It's a myth that Mars needs women. And it's also not true that aliens are coming. At least as far as the real world is concerned. But Hollywood's many invasion movies tell a different story, and there's no end to the celluloid aliens who want our planet ... or our tasty flesh.
With Skyline, the latest in a long line of such films, due in theaters Friday, we thought we'd round up some of the best of them. Plus we also reveal how humanity managed to fend the aliens off—just in case you need some handy tips for the future.
(Multiple spoilers ahead.)
A going-away party for a pal turns into a flee-for-all as a group evades an alien attack, plus a military counterstrike, in New York City. Filmed with hand-held cameras and no soundtrack, the film never tells us much about the giant creature and its roving parasites. But as the invaders tear their way up Manhattan island, we know they mean business. Killing business. Our protagonists, along with anyone not killed or evacuated, are taken out by a massive "hammerdown" bomb attack. Theoretically, the alien died with them ... but we won't know for sure until the sequel, due in 2012.
Star Trek: First Contact
As everyone in the Star Trek universe knows, Zefram Cochrane invented the warp drive, the method of traveling faster than light. In the history of the Star Trek universe, Cochrane's warp signature is detected by Vulcans, who come to Earth to investigate. But in First Contact, the villainous Borg make their way to Earth's past, thus preventing first contact, the rise of the Federation, Earl Grey tea in the food dispensers and everything else Captain Picard holds dear.
Picard and his crew actually head off the Borg takeover before it begins, so it's not quite an alien invasion movie ... however, after receiving a skin graft that allows him to feel pleasure and pain, Data the android succumbs to the Borg Queen's charms. For a mere 0.68 seconds, Data was invaded.
You know you're in for a creepy alien invasion movie with a tagline like the one for the 1982 version of The Thing: "Man is the warmest place to hide." Based on a short story, "Who Goes There?" and previously made in1951, The Thing takes place in Antarctica, on a U.S. research station.
After rescuing a dog from some oddly murderous Norwegians, our protagonists learn that the dog is actually a deadly replicating alien. Paranoia fills each scene as they turn on each other, unable to tell who is real and who isn't. R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) is able to survive the rightfully untrusting researchers and destroy the Thing with dynamite. A prequel, due in April 2011, will hopefully shed some light on the origins of the invader.
We acknowledge that Battlefield Earth is a well-deserved winner of the Razzie Awards' Worst Movie of the Decade. But under the bad dialogue, the worse overacting and the worst cinematography, there's an actual plot about an alien invasion.
The Psychlos, headed by Tarl (John Travolta), conquered Earth and have subjugated humans for 1,000 years. Our hero, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), finds an underground cache of weapons and trains human rebels to use them against the Psychlos. The rebels puncture the protective dome that shields the Psychlos against Earth's atmosphere. Johnny takes revenge to the source by nuking Planet Psychlo.
Mel Gibson stars as Graham Hess, a small-town minister who strives to ... well, there's not much that happens in Signs. Before the aliens come to Earth, they leave signs for their landing force in the form of crop circles, which point to the Hess family home. The Hesses—Graham, his children and his brother Merrill—learn that aliens do indeed exist. After barricading themselves (poorly) within their home, Merrill attacks one with a baseball bat and a glass of water. The end. Really, it's a better, more thoughtful movie than we've explained here.
The 1950s were a huge source of sci-fi monster movies, and that includes alien invasions. Strange Invaders is a homage to those movies. Although it takes place in the present day (circa 1982), the aliens landed in 1958 and stayed affixed in that time period, so when out-of-towners arrive, they're met with jukeboxes and big American gas guzzlers.
Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) goes to the town of Centerville, looking for his ex-wife Margaret, and encounters aliens who can turn humans (and dogs) into glowing blue spheres. Charles eventually learns that his ex is alien and his daughter Elizabeth is a human hybrid. The aliens—who wear human masks to cover their shriveled Gray appearances—take Elizabeth. The movie ends with Charles and Elizabeth safe and the spheres reverted back to people (and presumably dogs). But we didn't kick the aliens off the planet. No, these U.S.-government-approved aliens left of their own accord.
Earth already has one alien visitor: Clark Kent, known to Kryptonians as Kal-El. But even though Krypton was destroyed, three of its prisoners, Ursa, Non and especially General Zod, managed to survive. Breaking free from their awesome one-dimensional prison, the Phantom Zone, they open up a can of whoop-ass on Earth.
How can a planet lose against only three aliens? When you see Zod (brains), Non (brawn) and Ursa (ruthlessness) in action, you'll realize why the president chose to kneel before Zod. Clark could rescue us—except that he traded in his powers to promote human-alien relations with Lois Lane. Luckily for us, he undoes his enemies with a bit of don't-throw-me-in-that-briar-patch trickery and sends the invaders to the bottom of the Fortress of Solitude.
While sci-fi can often be seen as a metaphor for political events or the human condition, Mars Attacks! is less metaphor and more bad Ed Wood pastiche; in fact, producer/director Tim Burton had just completed the movie Ed Wood before starting this project. Mars Attacks! shows several groups of people, including the president and his family, as they respond to an all-out alien invasion, complete with repeated shots of explosions and ray-gun blasts for "humorous" effect. Martians attack. Humans die ... until they eventually stave them off with, um, yodeling.
The good news is that the aliens themselves were a faithful reproduction of a Topps trading card series (a vision straight out of 1962), except for one played by the fabulous Lisa Marie. We dare you to take your eyes off her slinky walk and astonishing curves.
Independence Day is a full-scale invasion movie, complete with dogfights, motivational speeches and tugged heartstrings. Sadly, it's also light on logic and heavy on the trigger finger. When aliens park a fleet of ships above Earth, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) deduces that they will invade. When they do, Americans rally their forces to take them out. Millions of innocents—and most of the world's major landmarks—become casualties. At the end, viewers need to suspend their disbelief more than usual: David and hotshot pilot Capt. Steven Hiller (Will Smith) penetrate the alien mothership without the aliens noticing. Then they take out the aliens with a virus generated on a Macintosh computer.
Village of the Damned
It takes a village to raise a child, but in this 1950 horror film—and its 1995 remake—the children pretty much rule the village of Midwich. In these films, aliens invade Earth not with an interstellar armada of death but by quietly impregnating women. The resulting children rapidly grow up to display eerie mind-reading and mind-control abilities (and eerier hair). In Midwich, the children are sequestered, but it soon becomes clear that they're too dangerous to survive. But how do you get the upper hand against psychic killer aliens? With an atomic bomb ... and a brick wall.
Astronomer Zane discovers a radio signal of extraterrestrial origin and after some investigation learns that the signal comes from closer to home. The film may be called The Arrival, but Zane learns the aliens aren't arriving: they're already here, and they want us gone. Their plan to increase greenhouse gases, accelerate global warming, and make the planet hostile to human life actually makes this an eco-conscious alien invasion movie. A combination of liquid nitrogen and limb loss can take out an alien, but only an alien ball—like the Cube in Hellraiser, only round—can send the aliens back whence they came. Global warming, alas, is still with us.
War of the Worlds
In War of the Worlds, "intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us." For the Martians, their plans include coming to Earth and stomping us as Godzilla stomps Tokyo. The story follows our protagonist (unnamed in the novel; Ray Ferrier in the 2005 version) as he flees the menacing alien Tripods and makes his way home. The Tripods die off, no thanks to human intervention: It turns out they have no immunity to Earth bacteria.
Down-and-out homeless man Nada (pro wrestler Roddy Piper) stumbles upon a secret: Aliens have infiltrated the upper echelons of human society. Thanks to special sunglasses, he can see the aliens, as well as the (hilariously jarring) subliminal messages they've planted around Los Angeles. Nada allies himself with a group who are aware of the aliens' existence, as well as their successful scheme to use Earth as a resource. Nada learns to take out the television signal that masks the aliens' presence and dies in the act. We're left to imagine what happens when Los Angelenos learn they've been working for the aliens all along.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
In some invasion films, the aliens look like monsters. In Killer Klowns, these particular assailants resemble evil clowns. How evil are they? They use cotton-candy guns to mummify and liquefy victims, then drink them through straws. It's the most highbrow concept in a movie with balloon animals, a clown car and death by pie fight. Protagonists Debbie and Mike try to survive a Klown-based raid; they succeed when Debbie's ex-boyfriend, police officer Dave, takes out the giant Klown leader (and the rest of the insane clown posse) by puncturing its red nose. We would give you a punch line, but honestly, defeating an alien Klown by taking out its nose is punch line enough.
The "critters" of this 1986 horror movie (plus three sequels) are actually Crites, alien criminals who escape prison and flee to nearby Earth. Soon two bounty hunters are hot on their heels—or would be, had these round, porcupine-like creatures had appendages. But they do have teeth, which they use to munch cattle. They try to chomp down on the Brown family, but the son Brad is resourceful and has an explosives fetish. He protects his family, rescues his sister and enlists the aid of the bounty hunters ... one of whom has amusingly morphed himself into the form of a popular rock star. The bounty hunters take out most of the critters. A Molotov cocktail, with a bomb chaser, does the rest.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
In the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the people of Santa Mira complain that their loved ones are not who they say they are. Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) soon discovers giant pods that grow emotionless alien duplicates of his neighbors. Miles tries to alert the world of the alien infiltration while forcing himself to stay awake. (The aliens replace us in our sleep.) In this version, he succeeds. In the 1978 version, the main character does not. After multiple movies where humans beat back humans, we're finally welcoming our alien overlords.