Aliens, extra-terrestrials and monsters from outer space – regardless of the given name, creatures from far off worlds have long been used in popular culture to scare, thrill and inspire a sense of wonder.
This week’s Stuff to Watch explores some of the scariest and most memorable pieces of cinema that make use of extra-terrestrials to great effect. In addition to all-time classics there are a few less orthodox alien flicks on the list to keep your eye out for.
Ridley Scott’s Alien needs very little introduction, but there’s no chance it’s not going to make a list of top extra-terrestrial films. In it, the team of the Nostromo mining ship are awoken from hypersleep when a signal is detected from a nearby planet and believed to be an SOS.
After landing the crew soon make some interesting discoveries, the most important being that the signal they heard was intended as a warning and not a cry for help. The rest of the film is the perfect balance of horror, sci-fi and comedy with H. R. Giger’s iconic Alien providing the ultimate deep space foe in this must-watch film.
When it comes to top quality sci-fi, you could say John Carpenter has a knack for it. While They Live is arguably one of the best alien invasion films of all time, it doesn’t quite beat The Thing when it comes to the aliens themselves.
Starring a single shape-shifting entity, the film takes place at an isolated Antarctic research station. The course of events leaves each character questioning the other in the quest to find out who is and who isn’t infected.
Probably not the first film that springs to mind when you think of alien-themed movies, K-PAX is easily the least action-packed film on the list. It’s not set in space, like Alien and nor does it deal with an invasion like The Thing. Instead, K-PAX explores a very “human” side to being an alien on planet earth.
Kevin Spacey takes on the lead role of Prot, a patient sent to a mental hospital for making some bold claims about being from another planet. Much of the film takes place in a darkened room and explores Prot’s ideas and his psychiatrist’s perceptions. While it’s by far the least orthodox film on this list, K-PAX is also probably the one that will get you thinking the most.
What if beings from another world were to settle on earth? Would they be accepted, or even well-treated? It’s an interesting proposition, and no film explores the premise better than 2009’s breakout South African hit, District 9.
In 1982 aliens land in Johannesburg, South Africa but over time the locals become hostile. Twenty years later and the creatures are living in slum-like conditions under military lockdown until the government decides it’s time for eviction. The film does a great job of reversing the roles usually seen in such movies.
Probably the greatest alien-themed family film ever made (I’m looking at you, E.T.), Close Encounters of the Third Kind has gone on to inspire games, films, parodies and even episodes of South Park in the years following its 1977 release.
Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind documents one man’s experience with a UFO, after which he has five mysterious musical notes in his mind and a burning desire to visit an isolated area where something incredible is about to happen.
And now for something a little different! Attack The Block is an offbeat British story about a group of youngsters living on a south London council estate and an invading alien force. While the aliens themselves are nothing special (though they’re certainly unique), the premise and characters really make it quite interesting.
This film might not be as serious as Alien or as iconic as Close Encounters, but writer and director Joe Cornish deserves recognition for injecting some comedy and non-orthodox elements into an alien invasion movie. If you liked Shaun of the Dead then you’ll probably love Attack the Block.
Brand spanking new and (at the time of writing) still packing-out cinemas, Prometheus is the Ridley Scott film that fans of the Alien series have been waiting for. If you’re expecting just another Alien then you will be disappointed, because the two are really quite different films with their own merits and atmosphere.
A ship is sent to a distant planet in search of beings believed to have designed and created man, but what is found could be man’s own undoing. There are links to Alien in both the story and Ridley Scott’s unique directorial style, though be aware that these are two completely different films.
What? No Predator? Is Alien overrated and dated? Should E.T. really be on this list? Am I a fool for leaving out your favourite film? Everyone has their own personal favourites, be it creatures, stories or directors so why not share yours at the bottom of this post.