Perhaps another term for this category would be “alien invasion movies.” You know, movies where a mysterious alien lifeform comes to Earth with nefarious intentions, is discovered by a rag tag group of heroes, who then take it upon themselves to save mankind from certain destruction. Hollywood has churned out a lot of these movies over the years, some better than others. In fact, aliens threatening Earth has been a constant theme in Tinseltown since the early days of film. Today, we still get our share of these types of movies, as evidenced by 2016’s box office hit and Oscar nominated movie Arrival. Here are 10 of the best movies that feature alien lifeforms coming to Earth to doom mankind, with varying degrees of success.
10. The X-Files (1998)
The first X-Files movie, released in 1998 at the height of the television show’s popularity, is a very good movie – namely because it answers a lot of the questions raised by the show and advances the central storyline around the presence of aliens threatening Earth and the government conspiracy to cover up their existence. The movie has the same paranoid energy and Agent Mulder’s drive to find the truth as the long running series, but it also has a number of thrilling action sequences, great special effects, and reveals much about the alien conspiracy that Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) relentlessly pursue. The movie also deftly handles the relationship between the two FBI agents
9. Species (1995)
Species is a movie that adds some serious sex appeal to the alien invasion genre, simply because the invader in this 1995 sci-fi film is model-turned-actress Natasha Henstridge, and she makes for one sexy alien. This movie sees a team of human scientists and government agents race against the clock to stop the evil but seductive alien known as “Sil” from mating with human men en route to a much more sinister plot that threatens all of humanity. While not the greatest sci-fi movie ever made, Species is never less than intriguing, and it has an impressive cast of top flight actors that includes Sir Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, and Forest Whitaker. Plus, the alien as a femme fatale angle is somewhat unique.
8. They Live (1988)
Professional wrestler turned actor Rowdy Roddy Piper knocked it out of the park in this late 1980s sci-fi movie that is both cheesy and pretty awesome at the same time. About a drifter (Piper) who discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the fact that aliens have taken over Earth, They Live is a no-holds-barred action movie full of flying suplexes, shot gun blasts, and car chases. While some critics viewed They Live as a low rent sci-fi film, we appreciate its eccentric charms – right down to the bad alien special effects. And it’s hard not to love seeing Piper lay waste to alien hordes. There’s something comforting in knowing that mankind’s survival rests with the Hot Rod. Somehow it just feels right. In all seriousness, They Live is one of the better movies to have starred a former pro wrestler.
7. Signs (2002)
One of the first three big budget movies M. Night Shyamalan made, and one of his best to date, Signs captures people’s imagination by delving into the question of what creates those mysterious crop circles seen on farms around the world. Starring Mel Gibson as a reverend and a father who has lost his faith and Joaquin Phoenix as his paranoid brother, Signs jumps right into alien invasion territory. Suspenseful, creepy, and full of atmosphere, the movie works great for the first two-thirds. While it falls apart a bit towards the end, and the miracle that is supposed to be its climax is not very awe inspiring, Signs mostly holds up to scrutiny. It is still one of the better movies Shyamalan has made and it proved to be a critical and financial success for the director, earning more than $400 million at the global box office.
6. The Blob (1958)
The original The Blob, released in 1958, is notable for being the first film to star actor and legend Steve McQueen. The film has a pretty simple premise – an alien lifeform consumes everything in its path and grows bigger and bigger as it does – eventually threatening humanity along the way. Of course, it is up to a rag tag group of high school kids led by McQueen to save the day. While the special effects are pretty rudimentary (the blob is basically a Jell-O mould), this is a fun sci-fi/horror flick that is never too scary and succeeds in creating a memorable alien character. McQueen launched his career with this movie, which is now regarded as a classic of the 1950s. Sadly, a 1988 remake starring Kevin Dillon in McQueen’s role wasn’t very successful. Interestingly enough, the blob character did not seem to change much from the original, despite the advances in special effects by 1988.
5. The Arrival (1996)
If you only see one Charlie Sheen movie ever, make sure it’s Platoon. If, for some reason, you need to see every movie Charlie Sheen has ever made, then you’ll eventually get to 1996’s The Arrival. And trust us when we say that this is not the worst thing Charlie Sheen has ever done. But for an alien taking over the world film, The Arrival isn’t half bad. In the movie, Sheen plays an astronomer who discovers intelligent alien life already living on Earth. But, of course, the aliens are hiding a deadly secret and will do anything to stop humans from discovering it. Spoiler alert: The aliens are behind global warming and are heating up the Earth so that they can colonize it. The warmer climate will suit their biological needs. Fortunately, Sheen is just the type of brilliant astronomer who’s needed in this situation and can successfully fend off the impending arrival of more aliens to Earth. Thanks, Charlie.
4. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1989)
Probably the greatest cult movie involving killer clowns is 1989’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space. You gotta admit, it’s pretty hard to ignore a title like that. And while it might sound a little weird and cheesy, this movie currently actually has a 71% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s about a group of aliens that look like circus clowns, who arrive on Earth and then set about capturing, killing, and eating humans. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is actually billed as a “horror comedy” movie. Leaving a trail of cotton candy behind them wherever they go, the killer clowns are eventually hunted down by a — you guessed it! — rag tag group of teenagers from a small town. Strange, silly, and scary, this movie has garnered a sizable cult following. So much so, that a line of Killer Klowns from Outer Space toys have been produced, and there are plans for a 3D sequel to this movie called — what else? — Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
3. The Watch (2012)
You can see a lot of things as a member of a neighborhood watch group: neighbors behaving badly, teens stealing from cars, and aliens taking over the world. This is the premise of the 2012 movie The Watch, about four men who form a neighborhood watch group as a way to get out of their day-to-day family routines but find themselves defending the neighbourhood (and the rest of Earth) from a full-blown alien invasion. A comedy starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, The Watch is silly fun. It takes what appears to be a simple plot point and stretches it to maximum comedic effect. While the aliens in the movie are not that impressive, the humor and situations work great and the comedy timing and banter among the cast is first rate. One of the best alien invasion comedies you’ll see.
2. Mars Attacks! (1996)
Speaking of alien invasion comedies, there’s also 1996’s Mars Attacks! For pure goofy fun, you can’t do much better. Directed by Tim Burton and starring an A-list cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, and Annette Bening, Mars Attacks! is a spoof on the invasion movies of the 1950s, and it is played for campy laughs from start-to-finish. Featuring retro hairdos and ridiculous looking Martians, this movie has Burton’s trademarks all over it. The movie is one of Burton’s bests and it is fun to see the cast having as much fun as they do in this genre send-up. People who like other signature Burton movies like Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands will love Mars Attacks! It’s one of the only good comedies that Jack Nicholson has ever appeared in.
1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney has been made into a movie multiple times in Hollywood, most recently with the awful 2007 movie The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. But it is the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Philip Kaufman, that is the best of the lot. And the 1978 version is a remake of the 1956 film of the same name directed by Don Siegel. The sci-fi thriller tells the story of an alien invasion in which humans are replaced by perfect duplicates that are devoid of any and all emotion. Frequently ranked among the best movie remakes of all-time, the San Francisco-based 1978 remake adds a gritty layer of realism that the original film lacks, while also benefitting from strong performances by Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, and a young Jeff Goldblum. Although the 1956 film remains a staple of the genre, it has not aged well and now seems dated, while the 1978 remake is just as scary as it was at the time of its original release in theatres