Weekend Roundtable: Worst Alien Invasions

Earlier this year, we did a Roundtable about favorite alien invasion movies and TV series. With the belated ‘Independence Day’ sequel arriving this week under heavily negative buzz, let’s turn that topic around and look at some of the worst movies about extraterrestrials trying to conquer the Earth.

Shannon Nutt

I’m one of the unfortunate souls who sat through ‘Dreamcatcher‘ in the theater. Based on a Stephen King novel, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, with a screenplay by William Goldman and featuring a solid cast (including Morgan Freeman), this baby had box office hit written all over it when it was released back in 2003. The plot revolves around four childhood friends (shades of ‘Stand By Me’) who get together every year and take a hunting trip. The catch here is that all four of them happen to be telepathic, which is one of the reasons they have a strong bond in the first place. This particular year, their trip results in an encounter with some alien parasites that just happen to be telepathic as well, and exit their human hosts using a route no moviegoer should ever have to witness again in a mainstream movie.

Freeman pops up in the second half of the film, giving one of his worst performances ever (although I’m sure the paycheck was nice) as a military officer who decides the best way to solve this alien invasion is to just kill everyone. Honestly, that’s about all I remember, as I’ve had no desire to revisit this film after 13 years. I do remember it being one of the worst experiences I’ve had watching a sci-fi movie in the theater. It’s awful.

Luke Hickman

When the ads for ‘Skyline‘ started running, I thought to myself, “That looks like it could be interesting. The FX look decent and it stars Turk from Scrubs. How bad can it be?” At that time, I couldn’t even fathom the awful level the movie would actually manage to reach. ‘Skyline’ doesn’t start horribly, but it quickly goes awry. It held my attention through the start of the invasion, but after that I only kept watching to see how bad it got. It ultimately functions on the level of Syfy original movies, especially when the climax features a principal character turning into one of the ape-like alien monsters and having a ‘Mortal Kombat’-style battle. You can’t un-see movies like that.

Brian Hoss

While it may be ambitious, ‘Cowboys & Aliens‘ stands out as one sad and boring alien invasion. The aliens in particular lack for any interesting characters, while the rest of the cast seems to have made a pact to pretend like it’s a very serious film. Although it sounds as good as mixing pirates and ninjas, nothing about bringing aliens into this Western setting works. By the time the story moves into a derelict steamboat (a somewhat interesting setting), I was already begging for the movie to end.

One issue I have is that the alien invasion aspect is a big mystery to the characters, but not to the audience. What we get in terms of plot with Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde (and Harrison Ford) doesn’t make this alien-on-cowboy slog any less of a big-budget throwaway.

Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)

As a book, ‘Battlefield Earth‘ was an enjoyable far-future sci-fi tale which imagined an Earth where the human race has been decimated by an aggressive alien species here to plunder our planet’s resources. Hundreds of years into the invasion, surviving humans have effectively devolved into grunting beasts, slaves to the alien Psychlos, mindlessly working the mines for their alien overlords. A plucky young human manages to learn the alien Psychlos’ language and ways and attempts to enlist his fellow humans to overthrow his captors.

As a movie, ‘Battlefield Earth’ features terrible dialogue, gaping plot holes and ham-fisted acting performances by its two stars. Forrest Whitaker and John Travolta actually play the bad guys in the film (the aliens). Imagine John Travolta as a 9-foot tall Klingon wearing KISS boots, spewing lines like, “Get these stupid man-animals out of my way,” and you’ll start to get an idea for just how bad it is.

As the book was written by L. Ron Hubbard (before he invented Scientology), Travolta, a devout Scientologist, took it upon himself to get the film made as a pet project. Eventually, he conned a production company into backing it (though he also put up quite a bit of his own fortune to make the film). Critically panned and universally reviled, ‘Battlefield Earth’ is so bad that it’s almost fun to watch. No, I take that back. It’s just plain bad.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

It probably goes without saying that 1959’s ‘Invisible Invaders‘ was shot for next to nothing, and what better way is there to stretch a dollar than with alien warriors that can’t actually be seen? Conceptually, that could be incredibly suspenseful. How can mankind hope to fend off an extraterrestrial threat if we can’t aim our tanks or guns toward anything in particular? Even their flying saucers are invisible!

Instead, these invisible invaders possess the corpses of our recently dead. As I’m sure you already know, dead humans can very clearly be seen, so the aliens abandon their chief advantage. The overwhelming majority of the havoc that’s wrought is seen in stock footage of natural disasters and excerpts from old serials. The aliens announce their presence not with a grand display of power but over the P.A. at a local hockey game. As ghoulish as the pre-Romero makeup effects are, the zombies tend to just slowly shamble around in nice suits. The movie’s pacing is excruciatingly glacial, and so much of it is set inside a secret military bunker that the threat to the world at large is rarely felt. Heck, the bunker is so secure that it doesn’t feel as if our heroes are in any imminent danger themselves!

If you’re feeling masochistic, Kino Lorber Studio Classics is bringing ‘Invisible Invaders’ to Blu-ray on July 12th.

Josh Zyber

Battleship‘ is a misconceived disaster of a movie on every level. Nominally based on the classic board game (which has nothing to do with aliens whatsoever), the film was commissioned by the Hasbro toy company following the major success of its ‘Transformers’ and (to a lesser extent) ‘G.I. Joe’ feature films. Riding that wave, the execs at the company believed they were on a roll and could turn any property into movie gold. Looking for something that could be shaped into another big-budget action epic, neither My Little Pony nor Play-Doh exactly seemed like a good fit. ‘Battleship’, though… The game’s about military forces shooting at each other. There’s got to be something workable in that, right?

So, a movie was greenlit and fast-tracked. For some reason, a simple naval adventure story was deemed insufficient to do the project justice. It needed something flashier. How about aliens? Sure, why the hell not?

What we wind up with after all this is a painfully stupid and clichéd alien invasion movie that bears no resemblance to the ‘Battleship’ game. Because Michael Bay was busy working on the next ‘Transformers’ assignment, Peter Berg got roped in to copy every facet of his overbearing style, on top of which he imposed his own fondness for utterly incoherent shaky-cam action sequences. The movie is idiotic and, at a needless length of 131 minutes, a total slog to sit through. It couldn’t be worse.

What are some of the worst alien invasion movies or TV shows you’ve suffered through? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. Chris B

    Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space is regarded as one of not only the worst sci-fi movies, but one of the worat movies PERIOD. It’s a lot of fun to watch though. Me and my dad used to die laughing at the seemingly infinte parade of goofs, bad acting, ridiculous dialogue, shitty props and effects etc. Ahhhhh good times…I should watch it again soon….

    • EM

      Plan 9 is ineptly made, but how can it be the worst when it is so much fun? Surely boring and/or offensive movies are worse.

      • Chris B

        I agree, it IS a hell of a lot of fun. Curiously enough, I’ve never actually seen Burton’s film “Ed Wood” about the director and making of “Plan 9”. I’ve always meant to, it’s just one movie that I have yet to get around to watching…

          • EM

            I favor his short “Vincent”, but Ed Wood is my favorite feature of Burton’s.

            While the making of Plan 9 is depicted in Ed Wood, Burton’s movie spends quite a bit of time with other, earlier Wood movies, namely Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster. As you might expect, the biopic takes quite a few liberties. To actually learn about Ed, I suggest you read Rudolph Grey’s interview-focused book Nightmare of Ecstasy, which is credited as the basis of the Ed Wood film, despite virtually no resemblance other than the general subject matter. But Ed Wood the film is fun, too.

  2. Brian Hoss

    These are all good picks (and lousy movies). In the case of ‘Dreamcatcher,’ however, there was one redeeming aspect. In certain showings, ‘Dreamcatcher’ was paired with a clip of ‘The Animatrix.’

  3. Alex

    Okay, I have to defend “Battleship” for one very specific reason – it nails every single cliche in the book with such gusto and aplomb that there is no way that it wasn’t intentional. It is a spectacularly awful movie, but it is so deliberate in its awfulness that it transcends that awfulness to achieve something that borders on awe-inspiring. It is every action movie in one yet none of them at the same time. It is deeply entertaining on multiple levels, eliciting the same morbid fascination as descending through the successive layers of Dante’s Inferno. It is an enigma. It is magnificent and yet can never be accurately described as anything other than trash – squandered talent in every frame that somehow, through some mystical trickery, provokes cheers and soaring spirits among the audience. No, it cannot be a failure – it must have designed that way from the very beginning and this grand experiment in dreck miraculously triumphs.

    • Elizabeth

      I love the chicken burrito scene. It was basically a recreation of a real life convenience store burglary that was caught on security cameras just like in the film.

    • agentalbert

      I liked “Battleship” too. I think its silly to criticize the movie for having little in common with the board game. It’s not a deep game. Its as thread-bare a premise as you can have. The alien technology locking the ships in a confined grid was a decent enough idea to justify the licensing of the name. Throw in Riggins and Landry from Friday Night Lights and Rihanna on a fucking gatling gun! Mindless fund for me!

  4. NJScorpio

    I can never seem to make a post that is 100% on topic….
    ‘Alien Raiders (2008)’ is a so-bad-it’s-good alien invasion movie that reminds me a bit of ‘The Mist’.

    As for actually bad…I’d go with ‘Pixels’ and ‘The Darkest Hour’. ‘Pixels’ for many reasons, but mostly it didn’t actually feel like an alien invasion. ‘The Darkest Hour’, because I expected more from something with Timur Bekmambetov associated with it.

  5. Csm101

    The worst thing about Battleship for me that I just couldn’t shake and it happened way too early in the movie was the chicken burrito taser scene. I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the movie because of it.
    I can’t think of an alien invasion flick that I really hate, but one that extremely dissapointed me was Independence Day. After that amazing and terrifying teaser, the movie just didn’t deliver for me. Will Smith’s reaction to the alien just flat out pissed me off and made me hate his character for the rest of the movie. I finally got it on the new bluray edition and still feel more or less the same about it, but it is a nice looking movie. On the rare occasion I watch ID4, it’s more enjoyable with company.
    NJ’s got a good one with Darkest Hour. The 3d is bland, the look of the movie is uninteresting, and the movie’s kind of a bore.

  6. Chris B

    Dreamcatcher is fucking atrocious, it’s one of the worst movies ever made by a major studio. The fact that anyone defends it fucking baffles me.

  7. Elizabeth

    I thoroughly enjoy Battleship. Yes it’s dumb, yes it’s clichéd, yes it has lousy acting. But none of that really matters. It’s really a lot of fun. It’s no dumber than the original Independence Day that a lot of people seem to love. I love the chicken burrito scene that starts it all off. It’s hysterical and sets the tone for the rest of the film. It clearly says, “don’t take this too seriously. Turn off your brain and enjoy.” I mean they end up actually playing a game of Battleship at one point.

    • The original Independence Day pretty much started all of the cliches when it comes to Alien Invasion Big blockbusters. Battleship was terrible and NOT in a fun way, everything was predictable to the extreme that I literally called out things that ended up happening way later in the film, its one thing to love ID4 because it did all of this stuff first, its another to try and compare Battleship to it just because people love the “dumb” ID4, ID4 did it better, Battleship did it almost the worst, the only redeeming quality of that film is the FX and action sequences but even thats stretching it, its a slog to get through otherwise.

      Granted I’ve only watched this one time, and I own it because it was $5 on a black friday sale, so maybe I’ll give it another go as I do with most films I didnt like the first time around 🙂

  8. SugarBear

    Did anyone catch the fact that the Missiles launched from the Battleship were the shape of BATTLESHIP peg pieces?!

  9. William Henley

    Is it too soon to list Independence Day: Resurgence? That movie was awful!

    The remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still was pretty bad.

    Transformers, anyone?

    Battlefield Earth was so bad, that I am going to second it.

  10. Chris M.

    Battlefield Earth isn’t that bad. I think it gets crapped on because it’s acceptable to trash on anything that has to do with Scientology or L. Ron Hubbard. It obviously can’t live up to the book but they did what they could with a limited timeframe. It will probably never happen but I’d love to see the Mission Earth series brought to the Big Screen. Earth needs you Jettero Heller!

    • William Henley

      “because it’s acceptable to trash on anything that has to do with Scientology or L. Ron Hubbard”

      That’s an odd statement to make as most people who hated the movie loved the book, and the book and movie really have nothing to do with Scientology other than the fact it was written by L. Ron Hubbard, who is pretty much universally accepted as a brilliant Sci-Fi author.

      If you want to defend the movie, be my guest – there are movies I love that others hate, and vice versa, but saying all hate toward the movie is because of religious persecution is pretty far fetched, especially among sci-fi fans, most of whom could care less what one’s religion is.

      What killed the movie is that you have a 1000 page book that they try to cover in a 2 hour movie, which means throwing out the majority of the book, and rewritting the story that is left so that you have a comprehensive movie to someone who has never read the book. However, the rewrite seemed to have been done by someone who wanted to write their own story that was inspired by the book rather than having respect for the book. The result was a movie with a horrible script that should have gone through several more rewrites, a low budget, and became just another popcorn flick rather than the captivating tale of politics, business, and survival that we had in the book.

  11. Thulsadoom

    You know, I’m gonna put myself in the firing line… But I kind of enjoyed Battlefield Earth. Sure, it’s bad in a lot of ways, but it’s silly cheesy fun in the same way as a lot of old scifi b-movies, which is where I rank it. I’ve certainly seen a lot worse. You have to have a soft spot for any movie that manages to have primitive cave men learn to fly harrier jumps jets against alien invaders. 😉 It also has a cracking soundtrack by Elia Cmiral. It’s more fun to watch than… okay, I won’t mention the big movies everyone loves, that I was about too… 😉 I’d certainly rank it as a better film, even if just for fun value, than any of those below…

    Battleship was pretty awful, but it passed an hour or so. I’d never want to see it again.

    Battle: Los Angeles is probably one of the worst I’ve seen. There’s just nothing really to say about it. It’s not even mindless popcorn fun. It’s just boring.

    Skyline is truly awful, but I’ll admit I enjoyed the last 5/10 minutes, which had a bit of an old, silly scifi feel to them (His brain’s been transferred into an alien mutant! Now he’s strong enough to save the woman he loves!). I wanted to see that movie!

    Cowboys and Aliens was pretty poor, and on a par with Battleship. It passed an hour or so, but I’m unlikely to ever watch again.

    The Watch – I think I managed half an hour.

    The Day The Earth Stood Still (remake!) – Take one of the greatest scifi classics, and turn it into an eco-message film, that also ends up being boring. (The same crimes as ‘John Carter’)

    Attack The Block – I really struggled to finish it. It’s just bad, and I don’t see why it gets as much praise as it does.

    • Clark

      I had forgotten about Battle: Los Angeles. That was truly terrible! Battleship and Cowboys vs Aliens are also very boring and dumb. But I kinda liked Skyline… I guess I’m the only one here.

      • Thulsadoom

        I’m sure there are plenty who liked Skyline. 🙂 Heck, I like a lot of movies that most people think are bad, and dislike plenty of movies most people love. 😉 At least Skyline has some redeeming features in its fun effects. Battle:Los Angeles was so bad… most of us have forgotten it existed!

        • I really liked Skyline, especially for what they pulled off with like 10 million for the budget. Really liked the ending actually and was hoping for a sequel which I still think is coming out sometime here.

          I’ve enjoyed watching Battlefield Earth in the same way as you, its terrible but in that old school bad Scifi way, tons of classic Scifi movies are bad, but thats what makes them a lot of fun 🙂

          Attack the Block though shouldnt even be mentiond here, that movie was excellent in almost every way

          • Thulsadoom

            I agree, on old B-movies and films that echo that sense of fun. 🙂 I must admit, Skyline did have some great effects moments. It helps that the directors/writers were effects guys themselves (in fact, I think they own the effects company). So they were able to do a lot on a limited budget. It was just the overall characters/story that let it down a bit, before those last ten minutes. 😉

            I’m probably a bit biased on Attack the Block. I’m from/in the UK and I get sick and tired of ‘grimy inner City London’ movies, in the same way the many Americans probably get sick of some ‘grimy inner city New York’ movies. That, and I just didn’t find the characters sympathetic enough to care about. I had the same problem with Kingsman. I wanted to like it, and enjoyed a lot of it, but I just couldn’t give a rodent’s posterior about the lead character, with the whole ‘youth who is excused from crime because he’s poor and disadvantaged’.

    • William Henley

      Now that is a good argument for liking Battlefield Earth. If someone hadn’t of read the book and wanted a cheesy Sci-Fi movie, I could see it working. As far as a book to movie adaptation, it falls flat on its face, and is one of the worst I have ever seen. No movie is going to be as good as its source material, but quite frankly, with this supposedly being a labor of love for the book, this should have been leagues better. But yeah, take the book out of the equation, and you have a cheesy sci-fi movie.

      I will actually take your comment for Battlefield Earth and apply it to Cowboys and Aliens. I found it to be a cheesy sci-fi movie that was a fun popcorn flick. Not saying it was good, but at least I had fun with it.

      • Thulsadoom

        I’ve read a lot of scifi, but I must admit, not much Hubbard (more because there are only so many hours in a day, than any particular bias). As for terrible adaptations, I felt the same way about John Carter. That was a terrible film. Mediocre in general, but awful as an adaptation of one of my all-time favourites.

        • William Henley

          I’ve read a couple of his books, they are pretty captivating. Hubbard was a great sci-fi writter before he wrote Dianetics. Hubbard wrote more than 250 published fiction works. To the Stars is a fantastic book, and then there is the series, Mission Earth. I have only read one of the books, but its pretty good.

          If you like Sci-Fi, I say give Hubbard a chance. Shoot, even Dianetics is an interesting read.If I could only recommend one of his books, though, it would be Battlefield Earth

      • Deaditelord

        Despite raising an eyebrow at your L. Ron Hubbard is universally accepted as a brilliant Sci-Fi author line William (well… unless you count his creating and then somehow establishing a fake religion in order to avoid having to pay taxes), his Battlefield Earth novel is pulpy fun. I do think a good film adaptation of Battlefield Earth is possible. Too bad we’ll never find out since the original movie is a complete disaster. I’ve watched it twice – once on DVD, again many years later via Rifftrax commentary – and Rifftrax is the only way I could imagine anyone deriving some enjoyment from the movie.

        • William Henley

          Give it about 10 years, and SyFy will do a miniseries on it, on a much lower budget and much worse actors, but with a much better script.

    • Chris B

      I don’t get why people didn’t like The Watch. I loved it when I saw it in theaters and still do. It’s one of my favorite comedies. It’s a hell of a lot funnier than any of the Hangover movies or even Old School. Why all the hate?

      • It was terrible, thats why the hate, I had to force myself through that one. Most of the film wasnt funny, it was like the Grown Ups of Scifi/Comedies, great cast that did nothing with a horrible script, it had some moments but they werent even close to get that movie to a good level. You want a good Scifi Comedy you watch At Worlds End with Frost and Pegg, way better than any movie like it really, hell I’ll even take Ivan Reitman’s Evolution with Duchovny over The Watch

  12. Csm101

    That’s it, I’m gonna have to see Battlefield Earth. Too many people have taken too many shits on this movie for too many years. I have to see this for myself.

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