Today, July 2nd, is World UFO Day, an event that’s been celebrated since 2001. But for those who believe, today is the 65th anniversary of an even bigger, spacier event: the Roswell crash of July 2, 1947.
From aliens to predators to species, genre movies have a lot to owe to intergalactic inspiration. Since these things tend to go very badly and Sigourney Weaver’s getting old and Bill Pullman still hasn’t run for president, we should probably be thankful we’ve yet to have confirmed first contact. And if you’re still looking for discs in the sky, hope that things don’t pop off like they do in some of our favorite alien attack movies, listed below.
Written by Kevin Williams, directed by Robert Rodriguez, this movie epitomizes the best of 90s teen horror for me — ranking next to, and at times above Scream, depending on my mood. Endlessly quotable (”I believe a person shouldn’t run unless they’re being chased” “Casey, when did you become Sigourney Weaver?!”), this movie still holds up as fun to this day. Strangely, critics were merciless on it at the time, slamming it as a Sci-Fi ripoff, which is more an indication of how “over it” people were of the K. Williams teen movies, than alien movies, I think. Stooooookley.
Based off the book by Travis Walton about his own, alleged alien abduction, Fire in the Sky is one of the movies that I routinely hear people who were kids in the early 90s — and caught the film on HBO — cite as a source of nightmares and panic attacks. In a lot of ways, this is one of the least “sensational” films on the list. There isn’t a ton of action, and the film centers more on the complete emotional wreckage of Walton after he resurfaces. But the scenes that are shown of his recollections of alien experimentation are completely terrifying and genuinely scary in that way few films are.
Yup, another Disney movie masquerading as a family film, but at its heart is about a really disturbing concept. Proving early July has always been an alien hotspot, the movie is about a boy named David who disappears on the 4th of July and is returned to Earth after what seems like moments, but is actually years later — to find out the entire world is different and his family pronounced him dead. Sure, it might seem fun on paper to fly around in a space ship with your alien friend as voiced by Pee Wee Herman, but when it ends with you in a military compound being studied for research… Dammit, Disney! I was too young for this movie!
War of the Worlds (2005)
Spielberg’s third foray into alien movies (E.T., Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind), may still be filled with flawed Daddy figures and heroic redemption, but it is easily his darkest. I love this movie. The FX are great, and scarier than the aliens themselves are the way Spielberg depicts the total panic and helplessness of humans as they try to run away. What I’ll only describe as “the ferry scene,” made me feel truly trapped. How would I escape if aliens descended on Chicago? What’s the best recourse? Holing up like Tim Robbins? This movie makes you think of those very important questions and ultimately realize: you’ll most likely end up in a traffic jam with other people trying to flee as aliens pick you off one by one and eat you all.
The original ‘56 version is great as well, but if there’s anything proven by my love of War of the Worlds ‘05, I’ll always applaud a standout remake. The Body Snatchers story is the anti-Communism source material that critics hemmed and hawed at The Faculty for riffing on, and the ‘78 remake has a solid cast in Donald Sutherland and an iconic ending that’s been parodied in both South Park and Community among others. I like it because it has the “downer” ending. A good downer ending happens so rarely.
Mars Attacks! came out at the end of ‘96. You know, the same year that other movie with President Pullman and Will Smith came out that was so hyped it was actually released early, on Tuesday, July 2. So you could be watching the movie in the theater at the same time the movie itself was supposed to be taking place. Independence Day made over 100 million its first week. Mars Attacks! made not even 10 mil. People hated this movie. They were all jacked up on Independence Day as being the Ultimate Alien Movie, that people couldn’t step aside to appreciate this for what it was. A fucking silly alien movie! Death by country music. Cameos. Exploding martian brains. Sarah Jessica Parker-dog monster. Mars Attacks! was also pretty much the last movie Tim Burton made before entering into his unholy coven with Johnny Depp, so for that, I will always hold it near and dear.
Attack the Block (2011)
I join everyone that holds this movie in the highest of esteem. A fresh take on the way the aliens look (fuzzy! not slimy, reptilian, or CGIed to death), who fights them, and the moral attitude around our heroes. Here’s a taste.