In most cases, the aliens come here to kick our ass and take over earth, but in others they are benign, friendly, seeking to understand us and know us. To me those represent the finest such alien encounter films because they make the most sense. Why, with their vast intelligence, obviously vastly greater to ours, would they come here to destroy us? Why make themselves even known to us if they plan on killing us and wiping out humanity? Far more interesting is watching the two species figure out how to communicate, and seeing where things go from there. Last year’s magnificent Arrival (2016) was a stunning film about communication, about risk, about trust, superbly acted by Amy Adams. Steven Spielberg’s majestic and awe-inspiring Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) was perhaps the first truly intelligent film to deal with man’s contact with alien life.
That said there have been some exceptional films made about hostile aliens coming here to kill us. James Cameron merged the science fiction genre with both horror and war for his picture, Aliens (1986), the finest of the Alien franchise for Fox. Steven Spielberg brought a 9/11 allegory to his frightening War of the Worlds (2005), superb until the final scene. The more frightening the alien, the wilder the effects can be, and the director and editor have their work cut out for them, they must excel. Sadly most films of this ilk become action driven, mindless effects films with the connection of man-alien virtually forgotten. Below is the list of top movies about alien invasion and abduction ever. You can watch some of these best alien invasion movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. Star Man (1984)
The film is carried on the performance of the great Jeff Bridges, an alien who takes the shape of a young man who has died recently, his cutting of hair all the creature needs to recreate. He becomes Scott, a perfect replica of the dead mad, which terrifies the widow more than you can imagine. But the more time she spends with him she realizes he is here in peace, benign even, though he does have a weapon with him and the power of resurrection. She falls in love with him, and when asked to describe love actress Karen Allen does the best scene of her career. Bridges was Oscar nominated for his performance, a braves bird like piece of acting in this lovely film directed by John Carpenter.
Read More: Best Serial Killer Movies of All Time
9. The Abyss (1989)
James Cameron directed this often poetic film about aliens from the stars living beneath our oceans, here to warn us about our fighting ways. A crew working on a vessel in the sea have an encounter they cannot explain, and when investigate they are thrilled with what they find. Ed Harris leads the motley crew under water never knowing they are going to connect with a race from the cosmos. The Directors Cut is the definitive version of the film, and the one to see. Great visual effects, hell, great everything.
Read More: Best Conversational Movies of All Time
8. War of the Worlds (2005)
“Is it the terrorists?” screams Rachel (Dakota Fanning) when the vicious attacks on humanity begin, almost as soon as the aliens emerge from beneath the earth in their massive ships. Spielberg gave this film a 9/11 allegory, which simply added to the terror he builds through the picture. Powerful scenes of extraordinary destruction are seen throughout the film, none more powerful than the wild, crazed look of terror in the eyes of Tom Cruise after seeing people turned to ash before his eyes. The white powder covering him, is all that remains of them. The effects are superb, the creatures unique, and aside from a very silly reunion scene at the end, it is a superb, terrifying picture.
Read More: Best Pirate Movies of All Time
7. Contact (1997)
Intelligence is the first take away from this outstanding adaptation of the Carl Sagan book, which had a long and winding role to the big screen. Director Robert Zemeckis does everything right here, including the perfect casting of Jodie Foster as the scientist, Ellie, who for her whole life has searched the stars for life. When she finds it, the entire event turns into a political game she is not prepared to play. Her friendship with the billionaire who has funded her work, sees to it that she goes into space to meet those who have sent the signal. What it becomes is a mesmerizing, haunting journey across the galaxy through worm holes. Her encounter with the aliens is both familiar and therefor haunting, and profoundly…right? As she says as she stares into the infinity of the cosmos, “They should have sent a poet”, not realizing her performance is pure poetry. Listen to the signal from space, the urgency, like a cry from the cosmos that screams, we are here. So are we.
Read More: Best Violent Movies of All Time
6. District 9 (2009)
Who knew a tremendously good and popular film about alien encounters would come from Neil Blomkamp, set in South Africa? Perhaps the perfect place to set the film given that country’s civil rights history, ten year previous to the film’s opening an alien craft carrying more than one million creatures hovered over the city of Johannesburg, until the government set them up in camps. Known as prawns their tent city has become a ghetto and in an attempt to move them, one of the officers accidentally sprays a gooey black substance in his face that begins a transformation into one of them. Darkly brilliant, often funny, but more often than not a sad indictment of the human race.
Read More: Best Movies About Movies of All Time
5. Alien (1979)
The first of the franchise was a superb, taut horror film set in space where the alien is a vicious monster that will kill all in its path, just to do it. From the exploding chest of poor John Hurt through the gutsy courage of Ridley, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the film that made her famous, director Ridley Scott owns the audience. All the frights work, the creature is truly terrifying, the performances are excellent, there is treachery aboard the ship, and finally an encounter that leaves one twisting in their seat. One of the first films in the genre, (both) where a woman was the hero, with no apologies.
4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Upon exiting the theatre with my brother, news crews were there asking for the reactions of we who had just seen the film. We overheard a black lady exclaim “It was like seeing God.” Steve looked at each other, our eyes still moist from the tears, nodded. Steven Spielberg made contact with aliens a majestic, regal quasi-religious experience that no one has ever forgotten. Gentle aliens begin leaving signals that lead to an encounter at Devils Tower in Wyoming, a breathtaking, often awe inspiring coming together of two living creatures from opposite sides of the universe. The final encounter, and most joyful is between a little alien and scientist who speak through sign language. A brilliant transformative film.
Read More: Best Crime Movies Based on True Stories
3. Arrival (2016)
Directed with quiet but undeniable power by Denis Villeneuve, the film deals with twelve alien crafts that land on earth, or rather slightly above in places around the globe. A renowned linguist, portrayed with astonishing grace by Amy Adams is brought in to learn the language of the strange creatures, who communicate with an inky substance which forms circles when ejected, each meaning something. Slowly she builds trust with the Heptapods, slowly we understand the dense and complicated plot, where nothing is what it seems. The aliens are nothing like us, a rarity, which is exciting and gives the film both an edge and profound sense of originality. Breathtaking.
Read More: Best Treasure Hunt Movies of All Time
2. Aliens (1986)
The sequel to the fine film of 1979, director James Cameron merges science fiction with horror with war and the result is a stunning picture about hostile, acid bleeding aliens who use humans as the hosts for their babies, which then burst through the chest of said host. Set eighty years after the end of the first, Ripley goes back to a planet as an advisor, but when the beasts wipe out her crew she is left virtually alone to fight the queen. Beautifully acted, directed, edited, shot, with superb effects and seemingly non-stop action. The picture captures superbly the abject terror of fighting a superior enemy we do not understand.
Read More: Best Movie Chases of All Time
1. E. T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982)
Suppose an alien creature was accidentally left behind while collecting plant samples in the lush forests of California. Terrified and starving it is found by a ten year old boy, who sees only another living in need of his help, so that is what he does. Steven Spielberg’s dreamscape of a movie is easily the finest about contact between an alien and man, and is also a superb study of a pure friendship built on love and trust. Henry Thomas gives a brilliant performance, and never forget most of his scenes are with a special effect, an even greater achievement. By far the best film of its year, it won several critics awards, was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four. Shamefully, not Best Picture or Best Director.
Read More: Best Hollywood Directors of All Time