With the fourth installment of the Predator movie franchise out this month, the upcoming feature The Predator will mark a career spanning over 30 years for this illustrious alien. And whilst some have questioned the need for a new sequel to the series, very few of us care because we all love a good alien movie. Whether they are terrifying, funny, friendly or downright weird – aliens have a rich and diverse cinematic history that continues to keep us entertained. So here are our Top 7 movie aliens…
7. Superman (1978)
When you think of movie aliens – we bet the chiseled form of Superman isn’t the first figure to spring to mind. However, this superhero and all round golden-boy is one of the most iconic aliens in cinematic culture as well as being one of the most lucrative. Originally appearing in comics in the 1930s, 80 years later Superman has been immortalized in countless TV shows, games and, of course, movies.
Hailing from the planet Krypton, Superman defies much of what we imagine an alien to be. Whilst most movie-aliens are less-than-appealing creatures, Clark Kent comes in the form of your every day, all-American hunk who somehow manages to juggle saving the world with holding up a job as a journalist and chasing the girl of his dreams. And with aliens having a long history of being unattractive, terrifying creatures it seems only fair that Superman gets to give a more appealing ideal.
6. Paul (2011)
As far as alien films go, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s addition Paul often slips under the radar when it deserves much more recognition. One of the few comedy-aliens in recent cinema, Paul is the antithesis of Superman’s glossy, heroic alien. Getting drunk, swearing excessively and smoking cigarettes whilst narrowly avoiding the FBI, Paul dissolves the mystery and intrigue usually surrounding aliens in films and comes across as an average guy caught in way over his head.
However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t much to love about Paul. The film makes a case for how aliens have been misrepresented in culture as super-intelligent bloodthirsty beings when they may be as clueless and disinterested in colonizing other planets as the rest of us. Paul has had a long day and just wants to go home. And whilst he isn’t saving or destroying the world like many aliens in movies, perhaps this lovable character is the closest thing to what a real alien would be really like.
5. The Abyss (1989)
Director James Cameron has many great alien movies under his belt and The Abyss, whilst not his most celebrated, is no exception. In this feature, the aliens or ‘NTIs’ as they are referred to are based at the bottom of the Cayman Trough. This is a great form of tension in the movie – the only thing worse than grappling with aliens in space must surely be facing them deep down in the ocean?
Whilst many of the actual problems the humans encounter in this film are due to their hostile surroundings, the nature of the aliens and their motives remain a mystery throughout. Initially approaching the humans by creating a column of water, the aliens seem friendly enough but this is enough to scare some of the crew. Eventually, it transpires the aliens aren’t seeking a fight but are actually pretty jellyfish-manta ray hybrids who have a deep understanding of and empathy with human emotion. Yes – your ex is probably more hardboiled than these extra-terrestrial beings who eventually go on to save one of the protagonist’s lives.
So whilst they are not your standard heroes like Superman, the aliens in The Abyss are one of the examples of aliens being cinematic ‘good guys’ after all.
4. The Thing (1982)
Speaking of ‘good guys’ it’s high time the aliens of our nightmares started to infiltrate this list. And aliens certainly don’t get more nightmarish than the cult classic from 1982 The Thing. Initially slated by critics and audiences alike (surprisingly not for it’s title), The Thing is often considered as an alien that the people weren’t ready for as they found it too savage and gratuitously violent. Fast-forward thirty years however, and it is considered a milestone in the horror genre.
The extra-terrestrial form referred to as ‘The Thing’ is dug up after a 100,000 year burial in ice – which is unfortunately the only slight similarity it shares with Captain America. A parasitic organism, it assimilates the living creatures it encounters and lives inside them. This makes The Thing a horrifying adversary, who builds levels of paranoia and uncertainty between the group of men trying to outsmart it – who cannot define who is human and who has been infected. In scenes that have put people off their dinner for centuries, The Thing is shown to not just occupy the mind and bodies of its human vessels but gruesomely tear them apart on leaving. Yes, this creature certainly proves that not all aliens are misunderstood and some are just downright evil.
3. Predator (1987)
With the latest installment on its way, the Predator has had a long and illustrious career as a movie alien spanning decades of cinema. The epitome of the technically-advanced extra-terrestrial life form, the Predators are hunters often equipped with futuristic technology such as thermal-sights, plasma guns, cloaking devices, bio-masks and much more.
Whilst these aliens undoubtedly live for violence, their aggression is not without direction. Over the course of the franchise it is reiterated that the Predators have some form of tribal code regulating their killing. They won’t attack unarmed civilians as it isn’t a fair fight, they won’t kill pregnant women, they sometimes gift those who do kill one of their own and often self-destruct if they feel the fight is lost. Indeed, whilst it is little consolation for the victims, the Predators are not mindless killers trying to wipe out mankind but instead hunt humans as a sport. Still undoubtedly terrifying adversaries, the Predators seem to have no end goal as alien lifeforms which perhaps explains why we are now on our sixth installment of the Predator franchise. But even if they don’t want to destroy the earth, they are undeniably one of the most intimidating imaginings of aliens yet.
2. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Perhaps one of the reasons for the upset caused by the gruesome nature of The Thing back in early eighties, was that the film was released around the same time as the arrival of the cutest alien in cinematic history. E.T from Steven Speilberg’s E.T the Extra Terrestrial has become an iconic representation of aliens since its 1982 release date.
A bit like Paul, E.T just wants to return home after his fellow alien-botanists left him on earth in haste after being set upon by government agents. Amongst his powers, E.T has the ability to bring organisms back to life, move objects using telekinesis and builds a telepathic connection with a human boy. In many alien movies, a human goes to another planet and fights to survive, but in E.T it is the alien we are rooting for in the hostile environment of earth. E.T is pursued relentless by government agents and starts to die after he has spent too long on the planet. Thankfully it is a happy ending for all as E.T leaves earth having enriched the lives of the people he has been with and we can only hope if we are ever invaded by aliens, they are similar to this one.
1. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror Alien has a lot to answer for in establishing aliens as the terrifying unknown creatures we often perceive them to be. But it is forgivable as Alien and its sequel Aliens are undoubtedly two of the best movies of this genre – if not the best. The original title has spawned 7 follow-up features in total – including two crossovers with Predator – and of course the usual horrifying video games and merchandise.
Described as ‘the perfect organism’ due to their physical prowess and lack of morality and conscious, the aliens of this franchise are seemingly designed to dominate all life. The creatures themselves are expert killing machines who can lay countless eggs to create more of the horrendous monsters. The eggs, unfortunately not as vulnerable as the eggs of any other species, spawn the skin-crawling ‘face huggers’ that attach onto the faces of their victims and attempt to implant alien offspring into their bodies which eventually burst out of their chests and therefore – unsurprisingly – kill them. If someone attempts to cut them off their acid blood will dissolve the body of the person they are attached to. So either way, you’re kind of done for.
The aliens in the Alien franchise are so supremely built to kill us, fighting them feels futile and often in the films it feels there is no way out. And no matter how many animated films, or characters such as E.T, Paul and Superman may attempt to convince us otherwise – Alien has built a reputation that is impossible to fully eradicate.
So whether you prefer your aliens as blood-thirsty or heart-warming – let us know in the comments below.