Aliens or extraterrestrial life has always intrigued us. Not because we want to know how their civilization would be like or how flourishing or otherwise their race could be, but because of the fear of the unknown. Fear drives our interest into what aliens could be like – yucky, slimy, weird-looking naked beings or devouring, demolishing giants who have no control or leave none or tiny, minuscule cuties which can cause havoc if instigated and take the course of the movie to another level. More often than not, we end up regretting watching such Alien-horror movies because of the involved unpleasantness or the disgusting gore that is rather glorified in most of these flicks. But they are enjoyable nevertheless due to the adrenaline pumping sequences we love to indulge in.
The entire caveat of alien horror is to explore the possibilities of horrid, unknown civilizations that probably do exist in this universe or which may instil so much fear in our lives that we might never see them in our lives. Here’s a list of top movies which gave us the hair-raising creepers and also piqued our interest and made us wonder as to how good or bad any other unexplored civilization could be for us. Here goes, and be ready for some major spoilers as you read. You can watch some of these best alien horror movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
15. Pitch Black (2000)
The film with a cult following and perhaps the one strictly only for Vin Diesel fans, ‘Pitch Black’ follows the story of “anti-hero” and escapee convict Richard Riddick and his tryst with an unknown alien species on an uncharted planet in the distance future as their ship comes crashing and Riddick is the only hope of the remaining 11 survivors. As the movie progresses, Riddick has to fight a two-front war, with his crew and against the indomitable alien species that inhabit the planet. Though there’s nothing we haven’t seen in many alien movies and zombie-horrors alike, ‘Pitch Black’ promises a lot yet doesn’t deliver up to its word, neither do its sequels or spin-offs.
14. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
I think to compare this sequel with the genius of ‘Alien (1979)’ would be a fallacy, but not having it on the list would’ve been an injustice to the franchise. The movie was both panned and praised alike, although the majority of audiences liked it over its immediate predecessor. Penned by Joss Whedon himself, the film surrounds the events of the 24th century, 200 years since the events of ‘Alien 3’, wherein a group of mercenaries try to save Earth by invading rogue aliens, something that was of their own making. Though we have seen better, the thrill, chills down the spine, the element of suspense, and the scare, ‘Alien: Resurrection’ retains each and everything in bits and hence the chunks of fun that we derive from it.
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13. Dark Skies (2013)
More inclined towards the “horror” than the “extraterrestrial beings” storyline, ‘Dark Skies’ mainly revolves around the Barrett family, who are confronted with an unexpected series of events, followed by scary happenstances within the family, like weird sounds, birds crashing the window, unexplained dark figures, and people banging their heads mysteriously on the walls. Despite a stellar star cast (Keri Russell, J. K. Simmons et al), the overall affair was still moderate and perhaps inculcating a little more of “alien” appearances would’ve added to further the movie’s success.
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12. Predators (2010)
Although ‘Predators’ was outlined on the footprints of ‘Alien’, regardless, it could never reach there due to its overly cliched storyline. Despite that, with an ensemble cast and a decent pace of storytelling, some good CGI and an exemplary end, ‘Predators’ might as well be the best movie of its franchise. With the utter disaster that was ‘Predator 2 (1990)’ and given the cult status the film franchise has gained over the years, it was only expected of the filmmakers to make ‘Predators’ worthwhile, which they did. Though the scare is relatively meagre and you’d be often looking out for it, the action sequences do a notch better in the alien territory. Overall, the movie appears to be more like a washed-down ‘Avatar’ than like ‘Alien’. I leave the rest to you.
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11. The Faculty (1998)
A movie that was widely regarded as a major rip-off of many sci-fi alien thrillers, including the timeless classic – ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, ‘The Faculty’ wouldn’t let you breathe while you’re trying to figure out the origin of a particular sequence or a horror scene. Set in the Harrington High, where a bunch of teachers start behaving weirdly when a group of students and a chemistry teacher trace their behaviour back to alien parasites, ‘The Faculty’ is the same old setup inside a high school. As the movie progresses, the kids decide to zero-in on the alien queen and kill her before the infection spreads any further. Replete with scenes you might have seen before, yet, ‘The Faculty’ is like a melting pot of all the alien movies put together.
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10. War of the Worlds (2005)
This Steven Spielberg’s venture may have failed to take off like the way it was envisaged, still, ‘War of the Worlds’ finds a place among one of the most intuitive and finest alien movies of all times, and adding Tom Cruise to the cast is like an icing on the cake. Though adults per se weren’t very much spooked by the intimidating tripods, their jellyfish-like built or the apparent imminent attack. yet the scary lights were good enough for screams of many kids like us back then. The visuals are beyond stunning and so are the performances. ‘War of the Worlds’ surrounds an invading extraterrestrial species, a crane operator trying to protect his children amid the invasion and the spooky three-fingered aliens, who, in the words of Spielberg, should be perceived like “scary ballet dancers”. A stunning feat, yet the movie carries the humility of the original H.G. Wells’ novella.
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9. Prometheus (2012)
Officially, the prequel to the celebrated ‘Alien’ franchise that dates back to 1979, ‘Prometheus’ is set in the year 2089 when an archaeologist couple venture into space seeking answers to the origin of the human race to a planet named LV-223, along with an android named David onboard. As they reach their destined place in 2093 aboard the USS Prometheus, they are confronted with cephalopod aliens and their humanoid ancestors. With scenes like aliens coming out of bodies and strange-looking creatures, ‘Prometheus’ will affright you enough, though the intriguing storyline and Noomi Rapace’s performance outdo everything else.
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8. The Abyss (1989)
Few would’ve known that ‘The Abyss’ is straight from the kitty of James Cameron and the fact that his venturing into movies related to water, deep oceans and the associated claustrophobia predates ‘Titanic’. The horror lies primarily in the deep, dark, and uncharted sea waters, along with the element of surprise and the forever stunning visuals, thus making things even the scarier. The story revolves around an ex-couple who’re also deep sea petroleum engineers and who have been recruited by the Navy SEALS to recover their nuclear submarine which has been sunk under mysterious circumstances possibly by other-worldly beings. Cameron has won us all over with his directorial skills and the over-the-top cinematography which doesn’t repeat until ‘Avatar’ happened.
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7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Like a zombie movie back in its day, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is built around the psychotic disorder that is Capgras delusion, albeit, in this case, the said delusion is caused by an invading extraterrestrial species. As a part of the invasion, all the humans are slowly and steadily replaced with imposters with similar physical characteristics, yet they’re devoid of any emotions or any sense of individuality. Amid all the chaos, Dr Hill and Dr Bennell try to get to the bottom of the situation and contain it before it’s too late. From a timeline’s perspective, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is way ahead of its time (which is also evident from the number of remakes it has), thus making it an eternal cult movie which can’t be missed.
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6. Predator (1987)
One of the pioneering trendsetters of the alien-horror subgenre, ‘Predator’ eventually branched out to multiple sequels, crossovers, and spin-offs and has now attained a niche fan-following in the cinematic world. Featuring our beloved Arnold Schwarzenegger in a leading role among others, as the name suggests, a CIA task-force is entrusted with rescuing a high-value asset from a dense jungle when they are being secretly watched and preyed upon by an extraterrestrial being a.k.a The Predator. As the alien creature starts eliminating all the soldiers one at a time, Major Dutch takes it upon himself to catch hold of the evil creature and eliminate it. The horror component is because of the surprise attacks and fear of the unknown imminent danger the crew’s facing. Arnold’s signature movie, with a dash of alien-action sequences for the junkies.
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5. The Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
One of the most underrated movies ever made, ‘The Edge of Tomorrow’ lives to its words of ‘Live. Die. Repeat’ until the very end. Amidst an alien invasion that is considered to be “a perfect, world-conquering organism’, a reluctant Major William Cage is forcibly assigned to fight at the war front, who gets killed by an alien while trying to eliminate the latter with a bomb, thus triggering an infinite time loop for he killed an Alpha and got covered in its blood which causes the time reset for every instance he dies. The visuals, cinematography, and the performances are second-to-none and this is perhaps Tom Cruise’s best action movie to date. Watch it for the reeling uncertainty in every moment, thus the spook-factor, and also the lighter moments that Cruise pulls off extremely well.
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4. The Thing (1982)
‘The Thing’ is the summation of all of one’s horrors coming to life, especially when one is in Antarctica and creepy happenstances occur with each passing moment. ‘The Thing’ follows the narrative of a “being” that’s capable of metamorphosis and attaining the shape and size of anything or anyone. As the neighbouring Norwegian station’s crew gets blown up and the station gets destroyed, the American Station gets wary and begin their investigations only to find even murkier details about ‘The Thing’ which already has started taking on the station crew one by one. The piling thrill, excitement, and disgust with each frame are tremendous and the edge-of-the-seat experience is seldom experienced in movies with minimal CGI as in ‘The Thing’. Like an old wine in a new bottle, yet a disgusting one at that.
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3. Life (2017)
In what was touted to be the best tribute so far to the original ‘Alien’ series, ‘Life’ highlights the dangerous after-effects of not taking the “life outside earth” seriously and considering them inferior. And a fitting one at that. From the first half hour of the movie until the fag end, one won’t run short of goosebumps, hair-raising horror, jaw-dropping action, and edge-of-the-seat visuals. With the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, et al in the cast opposite an unknown, never-seen-before extraterrestrial Martian, ‘Life’ is a wave of adrenaline and horror combined in one film. The movie revolves around the six-member crew of the ISS (and diminishing) who encounter the first-ever life form outside earth and bring it onboard the International Space Station, only to know that it is not so easy to coexist and their fears come true as the life-form makes terrible advances in evolving and surviving faster than the humans themselves. ‘Life’ is the defining movie of the alien-horror sub-genre and is going to be so for some time to come.
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2. Aliens (1986)
The second instalment of the ‘Alien’ franchise and one of the directorial marvels of James Cameron, ‘Aliens’ had its winning streak continued from its prequel in terms of performances, direction, and storyline. The intensity, gore, and the thrill raise their bar as the movie progresses, with Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley occupying the centre stage. Though the movie had received critical universal acclaim and many claimed it to be better than its prequel in almost all the parameters, the predecessor was the pioneer nevertheless and one only remembers a feat that had never been achieved before. Though ‘Aliens’ is technologically, and symbolically superior, my bets are on ‘Alien’ to prove it wrong.
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1. Alien (1979)
The all-time, uncontested numero-uno, the legacy of which continues to this day (‘Alien: Covenant’ is the latest addition), this Ridley Scott’s blockbuster follows the story of the crew of Nostromo – a space tug and their venturing into a planet named LV-426, where they’re confronted by an unknown life-form which has infested one of the crew members. As the crew member returns to the ship while “carrying” the alien, the alien seemingly takes over the spaceship to the horrors and surprise of everyone. Warrant Officer Ripley has to brave her way out amidst her crew members who’re getting eliminated and a looming danger to herself while she confronts an indomitable alien. For those who’ve witnessed ‘Life (2017)’. ‘Alien’ is the undisputed father and pioneer of such alien-infestation movies in secluded spaces. You can’t ask for more from a movie that was made in the 70’s yet manages to impress you all over even today, every time you watch it.
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