After 20 years “Independence Day” is finally getting a sequel titled “Independence Day: Resurgence”. With it set to premier this month, it got me thinking about the concept of alien invasion movies, and how they’ve changed and grown over the years. It was the 1950’s when Science fiction cinema reached new heights, and movies revolving around alien invasions became a staple in Hollywood. At the dawn of the 2000’s, the concept began to feel old and “been done”. Regardless, there have still been some outstanding alien invasion movies over the ages, and for today I’ll be counting down my personal 10 favorites. Now in order to make my list, the entire move has to revolve around invading aliens, which means that movies like “Aliens”, “Titan A.E.” and “Star Trek” can’t count. After all, those are outer space adventures that just happen to feature brief scenes of aliens attacking earth.
#10 The Blob (1958)
Most of the movies on my countdown will be from the 1950’s, and of all them, I think “The Blob” is as 50’s as they get. This is a unique alien invasion film, revolving around a mass of space slime that grows and grows with the more victims it claims. This is definitely a product of its time, but it’s so classy, fun and was the film debut for actor Steve McQueen, that alone makes it worthwhile. The special effects and miniatures are also very charming in their own unique way. In the end, The Blob is no masterpiece of cinema, but it’s a prime example of how satisfying cheesy B-Monster thrills can be.
#9 Invaders from Mars (1953)
With its super cliché genera title, cheap look and silly alien designs, this film can easily be regarded as a pore mans “War of the Worlds” and be largely dismissed. However, this film has its own strengths and appeals. As you’d expect from the title, the film revolves around aliens coming from Mars to invade the earth, but it’s not done on a big invasion scale, it’s actually very subdued. The whole film takes place from the perspective of a child who lives out in a desolate location, and is the only one aware that an invasion of any sort is happening. The film creates a surprisingly unique atmosphere and mood as this boy is all alone, his parents are replaced by alien imposters, and the rest of the world is unaware of an invasion taking place right under its very nose. It’s still a campy product of its time, but with enough merits to stand on its own.
#8 War of the Worlds (2005)
I can’t say that I’m too fond of remakes, but they can be done well, and I found the 2005 remake of “War of the Worlds” to be a respectable Sci-Fi thriller for the modern age. The ace up this movies sleeve is that while the plot revolves around a global invasion, the focus is all on one small family that’s just trying to escape the cause. With very little focus on military planning or even big battles, I felt very drawn into the experience, almost as if it was actually happening, and I was on the run with this family. There’s some great atmosphere, lots of built-up tension, and despite some big budget visual effects, it never really came off like a typical summer blockbuster. My only real complaint is that in general, it’s so different from “War of the Worlds” it could have had its own original title, without the baggage of being called a remake.
#7 Earth VS the Flying Saucers (1956)
This has got to be the text book definition of an alien invasion movie. The image of the flying saucer is the most recognizable and iconic of alien space crafts, and this is the classic movie that helped influence several other alien films ranging from “Mars Attacks” to “Independence Day”. The plot is about as strait forward as they get, it’s a full blown alien invasion with these flying saucers attacking famous cities. While it’s both campy and dated, it was undeniably a huge benchmark in UFO pop culture. The special effects were done by the great Ray Harryhausen, and for the time, these visuals were real marvels to behold. If you’re a long time Sci-Fi fan like me, then this film is definitely worth checking out because this is where the alien invasion genera really started.
#6 Predator (1987)
We’ve seen what happens when armies of aliens attack earth, but here’s what happens when a single lone alien invaders the planet. A team of armed soldiers are stranded in the jungle and have become targets for an alien hunter, which leads to thrilling battles, and a standoff match against one of the most iconic looking movie monsters of all time. The concept of a small group of people being stocked and killed by a hostile alien creature had been done before in “The Thing from Another World”, but the formula was perfected in “Predator”. It’s one of the classic Sci-Fi/ action movies of the 80’s, with an all star cast, and some staler monster makeup.
#5 Mars Attacks! (1996)
With a title like that, you really shouldn’t be surprised with what you get. This underrated Tim Burton comedy is very much like a 50’s Sci-Fi that just happened to be released in the 90’s. It’s faithful to the genera, and has a lot of fun with just how silly and over the top it gets. Some regular movie goers may get turned off by just how ridiculous the film is, but I still enjoy it to this day, and it’s actually one of my favorite Tim Burton movies. The Martians in the film are very memorable, the cast full of famous celebrities is very amusing, and the films goofy tone makes it feel like a celebration of the genera, but that’s all subject to my personal taste.
#4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The concept of aliens invading the planet with an army of spaceships dose get old after a while, so why not do something completely different and original? Well, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is that original take on the alien invasion genera, and a perfect blend of Sci-Fi and horror. In this film, a race of space pods land on earth and take the identical form of nearby humans, and then the original is killed in their sleep. It’s an exciting and terrifying concept that subjects you into a situation where you can’t trust anyone, and despite being short on special effects, it’s still very exciting to watch. It also works as a political allegory, and highlights themes around socialism, making it one of the smarter films of its kind. It’s highly original, thrilling, and worth checking out.
#3 Independence Day (1996)
Over the past millennium, there have been several big blockbusters banking on the concept of alien invaders, however, they’ve never been able to surpass “Independence Day”. In my opinion, this is the last truly classic Sci-Fi alien invasion movie that phew others have been able to surpass. It has a memorable cast, iconic visuals, big blockbuster thrills, and some quotable lines. It left such an impact on our pop culture that every alien invasion movie that followed seemed to be trapped under its massive shadow. No Sci-Fi blockbuster list is complete without it, and it’s rightfully become the staple of alien movies for our generation.
#2 The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
This is the classic Sci-Fi film that brings a very different twist to the alien invasion genera. Instead of featuring fleets of ships attack famous cities, this film revolves around a single alien and his indestructible robot who deliver an ultimatum to the people of Earth, either we evolve and begin a new era of peace, or the alien forces will wipe us out. While the anti war message is obvious, it’s still relevant to this day, and conveyed fairly well in the film. I especially like how the story revolves around a visiting alien that’s trying desperately to make peace with human kind. There isn’t much action or visual spectacles, but there’s great tension, the characters are all memorable, and to this day it still stands as one of the greatest Science Fiction movies of all time.
Before I reveal my #1 favorite here are some quick Honorable Mentions ...
Killer Clowns from Outer Space (1988)
The Thing (1982)
20,000 Miles to Earth (1957)
#1 The War of the Worlds (1953)
While the concept of alien invasion movies has become tired and clichéd in general, “War of the Worlds” still remains a classic. The concept is no different from any other films involving Martians trying to concur earth, but the overall presentation, tone and execution is far superior to any other film from its time. Right from the films epic opening narration, this film reels me in and delivers an experience, rather than just flashy entertainment, although the film has that too ... in bucket loads. The sound effects, color pallet, and unique alien designs are amazing cinematic marvels for the 50’s and still hold up to this day. Even though the acting is kind of “meh”, the overall atmosphere and tone stay consistently strong, and to this day I still regard the 1953 picture “The War of the Worlds” as more than just my own personal favorite alien invasion movie, it’s one of cinemas greatest classic Science Fiction motion pictures.