the way in the form of The Rise of Skywalker, the space fantasy adventure franchise created by George Lucas has so deeply permeated worldwide pop culture that its fanbase is known to be one of the most devout ever.
In the unlikely event that this franchise has missed you completely, the story is ultimately a battle of good and evil with political and religious undertones. The franchise chronicles the power struggles between several warring factions and how particular individuals on each side (in particular, the Skywalker family) swing the balance of power between them.
With all the action and fantastical landscapes becoming commonplace in each installment of the franchise, it is easy to forget that the characters being represented are only humanoid in form. They are not actual humans, which essentially means that we're taking a look into the lives of an alien race.
The franchise is listed as the fifth highest grossing franchise of all time and has been hailed as one of the most culturally influential pieces of art ever created in our era.
9. Alien (Franchise)
Of all the movies made about aliens, none have been more iconic than the Alien franchise. It's set in the future where humanity traverses space with ease. The story begins with a space crew responding to a distress signal sent by an alien aircraft. What they don't know, however, is that untold horrors are waiting for them.
The first three installments of the franchise were predominantly centered around Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, with subsequent prequels such as Alien: Covenant and Prometheus expanding on the lore. Alien is considered one of the best film franchises of all time and has won several awards and nominations for its plot, effects, and acting.
The film has also permeated pop culture to the point where a special day was set aside to celebrate the film’s impact. The day - marked as “Alien Day” is observed on the 26th of April every year with fans coming out in throngs. It's interesting, considering that the celebrated Alien is always more than ready to rip humans apart from the inside out.
10. Predator (Franchise)
The primary motivation of the aliens has always been to wipe out humanity, but it's even worse here. The motivations of the aliens in Predator are to hunt humans entirely for sport.
The story begins with a soldier for hire (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is tasked along with a band of specialists to rescue a trapped delegation of politicians. Upon arrival, however, he finds a slew of corpses and quickly discovers they are being hunted by the same creature responsible for all the death.
The film did well with the critiques as well as in box office, spawning three other sequels, all following the same format of a bloodthirsty alien secretly and savagely hunting down humans. The franchise got a welcome upgrade when it partnered with fellow franchise behemoth, Alien. In 2004, a super franchise called Alien vs. Predator was created where the two otherworldly races battled amongst themselves for dibs on who would get to kill humanity.
Just as its predecessors, the new franchise dominated not only the box office but pop culture as well, making it a household name for the alien sci-fi genre.
Though small screen is teeming with shows about aliens and space, movies haven't been up to the mark, especially when it comes to portraying aliens. Thankfully, things have changed in recent years for the better in the last couple of years.
If I missed out on any essential movies, let me know in the comments section.
BEWARE DANGER on October 16, 2019:
It may not be the best list for alien movies, but it's definitely a good list. And yes I would with you there Matt, Predator should most certainly be much higher up on the list and well as Alien too.
Matt on August 05, 2019:
What a horrible list. Transformers shouldnt even be up there let alone at number 1, i scoff at the one 100 times over. And Alien and Predator should most definitley be closer to the top.