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Underrated Alien Movies You Need To Watch

Ever since there have been movies, there have been science fiction movies, and for most of that time, they've told their stories on the margins of popular cinema. Granted, things are a bit different these days — everyone is familiar with the big sci-fi film franchises, and more of those arrive every year — but there's still a veritable galaxy of lesser-known and criminally underrated films about robots and aliens waiting to be explored. From the acid cultural satire of the 1980s classic "Repo Man" to the creepily enigmatic, more contemporary stylings of "Under The Skin," there are quite a few filmic gems that might've escaped the notice of even the most intrepid movie fans. Whether you're in the mood for wacky extraterrestrial vs. hapless human hijinks, animated alien action, or a dark, contemplative mind-bender, there's definitely an overlooked alien movie waiting to surprise you.

If today's terrestrial movie fare these days is leaving you wanting something a bit more, shall we say, out of this world, then set your phasers to "stream" and read on for some stellar alien movie recommendations.

The Faculty

An extraterrestrial entry into the 1990s teen film boom, "The Faculty" is, according to The A.V. Club,  "a clever teen-oriented fusion of '[Invasion of the] Body Snatchers' and 'The Thing' — with a hint of 'Stepford Wives' camp." Kevin Williamson, the writer behind such youth culture phenomena as "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (as well as the television show "Dawson's Creek") teamed up with director Robert Rodriguez, then best-known for his low-budget "Mariachi-style" of filmmaking, for this frightening and fun alien invasion film.

Taking literally the idea of adults being from another planet, "The Faculty" follows a group of teens at an Ohio high school who are convinced their teachers are aliens in disguise. With a cast of bright, youthful performers like Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, and Cleo DuVall, "The Faculty" was primed for success. Unfortunately, it didn't reach the same level of popularity as its Williamson-penned contemporaries. Jordana Brewster has said she imagined she and her co-stars would become huge teen stars, but "it didn't quite work out that way." No matter — "The Faculty" holds up, and if you're a fan of a great teen flick with a dash of creature-feature, then put this one in your queue.

Howard The Duck

"Howard The Duck" is a legendary box office bomb, so notorious in its failure that it's part of an exclusive club of films whose names have become "shorthand for large-scale cinematic unsuccess." But time has been kind to the story of a smart-talking, wise-cracking anthropomorphic duck from another planet, and it deserves another look.

In "Howard The Duck," the titular Howard (voiced by Chip Zien), through no fault of his own, is beamed from Duckworld to Earth. With no prospects of returning home, Howard assimilates to his surroundings as much as a beer-swilling talking duck can — by managing an all-girl rock band led by Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson). With the help of bumbling wannabe scientist Phil (Tim Robbins) and actual scientist Dr. Jenning (Jeffery Jones), Howard eventually finds a path back to Duckworld, but one that inadvertently gives passage to an alien creature known as the Dark Overlord.

Because the film received such a poor reception upon its 1986 release, "Howard The Duck" has suffered from the prejudice of its critics. Luckily, it has been reassessed in recent years as a movie ahead of its time, with star Thompson noting, "It was an iconoclastic movie. It is for little rebels." Plus, any true fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs to watch "Howard," as it was the first feature film based on a Marvel character.

Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise stars in the woefully underrated "Edge of Tomorrow," a movie that might have slipped under your radar upon its release in 2014. Hollywood was confused by "Edge of Tomorrow," with some speculating that it was too similar to Cruise's previous film "Oblivion," while others claimed it suffered from a "worrisome lack of buzz." Clearly "Edge of Tomorrow" was misunderstood, but you should go out of your way to give it a shot, as this is a film full of dazzling visual effects and great acting performances.

Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt play military personnel fighting aliens known as Mimics who have invaded most of Europe. Major William Cage (Cruise) gets caught in a time loop that repeatedly ends in his death, but with the help of Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Blunt), he uses his many lives to slowly learn how to defeat the Mimics. Cruise is in top movie star form in "Edge of Tomorrow," emoting and kicking butt in equal measure. Blunt holds her own as Vrataski, a role that's a far-cry from her turns in "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Mary Poppins Returns," proving that she's one of Hollywood's most versatile performers. Add in battle sequences masterfully directed by Doug Liman and this movie is Hollywood filmmaking at its finest. It wasn't appreciated in the past, but "Edge of Tomorrow" definitely has a bright future.

Batteries Not Included

A gentle alien film with fine performances from several acting legends, "Batteries Not Included" proves that not all extraterrestrials are out to destroy humanity. Real-life power couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy star in a story that seamlessly blends social commentary with other-worldly wonder. When a dilapidated East Village building faces demolition by property developers, small alien spaceships known as Fix-Its begin repairing it, much to the chagrin of the developers.

Originally conceived as an episode of Steven Spielberg's 1980s anthology series "Amazing Stories," "Batteries Not Included" has subtle Spielberg-esque tones reminiscent of the show. The Fix-Its are adorable, crafted by the special-effects titans at Industrial Lights and Magic, and the film is also the first screenplay credit for writer and director Brad Bird, who would go on to make classic family films like "The Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles." An sci-fi movie with heart and optimism that Roger Ebert called "sweet, cheerful and funny family entertainment," keep this one in mind the next time you need a close encounter with a kid-friendly alien romp.

My Stepmother Is An Alien

"My Stepmother Is an Alien" might not be getting the Criterion Collection treatment any time soon, but it's an underrated '80s comedy that serves up campy joy. This film plays like a sitcom in the best way — it's light, it's frothy, and it's not going to ask too much of your intellect. Dan Ackroyd stars as widower and single father Steven, a scientist whose work sends a radio signal to a distant planet. An alien from that planet, Celeste (Kim Basinger), is sent to Earth to investigate. Out of her element, the emotionless Celeste must learn the ways of humanity, which unfortunately for her doesn't include chugging battery acid, but does include falling in love with Steven.

Much of the humor of "My Stepmother Is an Alien" is derived from Celeste's fish-out-of-water moments, her naïveté pointing out many human foibles. Reviewers panned Ackroyd for not being "remotely suited to playing a romantic lead," but "My Stepmother Is an Alien" is not an epic romance. It's a comedy, and Ackroyd does a fine job at playing a devoted dad who might be a little awkward in the bedroom. With fun supporting roles from Jon Lovitz and a young Alyson Hannigan, "My Stepmother Is an Alien" is a pleasant time capsule for '80s movie lovers and well worth rediscovery.

Dark City

A man discovers his world is not what it seems and that "reality" is controlled by an inhuman consciousness manipulating humanity for its own ends. Sounds like "The Matrix," right? Well, 1998's "Dark City" came out a year before the Wachowskis' masterpiece and is an underrated science fiction film that needs to be celebrated in its own right. "Dark City" follows amnesiac John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) as he works to remember and understand who he is, where he's from, and why the police think he's a serial killer. John ultimately discovers his world is controlled by the Strangers, aliens who use humans to gain insight into their own species.

Incredibly stylish with an intricate Kafka-esque narrative, "Dark City" is a "recalibrated film noir" that uses the idea of extraterrestrials to explore deeply human themes and contains enough twists and turns to keep even the most experienced film fan guessing. While "The Matrix" has become a cultural phenomenon with its own decades-long franchise, "Dark City" remains a singular cinematic vision from writer/director Alex Proyas, and it's a must-see for anyone who appreciates dark aesthetics and stories unraveling the mysteries of existence.

Titan A.E.

Suffering from the stereotype that animated movies are solely for youngsters, the underrated intergalactic action-adventure "Titan A.E." deserves your adult attention. Hollywood didn't quite know what to do with this 2000 animated feature — as The Guardian notes, it was "perceived as not original enough and too adult to entice the grade school crowd, yet still marketed as a kids' product," making it a "financial bomb." Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, "Titan A.E." tells the story of humanity on the brink of extinction. With Earth having been destroyed by the alien race know as the Drej, Cale Tucker (voiced by Matt Damon) and the ragtag crew of the spaceship Valkyrie must find the lost Titan, a craft designed to make new planets, to secure humanity's survival.

Mixing computer graphics with hand-drawn animation, "Titan A.E." stylishly crafts an interstellar adventure filled with electrifying space battles and wondrous planets. Fans of Bluth's animation will note the film's "Dragon's Lair" vibes, recalling the video game franchise that famously brought cartoon aesthetics to the gaming world. The poor box office performance of "Titan A.E." might have tanked Fox Animation Studios, but it deserves a spot on any sci-fi fan's list of must-watch movies.

Attack The Block

The British alien invasion movie "Attack The Block" is an under-the-radar sci-fi treat that blends class commentary with superb creature design in director Joe Cornish's take on "hoodie horror." Set in a South London housing project, the film centers on a teenage street gang who are forced to take on an army monstrous, pitch-black aliens threatening to destroy their high-rise apartment complex.

In narrowing its focus to a single neighborhood, "Attack The Block" also provides a fresh take on the alien invasion genre, with stakes that feel personal and a structure that ventures into the horror side of science fiction — though it's also exceptionally funny, as you might expect from someone who pals around with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. Frost himself turns in a hilarious performance in the film, which also stars a pre-Finn John Boyega and a pre-Doctor Jodie Whittaker. While it might have flopped at the box office, "Attack The Block" is an under-appreciated gem of a film and needs to be added to your alien movie list.


Gorgeous, complex, and deeply emotional, the underrated alien film "Annihilation" is a must-watch for fans of science fiction's liminal spaces. After her husband Kane (Oscar Issac) disappears in the Shimmer, a mysterious location that was struck by a meteorite, professor and army veteran Lena (Natalie Portman) joins a mission to find him. She and her team discover that life within the Shimmer has shifted in perplexing and terrifying ways, with Lena eventually coming to understand its true nature.

"Annihilation" joins "Dark City" in the tradition of alien movies that use extraterrestrials to explore our own humanity. Apparently the film's headiness was a concern for its producers, with a poor test screening indicating that the film was "'too intellectual' and 'too complicated.'" The film went unchanged, however, and "Annihilation" was ultimately overlooked, with IndieWire noting, "Hollywood still is unwilling to back genre films with female protagonists, especially the smart, diverse scientist kind." It's not too late to champion this intellectually provocative movie, so if you're up to the challenge, you need to watch "Annihilation."

Fire In The Sky

"Fire in the Sky" is as classic as alien abduction stories come, featuring aliens who fly around in UFOs, probing and prodding their abducted human specimens. Based on the story of logger Travis Walton, who claims to have been abducted by aliens in 1975, "Fire in the Sky" puts picture to narrative, recreating Walton's account of his time aboard an alien spacecraft. The movie is as much about the abduction experience as it is about the effects of the incident on friends, family, and those who are trying to understand whether Walton (D.B. Sweeney) is being truthful or perpetrating a hoax.

This movie needs to be watched for its special effects alone — whether you believe the story or not, "Fire in the Sky" terrifies with squirmy moments of torture, daring you to not wince when Walton lays on the examination table. The aliens are as realistic as they could be in 1993, and Roger Ebert praised the set designs inside the alien ship, saying "for once I did believe that I was seeing something truly alien, and not just a set decorator's daydreams." Perhaps "Fire in the Sky" doesn't break any molds with its classic "man gets abducted and probed" tropes, but true alien movie-lovers will appreciate its mastery of the genre.

Under The Skin

Alien films get the art-house treatment in 2013's "challenging and experimental" sci-fi offering "Under The Skin." Scarlett Johansson stars as a beautiful, unnamed woman trekking across Scotland. Along the way, she runs into various men, and a series of questionable events unfold that lead the viewer to believe she is not of this world. Johansson gives an understated and muted performance as "The Female," an alien with seemingly little motivation other than to menace men.

Stylishly directed by Jonathan Glazer (who also helmed such films as "Sexy Beast" and "Birth"), "Under The Skin" unfortunately left filmgoers cold, earning a tepid reception at the box office. The film's sparse storytelling might turn off some — the New York Times noted "its lack of clarity will frustrate viewers wanting more information" — but much of the film's pleasure derives from the unsaid and the unexplained. And, like the vast mysteries of space, sometimes a good movie doesn't need to state a purpose — it just exists. Don't let "Under The Skin" fly under your cinematic radar.


If you love "The Goonies," you'll definitely want to check out the underrated '80s children's adventure movie "Explorers." Directed by Joe Dante (who helmed the classic "Gremlins") "Explorers" stars kid versions of River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, playing a pair of precocious teens whose intrepid invention of an electromagnetic bubble allows them to explore the universe. Wolfgang (Phoenix), Ben (Hawke), and their friend Darren (Jason Presson), encounter aliens Wak (voiced by Robert Picardo) and Neek (voiced by Leslie Rickert), who are seemingly intelligent, but whose understanding of Earth is mainly from old TV shows and other pop culture.

"Explorers" is "charmingly odd at some moments, just plain goofy at others," and it should be remembered among the best of the 1980s kids adventure canon, but alas, it's remained something of relic. With plucky performances by Phoenix and Hawke and a compelling interstellar journey with a dash of wackiness, "Explorers" is waiting for you to discover it.

Repo Man

Punk rockers, ex-hippies, UFO zealots, and a mysteriously glowing car trunk that vaporizes anyone who dares open it are just some of the things you'll find in the 1984 film "Repo Man." A young Emilio Estevez and the ever-craggy Harry Dean Stanton buddy up to repossess cars around Los Angeles and chase a $20,000 bounty on a hot Chevy Malibu which may or may not have aliens in the trunk.

Produced by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees, music plays a vital role in "Repo Man," featuring great 1980s LA punk bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Fear. Like many underrated movies, "Repo Man" suffered a botched release by its major Hollywood studio and got lost in the shuffle as a result, but in the subsequent decades since the film hit the big screen, it's built a dedicated fan following. You could call it a thriller, a black comedy, or an action flick, but at its heart, "Repo Man" is an alien movie, and while it might not be the first film that comes to mind when you're hankering for extraterrestrial entertainment, it remains an essential cult classic.


An heir to the classic supernatural comedy film, "Ghostbusters," the Ivan Reitman-directed "Evolution" delivers just as many laughs and fun special effects as its spiritual predecessor. When a meteor filled with alien organisms lands in the desert, professors Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones) begin an investigation, but their research is interrupted by the military, the media, and the government, who are all motivated to understand, control, and possibly eradicate the alien life form.

"Evolution" is purposefully silly and has great gnarly alien designs — hairy creatures, blobs, and dragons are all in the mix. It's a love letter to B-movie creature features of the '50s and '60s that features fantastic special effects and a delightfully funny script. Next time you're looking for a high-concept comedy with fun performances and lively visuals, consider passing up your 150th viewing of "Ghostbusters" and give the underrated "Evolution" a try.