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55 Best Alien Movies Of All Time Ranked

Movies about aliens are captivating because they explore a question humanity has been pondering since it first looked up to the stars: Are we alone in the universe? The proposed answers to such a massive quandary are endless. Moreover, when we wonder what kind of species might be flying around the cosmos, we're actually dealing with our own hopes and fears. What if the aliens aren't very nice? What if they are nice, but we're too barbaric to see it? What if they provide the assistance we need to eliminate hunger, greed, and disease?

Alien movies offer many different visions of intergalactic life in response to these numerous possibilities. Some comment upon our own society, some transport us to incredible worlds, and some are simply hilarious. The greatest never leave us. These are the 55 best alien movies of all time, ranked from merely amazing to jaw-droppingly sublime.

Updated on April 18, 2022: New movies about extraterrestrial life hit theaters every year. Whenever a fresh classic emerges, we'll add it to this list. Be sure to check back often to keep up on the best in UFO-centric cinema.

55. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Just before Earth is destroyed to make way for a bypass, Arthur Dent and his alien friend Ford (whom he did not know was an alien) hitch a ride on a spaceship and go on a ridiculously fun adventure across the stars. This film may not be the most faithful adaptation of Douglas Adams' classic book, but "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" has excellent performances, inventive design, and a quick pace. Sam Rockwell shines as the conceited and hysterical president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, while Stephen Fry's narration does justice to one of the most successful books to ever come out of Ursa Minor's publishing companies.

  • Starring: Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell
  • Director: Garth Jennings
  • Year: 2005
  • Runtime: 109 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%

54. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

This "Star Trek" movie is probably best known for being the one with the whales. However, the inciting incident that sends Kirk and his crew to 20th century San Francisco to find said whales is why this film is on this list. A massive alien probe sending out strange signals enters Federation space, immediately causing all kinds of damage. The probe is attempting to communicate with humpback whales, which have gone extinct — and if it doesn't hear back from them, Earth will be destroyed. This engaging premise makes the "Star Trek" universe feel larger and more alien than ever before.

  • Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
  • Director: Leonard Nimoy
  • Year: 1986
  • Runtime: 122 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

53. Evil Alien Conquerors

Co-written and directed by Chris Matheson (who started his career with "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"), "Evil Alien Conquerors" is an absurdist sci-fi comedy about two dimwitted aliens named My-ik and Du-ug who just can't seem to conquer Earth properly. Not only are they devastatingly incapable, they allow the charms of human life (many of which are forbidden on their world) to sidetrack them. This light-hearted film offers a memorable look at what might happen if the big, bad aliens sent to destroy Earthlings were every bit as fallible, insecure, and ill-equipped to handle the pressures of responsibility as the rest of us.

52. PG: Psycho Goreman

"PG: Psycho Goreman" (an obvious play on "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial") offers a rambunctious story about a group of bratty kids who accidentally resurrect and control an ancient alien warlord they dub Psycho Goreman. This film is a love letter to '90s cheese, midnight movies, and sci-fi schlock in the best possible way, featuring genuinely good kid actors and an unforgettable character in the titular baddie. We won't be surprised if limited runs of comic books taking place in the "Psycho Goreman" universe or t-shirts sporting PG's ugly mug crop up in the near future — it's bound to become a cult classic.

  • Starring: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber
  • Director: Steven Kostanski
  • Year: 2020
  • Runtime: 99 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

51. Coneheads

Based on the famous "Saturday Night Live" sketches, "Coneheads" revolves around a family of aliens who come to Earth and wind up assimilating to human culture, rather than taking it over. "Coneheads" shares this plot with many other alien movies, but it differs in scope: The home planet of the Coneheads, Remulak, is far bigger and more fully realized than the alien homeworlds of flicks like "Evil Alien Conquerors." This film is also very sweet — the central family truly loves and supports each other, no matter what difficulties Earth presents.

50. Bad Taste

Long before "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy hit theaters, Peter Jackson was an ambitious young filmmaker producing bizarre splatter movies. While his later gorefest "Dead Alive" is probably more well known, his first feature, "Bad Taste," is every bit as funny, entertaining, and gross. The plot hinges on aliens harvesting humans for fast food, which provides ample justification for the film's abundance of gory set-pieces. They're so ridiculous, you can't help but love them. Unlike many other blood-drenched schlock-fests, "Bad Taste" is dripping with satire and feverish hilarity. Also, the look of the aliens is surprisingly top-notch for such a little film.

  • Starring: Terry Potter, Pete O'Herne, Craig Smith
  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

49. Killer Klowns from Outer Space

"Killer Klowns from Outer Space" has a title that speaks for itself: It is indeed about alien clowns arriving on Earth to eat humans. Superficially, the film appears to be another mindless '80s movie without an original bone in its body. Upon watching it, however, you quickly learn that this tongue-in-cheek send-up of classic '50s B-movies is far too creative to be just another cash-in. Directed by special effects artist Stephen Chiodo (of the celebrated Chiodo Brothers), this one-of-a-kind flick features fantastically ghoulish clowns, a strong script, and a world as fun as any carnival — deadly or otherwise.

  • Starring: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson
  • Director: Stephen Chiodo
  • Year: 1988
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

48. Eternals

There's no shortage of aliens within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, very few MCU films explore just how, well, alien these characters truly are. "Eternals," in contrast, doesn't simply tell a story with aliens in it — the fact that these characters are aliens is the entire premise. Created by a cosmic being to protect the Earth, the Eternals face a massive change to their way of life. They might not be the heroes they think they are, and their immense past is rapidly catching up with them. While "Eternals" isn't as fun or funny as other MCU films, it's a fascinating sci-fi saga with great visuals.

47. Destroy All Monsters

You could pick multiple "Godzilla" movies to include on this list, but we've landed on "Destroy All Monsters" because of its quick pace, classic sci-fi look, and bonkers plot, involving a plethora of kaiju. In this film, all those big, bad monsters are isolated on the remote Monster Island. Aliens known as Kilaaks take over the minds of certain scientists and release the monsters, controlling them by remote, to cause all kinds of havoc and destruction. If you like your "Godzilla" movies on the strange and goofy side, this is perfect for you.

  • Starring: Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yukiko Kobayashi
  • Director: Ishiro Honda
  • Year: 1968
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Rating: G
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

46. Fire in the Sky

"Fire in the Sky" captures what happens to a group of friends when one of their number goes missing and the explanation — alien abduction — seems too ludicrous to accept. The scene in which Walton, the abductee, examines the UFO and is suddenly caught in some kind of tractor beam is tense and sinister. The most memorable sequence comes later, however, when we see what happens to the poor guy once he's on the ship. This might just be the most terrifying alien encounter ever committed to film.

  • Starring: D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer
  • Director: Robert Lieberman
  • Year: 1993
  • Runtime: 109 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 42%

45. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Trying to sum up "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension" is a fool's errand, but we'll try. Essentially, it's about a brilliant jack of all trades who fights to defend Earth from aliens. The film's mood is just as important as its content, though: It feels like a pulpy, Silver Age comic book story written and produced for the screen by aliens. What results is so strange, funny, and confusing that you just have to marvel at it. The cast is incredible, (most of) the visuals are spectacular, and the script is dynamite. It isn't so much a movie as it is an experience — one everyone should have at least once.

  • Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin
  • Director: W.D. Richter
  • Year: 1984
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%

44. Explorers

What if your love of science fiction wasn't a waste of time, but a skill? That's the question at the heart of this family-friendly sci-fi adventure film. Young Ben's love of the genre allows him to build a working spaceship, which puts him in contact with aliens — who, as it turns out, like TV and movies just as much as he does. "Explorers" is pure wish fulfillment in the best way, filled with heart and a strong sense of humor.

43. Flash Gordon

Everything about "Flash Gordon" is intense. The visuals are big, shiny, and psychedelic. The story, which centers around a football player from Earth saving humanity from an alien tyrant, is enormous and exciting. The characters are dialed up way past 11. The Queen soundtrack was practically designed to be listened to in massive stadiums. There is nothing subtle going on here — and that's why "Flash Gordon" rules. This is pure space opera that demands you surrender to it, or be crushed into stardust.

  • Starring: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow
  • Director: Mike Hodges
  • Year: 1980
  • Runtime: 114 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

42. Batteries Not Included

The '80s were a golden age for Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg's production company. While movies like "Poltergeist," "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Gremlins," and "Back to the Future" quickly became classics, however, the bittersweet gem that is "Batteries Not Included" fell under the radar. In this delightful film, the last denizens of a struggling apartment building find the strength and willpower to defend their home from greedy developers with the help of some truly unique and wonderful visitors from outer space. These living alien machines resemble miniaturized UFOs, and are absolutely adorable. "Batteries Not Included" is long overdue for a reassessment — why not let it start with you?

  • Starring: Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Frank McRae
  • Director: Matthew Robbins
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%

41. Starman

The sweet-natured "Starman" might seem like a major change of pace for director John Carpenter, the guy who launched his career with "Halloween" and gave us one of cinema's most terrifying aliens in "The Thing." But this gentle story about a woman helping an alien who has assumed the form of her late husband is too tender to deny. Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges are phenomenal as the grieving Jenny and the optimistic-yet-frightened Starman. Combined with Carpenter's trademark visual style and some thoughtful cynicism, "Starman" is an underrated gem in the filmmaker's oeuvre.

  • Starring: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Year: 1984
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

40. The Last Starfighter

"The Last Starfighter" is an ode to gaming. What if, this film asks, those games you've "wasted" so much time and money on actually prove you have what it takes to defend the galaxy from evil? Sure, young Alex, our hard-luck hero, might be shy and unpopular — but he's also the key to stopping a warlord from destroying millions of people. Now that gaming is as ubiquitous as film, television, and books, "The Last Starfighter" is actually more relevant than it was when it debuted. Watching Alex start out as a loser and return as a success remains immensely satisfying.

  • Starring: Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Kay E. Kuter
  • Director: Nick Castle
  • Year: 1984
  • Runtime: 101 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

39. Cloverfield

Thanks to dozens of cheap, underdeveloped found footage movies, it's easy to forget how absorbing the format can be when done right. "Cloverfield" is a shining reminder. Not only is it a unique and well-crafted work, it's also an excellent monster movie, placing the audience directly in the shoes of terrified citizens fleeing the alien creature barreling its way across New York City. "Cloverfield" vividly captures the fear and confusion that would come from an event like this. Moreover, the fact that it asks more questions than it answers gives it an air of authenticity that raises it above most other American monster movies.

  • Starring: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan
  • Director: Matt Reeves
  • Year: 2008
  • Runtime: 85 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

38. Superman: The Movie

It's easy to forget that Superman is an alien.  But while he is an American, he's also a strange visitor from the planet Krypton. In a way, he could be considered the best-case scenario when it comes to beings from different planets crash-landing onto our own: He has the power to dominate us, but he chooses to protect us. Richard Donner's 1978 classic makes the list because it reminds us that opening your heart to people who are different makes us safer as a society, and better as people.

  • Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Year: 1978
  • Runtime: 143 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

37. Dark City

There's something unnervingly familiar about the world depicted in "Dark City." The film begins with a man waking up to find that humanity is being controlled by aliens in black clothing. As he pieces together what's going on and how he fits into it, we begin to question our own roles in life. "Dark City" eases you into its narrative so seamlessly and efficiently, you don't even realize how absorbed you are in its intense, Art Deco world until it's too late. By then, you're already wondering how much control you actually have over your own destiny.

36. The Faculty

A worthwhile spin on the Red Scare paranoia conjured in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Faculty" takes the fear to an American high school. Identity is constantly in flux during adolescence. One day, your best friend might become your worst enemy, and the person you never gave the time of day can become the most important person in your life. All the while, it feels like your teachers are actually out to destroy you — but in this case, that's true. "The Faculty" uses slug-like aliens that take over the human mind and body as a metaphor for the kind of pubescent confusion we all experience. It works exceedingly well.

  • Starring: Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris
  • Director: Robert Rodriguez
  • Year: 1998
  • Runtime: 104 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%

35. Save Yourselves!

In an attempt to repair their fading relationship, a young couple decides to unplug from social media and take a trip upstate. Not only is staying away from their devices much harder than they thought it would be, they slowly notice small, round, furry creatures invading their rented cabin. It's an invasion of adorable aliens, who are also capable of some serious carnage. "Save Yourselves!" is a unique and very funny take on just how impossible it can be to fix your connection with another human being when you've become reliant on maximum distraction. 

  • Starring: Sunita Mani, John Paul Reynolds, Ben Sinclair
  • Director: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson
  • Year: 2020
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

34. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

This adaptation of the classic comics series "Valerian and Laureline" is a rush of unadulterated, passion, love, and imagination. Space cops Valerian and Laureline live in the ginormous intergalactic city of Alpha. A rich tapestry of disparate worlds, cultures, and lifeforms, each worthy of their own epic film franchise, Alpha is the kind of place audiences can truly get lost in. Is the film a bit style over substance? Yeah. But who cares, when the style is this lush and dazzling. Keep your mind and eyes wide open, and you won't regret it.

  • Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen
  • Director: Luc Besson
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 137 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%

33. Independence Day

Alien invasion movies existed before "Independence Day," but none had ever felt quite so massive and spectacular. Director Roland Emmerich has built a career on making crowd-pleasing disaster fare with titles like "The Day After Tomorrow," "2012," and "Moonfall," but "Independence Day" is by far his most interesting and satisfying film. From the designs of the aliens and their ships to the globe-trotting plot, it's made to keep you watching. There are smarter movies out there with more dimension and lifelike characters, but when it comes to big, intense fun, "Independence Day" is unrivaled.

  • Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum
  • Director: Roland Emmerich
  • Year: 1996
  • Runtime: 145 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

32. Mars Attacks!

"Mars Attacks!" turns 1950s alien invasion tropes on their ear. The Martians have invaded, and humanity is freaking out. This is a hopped-up, adrenaline-fueled parody-slash-love letter to the cheesier aspects of the genre, bursting with bizarre gags and unique visuals. It's the sort of movie in which Tom Jones plays himself — a version of himself with killer piloting skills, anyway. If you're someone who can both appreciate and laugh at the sillier side of sci-fi, then "Mars Attacks!" is 100% for you.

31. Paul

"Paul" is about nerdy best friends Clive and Graeme, who encounter an honest-to-goodness extraterrestrial while touring America's most iconic paranormal spots. Paul, the alien in question, is a good dude in deep trouble, and so they race to save his life from the authorities who seek to conceal his existence. Seeing Seth Rogen's voice come out of a classic grey alien is a little jarring at first, but the more you get to know Paul, the more it grows on you. This unique road trip movie features wonderfully deep cuts related to UFO lore, and genuinely funny observations on conspiracy theory culture.

  • Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen
  • Director: Greg Mottola
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 104 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

30. Alien Nation

Before "District 9" showed us alien slums and "Bright" gave us Los Angeles life through a sci-fi prism, "Alien Nation" did both with an allegory about bigotry disguised as a sci-fi buddy cop movie. Three years after arriving on Earth, thousands of alien slaves are struggling to integrate into society. Treated as second-class citizens, the "Newcomers" primarily work the menial jobs most Americans would rather avoid. It isn't hard to see what the film is trying to say here, and that's the point — "Alien Nation" paints effectively with big, broad strokes. What results is a wonderful example of science fiction exploring the problems of our modern world through an extraordinary lens.

  • Starring: James Caan, Mandy Patinkin, Terence Stamp
  • Director: Graham Baker
  • Year: 1988
  • Runtime: 91 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%

29. Signs

A science fiction thriller about crop circles, "Signs" offers a uniquely realistic depiction of alien encounters. Instead of gigantic ships taking up the skyline or endless scenes of destruction and mayhem, we experience a quiet, intimate story about one family in Pennsylvania. Television footage of aliens crashing birthday parties, strange lights in the sky, and glimpses of inhuman figures ducking in the shadows create a heightened atmosphere of tension and suspense. While the finale of the film may leave some disappointed, the message is broad enough to allow each individual viewer to take away their own meaning.

28. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Chances are, we wouldn't have modern spectacles like "Independence Day" without this 1956 classic. "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" is, essentially, a collection of scenes of people talking, tied together with excellent alien attack sequences. The film wastes no time in giving you the goods with a thrilling opening montage of UFO sightings. The spaceships are retro and iconic, giving the audience a rush of nostalgia, even if you hadn't been born when the film was released. Most fantastically, stop-motion animation from the legendary Ray Harryhausen swoops in to blow your mind and make you remember just how much fun old movies can be.

  • Starring: Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis
  • Director: Fred F. Sears
  • Year: 1956
  • Runtime: 84 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

27. War of the Worlds

H.G. Wells' novel "The War of the Worlds" has been adapted many times. A story of malevolent invaders from another planet, it's thrilling and universal enough to fit whatever fears are currently plaguing mankind. While each interpretation has its own merits, Steven Spielberg's 2005 take packs the most punch. This is a relentlessly dark film, with huge moments of intense awe and raw terror. The ending, though fairly faithful to the source material, might be underwhelming for some — but the message is damning and inspiring. Mankind has earned the right to live on this planet, and we must never take it for granted.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Year: 2005
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

26. Enemy Mine

Science fiction allows storytellers to examine humanity in ways that would be impossible in traditional dramas. During the final years of the Cold War, Wolfgang Petersen exemplified this truth with "Enemy Mine," which follows two soldiers from either side of an interstellar conflict as they're forced to survive together on a hostile planet. Through patience and communication, they learn to respect and trust one another. Is it an obvious message that practically swats the audience over the head? Absolutely. Does that make it any less meaningful? Absolutely not.

  • Starring: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., Brion James
  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Year: 1985
  • Runtime: 108 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%

25. Starship Troopers

In order to appreciate this scathing reproach of fascist militarism, you have to see it for what it is — satire. While "Starship Troopers" leads you to believe it's an adventure film about heroes defending Earth from terrifying bug creatures, its subtext tells a different story. Interstitials inform us of the history of the conflict, initially coming across as silly pieces of worldbuilding. But in fact, they're perfectly executed propaganda. Eventually, the viewer can piece together that we're the invaders, and the bugs are simply defending their homes. The richness below this film's vapid surface is worth digging for, even if you missed it the first time around.

  • Starring: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer
  • Director: Paul Verhoeven
  • Year: 1997
  • Runtime: 129 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%

24. It! The Terror from Beyond Space

"It! The Terror from Beyond Space" is a classic '50s rocket ship movie. After a Mars expedition team fails to return, a second group is sent out to investigate. Their ship is boarded by an alien menace they struggle to contain and destroy before it has a chance to pick them off one by one. Sound familiar? It's basically "Alien," released 21 years earlier. While it can absolutely be viewed and enjoyed on its own merits, "It! The Terror from Beyond Space" is especially interesting to watch as a companion piece to Ridley Scott's 1979 opus.

  • Starring: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding
  • Director: Edward L. Cahn
  • Year: 1958
  • Runtime: 68 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%

23. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" has a cult following for a very good reason. The story, which follows two squares who stumble into the home of a bunch of liberated aliens, almost doesn't matter. We're not interested in watching them go on a hero's journey: This is a musical about embracing the strange. Dr. Frank-N-Furter is a mad scientist like no other, with a castle full of unforgettable characters. His movie — because truly, Tim Curry steals the whole show — is a beacon of hope to anyone who has ever felt like an outcast, especially those under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. No wonder audiences flock to this film time and time again.

22. Contact

Sometimes, all a sci-fi movie needs to tell a great story is a fascinating idea. Based on the novel by renowned astronomer Carl Sagan, "Contact" explores what might actually happen if we were to receive a signal from an intelligent extraterrestrial species. The message in question isn't a simple hello, either: The aliens send plans for a machine that would allow us to travel great distances in order to make the titular contact. While there is a personal story about a woman's obsession with the stars buried within this saga, it is the nature of the alien race and the process of making the trip to visit them that makes "Contact" such an engrossing experience.

  • Starring: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Year: 1997
  • Runtime: 150 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

21. Annihilation

With a title like "Annihilation," one could be forgiven for expecting this movie to be a loud, in-your-face schlockbuster like "Independence Day." That couldn't be further from the truth. With "Ex Machina," director Alex Garland proved he can do a riveting and cerebral sci-fi thriller. He ups the ante quite a bit with "Annihilation," which follows a team of scientists as they explore a strange area held within a shimmering bubble. This is a film that will engage and challenge you in ways you'll never see coming.

  • Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson
  • Director: Alex Garland
  • Year: 2018
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

20. Edge of Tomorrow

Time loop stories run the risk of getting stale very quickly. That's why it's important to find new ways of using the premise to explore characters. "Edge of Tomorrow" does this very well by showing how public affairs officer Cage adjusts his tactics and point of view every time he's forced to live, die, and repeat. Other than being a fresh take on a familiar premise, this film also contains some really great aliens. Instead of humanoids in prosthetics or big bugs, the Mimics (as they're referred to) are constantly shifting and changing, keeping us and the characters in suspense as they wonder what frightening shape they're going to take next.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Year: 2014
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

19. The Blob (1988)

While most people think of the 1958 film when they hear "The Blob," the original doesn't hold a candle to Chuck Russell's 1988 remake. He and co-writer Frank Darabont (who also collaborated on "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors") take the premise of an alien ball of jelly devouring an entire town and bring it into the '80s. What results is an inventive slasher movie on a massive scale. The characters are entertaining and funny, the violence is legitimately terrifying, and the narrative moves at a rapid, exciting pace. The 1958 film crawled so that this remake could soar. 

  • Starring: Shawnee Smith, Kevin Dillon, Donovan Leitch
  • Director: Chuck Russell
  • Year: 1988
  • Runtime: 95 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%

18. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The first big-screen outing for James T. Kirk and his crew feels stiff compared to contemporaneous films like "Star Wars." However, this slow and cerebral story actually exemplifies everything "Star Trek" is about. There's no angry villain out for revenge or inorganic character conflict forced into the middle of everything. "Star Trek" has always been about seeking out new life and new civilizations, and that is the heart of this film. As fun as it is to see Kirk have a showdown with Khan, the awe on his face as he sees V'ger for the first time is powerful. He went to the stars to peer into the unknown, and the unknown has found him.

  • Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Year: 1979
  • Runtime: 132 minutes
  • Rating: G
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%

17. Attack the Block

Most alien invasion movies would have us believe that the first step in world domination would be to destroy our landmarks. Others suggest that extraterrestrial tactics would be more subtle and insidious. "Attack the Block" says they might just show up one day with almost no fanfare, and the best way to fight them will be to grab whatever weapon you have on hand and beat the snot out of them. Seeing the seedier sides of London being invaded by some of the gnarliest looking aliens in recent memory is cool, but watching John Boyega (pre "Star Wars") and his mates fight back is, for some indefinable reason, deeply cool and cathartic.

  • Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail
  • Director: Joe Cornish
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

16. Galaxy Quest

One could easily describe "Galaxy Quest" as "Three Amigos" meets "Star Trek." Believing transmissions of a sci-fi TV show are actually historical records, desperate aliens recruit the actors they mistakenly believe to be space heroes to help them fight an evil alien overlord. Can they rise to the occasion? Well ... maybe. With visual effects that still hold up, characters we can't help but love, and heaps of heart, "Galaxy Quest" is a fun adventure and an absolute joy to watch again and again.

  • Starring: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman
  • Director: Dean Parisot
  • Year: 1999
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

15. Predator

What sets "Predator" apart from other testosterone-fueled action flicks of the 1980s is its survival element. By this time, there had already been several movies about American military members shooting up foreign bases and taking down terrorists with relative ease. While there's plenty of that in this film's opening act, everything changes when these buff commandos encounter something they cannot understand. Suddenly, Dutch (played by the king of '80s action, Arnold Schwarzenegger) can't win the day by lighting a fat cigar and just spraying bullets in every direction. His opponent is much too smart for that. He needs to strategize, learn, and adapt, because he's become the target of one of the universe's most efficient and enthusiastic killers.

14. They Live

This sci-fi classic beats you over the head with its satire of capitalism and the entirety of the Reagan administration. The allegory is so blatant that it can only be called text, as opposed to subtext. But this isn't a criticism — subtlety isn't a virtue here. Roddy Piper plays your average American idealist just hoping to get fair wages for an honest day's work. But he soon discovers that his American dream is an illusion manufactured by greedy, capitalist aliens who keep mankind subdued and poor in order to maintain their money and power. It's a cynical and just plain awesome little masterpiece that will likely continue to remain relevant for decades to come.

  • Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Year: 1988
  • Runtime: 94 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

13. Avatar

"Avatar" isn't the most original movie in the world. Jake Sully, our outsider hero, is one member of the human effort to exploit Pandora, an alien moon rich in resources. Like the leads of "Dances with Wolves" and the "John Carter of Mars" series, he is eventually welcomed onto the side of the indigenous Na'vi, Pandora's lithe blue race of humanoid aliens. But the awe and wonder conjured by this film's truly alien and wholly immersive world make "Avatar" much more than just a tired retread of old themes. Pandora will carry you away as completely as the classics that inspired it.

  • Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Year: 2009
  • Runtime: 162 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

12. Star Wars

This list could easily be made up of "Star Wars" movies — literally every single character is an alien. However, by the time one watches "The Empire Strikes Back," the fact that everyone's technically an alien is largely forgotten, because the world of the films has become familiar. The only time the alien-ness of the "Star Wars" galaxy actually matters is in the original 1977 film. This is because point-of-view surrogate Luke Skywalker is entering this larger world with us, and we're just as dazzled by the galaxy's strange and wondrous inhabitants as he is. It's still a joyous journey to take.

  • Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Year: 1977
  • Runtime: 121 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

11. Men in Black

"Men In Black" is both a hilarious spoof of the alien invasion genre and a piece of legitimate science fiction in its own right. It imagines a world of straight-faced agents — the titular men in black — who manage alien encounters, which are far more common than most of humanity realizes. While the sequels have their own charms, the original is infinitely rewatchable. There are so many characters, aliens, ideas, and jokes packed in that you're bound to notice something different upon every subsequent viewing.

  • Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino
  • Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
  • Year: 1997
  • Runtime: 98 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" distills a very potent fear: What if everyone you've ever known was replaced by alien duplicates? They look and sound like your friends and family members, but there's something off about them. This is a spooky enough tale in itself, but when paired with the real-world fears of the Cold War, it becomes a potent fable of human fragility. While there have been several remakes of this classic film, the original still holds up as an intense exploration of communist paranoia.

  • Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates
  • Director: Don Siegel
  • Year: 1956
  • Runtime: 80 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

While the original film deals with fear from the outside, there's a sense in 1978's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" that the fear comes from within. These characters aren't so much interested in figuring out their country's problems as they're committed to confronting their own mental blocks. Before they get the chance to figure out exactly who they are, however, new life forms threaten to take their unlived lives away from them. This makes it a scarier film than the original, which deserves to be viewed in tandem with it.

  • Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum
  • Director: Philip Kaufman
  • Year: 1978
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

8. Arrival

This thoughtful sci-fi film focuses on the process of learning to communicate with an alien race. With stunning shots of massive alien ships hovering over fields and marvelously inventive designs of the aliens themselves, "Arrival" has all the eye candy you could want. But it's all there to serve a story about language — specifically, the way language shapes reality. It defies explanation in the best ways, and will have you feeling as though you've just returned from an epic, life-changing adventure.

  • Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Year: 2016
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

7. Aliens

"Aliens" is that rare sequel that builds on its saga's mythology while also standing entirely on its own. You don't need to have seen Ridley Scott's "Alien" to understand and enjoy this one — James Cameron takes the concept in a new enough direction to make it its own thing. After surviving the events of the first film, Ellen Ripley has grown into an outright action hero. Good thing, too: She's got even more aliens to fight. It's both a logical progression for her character and the world established in the previous film, and a really great stand-alone adventure.

  • Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Year: 1986
  • Runtime: 137 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

6. District 9

A derelict spaceship stalls out over Johannesburg. Its bug-like passengers are regulated to housing slums, and treated as the absolute dregs of society. When an employee of the weapons manufacturer Multinational United begins turning into one of the aliens, it becomes clear to him how cruel and savage their treatment truly is. Not only is this a staggeringly powerful piece of socially conscious science fiction, it's an unbelievably strong debut from first-time feature film director Neill Blomkamp.

  • Starring: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope
  • Director: Neill Blomkamp
  • Year: 2009
  • Runtime: 112 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Alien encounters don't always have to be frightening. Sometimes, as is the case in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," they can be inspiring. That's not to say there aren't scary moments in this film: Before we know what the aliens who have come to Earth want, they're downright ominous. However, fear and awe are intertwined here. The scene in which a child is abducted is very tense, but the look of excitement on the abductee's face mirrors our own. He's delighted to see those lights in the sky, just as we, the audience, are dazzled by this film's incredible special effects and message of hope.

  • Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Year: 1977
  • Runtime: 138 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

4. The Day the Earth Stood Still

The idea that aliens will arrive on Earth, provide us with the secrets to the universe, and cure us of our worries is a bit of a cop-out. It's basically saying humanity doesn't have the ability to take responsibility for its actions, and is incapable of correcting its own mistakes. This is what makes "The Day the Earth Stood Still" so interesting: It appears as though this is what the alien Klaatu intends to do, but he gives us a choice instead. Aliens can save us, but we have to be willing to ask for their help or face destruction. Is humanity humble enough to admit its shortcomings? This classic film leaves that up to you to decide.

  • Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Year: 1951
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Rating: G
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

3. The Thing

Whenever somebody tells you that remakes are inherently worse than the original, point them to this claustrophobic masterpiece. You can tell that John Carpenter grew up watching and thinking about classic sci-fi films: He's taken a fairly standard premise and injected it with fresh, wild ideas. The alien menacing Antarctic researchers in this tense film isn't a stunt person lumbering around in a cool suit — it's a formless, shifting mass that camouflages itself as various life forms. The sense of isolation and paranoia that sets in among its prey is so potent, you might find yourself experiencing your own doubt as to the nature of the universe.

2. E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial

"E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial" is everything a movie should be. The family at the center of it feels real. Their struggle to remain stable after a devastating divorce permeates almost every scene. Miraculously, they are made whole by the introduction of an adorable visitor from outer space. This film allows us to see ourselves in these characters, even as they encounter unimaginable creatures. We know aliens like E.T. probably don't exist, but during this film's runtime, we accept him as a living, breathing, sentient being we'd do anything to protect. Sweet, funny, and a little heartbreaking, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" is a stone-cold classic worthy of annual re-watches.

  • Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Year: 1982
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

1. Alien

When it comes to movies about aliens, it's difficult to top Ridley Scott's haunted-house-in-space tour de force. There's no reason "Alien" should be this good — everything about its story screams B movie. In Scott's hands, however, it's a behemoth of science fiction. A deadly creature is feeding on the crew of the spaceship Nostromo, but "Alien" only offers glimpses and hints regarding the world it came from. The audience's imagination is free to run wild with possibilities. The purity and simplicity of this approach remains spellbinding, while Ellen Ripley, whose grit is a match for the alien's, is a sci-fi hero for the ages.

  • Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Year: 1979
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%