by Aaron Peck
Aliens, and their never-ending will to colonize our planet, have been staples of our cinematic attention for decades. We've watched them as they invaded our Earth time after time, bringing with them advanced technology and frighteningly efficient killing weapons. Most of the time they arrive on our planet and we find ourselves fighting for our very lives. Usually they want to take over Earth and strip it of its natural resources. You know, because that's what aliens do. With 'Battle: Los Angeles' hitting the Blu-ray shelves today we thought we'd take a look back at the best and, as always, the worst alien invasion movies out there.
Over the years we'd seen what kind of destruction a fleet of alien ships can produce. What we had yet to see was an alien invasion movie of a different sort. One that actually mirrored real world problems in this world like racism. Aliens have become stranded on earth in South Africa, where they've been moved into encampments and ostracized from the rest of the humans. They're quarantined and treated like an inferior species. Even though these aliens have weapons technology beyond our comprehension, they never try and take us out. Finally, an advanced alien race that doesn't desire human blood and the destruction of earth to survive.
Out of the numerous remakes of Jack Finney's novel, the second film starring Donald Sutherland is the best and scariest. I can't get that howling out of my head, or that picture of Sutherland pointing straight at the camera with his mouth agape and his eyes about to burst out of his head. 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' shows that not every alien invasion movie needs to stoop to wild CG battles. True suspense can be built on terrific acting and an engaging story.
Let's not talk about the umpteen sequels, reboots, and rehashes that have been spawned from the original 'Predator'. Sure, this isn't about a group of aliens who've come en masse to take over the world, but it is about an alien hunter that hunts humans for sport. 'Predator' is one of the quintessential 80s action movies. It's suspenseful, fun, and above all, it gave us one of the most badass looking aliens to date.
Not too many aliens in movies have had the unique power that the alien in 'The Thing' had. It was able to take the form of anyone it had killed. Mixed with John Carpenter's innate ability to build suspense, 'The Thing' turned into a whodunit mystery, with copious amounts of gore, and a truly scary alien being that terrified anyone who watched the movie. I still get chills watching 'The Thing'.
'War of the Worlds' (1953)
How can we pay homage to the alien invasion genre without listing the film that started it all. Well, the faux radio special started it all, but soon came the cinematic version that was shocking to an audience that was immersed in news about the Cold War. 'War of the Worlds' plays with the fear people already had, at that time, about invading forces. Only this time they were from a different world, not just from the Soviet Union.
Well, here the aliens have already invaded and taken over. They've enslaved the human race and forced them to do their bidding. They walk around grunting, looking like disheveled hobos that haven't washed for weeks. Often considered by many to be one of the worst big budget movies ever made, 'Battlefield Earth' is an entire different level of awfulness. Watching it is torturous, even when you're trying to make fun of it.
It was tough for me to leave the original 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' off the Best Of list because it is such a classic. With that said, it was easy for me to include the barbaric remake that took the intelligent, though-provoking story of the original and dumbed it down with massive CG sequences and a deadpan Keanu Reeves doing his best deadpan Keanu Reeves impression.
It's big, loud, and obnoxious. That must mean Mr. Roland Emmerich is at the wheel. Sure enough he is, guiding the blockbuster 'Independence Day' with a myriad of choices that simply defy logic. If you haven't seen the movie, then too bad because I'm going to spoil it for you. See, what happens here is not only does Will Smith need all of about two minutes to figure out how to fly an alien spacecraft, but he does so straight into the mother ship where Jeff Goldblum uploads a computer virus into the computer of the aliens and kills them all. Yes, a computer virus. Gah! It still bugs me to this day. It really is a good thing they were compatible.
Another 'Body Snatchers' remake, but this time they got everything wrong. The 1978 film featured an aura of horror and creepiness that is completely glossed over in this one. It's like they completely forgot the three films that came before it and simply started over. It's sad. You really should only reboot something when it can be drastically improved upon. 'Invasion' was unable to even come close to replicating any of the dread or suspense that an 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' movie needs.
I get the idea behind the movie. Let's go with more of a 'Signs' approach, where ordinary people watch an alien invasion happen from inside their own home. Sadly, that's about the only thing The Brothers Strause took from that far more superior movie. They forgot that if you don't care about the characters on screen then why would you care if they get chased, eaten, or squished by giant rampaging aliens?
I know I left out quite a few alien invasion movies that people love, but that's the nature of the list. I know I left out 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' but I never really thought of that movie as an invasion movie. It was more like a movie where the aliens were just saying, "Hi" to us. They never had any thoughts of destroying us or colonizing our planet. Then again you could argue that 'Predator' and 'The Thing' shouldn't be on the list because they aren't full scale invasions. I understand there's quite a few ways to interpret this list and that's why I leave it up to all of you to give us your own list in the forums. So, please, let us know your favorite or not-so-favorite alien invasion movies by clicking on the link below.