Aliens and extraterrestrial life outside of our own little, blue planet have been the subject of a variety of specimens in the sci-fi genre for centuries. From the days of H.G. Wells to the days of Steven Spielberg, creatures from other worlds have run the gamut of being curious otherworldly beings to monstrous invaders.
It’s this former half of the equation that seems to get the lesser appeal, more than likely being due to less conflict-heavy subject matter. But some of the greatest films in the genre feature aliens who don’t wish to conquer, crush, or otherwise wipe out Earth.
10 The Day The Earth Stood Still
The 1952 classic will be forever remembered for two things, “Klaatu, Barada, Nikto” and Gort the Robot. The image of Klaatu descending from his flying saucer accompanied by his giant robot companion is one that will go down in the annals of film history.
The humanoid spaceman arrives on Earth to warn the leaders of the world to stray from the path of a nuclear war. The film was such an important piece of culture during the Cold War era that it soon found itself a place on the National Film Registry.
9 Earth To Echo
Although some might consider this a shameless copy of another feature staring tiny alien robots on this list, Earth to Echo does have its own brand of charm. After all, cute little alien creatures will never go out of style.
In this found-footage film, a group of teens discovers a small alien with advanced technology on the run from evil forces. It’s a great adventure akin to films like The Goonies of the ’80s, and it’s one of the best starter films to get kids hooked on the genre.
8 District 9
For something more mature, District 9 is something of a cult favorite. Not only does it feature distinct, misunderstood creatures, but it serves as a parable about complex themes that plague humanity as well as lifeforms from another planet.
District 9 is a morality tale wearing the guise of a sci-fi story. Inspired by the accounts of District 6 during Cape Town’s apartheid regime, the film dives into the topics of xenophobia and segregation as insect-like aliens and humans that interact with them continuously clash in an internment camp.
Of course, how could anyone forget the story of an alien who crash-landed on earth, not to conquer it, but to save it? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman. It’s a tale as old as time, and one that bears repeating even after several reimaginings.
There are dozens of adventures featuring the Man of Steel, but the Christopher Reeves series stands out among the rest. They might be more light-hearted affairs compared to some of his more modern interpretations, but they’re still classics of the superhero genre.
6 The Man Who Fell To Earth
Supes wasn’t the only alien being who landed on earth, nor was he the most beloved. In fact, one of the biggest moves in David Bowie’s career was starring in the cult classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth. While this film’s mysterious stranger does come on a mission, he soon finds it very hard to leave the grasps of Earthling culture.
Bowie is the reason to watch this film, there are few more qualified actors for aliens than Ziggy Stardust himself. But his tale of a cosmic visitor is a tragic one, and one that should make most humans reflect on the vices their species has created and how they might affect the universe.
5 The Iron Giant
There are plenty of alien-focused films involving giant robots but if there’s one that towers above the rest, it’s The Iron Giant. The titan-sized tin man not only crash-landed to Earth with Brad Bird’s animated masterpiece but landed right into the hearts of countless audience members.
The movie has a bit of a reputation for being one of the most underrated animated films of all time, but it’s also quite a mature and emotional adventure for a film meant for younger viewers. Definitely the biggest tear-jerker on the list.
4 Lilo and Stitch
On the other end of the spectrum, Disney brought fans perhaps one of the most recognizable alien characters in modern culture in the form of Experiment 626. But everyone else knows him as that loveable blue ball of trouble, Stitch.
Lilo and Stitch was one of the most popular animated flicks of the 2000s and with such a fun yet ferocious alien as its star, it was impossible for it not to be. Fans were more than happy to welcome him into their ohana any day.
3 Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Steven Spielberg has an unquestionable knack for alien movies, so it’s no wonder a sampling of his work in the genre would take the top spots. Close Encounters of the Third Kind might be a lot for casual viewers to comprehend at times, but the payoff is more than worth it.
When UFO sightings start happening across the country, a select group of individual Earthlings is “called” by the spacecraft to meet them at their landing site. The film shows the effects contact with the beings has both in the lives of the characters and the nation, painting a huge picture of epic proportions.
2 *Batteries Not Included
Produced by Spielberg and written by Brad Bird, *batteries not included puts the idea of UFOs visiting earth on a smaller scale by introducing a family of frisbee-sized robots who come to Earth in search of a place to recharge. The creatures take up residence in an apartment building and whimsical antics ensue.
While it received mixed reviews, it definitely has more going for it than one might think. The movie has all the sentimental warmth one would expect from its producer, but it also ventures into strange concepts worthy of a pulp sci-fi novel, not that that’s a bad thing.
1 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
There’s no getting away from this one, but there’s one alien in all of fiction that people can both name and recognize in an instant, and that’s E.T. It’s the film many movie-goers consider Steven Spielberg’s magnum opus, and it’s certainly easy to understand why.
The wide-eyed alien’s mission to “phone home” is practically embedded in pop culture, and he’s probably the most identifiable creature on the list. Whether it’s his glowing finger, his curious nature, or his psychic powers, E.T. has had a home on earth for decades.
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