Since UFOs have been in pop culture for a long time, it’s easy to identify the most popular films about them (and of course with a help of the Letterboxd community). The War of the Worlds, which was written by H.G. Wells in 1897, provided the initial spark for this interest. Numerous other films have also been made based on this novel.
There are many different types of UFO movies that can be made, and they can range from peaceful encounters to violent confrontations depending on the visitors’ intentions. Some of these try to poke fun at the silver age of cinema, while others try to convey a profound message.
One of the most popular UFO movies that Letterboxd has reviewed is Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival.” This cerebral drama features Amy Adams as Louise Banks, a linguistics expert who is tasked with translating an alien language. The film takes place in an alien world that’s filled with massive ships and mysterious creatures known as the Heptapods.
The film’s premise is based on the idea that people’s perceptions of reality can change depending on how they think. For instance, if one starts to think about the Heptapods’ language, their interpretations of reality can begin to shift. The Heptapods communicate in circular forms, and Louise tries to connect with this process in order to find the gifts they seek.
The Thing, 1982
The film begins with an opening shot from space, which shows an alien craft moving toward Earth. It then cuts to a group of men at a research facility in Antarctica, where they encounter a distressing situation. There, they find a massive spaceship that’s been in the ice for hundreds of thousands of years, and there’s evidence of an escaped pilot. However, they can’t find the body of the pilot.
The film stars Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimeley, and Keith David, and it begins with an unsettling encounter with an alien that can imitate any creature. The group begins to spiral into paranoia as the frightening creature continues to attack. The combination of the film’s special effects and the cold environment makes for a frightening experience.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
Another modern classic is delivered by Steven Spielberg with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a family-friendly science fiction film. The movie begins with a UFO flying across a forest floor, where small alien creatures begin investigating. However, after being spooked by the humans, the spaceship departs. The lone alien then finds a safe and warm place to stay. This is where it will eventually befriend Elliot, a young boy.
The relationship between Elliot and the alien, who is named E.T., is strong and emotional. Despite the adults’ attempts to scare the alien away, the kids help the creature by sending it on its way to safety. Through the film’s unique sense of wonder and awe, the kids were able to bring out their inner child.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977
The film’s title, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was inspired by the writings of J. Allen Hyneck, a Ufologist who classified encounters involving extraterrestrials into three categories: sightings, evidence left behind, and contact with the alien’s resident. The third encounter is the heart and soul of Steven Spielberg’s classic UFO tale.
The film features Roy, who is a government official and a UFO witness, along with various other individuals. After witnessing an encounter with an alien, he begins to become increasingly obsessed with the situation. He starts constructing a strange and unsettling structure out of household items and potatoes. The tension in the film, which is mainly due to paranoia, was released during the climactic scene.
The score composed by John Williams seamlessly complements the story’s message to the aliens. It helps the film stand the test of time.
District 9, 2009
District 9 follows the story of a derelict alien spaceship that lands in Johannesburg, South Africa. The film, which is partially narrated by documentary style, explains how officials came across over a million aliens living inside the spaceship. In an effort to rehabilitate the aliens, the government relocates them to camps.
The film District 9 is a grounded sci-fi that uses the audience’s own experiences to bring the story to life. Through its unique documentary style, the film tackles issues of racial segregation and the exploitation of aliens. The aliens are shown being held hostage by the government so that a weapons manufacturer can use their technology.
Independence Day, 1996
In Independence Day, which is an action-packed disaster movie, alien invaders arrive and wipe out humanity. This is a motivating rah-rah movie that encourages people to stand up to the extraterrestrial threats.
In the film, Will Smith plays a jet fighter pilot who has his sights set on getting revenge for his first encounter with the extraterrestrials. Also starring are Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum. The simple yet effective plot and characterizations of District 9 are presented on the film’s cover. It provides an entertaining and engaging experience.
Men in Black, 1997
The sci-fi film, which is also a comedy, plays off the campiness of the 50s. It follows the story of a government agency that monitors and licenses alien activities on Earth. The humor in this film is derived from the numerous clichés and stereotypes in sci-fi.
Tommy Lee Jones plays Agent K, who recruits the young agent, played by Will Smith. Their mismatched partnership gets into trouble when the audience discovers that the alien community has been dwelling under our noses. The conflict begins when a damaged ship brings a viscous alien known as the Bug, which disguises itself in human skin, to Earth. The newfound partners must stop this threat from escaping.
2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is an astounding and unsettling science fiction masterpiece. The film begins with an introduction that shows how an unseen alien entity sends a massive stone to Earth. A jump cut shows the way humans discover a buried object on the moon, which is then revealed to be a message to Jupiter. A mission is then carried out to find its source.
The film, which is directed by Stanley Kubrick, doesn’t attempt to provide the audience with everything they need to know. Instead, it offers an emotional response through its abstract moments. The movie doesn’t attempt to define anything since the universe is beyond human comprehension.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs is a science fiction thriller that showcases his signature style of suspense. It features a story set in a rural community. It stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mel Gibson, and Abigail Breslin. The film’s story revolves around an alien invasion.
The family begins to suspect that something strange is happening in their farm after they see crop circles and strange occurrences in their fields. While they begin sharing evidence about the aliens on their small TV, the story focuses on the characters who are struggling with their own grief and loss of faith.
Under the Skin, 2013
The film Under the Skin features an unsettling depiction of a woman who is disguised as an alien. In an opening sequence, the alien passes through light and shapes as it flies toward Earth. It’s implied that the creature is being dropped off to prey on humans. A missed shot of a skyscraper shows the UFO flying back into the Scottish skies.
This is as close as the UFO genre has come. The film offers a glimpse into the alien’s mind as it observes humans with an emotionless gaze. It lures men into its presence with promises of being able to harvest their bodies. However, as the creature experiences various emotional and physical interactions, its identity is suddenly thrown into doubt.
What is your favorite UFO & alien related movie? Leave me a comment down below!