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Space Invaders: 14 Aliens Attack Movies

by The Playlist Staff
March 10, 2011 5:39 AM
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While the genre never really goes away, once a decade or so the alien invasion picture suddenly hits the zeitgeist. It happened in the 1950s with the slew of B-movies, it happened in the 1990s as "The X-Files" captured the public's imagination, and for whatever reason (birthers? immigration concerns? a shortage of fake teeth for vampire movies?) it's happening again now.

Last November saw "Skyline" start to broach the subject in a big way, hot on the heels of the surprise hit "District 9," and the coming weeks and months sees Greg Mottola's comedy "Paul," Joe Cornish's much-buzzed-about "Attack the Block," the western hybrid "Cowboys & Aliens" and the Russian-set actioner "The Darkest Hour" hitting theaters. But first up, unfortunately, is "Battle: Los Angeles" which, as our review from yesterday will attest, is one of the more painful theatrical experiences in recent memory.

Fortunately, there's plenty of far superior pictures dealing with the same subject matter in a much more watchable manner, so we've delved into the archives to pick out a selection of seminal movies featuring alien aggressors that will make you feel something other than a fear of "Clash of the Titans 2" and concern for Aaron Eckhart's career.

The Blob" (1958)
There are twin invasions present in the 1958 "The Blob," and both signify a direct threat to the good townspeople -- both the amorphous alien menace and… the emergence of teenagers (led by Steve McQueen). Authorities don't believe the kids when they say that a blobby bit of galactic goo has started to eat people and grow in size. But then, of course, they figure it out too late (about the time it takes up an entire movie theater). "The Blob" is a quaint, easy-going drive-in movie that probably won't scare you today but is still likely to make you smile. It should also be noted that Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell crafted a sturdy remake in the late '80s that upped the gore quotient with elaborate special effects but retained the rebellious teens-versus-small town authority core that made the original so indelible. [B]

Independence Day" (1996)
Fiercely nationalistic, casually racist, and embarrassingly entertaining, Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day” could be B-moviemaking at its silly best. An army of “that guys”--and some genuine stars like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum--take on the invading hordes and (spoiler alert) win, as the whole world waits for America to save the day on the Fourth of July. It’s easy to be sarcastic about this bombastic, over-the-top blockbuster with a blush-inducing St. Crispin’s Day speech delivered by the president (Bill Pullman), but it’s far easier to just have fun and enjoy the effects-driven ride. But as much as the city-sized UFOs and telepathic aliens push the story toward its gleefully inevitable conclusion, Smith’s charm is what makes it all watchable over a decade later. [B]

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More: Films, Feature, Battle: Los Angeles

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  • Karnie | March 22, 2011 3:13 AMReply

    Meant Chuck Russell version. Havent seen the other.

  • Karnie | March 22, 2011 3:11 AMReply

    The Blob by far is the best alien/blob invasion movie ever! I just saw it and man what can I say this movie doesnt lack brilliancy! It is insanely incredible! If you havent seen it yet -watch it! It will blow your mind. Special effects-amazing, acting -amazing, directing -beyond!

  • Commander Adams | March 18, 2011 1:15 AMReply


    Maybe if you actually argued with evidence instead of the simplistic "I'm right-you're wrong!" form of reasoning that passes for film criticism and popular film writing nowadays, it would be possible to take your opinions more seriously.

  • Christopher Bell | March 17, 2011 12:10 PMReply

    With all due respect, Commander (I appreciate your work on the field)...

    you're wrong.

  • Commander Adams | March 17, 2011 9:55 AMReply

    The Thing from Another World a B-? Hello, this was acknowledged for years as a masterpiece by every esteemed critic, has what is probably the best script of any SF film of the era, and is far more deserving of an A+ than Carpenter's ridiculously overrated gorefest, whose popularity says more about the obsessive cult of Carpenter (which is also why people think a movie as moronic and simple-minded as They Live is worth anything) and the uncritical nature of today's sci-fi fanboys.

    This Island Earth a D-? The only reason people think this is bad is that it was on MST3K. It's imaginative, intelligent, and even manages to be poignant at times. It has the same nuanced approach that made the contemporary Battlestar Galactica so interesting.

  • Matt Greene | March 12, 2011 5:35 AMReply

    Saw Battle LA today, I liked it better than most seem to. As for the list, Monsters is a great idea ruined by some terrible acting and Signs is supremely stupid for the reason simon wrote above. A lot of the 50's stuff is an acquired taste and gets seen with rose colored glasses because "it was the 50's" but I'll take this over a lot of that. War if the Worlds has too many flaws to be held up as an example of much of anything.

  • Bryan | March 11, 2011 10:06 AMReply

    The Hidden is a nice little underrated gem from 1987. I haven't seen it in years, but remember really enjoying it.

  • simon | March 10, 2011 6:41 AMReply

    "Signs" if I remember correctly, the aliens are allergic to water, so they come to a planet where most of the surface is covered in water.

    yeah, really good stuff there. As if the writing wasn't on the wall as to what was to follow.

  • Rashad | March 10, 2011 6:10 AMReply

    I should say, I would rather the son be dead.

  • BuntyHoven | March 10, 2011 6:09 AMReply

    Nice to see Signs recognized for the top blockbuster that it is. It's easy to mock Shyamalan but that movie really was a great time. It's a genuine shame that he's gone to shit.

  • Rashad | March 10, 2011 6:06 AMReply

    The only problem with Spielberg's third act is its fidelity to the book. It switched the wife being randomly found, to the son being randomly found.

    The Tim Robbins scenes are very effective, and Cruise is fantastic in them

  • rotch | March 10, 2011 5:52 AMReply

    How nice is to see that time has given Mars Attacks! the love it deserved upon release. It is Burton's last good movie (although a case can be made about Sweeney Todd)

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