They’re Coming! 10 Invasion Movies to See Before You Die

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Most blockbuster movies, when you get right down to it, are about invasions: otherworldly creatures arriving on our planet uninvited, ghosts taking over society, futuristic cyborg assassins intent on pursuing their targets to the ends of the earth, etc. And while we usually associate invasion movies with destruction and mayhem, some visitors do exhibit more peaceful intentions. Here are 10 of the best-ever invasion flicks, all found in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

1. Aliens
James Cameron’s spectacular sequel to Ridley Scott’s low-key sci-fi horror movie isn’t just an invasion tale; it’s also an epic war movie in space. After Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) agrees to investigate an abandoned human terraforming colony, she’s forced to once again confront the aliens that destroyed her spaceship and killed her crew the first time around. She ultimately does battle with the alien queen to prevent a total takeover of human life.

2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
People have been disappearing for decades when a small group of scientists, military personnel and civilians find themselves drawn to a rocky outcrop in Wyoming, its geographical coordinates broadcast down to Earth by someone from the great beyond. Steven Spielberg’s movie looks at outer space with wide-eyed wonder as humanity encounters an alien species for the first time.

3. District 9
The aliens in Neill Blomkamp’s first feature serve as a sociopolitical allegory for District Six, the real-life residential area for black citizens in Cape Town, South Africa, that was destroyed by authorities during Apartheid. The movie is an attack on racism and social segregation dressed up as a smart, action-packed, sci-fi spectacular.

4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
The kids in Steven Spielberg’s family-friendly epic know that the wide-eyed alien visitor they’re helping is an innocent creature. But the adults, whose fear of the world around them has magnified with age, see a threat and maybe even an invasion by an alien force. So it’s up to the intrepid Elliott (Henry Thomas), his sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and his gang of schoolmates to save their new friend.

5. Forbidden Planet
This loose sci-fi adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest features a scientist (Walter Pigeon) surviving on a distant planet. He warns the crew of a visiting spacecraft to stay away, but they ignore his threat—and, one by one, are killed off by a strange invisible force. Future comedy star Leslie Nielsen’s presence notwithstanding, everyone is out-acted by Robbie the Robot, one of cinema’s first mechanical stars.

6. Ghostbusters
Rather than outer space, the invaders in this movie come from another dimension beyond the grave, and rather than do-or-die heroics, this comedy plays the apocalypse for laughs. While the first few ghosts encountered by Drs. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are mostly harmless, it turns out they’re just paving the way for Gozer the Gozerian, an evil spirit who promises to destroy life as we know it. Thanks to Stantz’s imagination, that destructor takes the form of a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

7. Independence Day
The mother of all Earth invasion movies pairs Will Smith’s wise-ass action hero with Jeff Goldblum’s nerdy scientist; together, they set out to defeat a race of voracious aliens hell-bent on destroying the planet and storing every human being as a freeze-dried snack. The destruction of Washington, New York and L.A. are fantastic, the battle scenes are fun and the dialogue is smart.

8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
No other 1950s movie encapsulates the fear of Communist insurgency on American soil quite as successfully as Don Siegel’s original Body Snatchers film. The story of an alien species that breeds replicas of humans in pods is a tense thriller. Or is it a sly satire aimed at people who, like Joseph McCarthy, think there’s a “Red” lurking on every street corner?

9. The Day the Earth Stood Still
The world was still reeling from the blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which signaled the beginning of the Atomic Age, when Robert Wise directed this film about an alien spacecraft landing in Washington. Michael Rennie plays Klaatu, a visitor who brings mankind a warning to stop its warring ways or face decimation from an alliance of planets shocked by the barbarity of our behavior.

10. The Terminator
The invasion here comes from the future, in the form of a solitary figure: the titular cyborg assassin played by the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger. James Cameron’s low-budget adventure is one of Hollywood’s finest chase movies and Schwarzenegger is great as a monosyllabic bad guy. The sequel may have been bigger and louder, but Cameron’s original still ranks as the best in the series.


Find out when you can watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind on SundanceTV.