As Alien: Covenant hits the big screen, we chart the best extraterrestrial extravaganzas.
Alien & Aliens
The godfather and godmother of films exploring extraterrestrial life respectively, Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s follow-up Aliens were well ahead of their time upon their release in the 70s and 80s.
Fronted by original bad-ass and feminist icon Sigourney Weaver (whose depiction of Ripley gained her a BAFTA and an Academy Award nomination), the flicks were undeniably out-of-this-world (pun intended). Despite a couple of panned add-on’s, the series made an acclaimed 21st century comeback in 2012 in the from of gorgeously-shot prequel Prometheus. With Scott back in the director’s chair, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace offered us an insight into where the aliens came from in traditionally terrifying style. This spring, the Prometheus sequel Alien: Convenant sees Katherine Waterson, Michael Fassbender and Billy Crudup team-up to take on the beast.
TBH, we’re still shook at that “chestburster” scene featuring John Hurt.
With a super-star cast featuring Jack Nicholson, Natalie Portman, Glenn Close and Annette Bening (to name but a few), Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! was destined to be LOL-a-minute material.
Sticking to the classic alien-invasion format and based on the (now-collectible) trading card series which was released in the 60s, the film puts the unearthly beings into the comedy genre, rather than the usual sci-fi horror that we’ve become accustomed to. The film’s original budget was $260 million, however this was cut to $60 million by Warner Bros – which is potentially why the alien’s voice is actually a duck quack played backwards (now we get why it’s so annoying!)
Nothing will beat seeing Sarah Jessica Parker’s face superimposed on a chihuahua.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario), Arrival was one of most acclaimed releases last year. Picking up eight Academy Award nominations (as well as 137 various other noms), the film followed the maxims of Mars Attacks! and sought to do something different with aliens.
With language acquisition being an integral theme, the film follows linguist Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) and her journey to create a back-and-forth between humans and a mysterious new life-form that has arrived at eight different landing sights across the world. Laden with twists and turns that keep you guessing (no spoilers here!), pay close attention to that sub-plot – it’s a winner.
Presented through the ‘found footage’ format (as seen in cult classics such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield), Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was the dystopian film that pushed boundaries.
Exploring themes of humanity, xenophobia and social segregation, District 9 was effectively a low-key social commentary. The film explores a dystopian landscape within which an alien space-craft has landed and contains a ship full of malnourished non-human life and the story of one alien and his son who seek to escape and return to their homeland.
Mimicking the imagery that appeared throughout the film, the marketing campaign for the film was much discussed, involving posters stating HUMANS ONLY; it also included a free phone number to call in the event that you saw an alien. An estimated 33,000 calls were made to the number and a large portion of these left voicemails with claims of extraterrestrial sightings.
A sequel has long been discussed, with Blomkamp saying that he wanted to create District 10. Watch this space.
Starring a young Kurt Russell and directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape From New York), The Thing unites Antarticta with aliens when a team of scientists uncover non-human life-form buried beneath the snow.
With an interesting take on extraterrestrial life, the antagonist consumes members of the group and as a result, turns into their doppelgänger, making it difficult for the group to decide who is real and who is an imposter.
Despite it becoming a cult-classic amongst film fans and ranked as one of the greatest horror films of all time, it initially under-performed at the movies. Many people believe that this is due to the release of Steven Spielberg’s E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial which was released two weeks earlier and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner being released on the same day.
Regardless, it’s since become a classic.
Under The Skin
Ranked as one of the best films of its release year, Under The Skin was effectively 13 years in the making after Jonathan Glazer decided to adapt Michael Faber’s book of the same name in the year 2000, following the release of his crime epic, Sexy Beast.
The film’s main and only well-known actor was Scarlett Johansson, who was chosen in order to obtain studio support (in part) and because, despite her acting prowess and celebrity status, she has the ability to walk down the street unnoticed. A large amount of the scenes were filmed using a secret camera which captured unscripted conversations with men in the street in order to make the film as authentic as possible.
ET the Extra-Terrestrial
It’s pretty much synonymous with sci-fi cinema (and therefore totes predictable), but we couldn’t chart the best alien-featuring films without mentioning Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was pretty much the defining flick of the 80s.
Regularly replayed as the Sunday night classic on UK television, there’s not much need to give an outline of the plot as you’ve more than likely seen it and are well aware of Elliott and his new-found bestie, E.T.. Also, there’s something super special about seeing a baby faced Drew Barrymore.
More recently, everyone’s fave Netflix show, Stranger Things, borrowed influences from E.T. and references from the original film appeared consistently throughout the series – only further highlighting that it remains a winning formula.