Looking up into the night sky, the great void of space dotted with twinkling lights can seem awe-inspiring or terrifying. It inspires big, metaphysical questions like: who am I? What is my place in the universe? Is there something after this life?
Are there little green men from outer space watching me eat ramen and watch Avatar: The Last Airbender in my underwear?
Whether or not aliens are real, people are fascinated with the idea that other beings from space are out there, waiting for us to make contact. Some of the funniest, scariest, and coolest movies explored what would happen when people make first contact. So when you’re in the mood to contemplate what meeting an alien would be like, there’s definitely a movie to match that mood.
Here are 10 (maybe 11?) alien movies for any mood:
Hilarity Ensues: Mars Attacks!
Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! is a darkly comedic take on first contact with aliens from the red planet. They even came in peace until a miscommunication caused a conflict with the Martians believing humanity declared war on them. Watch humanity try to bumble its way through the end of the world while 90s CGI aliens try to wage war against their neighbors.
If schlock, big-movie stars, and wild imagery is your kind of movie, check out Mars Attacks!
That Sci-Fi Vibe: Galaxy Quest
Galaxy Quest is a loving tribute and parody of nerd culture. The cast features Tim Allen, Signourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman as the stars of a fictional 1980s sci-fi show trying to keep their career alive at conventions until Tim Allen’s character finds himself abducted by real-life aliens- the Thermians – who desperately need his help.
Heart-warming, funny, and clever, Galaxy Quest has something for every kind of nerd.
Midnight Screening Vibes: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
This cult classic is known only to a select few who attend midnight screenings or whose parents only bought boot-legged VHS tapes in the late 1980s. Buckaroo Banzai is a rock-playing hero who catches the attention of an interdimensional alien dictator. Featuring dimension hopping, reptilians, and a cast of Peter Weller, Jonathan Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, and more, watching Buckaroo Banzai save the universe is engaging and entertaining.
Join the elite few who enjoy the awesomeness of Buckaroo Banzai.
Never Trusting My Neighbors Again: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (’78 version)
Both versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are good, but there’s something spine-chillingly unnerving about the atmosphere of the remake from 1978. Ever suspect your neighbors may be alien visitors? Let Invasion of the Body Snatchers confirm all those fears with its suspenseful story of a group of humans who realize that everyone around them is being replaced.
You may never want to leave your house again, but Invasion of the Body Snatchers is worth the watch.
Feeling Intergalactic: Guardians of the Galaxy
If you want to relax and share some popcorn with new alien neighbors, having some fun in the Marvel Universe is a great way to do it. Only one of the main characters is human, Peter Quill aka StarLord, so there’s a whole host of aliens to learn about and go on planet-hopping adventures with. Fun, colorful, and a Marvel movie you can watch without having seen the others.
Defeat the bad guy. Hug a tree-man. Save the galaxy.
80s Glory: Predator
If any alien movie embodies the best of 1980s action cheese, it’s Predator. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger at his peak, it is about a paramilitary group in Central America trying to save hostages, only to find themselves hunted by an apex predator. Everything great about an 80s action flick is here, with the added bonus of a powerful alien opponent.
Watching the Terminator and Greef Karga run from an overpowered alien? Yes, please!
Double Feature: Alien and Aliens
These movies are the perfect alien movies. Full stop. They stride the line wonderfully between the science fiction and horror genres and have one of the scariest aliens in movie history. Starring Sigourney Weaver as survivor and feminist hero Ripley, if you only ever watch two alien movies in your life, make it Alien and its fantastic sequel Aliens.
Ignore the sequels and immerse yourself in the terrifying world of the aliens.
Family Feature: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Not all aliens want to eat your face. Sometimes they want to eat candy and phone home. Considered a classic, the Steven Spielberg directed movie tells the story of a young boy named Elliot coping with change as he tries to help an extraterrestrial visitor call his fellow aliens to come retrieve him after they accidentally left him stranded on earth.
A movie so sweet and powerful it makes grown men cry, it is a great flick for when you have a lot of feelings or when young family members are visiting.
Old School: The Day the Earth Stood Still (’51 version)
What would it actually feel like to see an alien ambassador land in front of the white house? The original classic The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951 does a wonderful job of exploring the tension, the pressure, and the unbearable uncertainty of it all. A great alien comes with a poignant message as relevant today as it was in the early days of the Cold War.
When you want to watch an influential film and explore themes of peace and war, put on this beautiful black and white film.
Feeling Patriotic: Independence Day
Sometimes you just need to grill some burgers, shoot some fireworks, and celebrate freedom. The perfect film to complement this feeling of bombast is Michael Bay’s Independence Day. Made in 1996, this film features world icons being blown up, epic speeches, and Will Smith kicking alien butt.
Sometimes you just want a blockbuster that reminds you about why over-the-top is sometimes the right mood, which is why Michael Bay films exist.
BONUS: So Bad It’s Good?: Mac and Me (with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Commentary)
To be clear, Mac and Me is not a good movie. It was a bizarre attempt by McDonald’s to mooch off the success of E.T. The Extraterrestrial. However, legendary comedy show Mystery Science Theater 3000 performed one of their famous comedy RiffTrax for this movie, and it greatly enhances the experience.
Find a version of Mac and Me with the MST3K commentary for a so-bad-its-good movie night.
With this list of films, you’ll have an otherworldly movie for however you’re feeling or for whatever kind of alien invasion may or may not be on the horizon.