by Taylor Leonard
Aliens, for the most part, get a bad rap in Hollywood. Besides Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and the countless ripoffs of both, it’s hard to find a good movie where a creature from another world is amiable with earthlings. More times than not aliens are depicted as threats to the human race.
For the sake of all those advanced life forms out there currently absorbing our radio waves, it’s time we portray extraterrestrials in a more optimistic light on the silver screen. With that said, a good evil alien movie is the definitive vehicle for inducing fright in viewers, for what’s scarier than something from an unknown part of the universe wanting to eat or destroy you?
To make the point, here are the scariest movie aliens of all time:
THE MARTIANS - The War of the Worlds (1953)
By the time Paramount Pictures pulled off adapting H. G. Wells’ bestselling novel The War of the Worlds in early 1950s the story was already nearly half a century old. Yet the depiction of a vastly superior alien civilization setting its sights on Earth and annihilating any and all human opposition was so far ahead of its time it maintained a fear factor 50 years later and still does to this day.
The titular alien life form in Predator hails from a home world where hunting prowess is more important than life itself. These mandibled spacefarers travel to distant planets with the sole purpose of stalking and killing worthy game, and humans are next on the list. The fear generated by the Predator of the overwhelming odds of being inevitably tracked down and killed by a superior life form hits us right in the reptilian hindbrain.
The proverbial cinematic alien is of course the xenomorph from the 1979 classic Alien. Reasons why the creature sparks enduring fright in movie watchers nearly 30 years later include the particularly demented looking costume design as well as the dark and brooding cinematography. However the ultimate credit goes to director Ridley Scott’s masterful coalescing of these two elements, which if improperly done would have rendered the movie cheesy and anticlimactic
GORT - The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
In the 1950s science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, an advanced life form arrives to our planet as an emissary from an intergalactic community of civilizations concerned about humanity’s hostile and hasty arrival into the atomic age. The message is simple: if nuclear bombs are ever used against alien beings, Earth will be wiped from existence. Enforcing the threat of extermination are indestructible killer robots, one of which, named Gort, accompanies the emissary to Earth. Nothing in the known universe can destroy the robot; this innate immortality is intentionally engineered in order to preserve peace across the galaxy by any means necessary.
THE THING John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
While the idea of aliens hijacking the bodies of our friends and loved ones to further penetrate human society was nothing new in 1982, the concept was thrust into new frontiers of fear and anxiety with the release of The Thing, directed by John Carpenter. Itself a remake of an adaptation of a short story, the film, set in a small research facility in Antarctica, features an alien nemesis which not only possesses the ability to perfectly imitate the organisms it gruesomely absorbs, but high intelligence and the means to splinter itself off into multiple creatures at once. In short, who can you trust when several people in an isolated group are secretly monsters plotting to take over everyone else one at a time?
We need more “good guy” aliens in the movies. But that doesn’t mean the bad ones aren’t interesting. Whether extraterrestrials are the bloodthirsty invaders we depict them to be or laid back, eclectic lifeforms they’re likely to be, contemplations of their existence have spawned many memorable motion picture creations, some of which continue to scare into the 21st century.