I think you know the drill by now. If you check out my top 5 vampire movies you’ll see what I’m getting at. As a sci-fi lover (yet one who couldn’t give two shits about Star Wars or Star Trek) I love movies about aliens. They can be action packed, heart-warming or absolutely terrifying. There have been a lot of stinkers but at the same time there have been some truly great movies about what may lurk on planets other than our own. So here are my 5 favourites!
5. The Thing (1982)
Although it’s a remake (just) of a 1951 film, John Carpenter’s The Thing is the one that people all remember. Arguably one of Carpenter’s last good movies, The Thing starred Kurt Russell as R.J. “Mac” MacReady, an on-site helicopter pilot for a group of scientists studying ice core samples in the arctic. When a mysterious, shape-shifting alien finds its way to the research base the team is gripped with fear and paranoia over who of them, if any, are still human.
The great thing about this movie is that it couldn’t rely too heavily on its special effects. They just weren’t all that good. I mean some were okay and the rest were… well… bloody, but it was the tension and the who-can-you-trust suspense that really drove it along.
It’s classic Carpenter from start to finish. The over-the-top synth music, the over-the-top gore effects and distinctive camera work somehow make The Thing stand out from the crowd while at the same time endure as a textbook example of 80’s pre-CGI movie making.
4. E.T. (1982)
Ironic that the year that gave us the stomach churning, terrifying and blood-splattered The Thing is the same year that gave us one of the greatest, if not the greatest family movies ever made; E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.
Everyone knows this movie so I won’t go into what it’s about but I will tell you why I loved it. E.T. pretty much had the whole package, as far as family films go. We got the lovable main characters, the menacing yet family friendly bad guy in the form of Keys and we got a great emotional yet totally satisfying ending. All of that great stuff was interlaced with fast-paced, engaging set pieces and ground-breaking special effects in a way only Spielberg could pull off.
I watch E.T. a couple of times a year just because it’s such a feel-good movie. It reminds me of my childhood and I can almost smell the popcorn from the little one-screen cinema in Forest whenever the flying bikes scene plays. I don’t think any one one movie reminds me why I love cinema more than E.T.
3. District 9 (2009)
As if we hit 88 miles an hour in a nuclear De Lorean, we snap forward 27 years. In recent years I’d become a bit bored with the quality of alien movies, and indeed sci-fi as a whole. We’d had the occasional spike in interestingness (yes, that’s a word… shut up!) such as Cloverfield but on the whole, things were a bit… Meh. That was until this year, in fact this month when I was blown out of my seat by South African n00b, Niell Blomkamp’s District 9. See my Review.
District 9 follows an alternate 2009 where aliens came to earth in 1982 (what is it about that year!?) and were corralled into slums while the humans could harvest their weapons and technology. 27 years later, however, they’re still here and uber-corp MNU are directing the re-location program. It’s during this eviction that MNU agent Wikus Van De Merwe is infected with a black alien fluid that begins to turn him into one of the aliens.
District 9 clearly draws on so many other movies for its plot and aesthetic but still manages to seem totally original. It’s thought provoking, action-packed and the visual effects are second to none. When it’s released, District 9 should take pride of place in your DVD/BluRay collection.
2. Dark City (1998)
If there’s any on my list you won’t be familiar with, it’s this one. But you should be for two reasons. First of all it’s a superb bit of sci-fi with great performances from Rufus Sewell, William Hurt and Richard O’Brian and secondly… well without this movie I doubt The Matrix would have been made. Yeah, it’s that big a deal.
Dark City sticks murder mystery, Bogart era detective drama, film noir, sci-fi, horror and general mind-fuckery in a blender and manages to produce one of the finest film smoothies of the 90’s. The story is hard to fully explain but revolves around a man who, after waking up in a hotel room following a murder for which he is being framed, begins to discover that he has powerful psychic and telekinetic abilities that in turn being to make him aware that he, and indeed the whole city is being manipulated by a powerful malevolant force. See, pretty interesting.
I love this movie because of its complex and dark narrative and overall creepyness. That’s without mentioning its killer twist ending that’ll have you, slack jawed and going W…T…F… The bad guys are scary as fuck and you’ll start seeing the movie’s influence on later cinema almost right away. Hard to believe that this was directed by the same guy who gave us the utterly ridiculous Knowing.
1. Aliens (1986)
In my opinion this is James Cameron‘s best film. Sequel to Riley Scott’s space-horror Alien, Aliens is a no-holds-barred all guns blazing flaming ball of awesome. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it but I’d put a bet on it being in the hundreds.
Like E.T. this movie doesn’t need explaining. If you like this kind of movie you already know what it is and if you don’t… well what the hell are you reading this for!? Aliens is so awesome because the story is great, the characters that need fleshing out are fleshed out and the special effects are so monumentally good that the fact that no CGI was used at all just blows your mind. Sure it’s long but boy is it worth it. So many classic scenes “Game over, man!! It’s Game over!!!” and suspense you could cut with a knife.
As well as being my favourite alien movie, Aliens serves as my favourite sci-fi and favourite sequel of all time. Watch it… watch it now, I command you!
Aliens. The best alien movie ever. Enough said.
So… what are yours?