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Space Invaders: 14 Aliens Attack Movies

by The Playlist Staff
March 10, 2011 5:39 AM
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Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956)
The “Citizen Kane” of 1950s science fiction films, the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is still the best. Based on the Jack Finney novel “The Body Snatchers,” the story should be familiar to anyone semi-literate in film. It centers on a doctor (Kevin McCarthy) whose patients insist their loved ones have been replaced by imposters. It appears that people are being replaced by perfect duplicates grown in pods who are identical to their human counterparts but lack all emotion. Widely seen as an indictment of McCarthyism, the film works as both paranoid thriller and political allegory (the best ones usually do.) Watching the film today, it’s amazing to see the way this movie walks the line between many genres (noir, sci-fi, horror) without ever stepping into silliness. Despite the opening/closing bookends shoehorned onto the film by the studio, the ending (featuring one of the best examples of breaking the 4th wall in cinema history) is still chilling. "They're here already! You're next!" A true classic. [A]

Lifeforce" (1985)
Most alien invasion movies are defined by flying discs, but Tobe Hooper's "Lifeforce" is most fondly remembered for a pair of orbs -- namely, the breasts of lead actress Mathilda May, who spends most of the movie walking around completely naked. The production, which was co-written by "Alien"'s Dan O'Bannon, infamously ran over-budget and was marred by disagreements in the editing room between Hooper and his production company, the dearly departed Cannon. Not that this explains anything you see onscreen. The movie has some bright spots, for sure, including a typically jaunty Henry Mancini score and an admirable lead performance by the underrated Steve Railsback, but it's mostly a mess -- an unintelligible mishmash involving space vampires, Haley's Comet, and lots of hot alien nudity. Even Hooper's considerable stylistic flourishes can't save this from being little more than a late night oddity. [B-]

Mars Attacks!" (1996)
The cinematic landscape in 1996 was punctuated by a pair of big budget, heavily hyped alien invasion movies. "Independence Day," with its easily digestible gulps of rah-rah patriotism, was released that summer and made bucketfuls of cash. Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!," released several months later, was defined by its prickly cynicism and more or less bombed. Which is a shame, really, because there's so much to love about ">Mars Attacks!" -- from Jack Nicholson's Peter Sellers-esque dual performances as the President and a Las Vegas sleazebag, to Industrial Light & Magic's Harryhausen-y visual effects, to the fact that Warner Bros. made an $80 million event movie based on a series of scummy, hyper-violent trading cards. (At one point the movie was rated R and was considerably more expensive, thanks to Burton's insistence that the creatures be stop-motion animated.) Maybe audiences weren't ready to see the end of the world played out as a large-scale cosmic joke… or maybe they just thought the joke wasn't that funny. [A-]

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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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