The aliens are coming! The aliens are coming! Actually, they’re already here. This weekend (18 March), Greg Mottola and writers/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are bringing Paul, their geek ET comedy, to big screens nationwide, while just seven days before, Marine officer Aaron Eckhart and his ragtag group of grunts tried to save California in an epic Battle: Los Angeles. As long as there have been Halloween radio broadcasts, there has been media talk of invading spacemen and the destruction they leave in their interstellar path. Cinema has long championed the alien overthrow, using the concept for everything from comedy to commentary, action to awkward cautionary tales. Of the dozens directed at drive-ins and theaters around the world, few made the grade. The good ones stand out. The subpar simply drift off into the stratosphere.
One title destined to slip the bonds of this planet and pass into infamy, 2010’s Skyline, is about to make its debut on DVD and Blu-ray (available: 22 March), and it got the staff at SE&L thinking… what are the best alien invasion movies of all time? What war of the worlds got us thinking about the fate of the planet, and our precarious place among the others? In compiling this list, we did make a few conscious decisions. First, we discounted any movie where the confront occurred while airborne or off planet (this leaves out titles such as Alien, Aliens, and the like). We also restricted our choices to films where the outer space clash (or infestation of same) was the most important plot part. Finally, this is all a matter of opinion, though one has to admit that, when taking a look at all the possible entries, many are pretty poor.
So, in ascending order, we present the Top 10 Alien Invasion Films of All Time, beginning with one that few remember:
The forgotten film in both Kevin Williamson and Robert Rodriguez’s creative oeuvre finds a bunch of Ohio high school students forming a “resistance” of sorts against an alien parasite infecting their teachers. Perhaps best known for the cast of then unknowns (including Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, and Jordana Brewster) accompanied by a group of genre vets (including Robert Patrick, Salma Hayek, and Famke Janssen), it remains a honorable homage to the invasion schlock of the past.
Tobe Hooper still complains about this muddled mess of Colin Wilson’s The Space Vampires, though many would argue that it was his approach, not eventual studio meddling, that’s the culprit. After all, rumors of cost overruns and scheduling issues meant that many scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, or were never filmed at all. Still, this is a novel little bit of Nosferatu, an extraterrestrial soul sucker running stark naked throughout London, draining victims of the vital bodily… essence.
Okay, okay, the screenplay is a series of cloying coincidences, and once the alien appears on the Hess farm, all bets are off. Still, considering the unique style employed (an all out ET apocalypse viewed from the POV of a tiny town and the one horse residents within) and the skill shown directorial, this is a lot of sci-fi fun. Shyamalan does show ‘signs’ of fading here, but not as fast as with the hilarious hackwork of The Village.
Leave it to the “real” Spielberg to show the wannabe king of the blockbusters how it is done. Again, a similar approach to Signs is utilized (invasion via one particular family’s fate) and yet the man who made his name telling us to ‘watch the skies’ in the mid ‘70s is now just as scared of an attack on American soil as the citizenry was/is. While the 9/11 allusions are obvious, they aren’t overdone, resulting in a realistic and horrific experience.
If Irwin Allen were a Goth oddball and had access to Warner Brothers infinite financial backing, he may have made a star studded space case clash as goofy and enjoyable as this one. Tim Burton took all his Batman commercial cred, lined up a bunch of A-list buddies, and then spent all his time focusing on the freakish little green men. It’s superbly silly, only undermined by coming out six months after the skyrocket success of a certain Roland Emmerich effort.