When it comes to movies that threaten the destruction of the human race, there’s nothing like a good alien invasion. Be it from hordes of ugly creatures or a trio of super-powered humanoids, alien-invasion movies are the backbone of the sci-fi genre.
With the mothership returning to rain down destruction in “Independence Day: Resurgence,” CBR looks back at 10 of the greatest alien invasions to hit the big screen — and the often nuclear-powered lengths humanity will go to in order to stop them.
10. Independence Day (1996)
There are few better ways start off a list of alien-invasion movies than with “Independence Day.” Starring Will Smith, Randy Quaid and Jeff Goldblum, the summer blockbuster sees massive alien ships arrive over major cities across the globe on July 2, and then unleash widespread destruction the following day.
Naturally, Earth doesn’t take the attack lying down! On July 4, humanity “declared in one voice: ‘We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!’ Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!” The people of Earth fight back, and ultimately prevail, with the help of the ultimate alien counter-weapon: a nuke.
9. The Thing (1982)
This John Carpenter masterpiece (and the first horror movie I ever saw) is a loose remake of 1951’s “The Thing from Another World,” with Kurt Russell in one of his most memorable roles, as helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady.
An Antarctic research outpost is threatened by a long-dormant parasitic alien that assimilates and then assumes the bodies of its hosts (including a Husky), threatening all life at the station, possibly even the world (cue dramatic music). That is, if MacReady can’t stop it.
This isn’t your typical alien-invasion movie, however, as it’s steeped in early-’80s horror and filled with scares and absurdly disgusting alien creatures (like the aptly named “headcrab”).
8. Cloverfield (2008)
A series of catastrophes one evening lures six people out of a party and into the streets. However, what was at first thought to be an earthquake turns out to be a giant monster wreaking havoc in Manhattan. The city is clumsily evacuated over the course of the night, but three of the party attendees remain as the government drops what on the rampaging creature? Yes, a nuke.
Reports from the initial release indicated some movie-goers became nauseated by the shaky-cam footage. However, if you come armed with Dramamine, “Cloverfield” is an 85-minute thrill ride. Whether it has any tangible connections to 2016’s “10 Cloverfield Lane” is another story.
7. Signs (2002)
Although many people look down their noses at M. Night Shyamalan’s fifth movie, “Signs” doesn’t deserve its bad rap. Mel Gibson stars as widowed ex-minister Graham Hess, who lives on an isolated farm with his younger brother (Joaquin Phoenix) and two children.
Shortly after Graham discovers a crop circle in a field, unexplained phenomena begin to unfold: animals become violent, more crop circles emerge across the globe, lights appear over Mexico. The next day, even more unusual events occur on the Hess farm, leading the family to realize their house has been invaded by extraterrestrial life.
Through a series of fortunate accidents, the Hess family exposes the aliens’ weaknesses, and they live happily ever after. The Hess family, presumably, not the aliens.
6. They Live (1988)
No list of alien-invasion movies would be complete without this classic John Carpenter satire of the action/horror genre.
Wrestling great Roddy Piper stars as a nameless drifter referred to as John Nada, who finds a job in construction in Los Angeles. After being taken to a church soup kitchen, Nada returns the next day to find the place empty, except for a few boxes hidden in a wall. In one of the boxes, Nada discovers a pair of sunglasses that allows the wearer to see the world as it really is: filled with subliminal messages instructing the population at large to “OBEY,” “REPRODUCE” and “CONFORM.” The sunglasses also reveal what appear to be aliens living among the population.
Nada eventually joins up with a small resistance group, where he learns that aliens are harvesting Earth, causing global warming, and broadcasting a signal to the brains of humans, making them see only what the invaders want them to. Nada eventually destroys the signal broadcaster, exposing the aliens to the population.
“They Live” also gives us this classic line: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.”
5. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Live. Die. Repeat. “Edge of Tomorrow” takes the alien-invasion premise and flips it on its head, “Groundhog Day”-style. It’s an underrated film, due perhaps in part to its surface similarities to another Tom Cruise movie released the year before, “Oblivion.” However, if you can move beyond the fact that it’s the second Cruise sci-fi film in as many years (which you should), you may be pleasantly surprised.
The action star plays Bill Cage, a military public relations officer with no combat experience who’s ordered to film ground troops as an alien race invades Earth. He’s killed during combat, but that’s not the end for Cage or “Edge of Tomorrow,” because he’s caught in a time loop and awakes exactly where he began the day before. However, instead of learning to play the piano and sculpt ice with a chainsaw, a la Bill Murray, Cage trains to be a super-soldier, and eventually solves the riddle of the time loop and save the day.
Emily Blunt also stars in Sarah Connor-type role, which in itself may be worth the price of admission.
4. Superman II (1980)
Not all alien invasions are spearheaded by hordes of grotesque in-humanoid extraterrestrials. Case in point, the sequel to 1978’s “Superman: The Movie.” But while three Ã¼ber-powered beings may not seem like much of an invasion, the sheer amount of damage caused by Kryptonian criminals General Zod, Ursa and Non — and the surrender of Earth by the U.S. president — argues otherwise.
Sure, “Superman II” features a mushy, de-powered Man of Steel who throws that silly translucent “S” shield-thing. However, when he reclaims those abilities, it’s all business. And you know it, too, as he floats outside the Daily Planet offices and says, “General, would you care to step outside?”
And then there’s that unforgettably awesome “Kneel before Zod!” moment.
3. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Fans were ecstatic to see the Avengers assemble for the first time on the big screen, but if you can look past the superhero trappings, you’ll see that director Joss Whedon’s blockbuster is, at its heart, an alien-invasion film. After all, the real threat to Earth isn’t Tom Hiddleston’s charismatic trickster god Loki, but rather the seemingly endless stream of Chitauri soldiers pouring out of the wormhole over New York City.
Of course, was a bigger, and more sinister, danger than the building-destroying Leviathan or that Chitauri fleet waiting on the other side of the rift: the smiling Thanos from the mid-credits scene.
For those keeping score, Iron Man uses a nuclear missile to stop the invaders.
2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
In the same way “Jaws” caused audiences to re-think going into the ocean, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” inspired more than a few sleepless nights.
When deformed, lifeless bodies are found in a San Francisco bathhouse, health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) suspects something’s wrong. He eventually surmises that aliens are replicating city residents, who die when they fall asleep, only to be replaced by a clone from a pod (hence, the term “pod people”).
In investigating the matter, Bennell discovers a warehouse full of pods, which he promptly sets on fire. Of course, there are always more pods lurking somewhere else — and as any parent of a newborn will tell you, sleep is inevitable. Bennell soon drifts off and, well… the end.
1. Pacific Rim (2013)
“Giant robots vs. giant monsters” seems like a formula for success, right? Guillermo del Toro thought it was money in the bank as well, so he made an epic movie about giant monsters (kaiju) that cross over into our world via an interdimensional rip at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Earth’s response? Giant robots called Jaegers, which are so huge that they must be piloted by two people, who need to be in sync. There’s plenty of drama as the kaiju grow larger and larger with the defeat of their predecessors.
A plan is eventually devised to seal the interdimensional breach with — you guessed it! — nukes. We won’t give away the ending, but… the good guys win.
The movie was a disappointment at the U.S. box office but proved to be a hit overseas, leading to the development of the upcoming sequel.
Honorable mentions: “Men in Black,” “Transformers,” “Attack the Block” and “The World’s End.”
Did your favorite alien invasion movie make the list? Let us know what we missed!