Making a film about extra terrestrials can be a tricky challenge. If done wrong, it can come off as unrealistic and cheesy. Done right, however, and the film can be an out-of-this-world experience, exploring a world that may or may not exist.
Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde, pits the Wild West against an alien life force in the latest film featuring visitors from another planet.
From Reese’s Pieces snacking extra terrestrials to an alien versus predator face-off, here’s a look at some of the best and worst alien films to land on planet Earth.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 surreal epic made outerspace into an art form with the use of revolutionary special effects and an incredible, hypnotizing soundtrack. Instead of throwing a hypothetical alien on screen, Kubrick gives more of an “impression” of the beings. “The alien race exists more effectively in negative space: We react to its invisible presence more strongly than we possibly could to any actual representation,” said Roger Ebert in his review.
Starship Troopers may be drenched in violence and special effects, but it's gotten better with time due to its smart satire and so-silly-it's-great moments.
Photo by: Paramount
War of the Worlds
The first on-screen adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel in the 1950s was praised for its special effects and won an Academy Award for its efforts. While decades have passed since this film first hit the screen, it's still considered one of the best examples of an alien invasion film ever created.
Photo by: Universal
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Steven Spielberg’s 1982 story of lonely Elliot, who befriends a stranded alien with a glowing finger and an affinity for Reese’s Pieces. Not only did the blockbuster reach astronomical financial success, but it provided pop culture references which live on today, including “E.T. phone home” and the signature silhouette of Elliot and E.T. riding a bicycle encircled by the moon.
Sometimes called a rip-off of Gremlins, Critters were little, furry basketball-shaped creatures that brought their flesh-eating terror to Earth. Not funny when it tried to be, and not scary when it tries to be, Critters is an excellent example of how to do an alien movie all wrong.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Yet another Spielberg work, Close Encounters, which tells the story of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) whose life is turned upside down when he discovers a UFO, was nominated for nine Oscars in 1978. At the time of its release, the awe-inspiring film was Columbia’s most successful release of all time, and viewed aliens with wonder and curiosity rather than fear and violence.
AVP: Aliens vs. Predator
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, this 2004 science fiction film has all the pitfalls that can plague an extra-terrestrial film: cheesy dialogue, wooden characters and predictable plot. And yet, a sequel was made.
With its slick visual effects and high-powered action, Independence Day was so successful that it basically sparked the science-fiction and disaster film resurgence in the late '90s. Valued for its high entertainment factor, Independence Day is not a movie to overanalyze, but just love for what it is—pure fun.
Photo by: Paramount Television
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The third installment of the Transformers franchise may have done well at the box office, becoming the highest grossing film of 2011 currently, but the disappointment created by the lackluster story and poor acting loomed over the film larger than the shadow of Optimus Prime. “The millions of man hours put into producing this techno shock and awe must be staggering. Everyone got his job done, but somewhere along the way, the movie got lost,” wrote THR’s Kirk Honeycutt.
The 2010 alien invasion film had a terrible story, which no amount of special effects could have covered up. With unlikable characters and a muddled plot at best, Greg and Colin Strause’s Skyline resulted in audiences laughing and groaning their way through the disappointing 94 minutes.
Nominated for four Academy Awards, District 9 adeptly uses aliens to reflect on historical events that took place in South Africa during the apartheid era. With a relatively low budget of $30 million, the film went on to box office success, grossing more than $210 million worldwide.
Men In Black
Aliens don’t always have to be so serious. Men in Black, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, chronicled the world of secret agent men with useful gadgets who controlled aliens’ activities on Earth. A funny take on the possibility that aliens may already be living among us, Men in Black was liked by critics and viewers alike.