Space Invaders: 14 Aliens Attack Movies

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by The Playlist Staff
March 10, 2011 5:39 AM
12 Comments
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Killer Klowns From Outer Space" (1988)
The toughest movie to make in Hollywood is a horror-comedy. Not only because of the marketing challenge, but also because it can be difficult to handle that terror of the unknown with the familiar recognition that assists our laughs. So consider it a surprise that this ludicrous B-movie, where a race of alien clowns descend from the sky to turn us into cotton candy snacks, works so well. While there is humor to be mined from the typical collection of horny teens, the winning stroke from writer-directors the Chiodo Brothers is playing the threat of these red-nosed bozos completely straight. A moment when a regular citizen challenges a clown to a fist fight produces laughs when the clown emerges with boxing gloves, only for the towering monster to punch his head clean off. It’s a moment of cheese ball ridiculousness that quickly evolves into something oddly upsetting, perfectly capturing the film’s odd appeal. [B]

Monsters” (2010)
Made for a fraction of “District 9”’s budget, director Gareth Edwards’s impressive debut imagines an equally compelling world where alien lifeforms remain confined to an area cordoned off by the U.S. and Central America. The “infected zone” includes most of Mexico, but “Monsters” only briefly suggests any overt criticism of U.S. illegal immigration policies, and Edwards himself denies it. Instead, he chose for the zone to serve as a backdrop to a burgeoning romance between two people significantly out of their element -- callous photo-journalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and his boss’ daughter Samantha (Whitney Able). Kaulder is tasked with transporting Samantha back to the States, where her father and fiance await. The pair run into some trouble and are forced to bribe their way into and across the zone, and inevitably come in contact with the alien species that has taken root and to some degree flourished, despite being under constant fire from the world outside. Edwards' film is a keeper entirely because it shifts focus to the two leads and watches them develop -- we are free to draw what conclusions we may about this world, but once our investment with Kaulder and Sam is set in motion, the film hits emotional notes large scale sci-fi rarely manages. [B]

Signs" (2002)
Ah, remember the good old days when M. Night Shyamalan was more concerned with entertaining us than teaching us things? While "Signs" does lean a little too heavily on the everything-happens-for-a-reason hokum that would ultimately derail his once flourishing career, it remains one of Shyamalan's funniest and scariest contraptions. The crop circle angle, too, was an ingenious way to approach the alien invasion conceit, letting a compelling family drama (led by winning performances by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix) anchor the apocalyptic plot mechanics. While the final act could use some more oomph (the monster design, resembling a walking asparagus, is genuinely terrible), "Signs" is a smart, stylish, suspenseful little piece, gorgeously photographed by Tak Fujimoto with a jangle-your-nerve-endings Herrmannesque score by James Newton Howard. It's also whole leagues apart from Night's next "scary" movie, "The Happening," in which the globe was menaced by the terrifying threat of gently rippling grass. [B+]

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12 Comments

  • 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

    Christopher:

    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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