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The best guilty pleasure alien movies

The best alien movies have spooked us, inspired us, or made us wonder if we're alone in the universe. But not every alien movie was memorable for the right reasons. Some of them had insanely bad special effects, horrible acting, or super confusing plots, and a few films even had all three. Despite being terrible, though, some bad alien movies are just plain enjoyable to watch.

Some alien movies are such spectacular disasters that it's fun just to see them for how bad they are. Other alien movies may have received scathing reviews from critics, but secretly, some of us thought they were kind of good. There's something oddly satisfying about watching poor quality alien movies or at least trying to find redeeming qualities in them. So let's look back on some of the most hated alien movies that we kind of, sort of, maybe like a little bit — in other words, our guilty pleasures.

Alien vs. Predator pits two iconic killers against each other

Alien was a good movie, and Predator was a great film, so obviously it would be amazing to combine them, right? Nope. Not even close. The film begins with a billionaire and his team of scientists exploring Antarctica. Deep in some icy ruins, they stumble upon a temple that predates humanity, where the Predator aliens would breed and hunt the Alien aliens. Sounds like a colossal waste of resources, extremely dangerous, and totally unnecessary ... but it's the Predator way, so it must be done. And of course, this poor group of humans soon find themselves trapped in the creepy, dark temple and essentially have to choose between dying by invisible blades or having aliens pop out of their chests.

Fans looked forward to this mashup of sci-fi classics but were disappointed. The action scenes were too dark and shaky to understand what was happening. There were a lot of lame "gotcha" scary moments and not enough of the ominous, terrifying scary moments. The characters were plain, and the plot was predictable. Still, it was fun to see two iconic characters from different franchises duke it out, even if the film was a total disaster. After all, looking past the bad writing and camera work, the audience still gets a healthy dose of insane violence and horror, and the film finally answers that argument your friends had about who would win in a fight.

Transformers has plenty of aliens, explosions, and action

Transformers is a wild combination of cringey teen comedy and excessive explosions. As for the plot, a long time ago, an alien race of giant machines entered a civil war. On one side, the Autobots fought for good, but on the other side, the Decepticons sought to rule the universe. Now, their battle has brought them to Earth, where they seek the Allspark, a device capable of destroying humanity.

Transformers was written for a younger audience, which is completely understandable, but that means it has a lot of awkward dialogue. Mid-battle, Autobots shout things like, "Come on, Decepticon punk!" There's also a lot of humor just for kids that ruin the coolness of the Transformers universe. In one scene, Sam Witwicky must explain to his mother why his bedroom door is locked, and she thinks he's ... well, you know. Kids may have laughed, but adults who grew up watching the Transformers TV series had to accept a brutal truth that day: Transformers wasn't cool anymore.

Having said all that, if you're looking for non-stop destruction, Transformers might be the perfect movie for you. Michael Bay, the director, has a penchant for putting a million unnecessary explosions in his films, but it kind of works in movie about battling robots. If you can look past the simplistic writing and enjoy the action, Transformers is quite a fun ride.

Despite its flaws, The Phantom Menace is kinda charming

Star Wars fans don't speak well of The Phantom Menace, widely regarded to be one of the worst movies in the franchise. And anyone who's seen the film knows why. First of all, Jar Jar Binks is arguably one of the most obnoxious characters in cinematic history, yet somehow, he gets a ton of screen time. It wouldn't have been so bad, but then the audience is introduced to an entire city of Gungans who are all equally as annoying.

Secondly, as many critics have rightly pointed out, The Phantom Menace focuses too much on political discussion and not enough on action and adventure. After seeing the battle of Hoth and Luke rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, who cares about trade routes and taxes? Bleh!

Yet, despite these things, The Phantom Menace does have a certain charm to it. It's the first movie where Star Wars fans are introduced to the pre-Empire galaxy, and it's so cool. We've got droids that roll around and have bubble shields, a planet that's an entire city, and the Jedi temple. Oh! And there's a double-sided light saber wielded by an awesome Sith! Too cool. If nothing else, The Phantom Menace did an awesome job at worldbuilding. Plus, John Williams still rocked the score. "Duel of the Fates" is unforgettable, despite the movie it's attached to.

Coneheads is an incredibly weird guilty pleasure

Based on a Saturday Night Live sketch, Coneheads follows a group of aliens called, you guessed it, Coneheads. This goofy species is supposed to conquer Earth. However, when they arrive in their spaceship, a human aircraft shoots them down. So the Coneheads adapt to human life and try to blend in despite their massive, pointy heads. They get jobs, buy a house, and even start raising a daughter. It's a classic comedy set-up — aliens that obviously don't fit in, trying to fit in.

The funniest part of the Coneheads is how they look, but once that wears off, viewers immediately notice how unfunny the whole film is. It's just over-the-top weirdness that lacks any laugh-out-loud comedy. For example, the neighbor boy falls in love with the Conehead daughter, but only because he discovers that he has a fetish for pointy heads, something he never knew about himself until meeting the Coneheads. Now, he wants to lovingly caress her skull, and in response, the Conehead daughter kisses him as though she's a vacuum cleaner. The whole film is stuff like that.

Seemingly, there's no plot to Coneheads. It's essentially a documentary-like film that follows these aliens and observes their strange ways. Yet somehow, despite all its shortcomings, Coneheads does have an unexplainable likeability. It's amusing to watch the Coneheads do bizarre things, like eating rolls of toilet paper. Plus, the film has a lot of actors dear to our hearts, such as Dan Aykroyd and Chris Farley.

Stargate is the most '90s alien movie ever made

Stargate is one of the most '90s sci-fi films imaginable. It has absurd alien costumes, such as giant metal helmets shaped like Egyptian gods. It has classic alien movie tropes, such as a conspiracy theorist who's denounced by the scientific community. And, of course, it has alien bad guys who are, for whatever reason, very sensual and dress like they're attending a fashion show.

Stargate builds off of a famous conspiracy theory that aliens built the pyramids in Egypt (spoiler alert — they did). After unearthing a giant alien ring in the desert, the military activates it. They discover the ring transports people across the galaxy, and on another planet, they find enslaved humans, alien masters, and triangular space ships that land on pyramids. The alien bad guy calls himself Ra, posing as the Egyptian god, and he plans on destroying Earth. He's hard to take seriously, though, because his voice is distorted to sound more evil (kind of like Darth Vader, but it doesn't have the same effect).

There's no question that Stargate didn't age well. It's props, costumes, and haircuts are so '90s, and the film is plagued with overused cliches, like a bomb with a bright red digital countdown timer on it. But that's what we love about Stargate. Watching it feels a bit like walking into a museum to experience a past era. Not to mention it holds a special place in the hearts of those who watched the spinoff series, Stargate SG-1.

Pitch Black is a guilty pleasure film that's all about Vin Diesel

Pitch Black had a promising premise but ended up being another formulaic sci-fi film with cliches we've seen in alien movies for decades. The film begins in deep space where a ship is transporting prisoners. After experiencing mechanical failures, the craft is forced to crash-land on an abandoned planet. One of the prisoners, Riddick (Vin Diesel), intends to use this opportunity to escape. However, the remaining crew must face predatory aliens that only come out at night. Will Riddick succumb to his selfish motives to escape, or will he help his fellow humans survive the onslaught?

Sounds like a killer combination of sci-fi, action, and horror, but alas, it was underwhelming. For one, much of the action is reduced to playing hostage games and hiding behind desert rocks. It seems the movie could've easily been another genre, such as a Western, and the story would be virtually the same. There's also the issue of how unexplainable the plot is. The characters are stranded on a planet in a three-star system, which is geometrically impossible. Yet, once every 50-ish years, darkness takes over the planet, somehow? And believe it or not, an alien species evolved on this planet that only thrives in darkness. Obviously, viewers must suspend some semblance of reality when watching sci-fi, but these things are well beyond any possibility of logical explanation.

This film might as well just be called Vin Diesel because he's the only reason this movie is cool. But honestly, he totally makes the movie worth watching. The BBC called his performance "larger than life," and when Diesel is being a badass, that makes any movie worth watching, even one as weird as Pitch Black.

Titan AE was a major bomb with impressive animation

The animated film Titan AE takes place in 3028 after an alien race destroys the Earth. A few surviving humans have scattered across the universe in makeshift spacecraft, trying to retain some sense of civilization. Fortunately, the main character, Cale, has a map that can supposedly guide humanity to a secret place called Titan, a place that was created to preserve humanity in the case of an apocalypse. Of course, as the heroes make their way to Titan, aliens do their very best to try and stop them.

In addition to bombing so hard that it bankrupted its studioTitan AE received mixed reviews from critics. For example, one complaint is that the movie doesn't know what it wants to be, which is entirely fair. Titan AE attempts to bring animation to an adult audience, but at the same time, it still caters to younger viewers. Plus, the score is largely pop music from its time, and it feels out of place today. Another shortcoming is how generic the plot is. How many sci-fi films are there where aliens are about to wipe out humans, but there's a glimmer of hope of survival? (Independence Day, War of the Worlds, etc.) This premise is getting a bit old.

Regardless, Titan AE still has redeeming qualities. After all, this thing was made by Don Bluth, the man who brought us classics like The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and An American Tail. In other words, the animation style is very unique, and it gives a rather whimsical depiction of the universe. Plus, it boasts a pretty impressive cast, including stars like Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, and Ron Perlman. So while it's no Land Before Time, it's definitely worth a watch.

Mars Attacks! is an incredibly campy alien invasion flick

Decades later, Tim Burton fans still aren't sure what to make of Mars Attacks! This movie parodies bad alien films, but it has such a poor delivery that it's become a bad alien movie itself. It greatly exaggerates how stupid humans are and depicts aliens in the most unimaginative way possible — short, gray, big-headed humanoids that have vaporizing guns. The UFOs in Mars Attacks! are flying saucers that look like they're straight out of a blurry photo from some declassified government file.

As for the plot, the film is your typical alien invasion movie. Humans are at the mercy of inhabitants from Mars that have superior ships and weapons. The only twist in this film is that the aliens feign truces over and over again so that governments lower their guard. And the human leaders repeatedly fall for it. Granted, Mars Attacks! is intentionally campy, but it still lacks comedic writing. Simply parodying movies doesn't automatically make the parody funny. And in an ironic twist of fate, Mars Attacks! is fun to watch because it's a bad alien movie that tries to make fun of bad alien movies. Plus, any movie that has Jack Nicholson playing two separate roles for absolutely no reason whatsoever definitely falls under the "guilty pleasure" category.

Critters is a furry ball of fun

Take the wardrobe from your local theater, some 1980s pop culture, and a child's imagination, and you get Critters. In its opening scenes, a spaceship is transferring dangerous criminals called Krites to an asteroid prison. In a different context, Krites would be rather cute furballs, but in reality, they're devious creatures with sharp teeth. Anyway, the Krites escape from the ship, land on Earth, and start terrorizing a small town, and as a result, the spaceship crew sends two bounty hunters to retrieve the Krites.

Without a doubt, the Krites are some of the most unusual aliens ever conceived by man. They can curl up into a ball and roll away, suddenly eat humans piranha-style, and fire darts from their foreheads. With that weird combo, the film is an awkward balance of horror scenes and comedic one-liners. One moment, we have the classic scene where a man goes into his basement with a flashlight because he hears noises. But at other times, the audience hears the Krites saying funny things like:

Critter 1: Status report.

Critter 2: Minor Damage.

Critter 1: What now?

Critter 2: Food!

Critters is loaded with the quintessential elements of a bad alien movie. For example, the bounty hunters can conveniently shape-shift into humans, which is a classic trope that saves on production costs and makes writing easier. It's clear the creators of Critters had fun making the film and didn't take themselves too seriously. If you go in with that mentality, the movie is rather fun.

Battle: Los Angeles is a guilty pleasure if you enjoy military movies

Battle: Los Angeles is a military action film that brings the alien genre into a modern setting. The movie lacks any notion of a plot, character development, originality, or thoughtfulness. It's pure, all-out action. Think The Expendables, minus a story and plus aliens.

Meteors land in the ocean near major cities all over the world, and they carry legions of alien troops in them. They start assaulting the cities without warning or cause, with a brief mention at one point that they're here for Earth's water. In Los Angeles, military man SSgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) leads a group of troops in pushing back against the extraterrestrial threat. Every character in this platoon feels like a placeholder, and basically, they only contribute dialogue during battle like "incoming" and "look out!"

The film feels overly chaotic, as though the writer is rushing to get from one battle to the next. And unfortunately, a lot of the skirmishes have copious amounts of fog, and the camera work makes it difficult to understand what's happening. However, there's something thrilling in watching soldiers battle it out with aliens, and stories about outgunned heroes fighting an overwhelming force are always compelling. So if you're into small military troops overcoming impossible odds and don't give a squat about plot, Battle: Los Angeles is right up your alley.

Cowboys & Aliens is a bizarre genre mash-up

Just from the title, you know it's bad. We're not sure anyone would've watched this movie if it didn't have an all-star cast — Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, and Daniel Craig. It also probably didn't hurt that the director was Jon Favreau, who did Elf and the first two Iron Man movies. Still, there's no denying the plot is pretty crazy.

Cowboys & Aliens is set in 1873, New Mexico Territory. An amnesiac (Craig) wakes up in the desert and finds the town of Absolution, which lives in fear and hates strangers. That's mighty unfortunate for them because, soon enough, alien marauders start terrorizing the town. The extraterrestrials, who are obviously very advanced, are somehow incapable of winning battles against men on horses. Despite floating around in massive ships with powerful weapons, the aliens only ever drop bombs near the humans but never on them.

Naturally, the aliens beam up victims to study them, but in a break from cinematic tradition, the aliens aren't here to conquer the world or destroy humans. They're simply here to collect our gold. When Harrison Ford discovers this amusing fact, he delivers the best line in the film: "Well, that is ridiculous! What are they going to do — buy something?" You're right, Indy, that is ridiculous.

Even though it's obvious to everyone the aliens should've won, Cowboys & Aliens is still a blast to watch. It's loaded with lovable actors, and it's an interesting experiment that combines two unlikely genres of film.