Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Top 13 Alien Movies

There are alien movies that are strictly in the fuzzy, feel good Sci-Fi Star-Trekkie sickeningly sweet category and then there are alien movies that scare the living crap out of you because the aliens are ALIEN-- their actions motivations that drive them to kill, maim, consume, abduct and experiment upon our fragile flesh are inconceivable and incomprehensible to our logical, pattern seeking human minds.

For horror buffs that are xenophiles, it's the scary alien movies that matter.

So, here's my list of the top 13 scariest alien movies of all time.

13. Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (1998)

"Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County" aka "Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape" is a made for TV movie based off the short film "The McPherson Tape" that appeared on the internet in the late 1990's. The movie aired on the now defunct TV channel UPN (United Paramount Network) in 1998. This controversial little film is thought by many to be real footage of an alien abduction.

When this first aired on TV it was called a mockumentary, a type of movie genre that is now called a found footage film. While it is a low budget movie, "Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County" more makes up for it with some very tense scenes that still make me cringe in fear and hold onto my cat like a little girl whenever I see it.

12. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Dr. Miles Bennell's patients are becoming paranoid, and more people are coming to his office, telling him that they believe that their family members or friends are impostors. Is this sweeping mass hysteria, or is something far more sinister actually replacing the townsfolk with duplicates?

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" has been remade several times over the years, but the original is by far the best, with it's ability to create mind numbing paranoia in the viewer. In some ways, it's claustrophobic tone makes it the forefather to the classic alien invasion film "The Thing." This is the movie that invented the term Pod People- you know, the doppelganger copies of people that have all of their memories but just don't act quite right. Those Pod People.

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is a classic alien invasion movie and definitely a must see.

11. Signs (2002)

"Signs" is the only M. Night Shyamalan movie that I like. And it has a great soundtrack to boot.

"Signs" is several movies wrapped up into one-- it's a parable about a priest who lost his faith when his wife dies and manages to regain it, and it's about what happens to a small town in the middle of farm country when aliens invade.

Between the quirky (and at times hilariously funny) characters and the pulse pounding, nail biting climax where the aliens enter the Hess' homestead, this movie covers everything from aliens making mysterious crop circles as a form of communication, to UFO sightings and contact with mysterious alien invaders.

The filming style is breathtaking and clever with the alien's never quite fully coming into view until the very end. Which I just absolutely love, because it heightens the suspense and doesn't ruin the movie with terrible over-done CG.

10. Aliens (1986)

James Cameron's 1986 masterpiece "Aliens" is one of my favorite horror movies of all times.

What makes "Aliens" so great is that it takes the spooky atmosphere of a desolate planet wracked with storms and the panic inducing claustrophobic setting of the terraformer's colony to create one heck of a scary ride. Even better, "Aliens" started the whole concept of space marines in pop-culture, which has been the darling of Sci-Fi video games for many years now.

"Aliens" has a strong female lead character, Ellen Ripley, who manages to find her own place among ;a rag-tag crew of misfit marines and survive yet another encounter with the xenomorphs. This time, Ripley takes on the big momma of the aliens herself, the Queen.

9. Prince of Darkness (1987)

John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness" is a gem of a Lovecraftian Horror film that covers everything from the nature of evil to the existence of alternate dimensions, atomic theory and theoretical physics.

After the last of an ancient secret order of Catholic priests dies, Father Loomis discovers that they had kept an ancient alien artifact locked up in the basement of an old abandoned church. Concerned with what he has found, he contacts Professor Birack and convinces him to bring some of his graduate students over to the church to investigate it. While staying at the church the students start sharing the same dream; a vision of the future and a dire warning of things to come.

During their investigations, the mysterious neon green protoplasmic substance that is swirling ominously in the artifact begins infecting and possessing them. It is soon revealed that the cylinder contains a dark slumbering alien god that has awoken and is going to bring about the end of the world.

While they may call the evil entity "Satan" or the "Anti-God," the themes present in this film are taken directly from pages of H.P. Lovecraft's stories. There are prophetic dreams of a looming disaster, mirrors used as portals to other dimensions and ancient alien artifacts that drive people mad and turns them into monstrous zombies that collapse into insects. The imagery in "Prince of Darkness" is so surreal and alien, if you haven't given John Carpenter's most under-rated horror movie a try, you certainly should.

8. Super 8 (2011) 

"Super 8" is one of those kid's growing up over summer vacation movies that is sort of in the same vein of "Stand By Me" and "ET," except a lot darker. It's an alien invasion film full of action and suspense, and at the same time a movie about kids that are learning about life and each other. It's also the first movie in quite a while that I've seen that has actually had kids cast to play kids, as opposed to 20 year olds posing at high school students.

It's the summer of 1979 and a group of kids have gotten together to make their own zombie movie, called "The Case" on Super 8 film. While filming on location at a train station, they witness a train crash caused by their science teacher. Scattered all over the ground are weird white cubes, which later are revealed to be sections of an alien spacecraft. Unfortunately, the cubes weren't the only thing that escaped the train during the crash, and now a giant alien is out to recapture the parts of its spaceship in a desperate effort to return home.

The alien in "Super 8" is both menacing and sympathetic at the same time. All it wants to do is go home, but the evil government refuses to let it leave.

This movie not only smartly deals with the movie being filmed within a movie motif, it also has characters that  are well fleshed out and very believable. 

7. Fire in the Sky (1993)

"Fire in the Sky" is based on a novel of the same name by Travis Walton.  

Travis and his logger buddies are working in the forest, cutting trees to clear the area for development. One night while driving home from a long day of work, a strange fiery glow appears in the sky. Travis, compelled by the sight of it, steps out of the truck and is hit by a beam of bright white light. His friends, terrified, drive off, leaving him for dead. 

They report the incident to the local authorities but no one believes them and they are suspected of murdering Travis and dumping his body in the woods.

Five days later, Travis appears at a gas station-- he is naked, deyhydrated and out of his mind with fear. 

The flashbacks to Travis' alien abduction are pretty intense, and there is an awful eye-scare in one of the scenes that to this day makes me cringe. 

6. Alien (1979)

The Nostromo, a commercial towing spaceship, is heading home to Earth with a nice haul of ore. The ship picks up an emergency transmission from a nearby planet, which causes the computer to wake up the crew and bring them out of stasis. 

They land on the desolate planet and several crew members head out to investigate the signal. Before long they find themselves walking up to a long abandoned alien space ship with a chamber full of eggs. As they walk through the chamber, one of the eggs hatches and a face-hugger leaps out and attaches itself to crewman Kane, who passes out. Attempts to remove the face-hugger from Kane reveal that the creature has corrosive acid for blood. Yikes.

Soon, it's revealed that the face-hugger implanted an alien larvae into his chest- well, the alien actually reveals itself when it bursts through Kane's chest and kills him. The alien runs off, and the Nostromo crew is stuck fighting an alien creature without any real weaponry. 

"Alien" is a brilliantly filmed Sci-Fi horror film that uses light and shadow to great effect to build up suspense and dread in the viewer while the xenomorph picks off the crew one by one. 

5. Undead (2003)

"Undead" takes place in the Australian fishing village of Berkley. The sleepy village suffers a barrage of meteors that turn people into the hungry undead. A group of survivors is left to fend for themselves as the ravenous zombies attack them at every turn.

While "Undead" is a zombie movie at heart (and a pretty scary, yet hilarious, movie at that) it is, ultimately, an alien invasion movie. Yep. The aliens made the zombies. Way to go E.T. 

This movie apparently recieved terrible reviews, but I think that it is a wonderfully campy gore fest that has both zombies and aliens in the same film. The characters are stereotypes, but the kick-ass fisherman steals the show, providing both John Wayne-like swagger and highly inventive weapons to two genres that are over-run with trite weapon cliches.

4. The Blob (1988)

Ah yes, "The Blob." Never before has strawberry jello been so terrifying.

This alien creature feature starts out with a meteor crashing near a small town in California. An old old hobo comes across the crash site and finds a strange smoking rocky sphere. The sphere cracks open and a thick pink slime engulfs his hand. Terrified, he runs for help and encounters three college students, who take him to the local hospital. Unfortunately, it's too late for the man and the pink slime grows over him and dissolves his body as it consumes him.

The giant amboa from hell then goes on a killing spree/eating binge as it begins to devour the entire town's enhabitants, growing larger with each person it consumes.

Walking Dead fans will find it interesting to learn that Frank Darabont co-wrote the screenplay for "The Blob" and that Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale) plays Sheriff Herb Geller in the movie. How about that? (Of course, now I have watch "The Blob" again so that I can spot DeMunn in action.)

3. Communion (1989)

"Communion" is based on a book of the same name by Whitley Strieber. 

Whitley Strieber is played by Chrisopher Walken, whose family experiences run ins with aliens during their vacation in the woods. Whitley is abducted from the cabin by aliens and his life changes forever. Tramatized by the events, he goes to a psychiatrist and undergoes hypnotic regression where he has flash-backs of his abduction that are absolutely horrific. 

"Communion" is one of the most trippy, and at the same time terrifying, alien movies I have ever seen. 

2. Altered (2006)

"Altered" was directed by Eduardo Sanchez, the co-director of "The Blair Witch Project."

15 years ago, five teenage boys went on a hunting trip that they would never forget. While in the woods, the boys were abducted by aliens and became the subjects of cruel experiments that killed one of the boys.

Wyatt distanced himself from his friends and now lives in constant fear and paranoia away from civilization. Unfortunately for him, two of his friends have taken it upon themselves to hunt down the aliens that tortured them, and they've just caught one.

"Altered" is a suspenseful, scary horror movie that does well with a small budget. This movie is definately a sleeper hit that will one day be a cult classic.

1. The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter's "The Thing" is a remake of "The Thing From Another World" that was based on the novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell. And is a more faithful interpretation of the pulp fiction alien story than "The Thing From Another World."

"The Thing" is a movie that is just oozing paranoia and dread. Between the desolate Antarctic landscape, the eery minimalistic soundtrack, and the utterly alien Thing that transforms into creatures that Should Not Be, this movie is one of the best alien movies ever made.

Although it was filmed in 1982, "The Thing" has aged quite well, and the recent Blu-Ray release has brought new features on the Thing back to life. There are details on the monsters that were lost in the low resolution VHS and DVD versions of the movie (such as all of the eyes that open up on the Thing after it assimilates the dogs and becomes that towering monstrosity in the kennel. I didn't even know they were there until I saw it on Blu-Ray), and the new HD digitally remastered version of the movie on Blu-Ray reveals the monster in all it's unearthly glory. If you get a chance to watch "The Thing" on Blu-Ray, you really should.


  1. SciFi horror is my favourite genre by far. I agree with this list but would add Event Horizon (1997?). It may not have a typical SciFi alien antagonist but the alternate dimension entities are certainly "alien" enough from humanity to qualify, IMO.

  2. Alien (what should be #1) simply blows all these movies away for the scare and craft level. Period.

  3. I'm really glad to see IOTBS on this list, and not the imo inferior remake. This is one of the most frightening movies of all time, despite the fact that Becky's (I think that's her name) transformation has never been believable to me.
    The acting is top notch all around, and the soundtrack adds a subtle level of terror without dominating a scene.

  4. Thanks for reading my post Radio Head! I really enjoyed the 1970s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but I do believe that the original had more suspense in it, and was therefor the scarier of the two films.