Science fiction has been a part of cinema since the motion pictures were born. 1902’s A Trip to the Moon allowed audiences to leave this world and travel into the stars. The wonderment of space and extraterrestrials have been a part of storytelling for generations. Films allow the viewers to see directors’ interpretations of what aliens could look like and how they may interact with our world.
While films like ET The Extraterrestrial explores the heart and compassion of these creatures, other prominent science fiction films dive into a darker vision. These films take the question “what if” and add a horrifying twist that brings our nightmares to life, and we can not get enough of it. These are the most terrifying aliens and extraterrestrials ever put on film, in no particular order.
8 A Quiet Place
John Krasinski directed one of the most successful scary movies of recent years, A Quiet Place, a horror story which focuses on its characters, who ultimately makes up the heart of the film. The characters and their familial dynamic captivate the audience and invest them into their lives. However, what makes the film truly effective is seeing real husband and wife John Krasinski and Emily Blunt together on screen. Having great characters is a tremendous feat alone, but it’s combined with some of the most gut-wrenchingly disturbing aliens put on screen, putting the film on a higher caliber. The sound design, isolating the alien noises as the humans try and keep silent, along with the toothy smile and opening face of the Death Angel aliens, create great sequences of terror.
Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of the scariest horror films ever made. Perhaps the scariest science fiction film of all time, the film contains many layers of scares, all derived from the claustrophobia and helplessness that these characters are experiencing. What is truly horrific is what this creature is capable of. The Xenomorph is large, but silent in its motions, with acidic body fluids and a protractible set of teeth. These traits make it a deadly force in several great scenes that some characters are no match for. This creature has no remorse and salivates for humans to feed on. Some of the most brutal results of its attack were actually cut, and these deleted scenes of the film show the true terror of this alien.
Signs is a family drama with extraterrestrial elements sprinkled into it. However, those moments of alien interaction are truly terrifying. M. Night Shyamalan creates a real and grounded environment for the audience as they begin to latch onto a grieving father (Mel Gibson), and his brother (Joaquin Phoenix). The film is a metaphor for accepting the idea that there is something greater to believe in. While Gibson’s character struggles with his faith, he comes face to face with creatures from another world. Those creatures place themselves on the home front, making their presence known in subtle but eerie ways. These aliens remain unseen for most of the movie and yet still fill it with dread, but when they are seen, they’re a disturbing take on the ‘little green men’ image.
5 The Thing
The Thing, directed by John Carpenter is one of the classic extraterrestrial films of the 80s and stars Kurt Russell as a flame-throwing action hero. What makes the creature of this flick so unique is its unpredictability. The Thing could be anyone, and that tension of where it could be or how it may appear is well played to the audience. Those moments when it does show itself, in one form or another, are gleefully disgusting, as the creature causes mayhem through gruesome practical effects and off the wall action sequences. Carpenter controls his scenes with such confidence, leaving most of them in silence and letting the audience just be in the tense moment with the characters. This 1983 science fiction film continues to inspire filmmakers to this day, and the iconic Carpenter has been teasing a reboot.
Denis Villeneuve has created a wide range of complex films that spark theories and interpretations. However, Arrival is a slow-burning psychological thriller with jaw-dropping visuals (especially of the aliens) and hypnotizing sound effects. This film explores the dynamic between two worlds (ours and those from above), and how a universal system of communication can establish potential relationships. Amy Adams brilliantly portrays the linguist who attempts to talk to the invaders from outer space. Through symbols and subtitles for the audience, the aliens reveal their intentions in a shocking twist of an ending that begs explanation on numerous platforms. The visual effects are superb and the unique design of the extraterrestrials (who may or may not be threatening, but are pretty terrifying and seem capable of some awful things) give this film a deserving critical and audience appeal.
3 They Live
While They Live is one of John Carpenter‘s more hidden gems, it uses its premise as a science fiction alien film to act as more of a social commentary. Former WWE star Roddy Piper kicks ass alongside Keith David in this action-packed, wryly sarcastic thriller about the dangers of commercialism. As these characters see the world hidden before their very eyes, the beings that lurk amongst the masses are revealed. The freakishly looking aliens are not only practical, but also unnerving, with seemingly skinless faces and bulging eyes. This film is a staple of 80s cinema that continues to hold up decades later.
When the creature removes its helmet, audiences can all agree with Major Dutch Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that the Predator is one ugly mother… we do not need to add the rest. The sheer strength of this creature is enough to send chills down the spines of anyone unlucky enough to cross its path. What director John McTiernan adds to the science fiction genre is allowing the audience to see the point of view of the extraterrestrial. The POV shots through the eyes of the predator allow us to see what it sees and get a closer look of how it interacts with the world around it. It also turns the creature into a character itself, which allows more emotional stakes to be established throughout the film. The Predator franchise has been revamped and continued since this film’s debut in 1987, which goes to show its immense success and popularity, and just how iconic that dreadlocked and dread-inducing alien is.
1 Killer Klowns From Outer Space
The sheer combination of bizarre unnerving visuals, mixed with the generalized preconception of clowns as creepy, makes Killer Klowns From Outer Space a gem for cult horror fans. The film is by no means a critical success. However, it has garnered an enormous following which sparked Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights to feature its own attraction. The extraterrestrials are practical and unsettling, creating different variations of clowns and exaggerating their features in horrifying, disturbing ways. While it may not be a film that takes itself seriously, and putting aliens and clowns together is an unusual choice, but it brings together two of our society’s common fears. It has surely paid off and the film’s success is felt over thirty years later. These are some of the weirdest, funniest, creepiest, and most bonkers extraterrestrials in film.
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