8 Best Alien Movies of All Time

Alien movies have long captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide, earning their place as a beloved and enduring genre in cinema. Their popularity can be attributed to the inherent fascination and curiosity that surrounds the concept of extraterrestrial life. The idea of beings from other worlds visiting or interacting with Earth has sparked excitement, intrigue, and sometimes even fear in our collective psyche.

This article will explore alien movies, exploring a curated selection of classic and modern favourites. We’ll dissect iconic films like “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “District 9” while delving into alien horror and comedy subgenres. Additionally, we’ll spotlight two notable directors, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, who have significantly contributed to the genre. So, join us on this cinematic journey through the best alien movies ever, where imagination knows no bounds.

Classic Alien Movies

1. “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” released in 1982 and directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg, is a quintessential classic in alien movies. Its impact and cultural significance are nothing short of profound, leaving an indelible mark on cinematic history and popular culture.

This heartwarming tale of a young boy’s friendship with a stranded alien touched the hearts of millions. The film’s portrayal of friendship, acceptance, and the power of human connection resonated deeply with audiences, transcending age, language, and nationality.

Memorable scenes abound in “E.T.” The image of the young Elliott and E.T. riding a bicycle across the moonlit sky became an iconic moment in cinema, symbolizing the magic of childhood and the boundless possibilities of friendship. E.T.’s glowing finger and the heart-wrenching farewell scene evoke powerful emotions.

The enduring love for “E.T.” can be attributed to its ability to tap into universal themes of empathy and belonging. Spielberg masterfully crafted a story that appeals to the child in all of us, reminding us of the wonder and innocence of youth. Decades later, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” remains an endearing and beloved film cherished for its timeless message and unforgettable characters.

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial 1982
Henry Thomas on the set of “E.T.”. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

2. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” directed by Steven Spielberg in 1977, represents a monumental contribution to the alien genre, showcasing Spielberg’s unparalleled storytelling prowess and innovative cinematic techniques.

Spielberg’s approach to the alien genre was groundbreaking. He eschewed the typical alien invasion trope in favour of a narrative centred on communication and curiosity. The film explores that encounters with extraterrestrial beings can be transformative and not necessarily hostile. This unique perspective departed from the fear-driven narratives prevalent in the genre at the time.

At its core, the film delves into themes of communication, both between humans and aliens and within the human community itself. The use of music as a universal language and the iconic five-note musical motif have become emblematic symbols of the film’s focus on bridging the gap between species.

“Close Encounters” also left an indelible mark on subsequent alien films, inspiring filmmakers to explore alien encounters’ more intellectual and emotionally resonant aspects. Its influence can be seen in movies like “Contact” and “Arrival,” which similarly prioritize communication and understanding over conflict. Spielberg’s vision in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” thus continues to shape the alien genre.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977

3. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951)

“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” released in 1951, is a classic that can be understood within the context of the Cold War era. The film’s narrative serves as a powerful political allegory, mirroring the anxieties and tensions of the time. It warns against the destructive path of nuclear conflict and conveys a plea for global cooperation and peace.

At the film’s heart is the iconic character Klaatu, an extraterrestrial envoy who arrives on Earth with a message for humanity. Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, symbolises reason and diplomacy. His dignified portrayal highlights the potential for peaceful coexistence between humans and beings from other worlds. His message underscores the urgent need for humans to overcome their differences and unite for the common good.

Despite being released over seven decades ago, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” remains relevant in contemporary society. Its message about the importance of international cooperation and the dire consequences of conflict remains poignant and applicable to the challenges of our time, such as environmental crises and global conflicts. The film’s enduring relevance is a testament to its enduring impact and timeless themes.

The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951

Modern Alien Favorites

4. “District 9” (2009)

“District 9,” directed by Neill Blomkamp in 2009, is a groundbreaking film that deftly blends science fiction with thought-provoking social commentary. One of its most distinctive aspects is its seamless integration of these two elements, creating a narrative that entertains and challenges its audience.

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The character development in “District 9” is striking. The protagonist, Wikus van de Merwe, transforms from a somewhat unsympathetic bureaucrat to a figure of empathy and redemption. This evolution allows viewers to connect with his journey on a personal level. Moreover, the visual effects are stunning, especially considering the film’s modest budget. The realistic and gritty portrayal of the extraterrestrial “Prawns” and their technology adds a layer of authenticity to the narrative.

At its core, “District 9” delves into complex issues of xenophobia and discrimination. The film starkly reflects real-world problems, drawing parallels to apartheid-era South Africa. It serves as a commentary on how societies treat those perceived as different, exploring themes of prejudice, segregation, and the consequences of fear-driven policies. “District 9” challenges viewers to confront these uncomfortable truths and sparks critical conversations about humanity’s treatment of “the other” in society.

District 9 2009 scaled

5. “Arrival” (2016)

“Arrival,” released in 2016 and directed by Denis Villeneuve, is a thought-provoking film that explores both linguistic and philosophical dimensions of human-alien communication. The film delves deep into the complexities of language, illustrating how it shapes our perception of reality. Through the character of Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, viewers are immersed in the intellectual journey of deciphering an alien language and its profound implications for humanity.

Amy Adams delivers a remarkable performance in “Arrival,” infusing her character with a sense of vulnerability, intelligence, and emotional depth. Her portrayal anchors the film’s emotional impact, connecting viewers with the character’s sense of wonder, confusion, and determination. Her performance is integral to the film’s success in conveying the emotional weight of its themes.

One of the standout features of “Arrival” is its non-linear narrative structure, which mirrors the film’s exploration of time perception. This narrative innovation challenges conventional storytelling in the science fiction genre and contributes to the film’s uniqueness. It encourages viewers to question their understanding of time and reality, making “Arrival” a profound and intellectually stimulating addition to the genre.

Arrival 2016

6. “Independence Day” (1996)

Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day,” released in 1996, made a colossal impact in alien invasion blockbusters. It redefined the scale and spectacle of such films, setting a new standard for visual effects and epic storytelling. The movie’s portrayal of an all-out alien assault on Earth and humanity’s fight for survival captivated audiences around the globe.

A significant part of the film’s success can be attributed to the charismatic performances of Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. As Captain Steven Hiller, Smith brought humour, heroism, and swagger to the film, endearing himself to viewers. Goldblum’s portrayal of the brilliant but neurotic David Levinson added depth and relatability to the character dynamics, making their partnership a central highlight of the movie.

“Independence Day” holds immense cultural significance as it was released on July 2, just before the Fourth of July holiday in the United States. Its release date became a part of the film’s marketing strategy, making it a patriotic blockbuster that celebrated American resilience and unity in the face of an otherworldly threat. The film’s release remains tied to the collective memory of the holiday and its impact on American cinema and pop culture.

Independence Day 1996

Subgenres of Alien Movies

7. Alien Horror: “Alien” (1979)

Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” released in 1979, is a masterpiece that brilliantly fuses the genres of science fiction and horror. It is a landmark achievement in cinematic storytelling, creating a haunting and visceral experience for audiences. The film’s ability to blend these two genres set a new standard for what was possible in space-based horror.

One of the most iconic elements of “Alien” is the design of the Xenomorph, the extraterrestrial creature terrorizing the crew of the Nostromo. With its sleek, biomechanical aesthetic, H.R. Giger’s nightmarish creation redefined the possibilities of creature design in the horror genre. Its grotesque and unsettling appearance left an indelible mark on the genre, inspiring countless imitations and sequels.

Ellen Ripley, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, is a standout in the film. Ripley is a strong, resourceful, and resilient female protagonist who defied traditional gender roles in cinema. Her character’s influence on subsequent films cannot be overstated, as she paved the way for a new era of strong and capable women in the science fiction and horror genres. Ripley’s legacy continues to resonate with audiences as a symbol of female empowerment in film.

Alien Horror Alien 1979

8. Alien Comedy: “Men in Black” (1997)

“Men in Black” (1997), a science fiction comedy franchise, is celebrated for its humour and undeniable charm. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, the film strikes a unique balance between the fantastical and the comedic, inviting audiences into a world where government agents secretly manage extraterrestrial affairs. The franchise’s humour arises from the absurdity of everyday life coexisting with hidden alien civilizations.

The dynamic chemistry between Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K is a cornerstone of the film’s success. Smith’s quick-witted humour and Jones’ stoic demeanour create a perfect comedic duo. Their banter and contrasting personalities make countless memorable and funny moments throughout the series.

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“Men in Black” also offers a satirical take on government secrecy and alien integration. It cleverly explores themes of bureaucracy and the way powerful institutions manage the unknown. The film’s portrayal of government agents as everyday civil servants dealing with the extraordinary showcases the absurdity of secrecy in a lighthearted manner. This satirical approach adds depth to the film’s humour and resonates with viewers by addressing real-world concerns with a comedic twist.

Alien Comedy Men in Black 1997

Notable Directors in the Alien Genre

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg, one of the most influential directors in cinema history, has left an indelible mark on the portrayal of aliens in the film industry. His unique ability to blend storytelling with visual effects and emotional depth has reshaped how aliens are depicted on the big screen.

Spielberg’s contributions to both classic and modern alien films are remarkable. Classics like “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” showcased his ability to humanize extraterrestrial beings, making them relatable and endearing. These films set the standard for depicting aliens not merely as threats but as beings with their own emotions and motives.

Beyond individual movies, Spielberg’s impact on the science fiction genre as a whole is immense. His work has helped elevate science fiction from a niche genre to a mainstream powerhouse. His storytelling techniques, innovative use of visual effects, and exploration of human nature in the face of the unknown have influenced generations of filmmakers and continue to shape the way science fiction is approached in cinema. Spielberg’s influence on the portrayal of aliens and the science fiction genre is a testament to his enduring legacy in the film industry.

Steven Spielberg

Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott is a visionary filmmaker with a unique approach to visual storytelling in alien movies, earning him a revered place in the genre. His distinctive style combines meticulous attention to detail, atmospheric cinematography, and a talent for creating a sense of dread and wonder. Scott’s ability to build tension through visuals is especially evident in his alien-themed works.

Scott’s work on the “Alien” franchise is particularly notable. With the original “Alien” (1979), he redefined the horror and sci-fi genres, introducing audiences to the iconic Xenomorph and a relentless sense of terror. He returned to the franchise with “Prometheus” (2012), which explored the origins of the Xenomorph and delved into existential and philosophical themes. Scott’s contributions expanded the narrative depth and complexity of the “Alien” universe.

The lasting legacy of Ridley Scott’s contributions to alien movies and the science fiction genre is undeniable. His films continue to influence filmmakers and captivate audiences. Scott’s visual storytelling and his ability to merge philosophical themes with thrilling narratives have set a high bar for cinematic excellence. His enduring impact ensures that his work will be celebrated and studied for generations.

Ridley Scott

Conclusion

In conclusion, alien movies have played a significant role in the history of cinema. They have fascinated audiences with the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, sparking our imagination and prompting deeper questions about our place in the universe. Both classic and modern alien films have left an enduring impact, offering unique perspectives on communication, empathy, and the human condition.

Celebrating these cinematic achievements, we must encourage viewers to explore these films further. Each movie offers a distinct lens through which to examine the concept of extraterrestrial life and its impact on humanity. Watching and discussing these films can lead to meaningful conversations about science, philosophy, and our collective fascination with the unknown. So, embrace the wonder of alien movies, and let them inspire your curiosity and imagination.

Last Updated : 14 October, 2023

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