One of the many unanswered questions in the existence of mankind is whether there is extraterrestrial life. Science has proven that there are other planets outside of earth as well as other galaxies that could accommodate life, either from simple unicellular organisms to beings with civilizations similarly or more advanced than humanity. Due to this, and with wide reportings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), a genre of literary work based on this has over the years been written and made into films, causing more intrigue around the subject. Listed in their order of release, here are 10 best Alien movies that will surely paint a picture of the existence of extraterrestrial life in the world.
10 Best Alien Movies in Their Order of Release Dates
1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the first of many movies to appear on this Best Alien movies list to have had the input of Steven Spielberg. The sci-fi film tells the story of a couple of Indiana residents, particularly electrical maintenance worker Roy Neary, whose lives are turned upside down following a close encounter with an unidentified flying object.
The film, which stars Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, Cary Guffey, and François Truffaut, earns a spot on this list thanks to the impact it was able to have on the Alien film genre as well as the commercial and critical success it enjoyed. Having been made on a production budget of $20 million, the film grossed over $300 million worldwide. It further went on to garner numerous awards and nominations and has been added to the National Film Registry for preservation by the United States Library of Congress.
2. Alien (1979)
Alien is the original film that led to the creation of a whole Alien media franchise that includes more than three other movies as well as numerous novels, comic books, video games, and toys. It is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time and like a few others to appear on this list, has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
The sci-fi horror film follows the crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo who are on their way back to Earth but are required to make an unplanned stop on a nearby moon in order to investigate a distress signal. The crew then go ahead to encounter a deadly and aggressive extraterrestrial – the eponymous Alien, which finds its way on to their ship.
Alien was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon. The film which made somewhere between $106.5–203.6 million in the Box Office and won numerous awards, starred Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto.
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Another Spielberg brainchild, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial focuses on the friendship between a young boy and an extraterrestrial. The film unfolds as the boy named Elliott Thomas encounters and befriends an extraterrestrial he named E.T. who is stranded on Earth. With the help of his siblings, Elliott attempts to keep his alien friend hidden from the government as he helps him return to his home planet.
Following its release in 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial became an immediate blockbuster. Made on a production budget of $10.5 million, the film grossed $792.9 million in the Box Office to become the highest-grossing film of all time, a record it held for over a decade. Critics on the Rotten Tomatoes website have further ranked it as the greatest science fiction film ever made after which it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
4. The Thing (1982)
At the time of its release, The Thing ranked high among the most hated films of all time, performing very poorly in the Box Office. Critics and moviegoers cited poor characterization and a bad storyline among other things as to why it was panned. It further did not help that it was released in the same year that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial hit the shelves. But as time went by and the film was released on home video and television, The Thing gained a cult following as many people have gone back to reappraise the film as one of the best alien movies ever made. It has since then spawned a variety of merchandise, including a novel, comic books, a video game, and a prequel film.
Based on John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 novella titled Who Goes There?, the John Carpenter directed and Bill Lancaster written film tells the story of a group of American researchers in Antarctica who encounter a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form – the eponymous “Thing”, which assimilates and then imitates other organisms, including humans. Actors Kurt Russell and R.J. MacReady play starring roles while A. Wilford Brimley, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Joel Polis, Donald Moffat, T. K. Carter, David Clennon, and Thomas G. Waites appear in supporting roles.
5. Predator (1987)
Predator is the first alien movie with a hint of action to appear on this list. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the films follows the adventure of an elite military rescue team in a guerrilla-held territory in Central America where they are tasked with saving hostages. Following the mission, the team finds themselves being picked off one by one by the eponymous Predator, a technologically advanced alien spying, stalking, and hunting each of the members of the rescue team.
Like others to appear on this list, Predator has spawned a media franchise. The film, which was met with negative reviews, grossed $98.3 million on a production budget of $15 million.
6. Independence Day (1996)
Another action-packed film to appear on this best alien movies list, Independence Day tells the story of how humans all across the world launch an all-out counterattack on July 4, the United States of America’s day of independence, on an extraterrestrial race of unknown origin who enter into earth’s orbit, take position over some of Earth’s major cities, and kills millions of people.
Directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich, the film which features an ensemble cast that includes Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, and Margaret Colin, among others, was a huge success. It became the highest-grossing film of 1996 and the second-highest-grossing film ever at the time after raking in $817.4 million.
7. Men in Black (1997)
Loosely adapted from Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers’ The Men in Black comic book series, the film follows two agents of a secret quasi-government organization known as the Men in Black who are charged with supervising extraterrestrial lifeforms who live on Earth and hide their existence from ordinary humans.
The film, which stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as the lead characters, received worldwide acclaim as it grossed over $589.3 million against a production budget of $90 million. It was further able to earn a spot on this list thanks to its spawning of two sequels, a spin-off, and an animated series that was well received.
8. The Fifth Element (1997)
The Fifth Element is a film set in the 23rd century that tells a story of Earth’s survival. With an impending attack by a malevolent cosmic entity, a taxicab driver and former special forces major Korben Dallas join forces with a young woman who falls into his cab. Together, the pair recover four mystical stones that would aid them in defending Earth.
Starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich, the English-language French science fiction that was directed and co-written by Luc Besson earns a spot on this best alien movies list thanks to the mainly positive reviews it garnered and it’s raking in of over $263 million at the Box Office.
9. District 9 (2009)
Exploring the themes of humanity, xenophobia and social segregation and adapted from the 2006 short film Alive in Joburg by Neill Blomkamp, District 9 centers around the treatment, interactions, and subsequent fight for freedom between humans and aliens in an internment camp of the same name in South Africa. This happens after the country’s government decided to house over a million malnourished aliens who appear in a giant spacecraft over the city of Johannesburg.
Starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and David James, District 9 was a critical and financial success. It made over $210 million at the box office from a production budget of $30 million and garnered numerous awards and nominations as well as the unofficial title of being the best science fiction film of the 2000s.
10. Prometheus I (2012)
One of the more recently made films to feature on this list and another one with the input of filmmaker Ridley Scott, Prometheus follows the crew of a spaceship who seek the origins of humanity. They do so by following a star map discovered among the artifacts of several ancient Earth cultures. On their journey, however, the crew arrive on a distant world where they discover something that could lead to the extinction of mankind.
The film, which is set in the late 21st century, was developed to precede the story of Alien, however, it is not directly connected to it. It went on to gross $403.4 million worldwide while garnering praise from critics.