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Top Ten Alien Movies of All Time

Updated on June 18, 2013
Top Ten Alien Films of all Time
Top Ten Alien Films of all Time | Source

Could we be so pompous as to believe that we are all alone in this universe? Do you not see the signs? Come on, you have to know that the truth is out there.

We don’t know what they look like but the media has painted the image and etched them well into our collective consciousness. Be it green Martians, or grey egg-shaped heads with big doughy eyes, or a crazy big black monster with jagged teeth: “the aliens” as we know them have captivated our imagination and come to stand for many things in our movies. “The alien” film is now a genre that has mutated into many sub species.

Metaphorically speaking, the alien film resonates with use because they signify “the other” amongst us. The ones we look at with a skeptical eye; ones who are different and therefore possess a threat. It is no coincidence that immigrants and foreigners in many a country are still referred to by that term. The alien horror is a sub-genre of alien films that takes this fear and exploits it to the max.

But who’s to tell if all aliens are bad? If only we allow ourselves to know them better, we might find similarities that might blow our minds away. This is an underlining theme found in many of the best alien films, apart from the hardcore alien horror films.

The other major sub-genre is the alien comedy. While the alien horror most obviously blows up our fear of the “other,” the comedy, a fairly recent hybrid, takes an interesting look at the “other” as the finer specimens that help us open up a bit. Interestingly, in many an alien comedy, the alien “other” is often more human than human. We could learn a hell lot from them, if they are the intelligent life forms they are made out to be.

Here is my list of the top ten alien flicks and what makes them so entertaining.

10) A Trip to the Moon

Courtesy the magician (no really, he was a magician before he began making films) and grand daddy of visual effects: Georges Méliès, this silent era gem is a classic and a personal favorite. Before stylish editing became popular (in fact before editing as we know it even existed) this film pans out much like a stage play. Comical elements abound, such as the astronomers who, to some, may look like modern day wizards from a Harry porter movie, a capsule being shot out of a cannon, and a moon shaped like a cookie; this movie is a comical commentary and is way ahead of it’s time. It successfully pokes fun at man’s boastfulness about what science can achieve. Yet when achieved, in this case a trip to the moon, they get their butts kicked and have to return back home. The kind of imagery used reminds one of Alice in wonderland set on the moon.

9) Avatar

Welcome to the future says Mr. Cameron. A sci-fi futuristic alien fantasy where the little green people are replaced by giant blue nature loving Pandorians. And man is, well, looking to exploit the beautiful Pandora. Here Pandora stands for the “other” place that we are looking to exploit and man as a brutal, colonial opportunist. Avatar is a technical marvel, shot beautifully in 3D. It promised to change the audience’s viewing expectation forever. A promise it certainly kept. However, the same can’t be said for the story, which gets a little predictable in the second half.

8) Mars Attacks

This one’s a hoot bordering on disturbing as the two decapitated heads of Pierce Brosnan and Sarah Jessica Parker roll in to kiss. Here the little blue guys don’t come in peace and what again comes into play is our foolishness to fail to understand their intentions. The scene where the alien ships are surrounded by a human circus of OB vans and crazed politicians is reminiscent of today’s media crazy world. Probably makes one feel, boy do we deserve to be zapped by their laser beams. When mayhem is unleashed, you get a taste of the Martians’ cruel sense of humor. But what takes the cake in this movie is the solution to this all: the boombox, music that’ll make their head explode!

7) Independence Day

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day! One could argue and criticize this as one of cheesiest yet most memorable lines delivered in alien invasion movie history by then President Bill Pullman. But criticism aside, the emotion was well conveyed. Let’s not take anything for granted, especially something like one’s freedom. God forbid you might find a mother ship hover into your atmosphere someday. What this movie did excellently is make the audience feel the impact of its crazy visual effects and lead them to a nail biting finish like no other. Here the aliens came to take us out in one clean sweep, wanting to usurp our resources. A clear message in there…guess the tables have been turned on mankind. It’s time to rise up!

6) Cocoon

If death had a tale to tale it would be the movie Cocoon. Old grand pops and mums waiting for their day to be done, find the fountain of youth in the form of an alien Cocoon in a pool. With this new burst of energy, they decide life is meant to be lived till the very end. But this too comes at a price. Could this represent the one last rejuvenation people experience before they must pass on? Or is this movie about the graceful acceptance of the next stage of your life? Who can forget the scene where the beautiful actress tears off her human suit to reveal her true, luminescent alien form. Or the scene where we learn of love making on the alien planet.

5) Men in Black

Hilarity at it’s best. There’s no other movie that highlights the “other” more than MIB and what better way to do it than cast Will Smith and Tomy Lee Jones as “alien busting agents”. These aliens are amongst us, many as our allies and there are only a privileged few who know of them. The aliens here are a metaphor for immigrants. All through the movie “aliens” are know to be driving cabs in NYC amongst other such examples. This drives the theme of the movie forward. What one could take away from this rollercoaster of a movie is that we need to learn to live with others. And that diversity is basically awesome.

4) District 9

The prawns are only looking to go back home! This switch-point-of-view narrative makes for a gripping and heartfelt story. Here there’s only one monster: the human. And as our unassuming and innocent hero steps into the ghetto, we slowly but steadily begin to see what the real picture is. The hero is a man chosen to do the Government’s dirty work and in their scheme of things he is totally dispensable. In fact, his true heroism shines when he wants to help the marginalized and take on the Man. The story unravels with pace and is packed with emotion. And as the film closes on the final image of our hero as a prawn himself, pining for his love, we can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of the fence.

3) Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Mr. Speilberg stand up and take a bow. This movie makes you believe that “they” are out there like no other. It looks at mankind in a very positive light, and the aliens are almost elevated to the status of God. What is it to pursue the truth while everyone around you thinks you are going insane? We’ve all been there. And the everyman in this film feels exactly that. He has a partial sunburn to show for his encounter and slowly his obsession with the aliens costs him his family and his normal life. But it all looks worth it in the end as our everyman Richard Dreyfuss docks the mothership in one of the most sublime scenes in the film history.

2) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

You’ve got a friend in him. We’ve all felt alienated and lonely at some point or the other and wished we hand a friend to reach out to. Well here’s E.T. for you: an extraterrestrial so adorable he’ll wash your woes away. It’s one of the best kids films for people across every age. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has created the most magical and unforgettable moments in cinematic history. There’s the scene when Eliot’s at school and ET raids the refrigerator and gets drunk while poor Eliot can feel the effects. Then there’s the time when Elliot soars over the moon with E.T. bundled up in the front basket, it’s nothing short of brilliant. This alien film about friendship, about a boy’s connection with an extra terrestrial, makes us all wish for a special connection in our own lives.

1) Alien

“In space no one can hear you scream” What better place for the horror to unfold than the confines of a spaceship. In this futuristic tale, man is at the receiving end because of his own doing. But there’s a hero that must grow and rise to the challenge. A hero that must take on a beast that knows not to quit. Ridley Scot’s eerie masterpiece is number one. As Nostromo answers that SOS call we know that the characters we’ve come to know are soon to be alien food. The movie is filled with shocks and turns, from the alien bursting out of the character John’s chest, to the discovery that Ian is a robot and finally the best of all: the acid spewing beast itself. This is what makes Alien one of the best films of all time.

No matter what the aliens in each of these movies stand for, or whether you believe in alien life or not, you don’t need to be a believer to understand the universal themes each of these movies resonant. These movies have made the genre what is it today and now we wait and watch to what new dimensions the genre is driven in the future by newer filmmakers.


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    • Hideki-ryuga profile image

      Hideki-ryuga 5 years ago

      Although it's not really about an alien encounter, but rather about a human pretending to be an alien, K-PAX could have been, with a stretch of imagination, included in this list, too. What do you think?

    • sweetzara profile image

      Zara Rasul 5 years ago from Mumbai, India

      hi dailytop10! I haven't seen Prometheus yet! that's why it dint make it to the list... Looking forward to seeing it and then updating the list ;) thanks for reading!

    • sweetzara profile image

      Zara Rasul 5 years ago from Mumbai, India

      I Georgie Lowery! thanks for reading! District 9 and Independence Day are definitely the most entertaining alien films in recent times! (along with MIB) :)

    • sweetzara profile image

      Zara Rasul 5 years ago from Mumbai, India

      HI Steve Lensman! thanks for reading. The Thing is one of my favs too and should have made it to the list!!! One can easily do a top 50 alien films!

    • dailytop10 profile image

      dailytop10 5 years ago from Davao City

      I somehow hoped Prometheus could make it to this list. Oh well..I love the classics..Thank you for sharing this awesome list!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      GH Price 5 years ago from Texas

      I love this list, especially District 9 and Independence Day.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      An excellent list of alien movies, sweetzara. Most of my favourites are on there. Close Encounters and Alien are probably my most watched films from your list.

      I would have added War of the Worlds, the 1953 George Pal classic and The Thing, both 1951 and 1982 versions, maybe Predator too. oh yeah The Day the Earth Stood Still, hmm my list would have to be a top 20. :)

      Voted Up and Interesting.