When Hollywood looks to the skies and brings to us beings from another world, the result is rarely good for humanity. In fact, it usually means trouble. But sometimes, just sometimes, it means box office gold and some of the greatest movies ever made. This week, with the release of the alien abduction film The Fourth Kind, we once again look to the skies and give pause to think about the very best of previous visitations.
This Steven Spielberg classic is the model that every "real world" alien visitation film has followed (or ripped off). Complete with one of the very best final sequences ever imagined in such a film, it has been parodied or referenced untold times and has become a major part of the collective unconscious as far as anything alien is concerned.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
OK, so not every alien wants to eat you or stick a probe up your ***. Sometimes they simply want to have some candy, make a phone call, and be your bestest friend in the whole wide world. Spielberg's follow-up to Close Encounters was this family masterpiece that has milked many a tear from even the most callous and disconnected of viewers.
Flight of the Navigator
A personal favorite of mine, this Disney classic came at a time when Disney stopped making really great live action family films. Long one of their best, this is the story of a young boy abducted by aliens to serve as an experimental navigator on a ship saving species from worlds meeting their end. But when he's returned 12 years later, he hasn't aged a day and can't remember a thing, making the military VERY interested in him.
Not often grouped in with alien movies, it is actually (once all is said and done) a classic abduction/experiment story. It just so happens the experiment is much stranger than those we're used to seeing in films. This science fiction masterpiece from Alex Proyas stands as one of the classic, cult alien films of the era.
Often voted one of the scariest films of all time as well as the best alien movie of all time, the simply (and aptly) named Alien is the model upon which most other horror films of its type are built. Famously pitched to Fox executives as just Jaws in Space, this movie would spawn a series of films including...
When Ridley Scott made Alien, he made the perfect science fiction horror film. So how on earth does a genius like James Cameron follow that up? He made the perfect science fiction horror/action film. Taking the premise of the original and making the hunter the hunted (for a while at least), he ramped up the excitement by making the heroes tougher, but the menace greater. Deciding which is better -- Alien or Aliens -- really comes down to a matter of taste.
Easily the best Alien knockoff, this film (due to a small joke in the sequel) became inextricably joined to the Alien series after merging the best parts of both of the first two movies into one campy, fun action classic. This is the story of an alien big game hunter stalking a group of marines in the jungles of South America. Bloody, loud, and occasionally hilarious, this is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's best.
What Alien did for space, John Carpenter's The Thing did for Antarctica. One of the greatest remakes ever made, this dared to tread on the Howard Hawkes classic The Thing From Another World and made a far superior film that still holds up today. Frightening and gripping, this is a benchmark that all similar horror films are measured against.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Another great remake, this oft ignored classic tells the frightening tale of people being replaced by alien beings. Far superior to the goofy 1950s B movie, this captured the terror of its notion and hasn't been improved upon since.
This year's surprise hit, this fresh story tells of alien beings not SUPERIOR to us, but inferior in a number of ways. Things go from bad to worse when an investigator gets infected with a material that merges his DNA with the aliens, making him a prize specimen for the military, who are hungry to utilize the aliens' technology.