Close Encounters on the Big Screen: The 12 Best Movies About Alien Contact

The Host (2013)

What does an alien invasion look like in your mind? And how much of what you picture comes from movies? This list of 12 alien encounters on the big screen covers several bases. It’s up to you to decide which form of alien contact seems the most realistic.

The sci-fi genre welcomes creativity. Indeed, certain movies grapple with more unique concepts whilst all share stories of conquest, friendship and evolutionary distress. The question I’m now wondering is whether humanity is ready should such scenarios come to pass.  

1. Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day (1996)

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

First on our list is this Hollywood blockbuster. The story imagines a full-on global invasion, with Will Smith and the U.S. coming to save the day. Sure, the film incorporates several American cliches, but it was both bold and entertaining to depict the film’s climax.

2. The Host (2013)

The Host (2013)

Image Credit: Open Road Films.

This next alien fantasy is based on the book by Stephanie Meyer. It follows teen Melanie as she navigates the aftermath of an invasion, whereby only a small human population is left. What warrants the story a place on this list is not the execution but the concept. The invaders themselves are parasitic aliens, who take over the bodies of humans, erase their memories and then continue using them as a host.

3. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Levi Stubbs in Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

1986’s Little Shop of Horrors is a remake of a 1960 film of the same name or rather an adaptation of the stage musical that was developed from the 1960 film. Put plainly: the original had no songs, so it doesn’t land on this list.

Both films tell the story of a man discovering a seemingly magical plant that moves freely and grows when fed blood. But it’s not a plant of this world; in fact, it may not be a plant at all. It’s a predatory alien that’s interested in eating all of humanity.

4. ET the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Henry Thomas and Pat Welsh in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Steven Spielberg has made several movies about aliens arriving on Earth. But his 1982 classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial remains the best. The film, about an alien who befriends a boy, is heartwarming and sweet, without ignoring the reality of government suspicions of any visitors from outer space.

5. War of the Worlds (1953)

The War of the Worlds (1953)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Spielberg’s remake of War of the Worlds is among the best sci-fi remakes ever made, but the original cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ story remains the best. The film centers on a Martian invasion of Earth and the world’s desperate attempts to discover the invaders’ weaknesses. The movie is a landmark of science-fiction cinema, not only for the excellent adaptation but also for the groundbreaking special effects.

6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Image Credit: Allied Artists Pictures.

While there have been several remakes and adaptations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I’m sticking with the original 1956 movie as the best adaptation of the book by Jack Finney. The movie centers on a small California town where people are starting to be replaced by identical aliens.

7. Annihilation (2018)

Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson in Annihilation (2018)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Based on the book of the same name by Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation is different from the other movies on this list, which deal with sentient aliens arriving on Earth. Instead of telling a story about an aggressive or friendly alien species, Annihilation explores what happens when a meteor delivers a biology-altering substance called “the shimmer” to our planet.

So it’s not exactly an invasion or an encounter with an alien species. But it makes for one of the most fascinating explorations of what “alien” can mean and the effect it can have on Earth.

8. Arrival (2016)

Amy Adams in Arrival (2016)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, Arrival examines the global response to an alien arrival. In the film, twelve alien ships arrive scattered across the globe, and the different human governments attempt to work together to communicate with them.

The movie centers on a team in Montana as they learn more about the aliens and what led them to Earth. It’s another movie, like E.T., that takes the potential threat of aliens seriously while acknowledging that arrival is not the same as an invasion.

9. Superman (1978)

Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978)

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

It may be a surprise to see a superhero movie on a list about aliens, but Superman (the character) is very much an alien who comes to Earth. The film tells the story of the Kryptonian Kal El arriving on Earth, being raised by the Kents, and donning the Superman suit to combat Lex Luthor. It’s a great movie about human decency from someone who happens to be an alien.

10. Predator (1987)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, and Bill Duke in Predator (1987)

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

On the opposite side of the spectrum from Superman, we find Predator. The movie tells the story of a mercenary group sent into a Guatemalan jungle on a mission to rescue hostages; that turns into a fight for survival when they encounter an alien predator that hunts them for sport. It’s a simple but incredibly well-made movie and one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best.

11. They Live (1988)

Michael Forino in They Live (1988)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

John Carpenter isn’t just one of the greatest horror directors of all time; he’s also one of the greatest sci-fi directors of all time. With They Live, he created a hilarious, action-packed sci-fi satire that follows a drifter as he discovers the media is run by aliens who want to keep humans subservient. It’s not so much an invasion story as it is a revolution story about humans battling aliens who wish to maintain the status quo.

12. The Thing (1982)

Charles Hallahan in The Thing (1982)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

While They Live shows Carpenter’s talent for genre and tone mixing, “The Thing” is still his masterpiece. The film centers on a crew stationed at an Antarctic research station who are infiltrated by an alien being that can mimic any biological entity. The film shows off some incredible body horror setpieces. But its greatness lies in the paranoia and tension built in a story about attempting to survive in an isolated space while not knowing who around you is human.

25 Songs Voted Would Save the Planet if Aliens Demanded Only Our Best

Dancing astronaut

Image Credit: oneinchpunch/Shutterstock.

What song would be our salvation if aliens came down to Earth from another planet? That is the question that many are pondering on a popular forum. There are several to consider, and music taste is subjective. But here are some songs that could captivate visitors from another planet.

25 Songs Voted Would Save the Planet if Aliens Demanded Only Our Best

Woman Swears Blackish Star-Speckled Alien Hovering in Room – What Do You Think?

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Recently, a female engineering student shared a strange encounter she had in April 2022. Confused, she kept quiet about the encounter. However, her experience affected her deeply.

Woman Swears Blackish Star-Speckled Alien Hovering in Room. What Do You Think?

14 Cities in the USA That Are Criminally Underrated According to Americans 

Tourist woman visit architecture of Chicago she walking Lincoln Park near lake. Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Everyone’s idea of a vacation or road trip is a little different. There are certain cities we gravitate towards more often, like San Francisco, NYC, or L.A. Have you considered exploring a new city that’s underrated and, perhaps, under appreciated? Check out these U.S. cities that a popular travel forum voted as “criminally underrated.”

14 Cities in the USA That Are Criminally Underrated According to Americans 

15 Most Dangerous Cities in the World Where Crime Rates Are Off the Charts

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA street cars.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

There are many ways to measure the danger of any given city—robberies, physical assaults, and even the number of fatal work accidents. However, there is one universally-accepted metric for gauging danger: violent crime rates and property crime rates. Based on recent statistics, here are some of the most dangerous cities around the world (not in any particular order).

15 Most Dangerous Cities in the World Where Crime Rates Are Off the Charts

10 Disaster Films To Scratch Your End of the World Itch

Dante's Peak (1997)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

If you’re craving some thrilling cinematic escapades that explore the cataclysmic scenarios of doomsday, you’ve come to the right place. Others may not understand your sadistic thought experiments, but I get it.

10 Disaster Films To Scratch Your End of the World Itch

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Kyle Logan

Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Looper, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.

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